The mentioned looked up at the sound of his name being called, smiling softly when he saw the form of Hermione Granger making her way towards him. Her hair, less curly and more straightened down, blew wildly in with light wind that filled the station caused by the train. Her skirt moved back and forth as she ran over to him. Her brown eyes filled with excitement, lips curled up in a joyful smile to match her mood.
“Hey Mione.” Harry turned just in time to have his arms full of Hermione. “How have you been?”
Hermione squeezed Harry a bit before pulling back and shaking her head at him. Unlike her, who’s appearance had changed a bit over their summer separation, he didn’t seem to change at all. He was still small, still had those horrid glasses when he had more than enough money to get a new pair, and still looked as though he refused to brush his hair.
“Not bad, not bad.” She mused as she focused on what was asked of her. “Mom and Dad are still very busy, so we didn’t get to spend too much time together. Other than that, it hasn’t been too terrible.”
Harry nodded, eyes falling into a sad look as Hermione sighed at the end of her sentence. Hermione didn’t live with her parents currently, but every summer she went up to visit them. The reason? Her parents couldn’t hold a job in town, so they had to move somewhere else to work. Because they couldn’t hold a job...they couldn’t afford a house or even an apartment for a family of three. The living space was too small and their wouldn’t be enough food.
Just everyday life of wizards and witches. Not being paid enough at their jobs to be able to provide for their families.
Luckily, Harry had known Hermione long before her parents big move and had immediately offered Hermione a roof over her head. Hermione had taken it, crying tears of thanks as Sirius joined Harry in welcoming her into their shared home.
Yes, Harry lived with Sirius Black, closest friend to his father before he was killed. Big surprise? Not really.
“Oh, turn that frown upside down.” Hermione’s hand came up to cup Harry’s cheek gently. Parents were still a sore subject for Harry, reasonably so, and she knew that her comment about not being able to spend time with her own affected him. “I got to spend a little time with them, that’s better than nothing.”
Hermione smiled at Harry, trying to convey that while it wasn't the best visit, she was still happy. Happy that she even got to see them at all. The life of wizards and witches could be harsh, they both knew that.
“I guess.” Harry mumbled, leaning into Hermione’s touch as a whistle sounded off. “Oh, look at that, we’re boarding earlier this year.”
Harry and his friends were on their way to their sixth year of Hogwarts, only one more year after this (seventh year) before being sent off into the world.
“Where’s Ron?” Speaking of his friends, Harry was missing one. His best friend, nonetheless (besides Hermione). “I hope he’s not lat-”
“Harry! Hermione!” A tired voice called from behind the two.
Quickly whipping around, Hermione and Harry only had to look for a second before breaking out into a fit of laughter. Ron was pushing his cart at full speed towards them, face red and flushed as if he had run a marathon. The way his chest was heaving and his mouth fell open as he took several large breaths only served to emphasize the effect.
“Sorry I’m late.” Ron panted as he finally arrived, letting go of his cart so he could hunch over and take a small rest.
“Woke up late again?” Harry, as the dutiful friend he was, took Ron’s cart and began pushing it (while using magic to push his own cart) towards the train. “Ron, we talked about this. You need to get used to getting up early now that we’re going back to school.”
“It’s not that mate.” Ron allowed himself to rest against Hermione as she led him to the train, her own cart somehow able to stay on a straight path even though only one hand was steering it. “Mom and dad wouldn’t let me go until the last minute.”
Harry turned back to frown at his friend. That didn’t sound like Molly and Arthur at all. They always wanted Ron to be prepared for school, hassling him more than Hermione hassled him about studying when it came for packing. To hear that they were the reason he was late...Harry had to know. It was just so out of character for them.
“Why?” Hermione read Harry’s mind as the three of them boarded the train, taking their personal luggage off the carts before walking over to the compartment they’ve designated as theirs throughout the years. “Did something happen?”
Ron bit his lip, something he only did when either: he was nervous/scared or he was upset and was trying to keep himself from blowing up. Seeing as how his face wasn't the angry red it got for the second option...process of elimination concluded that Ron was nervous. Which, believe or not, was more alarming.
Cause if he was upset, normally talking about something different helped calm him down to the point where he wasn’t even upset anymore. Since he’s nervous or scared...that’s a bit more difficult to dispel.
“Is someone hurt?” Harry opened the door to their compartment after they had all put their luggage in and waited until Hermione and Ron were comfortably seated before entering himself. As a precaution, he looked down the hall both ways before closing the door.
No one seemed to be headed their direction and those who have had already passed Harry to get to compartment further down. No one needed to talk to him, Hermione, or Ron. They could talk in peace.
“No, and I really hope that it remains that way.” Ron leaned back against the fabric covered bench with a heavy sigh, as if he’d been holding his breath all this time. Quite untrue, seeing as how heavily he was panting just a few moments ago.
“Remains?” Hermione took a seat next to Ron, placing a hand on his knee as a form of comfort. “Whatever do you mean?” She and Harry shared a quick apprehensive glance at Ron gave them a defeated look.
“Dad got another case last night.” Ron brought his hands up to wipe them down his face while Harry and Hermione both winced. Arthur Weasley worked in the only area of the magical being council that dealt with witches and wizards willingly: the misuse of dark artifacts/magic. “Apparently, a young witch got her hands on some pendant and accidentally cursed a siren classmate with it.”
‘Bloody hell.’ Hermione and Harry both thought while groaning out loud. Cases like that...if Ron was anything to go by, they were unpleasant for everyone. Even the council of magical beings. There was just so much chaos since the world was the way it was. The parents of the child would plead for innocence, the council would most likely deny the pleading and deliver a harsh punishment, there would be more pleading and some grovelling, lots of paperwork. And...god, heaven forbid the Daily Prophet got hold of the story. Which they always did, by the way.
It was honestly sad. Nine times out of ten, the accused wizard or witch was completely innocent, but was still punished because of their blood. Not to mention that if the situation were reversed, going to the council demanding justice would be a waste of time. The best case scenario? You aren’t humiliated in a public courtroom and are just told that you and your child weren’t careful enough, that the accident was your own fault.
The child with creature blood in any conflict almost always gets off scot free. It was sickening, especially if the conflict involved magic. A physical injury could heal, a magical one? Most likely not if it was a curse or a hex.
“Dad was at the office all night and was heartbroken when he came home.” Ron sounded like he could start crying as he spoke. “He said that the witch girl was expelled from her school and her family was to spend a month or so in jail for even having possession of the pendent. There’s a chance that once they get out, the girl won’t find another school that will take her and her parents...I don’t think I need to explain. You probably can guess what happens to them and their jobs.”
Ron and his family were animagi, with their animal forms being beautifully coated lions. It made sense, their family was rather large, like a pride of lions. The first laugh Ron and Harry ever shared was when Ron claimed that the reason his family was so big was so they could connect more with their animal side. It had some truth to it, but it was mostly meant as a joke.
Either way, Ron and Harry bonded over it.
Back to the situation at hand, lion pride. Molly and Arthur Weasley had about seven children. To hear that another child was suffering like they were...it was heartbreaking. If Arthur was expressing that, Harry could only imagine that Molly, kind hearted lioness that she was, was probably sobbing.
If you hadn’t guessed, the Weasley’s had long since lost their hate for the wizarding world. One of the few families that had. Molly’s great grandparents had just realized how much hate would destroy their family, so they made sure to teach their children to be fair, despite what blood said. Despite what society said. Arthur’s attitude towards wizards and witches grew more out of his fascination for him.
A strange fascination, as others described. But Arthur was a respected man, always polite to even his worst enemies in the council. No one had the heart to comment on his fascination since it didn’t dull his work (he worked very hard) and he didn’t hurt anyone.
“They won’t find any.” Hermione sighed as she continued to rub soothing circles into Ron’s knee. “And without a job, they won’t have any money. Without money, they won’t be able to pay rent or buy food.”
Then...they may die. The option was left in the air. Not even Hermione, who was normally able to steel herself when talking about these things, could bring herself to say it out loud.
Ron cleared his throat. “Dad said that he’s working with some others to see if he can find a creature family that will take them in.”
Creature family taking them in...that was a translation to a lifetime of servitude. It wasn’t an attractive option to say the least, but in a world like this, certain individuals did what they had to do to survive.
Well, sometimes. There were definitely those who had their pride and would rather die than stoop low enough to accept being sold off as a servent (in reality it was more like slavery) to some family of magical beings.
“I...suppose we should wish him luck.” Harry tried to pull off an encouraging smile, though it looked painful at best. Wishing Arthur luck seemed like a positive thing, when in reality, it was just pitiful. “I’m sure that...as long as the Daily Prophet hasn’t gotten their hands on this…”
It sounded more like a question, like a hope that Harry had. Cause Merlin help them, whatever the Daily Prophet got involved in, they ruined. Even something good, they could ruin. Many reporters had too much desire for drama and hardly cared for the consequences that others were forced to take to make a juicy story.
Actually, it wasn’t always like that. Just mostly. Specifically any stories that a certain Rita Skeeter was assigned to work on.
Harry shuddered. He’d met the woman before and she was a big piece of work. Fake jewelry, fake nails, too much makeup, high pitch voice, trying so hard to look professional and cute that she just looks awkward and silly...ooof. She didn’t look nice and she didn’t do very well as a reporter in Harry’s opinion. Whoever hired her must’ve been drunk on the job.
“They haven’t, but you know that’ll only last so long.” Ron sounded irritated now, almost a complete 180 to how sad he sounded not too long ago. “They find out about these things so quickly I wonder if one of the people in dad’s office is secretly a reporter.”
“That might very well be the case.” Hermione furrowed her brow in thought. It certainly had its logical aspects to it. “There have been stories in the past that had certain details that were classified from the public. A professional council member would never spill such a thing, but a reporter undercover? They wouldn't have the restraint, no matter how much trouble it could get their department into.”
“I’m surprised that Daily Prophet hasn’t been shattered by the council.” Harry brought a hand up to push his glasses up, knowing exactly what stories and details that Hermione’s referencing. “They’ve certainly done more than enough damage…”
The rest of the train ride to Hogwarts was spent talking about the council and how the Daily Prophet just shouldn’t be a thing anymore. No discussion about any of their summers took place. No discussion about their hopes for the upcoming school year. No discussion about how any of them were gonna face what was left behind last year.
Though maybe that third one was only for Harry.