Chapter 1: Back to the Start
Story title from a Hootie and The Blowfish lyric.
Britain was lost. Hermione accepted that, however grudgingly. Harry was dead. She hadn’t quite accepted that fully, in the past twelve years, despite having seen him fall, his blood spurting wildly from a chest that was blow half off. Ron betrayed them. That, well, unfortunately that she found all too easy to believe.
In the end it was Hermione, Luna, Fleur, and Bill who made it out of Britain together. Neville was alive, and god only knew where, but Hermione exchanged the occasional message with him, until she didn’t anymore. Until he was merely the latest – the last – of her friends and classmates whose deaths were paraded across the front pages of the Daily Prophet’s international edition.
In a Magical Europe growing ever more controlled by Voldemort’s Death Eaters and other extremist allies, they would be a death sentence on anyone who might shelter or aid them. The pleas from Fleur’s family in France and Denmark went unanswered. None of them were willing to risk innocent lives. And the rest of the world slowly closed the borders. By the time Hermione was thirty years old, no European magical was able to cross into any of the African or Asian magical nations, and transport across to the Americas was banned.
Instead, a curse breaker, a Triwizard champion, the brightest witch of her age, and an eccentric Ravenclaw genius took over an abandoned castle on the edge of a lake in southeastern Poland. Obviously forgotten by muggles due to the repelling ward put up long ago, and unused by any nearby magical community, they settled in a little over a year after the fall of Britain. Warded to hell and back, they finally managed more than two hours of sleep per night. Sometimes Hermione got three full hours a night before waking up screaming, the bloody corpses of her friends and family painted on her eyelids.
Settling in Poland with just what they could carry – a decent amount, thanks to the battered bottomless bag Hermione had enchanted – was still more difficult than they imagined. Stealing necessities from an already poverty-stricken local muggle community wasn’t possible when they didn’t move on the next day. Instead, Bill and Luna fished, as they used to in the brook wending its way through Ottery St Catchpole. Fleur knew how to hunt, thanks to her Veela cousins. Hermione had helped her grandmother in the garden as a child and while she didn’t have the natural botanical genius of Neville, she managed quite well. There was a long-abandoned orchard next to the castle that Luna carefully tended. But, after a few extra-lean months, they were able to eat regularly again. Their gaunt frames began to fill out a bit. Though the depredations on their growing bodies – the violence on their growing bodies – would never be fully repaired, Hermione and Luna finished what growing they could. The dark circles under Fleur’s sunken eyes filled out. Bill was no longer so painfully thin as to resemble a walking skeleton. They were just close enough to a small muggle town to eventually sell their surplus at the market, giving them a bit of muggle currency with which to buy necessities.
The four found themselves closer than family by the time they settled in Poland. The last tether any of them have to the world – Hermione’s parents were memory charmed in Australia, the Weasleys and Lovegoods dead, and Fleur could not even write her relations without risking their deaths.
Their family bond meant there were no secrets any longer. One day, a few months before the turn of the millennium, Hermione sat her family down around their scratched kitchen table in their abandoned castle, and told the other three about the Horcruxes. As the conversation stretched long into the night, Bill and Fleur went pale with fear then bursting red with rage at three untrained teens being sent on such a quest. Luna then shared what little she learned in the basement of Malfoy Manor, and the depravities she suffered there. By dawn, Bill and Fleur spoke of the reasons behind their marriage – to protect them both from a deeply homophobic society and so that Fleur could remain in Britain legally to fight the war. Finally doing more than scratching out a living day to day, they had time to consider the past, and perhaps the future.
Hermione and Fleur kissed for the first time in Luna’s orchard on the winter solstice, frost nipping at their extremities and a full moon bright overhead. Fleur’s hands found their place on Hermione’s hips, dragging their bodies together while Hermione linked her hands at Fleur’s nape.
They promised themselves to one another on a warm Beltane night at the edge of the castle’s lake, with Luna, Bill, and a lone great northern diver serving as their witnesses. Their life wasn’t anything like they expected, not the lives they imagined for themselves before the War nor the deaths they expected after the fall of Hogwarts. But at the end of the day, the four of them in their Polish castle, they could curl up with a book and a hot cup of tea, the remnants of their family nearby. And at the end of the day that was enough for them to feel blessed, even as Europe descended into chaos.
That chaos spurred them back into action, eventually. There was nothing they could do as various blood purists seized control of Europe and the continent found itself simmering for war against the rest of the world. If only they had had more time, before. More knowledge, more experience. A mad idea meant they had all the time in the world to plan.
30 October 2010 – A Castle, near Krosno, Poland
It was a last, mad gamble, the idea the four came up with. Likely doomed to failure and an agonizing death for all involved. But what did they have to lose? An isolated castle in ruins, a graveyard full of dead friends and family? With this option to possibly change all that? An untested, experimental piece of ritual magic? What did they have to lose? One final, desperate attempt to change the world. Save the world. Because in the past dozen years, Tom Riddle certainly hadn’t limited himself to Britain or Europe. His power crept across the magical world, affecting wizard and muggle alike, all miserably.
They spent almost nine years in planning. Research, planning, more research, arguing about the research.
The main hall of their home provided the workspace, runes and arcane symbols carved intricately into the ancient stone floor, powered by magical items and their own lives. Magic on a fundamental level requires sacrifice, and for what they were asking, all that they had to pay the price was themselves.
Hermione studied the room one last time, carefully double-checking all she could see. She took one last look at her wife. At her friends - her family. At the home she’d hidden in for the past ten years. Magic willing, she’d see all of them soon enough. If not, well, it was worth a shot. She raised her wand – Bellatrix’s wand – in unison with the others and started the incantation. The magic pooled in her bones, before flashing outward as they finished the ritual. And she knew nothing, for a long long moment.
30 October 1994 – Hogwarts, Scotland
The shock of one moment being in an almost-empty Polish castle and coming to in the middle of a crowd on the Hogwarts grounds made Hermione sway on her feet. She wouldn’t quite say she swooned, but it was closer than she’d prefer. A gentle but firm touch to the elbow steadied her, and she glanced over to see Harry, worry in his bright green eyes. Her heart pounding, she struggled not to pull him into a tight hug. He was so young. So alive. She could feel the tears pooling in her eyes and was thankful, for once, to hear Dumbledore’s voice, calling attention to the approach of the Beauxbatons delegation in their great carriage.
They hadn’t known exactly when they would end up, how much power the ritual would have to push them into the past, though they hoped sometime in her fourth year at Hogwarts. The day the Beauxbatons and Durmstrang delegations arrived was their best hope, the day they’d all aimed for, prayed for – the first day they would all be on the same island together. Other options – such as Fleur and Bill’s wedding day, when they were all in the same place at the same time – would have worked, but there were people they wanted to save. In 1994, Cedric Diggory and Sirius Black were still alive. Of the victims of the Second War, only Bertha Jorkins and a muggle man they’d never identified were dead already.
With all the chaos of the crowd watching the Abraxans land, Hermione was able to take a moment to center herself. She was shorter, but stronger, not yet worn down by stress and battle and the various injuries she’d suffered that had damaged the full development of her magical core. And her senses were in complete overdrive, pressed shoulder to shoulder with people surrounding her closely. For someone used to only three other people for the past ten years, it was a shock to her system.
One of those three wiggled through the crowd to her side. Luna smiled at her grimly, younger than Hermione could ever actually remember seeing her. Instead of the thirty-one year old woman she’d considered her best friend for over a decade, the woman with a jagged scar going down her cheek and missing most of one foot, there was the thirteen year old girl before her. Unblemished physically, carrying the weight of her mother’s death and rampant bullying, but the current body not having physically confronted the pure evil that flourished so easily in the human heart. The eyes though. Those light silver-grey eyes that shined up at her. Luna’s teen expression had been one, generally, of airiness. Gentle, until threatened, and even then merely focused. Out of a thirteen year old’s face were the familiar, hardened eyes of the eccentric genius Hermione knew so well. An eccentric genius that noticed Hermione’s quick, shallow breathing. A wandless, silent cheering charm hit the older witch, just enough to take the edge off the panic attack Hermione hadn’t noticed begin.
Among the many other things she had on her mental to-do list, Hermione added the brewing of calming draughts. A battle-hardened fighter with rampant PTSD in a school full of naïve children was a recipe for disaster, and now there were three of them roaming around dressed in student uniforms, aware of every current and probably future enemy. The variety of calming draught Madam Pomfrey kept in her cupboard was the standard brew, but there were versions specifically tailored for survivors of severe trauma. Or there had been? She couldn’t quite remember when the version she so frequently made in the past/future had been developed, and thought perhaps it had been after they’d already fled Britain, but the recipe was engrained in her mind.
She measured her breaths, shooting a thankful smile to Luna, before she glanced over at Harry. She’d make extra for the boy, sure he already had enough trauma on his too-thin shoulders to warrant a thousand draughts. At the front of the Hogwarts crowd, she could hear the creak of steps as Madame Maxime stepped down from the grand carriage. That meant Fleur couldn’t be far behind.
Luna beside her, Hermione knew at least one of her family had come back with her successfully. Bill was somewhere in Hogsmeade, spending a day with a group of his former classmates. Whether it was their Bill was still up for debate, at least until they saw him. Was the Fleur she could see descending to the ground her wife, or the child her wife had once been? She shook, slightly, her hands trembling until she shoved one in her pocket and the other was grasped by Luna. If it wasn’t her wife, she would have to say goodbye. If it wasn’t Fleur Delacour-Granger in that seventeen year old’s body, then as far as Hermione was concerned her wife was dead, and though she’d do anything for the teenage version in a second she certainly couldn’t love her. Not like she had.
A flutter of pale blue robes caught Hermione’s attention. There was a way she could vaguely remember the teenage, pre-War version of Fleur moving, delicate and careful; it certainly wasn’t with the heightened alertness and situational awareness of the girl moving away from the carriage with her classmates. Pale eyes scanned the crowd, until a tiny smile edged on her lips as blue met brown. Hermione smiled back openly, not on display like her wife was. She felt Luna’s tiny bob and the happy gasp her friend gave, the tug and squeeze of their joined hands.
Three out of four time travelers accounted for so far. And a brand new future ahead of them. They had a world to save.
Chapter 2: Fish Stew and First Words (This Time Around)
Throughout this fic, some lines of dialogue will be borrowed/adapted from the books. I believe they’ll be recognizable when you hit them, and I claim no right, it’s all JKR’s.
The Great Hall was a cacophony pounding at Hermione’s senses. She could feel the tension in Luna’s shoulders against hers as they subtly leaned towards one another before they parted to their separate House tables and she could see the furrowed line on her wife’s brow. She herself could already feel the beginning of a migraine. Buckling down, she followed Harry to the Gryffindor table, tugging Neville as she passed, encouraging him to join their trio for dinner. All around her were the dead brought back to life.
Harry was young. So very young. Almost dangerously skinny, awkward and still wearing the glasses she’d Reparo’d a dozen times already. His robes were a bit too short, and she knew without looking that his socks were little better than rags wrapped around his feet. There were so many things that, in retrospect, she wished she’d done differently as a teen. Helping her best friend – not in the context of saving the world, but in the context of helping an abused teen rebuild his life, making sure he had what he needed on a basic level – things that she wished she’d done. And now planned to. The first chance she got, she was dragging him to various stores in Hogsmeade for the essentials, and the rest she could either probably help him owl order or send Bill to fetch.
Neville, almost curled in on himself next to her, was the timid, chubby boy he’d been before he shot up half a foot and learned his own worth the hard way. Hermione made a note to set a date with the others to smuggle him out to Ollivander’s some weekend for his own wand. She would trust him with her life, even now, but she’d prefer he had a truly functional wand while he stood at her back.
She glanced around. Dean. Seamus. Parvati. Lavender. Colin. The Weasley twins. Angelina. Alicia. Katie. Lee. All hale and hearty and digging into the platters of food in front of them.
Hermione chewed on her lip briefly. There was so much to do, and they had so few real resources besides their minds and experiences. Only Bill had an actual job, and if Gringotts wouldn’t transfer him back to the United Kingdom he would have to quit, or take a leave of absence. They had so many possible plans, many contingent on the material resources they could access. Fleur’s family was well off but not rich, the Weasleys certainly weren’t rolling in galleons, while Hermione and Luna were limited by their ages. The university savings she’d emptied to go on the horcrux hunt with Harry and Ron wasn’t available to her quite yet. Luna’s family’s resources were all tied up in the Quibbler. There were, of course, slightly less ethical means of procuring income. They had all carefully memorized numerous sporting outcomes before the ritual, and Bill would be placing many bets in both the muggle and magical worlds shortly. But even that required time, and could not be done so often that he garner attention. As well, the more time that passed the more likely that the butterfly effect would throw off the results.
Sighing, Hermione tuned back into the feast. She faced the Ravenclaw table by choice, Neville next to her with Harry and Ron across from them. The vengeful part of her wanted to whip out her wand and curse the redhead. She knew she only had to wait a day before he’d turn his back on them, and she’d do nothing to deter his immature jealousy. At fifteen she had been devastated. As an adult she was still furious when she considered his numerous betrayals. And she was sure she’d be even more furious again tomorrow, but primarily on Harry’s behalf. She’d long ago written Ron Weasley off, as had his own eldest brother. Whether they would have to do more than merely ignore him was up to the boy currently eating without any table manners across from her. She glanced out over the Ravenclaw table, where the first true change to the timeline they had decided on was occurring. As the Beauxbatons students mingled with the ‘claws, Fleur purposefully sat down in the empty space surrounding Luna, bringing a few of her friendlier classmates along.
Beauxbatons had not been an easy experience for Fleur, Hermione knew. The rumors and misinformation about Veela was rampant, even in France where so many had lived for generations innumerable. The option of attending Beauxbatons was fairly new for those of Veela heritage – only a hundred years before a single drop of Veela blood would exclude one from a Beauxbatons education. And France had its bigots as well, pushing back at the inclusion Madam Maxine gleefully furthered in her time as headmistress. Fleur had found her friends amongst the other social outcasts – muggleborns, halfbloods, students from immigrant families, others with Veela blood, a one-eighth goblin. But few of those friends had come along to Hogwarts. So Hermione looked carefully at the students with Fleur. One was very short. Another wore a headscarf. A third had an obvious muggle watch strapped to her wrist. And the rest of the Beauxbatons students ignored the little group that settled around Luna to eat.
She let the conversation flow around her much as it had the first time. Her eyes automatically followed her wife, wrapped up in her muffler still and obviously shivering until with a flick of her wand, she cast a warming charm.
The excess of food that had appeared before her was a shock. She remembered it, of course, but after so many lean years, the generous platters and bowls up and down the Gryffindor table was almost offensive, especially when she noticed how much Ron had already spilled down the front of his robes.
Sighing, she scooped up a modest amount of food. Her body might be used to this plenty but her mind certainly wasn’t. Hermione picked at her dinner, waiting for a repeat of the last time.
“Excuse me, are you wanting ze bouillabaisse?” She could almost feel her wife’s gaze as if it were a physical caress.
Instead of letting Harry answer, she replied, “No, you’re welcome to it.” She smiled. “It’s likely not as good as you get at Beauxbatons, but the elves worked hard to make it.”
“Eet will be quite satisfactory, I am sure. Zank you. I am Fleur Delacour,” she said, putting out a hand.
Hermione rose, clasping their hands together halfway over the table, “Hermione Granger.” She felt her wife’s shiver, and released her. Turning to her friends, she introduced them, “This is Harry Potter, Ron Weasley, and Neville Longbottom.”
“A pleasure to meet you,” Fleur nodded, meeting each boy’s eyes in turn. Harry smiled, Ron purpled, and Neville gave a faint, but real, grin before nodding respectfully. “I hope to make your acquaintance while ‘ere at Hogwarts. But I best be returning to my table.” Giving Hermione a final, warm smile, she picked up the bouillabaisse and returned to the Ravenclaw table, setting it down in front of her friends.
After several minutes, Ron blurted out, “She’s a veela.”
Hermione sighed, speaking to him for the first time since she came back, “Of course she is, Ronald. At least partially. Don’t be churlish. Have some manners and wipe your drool.”
Ron rubbed at his chin with the sleeve of his robe while Hermione rolled her eyes and Neville chuckled.
The rest of the feast puttered along mostly as it had the first time for Hermione, though she stayed out of any conversations she could, instead making small talk with Neville about Herbology. But she did usher them out of the Great Hall before they could bump into Karkaroff and the Durmstrang students. Anything to keep Harry off their radar for a little bit longer, and away from the fake Moody. She wasn’t quite sure she wouldn’t hex him and they needed Barty Junior to Confound the Goblet still.
Her eyes trailed over Harry mournfully. The best chance they had to get at Voldemort was in the graveyard, as he otherwise stayed in Little Hangleton. They didn’t know the wards there, and as of yet had never been. Though Hermione hated the idea of letting Harry be entered in the Tournament, they needed time to track Riddle down and to destroy his Horcruxes. If his plans were interrupted they’d likely never get the chance to outmaneuver him. The prophecy, as well, complicated matters. If Riddle succeeded at the ritual, he would be able to fight Harry, and the prophecy – with their help – could play out in a drastically different manner. She fully intended to be in the graveyard, and to take out Barty Junior long before it came to that. There were ways to make Riddle think his spy was safe.
By the time she was back in Gryffindor Tower, she was ready to leave it. But their family rendezvous wasn’t until the morning. She shrugged off the boys a little early, claiming homework. Except she knew all her classwork had to be complete. Instead, Hermione was tasked with reminding herself of her life as a fourth year student. Her schedule, her current work, even how she organized her possessions.
Crookshanks slept sprawled across her pillow when she pulled back the curtains around her bed. Thankfully, she was the only human in the room because she immediately grabbed up her familiar and sobbed into his thick fur. She’d felt their bond break, the day she later found out that the Weasleys were discovered and executed.
Ever patient with his witch, Crooks let her hold him too tight and instead of clawing, purred to soothe her shattered emotions. By the time Parvati and Lavender came up to bed, she had let him go, changed into her nightgown, braided and wrapped her hair, before pulling the curtains closed and watching the part-Kneazle groom himself after she had ruffled – and dampened with her tears – his fur. Flipping through her diary and the pile of complete homework assignments she had done ahead of their due dates, Hermione felt fairly confident she could fake her way through classes now far too easy for her. Socially, her diary gave few hints of what was going on in Hogwarts – she’d never been one to record the gossip or her own daily life. Instead, it was full of her youthful musings on magic, thoughts for furthering S.P.E.W., and at the back of the diary, under a handful of strong and obscure charms, her notes regarding Voldemort.
As a fourth year, those notes were mostly what she knew, what Harry had told her, what research she’d been able to do since the reveal of his name late in second year. Now, over thirty, she knew far more about Tom Marvolo Riddle than she ever wanted, but not quite enough to kill him. Yet.
Finished his grooming, Crookshanks patted her face. Startled out of her dour thoughts, Hermione smiled, tucked her diary back in her bedside drawer and darkened the small charmed globe she’d made to provide light inside her bedcurtains. She had a war to wage. That required a good night’s rest.
As the darkness curled around her, the tower room quiet but for Lavender’s snoring and Parvati’s soft breathing, Hermione tried to let her mind relax. But without her wife sprawled at her side, it was hard to let go of that constant stream of thought, that constant state of alertness.
It was a long time before she fell asleep, long after the last stragglers went to bed and the fires were banked. And it was a bit of luck (not to mention a little forethought) that had made her silence her curtains before bed, so that the scream she awoke with right before dawn disturbed only Crookshanks. Instead of bolting, her familiar instead faced outward, as if expected attack, his bottle-brush tail puffed out and a low growl rumbling in his barrel chest.
Breathing hard, Hermione set a gentle hand on her familiar’s back, smoothing down his fur until the growl turned to a purr. He turned, realizing his human’s distress, and butt his head against her chest. As her heartbeat slowed, Hermione let the tears drip down her face. Things were going to be different, this time. And to be sure of that, she had so much work to do. Casting a quick Tempus charm, it was early, but not too early. She turned off her alarm, wiped her face, and got out of bed. With a quick kiss pressed to the top of Crookshanks’ head, she started her day.
Chapter 3: The Room of Requirement
Luna Lovegood found slipping into her teenage persona fairly easy. Until her fourth year, she had had basically no friends – Ginny’s awkward and hesitant rekindling of their childhood friendship after their first year didn’t mean terribly much when different houses divided them as well as their divergent interests. Ginny was good in a pinch, and generally had her back against bullies, but nothing could deter the girls Luna shared Ravenclaw Tower with.
So disappearing soon after dinner to head to the empty classroom where, as a fourth year, she’d hidden as many of her personal belongings as she could find, had caught no notice. Spending the night there on a transfigured mattress was easy. And fairly comfortable. Shrinking all her meager belongings and stuffing them into her pockets was almost an afterthought – she had only perhaps half her fourth-year-self’s things anyway, the rest having been seized by her bullies. Her face twisted in a grimace. She’d learned, first year, not to bring anything she considered valuable to school. The absolute essentials of uniform, undergarments, a few least-favorite weekend clothes, toiletries, textbooks, and basic school supplies were all she packed, and therefore only half of those were on-hand. Just enough to not draw suspicion should she be found unprepared for class. That would have to be dealt with.
A set of quick cleaning charms for her teeth and skin, and a change into a mismatched set of weekend clothes would have to be enough to prepare for the day. She had plans, so very many plans. Quickly un-transfiguring the mattress, then stopping by the nearest toilet, she skipped through the castle, a cautious hyper-awareness of her surroundings battling with the detached facial expression she’d carefully cultivated at thirteen.
The family wasn’t set to meet for perhaps fifteen minutes, so she had time. Strolling back and forth down the hall across from the tapestry of the dancing trolls, she thought hard. A door appeared, much like the one she’d had for her bedroom in Poland. Opening it, she knew it would disappear on closing and reappear only for her family. Magic was amazing. Stepping inside, the Room of Requirement had, as always, outdone itself. Right as she stepped in was a small sitting area, the furniture vaguely reminiscent of that in the Rook, handed down through her family for ages. A loveseat, for Fleur and Hermione, and two comfortable stuffed chairs were arranged in a vague circle with a low table between them. There was a doorway to the left that she knew led to a set of bedrooms with a large shared bath and even a modest kitchen, at her request. Huge piles of the castle’s junk spanned out to her right, piled haphazardly by generations of elves and students. She knew some of the paths, had listened to Hermione’s descriptions of the space, but that had been at a very stressful time, some of the last that Harry had even been alive. She hummed to herself quietly, worried about her family. Hermione and Fleur had the most interactions with friends of all of them, the most people to make sure had no suspicions about their knowledge or behaviors, and now that the two were separated by their school affiliations, she wasn’t sure how either would cope. Or sleep alone.
Shrugging, Luna flopped onto a chair, and with a wave of her wand and a silent Accio, a nearby school trunk flew towards her, settling down at her command. A handful of strong cleaning charms on the outside, and she leaned over to look more closely at it. It had to be at least a hundred years old, and she hadn’t a clue whom it had belonged to beyond the DINNET engraved on the lid. Popping it open, she hit the contents with several quick cleaning charms, yet still choked on the dust released. The clothes were horribly out of fashion, the shirts and trousers easily from the mid-nineteenth century in muggle terms, so likely from the late nineteenth century if from a magical owner, but surprisingly still wearable. Casting a quick diagnostic spell, Luna nodded, it had to have been a magical owner, as there were charms on the fabrics to prevent wear and rot, as well as repel dirt. Those charms were fairly well known among the magic-raised but generally not taught to muggleborns, unless the individual had a thoughtful friend or married into a magical family. A few more clothing-specific cleaning charms, and they were perfectly wearable. She refolded them and set them aside, before piling the out-of-date textbooks to one side for Hermione to enjoy. The potions kit was a disaster, the ingredients rotted or spoilt, though the equipment itself was in good repair and perfectly serviceable. That she also set aside to clean, after banishing the spoilt ingredients. The detritus of a Hogwarts student littered the bottom. She found a small chess set amongst the trash, the charms on the pieces long worn off. The rest of the garbage she banished as well, before setting the chessboard up. She far preferred pieces who couldn’t yell at her.
Still waiting for her family to show, she checked the time. Sighing, she emptied her pockets of all her things, tossed them into the now clean empty trunk, and cast a single charm to un-shrink them before heading over to the door. A small magical peephole was right at her eye level, and she could see all three of them loitering in the hall, Bill under both a Notice-Me-Not and Disillusionment charm. No one else was in sight. She threw the door open, “Come on, get in here,” she muttered to them and they all bolted inside, letting her shut the door just as she could hear a few students talking around the corner. The door sealed shut, and she turned to face her family. Finally alone and safe, they all just stared for a moment before rushing into a group hug.
How long they stood in a mess of arms and legs and tears, they couldn’t say. They had planned for at least three hours before the students needed to make an appearance at breakfast. Hermione finally pulled back, wiping her tears and keeping an arm around her wife’s waist. “I’m so glad we’re all here,” she said softly, staring at her family in wonder. “We made it.”
“We did,” Luna grinned. “Now, let’s sit down. We have so much to talk about.”
They all moved towards the seating, Bill and Fleur looking around in wonder. “So this is the Room of Requirement,” he said, gazing out over the piles of junk.
“This isn’t quite the Room of Lost Things that I remember,” Hermione replied with a curious face.
“It isn’t,” Luna confirmed. “That’s all to my right. Here and down the hall are some lovely rooms we can stay in. Or, I hope we can. I certainly am not sleeping in a classroom anymore.”
The other three, aware of her past – now present – nodded in agreement. “So, what does this mean?” Fleur asked. “I cannot stay here, I will be missed. As will ‘ermione.”
“I’m staying here,” Luna repeated, “And if Bill has gotten his leave of absence from the goblins, he can as well. Once we make contact with Padfoot, he has somewhere safe to stay. Professor Lupin as well, if he wishes. And even if you can’t live here, you still have a room here,” she winked at her friends as they both blushed, well aware of her meaning. “If we can’t have someone stay here, full time, to maintain the space, well, we can just use this configuration when we are here. I mean, the diadem is,” she waved a hand towards the piles, “somewhere and needs to be destroyed. And there is so much… junk to sort through. Valuable junk, perhaps. To give us a bit of working capital. Besides, there’s quite the nargle infestation and someone should deal with it.”
All three nodded solemnly in agreement, Bill speaking up, “Good news, I do have a leave of absence. Two years at the maximum. Lucky, I have a bit of savings. But living here will be perfect, as long as I can fend off my mum from knowing. Does this place make food?”
Fleur shook her head, “Gamp’s Law, mon loup.” She looked at her ex-husband, momentarily startled by the lack of scars crossing his face that she had been so used to.
“But that doesn’t mean we can’t get food in here,” Hermione said, deviously. “We do still have a couple of vertically challenged friends to speak with.”
Luna grinned. “Of course! How could I forget?!” She sat up straight and intoned with the utmost seriousness, “Mister Dobby!”
Popping into the room curiously, Dobby appeared on top of the coffee table. “Miss Loony? Miz Grangey ma’am?” The two strangers he regarded with wide eyes.
Hermione clapped a hand over her mouth, speechless at seeing the exuberant elf alive, and in front of her. Fleur curled an arm around her wife, tears in her eyes at finally getting to meet the elf she had heard so very much about. Bill simply grinned, feeling a bit of relief at seeing Dobby breathing instead of being buried in his garden.
“Mister Dobby, I know we are not friends and that we have met only in passing in the kitchens, but I would like to ask you a question.” Luna tilted her head and reconsidered, “We would like to ask you a question, I should say.”
Hermione squeezed her wife’s thigh, wiping at her tears before she moved her hand from her face. “Dobby, we…” she did her best to control her emotions, “We,” she continued, gesturing at the other three humans in the room, “consider ourselves a family. A family that’s incomplete. And we were hoping you would join our family. We have two goals: to protect Harry Potter, and destroy Voldemort.”
Dobby gave the involuntary shudder so many in the magical world displayed when Tom Riddle’s pseudonym was uttered, and his eyes widened even further. “Dobby would like that,” he replied. “But Dobby would also like to be Harry Potter’s elf,” he continued, shyly, twisting his hands together nervously.
Hermione nodded, “I know, Dobby. But… I don’t think Harry would be comfortable with that, right now. He’s very independent. The thing is, even though he doesn’t know it, we feel like Harry is a part of our family. And someday, soon, we are going to tell him that. When it’s safe.”
He nodded his head, big ears flopping back and forth. “Dobby would like to be part of Harry Potter’s family.”
Smiling, Luna knelt down in front of the nervous elf. “Dobby, I’m quite sure you already are, but we would like to make it formal. Because we have many things to do to protect Harry, and to make the world better, and we quite need your help to succeed.”
Dobby reached out, his gnarled hand resting softly on top of Luna’s head. “Dobby is part of the family now,” he said, and a golden glow formed around the five of them in the Room, disappearing just as quickly, appearing as barely a flash. High in Gryffindor Tower, that glow briefly encompassed one boy still snoring in his bed, as well as a large black dog curled asleep in a thicket, on his way to Hogwarts.
“Thank you, Mister Dobby,” Luna said, grinning. She waved her wand, accio-ing a stool from a nearby pile of junk before repairing and cleaning it, then transfiguring a cushion for the seat. “Why don’t you sit down? We all have a lot to talk about.
The exuberant elf rubbed at his teary eyes before carefully balancing himself on his stool, which brought him to eye level with the humans in the room.
An hour later, the little family meeting broke up, Dobby to the kitchens to sober up Winky in the hopes she would also join their family as well as acquire food for Bill, and the rest to explore the Room.
Hermione led them towards where she vaguely recalled a few important things being. Coming upon the Switching Cabinet that had been used in the previous timeline by Death Eaters to invade Hogwarts, she levitated it back to the sitting area before jogging back to the rest of the family. Luna, it had been decided, would stay in the room during her free afternoon that week while Bill, in disguise, went to purchase the other cabinet with his savings.
With their wands out, the four of them came upon Ravenclaw’s Diadem, in a pile of junk by the bust of an old ugly warlock, just as Harry had described in the last timeline. Levitating it and careful not to touch it, Bill placed it into a steel box that Hermione conjured.
“I’m still not sure I can control Fiendfyre,” he mentioned sadly.
Hermione shook her head, “That’s far too risky.” She shuddered with the memories of the last time someone used Fiendfyre in the Room. “I’m going to ask Harry to say Open in Parseltongue and record it. Sometime this week we’ll go into the Chamber and get basilisk venom to destroy it. Right now, we have to merely contain it safely.”
They all looked at her, before Fleur shrugged, “You know him best, mon amour, but is that not an unusual thing to ask?”
“It is. But Harry will do it for me. I hope. And not pester me about why.” She shrugged. “We need to get the basilisk rendered down anyway, before anyone else gets at it.”
They had quietly wondered for years why the carcass was skeletal when Hermione described her descent into the Chamber during the Battle. None of them thought it could possibly have rotted so quickly, given its size and magical potency, but neither were they sure who had gotten to it – a carcass that by law belonged to its slayer, Harry – nor were they sure why whomever had rendered it had left any of the highly valuable venom behind.
“If we aren’t too late already,” Bill noted. He and Luna were the ones with enough magical creature experience to safely render it, and both looked forward to the opportunity.
“If it’s too late, we should still have some venom,” Luna added.
Fleur’s face expressed her distaste for the project. While she could butcher animals from hunting or fishing with ease, the dark magic inherent in a basilisk’s corpse was incredibly repulsive to anyone with Veela heritage
“We won’t make you help,” Hermione teased softly, aware of her wife’s discomfort. “In fact, you’ll probably be the one holding the Room for us.”
Fleur nodded, an arm circling Hermione’s shoulders, “Let us secure that abomination and then Luna can give us a tour of the rooms before we have to leave William to go to breakfast.”
When they made it back to the sitting area, Luna put a featherlight charm on the battered school trunk and levitated it behind her as she started down the hall. Each room had a brass nameplate on the door. The first was Bill’s, and he opened it to find a space very reminiscent of his room in Poland, but with far more creature comforts. Grinning, he took a shrunken trunk out of his pocket and set it at the end of the wide bed before unshrinking it. “I brought everything with me, just in case,” he said, before shooing them out to explore further.
Across from his room was Luna’s, a large circular room with what seemed to be real windows looking out across the castle grounds. She dropped off her trunk – her family looking at it with a mix of anger and sadness, as they’d all guessed its origin and seen how few things she had within it earlier – and shooed them past the other rooms. One was labeled “Delacour-Granger,” another read simply “Dobby,” and four more had blank nameplates, Hermione opening one to see plain but comfortable rooms ready for use.
“You can look at yours later, Hermione,” Luna giggled, dragging them all down to show off the impressive bath, almost equal in decadance to the Prefects Bath, and the modest kitchen across from a small potions lab. “There are plenty of spare cauldrons and scales and whatnot here in the Room to stock this with,” she said, pointing out how the potions lab was incredibly bare of actual equipment to use, as well as the ingredients cupboard being empty, the room having only wide tables, stools, and a few burners. “Some things are best to not let the Room create for us. So we can take them out if need be.”
“When I’m off in Knockturn Alley, I’ll pick up supplies,” Bill promised, knowing that they needed several potions.
“I’ll have an ingredients list for you soon,” Hermione – their most skilled brewer – replied.
“I can guess at the basics, I’m sure, but please,” he smiled.
Hermione glanced at her watch. “We have about half an hour before breakfast, Luna,” she noted. “If you all would excuse us, I need some time with my wife.” Smiling warmly at the others, she gently pulled Fleur from the room, vaguely noting that Bill was quizzing Luna on what possessions she needed replacements of. She made a mental note to bring some basics from her own things for Luna’s use in the meantime.
Throwing open the door to their room, Hermione smiled. It was large, despite Luna being aware that they wouldn’t likely be able to stay there often. But as enclosed spaces bothered Hermione more than she cared to admit, she was thankful for the expansive room. A wide four-poster with a thick mattress and what looked to be utterly luxurious bedding took up a great deal of space against the far wall. She would never understand the mostly-bare Room and hammocks that Neville had chosen while hiding with much of the rest of the D.A. in the previous timeline.
Fleur shut the door behind them, then gently pressed herself against her wife’s back, pulling the shorter woman into her arms. Hermione turned and let herself fall into Fleur’s embrace. Her wife was shaking subtly, overwhelmed. She pressed a kiss to the other woman’s cheek before burying her face in her wife’s neck, inhaling deeply. Under the gentle perfume, under the sweat and the subtle fear they all lived with constantly, was Fleur herself, something Hermione found deeply comforting. She wound her arms around her wife’s waist as Fleur pulled her close by the shoulders. They huddled together, gently swaying as all the fear leeched out of them. They were together. Beyond rhyme or reason, they’d managed it. They were fifteen and seventeen again, with all the memories and knowledge and skill that had kept them alive for so long in a world under Voldemort’s ever-increasing control. Now, Tom Riddle was but a wraith, with few allies and fewer resources, and they had a chance to fix all that had gone so horribly wrong. Together, with their small family.
Fleur pulled back after a good ten minutes. She slid one hand against Hermione’s cheek. Cursing her teenage body – and teenage hormones – Hermione felt herself blush, cheeks red enough for it to be visible under her dark brown skin. Her wife smiled softly, affectionately, before her hand slid down to trace where Bellatrix’s knife had scarred Hermione’s throat, and then moved again over cloth to her sternum, unmarred by Dolohov’s curse. Her other hand settled on Hermione’s robe-covered forearm, where MUDBLOOD was no longer carved into tender skin. Fleur choked back a sob, whispering, “Mon cœur.”
Hermione looked up, smiling, “I know, love.” She settled her hands on Fleur’s hips, moving onto her tip-toes to press a kiss to the other woman’s lips. “I know,” she murmured.
Chapter 4: The Goblet Of Fire
I hate trying to write Fleur’s accent, especially when she’s trying to fake it and is therefore inconsistent. Her accent’s a mess. That’s pretty much my fault. Whoops. And I doubt Maxime's is much better. Also, thank you all so much for the comments and kudos; you have no idea how much I appreciate them!
Fleur chewed her lip subtly as the Goblet’s fire lit. So much of their strategy was based around her being the Beauxbatons Champion, her being there in the lake and the maze to protect both Cedric and Victor, as well as assist Harry. Of course, there were backup plans, but it would be much easier if she was representing her school. That her mind, if not her body, had graduated from over fifteen years before. They weren’t sure how the magic of the Goblet would evaluate her – as the seventeen year old body or the thirty-three year old mind inside it or both, nor if the Goblet would even consider her a student technically speaking.
She barely heard Dumbledore announce Victor as Durmstrang’s Champion. She remembered his last letter warning her away from Bulgaria and that he himself was going into hiding with his muggleborn partner. She’d never met them, last time. Luna’s hand slipped into hers below the table, grounding her and providing a bit of reassurance. Though she could feel her friend’s sweaty palm and knew the other time-traveler was just as nervous. She stopped breathing entirely as the second slip of parchment was launched from the Goblet. “The champion for Beauxbatons is Fleur Delacour!” Letting out a deep sigh of relief, she squeezed Luna’s hand before she squared her shoulders and rose to her feet. She heard the quiet sounds of dismay from her schoolmates, acknowledged the gracious clapping from her small group of friendly peers. Ignoring the rest, she swept down between the Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff tables to the antechamber where Victor already stood. It was only through knowing him from before that she could see, this time, the lines of nervousness in his shoulders and the tension on his brow.
It took only a few minutes before Cedric Diggory joined them. Fleur swallowed hard at seeing the boy again. And to her, he was a boy. Barely seventeen, young and innocent and the best standard-bearer his school could have chosen. She liked Harry Potter, loved him even more for being her wife’s brother in all but name, respected him greatly as an individual and a warrior for the Light, had mourned deeply when she saw him die. But it was honestly Cedric that had spurred her life’s work, her life’s direction. Cedric was a good person, honest and fair and brave, the quintessential Hufflepuff – though she put little stock in the Hogwarts Houses, she knew her small time-traveling family did. And seeing his corpse on the Quidditch Pitch had changed her life. She had returned to Britain that summer, had met Bill, had taken part in skirmishes, had healed and cared for the wounded, had mourned the dead, had fought and fled the Battle with those who became her family. She had ended up in a castle in Poland because of Cedric Diggory. Had gotten to know Hermione, fallen in love, married (twice, technically). Because of Cedric Diggory. Who stood before her, alive and young and unblemished by the next nine months before he would end up on a Quidditch Pitch that, before, had led to his doom. Not this time, she silently promised herself as she drank in the sight of him.
But with Cedric as the Hogwarts Champion, it was time for Harry to be chosen. She forced herself to make small talk with Victor and Cedric, trying to affect the heavy accent she had had at seventeen. It would disappear quickly, this year, they had all decided. It was more hindrance than help, as was remembering how little she had known her competitors when they were seventeen.
Fleur had seen him the night before of course, but only briefly. When he stumbled into the chamber, shock and fear plain on his face to any who knew him, she frowned. The way things had gone would change. She was not the girl she had been, and even if he didn’t know it, he was her wife’s brother. “Monsieur Potter, what iz eet?” The damn accent, her questionable grasp of English at seventeen, was obnoxious to fake. Especially when faced with the man her wife mourned so deeply.
Harry was still silent when that human cockroach Ludo Bagman appeared in the doorway. “Absolutely extraordinary! Gentlemen… lady. May I introduce – incredible though it may seem – the fourth Triwizard champion!”
Fleur had debated how she would redirect this conversation many times over the years, given a second chance. Discussed it ad naseum with her family. She tossed her hair back, distracting all the men in the room but for Harry. She had always admired his strength in mostly disregarding her Veela aura. “Monsieur Potter is, I am sure, far too honorable to enter himself into the Tournament, Meester Bagman. Who has tampered with the Goblet of Fire? Who has tried to force ze Boy Who Lived to risk his life for fame and money he does not need? Are we also at risk if the Goblet was Confounded?” She was aware her accent slipped away a bit as she felt her ire rise, but didn’t care. The lack of compassion or basic decency regarding Harry’s forced participation angered her as an adult even more than it had confused her at seventeen.
The door opened again, allowing in the three headmasters, Crouch, McGonagall, and Snape. Fleur moved to stand by Harry, gesturing for Cedric and Viktor to as well. “Madame Maxime! This young man is far too honorable to have cheated his way into the Tournament. The Goblet has been Confounded, surely! Who is trying to kill Monsieur Potter? Are we at risk?” She noticed the stormy faces of Karkaroff and Snape, the controlled rage in Crouch’s expression. She ignored them, turning back to her headmistress and Professor McGonagall. “Where eez his guardian? Ee is vat, quatorze? Fourteen?”
“Who is his guardian, Dumbly-door?” Madame Maxime inquired, eyes widening. “Surely they should be called here before we continue.”
“Mister Potter lives with his muggle aunt and uncle. In Wizarding matters, I am his in loco parentis,” Dumbledore replied smoothly, even as his face tightened. Fleur could tell he was severely annoyed to not be directing the discussion, and a part of her cheered at being able to thwart his ego.
“Zat is unacceptable, Headmaster. Zere is a clear conflict of interest as you are his Headmaster and also running the Tournament,” Fleur pointed out, letting part of her fury out. “Monsieur Potter, who signs any permission slips for you? It cannot be the ‘eadmaster!”
Harry seemed shocked she was sticking up for him but there was cunning in his gaze as he replied, “My godfather signed my Hogsmeade permission slip. They let me go to the village on Saturday.”
“So, call zis godfather here!” Fleur whirled to Professor McGonagall. “Ee should have some say in his ward’s name coming from the Goblet!”
“He is, unfortunately, unavailable,” Dumbledore broke in.
“He is an escaped murderer!” shouted Crouch.
“Did you know, Monsieur Potter, that Sirius Black’s lack of a trial was mentioned in many newspapers on the Continent?” Fleur said slyly. “Ee is escaped, but not convicted of any crimes. Zis is widely known, outside Britain.” It had been, too, she remembered, from reading the French Wizarding papers. A bit of an international scandal, shoved under the rug by Fudge then forgotten in the fervor of the Quidditch World Cup and Triwizard Tournament. “And if your school, your ‘eadmaster, accepts his signature, eezer your headmaster is most grossly unconcerned with your welfare, or ‘ee believes him innocent.” She turned to Dumbledore. “Quite a miscarriage of justice, if the Chief Warlock will not publicly call for a trial for a man who has never had one despite twelve years in Azkaban. Is this what we can expect of British justice?”
Crouch drew his wand, “Shut up, girl! These are things you know nothing about!”
Immediately, Madame Maxime stepped in front of her, drawing her own wand.
“And a Ministry representative draws his wand on a foreign student. ‘eadmistress, I believe it was a poor choice to come to Britain, if this is the treatment we must put up with.” Fleur knew she was not behaving like a normal teenage student. But a Champion, she hoped, would be given much more leeway. The flower of Beauxbatons had an agenda to complete.
“Perhaps you are correct, Fleur,” replied Madame Maxime, eyeing Crouch and Dumbledore with distaste. “I will be speaking with our government shortly. I will not stay here a moment longer with my student, with that unhinged man threatening her.” She glared at Crouch, and shot an angry look at Dumbledore. “Dumbleydoor, I do not believe we can proceed further until Monsieur Potter’s guardian is free to represent his interests. You have a week to produce this Sirius Black, free of Ministerial persecution, before Beauxbatons withdraws from the Tournament and calls for Judgment on Hogwarts for treachery!”
Gasps rang around the room. Crouch and Karkaroff obviously understood the severity of Maxime’s statement, and Fleur had to carefully school her face to not give away her utter glee. She had certainly not expected her headmistress to follow her lead, to challenge Dumbledore so blatantly, nor to go so far as threatening to call Judgment. Broken or subverted magical contracts were dangerous to those who had gone against a contract’s terms. Calling for magical Judgment could be deadly. Then again, so could a tampered-with Triwizard Tournament. It had been, before, of course.
Madame Maxime stretched to her full, impressive height and glared at the other school heads, as well as Bagman and Crouch. “Monsieur Potter, I believe your ‘eadmaster has not been forthcoming with you. Madame McGonagall, perhaps you could join me in discussing matters with Monsieur Potter?”
A firm, angry nod came from McGonagall. “Come, Potter, and you too Miss Delacour, you’ve put the cat amongst the pixies and right in time to boot.” She gave a glare to Dumbledore before opening a side door that led away from the Great Hall.
“Now Minerva, first we must discover if Mister Potter actually did not enter himself,” Dumbledore said, eyes steely and voice affecting the faux-grandfatherly tone he often used.
“Potter! Did you enter yourself?” McGonagall was brusque, peeved at Dumbledore and the entire situation.
“No Professor,” Harry replied, shaking his head.
“There, he didn’t enter himself.”
Snape scoffed, “Potter has been crossing lines ever since arriving here…”
“That is enough, Snape,” McGonagall snapped. “Your blind hatred of Mister Potter is unacceptable, I have told you time and again. And why are you even in this room?”
“Minerva, I trust Severus,” Dumbledore began.
“And I do not! He is a bully and a boor! You claim him ‘redeemed’ from being a Death Eater and yet you protect him at every turn, but no more! Keep your viper under control, Headmaster! Or else!” Skin flush with her rage, she practically got up into Dumbledore’s face. “Potter, come,” McGonagall ordered.
“This is a magically binding contract!” Crouch shouted. “The boy will compete!”
McGonagall turned from where she had been ushering Harry out the door, “The Tournament itself can be dissolved for treachery, Mister Crouch. And whether the contract is binding on Mister Potter or whomever entered him against his will could be debated. We cannot force a fourteen year old to compete against adults without at least investigating the possibility of redrawing the names. And I will not have one of my students herded into dangerous situations without his guardian being consulted, let alone without someone to advocate on his behalf! It is utterly appalling that you and Albus are showing so little regard for his health and safety, let alone the fact that he does not want to compete!”
As the door shut behind the four, Fleur took a deep breath. Harry seemed shocked as well, and she remembered all her wife’s stories about how few people ever stood up for him.
“Potter, I’ve quite a few owls to send. Try to get some sleep and we will talk when I know more,” said Professor McGonagall as she tried to control her temper.
“Eet is disgrace, your ‘eadmaster in zere,” Maxime huffed. “I ‘ave met Dumbleydoor many times. Zought he was a good man.” She shook her head. “Eef you wish, next year, transfer to Beauxbatons, start to learn ze French. You weel be welcome. Zis year, I will help ‘owever I can.” She turned to McGonagall, “Ve must discuss. I ‘ave many contacts in ze Ministère de la Magie.” The two women walked off together, vaguely towards where Fleur thought the Deputy Headmistress had her office.
She studied the boy before her, his shoulders tight and hunched, face wary. She had known Harry Potter, before. Known him as a competitor, for much longer as the banner-carrier under whom she fought, and for a sadly short while as a true friend. She cared for him. Had mourned him in a future she swore would not come to pass again. Loved him as her brother-in-law. And yet seeing him again on this night, the burden of the Tournament settling on his skinny shoulders like Atlas carrying the weight of the world, she wanted to hug him. He was a boy, and she was old enough – mentally, anyway – to be his mother. She wanted to mother him in a way he’d not experienced. Not like Molly Weasley had smothered him, but the quiet constant support and love and affection she’d grown up with from both her own mother and grandmother and many aunts. Something she knew he’d not had since Lily Potter gave up her life for him.
“Harry,” she said softly, just enough to get his attention, “eef we have to be competitors, eef zhey cannot get you out of this... We shall be allies, no? Zhis tournament is to meet people, to build bonds between our schools. First and foremost to survive. I zink, eef someone is trying to hurt you, using ze Goblet, we are all at risk, no?”
He nodded, and stuck out his hand, eyes a bit wary but also grateful. “Allies?”
She took it, smiling. “Oui. And friends.” She looked around the empty hall. “Eet is late. For me. Beauxbatons is furzzer to the east. And we travelled far yesterday.” She whispered at him conspiratorially, “I do not like heights, you see. Ze carriage iz very far up. I kept dreaming I was falling from the sky last night.”
He laughed. “I play quidditch. But my best friend, she hates brooms.”
“Your friend ‘ermione? From ze feast?”
“Yeah. She’s great. Brilliant. Smartest witch in the school. I hope she doesn’t think I entered myself. She had to push me out of my seat when they called my name.”
Fleur nodded, “A true friend will be at your side, Harry. If one does not, ‘e is not a true friend to begin with.”
He grimaced. “I suppose I should go back to the Tower. I don’t…” he trailed off.
“Your real friends will believe you. And I would like to meet your real friends. You are a Gryffindor, no? Lunch, tomorrow. I shall sit with you and your real friends.”
He looked at her curiously, “Bring yours, too?”
She laughed, a little bitter even as an adult, “I have, how you say, study friends? Zhey will help me study, for ze Tournament. But they also wanted to compete. Eet is hard, for Veela, to make true friends outside of our people. But I have family.” She studied the orphan in front of her, whose eyes had gone sad at the mention of what he lacked, “I will introduce you. When they come to see the Tournament. You, and your godfather, you must meet them. Maman, she – how do the English put it - she collects strays.” The dog pun made Harry grin, which is why Fleur had used the turn of phrase.
“Sirius, he can be a bit of a hound,” he replied, smiling. She wanted to laugh. Someday, she’d tell him that she was in on the joke.
“Ah, well, a Veela knows just how to handle a hound. Get rid of ze puces, and feed zhem up, and train zhem not to piss on ze floor.”
Harry lost it, dissolving into laughter. She smiled, and let him howl. When he got himself under control, he said, “Thank you, by the way. For tonight. For believing in me, and trying to help.”
“Eet was nothing, Harry. It was the right zing to do. I zink,” her smile softened and she gazed at her brother-in-law fondly, “I zink tonight is the start of a wonderful friendship.”
He turned a little red under her fond look, “I hope so, too. Good night, Fleur.”
“Good night, Harry.” She watched him head off down the hall, disappearing around a corner before she struck off for the Beauxbatons carriage. She ached to sneak into Gryffindor Tower behind him and snuggle with her wife. But that simply wasn’t possible. She knew the nightmares would come again as soon as she fell asleep. Not of falling, as she’d told Harry. But of his death, and Hermione’s pain, and of every single battle she’d fought to get back to Scotland, in 1994. And that deep terror in her gut that, this time, she might lose her wife. She straightened up, alert in the shadowy corridors of Hogwarts as she made her way out. Standing by the side door, having tapped her own head to end her Disillusionment, was Hermione. Alive, breathing. Smiling for her.
She buried her face in Hermione’s shoulder for a long moment, the scent familiar and soothing, the warmth the deepest comfort, the heartbeat she could feel beneath sweet skin the thing that kept her alive too. She felt the cold broken egg of a Disillusionment charm as her wife’s wand tapped the top of her head and she could hear the whispered incantation that would keep their conversation private. That was enough, for now, as she pressed kiss after kiss into the same patch of soft skin.
Eventually, she pulled back to her wife’s concerned face. She smiled, emotionally exhausted, and proceeded to tell Hermione all about her unexpected triumph in the antechamber. She couldn’t snuggle with her wife in their bed; holding her as they talked in a corridor would have to be enough. For now.
Chapter 5: Sunday Morning, Yellow Sky
I love Dobby. He’s actually the one I cried hardest for in Deathly Hallows. I do not love writing Dobby’s speech patterns. I did my best though. Chapter title from an October Project song.
Like she had a lifetime ago, Hermione left Gryffindor Tower as soon as she was showered and dressed early on Sunday morning. Instead of heading for the Great Hall, however, she went to the Room of Requirement to find Bill and Luna eating breakfast while poring over copies of the Daily Prophet Dobby had fetched for them. The ecstatic house elf was eating his own breakfast at the table while slowly paging through a book on knitting. It was a lovely, if odd, domestic scene. The towering piles of junk nearby only added to the unusual tableau.
“Dobby has prepared bacon sandwiches and pumpkin juice for Mione and Harry Potter Sir,” he said as soon as he spotted Hermione come through the door. “Luna said you would like it.”
Smiling, Hermione nodded, “Thank you, Dobby, that’s wonderful. Certainly better than me nipping down to the Great Hall for some toast.”
Dobby shook his head, ears flapping at the motion, “Dobby will feed his family better than toast for breakfast.”
“You take very good care of us, Dobby,” Luna said, lifting her head up from the newspaper. “My omelet is splendid.”
Watching Dobby turn red under his green skin made Hermione’s chest fill. The little fellow was so happy to have a family, and to be helping. Twelve years of living with the magically raised had changed her planned methodology for helping house elves live better lives. But that was for in the future, when Riddle was dead and Harry free of various machinations, and she had her NEWTS. Besides, getting rid of all the Death Eaters would make helping elves help themselves slightly less challenging. Sighing happily, she picked up the basket, “I’d best get going. Dobby, thank you for breakfast.” Fat tears rolled down his face, still shocked every time someone thanked or complimented him. Luna popped up from her seat to press a kiss to her cheek. “I’m going to go down to the Great Hall. So Fleur has backup. And company. Thank you for breakfast, Dobby. I’ll just have a cup of tea; you’ve filled me up.”
Bill, still in a housecoat, finally finished reading, and sipped at his coffee. They all knew it was best to leave him alone in the morning as he slowly woke up. “There’s not really much in the paper, Hermione. Just that there’s a fourth Champion and that it’s Harry. I suspect things will break wide open if Sirius is brought in to the mix.”
Hermione grimaced at the thought of the Prophet smearing Harry and Sirius - again. None of them had honestly thought Fleur’s gambit would pay off. It had been a pipe dream, one she had only been able to put into play by chance, and yet it had somehow worked beyond all expectation, with Maxime taking up on Harry’s behalf - although it was obvious she was primarily concerned with an unfair Tournament being a threat to her own student, according to Fleur she also was genuinely appalled at the disregard Dumbledore showed for Harry’s welfare. And with McGonagall now firmly a lioness protecting one of her cubs, there was a real chance for change, at least in how Dumbledore was able to manipulate Harry within Hogwarts. Adjusting all their plans would be worth it if Sirius obtained his freedom. Having him free and at Harry’s side would be a significant boon and not something they’d thought they would be able to make possible for awhile.
The corridor was empty as they left the Room. Luna skipped away towards the stairs while Hermione headed back towards the Tower. Luck was on her side, and she again bumped into Harry coming out the portrait. Glancing up at the very curious Fat Lady, Hermione threw an arm around Harry’s shoulders and pulled him towards the stairs. She was at the point where she still had a couple inches on her best friend - an advantage she only kept for a year or two more before he caught up to her. She ground her teeth - thanks to pictures and having met both Sirius and Remus, she could easily guess how tall his parents had been. And knew that he would never reach their heights due to childhood malnutrition.
Surprisingly, Harry was silent as she led them out towards the Lake. He hadn’t been, last time. But last time he also had no one stand up for him in the antechamber. With Fleur, Maxime, and McGonagall on his side, it was a completely new experience. Terrifying to Hermione, who knew how very many things could go wrong, but also exhilarating. Things had gone catastrophically before. Now there was hope.
She led them to the far side, away from the Durmstrang ship and also just far enough away from the Beauxbatons carriage for privacy. In fact, her feet led them to not far from where they’d hidden third year at the edge of the Forest - last year, she firmly reminded herself - and Harry had burst out to cast his patronus and save Sirius. She pushed him onto a convenient log before plopping down next to him. Opening the basket, she could only smile. Yes, Dobby had packed bacon sandwiches and pumpkin juice, but also fresh fruit salad and warm croissants. And, blessing of blessings, a thermos of strong tea, along with two cups.
Passing one of the bottles of pumpkin juice and a bacon sandwich to her best friend, she said, “Eat first, talk later.” Harry nodded, still thoughtful, and tore into his food ravenously. Most of the bacon sandwiches went down his throat in short order as Hermione preferred the croissants and fruit. Bacon sandwiches were amazing, but she wanted something a bit lighter in her stomach. Whether Harry would accept what she said, for now, was tying her in knots.
Washing the last sandwich down with the last of the second bottle of pumpkin juice, Harry sighed. Hermione cradled her teacup in her lap, watching him. They hadn’t talked at all the night before, Harry fighting through the party in Gryffindor after arriving back at the tower late, while Hermione had snuck away, after quarrelling with Ron, to meet with her wife and catch up on what had happened. While she knew Harry would tell her, she had also needed her wife’s embrace, and Fleur’s more detailed description of events, especially what happened after she had left the room with Maxime, McGonagall, and Harry.
“I know you didn’t put your name in the Goblet, Harry,” Hermione started. At that, his shoulders loosened very slightly. “I also know that even if you could have, you wouldn’t.” He nodded.
“Thank you,” he said, his voice soft.
“Now, tell me what happened, everything, and we’ll figure out where to go from here,” she ordered gently, looping her arm with his.
His retelling of the events in the antechamber and afterwards were less detailed than her wife’s, but he did manage to recite all the salient points. In a stressful situation, Harry tended to be far more observant than he normally was. When he was done, he fell silent for a minute, “What am I gonna do, Hermione?”
She leaned against him, trying to resist the urge to draw him into a hug she wasn’t sure he’d welcome - he’d been so awkward with affection at this age and she was already pushing his limits. “Well, first, you and I are going to write Padfoot. Because he needs to hear about this from you and not from a scrounged copy of the Prophet. And then,” she took a breath, “we have some things to talk about.”
She let Harry write the letter itself, giving him as much control over the situation as she possibly could. She did ask, and he allowed her, to add a note as well. The letter itself gave no hint about Fleur bringing up the lack of Sirius’ trial, as they didn’t want to get his hopes up or make him reckless, and they repeatedly asked him to be careful, that Harry had McGonagall and even Madame Maxime trying to protect him. Otherwise, much of the letter was the same Hermione remembered him writing in the previous timeline.
Hermione’s postscript was simple;
Please, Padfoot, be careful. Harry needs you. And I need your help to help him. When you safely make it back to Britain, as I’m sure you will, our friend Dobby, a House Elf, will find you, with food and clothing and more information than we can send in a letter. Until then, fondly, Hermione
Harry’s eyes widened as he read her postscript before folding it up. “Dobby?”
At this, Hermione blushed, and waved away the house elf she saw appear behind him for just a moment. “It makes Dobby very happy to help you, Harry. I’ve been talking to him. Elves can and should be free, he thinks. And it’s wizards who made them slaves, years ago. Our society, magical and muggle, is built on slavery.” She shook her head in disgust, braids flying with the force of her movement. “But, like everyone else, Dobby still needs a home, a family, to be happy. Hogwarts is a job. His birth family are gone. Other elves are too afraid to take him in, with good cause if their masters ever discovered him. We are his family now.”
“Well, Harry James Potter, you’re the closest thing I have to a brother,” Hermione grinned. She’d never expressed that feeling to him before, and the fruit she’d just eaten churned a bit in her stomach. “Dobby’s part of your family, so he’s part of mine too.”
She could see the surprise on his face, the way his pulse pounded. He pushed his glasses up his nose, and nodded. He looked at her, for a long long moment, eyes a little damp. “Thank you.”
Hermione couldn’t resist hugging him then. “We’re family, Harry. No matter what.”
He laughed, a little bitterly, “Think I can stay with you next summer instead of the Dursleys then?”
“With any luck, you’ll be with Sirius,” she replied. “And if not, then yes, we’ll figure something out.” She took a breath, a moment to center herself. She had to walk that fine line between not telling secrets he could not yet protect and avoiding even a single untruth. “Harry, did you know a form of mind-reading is something some magical people can do?”
He shook his head but then stopped. “Snape?” he growled out.
She nodded, “And Dumbledore, who yet again is doing so very little to help you. Offering you up as bait.”
He stared at her, “Where’s my best friend who respects all teachers, forever?”
Hermione snorted, flushing a little at her youthful worship of authority figures. “She’s gone on permanent holiday because she realized how truly messed up the Wizarding world is. Look. There are things you need to know to make it out of this tournament.”
“You don’t think they’ll be able to get me out of it, do you? Even if Beauxbatons calls this Judgment thing?” he asked mournfully.
Shaking her head, she replied, “Somehow, some way, they’re going to make you compete. Madame Maxime and McGonagall might advocate for you as much as they can, but magical contracts are sticky. In the end, they might get Sirius free and he will protest you being involved, but if the Goblet really was Confounded or whatever else they did to it, it would probably be too dangerous to try to re-draw the names. Dumbledore will likely say there’s a good chance all the Champions will die if they attempt to cancel the drawing of the Champions. The Tournament is going to go forward and probably drag you along with it.” Taking a deep breath, “The things you need to know, I can’t tell you until you can keep Dumbledore and Snape out of your mind.”
He stared at her, worried, “Hermione?”
Reaching out to take his hand, she begged, “Please, trust me. I’ve read up on the Tournament.” He snorted at the obvious statement, “It’s going to take a lot of hard work, but you can get through it, Harry. You have me, and you have Maxime and McGonagall and Fleur, and there are other people on your side, I promise.”
“What about Ron?” he asked mournfully.
She could not help but let the anger show on her face. His expression fell further. “Harry, I think…”
“Ron’s a git?” he spat out. Shaking his head, his eyes watered and he rubbed at his face roughly. “Fleur said that my true friends will believe me. I guess he’s not one of those.”
Hermione felt her heart ache for him. All the betrayals in his life and here was yet another one. But at least she could nudge him towards a clean break, something that might cause trouble now but likely prevent more later on. “Harry…”
He met her eyes, fierce and angry, “Tell me what you really think, Hermione. Please.”
She took a deep breath, tried to put herself back in her fifteen year old self’s mindset. In this conversation it didn’t feel right to base her hatred of Ron on his future self’s actions. But thankfully, there was plenty he’d done in the first three years she could use. “He’s lazy. He pushes you to be lazy, which doesn’t do you any favors. He isolates you from the rest of our classmates. I’m not a social butterfly, Harry, but getting away from Ron when you two weren’t talking to me last year, I made other friends fairly easily.”
That had been true, in the previous timeline. Casual study groups in the library were about the only things that kept her going when she had felt so isolated from her best friend. Those study groups continued through most of the rest of her Hogwarts years – a Runes group and an Arithmancy group even introduced her to a few Slytherin classmates she never would have really gotten to know otherwise, especially given Ron’s aggressive hatred of all those in silver and green.
She swallowed thickly. “Look at how quick he was to turn on me last year, turn you against me. And his grades dropped because he wasn’t pressuring me to do his homework for him. This year he turned on you. Honestly we’ve never really gotten along. I think he resents me.” She shrugged, “Losing him from my life is a positive. But you can feel differently about it and that’s okay.” Hermione could see the guilt on her best friend’s face. If nothing else, Harry was loyal. But for his propensity to run off into dangerous situations, she’d often thought he’d make a fantastic Hufflepuff.
He looked out over the Lake, breathing harsh. “Teach me to protect my mind,” he said finally, tone somewhere between pleading and ordering.
She grinned. That determination was something she’d always appreciated about him. “There are a few different ways to learn this, Harry. So let’s see what works best for you.”
The rest of the morning passed as she began his first lesson in Occlumency.
As they got up to go to lunch, Harry caught a flash of movement at the edge of the Forbidden Forest. He looked over and saw Firenze standing there, back straight and resolute, one of his forelegs pawing at the ground. “I think we have someone who wants to talk to us,” he said, gesturing.
Hermione felt her stomach fall. Of course the Centaurs could see something had changed. They’d already altered the timeline. What exactly the stars had shown them, she shuddered to think. Human fortune-telling was haphazard at best, but even she respected the capabilities of the Centaurs.
“The stars have changed, Harry Potter,” said Firenze when they were close enough. “But of course you already know this, Hermione Granger.”
She straightened her back and nodded once, “I do.”
He peered at her, studying her. “The rest of my herd are angry, that the course of the stars and planets changed so quickly, so easily. But I see the opportunity for peace where before there was only death and pain. Sometimes, a healer must break a bone to fix it properly. If you have need of me, Hermione Granger, you or your companions, I am here. And I shall assure your secrets are kept.”
She thought of the Centaurs at Dumbledore’s funeral, their rage when she led Umbridge into the Forest. She thought of Firenze himself, wounded so horribly in the Battle, seeing him dead on the floor of the Great Hall as the tide of war turned so decidedly against the Light. Gulping, she bowed to him, “Thank you, Firenze.”
“Goodbye, Harry Potter. Hermione Granger.” He nodded to them, and turned to gallop back into the Forest.
She could feel Harry’s eyes on her, curious and a little amused and maybe even a little scared. “Let me guess,” he said, “you’ll explain. When I can protect your secrets from Snape and the Headmaster.”
A weak smile was the only real reply she could give. “Harry…”
He smirked, a little. “If I can’t trust you, I can’t trust anyone, Hermione. I can wait.”
The sigh of relief she let out was immense, “Not long. I’ll teach you to protect your mind, and I will tell you everything, I promise.”
“Soon, I hope.”
She thought back to his fierce determination in his first lesson. “I hope,” she replied thoughtfully, “by the end of the Christmas holidays.” She laughed bitterly, thinking of how many months he survived regular attacks by Snape in the name of ‘Occlumency lessons’ to learn absolutely nothing and yet how much aptitude he had shown just that morning when taught by someone who actually cared about him. Occlumency was a difficult discipline to truly master, but, with the right instructor and even the most limited inclination for the mind-arts, solid proficiency wasn’t beyond a dedicated Hogwarts student. Harry had a surprisingly strong aptitude, and a great deal of motivation.
He made a surprised noise at her declaration, but nodded as if promising to meet that goal. “Lunch?”
Linking their arms together, she pulled him back towards the castle. “Lunch.”
A murmur went through the Great Hall as Fleur and then a few minutes later Luna settled in across from Harry and Hermione for lunch, though Ron’s outraged snort was distinctly heard.
“Harry, this is Luna Lovegood,” Hermione introduced. “We got to know each other last year in the library.” It was, she decided, one of the few lies she was going to tell Harry, at least until he could protect the truth.
“And I have made her acquaintance this week,” Fleur said, a pleased smile on her face to be sitting with her wife and sister and brother-in-law, finally. She noted how the rest of the Gryffindors kept at a distance, except for Neville Longbottom, who with a courageous glare at the rest of the table gave them a modicum of privacy but firmly set himself on their side, passing down the platter with ratatouille for Fleur before filling his plate with more traditional British fare and pulling out a book on Herbology.
Lunch passed mostly with chewing and chit-chat, the noise in the Great Hall rising and falling as they were observed, like bugs under a microscope. Luna shivered, unused to the attention, but the other three were sadly accustomed to it.
The meal was almost over when a creeping chill entered the Hall. Dumbledore in his great golden throne straightened up, conversation stopped, and Hermione had a horrible suspicion.
Fudge, green bowler in hand, entered trailed by a pair of Aurors while a dementor loitered in the Entrance Hall, fully in everyone’s view.
Dumbledore stood, rage on his face, “Cornelius, how dare you bring one of those creatures into my school!”
“Where is he, Dumbledore? Where is Sirius Black?!” returned the minister.
Hermione grabbed at her wand, the treasured vinewood almost buzzing as she fought down the urge to force the vile creature far away. She was a fourth year. As a fourth year she'd not been taught how, officially. To cast a Patronus would focus far too much attention on herself. She felt Harry shake beside her, and across the table she could see Fleur and Luna pale. She didn’t even want to know how sickly she herself looked. “Harry,” she hissed. “Hold on.” Chocolate appeared up and down every House table and she shoved a bar at her best friend.
“Cornelius, I merely owled to discuss his case. He isn’t here.”
“I know you’ve got him somewhere, Dumbledore! You can’t fool me this time! I’ll see him Kissed!”
Several students down at the end of the Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff tables started to cry. Hermione could see Neville looking rather green and she pushed an empty bowl that had contained a particularly delightful coleslaw under his face.
“Get that creature. out. of. my. school!” Dumbledore shouted.
“Aurors, if he interferes, arrest him! Search the school!” Fudge yelped. The Aurors themselves both looked sickly, and Hermione groaned. They moved forward, more to get away from the dementor than towards Dumbledore.
“Shit,” Fleur swore under her breath. “This is madness.” She raised her wand.
Hermione elbowed her best friend as she readied her own wand. Remaining under the radar wasn’t worth it when a dementor was making students pass out. She could already hear Bellatrix’s cruel laughter echoing in her head and glancing over at Neville she suspected she wasn’t the only one.
“Go,” Fleur ordered, glancing at her companions.
“Expecto Patronum!” the four of them chorused. To the shock of the Aurors and the professors and every other student in the hall, four patronuses burst forth from the Gryffindor table. Prongs led the charge, the sound of his hooves on stone echoing in the pained tense silence. Two otters gamboled behind him, a hare taking an almost leisurely hopping path around and between the other patronuses.
The four shocked many of the professors into action. Several more patronuses, corporeal and not, joined the charge at the dementor, which let out an unearthly screech as it fled.
As soon as the dementor was out of sight, their patronuses doubled back, going towards the end of the tables where the most affected students huddled on their benches. The powerful Light magic was better than the chocolates other students were gulping down, and even the worst off students started to perk up. Hermione glanced over to Neville, whose color had started to return.
“Neville, I need you to write your gran a letter and tell her what just happened here,” she hissed quietly. “And if you can, get Susan Bones to write her aunt. Get those letters out as fast as you can.” The pale boy nodded, understanding the gravity of the situation easily. She sighed in relief, even as her patronus faded away, no longer needed.
Fudge was nearly purple with rage as he stared at the four students – two of them Triwizard Champions. In their casual weekend clothes, only Harry was immediately recognizable to the Minister of Magic. But he was cut off by McGonagall, who had rushed down to defend her students.
“Fifty points to Ravenclaw, and one hundred points to Gryffindor,” she declared, “for a most timely use of advanced charmwork. And I wish I could give points to Beauxbatons.”
The Headmaster’s office was crowded with Fudge, Dumbledore, McGonagall, Snape, Flitwick, Maxime, Harry, Hermione, Fleur, Luna, and a recently arrived Amelia Bones. The director of Magical Law Enforcement arrived panting, as she ran up the path to the school having heard of a dementor being taken from Azkaban and where it was sent, even before her niece’s letter could arrive.
“They attacked a Ministry-controlled creature! They should be punished!” Fudge blustered as soon as everyone was seated.
“We defended ourselves and our peers from a Class 5 dangerous creature, brought into our school,” Hermione retorted. “How many students were in the Great Hall just now? How many were crying? How many could that dementor have murdered? Can you produce a Patronus, Minister? You brought an uncontrollable Dark creature that can suck out souls into a room full of children.”
“The dementors are under the control of the Ministry!” he spluttered.
Hermione let out a bitter laugh, “They are under the control of the Ministry? So it was the Ministry who tried to murder Harry multiple times last year?”
“Miss Granger!” McGonagall scolded, obviously worried as her eyes darted between her students and the Ministry officials.
“You can see why I learned the Patronus Charm, Professor. If the Ministry is so interested in killing my best friend, or so deeply incompetent that they would set soul-sucking monsters around our school, I have to know how to defend myself. I’m just a mudblood, Professor. No one at the Ministry is going to stand up for me if they won’t even protect the Boy Who Lived.”
“The Ministry did not try to kill Harry Potter!” Fudge screeched, his face almost purple.
“Either the Ministry tried to kill Harry, or the Ministry does not have the dementors under their control,” Hermione stated. “It’s one or the other.”
“The Ministry does not truly have the dementors under control, which is why there are rules about taking them off Azkaban,” Madam Bones declared, glaring at the Minister. “And it was a wise choice to learn the Patronus Charm. Witches and wizards faced with a dementor have a right to defend themselves.”
Dumbledore was silent throughout the exchange, Fleur and Luna keeping a close eye on him. He seemed content to let Hermione have free reign, obviously expecting her to stumble and need his rescue – and the resulting gratitude. But as Madam Bones backed Hermione, his face soured from its normal faux-grandfatherly mien.
Amelia Bones saw this change, and jumped in with her own questions before he could derail the conversation she was extremely interested in, “Miss Granger, are you saying the dementors targeted Mister Potter last year?”
“Yes ma’am. They went after him on the train, at a Quidditch game, and then again when trying to save Sirius.”
The monocle popped out of Amelia’s eye. “You’ve spoken to Sirius Black?”
“Yes, ma’am. Sirius was framed by Peter Pettigrew, who is a Death Eater and an unregistered Animagus – a rat – and thrown in Azkaban without a trial. We told this to the Headmaster and the Minister. The Minister insists we were confounded and the Headmaster stuck his thumbs up his arse. He was going to let Fudge have the dementor kiss Sirius,” Hermione replied.
“They were confounded! Professor Snape said so!” Fudge whined.
“Snape torments Harry every chance he gets. And he hates Sirius. He practically salivated at the idea of seeing an innocent man's soul sucked out of his body,” she shot back.
“Professor Snape, Miss Granger,” Dumbledore corrected gravely, as the man himself glowered in the corner.
“A professor teaches, Headmaster. A professor is, dare I say, professional in demeanor and conduct. A professor does not torment the children he is supposed to instruct. A professor does not react with unfettered glee at the idea of the extrajudicial murder of a man he knows is innocent. If Snape was really your spy in the last war, as all the old editions of the Prophet I’ve read imply, he knew Sirius was innocent, and Pettigrew guilty. But for thirteen years he stayed silent, privately gloating at an innocent man being in Azkaban, because of some schoolboy grudge. Gloating at the idea of James Potter’s son trapped with an abusive, hateful Petunia Dursley instead of being raised in a loving home by Sirius. And that is the man you trust,” she sneered, “so very much.”
Amelia Bones absolutely glowered at Dumbledore, “It was before my time as head of the department, but I do recall you protecting Snape from any questioning by Aurors after the end of the War. Is Miss Granger correct? Have you been sitting on exculpatory evidence for thirteen years regarding the innocence of a man thrown apparently illegally into Azkaban?” The man in question was near-purple with rage, silently steaming in his chair.
“Dumbledore doesn’t want anyone with any power sticking up for Harry, Madam Bones. It’s fairly obvious,” Hermione butted in. “He wants Harry back with the Dursleys every summer to be starved and worked like a house-elf, cut off from the magical world until he deems it time for Harry to head to the Weasleys for a couple weeks.”
“Miss Granger!” McGonagall burst out, “Are you saying they…” She whirled at Dumbledore, “I told you they were the worst sort of muggles! And then he shows up skinny as a rail in rags and you said it was a muggle fashion statement!”
“Besides the uniform he purchased with Hagrid, I gave him the first piece of clothing he’d ever had that fit him, Professor. Everything else he had was his cousin’s worn castoffs,” Hermione said quietly to McGonagall. Stoking her professor’s rage was the best way to keep her on their side, she figured. She mentally slapped herself for never pointing any of this out to McGonagall before, given the woman’s current steadfast support of her lion.
Harry seemed to shrink into his seat at the mention of his clothing and situation at the Dursleys. Hermione knew it was because he felt himself lucky, that between herself and her family, his shopping on Diagon Alley before third year, Mrs. Weasley’s Christmas sweaters, and her knack for the resizing charm, he felt he had enough - he'd certainly expressed as much to her repeatedly when she brought up going shopping for clothes during the summers. Certainly his wardrobe was better than he’d ever had before Hogwarts, if still in her estimation ragged and cheap. She watched him pick at the worn cuff on his shirt.
McGonagall looked at him sadly, “Potter, we’ll deal with that later.” She turned back to Dumbledore and Fudge, “You have been railroading that boy, for whatever purpose, since his parents died, Albus. You have obviously failed to provide him anything resembling a normal or even safe childhood. I’ll be petitioning for custody until Sirius Black is able to take up his guardianship. Amelia, you’ll help me?”
“Of course,” the head of the DMLE replied, glaring at Dumbledore before turning her attention to Fudge. “And I think it obvious that no crime was committed here by Mister Potter or his friends. In fact, I think they were quite heroic. Minister, if you insist on punishing these young people for protecting their schoolmates, I’ll be quite forced to tell the country exactly why they were using the Patronus Charm against a dementor in the middle of the Great Hall.”
Fudge blubbered audibly before gulping at the combined resolve of Amelia Bones and Minerva McGonagall. He let out an almost whimper before falling silent.
She continued, “And, Cornelius, if I find that Sirius Black did not have a trial, you will let me conduct an actual investigation and arrange one should he appear. No matter how much anyone might offer you for him to quietly disappear. I assure you, that won’t happen.” She rose. “I am quite aware of how untouchable you’ve made yourself, Dumbledore, but unless you want some truly awful press in the next month, you won’t fight Minerva’s custody petition. I will be investigating Mister Potter’s abuse, and you will not try to stop me or the entire situation could get messy. I’m sure you don’t want that, for either yourself or Mister Potter.”
“I see, Amelia,” Dumbledore replied, glaring.
“If you young people would follow me,” she said, turning and gesturing to Harry and the three time-travelers. “I would like to take your official statements regarding this morning in private, and obviously discuss a few other topics with Mister Potter and Miss Granger. Professor McGonagall, Professor Flitwick, Madam Maxime, if you would join us.”
The afternoon passed far too fast after that. The four students spent a lot of time waiting, but their statements to Madame Bones went smoothly, each with a professor joining them to help represent their interests.
Harry went last, the three women waiting for him outside the room, leaning against one another comfortably. It garnered a raised eyebrow from Flitwick and Maxime, who head off to other duties as their students’ testimonies were completed, but they left the trio with only Maxime’s reminder for Fleur to be back to the carriage after dinner, which fast approached. Hermione was almost snoozing when her best friend appeared in the doorway, face pale and almost blank.
“Thank you, Mister Potter. I know this was very difficult for you. I’ll do my best on behalf of Sirius. At the very least, I’m sure I can get custody of you transferred quietly to Minerva. It’s not ideal, but it’s certainly better than leaving you at Dumbledore’s whims,” Bones said as she left. “You have some very loyal friends there, Mister Potter.” She winked at Hermione. “I’ll leave you in their capable hands.” Turning, she addressed a visibly-shaken McGonagall, “I’ll send you the required forms as soon as I get back to the office. Fill them out tonight if you can.”
“Of course, Amelia. Thank you,” the older woman replied, her voice strained.
With a final nod of acknowledgement, the head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement swept from the room.
“Potter,” McGonagall began, “Harry,” she corrected herself, “after classes tomorrow we’ll go down to Hogsmeade. You need proper clothes, I understand, and there’s an optometrist as well.” She glanced over at the girls, “If you’d like Miss Granger to join us, she can.”
Harry looked almost frantic, while also exhausted, “Yes, please, Professor.”
“I know most of his sizes, Professor,” Hermione added. It was true – she’d found notes her younger self had jotted down in the back of her diary in preparation for having her parents send a few items for the holidays.
“That will save time, I’m sure.” She took a visible, deep breath. “I’ll see you all at dinner. If you need me before then, I’ll be in my office. I have some paperwork to do,” she added wryly.
After their professor left with a gentle pat to Harry’s arm, Hermione stepped forward. Her best friend started to shake. She glanced back at her wife and sister, her eyes subtly directing them out of the room.
“We shall see you later, ‘arry, ‘ermione,” Fleur said, rising to her feet. Luna simply nodded her agreement before the two blondes left, Luna skipping out of the room.
Hermione approached Harry tentatively. “I’m sorry, Harry,” she said softly.
Green eyes wide, Harry’s eyebrows crawled up his forehead. “What?” he croaked out.
“For talking about your home life without your permission,” she replied. “I saw an opportunity to help Sirius and to get you away from the Dursleys so I took it, but I should have asked before sharing things that were not mine to tell.”
Harry let out a near-hysterical laugh. “I don’t have to go back to them,” he said, his whole body shaking violently. “I don’t have to go back.” He threw himself forward, towards her, sobbing. She caught him, strong enough to hold him up, rubbing one hand in a soothing circle on his back as the other held him steady around his shoulders. He grasped at her, arms tight around her middle as his tears soaked her shoulder.
She tried to breathe steadily. He’d never cried like this before. But of course, he had never had to talk to anyone about the Dursleys before. By the time they’d discussed his childhood while on the horcrux hunt, Sirius was dead, Harry lived a year swinging wildly between rage and numbness, and she had already inferred or deduced much of what he probably talked about to Amelia Bones. By then, they’d had so many years together that he trusted her with his childhood secrets. And even then he hadn’t thrown himself into her arms.
The world kept reinforcing to her that this was a younger Harry, one not yet quite as battered by life as the boy she watched die. She breathed in deeply, murmuring soft endearments to her brother. As his tears petered out, she drew back a little, offering him a clean handkerchief out of her pocket. He snuffled into it, boyish and shy. She wiped at his tear-streaked cheeks with her fingers, cupping his face in her hand. “No, you don’t. Never again. Now, it’s almost dinnertime. Let’s get you cleaned up.”
Hooking their arms together, she led him to the nearest toilet, casting a silent, low-powered wizard-repelling charm on the hall to ensure their privacy. She wet another handkerchief before taking off his glasses and gently washing his face as he stood stock-still, his arms almost leaden against his sides. He was exhausted, and if McGonagall hadn’t ordered their presence at dinner, she would have hauled him back to Gryffindor Tower and called Dobby to get them a meal.
She ran a hand over his curls, noting to herself to get him some proper shampoo and conditioner. Casting a spell to clean his glasses, she slipped the battered old frames back on his face before pulling back to look at him. A wandless and silent charm while she washed his face removed all signs of crying, and though his expression was somewhat pained, he looked neat enough.
“Come on, Harry. You need to eat something and then we can go back to the Tower,” Hermione said softly.
He sighed, resigned, before following her lead down to the Great Hall, “Let’s eat fast. And then maybe we can hide before everyone else gets back from dinner.” Halfway down, he turned to her, “You’re pretty close with Luna. And Fleur. Already. Aren’t you?”
She hummed in agreement, a little surprised given how socially clueless he usually was.
“Is that something you’ll explain later?” he asked with a gentle curiousity.
He huffed good-naturedly, “Well. You found some good people to have on our side. I can wait; I bet it’s a hell of a story.”
Hermione laughed, “It is, Harry. I promise. After supper, we’ll work a little more on your Occlumency before you go to sleep.”
He grinned, and the expression stayed on his face as they stepped into the Great Hall together, easily spotting the space Fleur and Luna had made for them at the Gryffindor table.
Chapter title is a play on “The Ladies Who Lunch” which is from the Sondheim musical Company. Admittedly, I first heard it in the 2003 movie Camp as sung by Anna Kendrick. Wixen is a gender-neutral term for magical people. Also, thank you thank you thank you for your wonderful comments, folks. I know this chapter is more Harry and Hermione than the Fleurmione y'all signed up for, but it does move plotty things along pretty well. :-D
Chapter 7: Of Guardians and Dinner Conversations
a/n: A reminder that this Hermione never spoke to Harry about what he saw in Snape’s memories because he died during the Battle. She might have some theories or conjectures but she does not know what Harry discovered in the pensieve. Also, I’m very excited to use a lot of headcanons in this fic that I first developed for A Meeting of Equal Halves and am ignoring a lot of material that’s come out via Pottermore, so there’s that. In many ways this story is an AU of that fic!verse though nothing is set in stone besides the Fleurmione aspect.
Dinner Sunday evening and Monday passed in a blur to Hermione. Being back into a supposedly average Hogwarts day just reinforced the Alice-in-Wonderland feel she had. The dead surrounded her, unaware of their potential futures, their deaths or evil deeds or both. Betrayals she held in her heart were undone, perhaps changed forever or even moved forward in time. Her battle-worn reflexes and the previous isolation she’d lived in made being surrounded by so much life, so many people, almost excruciating.
Harry stuck close to her, the rest of the school giving them both a wide berth minus a few sneers from the Slytherins during Care Of Magical Creatures. When she ran off to Arithmancy after lunch, she left Harry headed with Neville for Divination. A firm yet subtle nod from the youngest Longbottom assured her that no one would get a free pass at Harry with him there. She smiled gratefully before rushing off to her own lecture.
Coming out of Arithmancy, Hermione met Harry and McGonagall standing right outside her classroom. “Come now, Potter, Granger, off to Hogsmeade,” the elderly professor said, passing them each their cloaks and securing her own around her body.
The walk down to Hogsmeade was quiet as Hermione made sure to keep her shoulder pressed against her best friend’s in silent support. The sun was already setting, long shadows falling across them as they walked.
“I’ve owled the proprietors of the clothing shop and they’ve agreed to stay open a little late for us,” McGonagall said. “The optometrist is an old friend of mine and willing to see you after we have dinner here in town.” She raised one eyebrow at them. “There are obviously some topics we’d best talk about. I’ve arranged a private room at the Three Broomsticks.”
Hermione found clothes shopping incredibly dull. But she knew it was a fairly novel experience for Harry, who had really only done it twice – once, for his uniform, and then a second time on Diagon Alley as he awkwardly tried to pick up some basics before third year. Actually spending time to select items he liked, trying a few things on to double-check Hermione’s best estimates of his sizes, and being offered a real choice in what he would wear was a revelation. McGonagall insisted on making sure he had all the basics – new undergarments, socks, shoes to replace his tattered trainers, nightclothes, as well as things for casual wear - shirts, a pair of jeans, and a few warm pieces he could layer with during the cold Scottish winter. It wasn’t much of a wardrobe, truly, but it seemed monumental to Harry who’d only had worn out castoffs before Hogwarts. He seemed overwhelmed by the options available, so Hermione stepped in a few times to calm him and offer up colors or styles she knew he liked. He tried to pay at the end, pulling out his money bag, but McGonagall shooed him away.
“I’ll pay, Potter. That’s what a guardian does. Your money is for more frivolous things, not essentials,” she said.
He turned to Hermione helplessly, “Harry,” she said softly, drawing him away from the curious shopkeeper, “my parents buy my clothes, my school things, feed me enough to truly foster growth and health, and make sure I see the doctor. My spending money, my allowance, goes to things I want, like extra books or magazines, or getting a butterbeer from Madam Rosmerta. The Professor is only doing what the Dursleys should have done all these years.”
“But my vault,” he said.
“A legitimate guardian would only have dipped into your vault in an absolute emergency,” McGonagall said as she came up behind them with a shrunken package of Harry’s new clothes. “The Potters were well off enough that your trust vault was supposed to be for things like brooms, spending cash, and whatnot. Overly generous. James was spoiled by his parents and he likely planned to the same for you. I never saw your parents’ will, but Lily did ask about the average cost of raising a child in a Wizarding home; I believe she asked quite a few people that. I know she was going to make sure that whoever was appointed your guardian was to be given a stipend to support you. Whether that happened or not, I don’t know.”
“All I have is my vault, though.”
McGonagall laughed, the sound both sad and bitter, “The Potters were not an obscenely wealthy family, Harry, nor ostentatious, but they had a business. Enough to be more than comfortable. To make sure that no matter what, you were provided for. Your vault is likely only your vault. A sort of… savings account for you alone. Not the family wealth. You’re only fourteen.”
“Professor, Harry has no idea what they did after school besides fight Voldemort,” Hermione butted in gently. “I looked in the library but the Prophet and the books about the War didn’t say.”
Shocked, McGonagall peered over at them as she ushered them from the store out into Hogsmeade, and towards the Three Broomsticks. “No one told you? My word,” she trailed off as she opened the door for them.
Madam Rosmerta led them quickly to a private room over the bar, serving butterbeers to the two students and giving McGonagall a cup of mulled wine. After taking their dinner orders from her limited menu, she disappeared down the stairs, closing the door behind her.
“Potter, your family lived in Godric’s Hollow for, oh, a thousand years? You’re called Potter, I believe, because they were potters before settling there. They expanded into sheep herding and had an apple orchard they used for both the fruit and cider.” She pointed to her cloak, hanging with theirs by the door. “All the wool for Hogwarts cloaks used to come from Potter sheep. Not anymore, not since your grandfather died and the herd was slaughtered by Death Eaters and Voldemort’s werewolf allies, but for hundreds of years before that. My cloak, I bought it after my own graduation and it’s made from Potter wool.”
Harry looked at the plain black cloak wide-eyed. His hands grasped together in his lap so hard his knuckles were nearly white. “I don’t know anything about sheep,” he said softly.
“Oh, Potter, you can learn, if that’s what you want to do. Your father didn’t know much either. Like I said, his parents spoiled him. They didn’t have him mucking out barns as a child like my granda did with my siblings and I. But he was planning to rebuild the family’s flocks after the war. There were farmhands who’d been with the Potters for decades and even generations ready to help him. And his family never discriminated. Quite a few muggleborns were able to stay in the Wizarding world because a Potter offered them work.” She looked with a bit of guilt at Hermione, “Finding employment as a muggleborn can be difficult, even for our most gifted. Your mother, meanwhile, put her apprenticeship on hold when she became pregnant with you, but she was working towards a Charms Mastery with Filius. I know he hoped she’d take his position at Hogwarts someday.”
Hermione watched her best friend soak in all the new information, even as she quietly catalogued it herself. Part of her raged at McGonagall and Flitwick, for simply never telling Harry any of it before. But given the informational chokehold on his teachers Dumbledore had had until his death, she was not surprised they had stayed silent, or assumed someone else had told him. And she kicked herself for not going further back in the old Prophets the library kept. Though, she was well aware, some were missing. She had a few questions she doubt he’d thought of, as well. “So their farm is still there? Their house maybe?”
McGonagall turned to her for a second before answering, a slight twitch at her mouth, “I haven’t been myself since Harry was a baby, but I do believe so. James’ parents died of dragonpox, not violence. No one should have touched it since then. There are usually wards to lock out all but family after the wardkeeper’s death, and that was your grandmother, Harry. Unfortunately, your parents’ cottage was a separate dwelling, and is quite uninhabitable, between Voldemort’s attack and time itself since no one repaired it.”
“So you could take him, Professor? To his grandparents’ house? Over winter break perhaps?” Hermione pushed forward. She’d been to Godric’s Hollow, of course, during the horcrux hunt, but while they’d seen the destroyed cottage and she agreed with McGonagall’s assessment of it, they hadn’t even known to look for other family properties in the village. Harry perked quite up at that idea.
“An excellent idea, Miss Granger. But no need to wait till Christmas. We can go this weekend. It will give us some time to truly sit down and discuss a few issues we don’t have time for now.” She peered at Harry, “You can bring anyone you wish along, Mister Potter. Anyone.”
Hermione immediately caught on to what McGonagall was implying, “We can write to Professor Lupin tonight, Harry. Maybe he’d like to bring his dog along.”
Harry’s smile was so wide, Hermione thought for a second he’d break his face. It was then that Rosmerta returned with their meals before leaving them alone again.
“Now, Potter. Harry.” She seemed mildly uncomfortable being so personal. “And Miss Granger. I have removed both of you as well as Miss Lovegood from Potions class. That might perhaps be overstepping my bounds, but I feel that it is the best course of action after Miss Granger’s rather well-spoken diatribe yesterday, for all your safety. I shall speak to the Board of Governors regarding removing Snape post-haste from the school as a whole, but until then I will not subject either of you to his… tender mercies. I shall instead be arranging a private tutor as soon as possible,” she scowled fiercely before spearing a bit of carrot with her fork.
Hermione was flabbergasted. She knew her younger self would have protested losing valuable instruction, but she was deeply relieved instead. Dealing with Snape in a classroom setting was not something she had looked forward to. He was a terrible teacher, besides the obvious fact that he had killed Dumbledore. She cleared her throat, “I don’t know if Madam Longbottom would honestly care, given the stories Neville’s told of his childhood, but after Harry, one of Snape’s favorite targets is Neville. She might be worth speaking to.”
McGonagall peered at her, before nodding tiredly, “I should have done something, years ago, about him, but I hadn’t the… support, nor to be honest, the name power required to go around Albus. This year, the eyes of the country are upon Hogwarts, and that gives me a great deal more leverage since I am working directly on your behalf, Harry.”
He squirmed uncomfortably in his seat.
“Oh, Potter, try not to worry. I’ll do my best to keep your circumstances out of the media,” McGonagall tried to reassure him.
Hermione, in response, couldn’t hold back her snort. She withered a little under her favorite professor’s glare, but soldiered forward, “Professor, you know this is like catnip to every gossip reporter in the country, on top of Fudge being in Malfoy’s pocket. It would be smarter to go to a sympathetic reporter before Rita Skeeter starts bugging about and putting everything in the worst possible light.”
Harry looked almost panicked at the thought of talking about the Dursleys with a stranger – again – but McGonagall looked thoughtful. “You have a point, Miss Granger.”
Hermione turned to Harry, “You have to control the story, Harry. It’s like second year, when everyone thought you were the Heir of Slytherin. Malfoy and his ilk created the story with all those rumors they spread. No one gave your side of things, no one even bothered to refute his, and so every muggleborn in the castle was terrified of you.”
“Except you,” he croaked out.
“Except me,” she confirmed softly. “But then I was petrified and I’ve heard how bad it got for you, Harry. This… if you gave an interview to someone, this would be getting ahead of Malfoy and his little cadre of baby Death Eaters lying about you to the newspapers. There’s quite a lot of garbage published in the Prophet. You need to make sure that doesn’t end up where you’re thrown. Public opinion is powerful, Harry.”
“Miss Granger is correct.” McGonagall frowned, “It’s an unpleasant thought, but we might have to. Your position is sadly precarious. While it is not uncommon for a Head of House to become the guardian of an orphaned student, there is usually a relation for a non-muggleborn student who can claim them. Until Sirius is free, your closest Wizarding relations, through your great-aunt who was a Black, include the Tonks, who would do quite well by you, and the Malfoys, who would not, but also have quite a lot more money and influence than the Tonks.”
Hermione frowned, “Have you written the Tonks? Perhaps they’d be willing to speak on Harry’s behalf, if necessary to keep him from the Malfoys.”
“Miss Granger, I barely managed to finish all the paperwork Amelia sent me last night. Today, I taught classes. Any correspondence not immediately necessary was ignored. However,” she smiled tiredly, “your idea is valid. I was already going to write Andromeda Tonks about tutoring you for Potions.” She turned to Harry, “Andromeda Tonks was a Black, and Sirius Black’s favorite cousin. She was a Slytherin,” she tutted softly at his look of distaste, “but was cast out of her family for marrying a muggleborn. Ted Tonks is a librarian for St Winifrede’s.” At their blank looks, she elaborated, “He is in charge of the healing library at St Winifrede’s Hospital, in Wales.”
Hermione looked at her head of house, confused. “I thought there was only St Mungo’s? In London?”
McGonagall shook her head, “St Mungo’s is the largest and oldest of our Wizarding hospitals, but St Winifrede’s is well respected as well.” She sighed, “I should say, well respected if you are a muggleborn or halfblood. The prejudice extends very deep in our society. St Winifrede’s was founded by a muggleborn, to treat other muggleborns and because finding work as a muggleborn healer was very difficult. St Winifrede’s is also the only hospital to treat those with non-human ancestry or traits – partial goblins, giants, Veela, werewolves.”
The two students eyed each other, well aware of the people they knew who would go to St Winifrede’s for lack of another option. And Hermione thought of Arthur Weasley – ancient pureblood – being brought to St Mungo’s after being bitten by Nagini in her first fifth year. They both sighed audibly, McGonagall concentrating on her meal for a moment to hide the expression on her face.
Taking a sip of her wine, and looking at it as if she wished there was more left in the cup, McGonagall continued, “So, Potter, you can think if you wish to speak to the media. If you do, I have contacts – reputable, honorable ones – to make the situation as easy as possible for you. Let me know, by this weekend if possible.” She lifted an eyebrow at Hermione, “And do not push him, Miss Granger. Discuss it if you must, but it is his choice.”
Hermione nodded solemnly in return. She was fairly sure she could convince Harry, as it really was the safest option to get ahead of Rita Skeeter and her ilk. She returned to her meal, watching as Harry tried to recover from the informational overload he’d been given so far. The rest of their evening passed quickly, and by the time they headed back up the path to Hogwarts, Harry was wearing a new prescription pair of spectacles, in a similar style to his old ones, and had an extra pair tucked away with his new clothes. McGonagall handed over the bundle of purchases to them outside the Fat Lady, and Hermione helped him cart his things up to the dorm.
It was thankfully empty, the rest of Harry’s dormmates elsewhere. Curfew approached, however, so Hermione turned to her best friend. “You haven’t time to truly unpack all of this tonight, or organize your trunk.” She wanted to help him burn his things from the Dursleys. “But given how everyone is right now, would you mind if I cast a security spell on your trunk? So only you can access it?”
Given that his dormmates were known to sometimes filch snacks or supplies from his trunk without asking, and given how sore Ron was at him, Harry nodded, exhausted. “Make it so you can get in my trunk too. Just in case. I can send you to grab my father’s cloak or the map if we need it.”
Hermione smiled softly at him, “Thank you for trusting me Harry. Now, just a minute, we’ll have this done right quick.”
The standard security spell for a school trunk, as found in the sixth year charms text and composing a week’s worth of lessons in class, was good enough for most upper-level students whose parents hadn’t already cast the spell for their child. But Hermione Granger knew more than the standard spells. She cast one of her own creation, that would be completely unknown to any Hogwarts student who wasn’t a time-traveler and likely unbreakable to anyone including the professors. It took three minutes to cast, and needed renewing only once a year. Only Luna, Fleur, and Bill could break it easily, as they’d all helped her develop it, and she would explain that to Harry soon enough.
Spell cast, she showed Harry how to arm and disarm it, and set the bundle of new clothes on top of the disorganized mess she found. He grinned at her sheepishly, promising to clean it in the morning.
She begged him to wait to dispose of his Dursley rags with her, as she had a few new fire spells she wanted to test out. His wicked grin was answer enough that she hugged him briefly, bid him goodnight, and left to climb into her own bed.
Her roommates were also gone when she entered her dorm room, but she could hear them in the attached communal bath preparing for bed. Hanging her cloak by her bed, she pulled back her curtains to sit down only to find herself hit by a silencing spell right before she shrieked in surprise at Fleur sprawled in her bed. Half-heartedly glaring at her wife, she hastily cast the counter-spell on herself, shut the curtains, grabbed her nightclothes, and hurried through her evening routine. Since her display of magic in the Great Hall, her roommates had mostly left her alone and for that she was grateful.
Less than five minutes later, before her roommates were done with their evening gossip session, she had already washed, brushed, and done her hair for the night. In a warm flannel nightgown, she carefully climbed into her own bed and charmed the curtains shut as well as setting a perimeter alarm. She turned her wand to strengthen the silencing spell on the curtains Fleur had already cast to keep their conversations private, as well as not give away that there was a second person in the bed. The soft glow of a nightlight lumos variation bobbed above their heads. Secured as they could be in a Hogwarts dorm, Hermione slid under the covers to her wife. Never had she been more grateful for the Hogwarts beds and their standard double mattresses.
“Before you ask, Dobby is spending the evening in my bed in the carriage, and when it’s time or if I’m needed, he’ll pop me back. I’ve already set an alarm to wake up in the morning,” Fleur said, drawing Hermione into her arms.
“I wish you hadn’t surprised me,” Hermione huffed. “But I needed this tonight. Needed you.” She turned away slightly, staring up at the bed’s canopy, “I haven’t slept well. Not since coming back.”
Fleur traced a finger down Hermione’s arm, where Bellatrix had once scarred the tender flesh. “Nor have I,” she whispered back. They moved to cuddle together in the bed, Fleur on her back and Hermione sprawled against her side, their legs slotted together, warm in their nest of blankets. Crookshanks softened his glare at his human and the trespasser she curled up with. He stalked to Hermione’s side, by her hip, and kneaded at the blankets for a few moments before settling into a fluffy ginger ball. His purr filled the little space as they fell asleep.
Morning came entirely too early for Hermione’s taste. The past nights since coming back had been restless and nightmare filled. Though she was experienced in going without sleep as an adult, her growing teenage body was certainly not. Curled against her wife, with Crookshanks by her feet, she slept deeply.
As her wife stretched in their shared bed, she called Dobby to them. He appeared at the very end of their bed, his eyes tightly closed.
“It’s okay to open your eyes, Dobby,” she said softly.
“Dobby wanted to be respectful,” he said, opening his eyes carefully.
“That is very sweet of you.” She smiled at him, and he slowly returned it. “It’s not quite time for Fleur to go back to the carriage but I had something I wanted to tell you both.” She grinned widely, “Professor McGonagall is going to take Harry and I to his family’s home in Godric’s Hollow this weekend. And she implied it would be acceptable for say Professor Lupin and Sirius to show up during that visit. Has Sirius made it back to Britain yet, Dobby?”
The tiny elf enthusiastically nodded, “But he has not called for Dobby.”
“I thought the Potter’s home was destroyed when Voldemort attacked them,” Fleur pointed out, glancing apologetically at Dobby as he squeaked.
“It was. But apparently his grandparents’ home is under locked-down wards and should still be there and intact.” Hermione frowned, “I learned a great deal about Harry’s family that he never heard before. Including that he has family businesses? And about his grandparents’ house, which would probably be better for Sirius than the Room. I know he lived there, as a teenager, after his parents threw him out. Familiar and positive surroundings might help him a great deal.” She looked at her wife and Dobby, a frown on her face as she thought of all the things that had been denied her best friend. “We came back counting on only our resources, and any help Dobby and Winky could hopefully give,” she smiled at Dobby, whose smile was near-blinding. “We forgot, probably because before last night he didn’t really know he had any resources besides a bit of gold for his schoolbooks, that once Harry knows what’s going on, he’s going to want to help. And that having his help could make our plans so much easier to implement. Sirius and Remus too, depending.”
Fleur nodded, “Once you have been to this house, we can plan around it. Tentatively. You are correct. We thought as if Harry would not be an active participant. How is his Occlumency so far?”
Hermione shrugged, “It won’t keep out Snape or Dumbledore yet. But it will, soon. It might be a natural aptitude, considering his father was a teenage animagus and his mother a genius, or it could be a result of living with a horcrux in his head since he was a toddler. Either way, he’s learning fast. And I’ve been carefully checking - he’s building his walls so the horcrux is even more divided from his own mind. He hasn’t complaining of the strange dreams in the past couple days, and I don’t know if Voldemort could even forcefully send a vision now.” She looked over at Dobby, who had squeaked again at the use of Tom Riddle’s alias, “I’m sorry, Dobby. We’re so used to just saying it that we forget sometimes how it affects others. I’ll be better.”
“Dobby will try to have more courage,” he replied, puffing up his chest.
“You have all the courage, Dobby,” Fleur said softly, her eyes distant and wet as she thought of him rescuing her wife and brother-in-law from his old masters.
His eyes were wide as the alarm spell chimed, “Wake-up time.” He turned his head as Hermione pressed a soft kiss to Fleur’s lips, then reached out to touch her hand, popping them both back to the Beauxbatons carriage.
Crookshanks yowled at the disturbance, his pushed-in face looking even more disgruntled than usual. Hermione laughed softly as she scratched his ear. As soon as he started to purr, she leaned over to kiss his forehead and took down the privacy charms. It was time to start her day.
Instead of going to Potions after lunch, Hermione dragged Harry from the Great Hall early, and back to the Gryffindor dorms. They spent an hour digging through his trunk, cleaning and organizing and building a depressing pile of Dursley cast-offs to burn. She took possession of his notes and homework, tutting to herself softly. Her teen self had attempted to teach him study and organizational skills but had failed consistently. She hoped, with more life experience under her belt now, she could figure out a way to get through to him. Or maybe the Tournament and surrounding events would give him that push to fulfill his potential. She quickly organized what he had, including all the previous years’ work and books, and resolved to add study lessons as soon as his Occlumency was up to her standards. By the time the rest of their yearmates were nearing the end of Potions class, they had cleaned out and organized Harry’s trunk. He seemed pleased with the results, re-folding his new clothing with an awed precision Hermione found endearing and depressing. Once everything was tucked away and the trunk resecured, they tied the Dursley rags into a ball and grabbed their cloaks, heading out onto the grounds away from prying eyes.
By the lake, they cleared a portion of the sandy shoreline, enclosing a small area with a ring of rocks before dropping the first item, a ragged sweatshirt, into the center. The rest of the afternoon passed as Hermione patiently taught Harry new fire spells, as well as suppressant and extinguishing and control spells, as they burned their way through the pile of rags Harry wore for years.
As the sun set, Hermione taught him her favored bluebell flames, a ring of them providing enough light to aim their more destructive fire spells. Lumos would have worked as well, but controlling both a bluebell and a stronger flame spell at the same time was excellent practice. Hermione grinned as Harry mastered spell after spell, turning all his rags to ash with a focused glee she’d never seen from him before. Of course, no one had bothered to truly free him from the Dursleys in her last life, no one had been able to bring him clothes shopping or care for him as McGonagall had done in just the past few days.
As the last oversized pair of stained boxer shorts - and she shuddered at the idea of Harry being forced to wear hand-me-down undergarments - turned to cold ash in their makeshift firepit, Hermione transfigured a few of the rocks into a small stone bench. She was pleased with the afternoon’s work. And as neither she nor Fleur could remember exactly which day Harry had been pulled from class for the Weighing of the Wands, she was doubly pleased that no one had come looking for them during classtime. With luck, McGonagall could divert Rita Skeeter for a week, or perhaps the entire Sirius issue, as well as Harry’s guardianship, had thrown off that part of the Tournament. She sighed, looking over at her best friend, who stared at the pile of ashes they’d made. Patting his hand to gain his attention, she started him on another Occlumency lesson, instructing him before leaving him to his own work and pulling out the Daily Prophet she’d not bothered with at breakfast.
The Tournament was front-page news, as was Harry’s involvement. She groaned silently, glancing over at Harry as he appeared deep in his meditations. There wouldn’t be much time - the paper promised exclusive photographs and interviews with the Champions in Saturday’s edition for the Weighing of the Wands. Hermione sighed deeply. She’d have to talk Harry into meeting McGonagall’s contact at the paper soon, and impress on her head of house how important it was to attend that event. And they were running out of time in regards to Sirius. The paper included an entire article about Sirius being Harry’s godfather, and for the first time mentioned his lack of a trial - though only, she assumed, because Amelia Bones had insisted, given she’d provided a statement for publication.
Pulling a scrap of parchment and a muggle pen from her expanded cloak pocket, she wrote a quick note to Bill. She threw up a privacy ward to avoid disturbing Harry’s Occlumency meditation before calling Dobby. Sending the note off to Bill first, she asked the house elf to go to Sirius and prepare to bring him to the Room after dinner. She could only hope Harry’s shields were enough, as she couldn’t spill every secret tonight, but the Room was enough of one. She gnawed on her lip. There were no perfect choices, of course, but she had hoped for a little more time before he had such important secrets to protect. And she certainly classed Sirius’ location as well as her own knowledge of the Room of Requirement as important secrets.
As the end of class bells sounded out in the distance, Hermione dropped the privacy wards and turned to bring her best friend back from his near-trance state. But he was already done, his eyes wide and blinking behind his new glasses as he re-centered himself to the world outside his mind.
She stood up, dusting her trousers off as Harry rose with her. “After dinner, if nothing crops up, we’ve got somewhere to be,” she said softly, canceling the bench’s transfiguration and clearing away any obvious sign of their afternoon’s work.
“Okay,” he said, drawing the word out slightly. His clear green eyes focused on her intently. “Whatever you’re hiding, does some of that stop tonight?”
She smiled weakly at him, “Just a bit.” She grabbed his hand and at his nod threw her Legilimency probe full-strength at him. She skittered off his mental shields at first, before prying her way inside. She backed out as soon as she broke through, impressed despite herself. It had only been barely three days and though his shields buckled her probe still skittered off them at first. “You have a knack for the mind arts. And there are some things you’ll find out tonight, Merlin willing. But you’re not where I need you to be. Yet.”
He grinned at her, boyish and lighthearted in a way she didn’t expect. “All right.”
Hermione grinned at him, quietly relieved, “No questions right now?”
“Oh I’ve got plenty of questions,” he said back, snarking a little. “But.” He shoved his hands in his pockets and glanced around the lakeshore. “I know whatever is up with you, is going to help me. It already has.” He waved a hand at his clothes; they changed out of their uniforms after lunch so he was wearing jeans, trainers, and a thick sweater under his cloak, all new, all in his size. “You are still Hermione Granger, though, right? I mean…” his eyes skittered away from hers, looking out over the lake as he swallowed hard. “You act like her, mostly, and you feel like her, and your magic is hers, but… something else is off.”
She bit her lip. For all his mediocre schoolwork, Harry James Potter was not a stupid boy. And while his interactions with the wider world were stuttering and uncomfortable, with her he had often been unusually empathetic, even if he had no idea how to properly express it. His emotional growth was deeply stunted but his empathy was not. She knew he had been similarly close with Luna as well, from what her sister had said regarding Sirius’ passing and sixth year. As she stayed silent, trying to come up with a response he would accept, his bright green eyes focused in on her. “I swear, Harry, I am Hermione,” she left off her surname, as in her heart of hearts it was hyphenated with her wife’s.
He stared at her for a long moment before nodding. “Right. Want to eat dinner in the kitchen?” He smirked a little, “I notice you don’t really like crowds, the past few days. We can grab Luna and Fleur too if you want.” The last sentence was a bit of a challenge, she could tell. This wasn’t the often-clueless boy she’d known fourth year. Maybe he had been there all along and something in the past few days brought it out but she did appreciate it.
She smirked at him, meeting him head on, “I have a better idea.” Turning away, she called for Dobby, and he arrived immediately. “Dobby, would you like to join Harry and I for dinner in the Room? We’ve decided not to go to the Great Hall to eat.” He grinned widely, nodding, and popped away.
On the seventh floor, she tapped a section of wall across from the dancing trolls with her wand. The door appeared, Harry staring flabbergasted behind her. She ushered him inside, closing it firmly behind her and drew a deep breath. The hall door leading to their bedrooms was firmly closed, so only the sitting area was visible though it now included a new door, left open, and a dining table with chairs, as well as the seemingly-endless piles of stuff. “Welcome to one of the places your dad and his friends didn’t find during their time at Hogwarts, Harry,” she said.
“What… what is this?” he asked, awe blatant on his face.
“It’s the Room of Requirement,” she replied, and then pointed to the stacks, “That is all the contents of the Room of Lost Things, where students and staff and elves have dumped things they didn’t need or want anymore, or wanted to hide, for a thousand years.” She gently guided him to sit on the couch and plopped down next to him. “I can’t explain everything tonight,” she said apologetically. “But with Dobby’s help, and thanks to the Room, we have a safe place for Sirius to stay until this weekend, when we can hopefully set him up at your grandparents’ house. If that’s okay with you.”
“You want Sirius to stay here?” he asked, flabbergasted.
She nodded, “It’s not ideal. I don’t like him being at Hogwarts while he’s still technically considered a criminal. There are wards and other magic protecting this room, but if we’re seen coming and going too often, it could bring suspicion. We also can’t disappear all the time,” she added, as she could see the wheels turning in her best friend’s head. If he thought it possible, he’d skip classes and spend the entire day with his godfather. “But for a few days he can rest, and relax, and eat and get clean and we can pop in to visit.” She pointed at the open door, “There’s a bedroom and bath there for him, and Dobby can bring him food and keep him company when we aren’t around. There’s plenty of junk to explore, as well. See if anything useful or valuable is there.” She met Harry’s eyes, deadly serious. “We can’t count on Dumbledore or the Ministry, and there’s a war brewing. Wars are waged with money.”
He nodded solemnly. “You’ll tell me, why we can’t trust anyone? Someday?”
She looked at him sadly, “Of course, Harry. And it’s not that we can’t trust anyone. There are those we can, they just might not be who you expect.”
He looked out over the piles of forgotten and lost objects, “All right.”
Hermione laughed softly, a little bitter at how much she was omitting with Harry at the moment. “Dobby,” she called out, and he appeared immediately. “If Sirius is by himself, why don’t you bring him here? If not, it can wait until he’s safely alone.” Dobby popped off with a wide grin, nodding.
“Wizards underestimate house elves, don’t they?” Harry remarked offhandedly.
“They do. Dobby is probably more powerful than you and I combined, on a practical level,” Hermione agreed.
“He had Lucius Malfoy on his back, for sure,” Harry muttered.
Hermione smirked at her best friend’s unintentional double entendre and was about to reply when a loud pop brought Dobby and Sirius-as-Padfoot into the Room. Padfoot growled, deep in his chest, until he spotted Harry and Hermione. Then, he let out a yelp-bark and transformed, his ragged stinking clothes damp on his skin. He looked down at himself and shrugged, “It was raining outside Dumbarton.” Visibly resisting the canine urge to shake the water off, he grinned broadly, “Harry! And Hermione!” He looked around, seeing the piles of stuff, the living area, and Dobby. “Where are we?”
She laughed, pulling out her wand to cast drying and warming charms, “We’re in Hogwarts, Sirius, but a hidden room.”
He barked out a laugh, “Hiding right under their noses, practically!”
“Yes, which is why you have to stay in this room,” she scolded gently, nodding to Dobby who popped away briefly only to return with a neatly folded pile of clothing. “We’re going to all have dinner together,” she gestured to Harry, who was wide-eyed and grinning, “but first you need a bath.”
Sirius gave a sloppy salute, “You sound just like Lily after a full moon.” He grabbed the pile of clothes from Dobby and headed towards the bath.
Harry turned to Hermione. “Is he okay?”
She shook her head, “He spent twelve years with the dementors, Harry. And now over a year as a fugitive, often as a dog. No, he’s not. But hopefully he will be.” She gestured at Dobby, “We have nutrient potions for him, and we can make sure he eats. If we put him at your grandparents’ house, the familiar surroundings should help, and we’ll not leave him alone. We can invite Professor Lupin, and,” she turned to Dobby, “Is Winky ready?”
Winky popped in, sober and wearing a clean uniform complete with a crisp white apron, “Winky is ready for a family. Winky will take good care of her family.”
“We know you will,” Hermione said softly. “We’re going to have dinner together tonight, so you and Dobby can get to know Sirius.”
It took only a few snaps of elven fingers for dinner to appear on the table under stasis charms, and all of them took their seats, leaving one empty for Sirius. Winky was wide-eyed and obviously mildly uncomfortable to be sitting with her family, but Dobby, exposed longer to the family’s habits, settled in comfortably, pulling a book from a space-expanded pocket to ask Hermione a question. Half an hour passed pleasantly enough as they waited for Sirius to finish cleaning up. He had no wand, but Hermione had made sure scissors and razors were left available for him.
She had just checked her watch when a scrubbed and groomed Sirius stepped out from his new room, shaking his head in a slightly canine motion, his damp hair hanging loose and clean. In fresh clothes and smelling of soap instead of wet dog and filth, he looked much more approachable; even his posture had improved. His eyes lit up as he spotted Harry and Hermione still there, moving towards the table. Harry rose from his seat and moved towards Sirius, who opened his arms. Hermione was surprised when her best friend threw himself into his godfather’s arms, but smiled at the warmth of the gesture. Sirius was battered, and broken, and Hermione was shocked to realize that at thirty-five he was younger than Bill, but he also obviously adored Harry beyond reason. Her smile expanded, and even Dobby looked inordinately pleased.
As the two prisoners - for Harry was a prisoner of circumstance and the Dursleys and Dumbledore’s machinations too - held onto one another, Hermione felt something in her chest loosen. Sirius was nothing if not an asset in the family’s goals. He’d protect Harry, and give him the home he so desperately needed. She knew they had to eat and talk before curfew, however, and though she was loathe to break up the heartwarming reunion before her, the evening had to move along. She cleared her throat, drawing Harry’s attention. He turned back to her, and she kindly ignored his wet face.
“We have dinner, Sirius, and we need to talk before Harry and I have to get back to the Tower for curfew.” She grinned, pointing at Sirius’ chair.
“It’s good to see you, Hermione,” he replied, grinning wildly and taking his seat. He raised an eyebrow at the two elves.
“This is Dobby,” Hermione said softly, “he helped Harry second year, in return Harry helped to free him from the Malfoys, and he has agreed to join our little family. Winky here also has joined us.” Dobby beamed, his chest puffing out, as she praised him, and Winky shrunk back from the attention. Hermione sighed, knowing that Winky would need time to realize she was in a safer and happier household.
Dobby snapped his fingers, releasing the stasis charms over the food so that the mouth-watering scents immediately captured their attention. Hermione started serving out bits of roast to both the elves, which spurred Harry and Sirius to pile their plates with food, though Harry first passed the rolls down to Dobby before eating.
The meal passed quietly, Hermione and the elves eating sedately while Harry and Sirius plowed through their food. She nodded at Dobby, who snapped his finger before two potions appeared next to their goblets. “Please, now that you both have something in your stomachs, take your potion,” she asked, diverting their attentions from their meals.
Sirius stared at the bright blue vial. “Nutrient potion?” he rasped, glancing over at his godson’s matching dose.
She nodded, “I was able to send Dobby to purchase some earlier today.” That was a lie, Bill had slipped out of the castle and bought an entire crate of them as they took a month to brew - which Fleur had already started doing with the ingredients he picked up on that trip out of the castle. “You both need them.”
Sirius uncorked the vial and threw it back, grimacing at the too-sweet taste. He used the hand still holding his fork to point at her, “I assume our discussion will explain why my godson is a fourth year and you’re saying he needs a nutrient potion.”
“It will,” she promised.
“Drink up, Harry,” Sirius said, before taking a big gulp of his pumpkin juice. His face soured at the mix of tastes, “I wish this was wine.”
Dobby looked to Hermione, who shook her head, “No alcohol with nutrient potions, you know that. Besides, your head has been clear of dementors for only a year and you want to cloud it up again?”
He scowled at her before winking, “You remind me so much of Lily.” He turned to Harry, “That’s a compliment, I promise. You’ve heard all about her, I’m sure.”
The two Hogwarts students exchanged glances, Harry pushing his peas around his plate, leaving Hermione to answer. “Next to no one speaks of his parents, unfortunately. That’s part of what we need to talk about. Let’s finish dinner, though. Dobby made a lovely pudding.”
Atmosphere subdued, they finished their meal, still lavishing praise on the elves for their superb culinary efforts. When Winky had snapped away the empty dishes and plates, and replaced their pumpkin juice with a tea service, Sirius leaned back in his chair and studied his godson and his best friend.
“So. You two, and two elves, have found a place in the castle not even we Marauders found. You’ve decided to hide me here for some reason. Your letter promised more information, though I just got it earlier today.” He leaned forward. “Why are two teenagers hiding me in Hogwarts? Is Dumbledore in on this? And what about this Tournament?”
Now that she was faced with explaining as much as possible to Sirius, Hermione found herself unsure where to start. And as Harry was looking at her to take the lead - as she had been for the past few days - she knew it was her job.
“Dumbledore doesn’t know a bloody thing about you being here, and if you want to stay both alive and free I suggest you avoid mentioning it in your detailed frequent correspondence,” she scoffed, to start. She took a deep draught of her tea as those around her stared in shock.
“Hermione has some things she hasn’t told me about yet, not until I can get my Occlumency good enough,” Harry added after a long and awkward silence.
“Occlumency? You’re fourth years!” Sirius exclaimed.
“You were an animagus by what, your fifth? Sixth? And we’re interacting regularly with two unethical legilimens, Sirius,” Hermione said. “Dumbledore and Snape both scan students at a whim, as far as I can tell. Or at least, they have the potential to. Snape hates Harry,” she spat out, “and Dumbledore uses him. What I know, I won’t share without a check of your shields and a Vow to keep it secret.” She leaned forward, “Tell me, Sirius, is it just a coincidence that within a few days of the attack on the Potters, that both the potential guardians for Harry - the brand new hero of Britain, the Boy-Who-Lived - were incapacitated? His godmother tortured into insanity and you left to rot in Azkaban without a trial - something guaranteed every pureblood no matter how vile the crime supposedly committed. And yet none for the heir of the Black family. You asked why he needs nutrient potions. Well. Because the Dursleys starve him. Consistently. You must have noticed he’s fairly small. Too skinny, too short. He wanted to live with you, ten minutes after he figured out you hadn’t betrayed his parents. What normal child wants that, Sirius Black? I think you know a bit about wanting out of a house that loathes you.”
Sirius flinched at her allusion to his homelife as a child, and his hands shook as he cradled his teacup. “You’re by far the brightest witch of your age, Hermione Granger, but that you are enough of a legilimens at what, fourteen, to test my shields? And compare them to Dumbledore’s?”
“She’s fifteen,” Harry cut in.
“Oh, fifteen. That makes all the difference, pup,” Sirius almost rolled his eyes before noticing Hermione’s level glare.
“I have two goals, Sirius, and you can either work with me or not, though either way I’ll do my best to keep you alive and happy. One, is to protect Harry from all who might wish him harm, which definitely includes Dumbledore for reasons I cannot explain right now, and two, to ensure the complete destruction of Tom Riddle.”
“Who the bloody hell is Tom Riddle?”
“Voldemort,” Harry piped up. “It’s an anagram he made in school.”
“Bloody Slytherins. Dark Lords in training,” Sirius muttered angrily.
Hermione slapped the tabletop. “No. No. I know many of them were when you were in school, and some of those Death Eaters are the parents of a few of our more repulsive classmates, but are you forgetting your favorite cousin was a Slytherin? Was Andromeda Tonks a Death Eater in training in school? Is Harry a Death Eater in training because the Hat almost Sorted him Slytherin?” She noticed Harry’s wince as she dropped that verbal bomb, one she likely should not have brought up given he didn’t share that with her until they were on the Horcrux hunt, and patted his hand apologetically, “I’m not stupid, Harry. You were a hatstall the same as I was, and you’ve got a Slytherin streak a mile wide. There are a lot of good people in Slytherin House, kept quiet and afraid by the actual Death Eater in charge of a quarter of Britain’s children.”
Sirius held his hands up sheepishly, “My apologies, Miss Ravenclaw.”
“I have a Runes and Arithmancy study group that includes a few Slytherins, Padfoot,” Hermione continued more gently, “and if they had a single ounce of backing from their Head of House, they would have stomped all over Malfoy and his ilk first year. But Dumbledore, in his wisdom, put a genocidal terrorist in charge of children, and so Slytherin has continued to be a breeding ground for Death Eater beliefs for over a decade. Slytherin House aspires to some very noble ideals, and includes many wonderful people. There were and are Death Eaters who were Gryffindors, as you well know, and Ravenclaws as well.”
Chastised, Sirius nodded, “You’re right. It’s a reflex.”
“If your godson had green trim on his robes, I certainly hope you’d get over that reflex,” Hermione concluded, taking a long drink of her tea before changing topics. “We can’t hide you here forever. Professor McGonagall is taking Harry, and myself, to his grandparents’ house for the first time over the weekend. She knows you are innocent, and said anyone is welcome to join Harry on this trip.”
“First trip! He should have grown up there!” Sirius muttered.
She silenced him again with a brief stern look, “I agree. Even with you and Neville’s mum unable to raise him, the best option was certainly not Petunia Dursley.” She scowled angrily, staring into her teacup for a moment. “If you agree to stay there, with Professor Lupin perhaps, Winky will stay with you, helping you to keep up the house and also providing company. We can get you an owl so you can send letters. Amelia Bones and Professor McGonagall are pushing for you to be cleared, but Fudge is terribly stubborn and Dumbledore has a lot to lose if you are able to gain custody of Harry. He’s already fairly annoyed McGonagall has managed guardianship.”
“McGonagall is his guardian?!” Sirius sputtered.
“It could not have been so uncommon during the war. You had the Potters to take you in. Students who were thrown out or lost their families had to have an adult to advocate on their behalf. It’s in the Hogwarts Charter, for Heads of House to take up at least temporary guardianship of one of their students when necessary. Dumbledore, as a judge in the Tournament and one of its organizers, had a clear conflict of interest as Harry’s guardian so McGonagall was able to force the change through.”
“He was going to just make me compete. He didn’t seem to care that I didn’t enter myself or that they’re all older than I am. Fleur’s nice enough, but she’s still a seventh year. She’ll wipe the floor with me,” Harry added, frowning.
Hermione couldn’t help smirking at Harry’s compliment of her wife. Her best friend was right - Fleur, even as a seventh year, could have easily defeated Harry in a one-on-one duel, compared to the stacked Tournament. Now an over-thirty war veteran and against a scrawny, underfed fourteen year old, Harry would be toast if she wanted him to be.
“Fleur, eh?” Sirius gave a roguish grin as Harry blushed and Hermione scowled.
“She’s with someone,” Hermione couldn’t help but blurt out. The two boy-men swiveled to stare at her and she met their gazes defiantly, chin jutting out. “She is.” Hermione shrugged. “Now. If you’re willing, why don’t you come as Padfoot on Saturday? I’m sure you’d rather stay closer to Harry, but you’d be stuck here all the time to stay out of Dumbledore’s eye. In Godric’s Hollow you’d have the run of the property.”
Sirius stared at her for a long moment before nodding, “That’s a better plan than I had, to hide in a cave near to Hogwarts. I’ll work on my Occlumency too.” He pointed at her. “This better be good, to keep it from Dumbledore. He’s the leader of the Light.”
“Self-professed,” she scoffed. “He uses people. You were a valuable chess piece before, when you were fighting Death Eaters the way he wanted you to. The moment you could possibly take control of one of his other pieces - the Boy Who Lived - you were put to the side, taken off the board entirely for twelve years. He uses Harry. Almost like a dowsing rod to find Voldemort. Sooner or later Harry is going to die from his manipulations if we don’t get ahead of his game. So is your loyalty to a man who has none for you, or to your godson?”
“To Harry, always,” Sirius swore, meeting her eyes steadily. “Ever since James put him in my arms. I’m not sure I believe you about Dumbledore, but you know more about what’s going on right now than I do. And he did leave me to rot.” He scowled hard, his hands starting to shake at the memories. “He left both of us to rot, Harry.”
“Once we have you settled, there are things we need to do. But recovering, that comes first.”
“A chessmaster that cares for her pieces,” Sirius joked.
Hermione nodded at him, recognizing the truth inside the joke. She hated moving people she cared about as if they were her pieces on the board. But until she could give them the whole truth, it was necessary. She rose from her seat. “It’s almost curfew. Harry and I should head back to the Tower. Winky and Dobby will be around tonight. We have Dreamless Sleep. I think, for a few days, you should take it. You’ll need to be well-rested for this weekend.”
He stared down at his hands, still on the table before him only because he pressed down against the wood. “Smartest witch of her age, undoubtedly.” With a soft pop, a vial of purple potion appeared by his hand. “Goodnight, then. Will I see you tomorrow?” he asked Harry beseechingly.
“I’m free in the afternoon,” Harry replied.
“You can help him with his Charms homework, Sirius. He’s been putting it off,” Hermione teased. She slipped away, giving godfather and godson a moment alone. Dobby and Winky followed her towards the door, giving the two as much privacy as possible. She looked to Winky, softly inquiring, “You’ll stay with him?”
“Winky knows the rules for Harry Potter Sir’s Dogfather,” she replied, nodding fervently.
“Thank you, Winky. We need him safe, and he’ll only be here a few days,” she thanked the tiny elf, who immediately headed off to Sirius’ room. Hermione could see her fluffing pillows when she turned back to Dobby. With an exaggerated wink, he popped away, likely to fetch Fleur.
A few minutes later, after another long and unexpected hug, Harry joined her at the door, Map in hand to check the corridor outside. Sirius, with a look over his shoulder, searching and thoughtful, headed into his room, speaking quietly with Winky.
“Good night, Harry?” she asked as they scanned the nearby corridors only to find them clear and step out of the Room.
“Yes,” he beamed at her.
She linked their arms as they headed back towards Gryffindor Tower, pleased, “I’m glad.”
“So, who is Fleur seeing?” he asked innocently.
A part of her had expected the question since blurting out that Fleur wasn’t available. Her stomach flipped. She’d figured out her orientation after Harry had died. She’d never had this conversation with him, had no idea how it would go. But with all the lies and half-truths she was feeding her best friend at the moment, this was something she could be honest regarding. If he reacted badly, she had three days to talk him around.
“Me,” she said softly.
He stopped in the middle of the corridor, a gentle pull making her face him, “You’re dating Fleur Delacour? She hasn’t been here a week!”
Hermione bit her lip. “Yes, I am. I’m bisexual.”
He shook his head, “I’m happy for you. It takes a lot of courage to come out, even I know that. But you’ve known her less than a week!”
She snorted, she shouldn’t have been surprised that this was the detail he was stuck on. “I’ll explain later, I promise. She’s wonderful, Harry, I swear.”
“She had better be wonderful. She’ll have to be, to be good enough for my sister,” he replied with a crooked grin.
Reassured and touched by his claiming of her, she drew him into a hug, “Thank you,” she whispered into his jumper. “Thank you thank you.” He held her as she got control of her scattered emotions, rocking softly back and forth.
As she pulled back, he smirked at her like the teenage boy he was, “So. What’s kissing her like?”
She burst out laughing and started to pull him towards the Tower again. “I don’t kiss and tell. Come on, it’s almost curfew.”
“So you have kissed her!” he exclaimed before they reached the Fat Lady.
Hermione gave him a wicked grin, and then recited the password before waving him ahead of her into the Common Room. “No comment.”
Just fyi, this fic is going on hiatus until December, as I participate in NaNoWriMo for the very first time.
Chapter 9: Home Is A Place He's Never Been
Reminder: as this story is AU, I ignore most Pottermore material. This story’s Godric’s Hollow is in northern Wales, and Harry’s grandparents had different names and lives than that which has since been detailed by JKR. There are also some common HP-fandom tropes present in this chapter. No shame. They're tropes because they're enjoyable & useful.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Friday at breakfast, McGonagall sought out Harry, and by default Hermione, at breakfast. Ushering them out of the Great Hall, her lips in a firm line, she cast several charms before speaking, “The Weighing of the Wands is to occur today. I have, by the skin of my teeth, managed to get you out of it, Harry, as your forced participation is still under investigation. But that means representatives from the media will be in the castle today. And not anyone trustworthy. I’m sure, Miss Granger, you are familiar with Rita Skeeter’s articles. I suggest, highly, that after your morning classes you allow me to escort you both to my office, where you can stay for the afternoon. I will make sure the elves provide you lunch.”
Hermione nodded, and Harry followed her lead. Scurrying off to History of Magic and then Charms, they met up with McGonagall right outside the Great Hall, subtly slipping off as she escorted them into her office. “I shall fetch you for dinner. There is a small bathroom through here,” she gestured to a plain door, “and I ask you respect my office. I am trusting the both of you.”
“We understand, Professor, and thank you,” Hermione said with a warm smile for her favorite professor.
“I’ll see for dinner, then, or afterwards if the reporters haven’t left yet,” McGonagall replied, and was gone, off to lunch and then her afternoon classes.
Left alone in the office, Hermione couldn’t help but let her gaze wander. The bookshelves were all crammed full of Transfiguration texts, some appearing quite old. A Victorian-style couch beneath the windows was free, and she pointed it out to Harry, who flopped down. Hermione set a single security charm in the office. It was rude, perhaps, as her family had never quite explained all the social niceties of wizarding culture, but it was also necessary. McGonagall wouldn’t know to set an alert ward for an animagus, and while Harry already had the Map out at her earlier instruction, keeping an eye on it constantly was only their first line of defense. One of the school house elves popped in with a tray of sandwiches, juice, and fruit that they immediately dug into after thanking the elf.
“Who is this Skeeter woman? Why is McGonagall trying so hard to keep me away from her?” Harry asked as his eyes darted around the map, most everyone at lunch but for a handful of unfamiliar names in a small room with Dumbledore.
“Chew and swallow before you talk,” Hermione scolded softly, sparing a thought for her wife, resigned to the fact that Fleur would likely be Skeeter’s easiest target, especially with the scuttlebutt going around the castle about the Boy Who Lived being friendly with a French Veela. But Fleur could handle herself, and Hermione tried to organize her thoughts so she could explain her hatred of Skeeter without bringing up a dozen things that hadn’t happened yet - and hopefully wouldn’t. “She’s a muckraker, Harry. Reports gossip as hard fact, even worse than the rest of the Prophet. She loves scandal, and will do her best to create it or make it worse. She’s immensely talented at it, too. And you’re famous, as much as you hate it, so you’re the best target she has. McGonagall was right to keep her as far from you as possible, but it won’t be something she can do forever.” Hermione took a deep breath, fidgeting in her seat and watching the movement of the names near her wife’s. “She’s going to say untrue, possibly terrible things about you, Harry. Probably about me, probably about Fleur, maybe even about Luna. Anyone near you, really. There’s basically no libel laws in the magical world. And it’ll be okay. We’ll figure something out. You really should speak to the professor’s contact at the Prophet, just to balance out whatever trash she writes.”
“So like second year, when everyone thought I was the heir of Slytherin?” Harry looked pale.
Hermione bit her lip worriedly, “Yes, but the whole country instead of just Hogwarts. Harry, the wizarding public is full of fools. This week they’ll believe one thing and the next something completely different. You can survive it. Just… expect a lot of prying into your life. Expect at least one supposed love triangle.”
Harry looked disgusted, “A love triangle?”
“Or two, or three. Maybe a love parallelogram? It’s her bread and butter. Think. You’ve been seen around the castle with a muggleborn, a French Veela, and a Ravenclaw her entire house thinks is insane. No proper British pureblood to help remove the ‘taint’ of your mother from the Potter line.” She threw up a little in her mouth just spelling it out for her best friend, but couldn’t leave him to be unprepared for whatever headline Rita cooked up.
“Luna’s not a pureblood?”
“No, she’s like you, a halfblood. But her mother was the muggleborn, and with her mother gone, well. She’s not as familiar with the muggle world as you or I.”
Harry swallowed his bite of sandwich. “They wouldn’t care, even if they knew about you and Fleur? They’d still say those things?”
She shook her head, “They aren’t very accepting of not-straight people in this society, Harry.”
“Not straight?” he asked, his face screwed up in confusion.
“Fleur is a lesbian. She’s only attracted to women. I’m bisexual. I told you that.”
“I guess I don’t know what it means? Bisexual?”
“I have the capacity to be attracted to two or more genders,” she said softly.
“There are more than two genders?”
She laughed softly, “Yes, there are. They aren’t much talked about, or respected, in either muggle or magical British society, but they exist.”
“Not something I heard about in Little Whinging, for sure,” he mused, taking another bite. “So you like girls, and boys, and…?” he trailed off.
“There are a lot of genders in the world, Harry. But yes, it’s mainly about the person for me.”
“And Fleur’s your person?” he said with a teasing grin.
“She is. She’s wonderful.”
“I’m glad.” He looked down at the Marauder’s Map, the scurrying of students as they left the Great Hall for their afternoon classes. The first half of the afternoon passed, Harry and Hermione taking turns watching the Marauder’s Map and doing homework, chatting softly at times. As the reporters were escorted out of Hogwarts by Dumbledore, Hermione kept a close eye on Rita, unsure if the woman would try to slip off immediately to search for Harry, or come back later. Harry peered over her shoulder, “McGonagall’s coming.”
“Bugger,” she muttered, quickly waving her wand to take down her alert charms. They both packed their bags back full of textbooks and parchment, Hermione stuffing a biro and notebook deep down.
McGonagall came through the door, her lips a thin line. “The media is, thankfully, now gone. I believe it’s time for dinner.”
“Thank you for your office, Professor,” Hermione said softly as she tugged Harry towards the door.
McGonagall sighed softly, “You’re most welcome, Miss Granger. I would not wish Rita Skeeter on anyone.”
Saturday morning dawned crisp and cold in Scotland. Hermione reluctantly rolled out of bed, leaving a sleepy Fleur with a soft kiss as she hurried through her morning routine. It had been almost a week exactly since they traveled in time. She found she was still adjusting. The crowds of children surrounding her. The teachers expecting her unquestioned obedience. The entire structure of Hogwarts grated on her adult mind. And, looking back, she was yet again slightly appalled at the persona her younger self shouldered. She kept it up, somewhat, around everyone but her family and Harry. He saw closer to who she really was - he always had as there was something about her brother and best friend that precluded hiding herself away from him - but with the distance required until he could guard his mind. It was hard. Harry was both a very young and a very old fourteen, yet still fourteen. He was a child that she was, to put it most plainly, manipulating for her own purposes. That her purposes involved making sure he was safe and happy, and that Voldemort was destroyed, only barely assuaged her conscience. Fleur, who at heart was just as Slytherin as Harry, if not more so, understood her discomfort intellectually but her own point of view was that they were doing far better by Harry than anyone else had in the past thirteen years, especially Dumbledore.
Dressed in comfortable muggle attire - denims, thick wool socks, trainers, and a warm jumper she’d borrowed from Fleur earlier in the week - she checked that none of her roommates were awake before pulling back her bedcurtains to say goodbye to her wife. Fleur was curled around Hermione’s pillow, sleeping in before she’d spend the day holding the Room while Bill and Luna went into the Chamber with the recorded Parseltongue a very bemused Harry had provided to Hermione the night before. The recording globe was attached by a sticking charm to the headboard.
Hermione cupped her wife’s face in her hand, coaxing her from sleep. For a woman who had regular screaming nightmares about the war, Fleur could sleep heavily on a good night.
“Why do you think I’m not already awake?” she said, her voice rough with sleep still.
“Because you’re curled ‘round my pillow,” Hermione laughed softly.
“Fair enough, my love,” Fleur grumbled. Her frown smoothed out as Hermione leaned in to kiss it away. As her wife pulled back, she grabbed her hand. “Be safe, today. Careful. We don’t know anything about Godric’s Hollow right now. About this house. About how Sirius and Harry will react…” she trailed off, her eyes open and full of worry.
Hermione smiled sadly, and nodded, “I know. We’ll be careful. I promise.”
Fleur cupped her wife’s cheek softly, “Je t'aime.”
“I love you, too.”
With her muggle peacoat, hat, and scarf draped over one arm, Hermione descended to the common room. Harry was already there, dressed in warm layers with his cloak beside him, one of Hermione’s knitted hats and his Gryffindor scarf piled on top. “It’s a mixed village, Harry,” Hermione said as she settled into the armchair at an angle to the couch. “Remind McGonagall to transfigure your cloak into something a bit more muggle before we leave.”
He stared into the fire grate, but nodded, acknowledging her. After a few long moments he turned to her, eyes wide, “What do you think it’ll be like? Do you think…” he trailed off, obviously wrestling with his thoughts.
Hermione smiled sadly, “I think neither of us really know enough about your parents - and even less about your grandparents - to guess how your family built their house. But from what McGonagall said, I’d assume things are… well-made. Expensive but not because it’s expensive, more if you pay for good quality it’ll last. So perhaps worn now, but costly when it was purchased. The pictures of your parents after school don’t show anything gaudy or over the top.”
“So nothing like Aunt Petunia,” Harry snorted.
Hermione shook her head, unwilling to voice what she remembered of that horrible house since she hadn’t been to it until seventh year. “They’re not going to be like the Malfoys, all expensive garbage designed to impress, or expensive for the sake of expensive because really racing brooms are ridiculous to give to school Quidditch players.” She smiled at Harry’s smirk. “If they raised your father, I’d assume they taught him to look for quality and value. They took in Sirius, so I’d expect something homey. Something warm and kind, because they didn’t make your father dissociate from Sirius or Remus or your mother. Beyond that, I haven’t a clue.”
Neither of them noticed McGonagall enter the room and they jumped as she came up behind the couch, “All rather spot-on, Miss Granger, if I recall correctly. Shall we head down to the kitchens for breakfast?” She led them through the halls briskly, Harry trailing after her and Hermione keeping a watchful eye. Ensconced in a corner of the kitchen with a small breakfast spread thanks to the busy elves, Harry couldn’t help but interrogate his head of house and temporary guardian.
“Did you know them?” he asked, shoveling in a spoonful of porridge.
“Don’t talk with food in your mouth, Potter,” she scolded. Taking a sip of her tea, she nodded, “They were out of Hogwarts before I was born, but I met them when I became a teacher. Your grandmother took the Potter seat on the Board of Governors, as your grandfather was busy with the family business. As your father and godfather’s head of house, I of course also dealt with them in that capacity. The only time I went to their home was the summer your godfather left his blood relations.” She took a bite of her toast, chewing it slowly before swallowing, taking the time to gather her thoughts. “I wanted to check on him, when the owl with his booklist came back missing half its feathers. Apparently the owl went to his registered address first, in London, and Sirius’ mother was not pleased. I went to the Potters, thinking James had to know where Sirius was, and came across them both outside the house. I only truly saw the front hall and the parlor, Harry, but it was a comfortable, warm home. I saw more of your mother’s childhood home when I visited them before her first year.”
It didn’t take long for the three of them to eat, and soon McGonagall led her two lions out of the castle. “I can take both of you side-along, if that’s acceptable. Have either of you Apparated before?”
Hermione shook her head, “No professor, though of course I’ve read all about it. We have used a portkey, though. I read it feels similar?”
“In a way. If you mean similarly unpleasant the first few times,” McGonagall smiled thinly. “Now, Potter, as it is a mixed village…” she trailed off, waving her wand to alter his cloak into a peacoat not dissimilar from Hermione’s before doing the same to her own. “I truly should acquire us both some muggle coats,” she muttered softly. Clasping both of them close, she popped them away from Scotland.
Godric’s Hollow was warmer than Scotland. Not by much, but noticeable enough. They arrived on a deserted road on the outskirts of the village, directly outside an old wrought-iron gate. On either side, weathered stone walls rose to Harry’s shoulder, going around about two acres of land with a few smaller gates on other sides of the large yard that led into nearby pastures and towards the huge old barn that sat derelict near the house. The grass was overgrown, dead for the season and even growing up between the paving stones that made up the front path leading from the gate to the doorstep.
The wall and the gates seemed excessive until Hermione noticed the runes carefully carved into the stonework, as well as the small gargoyles posted on each corner of the stone wall - five in total given the uneven shape of the land walled in.
“As your guardian, I could request basic information from the goblins regarding the wards on the property,” McGonagall said. “Just enough to get us into their home. There are wards on all the Potter property you can see, though the best are saved for the house itself.”
“Blood wards,” Hermione guessed out loud before biting her lip. Warding wasn’t covered until sixth year at the earliest.
McGonagall raised a single eyebrow at her student, but nodded. “The reason no one can get into the house is that it requires blood from a Potter to get past the gate. Your grandmother was the last wardkeeper of the family. She locked everything down in the days after her husband’s death, according to what little the goblins knew.”
“Married into the family, that counts as Potter blood?” Hermione asked curiously.
McGonagall inclined her head, “Magic recognizes family by blood or marriage or adoption or oath. I’m not quite sure how, of course. It’s not my field of expertise.”
“Would it recognize Sirius, I wonder,” Hermione mused.
“We might find out. The ward book for the household could list all those the family magic will recognize,” McGonagall answered. “But first we must get inside, of course. Harry, do you mind a bit of blood for the wards to recognize you?”
Harry nodded, pulling his wand carefully to cut across the back of his arm where he’d pulled up his sleeves. Blood welled up from the cut and Hermione shivered, flashing to the mental image of an older Harry soaked in crimson.
“Press it to the crest on the gate, Mister Potter.” McGonagall gestured to a piece of the gate that was cast-iron instead of wrought, the shape of a family crest centered at chest-height. Harry pressed his bloody arm to it and a low tone sounded before the gate clicked and swung open. McGonagall breathed a sigh of relief. “Let’s get inside and get your dog here.”
“Could an elf bring him?” Hermione asked innocently, as she stepped through the gate and closed it behind them.
“One that Mister Potter called, I assume, could come inside the wards. It’s worth a try. I don’t know the specifics of the family wards.” McGonagall cast a quick healing charm.
Harry grinned, “Dobby.” The little elf popped in momentarily, peering around at the unkempt yard and house that needed a bit of care. He frowned, before refocusing on Harry. “Could you bring Padfoot here? And Winky?”
“Of course, Mister Harry Potter Sir,” Dobby grinned before popping away to return immediately with an oversized dog and a nervous Winky, right outside the gate. Harry held it open for them and they stepped through with no problem.
Padfoot howled joyfully, bounding around Harry and Hermione before heading towards the front door.
Hermione turned to the two elves, a smile on her face at Sirius’ theatrical display, “If you two would stay with us?” They nodded, following her and Harry to the door. McGonagall shook her head, amused.
The front door of the Potter house stood firmly closed, dust and debris settled against it and the windows on both sides in need of a good scrubbing. But the building appeared solid. “Is it locked?” Harry asked, turning to the others.
“The wards were the lock, Mister Potter,” McGonagall said gently. “The door should be open for you.”
Harry took a deep breath, Padfoot leaning against his side, and opened the door easily. Padfoot pushed it open with his nose, guiding Harry into the house. As soon as all of them, including the elves, were inside, Hermione shut the door and Padfoot became Sirius.
“Professor. Very pleased to see you,” said the escaped prisoner, clean and groomed in his fresh if out of date clothes. “And very thankful. For what you’ve done for Harry.”
McGonagall sniffed at the sight of her former student, her eyes almost suspiciously damp. Twelve years in Azkaban had worn him down, thinned his face and added a haunted gleam to his eyes. “I should have done it sooner, Mister Black. It’s wonderful to see you as well.”
Winky and Dobby were near vibrating with excitement as they looked around the house. Everything was covered in a layer of dust, but otherwise laid intact, down to the work gloves left on the side table by the door. Hermione eyed them, and said, “Winky, Dobby, do you think you could get the dust out of the house quickly? Just enough so we aren’t sneezing as we explore? You can do a full clean later if you like.” The two grinned before popping off, the dust in the entryway gone with them.
“The parlor is, I believe, this way,” McGonagall said, leading them down the hall after Sirius nodded his agreement. The parlor was a large, formal but friendly room, with Victorian furniture, a sizable fireplace, and in the corner a nativity scene and a modest, unadorned, Christmas tree, still green fourteen years later. Hermione stared for a moment before recalling something, “They put preservation charms on their Christmas tree? That’s a strong charm to last so long.”
Sirius stared at it through watery eyes, “It’s actually the same one they’ve had for years. James’ dad put the charm on ages ago, and reapplied it every so often. He said it made him sad to cut down a tree year after year. They keep it in the attic. I can’t believe it’s lasted this long, though.”
Hermione smiled, before noticing something odd about the creche, “Did someone really replace the mother of God with a Princess Leia action figure?”
Sirius barked a laugh and wiped his eyes. “Lily took James to see A New Hope when they were first dating. He loved it, brought us all to see it later. Lily gave him that for Christmas, in ’78. He swapped it off with Mary that year and his mum left her there, packed Leia away with the creche and must have brought her out in ’79. They died just before the new year. James didn’t have time to pack up the house before they went into hiding. I don’t even know if they knew Lily was pregnant.”
Harry stared around the rest of the room, his eyes wide and wet. There were portraits - unmoving ones - of a few people scattered around the room, in old-fashioned clothes and severe-looking but all sharing the same untamable hair, the same dark skin, and similar-shaped faces to that which he saw in the mirror. Newer photographs filled up the spaces in-between the static portraits and the other decorations. One wall had a large wizarding seascape painting, the waves delicately lapping against the painted shore and the cloudy grey sky starting to clear. There was a small curio cabinet full of knickknacks against the front wall, and a small display case hung by the door held a collection of thimbles. A basket of half-finished knitting sat beside one chair, a small card table between another chair and a settee had a chessboard etched into the top, though a dusty copy of The Quibbler sat folded ready to peruse. Across the mantle, framed photographs charted the last generations of the Potter family - Harry’s grandparents’ wedding photograph, then moving into James Potter’s life, from a first proud baby photo with his parents, to a wedding picture with both the elder and younger Potter couples squished into the frame. A handful of photographs from his teen years onward included Sirius and Remus, and if Peter had been in them originally his photographic image had long since left the frame. Sirius teared up again as he stepped towards the mantle, reaching out to tug down a picture of just himself with James.
“When my parents threw me out, my mother burned all my baby pictures and sent me the ashes,” he said, sniffling. “My Uncle Alphard left me the few he had when he died, along with a bit of gold, and Cousin Andy copied the few family pictures she’d snitched before she ran for me. Your gram put them all in an album, should be around here somewhere. And then she took dozens of photos that summer, to prove I existed, I guess.” He laughed wetly, settling the frame back on the mantle and rubbing at his eyes.
“That’s okay, Sirius. I’ve got some baby pictures, and then nothing till I’m at Hogwarts, when Hagrid gave me my album,” Harry said, trying to be reassuring, but only making both his godfather and head of house frown.
Hermione sighed. Going over the bad parts of the past only hurt the lot of them. “Sirius, would you like to give us a tour?” she interrupted.
He scrubbed at his eyes and nodded, “I’d love to, Hermione.” He led them around the rest of the sizable house, showing them the dining room with its sideboard full of the good family china and room for an easy dozen people at the table - more if they were willing to sacrifice elbow room. The kitchen was warm and homey, already scrubbed clean as the elves removed the rotted food and ancient drygoods from the cupboards. A cozy library took up one corner of the house and besides a small powder room, an addition holding the office for the family business completed the first floor. Upstairs there were several bedrooms and baths per floor, while the attic held both a child’s playspace and storage. The basement, which Sirius led them through quickly, had a small wine cellar, a cold storage area, and a modern - for the 1970’s - potions laboratory.
“When your gram heard what a deft hand at potions your mum was, she updated the old potions room,” Sirius said, pointing to a row of reference books that Hermione only recognized half of from the library. “Lily was doing her Charms mastery first, but she was keeping up on her potions work. She did, I think, a few batches of veterinary and household potions before they went into hiding. Your gram thought it was wonderful. She was rubbish at potions, and your granddad not much better. Your gran kept crowing that finally they could stop buying the ones they needed around the farm since Lily volunteered to make them all. There were already rumors about the Wolfsbane Potion development and Lils was determined to learn how to make it for Remus as soon as the potions journals released it.”
“That’s a finicky potion,” Hermione breathed, respect filling her voice. At Sirius’ raised eyebrow, she continued, “I looked it up, last year. It’s got expensive ingredients and it’s complicated. Far too complicated for anyone still in school to make.” She bit her tongue. It was too complicated because of the exact timing required, not because of any other difficulty for a skilled brewer. She could probably do it, if her time wasn’t so constrained by classes and meals, and Fleur definitely would, after she finished her education at Beauxbatons. They’d even discussed having Bill start it, but while he managed decent enough potions grades at Hogwarts, he was not quite capable of such an exacting potion. Instead, under a glamor, he was already making inquiries about buying it, at least until summer when Fleur could take over brewing.
“That’s very kind of you, Miss Granger,” McGonagall smiled. She turned to Sirius, “Perhaps we should go make ourselves comfortable in the parlor. We have a few things to discuss.”
As soon as they sat down in the now-immaculate parlor, Winky popped in with a tea service. “Thank you, Winky,” Hermione said, smiling. “If you and Dobby could join us, that would be wonderful.” Dobby popped in, bouncing excitedly, before the two elves made themselves comfortable on a footstool. McGonagall and Sirius raised their eyebrows as the elves settled and Hermione began to pour tea, Harry passing the cups around to everyone.
“Well,” McGonagall began. “I suppose we should start with… is this a safe enough place for Mister Black to stay while we work on gaining his legal freedom?”
“Yes, Professor,” Hermione stated decisively. “Now that Harry has access to the house, he can alter the wards to keep people out, and with Winky staying here - and Dobby checking on them - there will always be someone around to evacuate him if necessary. Even the best anti-apparition jinx can’t contain a house elf. The question is, Sirius, will you be comfortable here? With Winky staying, and Dobby visiting, and letters from the rest of us, until you’re safe.” She raised an eyebrow at him, diverting him before he could say anything about Dobby popping them down from Hogwarts on a weekend or something similar. Not that she didn’t think McGonagall couldn’t come up with that possibility on her own, but the less said outright, the better, as their head of house was already carefully balancing being a teacher with being a guardian.
Sirius looked around the room, out the window over the front yard to the gate and the stone walls that bounded the house and the fields, woods, and stream beyond those walls. He took a deep breath, obviously unwilling, even to Hermione’s eyes, to consider that this house that had been an escape, a home for him, would briefly become a very comfortable prison while McGonagall and Amelia Bones did their best to secure his freedom. “I think I can settle here quite easily, Hermione. I’ll do what James didn’t have a chance to do - get everything clean and set for when Harry can visit over Christmas, and for next summer.” He gave McGonagall a pointed look, and she nodded stiffly. “I have access to my Gringotts account; I’ll make sure the property is fixed up. Saw a bit of damage to the roof as we were making our way in.”
“Dobby can fix that!” offered the excited house elf.
“See? A few galleons and a brilliant elf, and we’ll get this house back to being a home,” Sirius said, forcing a bright smile. “I’ll find all your gran’s photo albums, Harry, for you to look through. Get the bedrooms sorted. I’m sure James’ room has some things he wouldn’t want you finding until you’re older.” He winked, and Harry stared blankly before blushing. “Do you want your father’s room, or your grandparents’? There’s plenty of guest rooms, too.”
Hermione smiled warmly, but set a hand on Sirius’ knee. “Why don’t you and Harry do that together, Sirius? I’m sure he’d love to see his father’s room, and his grandparents’, as they were before you pack things up and rearrange? Why don’t you look through the office? See where things were left? Get everything organized to explain over Christmas. Harry doesn’t know the first thing about the Potter businesses, and you’ll be in charge of things while he’s underage anyways, even if you have to go through Professor McGonagall for awhile. I’m sure there’s a lot to organize. That office was a mess.”
Sirius laughed, “Your granddad was not a tidy man, Harry.” His eyes were warm and fond as he thought back, “Your gran has a desk in there, and they’d work on their projects together, teasing back and forth while she did all this parchmentwork for Hogwarts…” He turned to McGonagall with a curious look, “Who has her seat on the Board now? Someone she handed it off to or someone Dumbledore appointed?”
McGonagall sighed, “Dumbledore. He appointed Dedalus Diggle after Missus Potter’s designated replacement was killed, in 1990.”
Sirius barked a bitter laugh, “One of his yes-men. That will have to change.” He gave a significant glance at Hermione, turning back to McGonagall. “Who did she appoint? Were they good?”
McGonagall sighed, looking down at her folded hands in her lap, “Lily was close friends with a few other muggleborn witches, as you might recall. She must have introduced Missus Potter to a few, because Diana Lovegood took her spot on the Board until she died.”
Hermione gasped, her hand coming up to her mouth as she reached out for Harry. Her mind raced, and her stomach turned. “Professor, did Luna’s mum prove a hassle to Professor Dumbledore? While she served on the Board?”
McGonagall eyed her student but nodded sadly, “She was fiercely opposed to Professor Snape’s tenure. And she regularly made a fuss over Mister Potter’s whereabouts. She didn’t have a copy of your parents’ will, Harry, but she knew that Lily didn’t want you anywhere near your aunt, and there were, she claimed, alternative placements that would have kept you in the Wizarding World, as Lily had discussed them with her extensively. Professor Dumbledore did not take well to her questions.” McGonagall took a deep breath, “Miss Granger, are you suggesting what I think you are?”
Sirius looked back and forth between the two women, confused, “Wait, Diana? Diana Marsh? From Hufflepuff? She married Xenophilus Lovegood? She’s dead?”
Hermione clutched at Harry’s hand, leaning against her brother. She nodded, “She was our friend Luna’s mum. She died in a spellcrafting accident, in front of Luna. Her father has gone rather round the bend since. It was completely random; Luna’s looked at her mother’s notes since. The accident was near-impossible. It wasn’t ruled suspicious at the time, because it was just the barmy Lovegoods, but Luna’s wondered.”
“Miss Granger, Luna Lovegood is a third year. Her mother had a Mastery in spell crafting. I highly doubt she could decipher her mother’s notes,” McGonagall sighed.
“Luna Lovegood is a genius, professor. And she has been surrounded by her mother’s work all her life. She understands it quite well,” Hermione replied firmly. “And is it not suspicious that nearly everyone with a stake in Harry’s care - godfather, mother’s friends - ended up dead or out of the picture? That Remus Lupin is still alive and free is a near miracle, but of course he could be manipulated easily enough to stay away from Harry. Not to mention he’d be the only one without any ability to take custody of Harry, as a werewolf. You cannot tell me that two former head students, both brilliant in their own right, would not have a very long list of people to take custody of their son in a worst-case scenario given that they were in the midst of a war.”
McGonagall looked up at the ceiling, taking a deep breath. “You suggest that Albus Dumbledore, the leader of the Light, arranged for Sirius to be thrown into jail without trial? For Diana Lovegood to die? For the Longbottoms to be incapacitated? Really, Miss Granger!”
“The Longbottoms? Neville’s parents?” Harry broke in. “What do they have to do with me? What happened to them?”
“Alice, she was your godmother,” Sirius replied softly. His voice grew hard, “What happened to them?”
McGonagall’s jaw jutted out, “They were tortured by the LeStranges. They’ve been in Saint Mungo’s since three days after the Potters died.”
“They were under a Fidelus! Just like James and Lily!” Sirius shouted, gripping the arms of his chair to keep from rising. “Who betrayed them?”
“No one knows,” Hermione said softly. “The newspapers in the library assumed Neville’s gran must have been tortured for it, and her memory wiped. But the healers could never prove it. At least it didn’t keep her from getting custody of Neville, for all the good that has done him over the years.”
“Professor, his wand isn’t even his. It’s his father’s. It doesn’t work for him,” Hermione stated. “He told me once, in second year. His gran insists it worked fine for his father and should serve him well and his wandwork is perfect but the wand. doesn’t. want. him. His gran won’t listen either, just berates him. His uncle has thrown him out windows and off piers to force a display of magic. I’ve tutored him off and on since first year. His wand movements are perfect, his intonation flawless, and we’ve worked on his visualization but it doesn’t help. Haven’t you ever paid attention during his practicals beyond the fact that he doesn’t do well?”
McGonagall visibly ground her teeth, “I shall look into this, Hermione. Thank you.” She swallowed down her rage, both at being essentially scolded by a student and at the disservice Augusta Longbottom was doing to her Lion. “But back to the topic at hand.”
Hermione mentally chastised herself for getting distracted, though she hoped it could help Neville. “Professor, I know you are angry about Harry’s treatment. I know you have done a great deal to protect him this year. But you can’t ignore how many things have aligned for the Headmaster to be able to so completely control his life before now.”
McGonagall’s hands in her lap shook slightly as she nodded, “I shall take your thoughts under advisement, Miss Granger.” She sighed, “At the very least, we must be sure this house is safe for you, Sirius. Do you know where the ward book is?”
Sirius cleared his throat, “I think it’s in the kitchen.”
“The center of the household. Of course.” McGonagall smiled, rising from her seat. “I may not be an expert in warding, but I know enough to direct you in adjusting the book.”
“The book?” Harry asked, following McGonagall into the hall.
“Permanent household wards are tied to a book that controls who can enter freely and who is fully barred,” Hermione said softly as they made their way down the hall. “It used to involve blood, and was permanent unless the wards were completely recast, but a few hundred years ago, warders figured out how to tie a set of wards to a book, where the wardmaster of a household would be able to write down who could come and go. As the last Potter, you’re by default the wardmaster of the house now. So you can cross names off the access list, and add people on. Of course, people can visit if they’re with you and you allow them access - like the Professor and Sirius and I - but Sirius is likely listed in the book already, added by your gran when he was a teenager. Meanwhile if I’m not added to the ward book, I won’t be able to get through the gate the moment I step outside the wards unless you lead me across the boundary. Ward books are self-updating in some respects. The moment you were born, as a Potter, you might have appeared in the book. Depending on the warding, your mother was likely added as a member of the family and someone who can access the property from the moment she was officially married to your father, if your gran hadn’t already added her to the access lists.”
“Quite thorough, and quite correct, Miss Granger,” McGonagall said, opening the kitchen door. “Have you read how to add and remove access with a ward book?”
“Well of course each warding book has its own rules, Professor, usually inscribed within, but yes, I know the general process,” Hermione replied. She bit her lip. She had, luckily, read such a book her third year and her library records would back her up, though most of her warding knowledge came from her wife and Bill.
“Then why don’t you help Harry with the ward book?” McGonagall pointed to a small cupboard in the corner, with a raised, angled platform on top, perfect for holding a book and writing within it. Wandering over to the small kitchen table, she sat with Sirius as they settled and watched the two teenagers at the ward book, the elves popping their tea service into the kitchen.
Hermione directed Harry to open the cupboard, and to put the book on top. Together, they read through the guide to adding and removing those allowed into the wards. Paging through the book was, in a way, a three hundred year history of the Potter family - its members, its friends and allies. With death, the ink used to write in the book turned a shade of green eerily similar to the Killing Curse and most of the pages were full of green ink until they made it to the last few pages. In Harry’s gran’s handwriting were pages of family and friends. The only names written still in black ink were those such as Sirius, who had survived the War, but every one was crossed out. “This must be what your gran set up to happen when the wards locked down, Harry,” she whispered. “Everyone not family is disallowed. See. Even Sirius, and Remus.”
“And Wormtail,” he spat softly, finger shaking slightly as it pointed out the traitor’s name.
“Yes. It means you have to write down everyone you want to be able to come to your house freely.”
Harry took up the self-inking quill with unsteady hands and wrote down names under where he had signed his own as the new wardkeeper. Sirius Black. Hermione Granger. Minerva McGonagall. Dobby. Winky. After a moment of hesitation, Remus Lupin. He sighed. His circle was so small, his family so tiny.
Hermione leaned against him softly, reassuring him. She pulled a small scrap of parchment out of her pocket and whispered, “If I asked you to add a few more names, would you? And trust me that I’ll explain why, later?” He nodded, and she slid the scrap over to him. Fleur Delacour. Luna Lovegood. William Weasley. The three had their names written down dutifully, and Harry slid the quill back into its inkwell. As the directions specified, he tapped each name with his wand as the ink sunk down into the page, drying completely to show that the wards accepted the person so named, the ink the bright blue of non-family instead of the black ink reserved for family.
“All set, kids?” Sirius boomed from across the kitchen.
Closing the book, Harry slid it back into its cupboard, tapping the latch with his wand as the book had described. Shrugging his shoulders, he turned back to his godfather. “All set. You both can come and go as you please.”
“Thank you, Mister Potter,” McGonagall said as she poured two fresh cups of tea for them, “I appreciate the trust you are showing in me, and I promise not to abuse it.”
They drank their tea and munched on their biscuits for a few minutes, all of them slightly overwhelmed by being in Godric’s Hollow, and all the subjects discussed already.
“Mister Black, Sirius,” McGonagall sighed eventually. “Do you have essentials here? Clothes? I’m sure the elves can acquire food and anything else you might need, but if there’s any personal belongings you need, I can take Harry and Hermione to purchase them before we head back to the castle.”
“I should have a few things in my closet here, Professor,” Sirius said thoughtfully as he munched on a shortbread.
“We need to get him an owl, Professor,” Harry stated. “So that he can send a letter without waiting for Hedwig.”
“A wise thought, Harry,” she replied. “We can Apparate down to London and then floo to Hogsmeade.”
“If it would be easier for you, Professor, the elves could take us. Or is there a floo in the house?” Hermione offered.
Sirius laughed and pointed a finger at his godson. “Your gran hated the floo, Harry. Wouldn’t have it in the house. She could never step out of one without faceplanting, and she thought they were too much of a security risk during the war. There’s a public floo in the back room of the pub in town. They should be open today. There used to be one in the main barn, but I bet that’s long disconnected.”
McGonagall inclined her head, “That would be far easier.”
Hermione, meanwhile, was elbowing Harry with a smirk as he blushed. “Now we know why you can’t use a floo,” she teased.
For the rest of their impromptu tea break, Sirius regaled them with stories of the elder Potters, before he led them back to the parlor and gave brief histories of all the people he knew the names of, who were pictured on the walls. “There are family histories, diaries, and books in the library all about the Potters,” he said, after mixing up details on two different similarly-stern-looking Potter men. “I’ll find them all for you, Harry. Your granddad, when no one was sure if I’d keep my last name, he started to teach me all the family history James already knew. Didn’t manage to jam it all into my mind, but he tried. Then my Uncle Alphard made me his heir so I wasn’t thrown from the Black family, as hard as my mother tried. Handy, now, since it keeps the Black Accounts out of Malfoy’s hands.”
It didn’t take long for them to make sure Sirius was settled as he could be in the comfortable home, and Winky puffed up with pride as they left, happy to care for her charge. Dobby shadowed them as they flooed from the village’s tiny pub over to London. Unlike in the Leaky Cauldron, while Harry was very much noticed by everyone in the pub, he was also respectfully left alone, only the middle-aged barmaid commenting, as she let them through to the floo, “It’s good to see you back, Mister Potter. Godric’s Hollow has missed your family.” She wiped a tear before pointing to the jar of floo powder and closing the door behind her, accepting the sickles McGonagall pressed into her hand.
As it was a weekend, Diagon Alley was busy as they came through into the Cauldron. Old Tom behind the bar waved before turning back to a customer demanding more firewhiskey. Luckily, McGonagall had reversed the transfigurations on her own and Harry’s cloaks, and transfigured Hermione’s jacket into a cloak so they all slipped through the crowd unnoticed, especially as Harry jammed his bobble hat down over his scar and huddled down into his scarf to obscure his face.
Slipping into Eeylops Owl Emporium, the two teens wandered as they looked at the various owls for sale as McGonagall rounded up a perch, owl treats, and then waited for her students to select a bird for Sirius.
Having been gifted his own owl, Harry felt at a loss. He turned to his best friend, “You chose Crookshanks, right? How do we?” he trailed off, shrugging.
Hermione, meanwhile, tugged him towards the back of the shop. She curiously noted a small sign in front of a pair of female barn owls, saying the two would be sold together or not at all. “Won’t be separated, those two,” the clerk appeared from the back, snorted at the two birds who eyed him with disdain. “Tried to, and that one,” he pointed to the bird on the left, “came back the next day. Wouldn’t budge. Had to give a bloody refund. If you want an owl who’ll listen, you’d best choose another.” Hermione turned to the two birds before he could notice her scowl. Reaching out, she pet at each bird for a moment, both of them preening under her touch.
“These two, Harry,” she whispered fiercely. “I think they’re mates.”
Harry startled slightly, but looked at the pair. “Oh,” he said at last. He turned to his best friend, “You don’t want them separated, do you? Can we afford two owls?”
“I’ll pay you back for the second; I have enough gold in my trunk. I can only have Crookshanks at Hogwarts but… maybe one of them could carry messages for me? Unofficially? Please, Harry.” Something about the two birds struck at her. In the previous timeline, she’d spent a few months reading about homosexuality and bisexuality in the animal kingdom, and remembered a few mentions of the species. “Barn owls mate for life, Harry.”
He nodded firmly, “Well, you’re basically my sister, and Padfoot is family too. They’ll stay together, and so don’t worry about paying me back. You name them, and get them some owl treats sometime. Let’s go tell Professor McGonagall we’re buying two.”
She sighed, but nodded, charmed by her two students who wanted to keep the pair together. Harry’s promise to pay her back since this was not necessarily an expense a guardian should cover, she shrugged off. “Harry, two owls, one for personal use by members of your household and one for family business use, as your guardian will likely have much to do soon, is a wise investment, and something I support you spending part of a guardian’s stipend on. Your main concern should be Hedwig’s jealousy.” She laughed softly as he paled at the thought of his own owl’s possessiveness over him.
Hermione squeezed his hand before heading to the back of the shop to fetch the two birds and bring them up to the front. Instead of having to pick up the extra-large perch they shared, the two birds each hopped onto her shoulders. “Look at these smart ladies!” she said softly as she made her way up to the counter.
The gruff clerk accepted McGonagall’s gold before packing up the accessories she’d chosen. Digging out a bit of parchment and a pencil from her pocket, Hermione scribbled a note to Sirius for one to carry then helped Harry attach the shrunken and featherlight-charmed package to the other. As soon as they stepped out of the shop, the two birds screeched joyfully before taking off and heading westward after circling over their heads for a moment.
“Well, Mister Potter, Miss Granger, as we’re here in Diagon is there anything else you require?” McGonagall asked, passing Hermione a shrunken package of owl treats.
“No, Professor, and thank you,” Harry said, beaming as he watched the birds disappear in the distance. His godfather having an owl - or two - available meant more letters from him, and something visibly settled in his chest as he thought of the house - the home - they had spent the morning in. The early November sun warmed his face, and for the first time in a week, since his name came out of the Goblet, Hermione watched as her best friend’s shoulders relaxed.
Back in Godric’s Hollow, Sirius sat going through his things in the room the Potters had given him as a teenager, while Dobby and Winky worked together to make the house spotless. A jar of coins in the pantry, set beside an old grocery list, inspired Dobby to head out with Winky’s detailed shopping list and the coins to the market where elves could buy food for their households. For the first time in fifteen years, there was life in the home, and magic swirled around happily.
In the little cupboard, in the ward book, two names rewrote themselves in a facsimile of Harry’s handwriting. The magic of the Potter wards had enjoyed brushing against Hermione’s innate magic, almost as happy to touch her for the first time as to have Sirius back after so many years, though not nearly as joyous as magic could be at Harry’s first steps into the ancestral home of generations of Potters.
Magic of the type the Potters used to cast their wards, generations back, recognized many kinds of family. Always a small family if so defined by strict biological definition, the Potters who cast the first wards over their home in Godric’s Hollow included three Potters unrelated by blood but considered family. A goddaughter, a lifelong friend officially brought into the family when his own died in a dragonpox outbreak, and an adopted child, all helped to cast the first modern wards to protect the home. Their identities as part of the Potter family slid easily into the way the wards interpreted who was still family. Much of magic was in intent, after all, and the wards covering the Potter house knew exactly how the family defined itself.
Though the wards had reset with the death of Harry’s gran, they would have allowed Sirius in with ease, and recognized him as a wardkeeper of the house until he turned that family duty over to Harry. Remus, too, could have passed through the gate. Peter, however, forfeited his place in the Potter home with his betrayal. If Albus Dumbledore, legal magical guardian of Harry Potter but the one who arranged such a terrible life for him, had tried to access the Potter home, he would have been bounced away. Hermione, not a Potter by blood or adoption but one who considered Harry her brother, would have found her blood accepted. Even Fleur Delacour, her body seventeen and legally unmarried, would have found herself welcome in the home of her wife’s brother.
The wardbook turned two names to the familial black ink, and rewrote their names as they considered them in heart, if not law.
Hermione Jane Granger-Delacour (Potter).
Fleur Isabelle Delacour-Granger (Potter).
The magic surging around the property, now home once again to a member of the extended Potter family, leapt joyously. Winky felt the surge - any elf or sufficiently attuned magical person could - and grinned happily as she continued her cleaning. Sirius felt the magic around him buzz, and he grinned as he kept going through the old clothes and knickknacks and schoolbooks he’d left in his room as a teen.
Exploring the main house in Godric’s Hollow and heading down to London to buy an owl took the entire morning. McGonagall had a great deal of work to do or she would have allowed Harry more time in his grandparents’ home. The three arrived back in Hogsmeade, via floo, as a late lunch was still on-going in the Great Hall. As soon as they were back in the castle, Dobby appeared to take all their winter clothes back to their rooms so they could eat before the meal was over.
Saturday at Hogwarts meant some students rolled out of bed, threw on clothes, and stumbled to the Great Hall just in time for the midday meal. Others enjoyed a leisurely morning of chess or gobstones or homework or Quidditch practice. Hermione dragged Harry to the very end of the Gryffindor table and cajoled him into eating, his eyes distant and thoughtful.
“Go fly,” she said as he finished the last bite. “Clear your mind.”
He looked up at her, startled. “Really? No homework? No studying? No practicing?”
Hermione laughed softly, and patted his hand. “You need to decompress. You had a lot thrown at you this morning. Just come back in for dinner; I’ll see you then and we can talk tonight, okay?”
“Talk, or talk talk?” he asked curiously.
“Just talk. It’s been a week, Harry. You’re not there yet,” Hermione smiled sadly. “And I bet you’ll have some thoughts to sort through by the time you’re done flying around like a fool.”
Harry grinned. “I promise not too many Wronski Feints.”
She rolled her eyes. “Go. Don’t forget dinner. I’ll come fetch you if I need to.”
“Fetch me how? You hate flying,” Harry smirked, and took a last drink of his pumpkin juice before standing up.
Hermione drew her wand, tapping it gently on the tabletop, and gave her brother a glare, “I have my ways, Harry James Potter. Don’t make me use them. Now shoo. Go do some reckless things on a broom that I don’t want to think about.” With a sloppy, joking salute, Harry left the Great Hall, already on his way to the Tower for his broom and warm flying gear.
Hermione finished her own meal at a leisurely pace, leaving the Great Hall to wander towards the seventh floor. Sure she was alone, after a battery of revealing charms and a few muttered to keep the portraits from noticing her, she slipped into the Room to find Fleur sprawled across a couch in the sitting area with a pile of books and parchment in front of her. Her wife looked up with a broad smile as Hermione shut the door behind herself.
“Come! Save me from essays I could write in my sleep!” she exclaimed, gesturing to the pile of homework in front of her. “Essays that I have already written,” she grumbled.
Hermione laughed. “I know the feeling. At least you’re in seventh year.”
Fleur sighed, gesturing for Hermione to join her on the couch. “Luna and William have been down in the Chamber all morning. They brought lunch. Or, well, Dobby packed one for them this morning. I wouldn’t expect them to even come up until tomorrow night, unless they’re very lucky.”
Sighing, Hermione nodded, “I hate Ravenclaw. They won’t notice she’s gone at all.”
“If she maintains such a high profile, with you and Harry and even myself, that might not stay true,” Fleur noted cautiously.
Hermione shrugged, not liking her own notoriety at Hogwarts, “True. We had kind of counted on her staying mostly invisible. We didn’t think everything through, I guess. Like the fact that I’m a fourth year. Three more stuck at Hogwarts. Because I can’t leave Harry behind. Lu has four more years here.”
“We’ve had a great deal on our minds, ever since we decided to come back. We will adapt. And I doubt you’ll have to stay that long. Nor Harry, nor Luna. Many magicals are home-schooled. Not everyone can afford Hogwarts, or one of the other schools.”
“I am muggleborn,” Hermione noted. “No one is going to think my parents can educate me in magic.”
“True. But after a year coaching the Boy Who Lived, with the right support, you could remove yourself from Hogwarts, take your OWLS and NEWTS whenever you wanted. Or more, you could have your best friend’s guardian help you with that. I doubt that Sirius will want Harry anywhere near Hogwarts after everything settles. If it does. And he can certainly hire tutors.” Fleur pulled her wife into her arms, Hermione quickly snuggling close and relaxing into the embrace.
“You’re assuming we succeed, quickly,” Hermione groused.
“Oh, love, we will,” Fleur said. “And even if we don’t emerge victorious by the end of the Tournament, we can at least get you and Luna out of Hogwarts when Sirius will undoubtedly pull Harry. My love, you might even have to petition for him to take as many muggleborns as he can if events go badly.” She shuddered, thinking of the lists of dead muggleborn listed as criminals in the rare copies of the Daily Prophet they acquired while on the run, how her family wept at the various names they recognized - classmates, friends, neighbors, even schoolyard enemies, all murdered by Death Eaters or sentenced to Umbridge’s camps.
Hermione shivered and burrowed even further into Fleur’s arms. She lay silent for a long moment before saying with a nearly-forced teasing lilt in her voice, “And you? A Triwizard Champion? Will you help educate me?” She turned her face towards her wife and waggled her eyebrows, winking flirtatiously.
Fleur burst out laughing, and shook her head, “Oh, darling, you look fifteen. I have a feeling neither of us will, ahem, educate, one another until we’re a bit older. Or have adjusted to our teenage bodies.”
A door beside the Room’s main door opened, and Hermione bolted up, wand in hand as she saw Bill and Luna, absolutely filthy, in the doorway and Myrtle’s bathroom behind them. The Room’s passage to the second floor girl’s restroom solidified back into a wall as the two time-travelers stepped through and the door sealed shut with a squelch.
Luna smirked as she emptied her pockets and un-shrunk what became a huge pile of crates and bottles and jars, Bill beside her making his own pile. “I highly doubt that,” she laughed. “You two love each other well, and frequently. It’s only a matter of time before I need earplugs.” Pockets empty, she shucked all her clothes, nose wrinkling at the smell.
Bill burst out laughing, having finished emptying his pockets and immediate stripped out of his clothes. “I’m going to take a shower before we organize all these… bits.” He levitated his filthy, stinking clothes into a pile on top of Luna’s and Vanished everything.
“Yes please, husband, I would prefer not to see your bits for much longer,” Fleur grinned, pointing her gaze at her best friend’s crotch for a moment before smirking.
He blushed, but didn’t cover himself, “It’s chilly in this castle.”
Luna giggled, “C’mon, let’s share a shower. I am quite sure I can’t reach some of the filth from when that blood spurt soaked me.”
“Ugh, fine. But I’m not washing your hair for you,” he replied, following her towards the bedrooms. “And we both need new shoes now.”
“Next Hogsmeade weekend? I want something shiny this time,” Luna said as they disappeared down the hall together, naked as the day they were born.
Hermione rolled her eyes at them before turning back to her wife, “We live with casual, dedicated nudists.”
“It is a rebellion against pureblood culture in Britain,” Fleur stated, as she had many times since Bill and Luna’s tendencies to get naked started to emerge.
“You started it,” Hermione grumbled. “What with your Veela ‘we don’t have a nudity taboo, you Eeeenglish are so ridiculous,’” she imitated her wife’s thick teenage accent before shrieking with laughter when Fleur tickled her sides.
“Ah, but we do not. And you cannot say you complain when I walk around nude. You seem to quite enjoy it,” Fleur teased.
“You are my wife. They are my siblings,” Hermione sighed. “And my parents are very modest. While I saw the girls in my dorm in various states of undress, I didn’t see a man’s arse until I was sharing a tent with two of them as an adult.”
“Well, Harry has quite the nice bum, for a boy,” Fleur mused.
“It wasn’t Harry’s,” Hermione shuddered lightly.
“Ew,” Fleur stuck out her tongue.
“Yeah. Harry stays clothed. To hide his scars, I assume. I never even saw the ones on his back until we were changing after falling off that dragon we stole from Gringott’s.” Hermione grew quiet, wondering how they’d never discussed this before. Of course, talking about Harry when he had been dead had hurt. The living, breathing Harry she saw every day healed wounds she didn’t even know she had with his mere presence.
“He has many?” Fleur asked softly.
She nodded, burrowing back into her wife’s embrace. “Quite a lot. I only saw his back and chest, but yes.”
Fleur pulled Hermione close, nosing at her wife’s hair and breathing in deeply the scent of Hermione’s shampoo and the cold air of Godric’s Hollow that lingered behind. “A good morning, though? For him? For Sirius and you?”
“Mmmm… yes I think so,” Hermione sighed. “I’ll tell you all about it when those two are out of the shower. Harry’s spending the afternoon flying. I’m probably going to have to fetch him for dinner.”
“I’m surprised you’re encouraging him,” Fleur murmured.
“He thinks a lot on his broom. It clears his mind,” Hermione replied. “And I didn’t want to watch him pull a dozen Wronski Feints. I always get so nervous.”
“I know, my love,” Fleur soothed. “But he is the best flier I’ve ever seen.”
“He’s better than Charlie,” Bill broke in, wandering back with his damp hair loose, feet bare, in loose clothes. He flopped onto the couch across from them and sprawled. “And Charlie had half a dozen Quidditch teams practically begging him.”
Luna padded in, hair also damp and barefoot, wearing a comfortable muggle sweatshirt over pajama pants. Dobby popped in just as she settled on a loveseat, with a tea service. “Thank you, Dobby. Join us?” she said, pouring for him first as he settled onto a chair.
“Are Winky and Sirius settling, Dobby?” Hermione asked softly.
Dobby swallowed his mouthful of tea and nodded, “Dobby went shopping for food and subscribed to the newspapers for Harry Potter’s Padfoot.”
“What name did you use?” Bill asked curiously.
“Dobby subscribed Winky Evans to the Prophet and the Quibbler,” the little elf said with a proud puff of his chest.
“Fitting,” Hermione said from where she was buried in Fleur’s arms. “Ugh. Do I have enough time for a nap?” She glanced at the muggle wind-up watch on her wrist. She groaned and burrowed deeper into her wife’s embrace, nuzzling into Fleur’s jumper. Muffled by fabric, she murmured, “Wake me up so I have time to fetch Harry for dinner.”
“Sleep, my love,” Fleur said, rubbing her back softly. When Hermione’s breathing smoothed out, she levitated a book to read and smiled as Dobby snapped his fingers so a blanket covered them on the couch.
The afternoon passed as Fleur read, Hermione napped, and Dobby helped Bill and Luna sort their spoils from the Chamber of Secrets. When everything was catalogued and properly stored, Dobby started to pop it off to the basement of the Potter House, which they felt was safer than leaving everything valuable in the Room, in case they had to leave it. Bill and Luna restarted their organized search of the Room, looking for valuables, books, and anything they could possibly use, levitating their spoils back to be piled by the sitting area and later popped off now that they had somewhere secure outside of Hogwarts to put it.
“Is Sirius going to mind all these things in the house? Or Harry?” Luna wondered as she levitated a large pile of old books towards their sitting area.
“Well. Dobby’s hiding it all from Sirius, for now. I’m sure Harry won’t mind too much, once we tell him?” Bill shrugged, checking his own pocketwatch. The afternoon muddled by in spurts of chattering, long moments quiet as they searched through the debris of centuries for anything useful.
Bill wandered back to the sitting area when he noticed it was getting close to dinner, dragging a reluctant Luna with him.
“I don’t like how they look at us,” Luna said, “It’s like they’re all infested with nargles.”
“You’re not used to the attention like Hermione and Fleur,” he replied seriously.
“It’s not the same kind as I used to get,” she acknowledged. “It was better to be invisible to them, or a target. Now I’m just… watched. Constantly. No one knows what to make of me being friends with them. I don’t like it.”
“You don’t have to, and shouldn’t,” he said as they came upon both Fleur and Hermione lightly snoring, snuggled together on the couch. “Well isn’t that sweet.”
“Love like theirs,” Luna trailed off, a soft smile on her face, “we should all be lucky.”
Fleur rose out of the depths of her nap to meet Bill and Luna’s fond gazes, “What? Is there something on my face?”
Luna giggled, “It’s called love.”
After washing up, Fleur and Luna went to amble down to the Great Hall for supper, by way of the library, as Dobby popped in with food for Bill. “I wish we didn’t have to leave you here,” Hermione fretted.
“Well it won’t be much longer. I’ll probably move to Godric’s Hollow around Christmas, right?” he said, cutting his roast neatly as she packed up Fleur’s forgotten schoolwork to shrink and shove in her pocket.
“If things go well,” she affirmed.
“They will. Come on, Hermione. Sirius isn’t a fool. We’re doing far better by Harry than Dumbledore ever has, and Harry is going to realize that too. I know I can get along with both of them.”
“They don’t remember Shell Cottage,” Hermione threw up her hands. “They don’t remember the reformation of the Order, or your ‘wedding,’” she made the most exaggerated air quotes, “or anything.”
Bill chewed and swallowed before he replied, completely unlike his youngest brother. “It’s hitting you, isn’t it?”
Eyes wide and wet, she nodded, “My parents are sitting in Oxford, right now, and they know who I am. They think I’m fifteen, not thirty.” She bit her lip. “They’ve never met my wife.”
He nodded, trying to figure out if she needed a hug or to not be touched at all lest she break down. “We can all pop down to Oxford over Christmas, maybe. How much do you think they need to know? Can you get them to leave England until this is all over?”
She snorted, “They know about the time-turner I had third year. They know time travel is possible. But I don’t know. How much do I throw at them at once?” Hermione sighed, wrapping her arms around herself. “I need to go get Harry off his bloody broom and get to dinner.” She picked up her muggle peacoat, fetched by Dobby, but unwilling to put it on until she’d gone down seven floors and was closer to the outside. “We spent so much time planning the big things - how to get back here, what to do once we did - that we forgot about a lot of the other parts of our lives.”
“I haven’t even been to the Burrow yet,” Bill agreed sheepishly. “I might need to use one of the owls so my mum doesn’t hunt me down for being in the country and not coming to dinner.”
“You could go some night, Bill, we could arrange that,” Hermione replied, face scrunched up in confusion.
“My mother thinks I’m about ten years old and that the sun shines out of Dumbledore’s arse. And she never took me being gay well. She’ll try to set me up with a girl. And I do mean girl - someone probably fresh out of Hogwarts or something. I’m thirty six. Avoiding mum’s setups was half of why Fleur and I started up our fake relationship.”
“I know,” Hermione said softly. “Fleur and I are lucky. That we’re both here and now, and also so close in age. I don’t envy you and Luna.”
He shrugged, “I’ve never been lucky with men, anyway. A couple quick fumbles and that’s about it. You know.”
She sighed, “I know.”
He frowned, thinking, “And though you and Fleur are only two years apart, you’ve got three years of school separating you. Even that little gap is not going to look good for Fleur.”
Hermione growled, “Ah, yes, the predatory lesbian stereotype. Not that the magical world uses that term.”
“Because we’re still stuck in the Victorian era. I called myself an invert for about five years because that was the only word I had.” Bill sipped at his tea. “But we can talk about this later. Go get Harry. Eat dinner. Talk with him after it, and then climb into bed with your wife and sleep.”
Hermione smiled wryly, “Wise as ever, William.”
“Older brother’s prerogative,” he grinned. She stuck her tongue out at him before checking the hall for fellow students and slipping from the Room. The halls were near-empty, as supper was still half an hour away. She envied Fleur and Luna, making an appearance in the library so that someone could say they’d been seen that day.
Shrugging into her coat, hat, and scarf, she stepped out of the castle into the brisk Scottish air. The Hufflepuff quidditch team was in the last minutes of a practice, so Harry wasn’t flying around the stadium. She peered around the grounds, looking for that flash of scarlet quidditch robes. After several long minutes, her eyes flicking over the Durmstrang ship and the Beauxbatons carriage, she spotted him looping over the edge of the lake closest to the Forbidden Forest.
By the time she made it over to the lakeshore, he’d noticed her and landed, covered in a fine sheen of sweat but grinning. The heaviness he’d carried when they came back from Godric’s Hollow was lifted, as Hermione had hoped.
“Good fly?” she called out.
“Yeah,” he replied. “Do I have time for a shower before dinner?”
Glancing at her watch, she nodded, “Better hurry though.”
“Meet you there then?”
She smiled, “Of course, Harry. I’m just going to stop at the library quickly.”
“A quick trip to the library? For Hermione Granger?” he teased.
“It is possible, however shocking you may find the idea,” she threw right back at him. “Come on, Harry. You stink.”
“I am a teenage boy.”
“Unfortunately,” she smirked.
He jogged off, broom in hand, as she returned to the castle behind him. She shrunk and stuffed into a pocket her heavy outerwear as she reminded herself to enchant a new bag and headed off to the library to give Fleur her schoolwork.
Dinner was loud, and noisy, as always. The murmur of voices though was not only in English. Beauxbatons students spoke in a mix of French, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Dutch, English, and several other languages, while the Durmstrang students tended to the languages of northern and eastern Europe. Hermione found herself unconsciously tuning into the handful of students speaking in languages she understood at at least a rudimentary level - French and Polish, though no one spoke the Veela that she’d picked up from her wife. The meal passed slowly, as they didn’t want to disappear too quickly. Luna spent the time chatting with Harry, building a new friendship with him, different from the one before. As Hermione sipped her pumpkin juice and wished for tea - or cider - she felt her wife’s leg firm against her own and breathed deeply. When half the hall had already left their tables and gone back to dorm, ship, or carriage, the four of them rose and split up - Luan and Fleur back to the library while Hermione led Harry on a merry wander through the castle.
Instead of going directly back to the Room, Hermione led Harry into Myrtle’s bathroom, where with a tap of her wand on a bit of wall the door that Bill and Luna used appeared. Similar secret passages were wished by Bill into existence around the castle, all leading back to the Room, and varied enough so no one could wonder why they were always disappearing on the seventh floor by the tapestry of dancing trolls.
“Whoa,” Harry murmured, as he stepped back into the sitting area of the Room. “How did we get here?”
Hermione grinned cheekily, “Magic.” Off her best friend’s eyeroll, she elaborated. “If we keep disappearing on the seventh floor, someone will notice. Eventually. The room can give us doors anywhere, accessible only to us. The room can do anything it’s told to, pretty much. With exceptions like Gamp’s Law, but otherwise.” She grinned at him.
“Who tells the room what to do, then? When we’re not in it?” he asked.
She took a deep breath, and shook her head, “Not yet, Harry.”
“There’s more than just you, and Luna, and Fleur, then?” he asked, eyes sharp, searing into her, before glancing around the Room’s sitting area, bereft of anyone else but with a lone sock lying on the ground and a throw on the back of one of the couches. Harry Potter was not the best student. He was not terribly good with people. But he was no fool when he applied himself. The past week, the many shocks and surprises, brought his more observant nature - the situational awareness that kept him alive at the Dursley’s - back to the fore. Hermione cursed it even as she was thankful.
“Yes. One more magical human. That’s it,” she swore.
“Bill Weasley,” he said firmly, not a question but a statement. He stared at her for a moment, as she neither nodded nor contradicted him, before he sat down on a couch, sprawling comfortably and closing his eyes, slipping into the meditations she taught him.
She sighed, flopping down on the same couch she’d shared with Fleur earlier that afternoon, her wife’s scent lingering around her. On the coffee table, her unread copy of the day’s Prophet sat, photographs of the three actual Triwizard Champions taking up all the space above the fold. She grabbed up the paper, skimming the main article, the insinuations about all the Champions just as she expected - Viktor favored due to his status as a quidditch star and his school’s penchant for the Dark Arts, Fleur subtly maligned as a creature due to her Veela heritage, Cedric simultaneously exalted as a pure blood from a good family and as a duffer.
Hermione found page two filled with a handful of articles, all focused on Harry and his name coming out of the Goblet, as well as an expanded story on Sirius being thrown in Azkaban without a trial. Though the article painted Sirius as obviously guilty due to his family name, there was at least a call for a trial to remove all doubt, and to find a more permanent guardian for the Boy Who Lived than his Head Of House. McGonagall was quoted, as was Andromeda Tonks and Lucious Malfoy. Hermione didn’t dare guess which way the wizarding public would sway.
The evening passed slowly, as Hermione finished the paper and then left Harry to his meditations as she wandered the Room, levitating more and more objects back towards the sitting area for the elves to transport to Godric’s Hollow. Harry came out of his meditations as she levitated a large stack of books next to another large stack of books.
“What?” he asked, yawning and stretching.
“I told you, we’re raiding this entire room for things we can use,” she said with a grin before sitting down opposite him.
He stared at the piles - books, old weapons, tarnished brass, school trunks, even pieces of furniture. “What on earth are we going to use some old bureau? How do we win a war with that candelabra?”
She sighed. “Several reasons. Some things we can sell, and gold can buy us potions, potions ingredients, food, necessities that we aren’t going to find lying around. Other things… I’ll explain later, but we might need them.” She looked at the large pieces of furniture, many damaged but still usable if repaired. She thought of the rooms full of disgusting furniture in Grimmauld Place that would need to be tossed to make the house truly habitable, as well as the large barn on Potter land, even Shell Cottage if Bill’s aunt gifted it to him again, the options for hiding people they might need to make use of if the war openly began again. And then furniture would come in handy to give people places to sleep and sit. She took a deep breath.
“I have money, Hermione, if we need food. Is Dobby taking food from Hogwarts for Sirius?” Harry asked, confused.
The little elf popped in at mention of his name, “Dobby bought food with galleons in a jar in Harry Potter Sir’s pantry.”
“Oh. Um. If you need more, I can give you my Gringotts key.”
“Harry Potter Sir will not need to do that,” Dobby grinned ear to ear, “The jar is very big. Harry Potter’s Dogfather and Winky will eat for months, and read the news.”
“That’s wonderful, Dobby,” Hermione replied. “You let us know when you start to run out of money for household needs, okay? We’ll make sure you have access to more.”
Dobby nodded enthusiastically, his ears flopping back and forth. “It is almost curfew,” he said, before popping away with a large portion of the pile Hermione had assembled.
“Where’s he taking all that?” Harry frowned.
Hermione bit her lip, “I’ve got him storing it all at your grandparents’ for now. There’s plenty of space.”
Harry blinked behind his glasses. “Oh. You have a lot planned don’t you?”
She laughed, “Harry, you have no idea.”
“I really don’t.” He pulled out the Map, checking the hallway before motioning her to follow him. Within minutes, they were back in the Tower, curious glances following them as other students pored over copies of the Prophet or otherwise entertained themselves. Their fellow Gryffindors shied away from the pair as they climbed the stairs up to the boy’s dorm. Hermione slipped inside, the room empty but for Neville, propped up on his bed with his homework.
“Oh! Hermione! Harry!” he said, a smile on his face.
“Good evening, Neville,” she replied fondly, remembering him as the young man he’d been in the future instead of the gawky teenager before her.
“If you have the time, can you help me with my Potions essay tomorrow?” he asked, uncertainty lacing his tone.
“Of course, we can figure out when would be best at breakfast? Harry has to do it too,” she said with a wicked grin. “So we could all sit down and work on it together.”
“Like you don’t already have it written, proofread, and rewritten,” Harry scoffed.
She shook her head, “This week has been a little busy. I’ve only got an outline.” The two boys gasped, Harry more sarcastically and Neville in actual surprise. She rolled her eyes at them both. “I’m going to bed. Sleep well, the both of you.”
“Goodnight, Hermione,” they chorused together, before grinning at each other. She glared lightly at them, turning around to leave the room as Ron slinked in. Her joking glare hardened in a moment and he shrank back from her, silent as his face reddened. She glanced back once at Harry and Neville, both solemn as they watched, waiting to see if she needed any support. She shook her head, flashing them a tight-lipped grin before walking out the door and down the stairs to get to the common room before ascending to her own dorm. There was no sudden burst of yelling from the boys, so she shrugged off the encounter.
She sped through getting ready to sleep, climbing into her bed to find Fleur once again tucked under the covers, still awake and reading from one of her textbooks as a bluebell flame bobbled in a jar hanging from the headboard. Strengthening the spells Fleur had already cast and adding her own specialties to the mix of privacy charms and alert wards surrounding them, Hermione set her wand next to her wife’s on the little shelf in the bedframe made for that purpose. The vinewood wand was so familiar, so dear, and Hermione smiled to have it back in her hand.
“You know, we should practice using each other’s wands again,” she remarked, settling into bed next to Fleur.
Fleur pulled her attention from her book and nodded thoughtfully, “Yes. I’ve never used that wand,” she nodded towards the vinewood. “And while you might remember using mine, it doesn’t recall you.”
Hermione nodded, “We should work with Bill and Luna’s as well. Harry, too, at least with me to start.”
“He used your wand, did he not?”
“Mmmhmmm. For months. Until right before we came to Shell Cottage.” She rubbed at her arm, a phantom tingling sensation where she remembered Bellatrix carving into her flesh.
Fleur frowned, reaching over to run her hand soothingly on Hermione’s forearm. “Tomorrow, then.” She snorted, “I still think it foolish that Hogwarts teaches next to nothing about wandlore.”
“I learned more from you than six years here,” Hermione admitted, turning to snuggle against Fleur’s side.
“And I shall teach Harry as I taught you,” Fleur declared in a whisper as she pulled her wife even closer.
“Mmm.” Hermione could feel herself slipping into a doze. Surrounded by Fleur’s arms, her scent and warmth, she hoped her dreams would be pleasant.
Sorry this took so long folks. I won NaNoWriMo, but didn't actually finish my story. So I have half a novel sitting on my computer that I'm still writing. That's gonna be my primary concern going forward. Also some real life stuff happened. But I'm back with a nice meaty chapter, which I hope y'all enjoyed. This fic is the perfect diversion when I stall out on my novel so I'll still be updating, just more irregularly.
Chapter 10: The Trial of Sirius Black
Okay. I'm so sorry it's been more than a year, I know. And this chapter is not the longest ever. But I hit a great stopping point. I promise it won't be another year before I update again.
cw for dissociation/panic attack
“I don’t even know why we have to do this essay. McGonagall pulled us out of Potions,” Harry groused as he arranged his parchment, ink, quill, and textbooks.
Hermione rolled her eyes as she set down a pile of reference texts on the table she’d dragged Harry and Neville to in her favorite corner of the library. “Because she pulled us out of Snape’s Potions class, not the subject as a whole. And these are the standard essay assignments for the course. We don’t want to fall behind and look bad in front of our tutor, Harry.” She noticed McGonagall fast approaching them, and unconsciously straightened her posture. “Professor,” she greeted.
McGonagall gave them a thin smile, “Miss Granger, Mister Potter.” She took a breath, “Mister Longbottom. I fear I must borrow your housemates. They are needed elsewhere.”
“Of course, Professor,” he said softly.
“Neville, if you could check out these books,” Hermione gestured at the stack, “We’ll start the essay later.” She slipped a thick one from the middle of the pile, “But I think you might like this one. Read a couple chapters while we’re gone?” Having found it in a tiny, dusty corner far up the shelf, she doubted Neville had ever seen it - she certainly hadn’t until the day before. She flipped it so he could read the title, An Herbologist’s Treatise on Those Plants Used in Potions and Their ForemostTraits, as she stuffed her things into her schoolbag.
McGonagall peered at the half-faded title, “Hmph. Quite right. I’m surprised…” she flicked a finger distastefully over the dusty cover. “Well where ever that book was hiding, it should be quite illuminating to you, Mister Longbottom.” With a thin smile, she turned to escort Harry and Hermione from the library. They followed her at a quick pace towards the main doors, stopping at the set of bathrooms closest to it. A house elf neither student recognized popped in with three sets of robes. “We need to change before we’re off to London. The Minister has, at quite the last minute, announced a trial for Sirius. I already escorted him to Madame Bones, so he’s quite safe, but if you want to attend we have to hurry.” She passed each of them a robe, then helped them shrug into the garment, smoothing it over their shoulders and checking each of them over. Each robe was simple, but made of sumptuous material, and instead of the Gryffindor crests that adorned the breast of their school robes, Harry’s robe displayed the Potter crest, while Hermione’s lay blank. Harry glanced down at the Potter crest he had only seen briefly in his grandparents’ home.
“You are the last Potter, Harry, and entitled to wear your family’s crest,” McGonagall said as she shrugged into a more formal robe of her own, a tartan sash laid over top pinned at her shoulder by a broach displaying the Ross crest, her mother’s family.
“Hermione doesn’t have a crest?”
“In Muggle Britain, I do. But not here, Harry,” Hermione said softly.
“We must be going.” McGonagall gestured, and the elf in the room popped off with their school robes and bags. Hermione sighed in relief. She kept everything essential in her magically-expanded trouser pockets.
It didn’t take long for them to make it to London - flooing from The Three Broomsticks directly into the Ministry of Magic. Hermione felt her chest constrict as she stepped out of the floo. Taking her Apparition test was the only instance she’d been to the Ministry for any good reason. Though the original fountain of wizard, centaur, goblin, and house elf stood unmolested, all Hermione could see was the Magic is Might statue from Voldemort’s reign. It took everything she had to steady her breathing. The world fuzzed out around her, and Hermione was only cognicient of her heart beating hard and fast in her chest. She followed Harry and McGonagall obediently. She was vaguely aware of correctly answering the questions posed to her.
But the visit passed in an utter blur of faces, words, names. As they descended to Level Ten, the Courtrooms, Hermione reached out blindly, grasping for Harry’s hand. McGonagall sighed softly, unable to do much but rearrange their arms so Harry was properly escorting Hermione, her hand gripping his bent elbow tightly.
Hermione could barely see the Ministry around her as it actually was. Overlaid on her vision was everything she remembered from Before. Even Harry at her side felt like an echo of infiltrating the Ministry in Mafalda Hopkirk’s form. She moved as if through jello, her senses muted. Barely noticing the distasteful looks directed her way, she shuffled alongside her best friend until they took their seats, McGonagall at Harry’s other side.
Amelia Bones didn’t call any of the underage witnesses during the brief trial. For that, Hermione later felt only relief. Instead a parade of adults vaguely moved past Hermione’s awareness. Before Hermione could manage a single calm breath, the trial was over and Sirius Black stood from the accused’s chair a free man. Elegant in the finest robes, he strode powerfully over to his godson, his old professor, and the young girl he’d called “the brightest witch of her age.”
Harry popped up on his feet, dragging Hermione with him, still dazed and clamped onto his arm. Sirius noticed Hermione’s glazed eyes even as his own danced in near-mad glee. He used one arm to drag Harry into a close hug; the other he used to gently squeeze Hermione’s shoulder. She shuddered, her skin still crawling with the remembered chill of the Dementors and Umbridge’s high-pitched hem-hem’s.
“We should get back to the house,” Sirius murmured, just loud enough for McGonagall to hear.
The two adults ushered their teen charges through the chaos of the Ministry atrium, the shouted questions of the media and the press of bodies. Harry shrank back against his godfather, once again overwhelmed by the crowds, as Hermione followed along.
Harry followed Sirius’ lead them towards the restrooms, pushing into the men’s and dragging the two women along. Before anyone could follow, he applied a low-grade locking charm and called for Dobby. Within seconds, they stood in the Potters’ living room.
Immediately, Harry steered Hermione to the couch, settling her gently and sitting beside her. She kept her grip on him, unable to let go.
Dobby inched closer, picking up on Hermione’s obvious distress. Harry saw, and turned pleading green eyes towards him. “Dobby, could you go get Fleur?”
He nodded, his large ears flapping against the side of his head. “Dobby will get Miss Fleur!” He popped out, and Harry cringed at the curious, worried looks from Sirius and McGonagall. But before he could even try to formulate an explanation that would appease his godfather and professor, Dobby popped back in with Fleur, a textbook still in her hand and wearing casual muggle clothes with bare feet.
It took only a second for Fleur to assess the situation following Dobby’s hurried, “Mister Harry requests Miss Fleur for Miss Mione at home” before he grabbed her hand. She felt a brief moment of panic until she felt her wand strapped to her forearm. She was armed, if shoeless, in a safe place, a place where Dobby would protect them if it came to it. She smiled thinly at Sirius and McGonagall before concentrating on Hermione and Harry on the couch, her wife’s hand still clamped to Harry’s arm as he looked beseechingly at her.
Fleur looked over at Dobby, who shrugged, before drawing her wand to cast a diagnostic spell. Hermione recoiled, her eyes glazed, and Harry grimaced as his best friend’s grip tightened. Fleur sighed softly. “Oh, my darling,” she murmured. Sheathing her wand, she knelt in front of the couch, every movement slow and steady. “Dobby, I believe Sirius and the Professor would enjoy a cup of tea in the kitchen?” she said softly, with a firm note of command not for the elf she spoke to but for the two adults.
Sirius coughed to disguise a soft laugh, taking McGonagall’s arm to lead her out of the room. “We’ll be back to check on you in a bit, if you don’t come join us,” he said. Vaguely, Fleur heard them talking in soft, urgent tones as they made their way down the hall, and put them out of her mind. Dobby would take care of them. All of them, in fact, as a tea tray appeared across the room with a warming charm on it after Dobby left.
Fleur took a deep breath. “When did you notice her… freeze, Harry?”
“She was mostly fine until we got to the courtroom.” He answered as softly as she had asked, voice hesitant and laced with worry.
She cursed internally. Of course the courtroom would trigger something. Even years later, Hermione had been hesitant to relate everything she’d seen in Voldemort’s Ministry. “I see,” she spoke softly to Harry, nodding to him. Fleur stroked Hermione’s hand. “Come back to me, love. You’re not there anymore.”
Hermione knew she was back at the Potter house, knew she was safe on the couch with Harry at her side and Fleur in front of her. But it still felt like there was a fog in her mind. She knew what it was. Dissociation was something she’d struggled with for years, that unwilling slip-slide into detachment. Numbness and distance from everything around her. Instead of panicking at the Ministry, instead of drawing her wand to curse every blood supremacist in the courtroom, she’d simply… stepped out of her mind.
Slowly, ever so slowly, the feel of her wife’s hand on her cheek permeated her consciousness. Hermione slid back into herself inch by inch, the fog in her mind lifting as she concentrated on Fleur’s warm palm against her skin. She took a deep breath, her voice catching in her throat. Unbidden, a brief keen made its way from between her lips before she choked it back and fell silent.
Fleur glanced at Harry for a second before murmuring softly to Hermione. She slipped into Veela, knowing that even if someone like Dumbledore or Snape ripped the memory from Harry’s mind, they would be unable to translate her words. “My love, my love, we are safe, and alive, and together. Breathe, Hermione.”
Hermione released a great shuddering breath, leaning into Fleur’s touch. “Yes, we are.” She replied in the same language Fleur spoke and raised a shaky hand to thread her fingers between Fleur’s that were still pressed to her cheek. “Thank you.” She concentrated on her breathing, each inhalation and exhalation ragged but becoming steady.
She glanced over to Harry, and couldn’t help the tiny smile that broke out across her face. His cheeks were a dark red and he stared off towards the wall away from where she sat on the couch, Fleur kneeling before her. She squeezed lightly as she let go of his arm, and he cleared his throat awkwardly.
“Thank you, Harry.”
He coughed a little, his eyes wide and worried. “Hermione?”
She clarified. “Thank you for being there for me. I probably bruised your arm.”
Shaking the aforementioned limb to get back the circulation she’d cut off, he shrugged. “You were scared. Of course I was there.” The red started to fade from his cheeks, especially as Fleur silently rose to her feet and busied herself with the tea, pouring and pressing cups into Hermione’s hand and then Harry’s. Hermione preferred just a splash of milk, while Harry’s had so much sugar Fleur couldn’t help the brief look of distaste as she added cube after cube in and stirred.
“You are good friends to one another,” Fleur remarked as she took her own, plain tea and settled on the couch as well.
Dobby, sensing the crisis was as settled as it could be, popped in and took his own tea before sitting on a small chair by the fireplace. “Miss is better?”
Hermione smiled, her expression still shaky but genuine. “Yes, thank you, Dobby.”
“Shall Dobby fetch Mister Sirius Black and Professor?”
Harry looked at his best friend. Tight lines of stress creased her face, and the normal healthy glow of her dark brown skin was sallow. He swallowed a gulp of tea. “What are we going to say?”
Hermione shrugged, her mind cluttered and tired and completely bereft of the energy to come up with an excuse her favorite professor or Harry’s godfather would accept. They had both known her to face far more stressful situations and could guess that her reaction to the Ministry of Magic was a troubling aberration. Especially for a fifteen year old.
Fleur laid her free hand on Hermione’s thigh, rubbing softly. “We shall see what they ask. I would prefer not to lie to either of them.”
“That’s very good to know, Miss Delacour.” Professor McGonagall spoke from the doorway, having come to check on them as promised.
Fleur startled, and sighed deeply. Hermione shuddered, and shrunk back into the deep plush of the couch, pulling Fleur’s hand with her. Harry froze, doing an excellent impression of a deer in headlights. Even Dobby managed to look guilty, peering around from behind a sofa.
“Fuck,” Fleur muttered.
Hermione squeezed Fleur’s hand, sparing a quick scolding look at her wife before turning back to McGonagall. She rolled her eyes at Sirius standing amused behind McGonagall, visibly less concerned after Fleur’s grumble.
“I would like a fresh cup of tea,” McGonagall said stiffly, “and then an explanation.” She smoothed her robes as she took a seat in a high-backed chair by the fire, carefully and openly palming her wand.
Fleur and Hermione shared a single glance. They had a decent chance at overpowering the two older wizards. Even in their teenaged bodies, their reflexes were still battle-ready, which could not be said of the other two adults in the room, not yet. If Dobby helped, they were guaranteed success. But neither of them felt comfortable with that option, the idea passed between them and rejected within a moment.