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The Perils of Innocence

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Disclaimer: If you recognize the character, it isn't mine. Just playing with what-ifs in the Potterverse.

This will be the start of an ambitious four-part series that starts before Hogwarts and is completely AU.

 


 

17 February 1986

It was just another Monday at Esperança House. Morning classes were over and the children were scattered around the large room that served as both canteen and lounge. A pair of aides worked their way across, slowly gathering bits of rubbish and wiping up spills from luncheon.

Mary caught Pippa's glance and tilted her head. Pippa looked in that direction and sighed.

"Your turn today, Pip."

She sighed again and deposited her handful of rubbish in the bin. Pushing her cap back on her head, she made her way across to the large picture window and the small boy who stood there.

She paused when she reached him, then knelt and imitated his stance, propping her arms on the sill and resting her chin on her hands. She spent a moment looking out at the snowy scene with him, simply waiting.

The boy raised one hand to push his glasses back up. Pippa mimicked his movement, touching a finger to her nose. She was careful not to look directly at him, but sensed a glimmer of a smile under his solemn expression. After another moment, the boy tucked a lock of his hair behind one ear. Pippa copied him again. Again, that hint of a smile fluttered across his face. He drummed his fingers twice in a soft staccato. She did the same and was rewarded with a faint giggle.

Now Pippa raised a hand and touched her finger to the light frost on the window. She drew a slow circle.

The boy copied her movement.

Her throat tight as she tried not to react, Pippa added eyes and a curve for a smiley-face.

The boy hesitated briefly, then followed her example. Before she could decide what to do next, he added more circles to give his face glasses. She smiled and took up the new game, adding curly hair and her cap to hers. He added spikes to imitate his flyaway hair, then drew a jagged line going toward the eyes.

Pippa paused, confused, and looked at him. He lifted the thick fringe and showed her.

Gently, trying to keep the connection going, she traced the thin scar on his forehead. She stuck her lip out in sympathy and the boy smiled faintly.

Pippa became aware that Mary and several of the children were watching them intently. Unwilling to let an audience spoil her progress, she held out a hand and tilted her head toward the hall.

The boy studied her carefully for a long minute, as if judging her intentions, and finally took her hand.

Pippa kept her song of triumph buried deep as she led the boy to the nearest empty playroom.

Once inside, she waved a hand around, inviting him to select something. To her surprise, he pulled out a board game. While the rules to it were fairly simple, it hinged on strategy as well as the luck of the dice and she would have thought him a few years away from enjoying it.

They set up the board and finally Pippa dared to speak. "What colour would you like?"

"Red, please?" The boy's voice was very low and hoarse from disuse.

She handed him the red tokens. "I'll be blue."

They began playing without speaking and Pippa quickly saw that the reasons the boy was here did not include problems with intelligence. He was a savvy player, challenging her as they raced to be the first with every token in the safe spot. She was vaguely aware that Mary was keeping the other children out of the room, and then aware of a white coat in the doorway, watching for a few minutes.

They played companionably and luck did favour the child as he got the exact number he needed before she did to send his final token home. He looked at the dice and up at her uncertainly. She smiled and said, "Congratulations!"

He gave her his biggest smile yet and moved his token. She held out a hand and he pumped it enthusiastically.

"Want to play again tomorrow? I have to go back to tidying up."

The boy's lovely green eyes lit up at that and he nodded.

"I'm Pippa, by the way. What's your name?"

The child shrugged. "Boy."

Pippa managed to keep her frown slight. "I don't think that's a proper name."

"Freak."

This time she couldn't keep the dismay out of her reaction. "Oh, no."

The child shrugged again, beginning to look upset.

"I know. Can I give you a name?"

He still looked unhappy, but nodded.

"Let's see…how about…Humphrey?"

He shook his head, wrinkling his nose slightly.

"Bartholomew?"

"Ew!"

"Poindexter?"

His "NO!" was actually half a laugh.

"All right, all right. How about something simpler, like…Harry?"

The child stilled, his gaze turning inward as if trying to remember something. Pippa hardly dared breathe herself.

He nodded slowly.

"All right, Harry. It's a date. I'll see you tomorrow after lunch."

 


 

Pippa kept to her rounds but shared a triumphant smile with Mary. After she'd tidied the girls' hall, one of the doctors snagged her.

"Marvellous job this afternoon, Pip! Are you all right to try again tomorrow?"

"Yes, Dr Aymler. Any suggestions?"

"Just keep doing what you did: play with him, become a friend for him. If he keeps interacting with you we'll try and introduce Dr Greene in a week or so. But don't be discouraged if he takes a while; that he's finally spoken after being here six weeks is wonderful in and of itself."

"I don't suppose that family of his has gotten in contact again?"

The doctor's expression hardened. "Pippa, I have a feeling that little Harry Potter is now ours to raise as best we can. And good riddance to those people."

Chapter Text

Disclaimer: If you recognize the character, it's not mine. Just playing with the what-ifs of Rowling's world.

 


 

18 June 1990

Harry finished the book he was reading and shut it with a satisfied thump. He clambered out of his favourite squashy chair in the lounge and moved to replace the book on its shelf. As he did, he glanced out of the picture window at the children who were playing in the puddles left by the morning's sudden cloudburst.

A car was coming up the drive, slowly, careful of the children. It was the wrong time of day for the staff to change and it was a nicer car than most of them could afford anyway. Curious, Harry grabbed another book and moved to sit on one of the benches near the main entrance.

After a short delay, Dr Greene came striding forward just as the doors opened. From behind his book Harry could see a well-dressed couple, each with a suitcase. They looked around with a mixture of appreciation—the entrance was done up quite tastefully—and worry. Harry recognized that look: they were parents bringing a new resident.

And following behind them was a girl. She looked to be about Harry's age, with lots of rather frizzy brown hair. She had a satchel over her shoulder and clutched a stuffed dog in her arms. By the set of her shoulders she was miserable at the idea of coming here. By the haunted look in her dark eyes, she knew it was necessary.

As Dr Greene talked to the parents, she looked around. Harry continued to watch her over the book. She turned his way unexpectedly and their eyes locked. He froze, feeling something pass between them, a recognition. Somehow they were alike.

She seemed to realize it as well. With one glance at her parents, still in conversation, she came over and sat down on the bench beside him. "What're you reading?"

He hesitated, then looked at the cover. "A Little Princess, I guess." When she looked at him, he grinned. "I just got a book from the shelves. I wanted to see who was arriving."

"Oh." She shifted the satchel off her shoulder and onto the bench beside her. "So you don't read?"

"I do! Finished a Roald Dahl not ten minutes ago!"

She giggled at that. "Which one? I really like Matilda, and The Witches was good, too."

"The BFG. It was all right. Have you read the newest one?"

"The one about the vicar? Not yet."

"Maybe we can get it from the library. There's an outing twice a month."

The girl's eyes lit up at that. "Really? Is there a limit to how many books we can take out?"

"Don't know. I've never gotten more than three at once myself."

They had gotten so engrossed in the conversation that they both jumped when Dr Greene cleared her throat. She smiled down at them as she addressed the parents.

"Mr and Mrs Granger, your daughter's new friend is Harry Potter. Harry's an orphan, been with us since he was five and he's one of our nicest residents. Harry, these are Robert and Viola Granger and their daughter Hermione. She'll be staying with us for a while."

Harry stood and shook hands politely. Dr Greene continued, "Now, normally I take a family on a tour and settle the new resident into their room, then go over the admittance papers with the parents. But I think I'd like Harry to give your daughter a tour while we do the paperwork, and then we'll meet up in Hermione's room. You up for it, Harry?"

"Yes, ma'am, I'll be happy to."

"Meet us in room 18 in about half an hour. Hermione, you can leave your things here and the aides will move them to your room for you."

Hermione nodded and put the satchel with the suitcases, but held onto the dog. Harry gave her an encouraging smile and led her toward the lounge so he could replace his book. He noticed how her eyes scanned the loaded shelves eagerly. He began showing her around, explaining where the important things like the playground and the tuck cupboard were. Between her being quite sharp and him explaining things in the practical view of a resident, she picked up the layout of the facility quickly. They found her room with her suitcases ready and Hermione began to unpack, starting with the satchel that was full of books.

As Harry handed them to her she began putting them in order on a shelf. They were chatting amiably about writers they liked when Harry noticed someone in the doorway. He turned, reflexively putting himself in front of Hermione.

"So, Potty, whatcha doing in a girl's room?"

"Go away, Moffat. Dr Greene knows I'm here."

Moffat was a large and rather pudgy blond boy who sparked an instinctive dislike in Harry that went far beyond his bullying behaviour. Moffat leaned in and spotted Hermione. "Oi, new girl. Whatcha here for?"

"Leave her alone." Harry took a step forward, feeling that odd pressure in his head that sometimes led to one of his accidents. He tried to tamp it down.

"Why should I? Gotta be properly introduced, don't I? New girl, I'm Piers Moffat and I'm in charge around here."

Before Harry could react, Hermione replied in a soft but firm tone, "I rather doubt that. I'm Hermione Granger."

Moffat frowned at her. "Hermione? What kind of daft name is that?"

"It's from Shakespeare."

"Whatcha doing with a daft Shakespeare name?"

"It's no more daft than the Old French form of Peter. Perhaps we should call you Petey instead."

The bully paused, unable to parse the shift in the conversation. Harry snickered, which brought him out of his confusion. He advanced with a fist raised. "No one laughs at me, Potter!"

As Moffat stepped forward, a floor lamp toppled over in his way. It clattered loudly and the light bulb shattered. Moffat's face turned pale and he shouted, "Nurse! Potter did it again! Nurse!" He turned and ran down the hall, shouting.

Harry blinked. "But that wasn't me this time!" The pressure in his head was still there, ebbing gently rather than vanished as if he'd expelled it.

He heard a sob behind him and turned. Hermione was clutching her stuffed dog as if it were a life preserver and crying. "Why? Why does that happen?"

He stepped forward, uncertain about what to do to soothe her. He settled for putting a hand on her arm. "That happens to you, too?"

She looked up through her tears, astonished. "You, too?"

He nodded. "Things falling over or moving, things changing…"

"Things I was looking for just appearing, stuff breaking…"

"Once I seemed to arrive in the kitchen in the blink of an eye. That was when my aunt and uncle left me here."

Hermione bit her lip. "A plate window shattered near me. I was mad at my mum because she was making me enrol for ballet lessons. The straps had already broken on the shoes and the barre had fallen from the wall. And when Mum yelled at me that I was going to do something to get my nose out of books, the window flew apart… I still don't know how no one was hurt."

Harry absently rubbed his hand up and down her arm. "It'll be okay. It doesn't happen to me very often here anymore. It helps to try and not be too mad or scared."

She scrubbed the tear stains from her face. "Thank you, Harry."

At that moment Dr Greene entered the room with Hermione's parents. She looked at the damage and then at both of them. Harry tilted his head slightly toward Hermione and the doctor nodded.

"Are you two all right?" At their nods, she pulled a radio from her pocket. "Room 18 needs a tidy-up, a lamp fell over and we have broken glass here." She waited for her summons to be acknowledged, then turned to Mr and Mrs Granger. "I think we're all set, if you'd like to say your goodbyes for now. Hermione will be in good hands here."

Harry joined Dr Greene in the hallway while Hermione said goodbye to her parents. She raised an eyebrow at him. "So, lamp?"

"Moffat was in here and started in on Hermione. He got mad and moved in like he was going to hit one of us. That's when the lamp fell over."

"And it wasn't you?"

"Definitely not. I still felt like things were building up."

"So we have someone else like you here. Think you can help her out?"

"Yes'm."

"Good lad. I know I can count on you."

 


 

Harry stuck by Hermione the rest of the afternoon. He led her to luncheon, chatting about the new canteen and how a full kitchen had failed to improve the undercooked peas. He gave her a chance to look through the books in the lounge and helped her carry a few back to her room. When she shyly asked if she could see his room, he led her toward the boys' hall.

Harry paused when someone called his name. Mary, one of the aides who had been there since before his time, trotted down the hall to him, waving an envelope. "I've a letter from Pippa!"

Harry brightened. "What does she say?"

"She's finished her exit exams! She'll be back as a full nurse next month!"

Harry cheered and hugged Mary, who swung him around. He turned to Hermione, who smiled hesitantly at his enthusiasm. "Pippa used to be an aide here. She was my first friend. She went back to uni to get her nursing credentials. Come on, I've a picture of her in my room." He seized Hermione's hand and pulled her along, unaware of Mary watching them with a smile on her face.

Hermione looked around as Harry went to his desk and picked up a framed photo. His room looked lived-in but not terribly untidy. His shelves had some books and a row of toy motorcycles.

He turned to her and saw where she was looking. He blushed a little. "I have this, er, dream, sometimes. I'm riding a motorcycle that's flying through the air. After I told Dr Greene about it, she and Dr Aymler gave me one for Christmas. It's sort of turned into a collection over the years." He plucked one down, shiny with silver and red. "Pippa gave me this one before she left."

"It's nice. I never collected anything but books."

"Not even dolls?"

She shook her head. "No, just books and more books. I always wanted to read more than anything."

"Reading's fun, but we do plenty more here. There's school, of course, although we just started hols, and the playrooms and sometimes people come and teach us crafts. We've got the playground and we get taken to a pool once a week in the summer. I think that's the next big project, now the canteen's finished, to raise money for our own pool." He held up the photograph. "This is Pippa."

Hermione looked at the photo of a young woman hugging Harry from behind, her chin on his head. He seemed to be two or three years younger, with black-rimmed glasses instead of the silver ones he wore now. The woman was in the same blue-striped apron and cap as Mary and had curly red hair. They both smiled out of the picture.

"She looks nice."

"She's brilliant. When I first got here, I had no idea that my aunt and uncle had just dumped me. I kept waiting by the window to see if they were coming back, not that I was sure that I wanted them to. They say I didn't talk at all for over a month. Pippa and Mary would check on me each day. Mary would start talking at me, but I just didn't see any reason to answer her. Pippa usually just sat with me for a bit, but one day she got me to come try a game with her and then she played with me every day and became my first friend."

Hermione blinked at how readily Harry talked about himself. When he paused to smile at the photograph, she zeroed in on the thing that had struck her most.

"What do you mean, you weren't sure you wanted your family back?"

His expression darkened. "At the time I was just scared. Scared of being left in a new place, but scared to go back. They…didn't treat me very well." He set the photo back in place and pushed his glasses up his nose.

She immediately picked up on his meaning. "Oh, Harry!" She darted forward, then paused, rethinking the impulse to hug him. Instead she seized his hand in both of hers. "I'm…I'm sorry."

He nodded. "The doctors here were great helping me sort that out. Don't be afraid to talk to them. Especially Dr Greene."

Suddenly self-conscious, she let go of his hand. "She's the one we met, right?"

"Yeah. Dr Aymler is the bald guy with the big walrus moustache. And we have a new one, Dr Takenaka. He's the Japanese one. I haven't worked with him; his specialty is kids with learning problems."

A bell chimed through the halls and Harry perked up. "Tuck cupboard's open. We should probably wait for the stampede to be over—" Even as he spoke, they watched a small wave of boys thunder down the hall. Hermione recognized Moffat, leading the way. Harry rolled his eyes. "They leave it open for an hour and have tea and stuff out in the lounge every afternoon. What would you like to do while we wait?"

"Can I see your books?"

 


 

19 June 1990

Dear Pippa,

Congratulations on your exams! I kept telling you you'd do it and now you're a full nurse, just like you wanted to be. It's going to be so good to have you back.

I told Harry the news and the child fair screamed, he was so happy. You have naught to worry about, he remembers you very fondly and can't wait to see you again.

Now, don't fret. That doesn't mean he's been pining. Just today he's made a friend of a new girl that arrived. He was such the little gentleman giving her a tour of the place. And it was so sweet to see them hand in hand as he pulled her along to show her his room.

Lucky thing that they've hit it off. I overheard Dr Greene talking to her parents and she's got the same history of incidents that he did. He's been very quiet for some time now, nothing since that Nurse Craig's hair turned blue when she was scolding him.

Do let us know when your graduation ceremony is. I don't know who will be able to be there, but we'll try to have a showing for you.

Much love,

Mary

Chapter Text

Disclaimer: If you recognize the character, it isn't mine. Just playing with what-ifs in the Potterverse.

 


20 June 1990

Hermione hesitated in the doorway, looking around Dr Greene's therapy room. It was perfectly pleasant, looking like a slightly smaller version of one of the playrooms: table and chairs, squashy chairs and a couch, a toy box with stuffed animals, dolls, and manipulatives that the doctor found useful when working with the children. Dr Greene sat at the table, glancing through a file. She looked up and smiled.

"Good morning, Hermione. How are you feeling?"

"Okay, I guess." She came to sit on the other side of the table, arranging her hands and feet as if she were about to be asked to recite. Dr Greene picked up her tension immediately.

"Where would you be most comfortable? We can sit in the chairs, on the floor. We can even go outside and walk around while we talk, if you prefer."

Hermione blushed. "I'm sorry, I…er…"

Dr Greene reached over and patted her hands. "I'll let you in on a little secret." She leaned forward and whispered with intensity, "There are no wrong answers in this room." As Hermione burst into a nervous giggle, she leaned back again. "Seriously, Hermione. You aren't being tested. I simply want to get to know you a little and talk a little about your problem."

"But, I thought I was just like Harry?"

Dr Greene raised an eyebrow. "So you two have talked? Compared notes?"

"Well, sort of…"

"I agree that the two of you seem to have the same issue, but that doesn't mean you're exactly alike. I need to know about what happens to you so I can compare it with what I have on Harry and see if some of the things we've learned with him can help you. Think you can handle that?"

"I suppose."

"Brava, my girl. So, first I need to get to know Hermione Granger. Let's start by telling me about a typical school day in the Granger home."

"Well, Mum and Dad are both dentists. They open the surgery early and take turns going in so one of them can see me off to school…"


After three-quarters of an hour, Dr Greene looked over her notes. Despite her earlier assertion, it looked as if Harry and Hermione did indeed have the exact same problem. They would have accidents, where something might move, break or change. Those accidents almost always happened due to strong emotions: fear, anger, surprise and very occasionally joy.

What Dr Greene hadn't expected was for the two to have something else in common. Harry had suffered neglect and physical abuse at the hands of his family. The doctor suspected that Hermione was dealing with a different type of abuse from her parents, that of impossible expectations. She was precociously smart and had an incredible thirst for knowledge. Her parents had seen this and mapped out her life to be a well-rounded student who would be invited to the best universities.

But Hermione was also a natural introvert. She preferred being alone with her books to socializing with other children who weren't as bright or quick. And as her parents pushed her to broaden her interests, Hermione had resisted. And the accidents had begun. The fight over dance lessons that had precipitated enrolling in Esperança House was simply the most dramatic and destructive incident.

Her parents wanted the problem solved, quickly and quietly, in order to put their daughter back on her path of glory to Oxford or Cambridge. In their own way, they were just as offensive as Harry's family had been in their furtiveness, looking for the first opportunity to jettison an unwanted and problematic child.

But Emily Greene had a strong feeling that these two children needed each other as much as they needed the care that she could provide.

She looked over at Hermione. As she had relaxed, the child had begun to wander around the room and was currently sprawled on the couch, fingering a stray book she'd found in the pile of games. "What do you think about asking Harry to join us?"

She brightened and sat up. Dr Greene pulled out her radio and asked the staff to find Harry and send him in.

Harry arrived in less than a minute, almost running into the room. A dry "Hello, Harry" from Dr Greene let him know that she knew he'd been hovering nearby. She had thought long and hard about the almost scary connection these children had made and decided that instant mutual support now was worth the potential for unhealthy co-dependency later. If she stayed on the lookout, she could head that situation off before it became a serious problem.

She stood and waved Harry toward the couch and chairs. "I've gotten some of what I need from Hermione, and now I think it's time you share your experience with her."

Hermione moved to one end of the couch and Harry went to sit beside her, ignoring the chairs. Dr Greene sat in one, noting their body language. While Harry had certainly blossomed into an outgoing and generous boy since Pippa's breakthrough that long-ago winter day, he was still generally polite and wary around strangers. And what little she'd observed of Hermione had not pointed to her making such a close friend so fast.

She dragged her mind back to the moment as the two children looked at her expectantly. "Harry, can you describe for Hermione the physical feelings you have when an incident is building? Just like you've done with me."

Harry obliged, going into great detail of the pressure he would feel in his head. He compared it to the feeling of a balloon expanding inside his skull. He mentioned strategies that he had created with the doctors' help to ease that pressure, which would usually lessen the severity of an accident or occasionally prevent it. Hermione nodded a great deal, interjecting with "Exactly!" or "Me, too!" enough to convince the doctor that she did indeed have two identical cases of…whatever this was. By now the two children were focused completely on one another, talking freely as if she weren't in the room.

Dr Greene smiled and kept taking notes.

 


6 July 1990

Harry was at his window, watching the drive. Every few minutes he glanced over at Hermione, who had taken the squashy chair and was holding Sir Woof, her dog. Her smaller suitcase was next to the chair. She was staring into space and rocking slightly as she concentrated.

He knew what she was doing. After their first joint session, Dr Greene had quickly paired them up for sessions twice a week and Harry had shared more of his experience. One of his tricks was to distract himself by concentrating on something unrelated, such as mentally reciting the statistics of some of his favourite motorcycles. Hermione had chosen to memorize "The Owl and the Pussycat". So far there had been at least one time that she'd been able to delay an incident; the tree branch had still come down, but at least Moffat was no longer under it by that point.

He spotted the car as it wound its way up to the house. "They're here."

Hermione bolted to her feet, automatically squeezing Sir Woof. Harry picked up the suitcase. "It'll be all right. It's just a visit and you'll be back on Sunday."

"I know. I just wish they'd waited a little longer. I don't feel ready to leave."

He reached out and patted her shoulder. "Remember you can telephone. Mary put a nice big note at the nurses' desk phone for someone to get me if you ring."

She took a deep breath and nodded. "I know. It's just…I know I'm going to really miss you."

"Me, too."

At that moment, Mary came into view, leading the Grangers. Their smiles at seeing Hermione were huge and she responded, briefly losing her nervousness and launching herself at them. "Mum! Dad!"

They embraced, then Mr Granger held out a hand. "Harry, wasn't it?"

"Yes, sir." Harry shook hands and returned Mrs Granger's nod.

Hermione launched into slightly nervous chatter. "Harry's been wonderful showing me around. He knows everything about Esperança House!"

Mrs Granger said, "That's nice, dear. I must say you look a bit bronzed. Has our little bookworm actually been outside?"

"Harry and I built a tree fort! Dr Aymler helped us. We take our books or a game up there or pretend we're castaways or Robin Hood's men. It's great fun."

"Really? That's wonderful." Her mother responded to Hermione's enthusiasm with pleased surprise. "Oh, here's the doctor."

Dr Greene came up with a clipboard. "Here's the release form for the weekend. Please do ring us if you need, otherwise we'll see you Sunday afternoon."

Mr Granger signed and looked around, pausing when he realized Hermione's suitcase was in Harry's hand. "Well, concierge service and everything?" Harry smiled and followed them out.

At the car, he and Hermione hesitated a moment, then she took the plunge and hugged him. He hugged her back briefly. "See you Sunday."

He stood and watched the car until it was out of sight, suddenly feeling forlorn.

 


7 July 1990

Hermione came down to breakfast Saturday morning feeling depressed. She had had a nice dinner out with her parents, talking about all the ordinary things to do with Esperança House: the doctors, the nurses and aides, a little about the other children in residence, but mostly about Harry. But now she felt that she had shared everything with them and she was ready to go back. The day stretched out before her, long and empty.

Her mother began assembling toast and fruit for her, chattering cheerfully about how Hermione had made a real breakthrough being so happy about something and how yesterday had been completely uneventful.

Viola picked up Hermione's glass and began to pour juice into it. "In fact, you've made such progress that we'll probably be able to bring you home in time for school in September—"

The glass shattered in Viola's hand, spattering juice everywhere. Viola looked at Hermione, shocked at her daughter's white, stricken face.

After one frozen second, Hermione jumped up and ran for a towel. "You aren't cut, are you?"

She examined her hand. "No, just covered in apple juice. I thought you said you were learning how to handle yourself."

"I was…I am. I just…Mum, it's only been three weeks! I've only just started!" She scrubbed frantically at the table.

"But you said you were learning to control these impulses, that this Harry had helped."

"He has! But there's so much more to learn…" Hermione trailed off and closed her eyes, concentrating on her verses to try and beat back the pressure still roiling in her head: They sailed away, for a year and a day/To the land where the Bong-tree grows/And there in a wood a Piggy-wig stood/With a ring at the end of his nose…

"But you have to return to school, darling."

"They have teachers there! Harry said they teach everything just like in comprehensive."

Viola's expression hardened. "And what do you think it will look like on your records if you have 'Esperança House' as one of your schools?"

"Harry's planning on going to uni!"

"Harry is an orphan and living in a care facility for children will not look odd on his record! Think, Hermione! Think about your future!"

The pressure got out and Hermione and her mother had to duck as the cabinet doors flew open and dishes shot out, smashing against the walls and table. Hermione heard her mother scream and fought harder to stem the tide that seemed to be pouring from her mind. In the background she could hear her father running downstairs.

"Bloody hell! Viola, Hermione? Are you all right?"

Switching tactics, Hermione began concentrating on Harry's trick of motorcycles. She couldn't recite specs and speeds the way he could, but she pictured each of his models on his shelf, one after another, remembering who had given him each one. The storm subsided and Robert stepped carefully into the room, looking aghast at the disaster.

Hermione burst into tears. "I need to go back, I'm not ready, I need their help…"

Robert pulled Hermione to her feet, checking for injuries. "Of course you're going back, poppet. We know you need time to get this…this thing under control. Who said you're not going back?"

"Mum said I should be ready for school in the fall…"

Robert shot his wife a look, then helped her stand. "I don't know why you said that, Vi. We knew we'd have to be flexible when we enrolled Hermione into their program."

"But Robert, her education! What if—"

"Stop it! If we don't get this sorted there won't be any education to worry about!"

Feeling the pressure rising again, Hermione turned and ran. She pounded up the stairs to her room and flung herself on her bed, grabbing Sir Woof as the tears began.

"I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'd fix it if I could! Why can't I fix things that are wrong?" She let herself cry out the feeling in her head, wishing desperately that she hadn't essentially exploded the kitchen.

She was sobbing too hard to hear the cries from her parents, watching in fearful astonishment as every broken dish and glass reassembled itself and floated back into its place in the cupboards, finishing with the restored glass of juice on the table.

Chapter Text

Disclaimer: If you recognize the character, it's not mine. Just playing with the what-ifs of Rowling's world.

 

7 July 1990

 

Harry was finishing his eggs and bacon in the canteen, mulling over what to do with the day since Hermione was on a home visit. He could take some books to the tree fort and read before it got too hot, or even invite a couple of the boys up to play. He’d been ignoring Toby and Caleb quite a bit since Hermione had arrived.

 

As he put his fork down, he was seized from behind, hands cupping his glasses. A voice sang out, “Guess who?”

 

Harry pulled the hands away and turned around, a smile bursting across his face. “Pippa!” He jumped up and into the arms of the redheaded woman, who squeezed him fiercely. After a long hug they relaxed and stepped back from each other.

 

Pippa looked him up and down. “Let’s see, you’ve grown another foot since I last saw you, new glasses, still haven’t learned to tie your shoes and still haven’t learned to comb your hair.” She ruffled the black mess and Harry ducked.

 

“How about you? All ready for an official white uniform…and why white? Seems it’d be impossible to keep clean from the blood and messes in hospital.”

 

“Smart-arse. See that you don’t bleed, then.” She sat down across from him and looked at his half-eaten food. She pushed the plate toward him. “Come, now. You can do better than that.”

 

He obliged, picking up a rasher. “So, how were your exams?”

 

“Not too bad. The physiology was a right pain, but that was because the teacher was a wanker. But I passed them all. Now I get to do my practicals here and go for assistant practitioner.”

 

Harry frowned. “What will you do then?”

 

“Take a bite out of our budget by replacing the need for calling in a GP when one of you lot has the sniffles.”

 

“Really? That’s fantastic!”

 

“I thought it was a nice idea myself. Dr Aymler is ready to kneel and kiss my feet for thinking of it. Now, your turn. How have you been?”

 

“Really good. I passed everything, ready for Year 6 this fall. I’ve finished all the Roald Dahl books there are and Hermione and I started reading everything by E.L. Konigsburg. We’re going to try Dickens too, she’s already read Oliver Twist, so I’m behind.”

 

“Hermione? Who’s this Hermione? You seeing someone else behind my back?”

 

Harry laughed. “Hermione’s a new resident. She’s with her parents this weekend. We’ve got kind of the same situation, so I’ve been helping her get settled here. And if you think I read too much, wait ’til you meet her! She took out six books at the first library outing!”

 

Pippa smiled and then looked up as Sushila, another of the nurses, approached their table. “Sorry to interrupt, but I thought Harry’d want to know. Hermione’s on her way back.”

 

“Now?” Harry shoved his plate away.

 

“They should be here in about an hour. Maybe less, no traffic on a Saturday.”

 

Harry bolted to his feet and ran out of the canteen. Pippa turned a surprised face to Sushila, who shrugged.

 

“Inseparable, those two. They’re making hearts melt left and right among the staff. He’ll be at the window, watching for them until she gets here.”

 

Pippa stood and absently picked up the remains of Harry’s breakfast. “Amazing.”

 

*****

 

After considering her options, Pippa decided to give Harry some space. She spent the hour looking up other staff members, noting with pleasure that Harry was one of only three children among the thirty or so residents that had been there when she left for uni. And one of the other two was also an orphan. It spoke well of the ability of the staff to help these children deal with their issues and reintegrate into their families.

 

But when the hour was up, she looked into the lounge.

 

Harry was at the window, watching the drive like a hawk. A book sat tented on his favourite chair; Pippa noticed it was Oliver Twist. She found a flyer advertising events at the library and moved to the chair, tucking the flyer into the book to mark his place. She noticed that he hadn’t gotten very far when he was normally a quick reader.

 

“Hullo again.”

 

He turned to her briefly. “Hullo.”

 

“So, this Hermione must be really something.”

 

Harry kept looking out the window as he replied, “I’m not really sure I understand it, but I feel like I know her, like I really know her. It’s not just that we both read or that we both have this problem. There just seems to be some connection, like I could tell her anything and she’d be all right about it.”

 

“Anything?” Pippa’s curiosity was piqued. Even though she had been the one to get Harry to open up and had known him longest, she knew no more than the hints the doctors had let slip about his home life.

 

“Yeah. I mentioned that my aunt and uncle weren’t very nice to me, and she got it. With just that she knew and she understood and she was upset for me and mad at them and I didn’t have to say another word. I’ve never gotten that feeling from anyone, like she’d charge into a lion’s den to help me.” He suddenly looked faintly ashamed. “I mean, I know everyone here is on my side and all, but this is different, somehow. And I think I feel the same way about her. I just have to be here as soon as she gets back.”

 

Pippa blinked at that. “Wow, that’s pretty strong. Have you talked to Dr Greene about it?”

 

Harry shook his head. “We’ve been concentrating on Hermione since she got here, helping her control her incidents like we did with me.” He broke off, glimpsing movement through the trees before the car came into view. “I’ll be back, I want you to meet Hermione!”

 

Pippa watched him dash out of the lounge toward the entrance.

 

*****

 

Hermione had spent the ride in silence, hugging Sir Woof and looking out the window. She didn’t dare speak a word; the frustration was just too close to the surface and the energy roiling in her head would erupt with it. And the last thing she needed to do was add fuel to the fire.

 

Her parents sat up front, also silent. The fear was coming off them in waves and it was about to drive her mad. Why had they been frustrated but supportive when she was breaking things and causing problems, but suddenly terrified when she actually solved a problem?

 

After crying herself out, Hermione had fallen asleep. Her mother had shaken her awake and told her to pack. Her father had rung and requested to bring her back to Esperança House now. As they headed for the door, Hermione had stopped short at the view of the pristine kitchen. “Mum! How did you—”

 

I didn’t. You did.”

 

And with that they’d bundled her into the car and started back.

 

As the car followed the curve of the drive to the door, Hermione’s heart leapt at the sight of Harry charging out to meet them. The pressure in her head vanished instantly and she unbuckled her safety belt and hopped out of the car the moment it stopped. Harry ran up to her.

 

“All right, there?”

 

“Better now. I’ll tell you later.”

 

Harry nodded and went to get her suitcase. Hermione noticed that her father had recovered enough to be amused and let Harry help. Her mother stayed in the car.

 

Biting her lip against a flare of hurt, Hermione followed her father and Harry inside.

 

She let Harry lead her toward the lounge as her father spoke with an aide. “There’s someone I want you to meet,” he explained.

 

Hermione recognized the woman at once but let Harry do the honours. “Hermione, this is Pippa who I told you about. She’s back to be a nurse here—”

 

“Starting Monday,” the woman interjected.

 

“—and this is my friend Hermione.”

 

Pippa held out a hand, keeping the professional assessment of the girl’s slumped shoulders and weary eyes out of her expression. “Harry was just telling me about you. It’s a pleasure.”

 

Hermione smiled weakly and shook. “Harry said a lot of wonderful things about you. I know he’s glad you’re coming back.” She turned to Harry. “I think I want to go to my room, curl up with a book.”

 

His voice full of concern, Harry asked, “Are you sure?”

 

She nodded. “You should catch up with Pippa.”

 

The nurse took one look at Harry, at the worry in his face and the tension in his shoulders and stood. “No, dear, it’s fine. Harry and I will have plenty of time for that. There’s no getting rid of me now!” She reached out with both hands and ruffled their hair. “Go on with you.”

 

Harry didn’t hesitate, but Hermione looked back thoughtfully at Pippa as he pulled her with him into the hall.

 

*****

 

They paused at the sight of Mr Granger deep in conversation with Dr Greene, both with intensely worried expressions. Hermione took a deep breath, handed Sir Woof to Harry, and approached them.

 

“Dad?”

 

He looked down at her and almost managed to hide the fear in his eyes. “It’s all right, poppet. You tell the doctor everything about this morning. We’ll ring you in a few days.” He pulled her into a hug and Hermione felt tears spring to her eyes again. She tightened her arms around her father, trying to fix the embrace in her memory.

 

She missed seeing her father and Harry staring at one another as the man looked beseechingly at the boy and the boy nodded reassurance. But the doctor saw it all.

 

*****

 

Harry carried Hermione’s suitcase into her room and set it next to her bed. She flopped across the bed, putting her chin on her hands. Harry flopped beside her and rolled to his right so he could face her and waited, playing idly with Sir Woof’s floppy ears. After a few moments she swiped at her face and rolled to the left to face him.

 

“Want to talk about it?”

 

She stared at the flower-print duvet and traced petals for a moment. “Have you ever had an incident where you prevented an accident? Or reversed what you’d done?”

 

Harry thought for a moment. “I remember pushing a laundry trolley out of someone’s way once. And one time when the fire alarms set off the sprinklers the water didn’t fall in the art room where we’d been doing watercolours on paper.” He pushed the stuffed dog to her and she embraced it. “Why? What happened?”

 

“I had…an incident. Two, actually.”

 

He reached over and rubbed her shoulder. “I’m sorry.”

 

“The first wasn’t so much. Mum started talking about school in September and the glass of juice she was pouring broke. But then we started arguing…she really wants me to get over this and get back to school and have everything normal again. And then the whole kitchen just sort of…exploded.”

 

Harry’s eyebrows shot up. “Exploded?”

 

“Kind of. The dishes and cups shot out of the cupboards like cannons, breaking against the walls, we were almost under the table trying to stay out of the way.”

 

“Wow. I’m sorry. I don’t think I ever did anything that…dramatic.”

 

Hermione rolled her eyes at him. “I finally got it to stop. I wound up thinking about your motorcycles instead of my poem and that stopped it.” Before Harry could congratulate her she went on. “And Mum and Dad started arguing and I ran upstairs.

 

“All I remember is having that pressure still in my head and crying, wishing hard that I hadn’t destroyed the kitchen. And then the pressure finally went away and I dozed off. Next thing, Mum woke me and said that I’d fixed the kitchen.” She sat up, looking at Harry earnestly. “Harry, it was perfect. Every dish was whole, every cupboard full. You absolutely couldn’t tell that anything had happened.”

 

Harry stared at her, green eyes wide behind his glasses. “Whoa…” He sat up. “You actually fixed it all?”

 

She nodded. “Mum said everything just repaired itself and moved back to its place. And then…” she gulped, “that’s when they got scared.”

 

“Who, your parents? Why would they be scared?”

 

“Exactly! If we can fix the things we do, why is that a bad thing? But now Dad is more worried than ever and Mum stopped talking about school this fall and they’re afraid of me! I don’t want them to be afraid! I need them!”

 

Harry scooted forward and gripped her arm. “You’ve got me. And Dr Greene and everyone here. If we can actually figure out fixing things as well as controlling them, we’ll have this problem beat.”

 

Hermione nodded into his shoulder, finding the comfort in his touch that hadn’t been in her father’s embrace.

 

*****

 

Emily Greene went to bed that night in a very troubled mood. Harry had convinced Hermione to come find her at teatime and talk about what had happened at home. Mr Granger’s description of dishes floating in the air and sealing themselves back together before sailing to their places had shaken her badly. Hearing confirmation from Hermione that she had wanted it to happen had thrown her into a complete crisis.

 

Dr Greene had a scientific mind. She saw actions and reactions, the dance of elements combining to create life, the rise of birth and fall of death in a never-ending cycle. Up to now she had been treating Harry and then Hermione as possibly exhibiting rudimentary telekinesis, which was the most rational explanation she had for why things might move or break around them. There was just enough serious evidence to satisfy her that this was possible.

 

But there was no possible rational explanation for dishes that mended themselves. There was no physical method for a glass to not only make itself whole but regather the spilled liquid into itself. It was impossible.

 

And yet two people confirmed it had happened. And she had no way to explain it, at least no way that was acceptable to a doctor.

 

Her mind did not let her rest that night, seeking answers that were not there.

Chapter Text

Disclaimer: If you recognize the character, it isn't mine. Just playing with what-ifs in the Potterverse.

For a lovely little fanart of the first scene by my wonderful talented friend amandioka, go to my LiveJournal and check the tags for "perils fanart". SHe has a couple of related works here on AO3 as well.


31 July 1990

Dr Aymler watched from the doorway as the two children in the playroom concentrated on the draughts board. Harry was staring at a black circle intently. Suddenly the piece flew up and landed beside the board. Hermione laughed at Harry's disgusted expression as he picked it up and placed it on the intended square. Then Hermione began to focus on a red piece. After a moment it slid gently in a direction, then stopped and would not move again. With a frustrated sigh, she pushed the piece the rest of the way with her finger.

The doctor stepped into the room. "All right, you two. That's enough. You need to go outside and play."

"We are playing," Harry said absently, studying the board.

"You are not. You're training. And we don't even know what it is you're trying to train yet. So stop it and go outside and run around the building or climb a tree or something."

"Yes, sir." Hermione began gathering the pieces and dropping them into the box.

"Hey!" Harry protested.

"He's right. It's a lovely day outside. Come on." She finished putting the game away and got up, grabbing his hand.

Harry let himself be dragged to his feet, sulking. Whether it was the flurry of new residents, Pippa's arrival or Dr Greene's sudden decision to go on holiday the previous week, everyone had managed to forget his birthday. He forgave Hermione, as he didn't remember mentioning it to her, but he was royally brassed off at the doctors and staff. Didn't they celebrate every resident's birthday? Hadn't Pippa remembered to mail a card and gift the years she'd been away? Not even Mary, who never ever forgot a date, had wished him a happy birthday in the canteen this morning.

Hermione was pulling him around the girls' wing, toward a garden area that belonged to the manor house since before it had been converted. It held little interest for most of the children. She led him to the entrance, two elegant stone pillars that separated the border hedge, and suddenly moved behind him and pushed him inside.

"Surprise!"

Harry's jaw dropped at the sight. People surrounded a stone table, draped with a cloth and laden with refreshments. The stone bench next to it held a small pile of presents. Harry turned back to a beaming Hermione.

"Got you, didn't we?"

"Yeah, you got me." He turned and accepted a hug from Pippa.

"I bet you were feeling quite unhappy earlier. Sorry about that. But Dr Greene said we should do something special for your tenth birthday and I recruited Hermione to help me."

As they moved toward the table, Harry turned to Hermione. "You. Are. Devious."

She smiled again. "It worked. And it was worth it to see your face. I've never been part of a surprise par—" She broke off, seeing a pair of adults coming toward them. "Mum? Dad?"

The Grangers looked down at their daughter. "We brought in the cake to save the staff a trip," Viola explained. "Happy birthday, Harry."

"Thank you, Mrs Granger, Mr Granger." Harry shook their hands and then let Pippa lead him off so Hermione could talk to her parents. She had spoken to them a few times on the phone since the shortened weekend home, but this was the first time they had seen one another. He did his best to concentrate on saying his thanks to everyone who was there: Pippa and Mary, several of the other nurses and aides, Dr Greene, Toby and Caleb, and Dr Aymler as he joined the small party. But even as he admired the cake he glanced at the Grangers.

From what he could tell, at least they weren't looking terrified of Hermione now. Robert had an arm around her and was listening as she described how she and Harry had invented what they called their "training sessions", working with toys in one of the playrooms. Viola still looked nervous, but she was listening as well.

As was the custom for birthday parties at Esperança House, Harry opened the gifts first while Mary made note of who had given what. Harry would be expected to write thank-yous within the week, a tradition begun by the now-retired founder. Since joint gifts were another tradition, it didn't surprise him that Hermione had gone in with Toby and Caleb to give him a new motorcycle for his collection. What did surprise him was an envelope from the Grangers and Hermione.

He opened it and looked inside the card. There was a gift certificate to Waterstone's for twenty pounds. He looked at them, surprised and touched. "Thank you!"

Viola said, "We'd like to have you join Hermione on her visit home this weekend and you can spend it then."

Harry glanced at Hermione, who was nodding enthusiastically, and smiled at Viola. She hesitated for an instant, then smiled back. Hermione squealed and threw her arms around him, only letting go when Caleb started up a chant of "Cake! Cake! Cake!"


After serving everyone cake, Harry carried his slice over to where Dr Greene was sitting, a little apart from everyone else. "Hullo, Doc."

She smiled at him, but Harry noticed dark circles under her eyes. He sat down next to her. "For someone who just got back from holiday, you look knackered."

"It wasn't exactly a restful time." She gave Harry a considering look and took a bite of cake.

"D'you want to talk about it?"

Dr Greene smiled ruefully. "You're too clever by half, you know."

"No, I'm not. Hermione is, though."

"You're both clever, just each in your own way."

"Seriously, Doctor, can I help?"

"I'm just not sure about some things right now, things I used to be sure about. And they're too much to put on a child who just turned ten. All right?"

"All right, but only if you talk to Dr Aymler!"

She laughed and pretended to cuff him across the ear. "Smart-arse. How are you and Hermione working out with him, by the way?"

Harry shrugged, taking a bite of his own cake before answering. "It's all right. He's very laid-back about the whole situation. He says he's read enough science fiction that he thinks anything is possible."

Dr Greene snorted. "Is that all it takes? Perhaps I need to ask him for a reading list."

The tone in her voice made Harry a little uneasy and he had no idea what to say. He settled for staying with her and finishing his cake.


A few minutes after Harry let the other children pull him back to his presents, Dr Aymler sat down with Dr Greene. "Haven't had a chance to really talk since you got back, Em. Did the holiday help?"

She shrugged. "I'm not sure. I made a point of talking to Mum's vicar, who handed me off to his area bishop. He was more concerned about the apparent lack of spirituality in my life than about my needing to explain things that seem to be happening outside of the realms of science."

"You didn't tell him about their telekinesis?"

"No, of course not. I was much more general about trying to come to terms with more things in heaven and earth than were previously in my philosophy."

"And he wasn't much help."

She shook her head. "How can you be so calm about it? It's not just telekinesis…that I could explain. It's the idea that actions can be reversed the way Hermione did to her kitchen…it's simply not possible for a plate to be whole again without glue, or for spilled milk to go back in the glass…it's like…"

"Magic?" Aymler's eyebrows waggled and he smiled behind his thick moustache.

"There's no such thing as magic!"

He shrugged. "Just because we haven't defined and measured it yet doesn't mean that it's impossible. After all, at one time everyone believed the earth was flat."

"And we believed the earth was the centre of the universe…" Her voice was derisive.

"And now we're on the verge of a technology boom that is going to leave us gasping and bewildered. I think we're going to live to see a time where there's no post anymore, because everyone will use electronic mail. No cheques, because everyone will pay by wire transfer through computers. No books, because they'll all be read on screen.

"Things change, Em. New things happen. People can do more and more every time they try. This just seems to be another of those things."

She shook her head. "It frightens me."

"It frightens me, too, a bit. But look at it this way. If anyone is going to have this kind of power, I'm glad it's those two kids. Neither of them has a mean bone in their body. Think about it…Harry's been here for nearly five years now and not once has he hurt anyone with any of his incidents. The worst was when Jackie Craig had to dye her hair back for a while to hide the blue. And if Hermione didn't hurt her mum when she started in on going back to school, she won't do so without extreme provocation."

Dr Greene looked at her empty plate for a moment, then back up. "Thanks, Pat."

"D'you still want me to work with them in session for a while?"

She nodded. "I think it's for the best. If they sense I'm afraid, it'll only make it worse."

His expression darkened a little in concern. "Don't avoid them, especially Harry. You've been his mentor almost since he got here. If he doesn't understand why we've switched, he might see it as rejection. And we don't want him regressing…remember how he was when he got here?"

That got her attention. "Oh, no, that can't happen! He's healed so much…"

"So sort out how you can deal with this. Believe, don't believe, study it and measure it, or wait and see what happens. Just do it soon, because those children need you."


3 August 1990

Hermione and Harry waited at the picture window, admiring the storm outside. Thunder rumbled, rain poured down in impressive sheets, and water ran off the road into the garden. This time Sir Woof guarded Hermione's suitcase and a holdall that Pippa had lent to Harry.

As the wind intensified, Hermione's expression grew fretful. Harry reached over and poked her to distract her. "Don't worry. I'm sure they'll be fine."

"Mum doesn't like driving in storms. If Dad were driving it'd be all right, but he had to stay at the surgery."

Harry was about to reassure her again, but an unwelcome voice interrupted him. "So Potty and the Shakespeare girl are off, I see."

They turned to see Moffat standing over their luggage, holding Sir Woof by an ear.

"Put down my dog, please." Hermione spoke before Harry could. He didn't understand how she was staying polite, but every time Moffat or one of the other children tried to push her around, she began by being courteous about it.

"Think I'll keep it. It'll make a good extra pillow. For my feet."

Harry started forward, but she held onto his arm.

"He's not yours, he's mine. Please give him back." As she spoke, she stared fixedly at Sir Woof, rather than the blond bully.

Moffat began swinging the dog around, chanting, "Shan't, shan't, you can't make me, shan't shan't…" He tossed the plush animal in the air to catch it.

And at that precise second Hermione held out her hands and the dog flew into them.

Harry's gasp was drowned out by Moffat's scream. He turned and ran down the hall, yelling for the nurses.

"Hermione, that was brilliant!"

Her cheeks turned slightly pink as she stared at the dog for a moment. "Honestly, I didn't expect it to work that well. I was hoping Sir Woof would just move away from him." She turned back to the window. "And because you didn't fight him or go after him, you can't get in trouble."

Harry supposed he could see the logic in her approach, but still felt it would have been more satisfying to knock Moffat off his feet.


Viola Granger arrived, looking extremely pale and tense. As she signed the release form for the children, Dr Aymler looked her over and insisted that she sit for a cuppa before starting back.

The delay benefited them, as the storm moved to the northeast and the rain slackened somewhat. Viola drove with less fear, though she set a slower pace than most of the cars around her.

At one point after the dual carriageway narrowed, a lorry began following them closely. Hermione could see her mother's knuckles turn white as she gripped the wheel. Harry could feel her slow further, which annoyed the lorry driver enough to sound the hooter at her.

The lorry suddenly took advantage of a break in oncoming traffic to try and overtake them. Viola let out a shriek and jerked the wheel as the lorry rumbled past them. Harry felt the car begin to slide on the wet pavement. He grabbed the handrest on his door with the first flash of fear. Beside him, Hermione bit back a gasp, her eyes wide and her body pressing back into her seat.

Then he felt the familiar pressure in his head and, without thinking, seized Hermione's hand and hissed, "Think safe!" Hermione gave him one swift terrified glance and then wrinkled her brow in concentration.

The car skidded up to the lorry, then bounced off it as gently as if hitting a pillow. Viola, sobbing with fear, managed to steer it onto the verge and stop.

Hermione undid her safety belt and leaned forward to grip her mother's shoulder. "You did it, Mum. We're all right. We're all right. You did it. You did it." She continued to babble soothing words at her mother until Viola stopped shaking and began to assert control of herself. After several minutes of waiting for a completely clear path, she pulled the car onto the road again.

Hermione and Harry traded thoughtful looks several times for the rest of the journey.


Harry entered the Granger home and looked around nervously. He was so completely used to Esperança House that he was afraid to touch anything. It was like walking onto the set of a programme on the telly. He vaguely remembered being in a place like this, long ago.

Viola had stopped to pick up the mail where it had been pushed through the slot in the door. Hermione glanced at Harry and smiled. "Rooms first, then I'll show you our library." She picked up her suitcase and started up the stairs.

She paused, puzzled, as Harry walked past the stairs. A frown creased her brow as he stopped in front of the under-stairs cupboard, where her father kept his golf equipment. There was something bleak in his expression, where just a few moments ago in the car he had been cheerful. "Harry?"

He was reaching for the doorknob when she spoke, but her voice seemed to recall him. "Sorry?"

"Our rooms are upstairs. Follow me."

As he obeyed, Hermione's mind began to race with the implications of what she'd just witnessed.


Author's Note: As always, comments are very welcome!

Chapter Text

Disclaimer: If you recognize the character, it isn't mine. Just playing in Rowling's sandbox.

 


 

3 August 1990

Robert Granger treasured his Friday nights. He had a simple routine, established since his youth, that Friday night was for doing as little work as possible. Dinner was often takeaway of some sort, and tonight he brought Chinese. Hermione had observed during her first night home that the canteen at Esperança House did excellent Yorkshire pudding and reasonable curries, but none of her favourite Asian dishes.

After dinner, Robert would putter about in the garden, watch footie on the telly, or disappear into the library with a book. Hermione had learned early on that as long as she didn't pester him with too many questions, she was welcome to read her own book in the next chair.

His ritual included staying up much later than Viola and having a bit of a lie-in on Saturday morning. Tonight he had got lost in a new book and only now at two in the morning was heading for his bedroom.

He passed Hermione's door and Harry's, both pulled close but not shut completely. He wondered if this was the rule in their halls at the institute. As he was about to enter his bedroom, he heard someone stir and moan.

Robert listened for a moment, then moved to Harry's door. At the sound of more thrashing about, he pushed the door open.

In the light from the window, provided by the moon and streetlamps, Robert could see Harry, tangled in his sheets, and shifting about. He moved to the bed and began gently freeing the boy from the covers. As he did, Harry jerked away, crying out softly, "No, I didn't mean to! Don't, please!"

Robert paused, aghast. It wasn't just the words themselves. It was the tone, pleading and fearful. It was how Harry had curled up into a protective ball, shielding his stomach by drawing his knees up and covering his head with his arms. It was how he kept the pleading to a near-whisper, striving to stay quiet.

Robert reached out gently and jostled the boy's shoulder. "Harry, wake up! You're having a bad dream. Come on, son, wake up!"

Harry's eyes flew open and he looked around wildly. "I'm sorry! I'm sorry! I didn't mean to!"

Robert turned Harry's face to him, not missing how the child's instinct was to duck. "Harry, it's all right! You're not in trouble."

Harry squinted and began feeling for his glasses. Robert picked them up from the nightstand for him. Blinking owlishly as his sight cleared, Harry focused. "Mr Granger?"

"You all right there? That sounded like quite the nightmare."

Harry looked away and began tidying the sheets. "I'm sorry I woke you."

Robert was surprised at feeling hurt when Harry didn't look at him. "You didn't wake me. I stay up late every Friday. I happened to hear you as I was passing." He helped shake out the covers. "Do you want to talk about it?"

Harry was still making a show of adjusting the duvet. "About what?"

"About the nightmare. It usually helps me to talk for a minute, get it out of my system."

"I don't really remember." The response was automatic and again Robert felt rejected. "Thank you, Mr Granger. I think I can sleep now."

He shoved his own feelings aside with an effort. "I think that it's safe to call me Robert, son. If you need to wake me or Viola, please do so."

Harry nodded and let Robert tuck the covers around him. "Thank you, sir."

"You're welcome, Harry. Sleep well."

Robert slipped into his own room and prepared for bed on autopilot, his mind worrying at this revelation, a parallel to his daughter's thoughts earlier.

 


 

4 August 1990

The next morning Hermione woke first. She padded down to the kitchen and fished a small carton of yoghurt from the icebox. As she looked in the cupboard for the granola to add to it, Viola came in.

She hesitated, looking around the neat kitchen as she remembered the destruction the last time she and her daughter had been here together. But she plastered a smile on her face as Hermione stood with a bag in her hand.

"What do you think Harry would like for breakfast?"

Hermione smiled, adding granola to her carton. "I've seen him eat everything…except kippers. I think eggs and toast and whatever will be fine."

Viola took a pan from its peg on the wall and set it on the cooker. "I think we have more bacon than anything else. Will you look and see, dear?"

Hermione gave her yoghurt a last stir and obliged. As she dug around, she squealed, "When did you get gooseberry jam?"

"Martha brought it in to the surgery last week. She found it in a little roadside market when she went to Wales on holiday."

Hermione passed the bacon to her mother and took out the gooseberry jam. She added two heaping spoonfuls to her yoghurt and stirred it in. Viola broke into laughter at her daughter's blissful expression with the first bite.

"There's a second jar in the cupboard. You can take it back with you."

"Thanks, Mum." As Hermione ate, she kept an ear out for any more signs of life above. Harry was usually up and around shortly after she was.

"Mum?"

"Yes, dear?"

"Last night, did you see what Harry did?"

Viola looked up from whisking eggs to scramble. "What did he do?"

"When I said we should go to our rooms, he…he started for the cupboard under the stairs."

The whisk paused and Viola frowned at Hermione. "Perhaps he was thinking of stowing his bag there?"

"Before unpacking it, Mum?"

"Why are you asking, Hermione?"

"He said something once. I think the uncle and aunt he used to live with treated him badly."

"How badly?"

"He didn't say anything definite. But I think…I think it was bad enough. What if they put him under the stairs to sleep?"

Viola looked down and began whisking again. The movement got faster as she imagined the possibilities.

"Mum?" Hermione's voice, concerned and just a little frightened, broke her concentration.

"I'm sorry, dear." Viola concentrated on preparing breakfast and regaining her calm demeanour.

Until Robert pulled her aside after breakfast to tell her what he'd witnessed in the night.

 


 

While her parents compared notes in the kitchen, Hermione was showing Harry around the house and watching him like a hawk. He seemed perfectly normal, going through the books in her room and asking questions about the knickknacks she had from trips with her parents. That led to the library where the photo albums were kept and Hermione showed an increasingly wistful Harry scenes from vacations in France, Italy, Spain, and one particularly exciting trip to the United States. The Grangers had spent three weeks touring New York and Washington, and finished in Florida at Disney World. By the end, Harry was looking quite depressed but trying to hide it. Hermione thought it was time for a distraction.

"Mum? Dad?" When can we go to Waterstone's?"

Viola looked in on them, taking in the albums spread across the floor around the children and the downcast slump of Harry's shoulders. "Anytime, I suppose. Go brush your teeth."

Hermione hopped to her feet and seized Harry's hand to drag him upstairs.

"Brush our teeth?" Harry asked.

"Dentists," Hermione replied blithely. "Live with it."

Half an hour later they had entered Waterstone's. Robert headed for biographies, Viola for the mysteries, and Hermione led Harry to the children's area.

Hermione took charge, setting out books by authors she knew Harry enjoyed. She stacked them by price so he could budget his £20 most easily. As she was about to move on to selecting titles by new authors she thought he might like, Harry finally spoke up.

"Er…Hermione? Can I…can I look around for myself, too?"

She froze and looked at the rather enormous pile of books she'd collected for him. Suddenly her ears rang with the jeers from classmates at her school: Bossy swot! Know-it-all! Teacher's pet!

Her hands flew to her face. "Oh, Harry! I'm so sorry! I didn't mean—"

He spread out his own hands. "I know, I know you didn't. And I'll look at every one, promise! Why don't you look for yourself a minute and let me at the shelves?"

Hermione relaxed at Harry's suggestion and nodded. "All right. I'll be right back. I wanted to check one section anyway."

"Which one?"

"Dr Aymler called it 'esoterica'. I know he was mostly joking about us being telekinetic when he said it in session, but I thought it was at least worth researching a little."

Harry grimaced slightly. "Honestly, I don't care what it's called as long as we get to where we control it."

Hermione nodded in understanding and took off at a brisk trot down the aisle. Left alone, Harry began scanning the shelves with the feel of Christmas come early. He paused to look over Hermione's stacks and see what she'd chosen, then found the As and began reading the spines.

He had pulled out two or three possibilities by the time he was halfway through. He spotted the author Madeleine L'Engle on the very top shelf; he had heard of her, but Esperança House didn't have any of her books in its library. Without a stool or ladder in sight, he strained to reach it.

Come on, he thought.

And yelped as the entire shelf emptied on top of him.

A clerk came running. "What happened?"

He looked up at the tall, thin blond woman, staring at him in horror and fury at the pile of cereal boxes next to him. He honestly had no idea what had happened. He had wanted a bright coloured box to show her, to ask if she would buy it and had hoped that this time, finally, she might say yes. The round blond boy next to her was smiling nastily, almost bouncing in anticipation, waiting to see what punishment would fall this time—

"I didn't mean to!" Harry bent over and began gathering the spilled books hastily.

The clerk, a bespectacled woman with dark hair in plaits, knelt to help him. "Are you all right?"

"I'm sorry! I didn't mean to, I really didn't!"

She smiled at him. "I know you didn't."

"I'll pick them up!"

The clerk faltered, suddenly feeling uneasy. She reached out and took his arm. "Dear, it's all right. It was an accident, that's all."

The word 'accident' snapped Harry out of it. He no longer saw the woman and boy in a market, but the clerk in the bookstore. Just then, Hermione rounded the corner into view. She took in the scene in one glance: the pile of books and the empty top shelf, Harry and the clerk crouched on the floor, the clerk's worried expression and Harry looking as if he'd been caught sneaking sweets from the tuck cupboard. She ran forward.

"Harry, are you all right?"

He nodded, though his eyes still seemed to be focused inward. "Had a little accident."

Hermione joined him on the floor, looking at the clerk. "We'll take care of this. Everything will be in order and ready for the shelf in a minute."

Her tone was so self-assured that the clerk rose and started moving away before she realized it. Rather than return and draw further attention—a few patrons were beginning to watch—she left the children to it.

Harry continued to gather the books and Hermione swiftly sorted them into order by author. As she worked, she asked in an undertone, "What happened?"

"I think I wanted to move one book I couldn't reach and it sort of slipped out a bit too strongly." He set a copy of A Wrinkle in Time aside as he worked.

"I'm sorry." Hermione tried to think of a way to ask him about that momentary haunted look in his eyes, but nothing came. She settled for finishing stacking the books. The same clerk returned almost as soon as she was done and replaced them on the shelf by the handful.

Hermione almost resented her obvious hovering, but the woman smiled at them. "Nice work, there. You two need a job?"

She let the compliment cheer her as she and Harry sorted through possibilities until he'd created a set that would total just under the price of the gift certificate. Harry let Hermione stack them in his arms and lead him toward the front.

"Find anything in your section?"

Hermione made a face. "Not really. The couple that I looked through had all kinds of theories, but nothing in the way of trying to explain exactly how it happens. Just loads of rubbish."

Harry shrugged philosophically. "So we deal with it like we have been. Survive until it's sorted."

Hermione hesitated, the first question on her lips.

"Poppet! Ready to go yet?"

Hermione blew a stray lock of hair from her face in exasperation and followed Harry to the front of the store.

 


 

With a large number of residents home on weekend visits, the three doctors for Esperança House were taking advantage of the relative quiet to catch up on paperwork. They had taken over Emily's office and were correlating notes for the children who worked with more than one of them, looking for any gaps in the endless required documentation. They had two pizzas and several bottles of Guinness to ease the burden.

Patrick stopped for a moment and stretched. He glanced at the clock and smiled.

Joshua Takenaka, the third member of the team, noticed. "What is it?"

"What is what?"

"You looked like a cheerful walrus instead of a grumpy one for a minute."

Patrick stuck two good-natured fingers at his colleague and Emily joined in Joshua's laughter. When their snickers had trailed off, Patrick shrugged. "It's been over twenty-four hours and we haven't gotten a ring from the Grangers. I hope that means good news."

Joshua looked puzzled for a moment, then his face cleared as he placed the name. "Ah, your two little spooky ones. Is the transition going well?"

Emily looked down, feeling guilty, but Joshua's attention was on Patrick as he answered. "I think it's been a good thing. It's given them a bit of a new perspective and I'm certainly enjoying getting to know them better as we thrash this out."

"I was thinking about them this week."

It was Patrick's turn to look puzzled. "Why's that?"

Joshua dug into his briefcase and pulled out an advert. "This came in the post. They've updated the offerings at this year's BSA conference." He handed it to Emily, who was closer. "Look at Saturday morning."

She scanned the page. "You mean Tomas Ericsson?"

Patrick rolled his eyes. "That man's a nutter."

Joshua leaned forward. "Possibly. And possibly his research into extrasensory powers may have some connection to your two, or at least suggest a path to try to help them achieve full control."

Patrick shrugged. "I'm already set on going. What do you think, Em?"

She wrinkled her nose and tossed the advert back to Joshua. "I suppose. Nothing ventured, nothing gained."

 


 

Author's Note: As always, thanks for reading. Kudos and constructive feedback are nice things.

Chapter Text


Disclaimer:
If you recognize the character, it isn't mine. Just playing in Rowling's sandbox.

 


 

 

4 August 1990

 

After a pleasant dinner, the Grangers found themselves at loose ends. A quick look at the BBC produced no programmes that captured their interest. With Harry as company, the adults were adamant that they weren’t going to divide up and stick noses into books. It was Viola who had an inspiration, remembering the stack of board games that she and Robert had amassed and played with other couples before their practice took off and Hermione arrived.

 

Harry followed her up the stairs, curious to see what a real attic looked like. As Viola began pushing boxes aside, searching for the one she wanted, Harry looked around in mild disappointment. There were no intriguing piles of junk from decades past: no shapely dress forms for sewing looming in corners, no piles of old dolls with glassy stares, no open trunks of ancient tools glinting wickedly. This attic was neat and organized with stacks of labelled boxes. His eyes ran down, reading random ones.

 

Toddler clothes – Hermione 1980

 

Rose-and-vine drapes/loose covers – old sitting room

 

School records – Robert, uni

 

He paused at one that was written in a different hand from the bold block-letter strokes of the others: For Hermione, from Grandma Miranda.

 

“Mrs Granger, what’s this?”

 

Viola stood up, a Scrabble set in her hand. “What have you found?”

 

“Something for Hermione from her grandmother.”

 

Viola came over to him and read the label. She smiled, touching the thin, spidery writing. “When my mother was dying, she put together boxes like this one for each grandchild. Hermione was only three at the time, so the box just got pushed up here.”

 

“What’s in it?”

 

“I think it’s her crafting supplies. She was a lifelong knitter and crocheter, never without yarn in her hands when she had the time to sit down. I only learned the basics. I think she hoped that Hermione might take up where she left off.”

 

Harry brightened as an idea occurred to him. “Her birthday’s next month, isn’t it?”

 

“Yes, on the nineteenth.”

 

“Maybe we can make this a part of it? Put together everything that’s still good and add to it, like some new yarn if what’s in there is too old and an instruction book. Mary at Esperança House knits, I think. She could help me get what we need. It would be so much better than just getting her another book to read!”

 

Viola paused, surprised at her own sudden and strong joy. Hermione’s birthdays had been peppered with attempts to invite neighbourhood children and schoolmates and had never quite come off. It was obvious each year that most of the children were attending because their parents had insisted, and only wanted to have the cake and leave. Seeing a child not only think of Hermione’s birthday at all, but spout off plans with his eyes shining made her want to hug the boy in front of her.

 

“I think that’s a perfect idea. I’ll bring the box down this week and go through it, then send you a note of what needs replacing and let you and your friend work it out. Will you need money?”

 

Harry shook his head. “I have a little saved up. There’s usually a bit of pocket change coming from a few of the regular donors two or three times a year. And Mary and Pippa can go in with me.”

 

Viola was trying to express her thanks to this remarkable child when Hermione’s voice echoed up the stairs, “Did you get lost up there?”

 

*****

 

19 September 1990

Hermione was in heaven. She could smell the rich chocolate fondant covering the cake on the table in front of her. She could feel the bright sunshine that made the day unexpectedly perfect for the outdoor party. Her eyes were almost dazzled with the bright colours from the pile of presents in front of her. She clutched Sir Woof to her to keep from squealing with glee. She’d debated whether eleven was too old for carrying one’s stuffed dog to a party, but Harry had automatically scooped him up when he came to bring her out to the garden.

 

Her parents were chatting with Dr Aymler and Miss Fishman. Whatever the teacher was saying, her parents were looking extremely pleased. Hermione thought they ought to be; she had sailed through every placement test with ease and was already set to begin preliminary GCSE work. Harry was just a step behind her and they were both in classes with the handful of students set in Years Six through Eight. That suited Hermione perfectly, as it separated them from the odious Moffat several times a week.

 

Pippa sat with her notepad and nodded at Hermione. She drew the first package toward her as Harry began a chant of “Presents! Presents!” with the other children.  It proved to be a book, naturally, from Dr Aymler and Harry’s mates Toby and Caleb. She smiled at the boys and glanced inside the copy of The Hobbit appreciatively.

 

“Read later, darling,” Viola reminded her. Harry tried to help Hermione cover her blushes and pushed another package to her.

 

The knitting book happened to surface first. Hermione was slightly puzzled as she looked inside at the inscription: Something new to keep your brain cells firing! Love from Harry, Mary, and Pippa. She could understand Mary giving her something like this, having seen the aide teach a few of the children some simple stitches or take advantage of her desk time to work on her latest project. But she hadn’t been expecting something like this from Harry.

 

Viola leaned forward and pushed the largest box toward her. “This one next.”

 

Hermione pulled the paper off and opened the box. Her mouth dropped open at the riot of colours piled in the box. As she began moving skeins of yarn to uncover an envelope that had been partially buried, she paused to pet it, appreciating the softness.

 

The card was signed, from your loving Grandma Miranda, your Mum and Dad, and Harry. Hermione looked over at Harry in surprise.

 

“Your mum and I found the box in your attic when we were looking for board games. I wondered if you’d like trying something new.”

 

Hermione frowned slightly. “But spending for all this? What if I’m no good at it?”

 

Harry actually rolled his eyes. “Hermione, you could never be bad at anything once you decided to learn it. But the only new thing is the book; your Grandma Miranda packed the yarn and stuff up really well.”

 

Hermione stroked one of the skeins again, a pretty blue that called to her. “Mary, will you be able to show me sometime?”

 

Mary beamed. “Of course, dear. We can give it a try at the end of my shift, if you like.”

 

Hermione smiled back and reached for another package.

 

*****

 

Harry’s prediction proved true, as Hermione had mastered the basic knit stitch after just a half-hour with Mary. With the knitting book by her side, Hermione was sitting under the strongest lamp in the lounge and working on a narrow scarf intended for Sir Woof. Harry was sprawled on the couch across from her with a book in front of him, but was actually watching her. Seeing the way her mouth twisted up in concentration as she tried to keep the stitches even made him want to laugh.

 

Hermione paused and held up her work, scanning the last few rows and counting the stitches. “Oh, bother!”

“What is it?”

“I dropped a stitch almost five rows ago and didn’t see it until now. Now I have to undo all this back to the mistake and redo it!” She glared at the offending tiny gap in the scarf, frustrated.

Harry leaned forward and looked closely, unable to find the mistake at first. Then he gasped, seeing the yarn actually rearrange itself, a strand passing through another to create a perfect stitch. “Wicked!”

Hermione stared for a moment at what she had done, then dropped her work into her lap and stared at Harry. “But…but I hardly felt the pressure starting! I didn’t even have time to fully think before it happened!”

“So, you’re getting faster. And controlling it better. Remember getting Sir Woof back from Moffat?”

Hermione’s expression puzzled him. She looked half angry and half frightened, with the first hint of tears in her eyes. “But how am I controlling it? I’m not like you, I can’t just nod and be okay with it happening. I need to understand it.”

Harry hesitated, feeling out of his depth, then tentatively reached out and covered her hands with his. He had a flash of sitting with Dr Greene with plates of cake in their laps and brightened. “How about you ask to talk to Dr Greene again? I think she feels a lot like you do, needing to explain everything about these incidents. And then maybe we can talk to her and Dr Aymler together. There’s got to be a middle point between you needing to know and me just wanting control. If we can find that and go from there, maybe it’ll help.”

Hermione smiled, the threatening tears retreating as he offered his compromise. “I know everyone thinks I’m the smart one, but you’re not so bad, yourself.”

Harry sat back and returned to his book. Hermione picked up her knitting again. When Sushila walked by on the way to her station, she paused, smiling at the scene of content domesticity that the two children presented.

 

*****

 

20 September 1990

 

Emily looked up from her work at the light tap on the door. She smiled at Hermione as the child hovered, not entering the room. “Am I interrupting you?”

 

Emily closed the file she had been working on and slid it to the side to emphasize her answer. “Not at all. What’s on your mind?”

 

Hermione came in, almost tiptoeing, and sat gingerly on the edge of a chair in front of the desk. Emily had a vivid flash of memory, recalling her first session with this precocious child that worried so about doing the correct thing.

 

The trick was to get her to let go of rules a little and worry more about doing the right thing.

 

Emily filed that sudden little insight away for the moment and leaned forward on her elbows. When Hermione still hadn’t worked up the nerve to say anything, she asked, “You and Harry didn’t fight, did you?” It was the only thing she could think of that might have the girl so tongue-tied.

 

Hermione shook her head, still looking toward the floor. “No’m. Harry’s the one who said I should talk to you again.”

 

Emily raised her eyebrows at that. “All right. What are we talking about?”

 

“Harry said…” Hermione took a deep breath and tried again. “Harry said that you and I see our…incidents…in the same way. That we’re both afraid of them, of what it means not being able to understand them or why they happen.”

 

It took every last bit of her ability to control her expression, but Emily managed to hide the sudden rush of reacting emotions. The fear, because she still did fear this extraordinary power the two children showed. The pride and marvel over Harry’s gift of insight. The fierce irritation that a child had read her own mental state so accurately and then shared it with another child. She managed to reply, “There is some truth to that.”

 

“Is that why you and Dr Aymler switched?”

 

This time Emily couldn’t keep from blinking at just how fast Hermione’s mind worked. “We switched for several reasons, trying to do what was best for you two.”

 

Hermione took the hint, but came back to her original topic. “I guess what I wanted to know is if you found any answers yet.”

 

Emily got up and crossed to her door, closing it firmly. She then led Hermione by the hand to the bench seat under the window so they could sit together. Turning to the child, she said, “Tell me this first. What would you do if we never found a name for this?”

 

She felt Hermione jump in momentary panic at the thought. She also noticed several things on her desk slide a few millimetres, as if the desk had also jumped. She took Hermione’s hands to distract the girl.

 

“That scares you, doesn’t it? Now, what if we didn’t find a name, but you and Harry learned to control it completely?”

 

“But if we don’t know what it is, how can we ever know that we’ve fully controlled it?”

 

Emily considered that a moment. “Well, how is that different from other situations? Once you’ve learned how to drive a car, you may think you’re completely in control of it. But one blown tire, the brakes failing at just the wrong moment—”

 

“Skidding on wet pavement,” Hermione supplied absently, her eyes briefly turned inward at a memory.

 

“Exactly. Just because you’ve gained control, there’s no guarantee that other factors won’t interfere and cause you problems. Now, that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t keep looking to identify what goes on with you and Harry. But Dr Aymler helped me to not obsess about it so much. You two have made quite a bit of progress so far and we can keep making progress until you’re at a point where you’ve got reasonable control and we know you won’t cause incidents because someone upset you or because a door slammed and scared you. And once you’re there, you and Harry will be able to go on with your lives and just keep in touch with us whenever you need us.” Feeling that it was the right time, she pulled Hermione into a one-armed hug.

 

Hermione relaxed, smiling, but suddenly sat up with a look of horror on her face. This time the desk clearly jumped several inches, scattering everything on it and knocking the small lamp over.

 

Emily grabbed her by the shoulders. “What is it?”

 

The child’s face crumpled as tears filled her eyes and spilled over. “Where would Harry go?”

 

She had forgotten. Emily mentally kicked herself for that lapse. “He can stay here for as long as he wants, never fear that. We filed custody papers years ago when his family failed to get back in touch. They never came forward to challenge it and the investigation showed that they gave us a false name and address. There wasn’t even an official record of Harry’s birth to start from, just what those relatives told us. That was enough for the court to let us take care of Harry.”

 

She rubbed a soothing hand on Hermione’s back. “Why did that scare you so much?”

 

Hermione scrubbed at her tears. “Because…because I think they hurt him.”

 

This time the hug was for herself as well as her patient, as Emily now had corroboration for what she had long suspected. Harry had let hints slip, but had managed to give the impression that it wasn’t that serious and that he’d recovered from it. If Hermione saw it differently, then they needed to revisit the issue.

 

She guided Hermione to the washroom to tidy her face, then went in search of Patrick. It was time for some consultation.

 


 

Author's Note:  Thank you so much for continuing to read!

Chapter Text

Disclaimer: If you recognize the character, it isn’t mine. Just playing in Rowling’s sandbox.

 


 

30 September 1990

 

Patrick waited in his therapy room, fretfully playing with a Newton’s Cradle that had been a gift several years ago from one of his first patients. He started the rhythmic clacking with a different number of balls each time: one, two, four, three, four, one, two. He had just gotten into dropping a ball from each side simultaneously when Emily came in, leading the Grangers.

 

“Harry and Hermione are putting their things away and Mary will provide a diversion with a few knitting books to show Hermione.” She invited Robert and Viola to sit. They chose to sit together on Patrick’s classic Freudian divan. He took his comfy recliner, which left the wing chair for Emily.

 

Patrick leaned forward. “How did this weekend go?”

 

Robert and Viola looked at one another, and she nodded to him. He drew a breath and began. “We didn’t have the automatic move to go into the under-stairs cupboard this time, but then this was Harry’s second time there and he knew the ropes. He did have nightmares both nights. We set up the baby monitors we bought with one in our bedroom and the other in the guest room behind a set of books. We could hear him moving around and crying out, mostly along the lines of “don’t, please” and “I didn’t mean to”. I went in the first night to soothe him and before he was quite awake he shied away from me. Once he was awake he was quick to shrug it off. He tried to joke that someone must have died in the room once and perhaps he should sleep on the couch. He clearly didn’t want to talk about it.”

 

Viola nodded, holding back tears. “I went to wake him last night. He instinctively jerked away from me before he woke. When he started to wake up, he didn’t seem quite so physically afraid, like I was going to hit him, but it was almost terrifying how quiet he was being. It was as if he was desperate not to cause any disturbance—”

 

“And then I stuck my head in the door to ask if I could help—”

 

“That’s when the whole house shook to its foundations.”

 

Both doctors sat up at that. Emily automatically asked, “Was anyone hurt?”

 

Both the Grangers shook their heads. Robert continued, “I was in Chile once years ago, doing some volunteer work during my uni. They have earth tremors and quakes on a regular basis. This felt like a moderate quake, but it only lasted a few seconds. Things slid around on tables and shelves, but very few things actually fell over. And it stopped the second Harry realized it was us.”

 

Emily and Patrick exchanged looks. Patrick scrubbed hid fingers through his moustache before speaking. “The question is, why now? We had issues back when Harry arrived. He didn’t speak for six weeks until Pippa made her breakthrough. When he began therapy he was very closemouthed about his aunt and uncle, though he would talk about how his cousin bullied him.”

 

Emily nodded. “I got him to the point where he would agree that his uncle hit him, but he’d never offer the accusation. And around that time the incidents stepped up and thoroughly distracted us. Since Harry showed no obvious signs of trauma, it fell off our radar.”

 

Viola suddenly straightened as a thought occurred to her. “When was the last time Harry stayed somewhere out of the clinic before visiting Hermione?”

 

Patrick looked at Emily. She replied, “Never. He’s never been invited on a home visit with any of his other friends.”

 

Viola charged forward, sensing a solution. “So the two visits to our house are the only times he’s been away from a hospital since he arrived here.” She noted how both Emily and Patrick bristled slightly at that. “Forgive me, both of you. I know you work hard to make this a pleasant setting for the children, but it’s still an institution. It’s not a family home. If August was the first time Harry has been in a house since he left the one where he was abused, that may be the answer for ‘why now?’ It explains why he went straight to the cupboard, if that’s where those horrible people kept him. It explains why he only has nightmares there and not here. He knows ‘here’ is safe.”

 

Now both doctors were nodding. Emily was taking notes to add to Harry’s file. Patrick looked at Robert. “It might also explain why Harry reacted so strongly to you but not as much to Viola. Perhaps his uncle was the one to strike him while the aunt went for isolating him. Either way there was obviously a cardinal rule about not making noise or fuss, with Harry trying so hard to stay quiet.”

 

Emily nodded. “It fits with the physical evidence. Harry arrived here badly malnourished and extremely pale, as if his outdoor exposure was limited. He spoke of backaches for a while once he began talking, which made me think that the uncle went for his kidneys. But the man was careful—the only scar Harry has is that one on his forehead. He was careful not to whip or tie him or strike his face, which would have left more evidence.

 

“And for months Harry was very contained in his movements. There was very little running full-tilt or flopping around or just spreading out on a couch. That lends itself to the idea of being imprisoned under the stairs.”

 

Viola burst out, “Didn’t you file charges?”

 

“We were planning to, but we sued for delinquent payments first when their deposit ran out. And that’s when we learned that James and Lily Jones of Croydon don’t exist. Harry wasn’t speaking yet and all the police had were our descriptions of the couple, and all told, it wasn’t enough for them to get anywhere. Harry was now in a safe environment, it was obvious that his aunt and uncle weren’t coming back, and that’s all that mattered to the court. They awarded us custody when we requested it.”

 

Robert asked, “So what happens now? Obviously you need to help Harry work through these issues once and for all if he’s ever going to rejoin society fully.”

 

Patrick looked over at Emily. “I think a little divide-and-conquer is called for. I’ll keep working with both kids together on the incidents issue. You start working with them separately, making it look very casual at first, and we’ll get Harry back into regular therapy with you without making it look like therapy. You were the one to work with him initially.”

 

Emily nodded. “I like it. I’d also like to ask if the home visits can continue on a regular basis. That way we have openings to bring this back into discussion with Harry and it will help him acclimate to the idea that not every home is dangerous.”

 

Both Grangers smiled at the thought of more regular visits home for their daughter. Harry would be an easy enough guest and they would be helping him finally heal from the experiences of his childhood.

 

 


 

 

18 October 1990

 

Harry glanced around the classroom, feeling the eyes of someone on him. Sure enough, Hermione had been looking at him rather than at her maths. She reddened slightly and returned to her work.  He returned to his own, but the feeling of being watched persisted—he almost expected to see Dr Greene in the doorway when he looked up again. He ground his teeth against it and tried to focus on the numbers in front of him.

 

He knew he’d failed when the large framed conversion chart between the imperial and metric systems slid down the wall and crashed onto the floor, splintering the wooden frame.

 

Everyone else in the room jumped and Miss Fishman turned her large blue eyes away from the student she had been helping. She zeroed in on Harry’s guilty expression.

 

“Mr Potter, what is the matter?”

 

A couple of the older students sniggered behind their hands and Hermione reached across the aisle to grip Harry’s arm. This made more of the boys laugh harder, while the two girls in the class softened and one actually let out a quiet “aww”.

 

Harry shoved Hermione’s hand away brusquely and stood. He was desperate to get away from the audience and even more desperate to get away from Hermione for a moment. He could sense her confusion and pain at being rejected. “I’m sorry, ma’am. I need to be excused.” He left the room and walked swiftly down the hall to the playground exit. He fought the twin urges in his head and chest to break into a run—running would get him noticed faster than anything else.

 

Once outside, he took off, running across the empty playground to the tree fort. He climbed up and crawled inside, huddling in one corner for warmth on the chilly day. He drew his knees to his chest and wrapped his arms around them as he concentrated on his litany of motorcycle statistics to try and ease the pressure in his head. He felt the tree sway under him and redoubled his efforts, switching to try and remember Hermione’s poem instead. The tree stilled, but now the pressure in his chest, the urge to cry, was nearly unbearable.

 

He’d been snappish and rude to Hermione for days now, ever since she had woken him up from a nightmare during their last visit to her home. The look on her face had been so sad and her pity had stung him fiercely. Her laying a hand on him in the classroom was the last straw. She was his best friend, she relied on him to show her the way to manage their problems. He couldn’t take it if she found him pitiful.

 

He felt the pressure building in his head again and the tree responded by swaying once more. Frantic to get it out, he moved to the window and tried to thrust the feeling into the cloudy sky.

 

He felt the pressure leave and sighed in relief. Then the ache in his heart turned to fear as he saw a shining golden explosion of stars burst from nowhere like a firework. It was easily as big as a lorry, lighting up the sky briefly.

 

Below him, silhouetted in the golden light, was Hermione.

 

*****

 

Hermione put Harry’s coat on over her own so she could climb safely, then scaled the ladder to the tree fort. Harry had retreated to his corner again with his knees drawn up and his head on his arms. She crawled to him and took his coat off to wrap around him.

 

“Harry?”

 

His only response was sniffling and she knew he was crying.

 

“Harry, I want to help. Please let me help.”

 

“Leave me alone!” His jumper-clad arms robbed his words of their force.

 

“No. That’s the last thing you need. If I leave you alone, next time you might hit a plane and hurt people.”

 

That froze Harry. He had come outside to try and keep from hurting anyone, but the power he’d expended could have hurt others, people with no connection to him at all. He looked up in terror, and Hermione moved in and put her arms around his shoulders.

 

“Harry, what did your aunt and uncle do to you?”

 

He jerked in her arms, but she held on firmly. “You need to talk about it. Really talk about it, not just shrug and say it’s over, you survived. Ever since you first came home with me, you’ve been having trouble controlling your incidents. You’ve had a bad dream every night you stayed in my house and you’ve started having them here as well, haven’t you?”

 

“I can handle it!” Harry tried again to pull away. “I can do it! I don’t want anyone to feel sorry for me! It’s over and nothing will change it!”

 

Hermione sat back on her heels, gaping at him. “Feel sorry for you?” Her voice rose shrilly. “Feel sorry for you? Why in the world would you think I feel sorry for you?”

 

It was Harry’s turn to gape as Hermione built up steam. Neither child noticed the sounds of something falling nearby.

 

“Just because I’m sorry that it happened and want to help you get over it does not mean that I feel sorry for you. It means I’m your friend and I love you and I want you to be happy and not haunted by what happened when you were little. Dr Greene doesn’t feel sorry for you, she wants to help. Dr Aymler wants to help. Pippa and Mary want to help. My parents want to help. We don’t think it was your fault and we don’t think you’re weak or pitiful. We think those monsters are pitiful, since they thought it was all right to hurt a child, but we love you. It wasn’t your fault—”

 

“Yes, it was!” Harry interrupted, glaring at her. “It was my fault! I’d make things fall or break, I couldn’t keep it under control—”

 

Hermione leaned forward again, seizing his jumper and pulling him to her. “Don’t you dare! Don’t you dare say it was you! What did my parents do when I started making things happen? Did they hit me? Did they shut me up under the stairs? Did they?”

 

Harry whispered in shock, “How did you—” but Hermione barrelled on.

 

“No, they didn’t! They tried to find an answer! They went to our doctor and then a counsellor and then brought me here because they wanted to help me! They didn’t dump me here like some nasty rubbish that needed to be got out of the house! It’s your aunt and uncle who were wrong, Harry, not you. Never you.”

 

As she ran out of breath, Hermione saw the fresh tears spilling out of Harry’s eyes and flung herself on him. This time she held him as he cried, murmuring soothing nonsense and rocking him back and forth.

 

“Harry? Hermione?”

 

Hermione moved to the window and Harry seized the chance to wipe his face and glasses with the sleeve of his jumper.

 

“Hi, Dr Aymler, we’re up here!” she called down.

 

“Think you’ve got each other calmed down now? We had quite the jolt a few minutes ago.”

 

“Oh, no! Did we hurt anything?”

 

“Knocked a few things over. Nothing important. The important question is…” he made a show of looking up and down the tree, “…how are you two going to get down? You’ve shaken off the ladder rungs.”

 

Harry looked out the door and saw the scattered pile of slats that had been nailed up the trunk. It wasn’t terribly far to the ground, but still high enough that just jumping wasn’t a good idea.

 

Or was it? He looked over at Hermione. “Do you trust me?”

 

She looked back. “Of course. Why?”

 

“Remember when we bounced your mum’s car away from the lorry?”

 

She followed his gaze down to the ground. “Are you sure?”

 

“I am if you help me.”

 

She took a deep breath. “How do we do it?”

 

“Take my hand and just think about safe landing. Then we’ll jump down.”

 

She gulped, but took his hand and they moved to the door. They paused for a minute, eyes closed in fierce concentration.

 

Patrick had moved around when Hermione disappeared from the window of the fort. He saw them poised at the door and realized what they were about to do. Just as he shouted, “NO!” they jumped.

 

He froze in mid-stride as the two children appeared to bounce on an invisible cushion, just like stuntmen, then land on their feet, giggling breathlessly. And for the first time, Patrick had a taste of the fear Emily had experienced, with the unexplainable directly in his face.

 

Harry and Hermione looked at each other, still laughing. “That was fun!” Hermione exclaimed.

 

Patrick had got over his initial shock and ran to them, gathering them together in a relieved embrace. “That was astounding. Never, ever do it again!”

 


 

Author’s Note: As always, thank you for reading!

Chapter Text

Disclaimer: If you recognize the character, it isn’t mine. Just playing in Rowling’s sandbox.

Also, a word in advance – due to stresses both work- and holiday-related, I may need to hold off on the next update until after Christmas. Don’t want to, but may need to in order to make sure I meet all my obligations.

**********************************************************

3 November 1990

It was quiet…too quiet. Robert Granger realized that there had been no noise from the children for some time. They had gone upstairs after lunch and he and Viola had got involved in preparing a pair of garden flowerbeds for the coming winter. Hermione was certainly capable of entertaining herself for hours at a time with her books and Harry had so far been a good guest other than the nightmares, which had decreased over the last couple of visits. But it worried Robert that he had not heard a single sound from them in ages.

As he climbed the stairs, quiet giggles floated down to him. He cautiously moved down the hall, listening as he approached Hermione’s room. He could hear the children moving around. As he neared the door he heard Harry call out, “Keep it going!” followed by a loud thump, as if something had fallen, and then identical groans from the children.

Robert moved into the doorway to see Hermione scrambling to her feet. “Let’s try it again! That last time had to have been at least five minutes!”

Harry held out a hand and Sir Woof flew toward him. But instead of catching the stuffed dog, it seemed to rebound from his hands and toward Hermione, who held her hands out then up, sending it back. They fell into a rhythm, moving the toy back and forth without actually touching it.

Robert watched, entranced at their joyous play, until Hermione noticed him and lost her concentration. Sir Woof flew into her face and she caught it clumsily. “Dad! Did you see?”

He stepped into the room, smiling at his daughter. “I did! How are you doing it?”

Harry replied, “We knew we could ask something to come to us—Hermione did that when one of the boys tried to take Sir Woof away from her—and we wondered if we could try sending something as well. We’ve been able to keep it going for ages now.”

Robert ruffled Harry’s hair. “Well done. Why don’t you try it in the back garden so you have room to move? The fence is high enough that you shouldn’t be seen.”

He followed the eager children downstairs and joined Viola in the kitchen as she scrubbed earth from her hands. They watched as Hermione and Harry began their game again. He noticed her biting her lip and put an arm around his wife’s shoulders. “All right there?”

She reached up and squeezed his hand. “Approaching it.”

*****

23 November 1990

Patrick enjoyed conferences. He liked the chance to see friends and acquaintances, hear new information, and to be catered to by the salesmen in the vendors’ hall. For him, such events were justifiable little vacations from routine.

Emily felt the opposite. She thought reading the latest journals was good enough for keeping abreast of things. She found conferences a nuisance and interruption, taking her away from her young patients. But faced with Harry and Hermione’s situation as well as obstacles with a few other children, they agreed that it was time to seek fresh perspectives.

The conference might have been in the gaudy playground of Blackpool, but the hotel was sleek and soothing. Patrick and Emily were taking advantage of the previous session ending a few minutes early to stop by the hotel café.

The two doctors found a small table and set their folders and tea down. Emily shrugged off her jacket. “Why must they always heat these buildings so? I didn’t pack for a tropical vacation.”

Patrick rolled his eyes. It amused him that Emily was never a hundred per cent comfortable. “Shall I go fetch you some ice water instead?”

She shook her head. “No. We only have a few minutes before the next presentation and I don’t want to miss it.”

“We won’t. The word is that Ericsson is half-barmy and half-sensationalist. I doubt his session will have more than a dozen attendees.”

“Even so, if there’s any chance at all that his research will help us with our two, we need to hear what he has to say.”

They gulped their tea and gathered their things. In their haste, neither of them noticed the woman who rose to follow them.

*****

“I knew it would be a waste of time,” Patrick groused.

Emily nodded gloomily. “It was always a longshot, but I hoped he’d have at least some hints or suggestions. Your description of half-barmy needs to be adjusted to completely mental.”

“What did you think of that one woman’s question?”

“The Indian woman?” At Patrick’s nod, Emily shrugged. “Grasping at straws, really. I’m certainly not going to put Harry or Hermione through a battery of MRIs and compare their brains to see if there’s a difference. They’re getting better at controlling their ability, and that’s the important thing.”

“How do they do it?”

Emily gave a little shriek as she and Patrick jumped. They turned to find the woman in question behind them. Her eyes flickered from one to the other, examining them closely.

Patrick spoke first. “I beg your pardon?”

“Your children. How do they control their…ability?”

Emily and Patrick looked at one another uneasily. “If you don’t mind my asking, you are…?”

The woman held out a hand, her body still rigid with tension. “Doctor Chandra Misra. I have a family practice in Newham, London East End.”

Patrick took her hand and shook. “Patrick Aymler. This is Emily Greene. We work at Esperança House up in Coventry.”

“I’ve heard of it. You’re doing wonderful work up there.” She paused, uncertain, then took a deep breath. “Did I hear you say you have two of them?”

Emily jumped in before Patrick could answer, eager to keep Harry and Hermione out of the conversation. “Two of what, Dr Misra?”

“Children who can…do things.” When neither of them answered her, the woman’s face crumpled. “I simply don’t know what to do! The poor boy’s mother brings him to me nearly every fortnight! She’s pulled him out of football, she won’t let him play videogames…he’s practically a prisoner in his home because she’s terrified that the next time he does something it’ll be more than a trinket falling off a shelf or a table tipping over. And she won’t stop asking for more and more invasive tests…”

Patrick and Emily shared a look. Then Patrick asked, “Has he described how he feels when this happens? Physically or emotionally?”

“I…I’m not sure. He’s mentioned arguing with his siblings – he’s the oldest of five – or his parents before it happens.”

The two colleagues looked at one another again. This time Emily spoke. “Do you think his parents would consent to a stay in our facility?”

The hope in the woman’s eyes almost shamed their caution. “Certainly they would! Mrs Thomas is pressing me to put him in a psychiatric ward at home, but he’s as sane as sane can be. He just has these…”

“Incidents?” Patrick and Emily had spoken as one. They looked at one another again and laughed.

Dr Misra repeated wonderingly, “Incidents.” She began to laugh as well.

*****

Emily almost regretted the invitation to the Thomases when a single call from Dr Misra had the Thomas family asking to bring their son that very evening. They arranged for him to come the next day. Patrick drove them back to Coventry. They parked and went inside, looking for Harry and Hermione.

It was dinnertime and most of the residents were in the canteen. Emily spotted Harry’s black hair first – he was sitting next to Toby and across from Hermione. She paused for a moment, feeling regretful. Harry and Hermione had made an effort to include Toby more since Caleb had gone home, but now they would have young Dean Thomas joining them. It was all too easy to predict how the dynamic would shift again and leave Toby on the outside looking in. She made a mental note to give Toby some extra attention and perhaps see if he might find a few of the other children acceptable playmates.

As she approached, Hermione spotted her first and immediately tugged on Harry’s arm. They excused themselves to Toby and ran to her.

“How was it?” Hermione’s eyes were shining with eagerness at the thought of great minds communing together.

“The conference was a conference. Some good stuff, some useless stuff. But we need to talk to you two for a minute.”

Both children were instantly alert and followed her to Patrick’s therapy room. Patrick shut the door as the others settled around the table.

He began, “We have a new resident arriving tomorrow. We happened to meet his doctor at the conference when we attended the same session about extranormal abilities—”

“Which was a load of tosh,” Emily put in.

“—and she overheard us talking. Her patient is a boy, about your age, with the exact same pattern of incidents, as far as we can tell from this first discussion.”

Harry and Hermione exchanged glances before looking back to the adults. Hermione said, “Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. Three times is enemy action.”

Emily looked lost, as did Harry. Patrick chuckled, recognizing the quote, and replied, “I’m not sure about enemy action, but yes, we have a definite pattern going on here. We’re going to need your help. Harry, you made things a thousand times easier for Hermione by sharing your experiences. The both of you can make all the difference in the world for this boy. From what little we know, his parents are even more frantic than yours, Hermione. They’ve been trying to punish it out of him and of course it hasn’t worked.”

Intent on the impending new resident, neither of the doctors noticed how Harry paled at his last statement, nor the swift glance that Hermione gave him.

Emily continued, “We expect them to be here pretty early. If we could ask you to get up and be done with breakfast as soon as the canteen opens, you can hang out in the lounge and be lookouts.”

Harry had recovered quickly and was looking slightly grumpy at the thought of rising early on a Sunday, but Hermione nodded briskly. “We can read or play cards while we wait.”

As they all stood again, Emily put an arm around each child and hugged them. “I knew we could count on you two.”

*****

24 November 1990

Harry and Hermione sat in the lounge near the picture window. Hermione had a ball of yarn and her needles, attempting her first hat. Harry had his copy of A Wind in the Door from the library. Every so often one of them would glance out of the window, looking for the new arrival.

Hermione happened to spot the car first and set her knitting aside. “They’re here, Harry.”

He marked his place in his book and headed for the main doors while Hermione ran to fetch Dr Greene. He sat on the nearest bench and remembered how Hermione had arrived months ago.

He watched as the black woman and boy entered, showing the usual attitudes. The mother looked both worried sick and painfully hopeful while the son looked around warily. The same frisson that he felt when he had seen Hermione for the first time ran through Harry, telling him that he and this boy shared something different. He stood and approached them with a hand out. The boy saw him coming and narrowed his eyes for a moment.

“Hi, I’m Harry. Welcome to Esperança House.”

The woman ignored him as she looked for an adult in charge. The boy relaxed slightly and shook. “I’m Dean. You been here long?”

That got the woman’s attention. “Dean! Don’t be rude!”

Harry smiled to show he wasn’t bothered. “I live here, actually. I’m an orphan, been here since I was five.” He looked over the two large suitcases and the holdall. “Want a hand? They put you next door to me.”

Dr Greene and Hermione approached the group. As the doctor smoothly took over Dean’s mother, Hermione bounced over to them. “Hallo, I’m Hermione Granger.”

The boy smiled and shook hands with her. “Dean, Dean Thomas. Nice to meet you.”

“Hermione, give us a hand with the bags? We can show Dean around while Dr Greene goes over things with his mum.”

Hermione nodded at Harry’s suggestion and took the holdall while each boy grabbed a suitcase. Hermione steadied the bag on her shoulder and frowned. “What on earth have you got in here that’s so big and round? Feels like a globe!”

“It’s my football. I never travel without it. Can’t count on having a ball if you have enough people for some footie, you know.”

“I can imagine. Do you read much?”

“A bit. I’d rather play videogames, though.”

Harry sensed Hermione faltering slightly at the lack of common ground and stepped in. “We’ll have plenty of chances for some footie. The oldest kids like to play and they almost never have enough for decent-sized teams. They’ll actually be glad of us hanging around for a change.”

As they left the main hall, chatting easily, Emily spared them a glance and smiled while Mrs Thomas continued to pour out her desperation over her child’s strange illness.

*****

Dean looked around his room, cautiously optimistic. The room was bright and tidy and all his own. Not being crammed in with his two younger brothers was a definite plus against the fact of being institutionalized away from his family and friends for the foreseeable future. He put his suitcase on the bed and opened it, oblivious to the others as he began to sort his clothes into drawers. Having seven people in a not-big-enough flat instilled neatness by necessity.

Dean was an easygoing lad when away from his siblings and made friends easily. He liked Harry immediately and thought Hermione might be all right as well once she settled down. At least she seemed a sensible sort, passionate about books instead of dollies like his youngest sister or poncy boy singers like his oldest sister.

He opened his holdall, tossing the football onto the bed. He stacked the few books he had brought beside it and then set a framed family photograph on the desk. Harry looked at the group of smiling faces curiously while Hermione moved to the books and began reading the titles.

Dean took out the case that held his colored pencils and watercolors, then set the new empty sketchpad beside it, a gift from his grandparents. Hermione noticed them and immediately perked up. “Ooh, you draw?”

Dean shrugged. “I suppose. Been doing it for years.”

“Very cool. I never really got the hang of drawing,” Harry offered. Dean passed him the case and sketchpad, nodding to the desk and Harry set them down.

A voice broke in. “New kid, you better be careful. You don’t want to hang around with Potty and the Shakespeare girl.”

All three children looked to the door, where Piers Moffat was standing. Hermione glanced at Harry with a glint in her eye. He smiled and nodded.

Hermione gave a clear wave of her hand and the door closed in Moffat’s face. They could hear Moffat’s yell of surprise and the pounding of his footsteps down the hall.

Dean stared, open-mouthed. Harry smiled again. “Did your mum tell you that you’d have a couple of friends just like you here?”

*************************************

Author’s Note: Thanks as always for reading and reviewing!

Chapter Text


Disclaimer:
If you recognize the character, it isn't mine. Just playing in Rowling's sandbox.

 


 

 

29 November 1990

 

If only all patients were this easy.

 

Emily closed the file for Dean Thomas and dropped it into the drawer, pushing it shut with a satisfied thump. Their newest resident was a ridiculously easy case as far as her profession went. He had the usual healthy relationship with his younger brothers and sisters: scrappy and competitive for their parents’ attention but unified against anything seen as an outside threat. His parents were typically loving and supportive while keeping a steady level of discipline in order to manage five energetic children. In two sessions with her Dean had revealed himself to be a friendly, rather intelligent and quite creative boy. He also had a nice sense of humour and a firm passion for the West Ham football team.

 

In short, the only thing the matter with Dean was the fact that he had incidents.

 

With resignation, she drew out the file on Piers Moffat, who was as night as one could be to Dean’s day. In ten months the only progress they had made was in curbing the worst of his problematic behaviour. He no longer struck out physically at the other children or stalked them, but he still sought confrontation first and if bested would look to avenge himself. He went after Harry frequently, trying to get the other boy into trouble when an incident happened. Emily was quite frankly surprised that there had been nothing worse between Piers and Harry than verbal exchanges so far.

 

Emily opened the file and began mentally composing a pessimistic progress report to his parents.

 

 


 

 

4 December 1990

 

The trio was in Harry’s room, enjoying an unexpected bit of free time thanks to two teachers being out with flu. Hermione had decided that they ought to make a chart of things that each of them had done more than once. Looking for patterns appealed to her organizational instincts. Harry found the exercise interesting and Dean was gradually drawn in as he began to see a pattern in his own incidents.

 

Hermione had already noted down come here, go away, break, and repair. When Dean saw that one, he sat up from his sprawl across Harry’s bed.

 

“Repair? You mean, you fixed a broken thing?”

 

Harry was leaning against his headboard and gave Hermione a look filled with pride. “She put her entire kitchen back together after exploding it. Even refilled the broken glass of juice that started it.”

 

“Wicked. I’d’ve had a lot less guff if I’d been able to fix my mum’s snow globe collection.”

 

The others winced in sympathy, then Harry returned to the subject. “How about safe? We’ve used that one at least twice that I remember.”

 

“What does it do?”

 

Hermione wrote it as she replied, “The first time my mum was driving us home and the roads were wet. The car started sliding and Harry grabbed my hand and told me to concentrate on safe. It was like a giant pillow between the car and the lorry we would have crashed into.” She smiled as Dean’s mouth dropped open and continued, “The second time, Harry and I were up in the tree fort. Harry had gotten a bit out of sorts and I was upset and we’d shaken the ladder rungs off the trunk of the tree. We jumped down, thinking hard about safe, and we bounced like we landed on cushions instead of hitting the ground.”

 

“I did that! My little sister, she tripped and was going to hit her head on the low table, but I reached out and it was like she changed direction or something, she fell into the couch instead!”

 

Hermione put a tick mark under Dean’s name in the row for safe. “That’s another one.”

 

Dean glanced over at the open door to their room. “How about just move? Like when you closed the door my first day here? That’s not really calling something to you or pushing it away.”

 

Hermione added it and ticked under her name. “You?”

 

Dean nodded. “We had Mickey over, he’s the baby in the flat above us and his mum needed to go talk to someone about a job. He was crying, really getting on my nerves, but my da was trying to make dinner. Mickey’s dummy was on the table and I kind of slid it over to where he could grab it for himself.”

 

Hermione made another tic on the chart. “Harry?”

 

He nodded. “Of course. Lots of times.”

 

Hermione twisted one corner of her mouth as she considered the list. “What else?”

 

Harry frowned, fingering the bobbles on the edge of his pillowcase. “Did either of you ever…move yourself somewhere else? Like here one minute and there the next?”

 

Both of his friends looked at him with wide eyes. Her hand hesitating over the paper, Hermione asked, “Do you mean like a teleport? A real, actual teleport?”

 

Harry shrugged, looking a little upset at their reaction. “I dunno. I remember my aunt shouting to me from downstairs. I was cleaning the bathroom floors and when she shouted she sounded almost mental, she was so angry about something. And the next thing I knew, there was this loud noise and I was in the kitchen in front of her, still holding the brush I’d been using to scrub. She screamed and ran out of the room.

 

“They brought me here the next weekend.”

 

Hermione got up from Harry’s desk and hugged him. Dean cuffed his knee a little self-consciously. After a moment Harry smiled back and squeezed Hermione to signal that he was okay. Hermione went back to the list and wrote disappear/appear and another tick mark for Harry.

 

“I’ve got another one. Either of you just change something? No breaking or moving, just making something different about it?” Dean looked at them. “One of the first things I remember happening was when Malia’s dollie suddenly had green skin. Malia was crying about it and Mum couldn’t explain what happened. I’d tripped over the bloody thing when she left it in the floor. That was one of the incidents that made me think I was doing it.”

 

Harry smiled. “I did something like that. One of the nurses got mad at me and another boy because we’d tracked dirt into the hall. While she was shouting at us, her hair changed colour to this really bright blue. She didn’t even realize everyone was staring at her for ages. It happened a few months before you got here, Hermione.”

 

Hermione noted change and ticked under all their names. “I’ve done that with a crayon when I wanted to use a different colour.” Dean’s eyes lit up at that, considering the artistic possibilities. She looked over the chart.

 

“Well, this is a good start. I think we should all do some kind of record-keeping. If we get in the habit of keeping journals, writing for a few minutes every night about anything that we think we did, it’ll help.”

 

Harry shrugged. “I suppose.”

 

Dean nodded. “Can’t hurt.”

 

Hermione beamed and leapt to her feet. “I’ll go ask Mary if there are any blank books in the office!”

 

The boys watched her run out the door. Dean shook his head. “She’s always like this, isn’t she?”

 

Harry grinned. “Yeah, but otherwise she wouldn’t be our Hermione.”

 

 


 

 

21 December 1990

 

“Harry, are you sure about this?”

 

Harry smiled over at Hermione, who was rocking back and forth in her chair, clutching Sir Woof and looking at him with worry. “I’m sure. Christmas is for families and your parents have been really nice about having me over plenty of times.”

 

Dean shrugged from his own chair, his feet propped on his suitcase. “Wish I could offer, but we just don’t have the room for anyone to stop over.”

 

Harry leaned forward. “Mates, really, it’s okay. The doctors will be here most of the time. Pippa will be here and you know she’ll take me on outings and such. We’ll get visitors who want to look good—once we even had one of the blokes who was the Doctor on Doctor Who come and hand out presents. And you’ll be back after New Year’s.”

 

Hermione leaned back, still frowning. “If you’re sure. I don’t like you being stuck here. I’m going to ask my parents if we can have both of you over for a weekend soon.”

 

“That’d be cool,” Dean replied. He was flipping through the book that Hermione had given him on the history of the West Ham Club.

 

Hermione leapt to her feet. “My parents are here. Dean, I think I see yours down the queue.”

 

Harry went with them to the doors where Mary and Sushila were escorting the departing children to their cars. Hermione hugged him fiercely and he returned it, patting her back. “Happy Christmas, Hermione, and don’t worry.” He slapped hands with Dean. “Both of you, call if you need to.”

 

“You too, Harry.” Hermione gave him one final fretful glance and followed Sushila out the door. Dean gave Harry a mock salute and jogged down the queue of cars, not waiting for an escort.

 

Harry waved at the Grangers and started down the hallway to his room. Perhaps getting into one of the new books the Grangers had sent would keep any feelings of loneliness away.

 

He frowned when he saw Moffat leaving his room and ran down the hall. He stopped at his door, aghast.

 

His room was littered in paper. He picked up a piece and realized it was a page from the new book on motorcycles that was Hermione’s Christmas gift to him. Moffat had taken all of his new books and ripped them apart.

 

With a scream of rage, Harry took off after Moffat. The other boy was approaching the tuck cupboard when it burst open and snacks began shooting out at him. Moffat stopped and shrieked as he was pelted with granola bars, packets of crisps, and envelopes of dried fruit. Then his legs snapped together, stiff as boards, and he fell over. Harry stopped a few feet from him and glared as Moffat tried to pry his legs apart.

 

“Why? Why did you do it? Why won’t you leave us alone?”

 

“You’re a freak! You don’t belong here! You should be put away somewhere where you won’t make anyone else freaky like you! You’ve already made two others like you! But you won’t get me!”

 

Harry froze at his words, momentarily stunned. In his mind he heard voices taunting him, calling him that hateful word. He barely registered the approaching footsteps until Pippa was beside him, checking him over. “Harry?”

 

He replied absently, “He tore up my new books. I saw him leaving my room.”

 

Pippa moved to Moffat, now able to move freely, and looked him over. Other than some scratches from a few sharp corners of packaging, he was unhurt. Pippa yanked him to his feet and dragged him back toward Harry’s room to check for herself. Harry, still slightly dazed, remembered Hermione’s list and repair. He waved a hand at the scattered snacks and watched as every last item returned to its spot in the cupboard.

 

Pippa had gotten Patrick’s attention and he was lecturing Moffat. The boy protested again about Harry being a freak and Patrick’s temper snapped. “As far as I’m concerned, you’ve used up all your chances here. I’m recommending to Dr Greene that you be sent elsewhere as soon as arrangements can be made. In the meantime you are suspended from all activities until I say otherwise.”

 

Harry walked back up to Pippa as Patrick led a still-whining Moffat away to find Emily. His oldest friend hugged him, leading him back into his room. “Make a list of the books. We’ll replace them tomorrow and send the bill to his family.”

 

Harry shook his head and waved both hands in a gathering motion. Pippa’s eyes widened as the papers lifted and whirled, rapidly coalescing into four piles. The covers rose from the floor and wrapped themselves around each pile before sealing themselves into place and arranging themselves in the stack that had been on his desk. “At least being a freak is worth something.”

 

The word freak jogged Pippa’s memory and she remembered her very first conversation with Harry. Hoping he wouldn’t pick up on her nervousness at witnessing his feat, she hugged him hard, willing her pulse to stop racing. “It’s worth a lot when it means you can fix things other people can’t, Harry.” She stroked his hair and he seemed to relax into her. “It makes being a freak a very good thing.”

 

 


 

 

5 January 1991

 

Dean crowed in triumph as he looked at the card he had drawn. “Three aces, two kings! Beat that!” He spread his hand out and looked at the others expectantly.

 

Harry tossed his hand onto the table in disgust. Hermione paused one moment, calculating odds in her computer-like brain, and laid her cards down as well. Dean scooped the pile of jelly babies and mint humbugs to him and put three back in the centre. “Next?”

 

Hermione shook her head. “That’s the last of my Christmas candy you just took.”

 

Dean immediately offered a handful back. “We weren’t playing for keeps, though.”

 

Harry shook his head. “I’m done, too. It’s almost time for tea anyway.” The three of them gathered the cards and sweets into the gift bags from the staff. “I’ll meet you in the canteen, need to use the loo.”

 

Hermione and Dean nodded and continued to tidy the playroom. Harry went down the hall to the nearest boys’ toilet.

 

He opened the door and paused, puzzled at the lack of light. He fumbled for the switch.

 

He sensed the movement behind him and tried to duck sideways. The object that had aimed for his head came down in full force on his shoulder and arm instead and he cried out at the pain, barely registering the snap of a bone breaking. He grabbed at the door as he slumped, trying to keep his feet. He could hear running footsteps and yelled again as something heavy connected with his hip and sent him to the floor.

 

Hermione and Dean rounded the corner at a full run, Hermione bracing against the wall to keep from skidding. Harry managed to roll over and see Moffat standing over him with a cricket bat, ready to strike a third time.

 

Dean gestured, wrenching the bat from Moffat’s grasp. The bully wailed as his weapon sailed into Dean’s hands. Then Hermione made a fist and Moffat felt himself flung into the air. His head thudded against the wall and he slid to the floor, unconscious.

 

Hermione fell to her knees next to Harry. “Where did he hurt you?”

 

“Arm,” Harry gasped out, fully realizing the pain of the blows as the adrenalin left him. Hermione saw the bend in his upper arm where there should not have been one and blanched.

 

Hermione reached out to Harry, then hesitated. Will it work on people? What if I hurt him more? Seeing Harry bite his lip as he tried not to move decided her. She lowered her hands to his arm, touching the sleeve very gingerly. Repair this, heal this, make it the way it should be…

 

Harry inhaled sharply as he felt the bones inside his arm shift back together and knit into place, then the pain receding. Dean’s eyes widened as he saw light travelling from Hermione’s hands to Harry’s arm, spreading across his shoulder and down to his hip.

 

The light faded and Dean helped Harry to his feet. They both looked at Hermione, a bit awestruck. Seeing their expressions, she thought furiously for a moment and then hissed, “Keep a lookout, Harry. Dean, hide that bat fast.” She moved over to Moffat and concentrated, holding her hands over his head. Heal. Heal. Fix this. Moffat stirred and groaned as white light briefly washed over his head like a halo. His eyes fluttered and Hermione panicked. SLEEP! Moffat went limp.

 

Harry moved his arm and flung it around Hermione in a tight hug. “You’re brilliant! We can use this to fix ourselves, not just things!”

 

Hermione bit her lip, remembering her parents’ first reaction when she repaired the kitchen she had destroyed. Not good, this is not good. “And what would happen if everyone knew we could just heal people left and right?”

 

Harry paused for a moment, thinking it through. “Oh.”

 

“Exactly. We’d be heroes or monsters. Either way, we’d be taken from here in a heartbeat and possibly never see each other again.”

 

Dean caught up to them. “It’s in a corner in one of the playrooms. What are we telling people?”

 

Harry wrenched his thoughts away from imagining everyone withdrawing from him the way Dr Greene had in the summer. “Not a thing. Not this time.”

 

“This is too big,” Hermione added. “If even a hint of this got out we’d be swarmed by the newspapers, by doctors wanting demonstrations, by sick people looking for miracles…”

 

Dean shook his head. “But they are miracles, aren’t they?”

 

“And what happens to miracle workers, Dean? The people in power use them or destroy them.” Hermione looked back down at Moffat. “How do we convince him not to tell?”

 

Dean opened his mouth to reply, then paused. He remembered cross old Mr MacGillivray acting like he didn’t remember his row of plant pots falling off his balcony and the postmistress forgetting about the mail sack splitting and spilling the post all down the street. “I think I can make him forget he did this.”

 

Hermione gasped and Harry stared at him. He clarified, “Erasing his memory? How is that fair?”

 

“Dunno that it is. But it makes sure that no one else knows we can heal.”

 

“But if he doesn’t remember he can’t be punished for it.”

 

Hermione stared down at Moffat as the boys argued, then began nodding slowly. “It’s the best choice. Moffat’s leaving in a few days anyway and won’t be here to try this again. I say do it.”

 

Harry looked from one to the other. “I don’t like it. It’s not right to muck about in someone’s mind like that.”

 

She laid a hand on his arm. “I don’t like it either. I just think it’s the best way to protect us all, keep us here where we’re safe.”

 

Dean put his hand on Harry’s other shoulder. “Same here. Don’t like it, but don’t see a better way out.”

 

Harry drew a deep breath. “All right, I see what you mean. Do it, Dean.”

 

Harry and Hermione turned to be lookouts down either end of the hallway. Dean knelt by Moffat and put his hand to the other boy’s head. Forget that you tried to attack Harry. Forget that you planned to attack him. You’re counting the days until you can be far away from him, but you never tried to hurt him.

 

Dean stood. “Now, start waking up.” The trio took off around the corner and dodged into the playroom they had used for their card game.

 

Hermione collapsed into a beanbag chair. “I don’t know about you two, but I say this doesn’t go in the journals.”

 

Dean blinked. “You’re serious about not telling the doctors?”

 

She nodded. “This is too much for them to try and hide. We can’t put this on them. There are more than twenty other kids here that need their attention, too, and they wouldn’t be able to stop everyone’s reactions once it got out.”

 

“I think Hermione’s right. The idea that we can heal people, make them forget things. All it takes is one staff member letting it slip, and we’d be taken from here. I don’t think I could deal with that. This is the only real home I’ve had.”

 

Dean looked at Harry’s face for a moment, then began nodding. “All right, mum’s the word.”

 

Hermione jumped up and hugged him. “Thank you, Dean.”

 

He returned it awkwardly. “S’okay. All for one, one for all and all that.”

 


 

Author's Note: Thank you as always for reading!

 

Chapter Text

Disclaimer: If you recognize the character, it isn't mine. Just playing in Rowling's sandbox.


21 March 1991

Hermione sat in the tree fort, looking out as the clouds in the sky began to reflect the setting sun and grew streaks of pink and gold. She shivered slightly and wrinkled her brow in concentration a moment, warming herself and the air around her. She wasn't sure what had called her out today, the first day of spring, but after hearing Miss Fishman's explanation of the solstices and equinoxes, something had encouraged her to brave the still-chilly temperatures and observe the sunset. The very air around her seemed to quiver with energy. If she could only find a way to connect to it, meld with it…

"Hermione?" Harry's voice cut through her meditation. She sighed and responded.

"Up here!"

She waited, listening as someone clambered up the ladder. Dean's head appeared first. "Wotcher, why are you out here alone?" He crawled in from the branch and Harry followed. "Did we do something?"

Hermione shook her head. "No, just wanted to think about things. Hearing the Fish talk about equinoxes made me realise how long it's been since I've seen a proper sunset."

Dean blew onto his hands. "Couldn't have waited for summer?"

Hermione flapped a hand and both boys blinked, feeling the warmth spread through their bodies and clothes. Dean breathed out, "Wicked!"

"Are you recording that one in your journal?" Harry asked.

Hermione nodded. "It's close enough to the drying-off thing. I think it'll pass all right." She turned to Dean. "Has Dr Greene calmed down yet over the floating thing?"

"Yeah, a lot faster than usual. Maybe because it was a good thing, I had to keep the pills away from Malia. Even my mum was happy I'd gotten them out of her reach in time."

Harry added, "That one falls into the same kind of stuff we were doing when you got here. Telekinesis." He pronounced the last word carefully. "Hermione, it's getting harder to keep the healing a secret. When Toby brought me that rabbit that had been hurt, it took everything I had to keep from yelling for you to make it better right then and there."

"And things are going to get harder overall," Dean said. "I heard Dr Aymler and Dr Takenaka talking. They're going to install security cameras in the whole building."

The other two sat up. "Everywhere?" Hermione asked.

"Hallways, playrooms, the canteen, the playground. Not in the doctors' offices, bedrooms or toilets. It sounded like they wanted to be able to have proof if a kid is behaving badly enough to the others that he needs chucking out, like Moffat."

Harry let out a frustrated sigh. "We'll just have to be more careful. We've gotten really good at feeling when we're doing something and how to stop it."

Hermione leaned over and put a hand on his knee. "We can do this."

Harry put his hand over hers. "I know. I just wonder how we'll manage when they think we're good enough that you two can go home."

"Doesn't matter. We're friends and we're going to stay friends no matter what. I promise."

"Me, too." Dean added his hand to theirs. "Friends forever."

Harry and Hermione repeated him with smiles. "Friends forever."

All three of them gasped when a golden light covered their hands, then swiftly expanded to envelop them. They all felt a brief but powerful sense of balance and rightness. For that one moment, their world was perfect.

Then the glow receded and left a chill that was both physical and mental. Hermione warmed their bodies up again, but could do nothing for the feeling that something hugely important had happened.

"This one isn't going into the journal," Hermione declared.


23 June 1991

Harry's nose was pressed to the glass as he stared at the traffic on the A41, drinking in the sights of a bustling London. It was his first time coming this far away that he could remember clearly and certainly it was the first time he'd seen such a huge city.

Hermione sat beside him, her book closed in her lap now that they were near their destination. She smiled at Harry's obvious curiosity. Across the aisle, Dean was talking to Toby, pointing out landmarks that he knew. The atmosphere on the bus was growing more excited by the minute as the children knew they were close.

Dr Aymler stood and took a microphone to address them. "All right, you cretins, we're almost to the Zoo. Remember the rules: stay with your group and the adult assigned to you, follow the park regulations, and don't spend your pocket money too fast. We'll meet at the restaurant at eleven-thirty for lunch and then at the main entrance at three o'clock to depart. Any questions?"

Harry, Hermione and Dean mingled with the other children near their age, waiting for Pippa to lead them on. The outing, a gift from a bank director that Dean's family doctor knew, had been the sole topic of conversation since it had been announced a fortnight ago.

Pippa counted noses and nodded. "All right, we stick together. If anyone wants to see something particular, let me know. Otherwise we'll start with the big outdoor exhibits now and check out the indoor ones after lunch, when it gets hotter."

They followed her plan and enjoyed the morning. The trio had gained quite a lot of control of their abilities lately, careful of what they showed the staff. It had worked so well that Dr Greene and Dr Aymler were thinking that Hermione and Dean could return home in time for the next school year. They had spoken to the Grangers about the possibility of fostering Harry. However the dentists, fond as they were of Harry, hesitated to commit, seeing a return to their former normalcy so tantalizingly close. The doctors had not let a breath of their thoughts to the staff yet, lest the kids get wind of it and worry.

After lunch they began with the reptile house, enjoying the cool darkness compared to the sunny day outside. It wasn't nearly as exciting as the great cats or the elephants or apes as the lizards and snakes were generally hiding or sleeping. Harry noticed a fat blond boy who looked a bit like Moffat standing in front of one glass, knocking on it rather hard before stomping off and muttering, "Boring!"

Harry stepped forward and looked at the large snake curled up on the floor of its case. The sign to the side labelled it a boa constrictor from Brazil. He sighed, "Guess you have to put up with that a lot."

To his surprise, the snake opened its eyes and lifted its head. You have no idea.

Harry's eyes widened. "Did you say something?"

The snake uncoiled, moving forward and rising to meet Harry's eye level. I did. But you're the first of your kind who ever replied in a sensible manner.

Harry tried to gather his scattered wits, wanting to preserve the good impression he'd made. "Pleased to meet you. What was Brazil like?"

The snake looked significantly at the side of the glass and Harry saw the notation that it had been bred in the zoo. "Oh, so you've lived here all your life. At least it's safe here? And you don't have to worry about hunting your food." Even as he said the words, he felt they were wrong. He knew. He was cared for at Esperança House, even loved by some of the staff, but it wasn't like growing up with a real family.

It's safe here, but it's not freedom. The snake echoed his thoughts.

Before Harry could answer, Dean was at his side. "Wicked! He's looking right at you!"

We're conversing, you rude thing.

Dean gave no sign of hearing the snake's comment. He turned his attention to the sign identifying the snake. "A boa constrictor! That's the kind that squeezes its prey to death before swallowing it whole. D'you think they'll be feeding it soon?"

The snake visibly shook its head. They always want to see me eat. I prefer to dine in privacy.

Dean had caught the movement from the corner of his eye. "It just…it just answered, didn't it?"

Harry nodded. "I can hear him speak in full sentences. He's not too impressed with you acting the same as everyone else."

Dean glanced uncertainly at Harry and then at the snake. "Oh, er…I'm sorry?"

The snake bowed politely and both boys smiled. Dean began, "Does it—"

"Dad! Look at this!" The blond boy shoved them apart, sending Harry down hard on the concrete floor. Dean kept his feet but bumped into the wall. He shoved back, getting the attention of a large beefy man in the process.

"Watch what you're doing, you great lump!"

"Don't you dare touch my son, you little hooligan!"

The escalating argument was cut short when the blond boy screamed and jumped away from the now glass-free enclosure. The snake slithered down to the floor and snapped at him. Want to pound on the window now? Dean retreated to the wall, keeping his eyes glued to it.

Harry, his face ashen, was staring at the man as he pulled his son to him. Instinctively Harry backed away, throwing up an arm to shield himself. The snake looked at him.

I owe you one. Why are you afraid of the big one?

Harry whispered, "He…hurt me. He locked me up like you were locked up."

The snake looked back at the man in clear contempt. He's too big to eat, but I'll give him a good fright on my way out. Thanks, amigo. With that the snake headed straight for the man and boy, who broke away and ran for the exit.

As the snake followed them, looking for the best escape route, Dean moved to help Harry to his feet, noticing how pale he was. "All right there?"

Harry nodded, still staring in the direction the man and boy had gone. "Yeah, the snake didn't hurt me."

"Come on, Hermione's probably outside going spare."


As it turned out, Hermione was calming down Toby, who was a bit frightened of snakes in the first place and very displeased to hear the cries of people running out of the reptile house that a huge snake was loose. Pippa was nearby, gathering the rest of her group as they exited the building.

"Harry! Dean! Over here!" They ran over to her and let her look them over. "You two all right?"

Harry nodded and Dean replied, "We're fine other than some big pillock trying to knock us down. That's when the glass vanished and the snake went after him and his da. It was wicked!"

Pippa looked from Harry to Dean sharply. "The glass vanished? Just disappeared into thin air?"

Dean realized that he had no idea which of them had done it and traded uncertain looks with Harry. "I'm not sure how it happened."

Pippa looked at Harry again, who managed to shrug innocently. He looked around and spotted the man and the boy. His uncle and his cousin. His uncle was yelling at a zoo attendant, driving her to tears as she failed to explain how the snake had gotten out. For the first time in months, Harry could feel that sensation of pressure surging uncontrollably inside his head and tried frantically to divert it. The Vincent Black Shadow series "C", introduced in 1949, had a 998 cc 50 degree OHV V-twin engine running a 7.3:1 compression ratio… Only when a trash bin down the path from them turned over on its own did the feeling begin to fade.

Seeing the attendant flinch as his uncle threw up a frustrated hand in her direction decided Harry. It was more important to never be anywhere near them again than to identify them and risk being returned to that house.

He moved over to Hermione and sat down beside her, taking her hand and squeezing it hard. She left off soothing Toby and looked at him in concern, squeezing back. Dean gave him a curious glance but kept silent as Pippa counted them and began to shepherd them away.


24 July 1991

Mary peeked through the open door and saw Hermione on her bed, lost in a book. She tapped on the jamb to get the child's attention. "And why aren't you out with your two gents, milady?"

Hermione marked her place and sat up. "They wanted to spend the day with Toby since he's going home Friday and Toby wanted to play pirates in the tree fort without girls."

Mary tsked. "That was rude of him."

Hermione shrugged. "I don't mind. It's far too hot out anyway."

"Well, here. You can read this in peace." Mary fished an envelope out of her mail basket. "Your parents or Dean's must have sent something as there's one for each of you three."

Hermione took the overlarge envelope, frowning at it. It was a beige colour and had a texture of threads in it, like old-fashioned parchment rather than proper paper. The address was written in a neat scrolling hand with bright green ink:

Miss H. Granger

Room 18

Esperança House

Coventry

She turned it over, looking for a return notice or postmark. Instead there was a large seal in purple wax: an ornate letter H in the centre surrounded by four animals. Puzzled, she carefully opened the letter to avoid damaging it. She inhaled sharply as she absorbed the contents, rereading in disbelief.

HOGWARTS SCHOOL of WITCHCRAFT and WIZARDRY

Headmaster: Albus Dumbledore
(Order of Merlin, First Class, Grand Sorc., Chf. Warlock,

Supreme Mugwump, International Confed. of Wizards)

Dear Miss Granger,

We are pleased to inform you that you have been accepted at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Please find enclosed a list of all necessary books and equipment.

Term begins on 1 September. I will be in touch with you on 1 August with more information.

Yours sincerely,

Minerva McGonagall
Deputy Headmistress

Hermione vaulted off her bed and raced down the hall to the playground entrance. She burst through the door and screamed, "HARRY! DEAN!"

Dean poked his head out a window of the tree fort. "Blimey, Hermione, where's the fire?"

"Look at this!" she cried and the parchment in her hand sailed up to him. As he caught it and scanned the page, his eyes widening, she shouted, "Mary said we've all got one! Don't you see? It explains everything!"

"Bloody…Harry! Read this!"

She could hear the boys' voices getting louder and more excited, then they began scrambling along the branch to the ladder. A hand landed on her shoulder.

"You were in quite a hurry there, Hermione." Dr Aymler looked to be in between interested and irritated, depending on her explanation.

"Harry, Dean and I got letters! Mary has theirs. Just read it!"

The boys had reached the ground, Toby trailing behind and pouting slightly that they'd been interrupted. Dean thrust the parchment at Dr Aymler to read. The psychiatrist's large moustache and bushy eyebrows twitched as he read.

"Well, this is…interesting."


Author's Note: Finally, we have letters! But we still have some distance to go before getting to Hogwarts. Thanks as always for reading!

Chapter Text

Disclaimer: If you recognize the character, it isn’t mine. Just playing in Rowling’s sandbox.

This is something of a filler chapter, giving half of the reason that no alarm was raised at Privet Drive when Harry was no longer there. We’ll get the other half in a few more chapters.

******************************************

Summer 1986

Arabella Figg was beginning to wonder. Usually the Dursleys got in touch about her keeping Harry for them at the beginning of June. She babysat Harry every year during Dudley’s birthday. But here it was, June half gone, and she hadn’t heard from them yet.

She debated whether to go to them and ask. Dumbledore had been firm about her keeping as low a profile as possible; if she did anything that made the Dursleys suspect her knowledge of the wizarding world, they might forbid all contact and then she’d lose the toehold she had. She worried over the problem as she shuffled back from marketing, her little cart full of cat food and a few groceries.

She was startled out of her thoughts when a few boys ran out of the garden at number twelve Wisteria Walk and across her path. She recognized one of them as Dudley Dursley and seized her chance.

“Dudley! Dudley, hold a tic!”

The boys stopped and sneered at her, taking in her housecoat and tartan carpet slippers. She ignored them and asked, “Dudley, your parents haven’t let me know about watching Harry during your birthday this year. Do you know if they need me?”

A brief flash of panic showed on Dudley’s face before he recovered and said, “You’ll have to ring Mum, I don’t know.” Before she could ask anything else, he took off and the rest of his little gang followed, jeering at him for speaking to the batty old lady.

Mrs Figg debated the rest of the way home. She could call; it would be the neighbourly thing to do. But on the other hand, the Dursleys didn’t do neighbourly unless they wanted something. They might be suspicious of her asking after Harry.

Perhaps if she had Tibbles slip over and listen in, she might learn something. On the other hand if they had that dreadful sister of Vernon’s visiting, that would mean that she would have that awful dog of hers, and Tibbles wasn’t getting any younger.

One thing she wouldn’t do was contact Dumbledore. She’d made such a fool of herself that time she’d reported him missing when she saw Dudley and the other children playing in the park without Harry and it turned out Petunia had kept him home. Dumbledore had been furious over her fuss about nothing, so she never called Dumbledore again. He owled her on quarter-days for updates and she always gave him the same descriptions, emphasizing how small and thin and unkempt Harry looked. He never seemed to do anything with that information.

As she put away her groceries she decided. She would wait. If the opportunity to speak to Vernon or Petunia came up, she would ask then. In the meantime she would keep her low profile, as ordered.

*****

Spring 1987

Mrs Figg was standing in the aisle of the grocer’s, debating on whether she wanted bacon or ham, when she was suddenly jostled.

“I’ve got the sausages, Mum!” Dudley Dursley loaded his arms with packages and turned to dump them in the already-full cart being pushed by his mother. Mrs Figg brightened.

“Hello, Mrs Dursley! I hope all is well with you. I missed seeing Harry last summer.”

Petunia Dursley’s face had gone ashy, but she managed a smile. “How pleasant to run into you. Yes, well, we ended up taking Harry with us. Seems he’s finally learned to behave himself somewhat in public.”

Mrs Figg smiled broadly. That was good news. “I am very glad to hear that. But should you ever need someone to watch him for any reason, please don’t hesitate to call.”

Petunia was playing nervously with her pearls and actually jumped, startled, when Dudley dumped three tubs of ice cream into the cart. “We will, we will. Must dash now!”

Mrs Figg finished her shopping, humming happily to herself. It seemed the Dursleys were finally accepting Harry into the family. Took the idiot Muggles long enough!

*****

Winter 1988

She ran into Vernon Dursley at the hardware store. He was looking over snow shovels as Dudley had broken the old one, forgetting about the hydrant sign under the snowdrift as he swung the shovel through it. She needed a new flex for her fairy lights as Tibbles had naughtily chewed through the old one.

“Happy Christmas, Mr Dursley! How are you?”

He jumped and his face turned rosy as he recognised her. “Oh…er…happy Christmas to you, Mrs Figg. How are you?”

“I’m getting on, thanks. Are the boys enjoying their holiday?”

Vernon flushed even darker. “Yes, of course. Counting the days until Father Christmas visits, of course!”

“If it’s not too much trouble, do tell Harry I wouldn’t mind a little visit. It’s been ever so long since I’ve seen him and he was such good company when I had him over before.”

“Yes, I’ll…ah…I’ll tell him. Can’t say for sure, though. You know how today’s kids are, always busy with their own lives. Don’t bother with the likes of us if they don’t have to.”

“True, true. Just tell him he’s welcome anytime and wish him a happy Christmas for me!”

Vernon nodded, grabbed a shovel at random, and fled for the tills.

*****

Autumn 1990

Mrs Figg was worried. She had had Tibbles carefully patrol the neighbourhood several times over the summer and there had not been a single sighting of Harry. He wasn’t outside at number four Privet Drive. He wasn’t to be found at the park or play area. He hadn’t been seen at the shops.

Quarter-day was coming soon and she would have to report to Dumbledore. She was still reluctant to voice her concerns to him even after being ignored for so long. However it was worrisome that she hadn’t laid eyes on Harry for years now.

She decided on a plan of action. With Tibbles’ help, she timed her shopping trip to coincide with Petunia’s one Tuesday morning. She fell into step beside her and trapped Petunia into walking and conversing with her or being abominably rude. To prime the pump, Mrs Figg opened the conversation with a bit of gossip.

“I wonder who that young woman is that’s been staying with Mr Prentice this week?” She knew perfectly well it was his niece, stopping for a few days as her flat was repainted. But perhaps Petunia didn’t know.

“Really? How young? I should have guessed. He never paid attention to his wife when she was alive, poor thing.”

After a few minutes of shredding Mr Prentice’s character, Mrs Figg seized her chance. “Seems I haven’t seen young Harry in ages. Dudley’s always out and about playing with his friends, but not Harry.”

Petunia hesitated very briefly before replying. “Oh, Harry has turned into quite the bookworm. He’s always inside, nose stuck in a book or playing on the computer. He’ll grow up to be one of those brilliant computer geniuses the way he’s going.”

Waves of relief washed over Mrs Figg. It was a perfectly reasonable explanation and yet more evidence that the Dursleys had changed their ways and were taking good care of their nephew.

“That’s lovely that he’s found such productive hobbies. I rather miss him. Do tell him I’d love to have him for tea sometime.”

“I’ll tell him, but you know boys. He’ll forget in an instant.” Petunia’s eyes suddenly brightened. “And he’s studying so hard – he’s trying for a place at a public school, one where his parents went. He’ll need the best grades possible for it.”

Mrs Figg brightened as well, immediately guessing that Petunia was carefully referring to Hogwarts. “That’s wonderful for him. Tell him best of luck for me, do.”

Petunia smiled back and led the conversation into the goings on with her next door neighbour.

*****

24 July 1991

The witch stepped into the small room that housed the Hogwarts Quill and picked up the List. She moved through the immensely long scroll until she found the first date after 1 September 1979.

19 September 1979 – Hermione Jane Granger (Robert and Viola Granger)

She skimmed the List until she found the last entry before 31 August 1980, noting that this was the year that Harry Potter would arrive, and used her wand to copy the section onto a new parchment. One quick tap of the copy reassembled the names alphabetically by the surnames. She carried the parchment over to the enchanted desk, pulled out a list of the required supplies for first years, and summoned stacks of fresh parchment and new envelopes. Once everything was arranged on the desk, she tapped it with her wand. When the desk began to glow a rosy pink, she stated in a slow, clear voice, “Minerva McGonagall, Deputy Headmistress.”

The glow deepened to a rich red and she watched admiringly as the year’s Hogwarts letters began to assemble themselves. As long as she had been teaching here, Professor McGonagall had never quite got over her awe of the power and creativity of the Founders and previous headmasters in developing this system of enrolling magical children in the school. Bright green ink appeared on each page, correctly addressing each envelope for the whereabouts of the child, writing each letter and supply list, inserting the papers in the envelopes and sealing them, then instantly vanishing them to reappear in the home of the child—or in the case of the Muggleborns, in the post since the early days of the Royal Mail.

Around the Ns, she moved to return the Master Scroll to its proper position, with the Quill ready to note the next magical birth. By the time she returned to the desk, it was finishing with Ronald Weasley (Heavens, another one? Please don’t let him take after the twins!) and Blaise Zabini.

She tapped the desk a final time and a shorter list appeared on a fresh parchment. These were the students for whom neither parent was recognized as previously being on the List. She glanced over it, seeing half-a-dozen names on it. She carried the list to Dumbledore’s office.

“Good morning, Minerva! That time of year, is it?”

“Yes, all the letters went off without a hitch. We have several Muggleborn students this year, four boys and two girls.”

Dumbledore raised his bushy brows. “That’s more than usual. Can you manage all of them?”

She nodded. “I believe so. I’ll start with the girls and then do the boys.”

“Are you sure? I can have Severus help you.”

Minerva shuddered inwardly at the thought of a Muggleborn’s first contact with Hogwarts being the unfriendly Potions professor. “No need. I’ll handle the first visits and then turn the names over to the Muggle Liaison Office for organizing the trip to Diagon Alley and King’s Cross.”

“Very well, Minerva. Let me know if I can help in any way.”

*****

31 July 1991

They were so caught up in preparing for the next day that Harry had ignored his birthday. The staff had greeted him with a cake, the Grangers had sent a card and another gift certificate, Hermione and Dean had wished him a happy birthday and admitted to having no idea what to buy him, given that they were all apparently going to some magical boarding school in a few weeks. He had nodded in understanding, too keyed up to be bothered.

Now they were all gathered in the formal conference room, almost like a council of war. Dr Aymler was at the head of the table with Harry, Hermione and Dean in a queue on his right. On his left was Dr Greene, then the Grangers, then Dean’s parents. His siblings were currently being watched at home by his grandmother, in for a visit from Liverpool. Both sets of parents had been given rooms in the little-used guest area upstairs to be available tomorrow.

Dr Aymler adjusted his glasses and looked around the room. “I suggest that we all eat an early breakfast and plan on being in here starting at nine. That’s when our official visiting hours begin and I would expect this representative to not do anything to attract attention to herself by showing up at the break of dawn. I’ve posted her name at reception with instructions to lead her here immediately. Dr Greene and I have cleared our schedules completely tomorrow and we’ll have lunch brought in if necessary.”

Andrea Thomas was re-reading the letter addressed to Dean. “I still can’t believe it. Magic! Real, actual magic and nobody knows about it!”

“Nobody is right,” Robert Granger replied. “I’ve dug as deep as I can through every connection I’ve got from colleagues and patients and no one has ever heard of a boarding school named Hogwarts anywhere. It simply doesn’t exist, except on this paper.”

Dr Greene was looking at the letters to Harry and Hermione. “What I’d like to know is why Hermione’s is different from the boys’. Hers is the only one that says this McGonagall person will be here tomorrow. The other two say they want an owl by today. What in the world does that mean?”

Hermione wrinkled her brow. “Maybe she uses an owl to communicate somehow. After all her name is ‘Minerva’ and the owl was one of the goddess Minerva’s symbols.”

“Maybe, but I see Dr Greene’s point. The letters suggest that the Grangers wouldn’t know about this magical school but that the boys would. And that makes no sense.” Dr Aymler rubbed one hand over his head in confusion.

Geoff Thomas leaned over to his wife and quietly asked her, “Do you think—”

She shook her head at him. “Not here.” He looked puzzled, but obeyed her.

Harry looked around the table. “Well, one way or another we’ll know tomorrow.”

*****

1 August 1991

Professor McGonagall took one more look at the Muggle map before folding it up and stowing it in the purse she carried. It was a bothersome thing, always in the way. Nice cloak pockets, charmed to be extra-deep, were certainly more convenient.

She looked down and smoothed the green tweed set she was wearing and shifted her feet in the uncomfortable brogues, wishing she dared glamour-charm her boots instead. But during these first visits to new Muggleborn students, it was vital to appear completely Muggle, without magic. One never knew what one would find.

She hesitated one more moment, considering the strange address. It wouldn’t be the first time she had visited a manor or country house, but the reference to a room number puzzled her. Why on earth do these Muggles number their rooms?

Shrugging, she stepped out of the gates and outside of Hogwarts’ wards. She concentrated and Apparated, appearing at the front door of a rather large country house. The neat brass plaque to the side read:

Esperança House Facility for Youth

Deliveries to the Right, Please

Visiting Hours 9:00-4:00 Daily

Professor McGonagall squared her shoulders and opened the door. The foyer was spacious, with hallways leading three ways and a pleasant sitting area. A high counter and two desks were arranged under the helpful sign “Reception”. She went to the red-haired woman at the counter.

“My name is Minerva McGonagall. I’m here to see Hermione Granger.”

The young woman’s eyes narrowed slightly, but she gestured down the centre hallway. “Right this way. She’s expecting you.”

McGonagall followed her. The woman knocked on a door, then opened it, saying, “She’s here.” She stood aside and let the professor enter, closing the door behind her.

Minerva McGonagall stopped short, taken aback at the number of people sitting around a large table. They were all staring at her and the adults looked especially angry. The man at the head of the table stood and spoke.

“Ms McGonagall, thank you for being so prompt. Now, would you care to explain the letters that three of my patients received last week?”

***********************************

Author’s Note: Thanks as always for reading!

Chapter Text

Disclaimer: If you recognize the character, it isn’t mine. Just playing in Rowling’s sandbox.

 

**********************************

 

1 August 1991

 

Hermione studied the woman that Pippa had escorted in with a careful eye. While there was nothing about the woman’s demeanour or dress that stood out, little things added up to tell her that she wasn’t imagining that quiver in the air of someone else who was different.

 

Her hair, pulled into a tight bun, was slightly mussed at the top as if she had removed a hat that was nowhere to be seen. The jacket and skirt had an old-fashioned air to them and were far too heavy for the summer weather outside. The bag she carried seemed much too large for what a woman would normally carry with her. She almost looked like a character out of an older book, someone’s governess during wartime.

 

She certainly looked taken aback at the way Dr Aymler spoke to her.

 

“I beg your pardon? Three? I’m here to talk with Hermione Granger.” Her eyes fell on Hermione, who sat up a little straighter. “Who are the others?” As she looked down the row to the boys, she paused and stared as if seeing a ghost. She gasped, “Harry Potter? What are you doing here?”

 

Dr Greene stood with the three letters in her hand and walked around the table to thrust them at the woman. “Explain yourself first. These arrived on the same day last week. While my patients see them as the answer to everything they’ve been able to do in the last several years, I find it criminally negligent that they weren’t informed sooner.”

 

The Grangers and Thomases were nodding as the woman examined the envelopes, finding Harry’s name and his address as Room 6 and Dean’s as Room 4. She looked up again, utterly lost.

 

“Harry, you didn’t know? Your aunt and uncle didn’t tell you?”

 

Dr Greene let the acid drip from her voice. “Harry’s aunt and uncle left him with us when he was five. They gave us false names and an incorrect address and the authorities could never find them. We have done our best to help him through all kinds of odd happenings. Hermione has been here a little over a year showing the same symptoms and Dean arrived in November for the same treatment.”

 

The woman’s thoughts seemed to come into focus. She stood up straighter. “Symptoms? Treatment? These children aren’t diseased! They’re magical! They’re supposed to be able to do these things! They’ll learn to control it at Hogwarts!”

 

Harry opened his mouth and Hermione kicked him. He looked at her and she shook her head slightly at him.

 

Mr Granger broke in before tempers could escalate further. “Please, let’s all sit down and discuss this. Let’s start with this ‘Hogwarts’. I’ve been researching all week and there is no mention of any school of any kind with such a name in Britain.”

 

Dr Greene returned to her seat and the woman took the remaining seat at the end of the table, next to Hermione. The woman looked around. “I’m only supposed to deal with the children and their families. How many people here know of these letters?”

 

Dr Aymler frowned. “The kids and their parents, of course. Dr Greene and myself and a couple of staff members who work closely with us.”

 

“I’ll have to deal with them later.”

 

Hermione exchanged glances with Harry and Dean. Something about her words made them uneasy.

 

The woman continued, “Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry is the premier school for magical children in the United Kingdom. We keep our world separate and secret to prevent conflict. I’m sure you’ll remember a time when those suspected of being witches were burned at the stake or otherwise tortured and killed.

 

“Children whose parents are magical grow up knowing about us and knowing that they will attend Hogwarts starting at age eleven. There are a few children who are born magical from Muggle parents. We have a way at Hogwarts to identify these children at birth and then send their acceptance letters when they are eligible. After they get their letters, I visit to explain things and prepare them for an orientation provided by the Ministry of Magic.”

 

“’Scuse me, but what d’you mean by ‘muggle’?” Dean asked.

 

“Non-magical people are called Muggles in our world.”

 

Dean sniffed. “Rather rude-sounding, don’t you think? Are we just mugs to you, then?”

 

Mrs Thomas headed that off. “Ms McGonagall, where is this school located?”

 

“Professor McGonagall,” she corrected. “And I’d rather not give out more information than necessary to outsiders. I can contact the Dursleys and have them here very quickly, if we can meet again with just the families.”

 

“Who are the Dursleys?” Viola Granger snapped.

 

“Harry’s family, of course. Petunia Dursley is Lily Potter’s sister. Now if you please—”

 

Dr Aymler slammed one hand down on the table, making everyone jump except for Dr Greene, who was jotting down the name on her hand. “If you please, we will have some answers from you or we will start contacting every person of authority we can think of!”

 

“You can’t do that!” The professor’s hand dove into her purse and came out with a wand. Seeing it point at the doctors, all three children leapt to their feet.

 

Oblivi—” Before she even finished the word McGonagall was shoved against the wall by an invisible force and her wand was ripped from her hand. The half-spell that had left her wand hit an invisible barrier and was absorbed.

 

All the adults in the room stared at the children, who now had their hands linked. Harry spoke into the heavy silence.

 

“Don’t. Just…don’t do anything. We’re ready to listen, but only if you tell us the truth and don’t do anything to us. We can stop you if we have to.”

 

Minerva McGonagall got to her feet, still staring at the three untrained children whose raw power had disarmed her and shielded the others. She could feel their magic fairly radiating around them as they waited to see what she would do next.

 

She raised her empty hands. “Perhaps we should start again.”

 

*****

 

Professor McGonagall was out of control and out of ideas at this point. The male doctor had asked the red-haired woman to fetch a tea service for them all and rearranged the seating. She was now at the centre of a long side of the table. She had Harry Potter on her right, Hermione Granger on her left, and Dean Thomas directly across from her. The parents were on either side of him and a doctor sat at each end of the table. She realized that they had done this to try and have the children contain her if she tried something else.

 

Not that she could, really. The male doctor had examined her wand and laid it on a table behind him, out of her reach.

 

Once the tea had arrived and everyone had cups in front of them, the doctor began, “Let’s try this again. I am Dr Patrick Aymler, one of the medical directors of Esperança House. To my left are Dr Viola Granger and Dr Robert Granger, who are dentists in Nottingham. Then you have Dean Thomas, our patient since November. Then his parents, Geoffrey and Andrea Thomas. Then Dr Emily Greene, another medical director here. And you seem to know Harry Potter, who has been here five-and-a-half years. Finally, Hermione Granger, who arrived in June a year ago.

 

“Now, if you would, please start over with your name and connection to this school and then tell us about it.”

 

She straightened and tried to assume her best teacher persona. “My name is Minerva McGonagall. I am the deputy headmistress and professor of Transfiguration at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.” She paused to sort her next statement and noticed that Miss Granger had raised her hand. “Yes?”

 

“Your pardon, ma’am, but what’s Transfiguration?”

 

“It is the art of changing one thing into another. For example, the first lesson for your class would be to try and change a matchstick into a needle.”

 

She didn’t notice, formulating the next part of her speech, but the doctors watched as the children gave each other eagerly speculative looks.

 

“Hogwarts was founded over a thousand years ago by four very powerful and influential people: the wizards Godric Gryffindor and Salazar Slytherin and the witches Helga Hufflepuff and Rowena Ravenclaw. They worked together to build a castle, far away from any Mug—er, non-magical settlements of the time, and created wards that would hide it from anyone who was not magical. Each of them chose magical children that had the qualities that particularly attracted them and began to teach them. Over time this became a house system, with students sorted into one of the four houses when they arrive at Hogwarts. Each house has a section of the castle reserved for the students’ rooms and the students have classes with other members of their house.”

 

Robert Granger held up a hand to stop her. “Is yours the only magical school in Britain?”

 

“There are a couple of very small schools, one in Ireland and one to the south. Their main purpose is to educate those who reject Hogwarts for personal reasons or those who cannot afford the tuition at all. Hogwarts sends a letter to every single magical child born in the British Isles and every child of a former Hogwarts student, no matter where they live.”

 

Robert nodded at her answer. “Do other countries have schools?”

 

“Many do, but very few are the size of Hogwarts. There is Beauxbatons Academy in France and the Durmstrang Institute somewhere in Scandinavia. North America has at least four large schools. There is one in Australia. I don’t have reliable information on other areas.”

 

“And you mentioned tuition. What are the fees for attending Hogwarts?”

 

“The supplies vary, but the cost for first-year students is around 100 Galleons. Tuition per year is 5,000 Galleons. We do have an instalment plan and some scholarships—”

 

“Excuse me, five thousand what?” Mr Thomas interrupted. “How much does that translate to in pounds?”

 

McGonagall frowned, concentrating a moment. “I’m not sure what the current exchange rate is, but if I remember correctly one Galleon is around five of your pounds.”

 

Mrs Thomas threw up her hands. “Twenty-five thousand pounds a year? For how many years?”

 

“Hogwarts is a seven-year program—”

 

“So we’re talking approaching 200,000 pounds when you include that supply list and the things that will need to be replaced and transportation. Lady, if we had that kind of money we’d’ve bought a house by now instead of managing in a council estate!”

 

“We do have options!”

 

Dr Greene leaned forward. “And are those options enough to cover someone like Harry? If it weren’t for us, he’d be on the streets!”

 

McGonagall looked at Harry, floored. “But he has a large inheritance from his parents. James Potter came from a very wealthy family.”

 

Harry’s eyes widened at that. “Very wealthy? How much is that?”

 

“You’d have to ask at Gringotts, that’s our bank, but I remember Magnus Potter boasting about James never having to work a day in his life. And wizards tend to live very long lives.”

 

Harry’s eyes narrowed. “Then if we all go to Hogwarts, I’m paying for it.”

 

Hermione’s mouth dropped open. A huge grin burst across Dean’s face. The adults all clamoured to speak at once. Harry shouted to be heard above them all.

 

“I mean it! We all go or none of us go!” That statement cut off the growing debate.

 

McGonagall stared at The Boy Who Lived, who had just declared that he might not attend Hogwarts. Perhaps now was the time to call in Albus.

 

“If I may, I would like to contact our headmaster and have him join this discussion.”

 

Dr Aymler shook his head. “Not yet, if you please. Now, if we presume that tuition is taken care of one way or another, please describe what happens next.”

 

“A representative from the Muggle Liaison Office in the Ministry of Magic will guide you all to Kings Cross in London and demonstrate how the children would access the magical gate to platform nine and three quarters. That is where the Hogwarts Express takes the students to the station near the school. Then they would show you the entrance to Diagon Alley. That is our main shopping district in London and where you can convert money at Gringotts and buy all the supplies.

 

“The train departs on the first of September from Kings Cross at eleven in the morning. Muggleborn students are given their tickets during orientation, after they agree to attend. Children in magical families would normally receive their tickets by owl after sending their acceptance. Term ends on the twentieth of June and the train arrives in London around seven in the evening. The train is available for students to go home for Christmas and Easter holidays.”

 

“You said that this schooling is for seven years. What happens after that? What are the university options?” Viola Granger asked.

 

McGonagall appeared nonplussed at that question. “Well, there are opportunities for students to pursue a mastery in a specific subject, usually working individually with a Master. If a Muggleborn student chooses to go to a Muggle university, we can arrange records that will satisfy their requirements. But most witches and wizards who graduate from Hogwarts go straight into their chosen profession.”

 

When no one else asked a question, Dr Greene spoke up. “To go back to the beginning, why do you wait so long to contact these families? Do you really not understand how much worry you could have saved them if you’d come sooner? If you really get their names when they are born, you have a record to start with.”

 

“My honest answer is I don’t know because we’re always done it this way. And I’ve never been in today’s situation, with children who were actually institutionalized because of accidental magic and parents actively hostile to me. Usually the family is very happy to learn the truth about their child.”

 

“There’s a first time for everything.” Dr Greene’s voice was dry.

 

Dr Aymler looked around the table. “Are we agreed to at least go forward with the orientation? Then we can make a fully informed decision on what to do next. And that includes Harry and Dean, Professor.”

 

McGonagall nodded and Mr Thomas asked, “Would a Saturday work? I had to pull all kinds of strings just to be off work today. I’d rather not ask for another day so soon.”

 

“I believe it can be arranged. I’ll send an owl right away to try and arrange it for this Saturday or next and let you know.”

 

“An owl? You mean a real, live owl?” Hermione’s eyes were round.

 

“Yes, and we’ll need to set up a place where it can arrive unseen. The Statute of Secrecy must be maintained.”

 

Harry asked, “What about the tree fort? Since Toby’s gone home, no one else really uses it right now but us.”

 

“I think that will work, if you’ll show it to me on my way out.” McGonagall stood. “Now, if that is all I have five more visits to try and make today.” She turned to Dr Aymler. “May I have my wand back, please?”

 

The kids all looked at one another, poised for action. Dr Aymler stood and picked up the slim and polished wand, looking it over. “I want your word that you will not use it or any kind of magic against the children, their families, or any of the staff of Esperança House. We understand that you want to keep the existence of magic a secret. We are willing to follow that. But you have to trust us with enough information to support our patients.”

 

Professor McGonagall looked around the room. She saw the children, almost on their toes and ready to react, with their parents and doctors backing them.

 

She was not a stupid witch and she realized when she was outnumbered. “I promise never to perform magic on anyone in this room or anyone in Esperança House without permission, excepting a life-threatening emergency.”

 

She took the wand when it was offered to her and looked at the children. “Would you three please show me this tree fort?”

 

They looked at the adults, who nodded at them, and escorted the witch out of the room. When the door closed behind her, Patrick fell back into his chair with a huge sigh. “I suppose that went as well as could be expected.”

 

*************************

 

Author’s Note: Thanks as always for reading!

Chapter Text

Disclaimer: If you recognize the character, it isn't mine. Just playing in Rowling's sandbox.


 

 

2 August 1991

 

Normally Professor McGonagall limited her “wee drams” to weekend evenings or occasionally before tackling a set of essays from a particularly difficult class. Knowing she would be facing the headmaster with some shocking news and several questions that he might not like, she fortified herself with a bit of liquid courage instead of breakfast.

 

He was in his office, signing a stack of papers from the Wizengamot. “Good morning, Minerva. How did yesterday go?”

 

“I managed to see them all and have orientation scheduled for tomorrow. I needed to speak to you last night. Where were you?”

 

“Oh, out and about in the castle, setting up a little something.”

 

She glared at him. “Albus, don’t do this. You are taking far too much risk with the students.”

 

“It is necessary, Minerva. The Flamels have put their trust in me. Please continue preparing your part. Now, what was so important that you needed me last night?”

 

“When I went to visit the first student on my list, I came across an unprecedented situation.”

 

“Unprecedented? What could be unprecedented about Muggles?”

 

“First, the parents in question had taken their child to a type of hospital, a place for Muggle healers of the mind to work with children with illnesses. Her letter was delivered there.”

 

Dumbledore raised his eyebrows. “Interesting.”

 

“Second, Miss Granger was not the only magical child in residence there. I also met incoming students Dean Thomas…and Harry Potter.”

 

At that, Dumbledore stared at her, open-mouthed. He then looked over at one of his many shelves where a row of silver instruments clicked softly, whirred, and sent out puffs of smoke. “That’s impossible. He’s with his family in Surrey.”

 

“It was him, Albus. The mirror image of James at that age, even down to the glasses. Lily’s wonderful green eyes. And that horrid scar on his forehead. He’s been there since he was five years old. The doctor described in great detail how the Dursleys abandoned him there, giving them false names so they couldn’t be traced.”

 

Dumbledore rose and went over to the instruments, poking one and hearing a protesting chirp. “But these still indicate that the wards are in place. I don’t understand.”

 

“I don’t care what you don’t understand, Albus. We’re in trouble here. The Grangers and Thomases are not committed to sending their children here yet and Harry has stated that he’s not coming if his friends aren’t.”

 

Dumbledore whirled around to stare at her again. “He has to!”

 

“Then you had better hope that the orientation tomorrow convinces them. And you had better find out how Harry Potter could have been moved out of that house without your knowledge for five bloody years!”

 

*****

 

Harry, Hermione, and Dean went to the tree fort immediately after breakfast. They took a stack of books, a deck of cards, and Dean’s sketchpad and pencils, ready to keep watch the entire day there so as not to miss the owl. This was their first chance to talk in complete privacy since McGonagall’s visit. The Grangers and Thomases had spent hours venting their frustrations, spurred on by Dr Greene. The children had been all for trying this school as long as they could go together. Dr Aymler had been the voice of neutrality, helping to defuse the adults’ anger while not committing to anything the kids wanted.

 

Harry pulled out the deck of cards before Hermione could open a book. He had a question for her and didn’t want her to get lost in reading first. “Hermione, why’d you kick me yesterday? I was only going to point out that we’re already getting control of what we can do.” He shuffled and began dealing a poker hand.

 

“I thought you were going to say that. I don’t think we should let on what we can do until we’ve got a better idea of what other kids our age can do.”

 

“That’s rather suspicious of you, Hermione.” Dean looked over his cards and discarded two.

 

“And you don’t think we have reason to be suspicious? The professor said outright that they’ve known we could do these things since we were born. And she still didn’t explain why I deserved a visit and you two didn’t.”

 

“In Harry’s case, it sounds like they expected him to be with his family and the family knew.”

 

“And they obviously didn’t know enough! They got frightened and ab—and abandoned him here, didn’t they? And these people didn’t know it happened? His letter was addressed the same as ours!” Hermione looked at her cards, sighed in exasperation, and tossed three away.

 

Harry kept four cards. “How about you, Dean? Your parents looked just as lost as everyone else.”

 

“No blinking idea.” Dean laid down two pair.

 

Hermione threw a single pair down. “If the professor or anyone else who’s magical comes here again, we need to watch them. I know Dr Aymler made her promise not to do any magic on us, but I think they want to make everyone here forget about magic being real.”

 

Harry laid down his useless hand. He’d gone for a flush and ended up with nothing. He swept the hand aside and dealt a new one. “Yeah, I didn’t like McGonagall saying she’d have to deal with the staff. It’s only Pippa who knows everything we do. And Mary delivered the letters. Everyone else just sees us as kids with the same problem.”

 

“We know we can make people forget things. I bet they can do it, too.” Hermione paused to study her cards.

 

Dean discarded three quickly. “So, which of you did that cool shield thing? I was trying to get her magic wand out of her hand like I did before with Moffat and the bat.”

 

Hermione dithered and finally discarded two. “I pushed her into the wall. A little harder than I meant to.”

 

Harry discarded two. “I think that was me. I was concentrating on protecting everyone, like a bunker or wall in between us and her.”

 

“It was brilliant. It just sucked up whatever that light was and made it evaporate.”

 

“I wonder what it would do to something you threw at it?” Dean asked.

 

They all looked at each other for a moment, then there was a mad scramble for the ladder to the ground to gather stones.

 

*****

 

3 August 1991

 

Three children, two sets of parents, and a doctor gathered in the conference room. Dr Aymler was accompanying the group today after a discussion with Dr Greene. Between his more general acceptance of the uncanny and her fury over how the children had been ignored by this society, they felt he would be more likely to get through this day without assaulting someone.

 

A handsome barn owl had brought the letter that now lay on the conference table. The children had admired it eagerly and it appreciated the attention enough to allow them to stroke it before it took off again.

 

MINISTRY OF MAGIC

Minister of Magic: Cornelius Fudge

 

Dear Miss Granger,

 

This letter will serve as your guide to your orientation. Please make sure you and anyone accompanying you are touching the letter at precisely nine-thirty the morning of 3 August. You will feel a jerking sensation and then you will be at your destination. I will await you there. Please bring your supply list with you.

 

Kind regards,

Albert Clott

Muggle Liaison Office

 

Aymler checked his watch. “Nine twenty-eight. Everyone lay a finger on the letter and keep it there.”

 

They all waited, the children almost hyperventilating with excitement. When the jerk came, they gasped and cried out at the odd sensation of being hooked and reeled like a fish. After a brief sensation of whirling through space, they all landed hard on a paved surface. They got to their feet and they looked around.

 

“This is Kings Cross,” Geoff Thomas observed.

 

“Yes, yes it is!” A round little man greeted them cheerfully. He was dressed as a railway attendant from the Edwardian era and made straight for Hermione. “I am Albert Clott. Am I correct in greeting Miss Hermione Granger?”

 

She nodded. “Yes, sir, and these are my parents.” As the man began shaking hands, she continued with introductions. “This is Dean Thomas, another candidate for Hogwarts and his parents, Dr Patrick Aymler and finally one more candidate, Harry Potter.”

 

The little man froze and would have fallen over if Patrick hadn’t held him up in the middle of their handshake. “Harry Potter? The Harry Potter? But…but…why would you need the Muggle orientation?” As he spoke his gaze fastened onto Harry’s forehead.

 

Harry shrugged. “No one told me I was a wizard until my letter arrived, sir.”

 

“Astonishing!” Clott visibly pulled himself together. “I do apologise. We will do our absolute best for The Boy Who Lived, of course. Now, we are meeting five other families who should start arriving on this spot in less than a minute. May I ask you to step over here and wait? Thank you so much!”

 

As Clott returned to hover over the arrival spot, the group huddled together. Hermione broke the thoughtful silence.

 

“What on earth do they mean by ‘The Boy Who Lived’? It’s like Harry is famous for some reason – Professor McGonagall recognized him as soon as she noticed him, too.”

 

Harry shrugged when everyone looked at him. “How should I know? The only thing I remember my aunt and uncle telling me about my parents was that they died in a car crash when I was a baby. That’s where I got the scar on my face. If you believe my uncle, they might even have been drunk.”

 

“Given what Dr Greene and I know of your aunt and uncle, I wouldn’t believe anything they said,” Dr Aymler observed.

 

They looked up at a surprised shout. A boy and his parents were getting to their feet and dusting themselves off. The parents were extremely well-dressed and Viola Granger blinked. “That’s Amaryllis Finch-Fletchley! Who would have thought?”

 

Harry was looking at the boy, also smartly dressed. “Who is she?”

 

“She’s a rather important society figure. Not quite Royal Enclosure, mind, but very active. She does a lot of work for charities, preserving historical places and the like.”

 

Clott had directed the newcomers over and Mr Finch-Fletchley held out a hand to Robert Granger. “Addison Finch-Fletchley. My wife, Amaryllis, our son Justin.”

 

Robert made introductions, emphasizing the “doctors” to soften Amaryllis’ rather pained expression at mingling with the commoners. The kids ignored this by-play, introducing themselves and listening politely as Justin talked about having to decide between Eton and Hogwarts.

 

Eventually the group grew to eight eleven-year-olds and fourteen adults. Clott asked them all to join him at a narrow end of a wall separating platforms nine and ten. A few commuters gave them curious glances, but assumed it was some odd sort of tour upon seeing Clott in his sweeping blue uniform and shiny brass buttons.

 

“Now, the first thing I’m going to demonstrate is how to get onto platform nine and three quarters. One must walk through this section of wall and you will be taken to the platform where the Hogwarts Express will be waiting. Unfortunately, only magical people can do this, so parents, when you drop your children off on the first of September you’ll say your goodbyes here. Children, please watch me and then follow me through. When we’re all on the other side and I’ve shown you what you’ll need, we’ll return the same way. If you’re nervous, try running. Just keep in mind that you’ll run straight through.” With that, Clott walked into the wall and disappeared.

 

Dean’s “Wicked!” was the loudest among the astonished reactions and he immediately ran up to the wall and touched it. “It feels solid when you do this!” He ran a hand across the bricks. “Solid, but kind of tingly.”

 

The other girl, Sally-Anne Perks, looked nervous. “So, who’s first?”

 

Harry stepped forward. “I’ll try.” He began walking at the wall, speeding up his pace as he went. At the last second he closed his eyes and jumped at the wall.

 

He landed on the other side, but didn’t open his eyes until he heard the wizard. “Well done, Mr Potter! I should have guessed you’d be first!”

 

Any other effusive praise for Harry was cut off as Dean appeared, quickly followed by the girls holding hands, and the rest of the boys in quick succession. Clott clapped his hands. “Marvellous! I don’t think I’ve ever had a group this smart! Now, you see the track where the train will be. You’ll need to board quickly and find yourselves compartments. There will be space for your trunks in them. The first car is reserved for any groups that must meet during the trip and the second car is generally considered for the prefects. We don’t serve a luncheon—we have a lady with a trolley of sweets and snacks—so you might consider packing something if you tend to get very hungry. It’s a bit of a ride to Hogsmeade station. You’ll be expected to change into your school robes by the time we arrive. Are there any questions?”

 

Justin asked, “Do we need tickets, sir?”

 

“Yes, my boy. I will have them when I meet you again at the end of the day and will give them to those who give me their acceptance that they’ll be attending. Normally you’d do this by owl, Mr Potter, but I will happily take care of it for you.”

 

“Dean Thomas, too, sir.”

 

Clott looked slightly confused at Harry’s reply but nodded.

 

Another boy, Terry Boot, piped up. “You said we needed a trunk, sir? A holdall isn’t good enough?”

 

“Well, my boy, keep in mind that you’ll be staying at Hogwarts for months at a time, only home for Christmas and Easter. The usual thing at Hogwarts is to have a nice large trunk to hold everything. You can get them in Diagon Alley with all kinds of charms on them: make them bigger on the inside, blood locks so they’ll only open to you, Cushioning Charms so nothing will break. Then you sit the trunk at the foot of your bed and everything is in one place. It’s quite helpful since you generally share your quarters with several other students.” He looked around, but none of them had more questions. “All right then, back through the gate and back to your parents!”

 

*****

 

Clott gave the children a few minutes to tell their parents what they’d seen on the other side of platform nine and three quarters before reclaiming their attention. “Now, we are about to travel together to Diagon Alley. The Muggle way to get there is through a pub called the Leaky Cauldron. The pub is on Charing Cross Road next to a large bookshop. It looks tiny and grubby and it’s very easy for Muggles to miss, so be sure to look carefully. We also use the floo network. There is a chamber for portkey arrival, which is what you did to get here and what we’re about to do again. Once there, I’ll show you how to get into Diagon Alley and leave you to your shopping. I will return to the Leaky Cauldron at four this afternoon to give the children their train tickets and provide you with portkeys home, or you can go through the Leaky Cauldron into Charing Cross and return under your own power if you prefer. Any questions?”

 

Harry raised a hand. “Sir, is there a way for a wizard to just move themselves? Like teleporting?”

 

Clott laughed. “You mean Apparition! Let me guess, did it accidentally, did you?” At Harry’s nod, Clott laughed again. “I’m not surprised. It happens sometimes. But Apparition is rather like Muggles learning to drive those automover things. You’ll learn how to do it properly in your sixth year and test for your Apparition licence when you turn seventeen. In the meantime, there are portkeys that ministry officials can arrange and anyone can use the floo network through a fireplace that is connected to it. We also have the Knight Bus—just hold out your wand and it’ll stop for you!” He pulled a long skipping rope from a pocket. “Now, everyone grab hold and don’t let go. Next stop, the Leaky Cauldron!”

 


 

Author's Note: Thanks as always for reading!

Chapter Text

Disclaimer: If you recognize the character, it isn’t mine. Just playing in Rowling’s sandbox.

**********************************

3 August 1991

 

This time about half of the group kept their feet, helping the rest up as they looked around. They were in a large half-timbered room that hearkened back to Elizabethan times. Clott coiled the rope and moved to the door. “The Leaky Cauldron was built around 1500 by an innkeeper named Daisy Dodderidge. It is a pub serving food and drink at all hours and has several rooms for those needing an overnight stay. Tom’s the current owner – he looks a bit scary but wouldn’t hurt a fly.”

 

Clott led them into a large room dominated by a pair of fireplaces on either end. People dressed in odd, colourful robes and a variety of hats turned to look at this large group before going back to their plates and tankards. Clott waved and pointed. “The fireplaces are on the floo; just take a pinch of the powder from the silver urns, throw it in and step in when the flames turn green. Then state your destination clearly and off you go!” As he spoke, one of the fires turned green and a wizard in violently purple robes slid out, landing on one knee and rising gracefully to shake the soot off.

 

Clott pointed out the Charing Cross entrance and then led them through a back door into a small courtyard with high brick walls. “Now, this is the entrance to Diagon Alley. The only way to open it is with your wand. You’ll want this brick, three up and two over from this one that’s a little lighter than the others. Watch!” He took out a wand, started with the indicated brick, and went up and over. “And tap three times!”

 

Everyone watched with amazement as the wall seemed to melt from the centre and dissolve until there was an arch big enough for three to walk abreast. Clott led them through and waved an arm. “And here you are! Diagon Alley! I recommend you start with Gringotts, the large white building down there. They’ll change your money into Galleons and then off you go to the shops! It’s best to stay on Diagon Alley itself – some of the side streets are a little dodgy. Everyone have their supply list? Any questions?” He hesitated only a brief moment. “Then I’ll see you all back here at four!” And with no more warning than that, he disappeared with a loud crack.

 

“He…he just left us?” a small, mousy woman quavered.

 

Kevin Entwhistle’s mum, Hermione remembered. “We’ll be all right. We know he’s coming back for us, and if we need to we just go back through this arch to the pub and out to London proper.”

 

Dr Aymler took charge. “All right, let’s stick together for now. If we want to divide up or get separated, we’ll meet back here at noon and at two-thirty. As the clod said, bank first.” With that, he led the rest down the street toward the shining marble bank that towered over the rest of the buildings.

 

They moved together down the street, trying not to stare at the scene in front of them. Most of the people wore robes and hats. When combined with the cobblestone street, shops with hanging signs almost touching overhead from either side, and little stalls in every nook and cranny, Harry felt he’d stepped into a Dickens story. He stayed in the middle of the group and tried to flatten his hair so that it covered his scar, as it seemed to be how people verified who he was. Hermione was walking beside him and took his hand to squeeze sympathetically. It startled him – he had felt jumpy ever since they arrived at the pub and the very air felt charged with energy.

 

Everywhere they looked there was something new. The shops alone were amazing with the variety of things that witches and wizards must need, and the people in their outlandish clothes were just as interesting. Hermione took note of the bookstore while Wayne Hopkins scoffed at a stationers’ selling quills and parchment. Harry understood—a biro and notebook seemed much more practical.

 

As they approached the steps to the large white building, they could see GRINGOTTS above the massive doors, outlined in gold. A guard stood at attention next to the doors, in a splendid uniform of scarlet and gold. As they got closer, Dr Aymler and the other adults paused – the guard was not human.

 

Harry exchanged glances with Hermione, who stepped forward before he could say anything. She approached the creature and curtsied as best she could in her jeans and trainers. “Excuse me sir, do we ask your permission to enter the bank?”

 

The thing’s eyebrows lifted, then it showed its teeth. Hermione held her breath but stood her ground and it gave an unmistakable chuckle. “You may enter as you wish, child. My only job is to look impressive.”

 

“And you do it very well, sir. Thank you.”

 

Now the thing looked startled at the compliment. It showed its teeth again. “You are most welcome. A pleasure to meet a polite witch for a change.”

 

Dr Aymler immediately picked up the implication. “So that we can keep being polite, sir, may I ask what you are? We were only told that the magical bank is Gringotts.”

 

It tilted its head. “Ah, these children are Muggleborn, then? And you must have had Clott as your guide. A waste of good meat, he is.” The thing straightened to its full height, which was only about as tall as Dean. “I am a member of the race of goblins. We run the bank and handle financial matters for most wizards. When you enter the second set of doors, go first to the desk on the left and the goblin behind the desk will help you.”

 

Dr Aymler held out his hand and the goblin looked at it warily. Hermione jumped in. “He meant for you to shake hands, like this. It’s one of the ways we greet each other and say thank you. What do you do, sir?”

 

“Ah, curious.” The goblin gingerly shook with the doctor. “In my culture this would be the beginning of a duel. Goblins nod to greet and thank one another.”

 

Everyone in the group paled slightly and began nodding. The goblin returned the gesture, showing a large amount of teeth. “You have made my morning interesting, humans. Thank you.”

 

They entered the bronze doors and paused, reading the inscription on the set of silver doors:

 

Enter, stranger, but take heed

Of what awaits the sin of greed,

For those who take, but do not earn,

Must pay dearly in their turn,

So if you seek beneath our floors

A treasure that was never yours,

Thief, you have been warned, beware,

Of finding more than treasure there.

 

They let the message sink in for a moment, then opened the silver doors. They paused and looked around for a moment, awestruck. Goblins sat on high stools behind a very long counter. Some were counting stacks of coins, others were weighing incredible gemstones, and more were comparing long lists of figures and scribbling madly. Doors were everywhere, leading to other parts of the bank, and goblins and the occasional human went in and out. Hermione spotted the desk and led the others to it.

 

Applying her same strategy as before, she curtsied to the goblin sitting at the desk. “I humbly beg your pardon, sir. The guard outside said you could help us. We need to change our money to wizard money and perhaps open accounts?”

 

The goblin, dressed in an interesting combination of suit jacket, wizard robe, and armoured breastplate, rose and nodded. “Welcome to Gringotts. I am Trobnor and I can guide you through the bank.” He picked up a blank parchment. “If I may have the names of the students, we can offer a basic account with a minimum deposit of ten Galleons. We are capable of magically linking this account to any current Muggle account so parents may deposit sterling into the Muggle account and the student may withdraw galleons from our account.”

 

Trobnar showed his teeth at the appreciative noises they all made. “We can also arrange for Hogwarts tuition to be withdrawn automatically, either on a yearly basis or on whatever schedule you arrange with the school.” Addison Finch-Fletchley stepped forward, and as the queue began to form Harry pulled Robert and Mr Thomas back.

 

“I’ll ask him about my inheritance when he’s done. I meant what I said: if I have enough money to do it I’m paying for Hermione and Dean.”

 

Robert shook his head. “Harry, we can manage just fine. We’ve had an education account for Hermione since before she was born, although we intended it for her university expenses and backup in case she chose to go abroad. You really don’t have to do this.”

 

Geoff Thomas grimaced. “We, on the other hand, aren’t so lucky. If it means Dean can stay with his friends who have this same…magic that he does, we’ll take you up on it.” He shook hands with Harry, who then hurried forward to the waiting goblin who was watching them closely.

 

“My name’s Harry Potter, sir, and I was told that my parents had an account here?”

 

Trobnor’s eyes widened and he actually stammered. “Er, yes, yes, you do have an account here. We’ve been keeping it safe and untouched even when Albus Dumbledore threatened to sue us for keeping him out.”

 

Harry frowned. The name rang a bell, but he didn’t immediately place it. He heard Hermione gasp behind him but ignored her for the moment. “What do you need me to do, sir?”

 

“Follow me.” Trobnor led Harry to one of the goblins behind the long counter. “Griphook, I need your assistance. This is Harry Potter and he needs a key issued to his vault.”

 

The new goblin looked Harry up and down. “That is no problem. I will need a drop of your blood to prove identity.” Harry nodded and the goblin produced a bowl from under the counter. He took out a sharp knife and held out a hand with very long fingers. “It only takes a drop, so I will prick your finger with the point of my blade.” Harry put his hand in the goblin’s. One quick careful stab later, Harry watched in astonishment as the drop of blood in the bowl began to shimmer and grow, turning into a small ornate gold key.

 

Dean had followed Harry and breathed, “Wicked!” as Harry picked up the key. Griphook sniffed slightly, then fastened his eyes onto Dean, taking deeper breaths.

 

“You, what’s your name?”

 

Dean stepped back slightly, frightened. “Dean Thomas, sir.”

 

The goblin inhaled again. “What was your father’s name?”

 

Dean gestured weakly toward the adults. “Geoffrey Thomas, sir.”

 

Griphook sniffed in their direction. “No, not him. You don’t smell a thing like him. I mean the one who sired you!”

 

“I don’t know what you’re talking about!”

 

Harry jumped in before Dean could lose it. “Please sir, we don’t understand.”

 

Griphook glared at Dean’s parents, who had noticed something was wrong and were headed their way. “Your father was a wizard. I can smell it, but I can’t place him.”

 

Andrea Thomas surged forward and threw her arms around Dean protectively. “What are you doing to my son?”

 

Griphook leaned forward and inhaled. “Yes, you’re the mother. But who is the boy’s father?”

 

Mrs Thomas faltered at his question. “How did you know?”

 

Griphook tapped the side of his very long nose. “We goblins can tell. It’s one of the reasons disguises don’t work here.”

 

She looked uncertainly at her husband, who shrugged. “Now’s as good a time as any, love.”

 

She turned to Dean and hugged him hard. “I was going to tell you when you were older. Your father…your father disappeared soon after you were born. I reported him missing but the police couldn’t do much. No body ever turned up, no evidence, no credit card records. Geoff was my rock. I went through an uncontested divorce and married Geoff after your father was missing for a year.”

 

“Name, please?” Griphook wasn’t showing a single tooth and Harry got the impression that he was getting impatient.

 

Andrea wiped her teary eyes with her hand. “Alexander Demirci.”

 

Griphook sniffed again and nodded. “Thank you. If I may repeat this process with you for our records, we can transfer your father’s vault to your name. Aside from a few charity bequests, he left everything to you.”

 

“You know he’s dead, then?” Geoff asked. “Do you know when?”

 

Griphook summoned another goblin and sent him off at a run. “We will provide you with all the information we have, including when the will was activated.”

 

Dean had already been stunned at his mother’s revelation. The idea that his birth father had a vault as well reduced him to staring. He didn’t even react as Griphook pricked his finger over the bowl and put the resulting key into his hand.

 

“Now, I can take you both to your vaults where you will be able to withdraw funds for today’s expenses.” The errand-runner returned with sheaves of parchment in each hand. Griphook looked them over. “There are certainly adequate funds for tuition at Hogwarts for each of you and you may authorize those payments at any time.” He rolled up each set of records and handed them to the boys. “You may look over your finances at your leisure.”

 

Hermione ran up to them as Harry led Dean and his parents away. “I have my vault! Mum and Dad put a hundred pounds in and we changed five hundred to Galleons. Look at these!” She pulled a handful of large gold coins out of a bag. “They said the bag has charms on it to make it weightless and thief-proof, how brilliant is that?”

 

When neither boy answered her, Hermione looked at them uncertainly. “Everything all right?”

 

Harry glanced at the Thomases, who still looked shell-shocked. “We just found out that Dean’s father was a wizard who vanished when Dean was a baby. Mr Thomas is technically his stepfather.”

 

“Oh, wow.” Hermione stepped forward and hugged Dean. That seemed to bring him out of his daze. She continued, “That explains why I was the only one being treated as not knowing anything about magic. They assumed you both would know because you had magical parents.”

 

Harry rolled his eyes. “Really effective system they have there.”

 

Griphook waved at them. “Mr Potter, Mr Demirci-Thomas, please follow me.” Harry pulled Dean along and they followed the goblin through a door. The chamber they entered was a complete contrast to the elegant hall they had left. They were now in a massive cavern, lit by wavering torches. Griphook led them to a contraption that looked like a cross between a miners’ cart and a roller-coaster car. The track led both ways into darkness.

 

Behind them, another goblin called to Griphook in their native language. He helped the boys into the cart and then nodded to the newcomer. “Mr Hagrid. Where to?”

 

“I need the you-know-what in vault seven hundred thirteen. Dumbledore’s orders.”

 

Both boys looked up at the man with wild black hair and a full beard. Way up.

 

*************************************

 

Author’s Note: The inscription on the doors of Gringotts is quoted from Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, pp. 56-57.

 

I know my method of Harry getting his Hogwarts key (or a replacement) is similar to at least a few other fanfics. I think it was robst on FF.net where I read it, but if someone knows it’s from another author, let me know and I will credit appropriately.

 

Thank you as always for reading!

Chapter Text

Disclaimer: If you recognize the character, it isn’t mine. Just playing in Rowling’s sandbox.

 

Scheduling note: My life is currently lived by the academic calendar. Said calendar is about to get supremely busy for a while. In order to ensure that I will be able to stay on track in my writing, I’m going to have to slow updates to once a month for the next couple of months. I hope to be back to bimonthly in June. Apologies for disappointing anyone, but I’d rather keep on a schedule I feel I can maintain instead of disappear for ages and leave readers uncertain. So, next chapter at the end of April.

 

**************************************

 

3 August 1991

 

Harry and Dean stared as the huge man approached. He looked them over. “You two look about the size o’ first years. I’m Hagrid, Keeper of Keys and Grounds at Hogwarts. What’s yer names, boys?”

 

“I’m Dean Thomas. He’s Harry—”

 

“Harry Potter! It is you! I haven’t seen you since you were a wee thing! Look a lot like yer father, ye do.”

 

Any questions Harry wanted to ask were cut off as Griphook took the first seat of the cart. “Hold on.”

 

They took off at an incredible speed, twisting up and down hills like a roller coaster but spiralling lower and lower into the caverns. Over the noise Harry thought he could hear Hagrid groaning. The cart stopped suddenly, surprising everyone but the goblin. Griphook hopped out. “Mr Potter, this is your vault for school expenses.” He led Harry to an ornate silver door and held out a hand for the key. Harry handed it over and Griphook gave him a pouch similar to the one Hermione had shown them. “I recommend around three hundred Galleons, just to be sure.”

 

Harry felt his jaw drop at the sight of so much money. Piles of gold, silver and bronze reached the roof of a space he could almost stand up in. Dazed, he pushed piles into the apparently bottomless bag until Griphook told him to stop. He climbed back into the cart with his bag and key.

 

Hagrid was looking a bit pale. He patted Harry on the back, nearly knocking the wind out of him. “Now yer all set. Ye can have yer aunt and uncle hold yer bag while you shop.”

 

Harry whirled to face him. “My aunt and uncle? What do you know about them?”

 

Hagrid frowned and began to answer, but his reply turned into a whimper as the cart took off again.

 

The next stop was Dean’s vault, with an even larger and more ornate golden door. Griphook explained, “This is your family vault. It contains everything: money, jewellery, heirlooms and so forth. It’s all itemized in your papers to study later.” He turned to Harry. “Your family vault is near this one and you have the same lists.”

 

The information that he had an even larger vault distracted Harry. He barely registered the exclamation of “Bloody hell!” as Dean stepped in and turned around, looking up and taking in the amount of wealth inside. Behind him, Hagrid was moaning as if he were going to be sick.

 

The last leg of their journey took them even deeper. Harry watched, trying to get his bearings. He blinked when going past a side corridor full of light; if he didn’t know better he would have sworn that he’d seen a dragon bellowing flames.

 

At the final stop, Griphook led a staggering Hagrid to a simplistic carving in the stone wall. Instead of using a key, Griphook dragged one long finger down a certain line in the design. The design vanished into mist, revealing a small cavern. Harry and Dean looked eagerly, but only saw Hagrid remove a small something wrapped in brown paper, leaving the vault completely empty. Hagrid shoved the parcel deep into a pocket and climbed back into the cart with resignation.

 

“If ye don’t mind, boys, best not to mention that you saw me here.”

 

They nodded, mystified.

 

*****

 

Albus Dumbledore Apparated to the back door of number four Privet Drive and hesitated before knocking. His ears had already taken a battering from Arabella Figg, who had seized him by his long beard and let him know exactly how she felt about being essentially ignored for years before he could even begin. He would much rather retreat back to Hogwarts and recover before tackling the Dursleys, but there would be no rest there either. Minerva was stalking him, waiting for an opportunity to tear into him again.

 

He was being ridiculous. I’m Albus Dumbledore. I’m the Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot. I was awarded the Order of Merlin. I’ve been headmaster at the premier school of magic  approaching forty years. I can handle a few women. Taking a deep breath, he knocked.

 

He could hear a distant bellowed “Who’s that who comes on a Saturday and the back door at that?” and then the sound of heels tapping across a floor. The door opened to reveal Petunia Dursley, whose mouth fell open in horror.

 

“You! How dare you! You swore you would never come here again!”

 

“Good morning to you, too, Petunia. May I come in or do you wish to keep shouting at me in full hearing of your neighbours? I did use the back garden to be a bit more discreet.”

 

Her eyes darting around frantically, she stepped aside to give him room to enter and swiftly shut the door. “What are you doing here?”

 

He opted to be blunt and possibly have the advantage in a conversation for the first time all day. “Harry was discovered to be at a mental health facility this week when his Hogwarts letter was delivered there. My deputy headmistress says that he’s been there for over five years. Why did you break your promise?”

 

Petunia stammered, “He was a freak! He kept making things happen and then he just appeared out of thin air. It would have gotten worse and once he started school he would have been doing it in public! It wasn’t fair to force us to try and control him! Vernon insisted that he go to a place where they could deal with his abnormalities!”

 

“Petunia? What’s going on in there?” Sounds of someone struggling out of a chair preceded Vernon Dursley. When he appeared in the doorframe, his face immediately flushed red. “YOU! Get your freaky old arse out of here! The boy is gone and he is never coming back!”

 

Dumbledore pulled out his wand, Silencing both of them and putting Durlsey into a full Body-Bind. “The damage is done. Your nephew is just about to enter Hogwarts where he will be taught proper control of his magic. I also daresay from what I have just witnessed that he was raised with more kindness in hospital than he would have been with you. My only remaining question is how my blood wards stayed in place without Harry here.” He circled slowly with his wand out, concentrating on the feel of the barriers around the property.

 

“Yes, they feel exactly the same as they did the day I cast them. But without Harry, that means something went wrong with the casting.” He pulled a chair from the dining table and sat, waving for Petunia to join him. With one very nervous glance at Vernon, she did so. He released the Silencing charm on her.

 

“Petunia, those wards were designed to protect both Harry and your family as his only blood relatives as long as he resided here. The wards are still the way they were after I set them almost ten years ago. I followed the instructions exactly. It should be impossible for Harry to be elsewhere without them collapsing. I realize that you may not even know this, but is there anything I have missed? Harry is your sister’s child, your blood relative, this is your home, and as long as Harry called your house his home—”

 

“It’s not my house, technically,” Petunia offered in a small, quavering voice.

 

“Explain that, please. You live here.”

 

“The house…it’s in Vernon’s name. He bought it after his mother passed. Yes, I live here, but Vernon brought me here after we were married.”

 

Dumbledore stared at her in shock. Is it that simple? Do these rituals depend so on Muggle technicalities when the magic is focused on intent? Petunia continued to babble.

 

“It’s one of the reasons I work so hard to keep the house neat for Vernon. He trusts me to care for his home, to take care of him and Dudley. And the little freak upset all that. Even when he did the chores correctly, there was always the danger of someone seeing him do something abnormal—”

 

“Excuse me? What chores could a five-year-old possibly handle?”

 

“He, er…he cleaned and took care of the garden and sometimes cooked. He was just about big enough to start washing Vernon’s car and cutting the lawn—”

 

Dumbledore paled. “You forced a child that young to work so much?”

 

“Of course, it wasn’t like I would let my precious Dudley lift a finger—”

 

Dumbledore jabbed his wand at her, Silencing her once more and casting a full Body-Bind to keep her in place. He stood and began pacing the room, pondering both his catastrophic mistake and how much work it was going to take to repair it. He made his first decision easily enough.

 

Waving his wand in a circle above his head, he intoned, “For cause of the broken promise and the broken foundation, let the wards of this place fall!” He felt the magic wash over him as the wards flew apart. He had no easy way to test if they had ever been effective against Death Eaters as Severus, the only former Death Eater he could trust, was still on his trip through South America to harvest valuable potion ingredients. He turned to the Dursleys, still frozen in place.

 

“I am leaving now and I expect that we will never cross paths again. However…” Dumbledore glanced around the pristine kitchen and spied a particularly hideous teapot. Judging from its place on a higher shelf it probably was not used very often. He Summoned it down and released the Silencing charm on Petunia. “How often do you use this teapot?”

 

“N-never. It was a gift from a cousin of Vernon’s. He moved to Australia years ago.”

 

“Excellent.” Dumbledore waved his wand in the correct movement and muttered, “Portus.” He Levitated it back, but to a shelf below where it had been, within Petunia’s easy reach. “I do not expect that you will have any trouble, as the wards showed no interference at all for many years. However, if I am wrong and you find yourselves attacked, everyone needs to put a hand on the teapot. As soon as all of you are touching it, saying ‘Dumbledore’ will activate this Portkey and send you directly to my private office at Hogwarts, where you will be safe. Do you understand?”

 

Unable to nod due to the Body-Bind still in place, Petunia mumbled, “I understand.”

 

Dumbledore released both of them and Disapparated before Vernon could draw breath to bellow.

 

*****

 

Once they were back in the main hall of the bank, Harry and Dean raced to find Hermione so they could introduce her to the enormous Hagrid who worked at Hogwarts. By the time they found her, conversing eagerly with a goblin who was showing her how he calculated the worth of the gemstones in front of him, Hagrid had left the bank.

 

Dr Aymler looked over the list and suggested that they try the clothing shop first. “It’s possible that they’ll only need to make minor alterations on a standard uniform and we’ll be able to pick them up on the way out this afternoon.”

 

Everyone nodded but Dean, who was flipping through the parchments that listed his assets. “I want to do one more thing here. We’ll catch up.”

 

Mystified, the Thomases followed Dean back to the counters. Dean approached Griphook and nodded, then bowed slightly. “Can I ask for a few more minutes of your time, sir?”

 

Griphook nodded, showing his teeth in what Dean suddenly realized was the goblin version of a smile. Encouraged, Dean continued, “If I’m reading this list of yours correctly, this figure is the amount of ready cash in wizard money that is currently in the vault. Is that right?”

 

Griphook looked at where Dean was pointing and nodded.

 

“And according to that lady from Hogwarts, multiplying that number by five will give us a rough total in pounds.”

 

Griphook nodded again. “The exchange rate today is actually six point naught two five English pounds to one Galleon.”

 

Dean turned to his parents. “Da, Mum, how much do you think you’ll need to buy a proper house?”

 

Their eyes widened in shock. Andrea found her voice first. “Dean, you can’t possibly mean that! To stay close enough to London so your da could travel to his job would be a hundred fifty thousand pounds, easy!”

 

Dean turned back to Griphook. “Could you please change a hundred thousand Galleons into pounds and transfer it to my parents’ bank account?”

 

Griphook bowed to him. “It will be done within ten minutes, Mr Demirci-Thomas.”

 

Dean nodded to him. “Thank you very much for all your help.”

 

Griphook nodded back. “It has been a pleasure to work with you. We at Gringotts will endeavour to be at your service at any time.” He retreated to his spot at the counter, waving for another goblin to attend him.

 

Both adults stared at Dean. Geoffrey found his voice first. “Son, what did you just do?”

 

“I put enough money into your account to buy us a house. I added extra so you’d be able to choose anywhere and to cover any tax stuff. I suppose I could have asked Griphook for help on that.” Dean made as if to go to the counter again, but Andrea grabbed his shoulder.

 

“No, dear, that’s more than enough. But you shouldn’t have given us all of your money like that!”

 

“It wasn’t all my money, Mum. Here, look!” Dean held out the parchment, pointing to the same number as before.

 

Andrea Thomas saw seven figures in the number and Geoffrey had to catch her before her knees gave way.

 

*****

 

The group found the robe shop with “Madame Malkin’s Robes for All Occasions” in golden scrolling letters across the top of the display window. Before Dr Aymler could lead them in, Ms Entwhistle spoke up.

 

“I don’t think we’ll be able to do this. It’s…it’s too much. And we can’t afford the prices that the McGonagall woman mentioned, even with help.”

 

Harry stepped forward. “I just found out my parents left me lots of money. I could help if you like.”

 

Kevin, a fair boy who had been rather quiet all day, shook his head. “I asked the professor about the size of the school. There’s hundreds of students there. I don’t think I could stand it, being around so many people and so far away. And she said that the other school in the south wasn’t very far from where we live. I could be a day boy if I went there.” He looked down for a moment. “Mum and me, we’ve no other family. I don’t think I could leave her alone, September to June.”

 

Hermione grabbed Harry’s arm before he could protest again and spoke. “That sounds like the best plan for you, then. How will you let Mr Clott know?”

 

Ms Entwhistle smiled at her. “We told McGonagall right away that we might have to look at other options. She told us they have a little office here and where it is. We’ll go now and talk to them. If we don’t see you later, I hope you all have the best of luck with this.”

 

Kevin began shaking hands all around. When he got to Hermione, she held on. “Give us your address so we can keep in touch, all right?” He willingly added it to Robert’s address book and then waved at them all once more as he and his mother started down the street.

 

Harry spotted Dean and his parents leaving Gringotts and shouted to them. As they approached, Sally-Ann Perks sidled up to Hermione and squeezed her arm. “Now we get to buy our clothes!”

 

Hermione almost succeeded in keeping her eyes from rolling.

 

********************************

 

Author’s Note: Thanks as always for reading.

Chapter Text

Disclaimer: If you recognize the character, it isn't mine. Just playing in Rowling's sandbox.

 

***************************************

 

3 August 1991

 

The large group entering the shop immediately captured the attention of two young women in robes pattered in vivid pink-and-orange stripes. Hermione realized that the eye-watering combination served to make the shopgirls easy to spot against the riot of colours from the racks of robes.

 

“Welcome to Madam Malkin’s! New Hogwarts students, right?”

 

All the children nodded and the taller girl waved a hand. “I’ll take the girls over here. Boys, follow Naomi.” She waved the adults to a row of seats near the entrance. “We won’t be long.”

 

Hermione and Sally-Anne climbed up onto stools and pulled on the oversized robes. The clerk began tracing Hermione’s hem with a wand, marking the cloth to the proper length while Sally-Anne felt the thick black cloth and flapped experimentally.

 

“Why is it so heavy?”

 

The clerk answered, “You’ll want it, believe me. A draughty castle in Scotland and this your only layer? You don’t learn Warming Charms for a while and even then you have to keep reapplying them.”

 

Hermione frowned as she loosened the front of the robe. “Is there something wrong with wearing our regular clothes underneath? These are certainly loose enough.”

 

The clerk looked up at her. “You mean Muggle clothes? Why would you want to?” She pointed at Hermione’s jeans. “Those things look so uncomfortable!”

 

Hermione glared. “At least I won’t be flashing my knickers if I get caught in one of those draughts you mentioned.” She pulled the robe off and tossed it into the clerk’s arms. “Got anything in a lighter material?”

 

The girl glared back, but any retort she had would remain unsaid. A heavy woman in flowing mauve robes had appeared. “Is there a problem here, Marigold?”

 

The clerk hesitated and Hermione replied, “She seemed to have a superior opinion about the kind of clothing that some of your customers prefer to wear. I would like to know if you have robes for Hogwarts in lighter materials, as I intend to wear my usual wardrobe under them.”

 

The woman offered a slight bow. “I am Madam Malkin and I wish to beg pardon. We can certainly accommodate your request. I presume all of you are Muggleborn?” At Hermione’s nod, she turned to Marigold. “Offer your apologies for your rudeness and then fetch the summer-weight robes. Make sure the young men have the same choices.”

 

Hermione murmured a thank-you as the clerk apologised and retreated. Sally-Anne shrugged off the heavy robe and held it in front of her. “Might be a good idea to get some of each. Scotland can get really cold in winter.”

 

Hermione nodded. “I think we can learn that Warming Charm she mentioned really quickly, though. The list said three sets of robes, perhaps three of the summer-weight and two of these for when it’s really cold? Can you afford the extras?”

 

Sally-Anne smiled. “Daddy works in computers. He’s doing quite well; they’re flying him over to San Francisco next month. Mummy even said that we might be moving there next year.”

 

“So you might wind up transferring to one of the North American schools?”

 

Sally-Anne’s eyes grew big. “There are magic schools there, too?”

 

“Yes, Professor McGonagall mentioned them when she talked to us.”

 

Marigold returned and handed the girls black robes in a light, silky material. Without saying another word she marked the robes to the right length and took them away to finish them. Hermione hopped down and went toward the boys while Sally-Anne began browsing the racks.

 

Justin and Harry were up on stools while the other three boys talked. Dean moved to let Hermione join them. “All done?”

 

“Yes, we got some of both kinds, the lighter ones for wearing over our clothes normally and the ones they brought out first for any really cold days.”

 

Dean nodded. “I still can’t believe they aren’t wearing anything under these robes. There’s no way that’s all I’d wear.” The other boys nodded as Harry got off his stool and Dean took his place.

 

Harry bumped Hermione’s shoulder with his own. “I am so glad we got to do this as a group. Can you imagine having to go through this by yourself?”

 

She shuddered. “No, it would be awful. Don’t even say it.”

 

Naomi steered Justin and Dean over to them. “We’ll have your robes ready in half an hour. Most students duck into Flourish and Blotts next door, get their books, and come back.”

 

At the mention of books, Hermione lit up and Harry and Dean laughed. Harry turned to the other boys. “Gents, we have an important mission, one that is critical to our success the rest of the day.” The other boys looked at him, expectant and intrigued.

 

“We’ll need your help dragging Hermione out of the bookstore on time.”

 

They all laughed and Hermione stuck out her tongue at him.

 

*****

 

It took a promise from her parents and Dr Aymler that they would return the following weekend to pry Hermione out of the bookstore in time to collect their robes. Even then she added half a dozen extra books, mostly recommended for background reading by the clerk. As they left Madam Malkin’s a second time, a girl their age with heavy black curls and green robes passed them and gave them a slightly sneering glance.

 

The group made quick work of much of the list and were exiting the apothecary, on their way to Ollivander’s for wands, when Justin stopped short in front of Eeylop’s Owl Emporium. “Mother, Father, look! We could get our own owl for delivering letters just like the professor’s!”

 

The other children began looking eagerly at the windows and the adults traded resigned looks and shepherded them in.

 

They exited with four cages, each containing an owl. Justin’s mother had chosen a cute tiny Scops owl. The Boots had gone with a sleek barn owl. Dean had a stately great horned owl with a mischievous gleam in its eye and Harry was talking softly to a snowy white owl that had fastened her gaze on him, then flown to his shoulder and settled.

 

Sally-Anne’s mother vetoed an owl on the grounds that they might be moving out of the country. Wayne Hopkins didn’t have enough money and refused when Harry and Dean offered to lend him some. And Hermione, after studying all the owls closely, decided against buying one, saying that none of them spoke to her.

 

*****

 

After observing the single rickety chair in the cramped space, Aymler agreed to accompany the children inside the wand shop while the parents took the owls in their cages and claimed a few tables at the ice cream shop they had passed several storefronts back. The wand shop had the hush of a library and they looked in awe at what must have been thousands of narrow boxes piled on shelves to the high ceiling. That charged sensation in the air was much stronger than outside. Harry felt as if he could create sparks if he sneezed. Dean’s fingers were fluttering the way they did when he was itching to draw something and Hermione stepped forward, about to reach a hand out to touch the boxes.

 

“Good afternoon, good afternoon to you all.” An old man with disconcerting pale eyes slipped from behind a curtain. He looked them over before fastening his eyes on Harry. “Harry Potter. I knew I’d be seeing you soon, but I didn’t expect you with the Muggleborn group. Interesting. I remember your parents well. You look rather like your father—mahogany wand, eleven inches, nice power, good for Transfiguration—but those eyes could only be your mother’s. Her wand was ten and a quarter inches, made of nice swishy willow, excellent for Charms.” Harry’s eyes widened at this information, but before he could speak, Ollivander stepped forward and waved vaguely at them. The children fell into a line with Terry Boot first. Ollivander peered down the line at Dean. “You seem familiar as well. Who are your parents?”

 

Dean glanced at the others, reluctant to be put on the spot. “Well, my mum is a regular person, but I just learned at Gringotts that my dad was named Alexander Demirci.”

 

“Ah, yes. I did not sell him a wand but he would come in for polish and such. He actually went to Africa and learned to make his own—marula wood with a core of sphinx mane, fascinating combination. I only use dragon heartstring, phoenix tail feathers, and unicorn hair in my wands, but no two are alike just as no two dragons, phoenixes or unicorns are alike. Your wand will choose you and you’ll get the best results from it rather than another one.” He moved Terry over to his table and began quizzing him about his wand hand, a tape measure moving on its own to measure Terry’s arm in a dozen ways.

 

Harry’s eyes were drawn again to the shelves crammed with wands. He whispered to Hermione, “Do you feel a bit jumpy in here?”

 

She nodded. “Like there’s something in the air, calling to us. I just want to reach out and follow it…” She lifted a hand, trying to sort out where the pull was, and then various shouts of surprise erupted as eight random boxes shot out of the shelves toward her. Dean managed to catch one and Harry snagged two in rapid succession, but the rest pelted her and fell to the floor, spilling out wands with a clatter.

 

Ollivander spun around, his large eyes even more unsettling as they widened. He left Terry and hurried over as the children picked up the wands and boxes.

 

Hermione stammered, “I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean it. It just felt like something was calling me. I can pay if any are damaged.”

 

Ollivander gathered the wands and looked them over carefully in growing astonishment. He turned his gaze to her. “Amazing. It’s been a very long time since I had a new customer so in tune with her magic as to call her own wand.” He spread the eight wands on the table and waved Hermione over. “All of these wands have dragon heartstrings as their cores…from the same dragon. One of these will undoubtedly be the proper wand for you. Here, take them one at a time and give a wave.”

 

Her confidence returning, Hermione began. Each one sent up a shower of purple sparks, like miniature fireworks. The sixth one, carved prettily with a vine trailing leaves, burst with the largest show of fireworks, gold and silver among the purple, and Ollivander smiled.

 

“I believe that’s the one. Try the last ones, just to be sure.”

 

Hermione did, producing inferior results, then accepted the vine wood wand in a box and helped to re-box and stack the rest. He clapped his hands together. “Now, that’s one. I don’t suppose anyone else feels like calling their wand to them?”

 

His joke promptly backfired as both Harry and Dean raised their hands and half-a-dozen boxes flew at them. Ollivander and the other children stared.

 

Aymler grinned from his position near the door.

 

*****

 

Ollivander was looking over the wands and paused, blinking, at one box. “Curious. Very curious.” He pulled out the wand that had caught his attention and handed it to Harry. “Give that one a wave.”

 

Harry did so, instantly producing a stream of red and gold fireworks that danced in the dusty air. He paused to look at the piece of wood in his hand, enjoying the warmth of it. Looking back at the wandmaker, he asked, “Should I try another?”

 

Ollivander replaced the wand in its box and handed it to him. “Oh, no, my boy. Mr Demirci there—” he ignored Dean’s murmured correction “—will have to try the others. They all have unicorn hairs from the same unicorn. But this wand has the tail feather of a phoenix as its core. A phoenix that has only ever given one other feather.”

 

He paused and Harry shrugged. “So where’s the wand with that feather?”

 

Ollivander frowned and looked to Aymler, who shrugged as well. Seeing no help from the only other adult in the room, he reached out and gently lifted Harry’s fringe. “That wand, my dear boy, was the wand that gave you that scar.”

 

Harry’s eyes opened wide in shock at that revelation. Hermione broke off admiring her wand with the others and moved back to his side. “What do you mean, sir?”

 

Ollivander appeared nonplussed at Harry’s reaction and her question. “You mean you don’t know? You don’t know your own history?”

 

“We were told his parents died in a car accident,” Aymler growled. “If you have more information than that, please share.”

 

“I…it’s really not my place…it should be Dumbledore…” Ollivander moved behind his table and began stacking wand boxes almost frantically.

 

Harry stepped forward as he retreated. “Sir, please? What do you know?”

 

“I don’t know any more than anyone else. I’m not...really not the right person. I just make wands!”

 

Hermione realized that their doctor was on the verge of losing his temper, Harry was lost in confusion, and Ollivander looked ready to vanish behind his curtain and hope they left his shop. She jumped in. “Please, sir, if you don’t feel comfortable telling us, is there some way for us to find out for ourselves? Is there a library or newspaper office?”

 

Ollivander seized her offer gratefully. “The incident would actually be in a number of books over at Flourish and Blotts…any book covering recent wizarding history.”

 

Hermione nodded and looked up at Aymler. “I think we’ll find it in one of the extra books I bought, Doctor.”

 

He glanced around, at Harry’s pale face and the nervous expressions on the other children, and made himself relax. “I think I’ll start looking. I’ll send in your dad, Hermione.” He left the shop.

 

Ollivander busied himself with helping Dean find his wand. Hermione squeezed Harry’s arm and led him to the tight little knot the others had formed. “Sorry about that. Dr Aymler is kind of protective of us and especially Harry since he’s an orphan.”

 

Justin smiled first. “I understand protective. Nannies can be quite bothersome that way as well.”

 

Sally-Anne leaned in. “How did you pull those wands to you? It’s like you knew what you were doing!”

 

Hermione blushed a little. “I wouldn’t say we know what we’re doing, but Harry, Dean and I all stay at the same institute. We’ve been able to practice a lot and learn how to do some things. For example, close your eyes a minute and just concentrate on how this place feels.” One by one, the others followed her instructions.

 

“You know that part of you in your head that feels like a balloon getting bigger, just before your make something happen? See if you can reach out with it, feel with it. It’s kind of like the air before a big storm, a bit tingly.”

 

Next to her Sally-Anne let out a soft “oh”. Both Justin and Wayne straightened their posture as they sensed something.

 

“Now, do you feel like something is pulling at that part of yourself? Try to reach out and answer it.”

 

Terry’s hand floated up toward the shelves.

 

Their eyes flew open and they jumped out of the way as seven boxes soared toward Terry, who laughed in astonishment.

 

The wandmaker looked up from stacking Dean’s rejects. “Well, then. This may set a record for fastest wand-shopping by a Muggleborn group in the history of Ollivander’s.”

 

*****

 

Patrick sat with Viola Granger as Robert rapidly finished his ice cream and got up to go to the wand shop. He dug through Hermione’s parcel of books until he found the history ones. With the efficiency of an experienced researcher, he checked each book for an index and ran his eye down the Ps. He found three books with Harry’s name in them and took a look at the titles. Great Wizarding Events of the Twentieth Century. Modern Magical History.

 

It was the third title that sent a chill down his spine.

 

The Rise and Fall of the Dark Arts.

 

Patrick opened the book and began to read.

 

********************************************

 

Author’s Note: Thanks as always for reading! Look for the next chapter in about a month.

Chapter Text

Disclaimer: If you recognize the character, it isn't mine. Just playing in Rowling's sandbox.

 

***************************************

 

3 August 1991

 

The parents sat up and pushed empty ice cream dishes to the side as the children came down the street from Ollivander’s, talking excitedly. Terry ran forward to his parents. “Look! Actual magic wands!” Several of the children unwrapped the long, thin boxes from their parcels, pulled out the wands, and began waving them, filling the air with glittery showers.

 

Hermione noticed that Harry had gone straight to Dr Aymler, who had one of her new books open. He looked up and pulled Harry to him in a half-hug, shutting the book. “I found something. We’ll take a closer look when we get back.”

 

Harry nodded and moved over to Viola, who had the cage with his owl. He had just stuck his fingers in for her to preen against when a loud noise sounded, like the crack of a rifle, and Albert Clott appeared, still resplendent in his bright uniform and shiny buttons.

 

He strode toward Terry and Justin, who were mock-fighting with their wands, brandishing them as if they were swords, and sending sparkling lights everywhere. Hermione heard him mutter as he passed, “Every single time. There’s always at least one stupid Muggleborn who doesn’t listen.” In a louder voice, he scolded, “Put those away at once! You are not to touch those wands until you are at Hogwarts. All it takes is one Muggle catching sight of you doing magic and then the Ministry of Magic has to spend time and resources sending in the Obliviators…oh, do put those away! Every time you cast a spell outside of Ollivander’s or Hogwarts, you set off alarms!” He held up something that looked like an ornate watch fob. Before their eyes, the angry red glow it gave off began to fade.

 

Hermione frowned and glanced at Harry. He nodded and she stepped forward. “Pardon me, Mr Clott. No one said not to use our wands. We didn’t mean to cause trouble.”

 

Clott turned to face her, slightly calmed by her humble tone. “You mean Mr Ollivander didn’t give you instructions?”

 

“No, sir. He was distracted when Harry got his wand.”

 

Clott brightened. “That makes sense. I’ve certainly been the talk of the Ministry this afternoon for escorting you all here. Why, even Junior Undersecretary Umbridge herself stopped me to talk…” As the liaison got lost in his tale, Harry edged behind him and waved to Dean. He pointed at Dean’s wand, still in its box, and mimed waving it. Dean winked and began unwrapping his wand. Harry concentrated on Clott’s shoes.

 

Slowly, the shoelaces loosened, the ends falling to the cobblestones. When Clott showed no sign of noticing, Harry looked at Hermione. She was watching Clott’s detector and shook her head very slightly. Harry then nodded to Dean, who had gotten his wand. Dean swung his arm, looking casual, but the wand still threw out sparks. Clott jumped and grabbed the detector, once more glowing red.

 

“Please! Please put your wands away and keep them away until you are at Hogwarts! This is the rule you must obey as part of being a young witch or wizard! No magic outside of school until you are of age!”

 

At this point most of the adults began taking the wands, putting them back in their boxes. Hermione, still facing Clott, gave one of her little curtsies. “Thank you for telling us, sir.” Clott smiled and patted her head. She resisted the urge to make a face as Harry and Dean both turned away to keep from laughing.

 

Her father approached. “Since you’re here anyway, I believe we are all done with our errands. Could you escort us back to that pub and send us home?”

 

Clott looked around at everyone, loaded with parcels. “Really? Done already? It usually takes hours with a group this large, especially at Ollivander’s.”

 

“We got lucky,” Hermione said, helping her parents gather her things.

 

“Lucky, indeed. Well, there’s no need to go back through the pub. I have everyone’s tickets to the Hogwarts Express and portkeys back to everyone’s destination.” He began handing the tickets out and paused. “I see we’re short one.”

 

Harry answered, “Kevin Entwhistle and his mum have decided on the other school. They went to talk to them.”

 

Clott beamed, “Thank you, Harry. May I call you Harry? So exciting to meet you at last. That’s very helpful of you. I’ll stop by and check in with them. Now, you were the very large group, correct? Here’s a nice long scarf, should be easy for everyone to grab on to. Have you got a good grip on your supplies? Everyone have the scarf? Hold on, then!” He touched the end of the scarf with his wand and commanded, “Portus!

 

The invisible line yanked through them all, depositing them in a conference room that suddenly felt much too small with people, parcels, and protesting owls everywhere.

 

*****

 

Dr Aymler sent for Pippa to help the kids sort their purchases. As Hermione stacked potion phials, her telescope, and scales into her cauldron, she suddenly smacked her forehead. “We completely forgot about trunks! They weren’t on the list!”

 

Viola, refolding the robes, looked over. “We were going back next week anyway. We can take Harry and Dean as well and get trunks for all three of you. Robert, you might call the other families and remind them. Perhaps we could even meet up at that ice cream shop again. They had the most amazing sundaes.”

 

Dean looked up from flipping through A Beginner's Guide to Transfiguration. “You all traded numbers?”

 

Robert held up his address book. “While you were in the last shop, we talked. It turns out that none of us were given any clue at all about the existence of magic. No contact of any sort while the poor kids were experiencing these incidents and practically becoming recluses while the parents got more and more frantic. I’m not sure yet who to complain to, but there has to be someone in their government who can see the problem.”

 

Andrea took the box holding Dean’s wand. “I think we’ll hang onto this, just to be safe.”

 

Dean waved a hand in easy agreement. “No problem. Put it on the top shelf in your clothes cupboard where you hide our Christmas gifts. No one else can reach it but us three.”

 

As his parents stared at him in unhappy surprise, Hermione handed her box to her mother. “Here’s mine.”

 

Harry dug around for his and held it out to Dr Aymler. He took it and looked at the three of them. “You’re taking that pompous idiot’s orders?”

 

Harry shrugged. “We don’t need them. We tried something at the café. That detector of his only works if magic happens with a wand. I untied his shoes and he never noticed a thing. But Dean waving his wand around got his attention.”

 

Hermione nodded in agreement. “We can keep practicing what we do while we wait for September.”

 

The parents traded looks, then turned to the doctor for his opinion. “Well, they’ve been learning all along without any major trouble. I don’t see a problem as long as they continue to be careful. After all, it would appear that they’re at a disadvantage compared to the other students, not having known that magic existed before.”

 

With that, the adults released the owls through a window and Pippa arranged to store everything in a cupboard up on the first floor, where the children were not permitted. She took one set of textbooks and the extra history books to find covers for hiding the titles so the trio could start reading them.

 

Dean and Hermione followed their parents, who were ready to pack up from their overnight stay and return to their homes. Harry was about to follow them when Dr Aymler stopped him.

 

“I need to show you what that wand person was talking about. I’ll get the books when Pippa’s covered them. Meet me in my office after dinner?”

 

Harry nodded, realizing that whatever the story was, it must be something huge.

 

*****

 

At dinner, Hermione had the camouflaged The Standard Book of Spells propped open while the three of them ate at a corner table, a bit away from most of the residents. She was providing a running commentary. “This one will be useful, Alohomora, which is an unlocking spell, and there’s a locking spell as well. Oh, here’s our floating thing, the Levitation Charm. And look!” She turned the book toward Harry in excitement. “A mending charm! Reparo! That’s what I did to the kitchen at home!”

 

Dean read the page, trying to sound out the strange words. “How is that pronounced? Wing-AR-dee-yum Lev-EYE-oh-sa?”

 

Hermione shook her head. “It looks like a lot of these words are from Latin. That would make it Lev-ee-OH-sa.”

 

“Where’d you learn Latin, then?” Dean asked, making his fork hover a few centimetres over his plate with one finger.

 

“One of my teachers from before. She had a positive mania for building words from Latin and Greek roots.”

 

“So tell me this. If we’re able to do all of these things on our own with a bit of practice, why are we suddenly being told that there’s no magic done away from the school and we have to actually wave wands around and say silly Latin things to make it happen?”

 

Hermione twisted a lock of hair around her fingers. “Well, I’m not sure. But I get the feeling that maybe…we’re doing things differently from what’s expected. Remember how shocked Ms McGonagall was when we stopped her from using her wand? And how she didn’t try anything at all when she didn’t have it? I mean, if we didn’t have each other to talk to and compare notes with, what would we have done when the letters came?”

 

Dean nodded. “I get you. We’d’ve gone along with whatever they said, including the notion that you’ve got to have a wand to do these things correctly.”

 

Hermione looked over at their third member. “Harry? All right there?”

 

Harry had taken the book and was scanning the list of spells in the contents. While Hermione had been concentrating on things she recognised as what they could do, he had noticed some other spells with more sinister effects. Incendio was for making fire, which could be helpful or dangerous depending on the situation. He was also unsure about Diffindo, or the Severing Charm. It was all too easy to imagine the thing being severed as a finger or hand…

 

He tried to drive such thoughts from his head when Hermione addressed him. “Sorry, just looking at all of these results that they have a name for. Seems awfully complicated.  I mean, just imagine what you want to happen, concentrate on it, and it happens.” He waved his hand slightly and the empty chair at their table slid back on its own. “No wand, no funny words.” He stood, handing the book back to Hermione and gathering his dishes. “Dr Aymler wanted to see me. He found what Mr Ollivander was talking about.”

 

Hermione leaned over the table and snagged his hand. “Dean and I’ll wait for you if you want to talk about it after.”

 

Harry nodded and squeezed her hand reassuringly. “I know. See you later.”

 

*****

 

Patrick had left messages for Emily and Pippa to meet in his office for dinner and for Pippa to bring the extra books from Flourish and Blotts. Emily arrived with loaded plates from the canteen and Pippa followed her with the books.

 

Patrick pulled out the three books he remembered and handed one to each of them. “Check the index for the right pages, then read what they say about Harry. I want to compare them and see where they all agree.”

 

They began reading and eating, but gradually left the food to grow cold as they read and traded books and made notes. Patrick spread their jottings on the table.

 

“So, what ties in is the following: this evil lord person, who is apparently so bad that they won’t print his real name, was going around and killing lots of people, not just magical people. He targeted Harry’s parents and killed them on 31 October, 1981, with something called the Killing Curse. It’s assumed but not proven that he tried to use the same curse on Harry, but somehow Harry repelled it and—poof!—the evil guy was no longer a threat. Harry is famous throughout magical Europe for being the only known person to survive this curse and is tagged as The Boy Who Lived.” Patrick leaned back and rubbed his hands across his face. “Christ in a teacup, every time we think we have a handle on Harry’s situation, something else up and smacks us in the gob.”

 

Pippa was looking through The Rise and Fall of the Dark Arts. “Here, this one actually gives us the bad guy’s name, but only the very first time he’s mentioned. He was known as Lord Voldemort, but called either the Dark Lord, He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, or You-Know-Who. I suppose they think there’s something to that old fairy-tale notion of names having power. Since that Modern Magical History writer quotes some official called the ‘Supreme Mugwump’ as speculating that Voldemort is banished but not dead, I guess people just don’t want to take the chance of saying his name lest they get his attention.”

 

Emily held out Great Wizarding Events of the Twentieth Century. “Did you see this illustrated faceplate in the centre of this one? The artist tried to draw Harry as a toddler with that zigzag scar on his forehead. The caption claims it’s the only evidence left that Harry was attacked by this guy and calls it a ‘curse scar’. I’m rather relieved that Harry likes to keep his fringe long to hide it—I get the feeling that you were very lucky only the wand artist recognized him, otherwise you could’ve been dealing with a mob.”

 

Patrick grimaced. “Is it safe for him to go back this weekend with the others for his trunk?”

 

Emily looked down at the illustration again. “Frankly, I’m having second thoughts about this entire school thing, period. Bad enough that the kids were left in the dark all their lives about having this power. How much worse will it be for Harry to deal with this kind of notoriety, this reverence people have for him over something he doesn’t even remember happening? How many of those students will be trying to become his new best friend and push Hermione and Dean out? And since we know Harry won’t stand for that, what if they turn on him?” She shut the book. “I know she wasn’t telling us everything, but I’d like to talk to that McGonagall woman again. I honestly feel we don’t have enough information to decide, now that we know this.”

 

Before the others could reply, there was a knock at the door. Patrick glanced at his watch. “That should be Harry now.” He raised his voice and called, “Come in.”

 

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Author’s Note: Thanks for reading! And thanks for your patience as I got through the last couple of months of work. With a little luck and some fast beta-ing I should be back to my biweekly schedule now.

Chapter Text

Disclaimer: Anything you recognize, it isn’t mine. Just playing in Rowling’s sandbox.

 

News: Hopefully I’ll be back to twice a month for the foreseeable future.

 

A reader has very kindly begun translating this story into Polish. If that’s your language for everyday use, please check out “Niebezpieczeństwa niewinności” under the name Shaunee Altman over on FF.net.

 

I have begun translating this story into Spanish and will probably do so with other things I’ve written. I have no schedule for when chapters will be uploaded at this time other than “when I finish one”. Feedback on vocabulary use, slang phrases, and sentence structure is welcome. Check my profile page on FF.net for “Los peligros de la inocencia”. I'll try to get to posting it here this week.

 

I have begun a Twitter account as @avidbeader and plan to Tweet when I get a story uploaded and maybe about other writing I’m doing. If you’d prefer to get your notices that way, feel free to follow.

 

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3 August 1981

 

As Harry left, Dean pushed his plate away. “Hermione, would you help me with something?”

 

She looked up and closed the book. “Of course.”

 

“You’re really good at reading stuff and seeing little things and all. Would you help me go through the papers from Gringotts? I didn’t want to make my mum and da do it, it seemed like they weren’t ready to talk about my first father.”

 

Hermione nodded, remembering how shattered Andrea Thomas had looked as they left the bank. “’Course I will. Your room or mine?”

 

“Mine. That way we’ll know when Harry’s done.”

 

Once in Dean’s room, Hermione commandeered the desk and opened a notebook to a blank page. Dean flattened the roll of papers carefully to keep from mixing the pieces up, using books and his art case to anchor the corners.

 

Hermione looked at the first one. “This is the will, with a sealed letter to you. The will is dated 15 March 1981. There’s a note on it that looks like it was burned into the paper: ‘The will of Alexander Ibrahim Demirci was enacted on 8 April 1981. Heir named in will not yet of an age to manage affairs.’ And there’s a second note: ‘Dean Khamisi Demirci arrived on 3 August 1991 to claim his inheritance; vault reopened.’ Well, then.” She set the parchment down. “So the goblins knew you existed but were waiting on you to be of age, whatever age it is they wait for.” She handed the letter to Dean, who turned it over in his hands.

 

“I think I’m scared to open it.”

 

She gave him a concerned look. “Why?”

 

“Maybe it’s daft, but I always knew who I was before today. Dean Randall Thomas, son of Geoffrey and Andrea, big brother to a pack of annoying kids, good at drawing. Even learning I could do magic didn’t really change all that.” Hermione nodded in full understanding as he spoke.

 

“And now…I don’t really know who this Dean Khamisi Demirci is. Would I still draw? Would I still like footie, even if I never became a West Ham supporter? Or would I be learning how to make wands in Africa and playing that broom sport we saw the shop for?”

 

Hermione reached over and gripped his shoulder. “I understand. But no matter what, you’ll always be the Dean that’s sitting here. Yes, you’ll’ve learned more about where you came from, but that won’t change who you are because you’re the one living your life. Harry and I will still be your friends, no matter what.”

 

Drawing a deep breath, Dean broke the seal and opened the letter.

 

15 March 1981

 

To Dean Khamisi Demirci:

 

My dearest son, I hope with all my heart that you never see these words. I hope that I will be able to get you and your mother safely out of Britain and somewhere where we can live in peace and watch you grow. You’ve just turned a year old, a wonderful year which has filled my life and your mother’s life with joy. But the darkness is spreading and I don’t know how much longer I can avoid it. I have hidden my marriage from the wizading world and left your mother unaware of magic in the hopes of protecting you both and I only hope she will forgive me when I tell her, after we are out of their reach.

 

If the worst happens, know this: the wizard known as Voldemort and his so-called Death Eaters are beings of purest evil. Their agenda is to cleanse the earth of every last non-magical human and to turn first-generation magicals and other wizards and witches of mixed breeding into a slave class. Because I am able to cite my lineage back a few hundred years and because I have resources, they have fastened onto me as someone to recruit. And at this point, anyone recruited by him either joins him or dies.

 

If you are reading this, my beloved child, know that I tried my best. If I have to, I will draw them away from you and Andrea and accept my fate, taking down as many of them with me as I can. Know that I love you both more than anything on this earth.

 

Your father,

Alexander Demirci

 

Dean let the letter fall into his lap, unable to force words past the lump in his throat. Hermione had a handkerchief ready and pressed it into his hands as the tears began to fall.

 

*****

 

Harry entered the room and took in the sight of the doctors and Pippa, seated behind plates of half-eaten food and a small pile of books. His eyes widened, unaccustomed to seeing such a mess in either of the doctors’ offices. Then he registered the worried looks on their faces. Instinctively he went to Pippa, who put her arm around him and tucked him in close.

 

“It’s bad, isn’t it?”

 

“Yes, but probably not in the way you think.” Dr Aymler opened one of the books. “The short version is that there was a criminal, something like a cross between a serial killer and a mob boss. He was known as Lord Voldemort. He had a pack of followers known as ‘Death Eaters’ and, by the time you were born, they had the rest of the wizards living in fear.

 

“The books aren’t clear why, but he targeted your parents. They went into hiding, staying in some tiny village, and set up a lot of magic barriers to try and stay hidden. But one of the barriers failed and he found you and your parents on Halloween of 1981. The books all agree that he killed your dad first, that your dad tried to protect you and your mum. Then he followed your mum upstairs to your room and killed her. But when he tried to kill you, too, something went wrong with the spell. He died, or at least vanished, and you survived with only that lightning-bolt scar on your forehead.”

 

Feeling him tremble, Pippa began rubbing Harry’s back, trying to soothe him as Aymler continued.

 

“Because the magic he used to try and kill you was thought to be unstoppable, you were hailed as an instant hero, called the Boy Who Lived. Some stuffed shirt with a lot of titles is credited with sending you off to live with your Muggle family.” He slammed the book shut as he spit out the last sarcastic words. “And besides the fact you were sent to live with people who were obviously ill-equipped and unprepared to raise you, the fact that all of these books stop right there makes the whole thing stink like the Victorian Thames. There’s not a whisper of what happened to the rest of these ‘Death Eaters’. Not a word about trying to figure out how this Voldemort found your parents. Nothing. It’s the perfect setup for a legend. And I really don’t like the thought that these people need a legend to hold them together.”

 

Harry shrank even further into Pippa’s arms, afraid of the doctor’s display of temper as much as the thought he was about to voice. “Should I not go to the school?”

 

Patrick realized what he had done and was instantly down on his knees beside Harry. “Now hold on, it’s much too soon to say that. But these books raise a lot more questions than answers. I think when we go back to get your trunks we should also visit the bookstore again and ask for more information. Or we can try sending your owl to the professor. Tell her we’ve read a few things about you and need more information.” He reached over to pull Harry into a hug and, reassured, Harry let him.

 

Emily reached for one of the books that had a mailer from a pharmaceutical company stuck in it to mark a page. “Hey, want to see something?” She opened the book and turned it around for Harry. His mouth dropped open.

 

There was a picture in an old-fashioned sepia tone. In the back of his mind Harry noticed that the people in the picture were moving, but that took second place to his recognition of them. The man looked almost exactly like a grown-up Harry, from his messy black hair to a pair of glasses on his nose to a little sideways grin that looked very familiar to the doctors. The woman had long hair and light eyes that were probably the same brilliant green as Harry’s. They were holding a baby who smiled and laughed as they cuddled and kissed him.

 

“Is that…is that them? My mum and dad?” He looked at the caption below.

 

James and Lily Potter with the Boy Who Lived, about 9 months old – April 1981

 

Harry touched the photo and whether it was something in the magic making the photo move or coincidence, the woman raised her had to wave right where Harry’s fingers grazed it. The adults looked on as it appeared that Harry and his mother were reaching to each other through the page. Then the baby in the photograph suddenly waved both arms like windmills and knocked his father’s glasses askew. The people gazing at the page laughed along with the subjects in the photograph.

 

“I doubt they’ll keep moving, but we can photocopy that picture for you to keep,” Patrick offered. “We should also ask those goblins about any family pictures in the vault they mentioned, or records of friends who might have photographs. We’re also going to alert the social worker on Monday and ask her to try tracing your parents and see if there’s a will or burial site, anything accessible on this side. That’s something else to include in your note to Ms McGonagall, asking for more information about what happened to your parents.”

 

Harry nodded. “Can I take the book for now?” Emily closed it with the flyer bookmarking the photo and handed it to him. He left the room, clutching it to his chest.

 

*****

 

After Dean had got hold of himself, he and Hermione began working their way through the stack of papers. Each one had another revelation and Hermione paused frequently to allow Dean to take it all in. There were lists of cash assets in galleons, sickles, and knuts. There were lists of jewellery, art pieces, magical artefacts, and books. The final list detailed three properties: a house in Northants, a second house in Morocco, and a property deep in central Africa that seemed to be a plantation for magical herbs and a continuing source of income for the estate.

 

The final page was a family tree. As his father had written, it dated back through several centuries. But Hermione noticed that, starting between the two world wars, the number of branches began diminishing as families died off. When she began seeing whole groups with the same year of death, she bit her lip. The last three generations were conclusive, with Dean’s magical grandfather, father and himself being only children. Dean was the only living member of the Demirci family according to the record.

 

She thought of Harry. Orphaned Harry, whose only known relatives were an aunt and uncle who weren’t magical. Another child who might be the last person in his family. She was suddenly desperate for Harry’s meeting to be over since that would mean that the history books were available. Something huge had happened in recent history that was killing off wizards. She needed to know what it was. She needed to know if it would be safer to stay out of this world of wonders.

 

As if she had called him, Harry appeared in the door. He had a book clasped to him as if it were a life preserver. Hermione shot to her feet and ran to hug him. “Is everything all right?”

 

“Sort of. We found out what happened to my parents. They were killed by an evil wizard who was trying to wipe us all out.” Harry opened the book to a marked page and showed them the photograph.

 

“Wicked! The pictures move!” Dean stared, entranced, as the family in the photo waved.

 

Hermione cooed, “Oh, Harry, you look just like your dad!” She also stared at the page, appreciating the rakishly handsome man. After a moment of indulging herself with a mental image of Harry as an adult, she refocused. “What did the books say?”

 

“As I said, some evil wizard lord was after my family. He killed my dad when he tried to hold him off, then my mum who had tried to run with me. But when he tried to kill me, too, something happened and he died or disappeared. That’s where my scar came from.” Harry gestured vaguely to his forehead.

 

That prompted Hermione to hug him again and Dean gave him a sympathetic punch to the shoulder. “Sounds familiar. We found a letter from my father to me. The only difference is that he kept magic a secret from my mum and managed to draw the Volde-wart guy away from us.”

 

Hermione staggered as Harry whipped around in her arms to face Dean. “Voldemort?”

 

“Yeah, that was the name.” Dean plucked the letter from the pile of records and held it out.

 

Harry scanned the letter, then sat on the bed and began flipping frantically through the book. Hermione stopped him. “Here, use the back.” She opened to the index and ran a finger down the list of names until she found Harry Potter. “Start on page three hundred fifty-eight.”

 

The three of them crowded around, reading the first few paragraphs of a chapter that described a being so terrible that only a few of the bravest wizards around dared defy him. As the prose grew more and more lurid, Hermione frowned. “This reads like a novel, not a history book. Are the other history books just as bad?”

 

“I don’t know. They’re in Dr Aymler’s office still, I think.”

 

Hermione shot out the door. “Be right back!”

 

Dean looked at Harry and managed a chuckle. “That’s our girl.”

 

*****

 

Hermione found the doctors still in Aymler’s office, clearing the table they had used. Aymler smiled as the girl rushed to the door, then managed to stop herself and tap on the jamb. Her tone was breathless from sprinting. “May I come in?”

 

“Of course. What has you running through the halls?” His hint of her breaking a rule made her cheeks turn slightly pink, but Hermione stood her ground.

 

“May I have the other history books? We need to see if they have better information.”

 

“Why?”

 

“That name, that Voldemort, there was a letter from Dean’s father, his birth father. He wrote it when Dean was a year old. He was trying to get Dean and his mum out of Britain because the evil wizard was after him. We wanted to look at the other books and see if they had a better description; the one Harry had seemed awfully…”

 

“Hysterical?” Dr Greene suggested dryly.

 

Hermione nodded, relieved that an adult shared her criticism. “May we see the others?”

 

“Of course.” Dr Aymler handed them to her. “I’ll walk back with you. It’ll be time for lights-out soon and I’d like to see that letter.”

 

They arrived to find Harry and Dean next to Dean’s window, looking through the glass at the two owls perched on the nearest tree. The windows on the ground floor of the building were designed for security and only a small top pane opened to allow fresh air through a screen.

 

Harry turned to Dr Aymler. “How are we going to use our owls? We’re not supposed to be out after dinner and during the day the other kids might start noticing the owls around the tree fort.”

 

As Dr Aymler considered that issue, Hermione brightened. “What about upstairs? The windows on the first floor open, you let the owls out when we got back!”

 

He looked at the three excited faces, considering the pros and cons of moving the three of them to the emptier upstairs wing. The pros included the fact that these three children weren’t the kind of security risk that required locked windows and that the Grangers and Thomases would almost certainly not object. The three of them might be leaving in a few weeks and gone for months at a time. It would free up three rooms for new residents. On the con side, it might cause some jealousy among other residents, especially the older ones, but the practicalities of the situation would speak for themselves. The doctors had already planned a cover story of a scholarship to a boarding school for Harry and if they did leave for the school Hermione and Dean could simply “go home”.

 

“The biggest problem I see is the fact that we usually keep the door between the floors locked and I don’t feel comfortable about you three having keys.”

 

Dean looked over at Hermione. “Didn’t you find something that locks and unlocks in the book of spells?”

 

“Yes! I’ll be right back!”

 

“Walk!” Aymler called after her. He turned his attention to the boys. “Well, while we’re waiting, Harry, you could write your note. Ask Ms McGonagall if she can come talk to us some more about your parents, about what happened to them, and if we can find any information about a will, that sort of thing.”

 

Dean waved at the pile of parchment on his desk. “The bank had my dad’s will. Harry might have one in his papers.”

 

“All right, then the backstory on your parents and our concerns about this legend that seems to have built up around you. Tell her we’re concerned that you won’t be able to concentrate on studying if people are constantly paying attention to you over something you don’t even remember. Ask if she can come tomorrow or one evening this week. Then the two of you might as well start packing up what you can. One way or another I expect we’ll put you upstairs at least for a few weeks and see what happens. If nothing else, we can touch up these rooms, do something with the windows, and move you back.”

 

Further commentary was halted as Hermione trotted back into the room, breathless once more.

 

*****

 

4 August 1991

 

Following a successful demonstration of locking and unlocking the door with a hand by each of the children, the staff swung into action on Sunday. Pippa and Mary helped air out empty rooms in the wing used for conference rooms and berths for any staff needed to spend the night. Dr Greene recruited from a local voluntary organization and got the furniture shifted. By tea time, the three were mostly settled. Harry and Dean were on one side, sharing an en suite between them. Hermione was across the hall from Harry.

 

Dr Aymler had taken over the conference room on the other side of Hermione’s bath with the plans for the security cameras, adding the need for one more hall camera on the newly-inhabited wing. It would be cheap enough to add it with the rest even if it were never needed, but if the kids were still here a few years from now or they used the rooms for other residents in special circumstances, it would be in place. The company they had hired was due to begin work on Tuesday.

 

After dinner, as Harry was taking out his collection of motorcycles and replacing them on their shelves, his snowy owl flew in through the open window, a parchment scroll tied to her leg. She landed on the back of a chair and held still while Harry untied the scroll. “Thank you, girl. I guess you need a name. I saw one when I was looking through my book for History of Magic. What do you think of ‘Hedwig’?”

 

The owl bobbed her head and Harry laughed. “So, Hedwig it is. Glad you like it.”

 

Dean, hearing Harry’s voice, came through the en suite. “Naming yours after a magic person?”

 

“Yeah. What about you?”

 

“I’m naming mine Picasso. He’s got that sort of mad artist look in his eye.” Dean waved at the parchment. “What does she say?”

 

Harry unfurled the scroll and read it over. “She can be here tomorrow evening at eight o’clock.”

 

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Author’s Note: Thanks as always for reading!

Chapter Text

Disclaimer: If you recognize the character, it isn’t mine. Just playing in Rowling’s sandbox.

 

Reminder: I’m on Twitter under “avidbeader” if you prefer to get your notifications of a new chapter that way. I promise I won’t be spamming.

 

*****

 

5 August 1991

 

This time Minerva McGonagall was prepared. In a show of fairness that she hoped did not backfire, she had brochures from the other magical schools in Britain for the children to consider. She had also looked through her photographs and collected a handful showing Lily and James Potter to give to Harry. This time her tweed suit was navy; even though she had been given permission to Apparate directly into the same conference room that had been used before, she felt better for trying to blend in just in case she were spotted by someone at the institute.

 

Knowing that she might be heard arriving, Minerva took a moment to compose herself and remember the three D’s—deliberation, determination, destination—before vanishing from outside the Hogwarts gate. Her arrival was heralded by a softer pop than usual.

 

The room was empty, but as soon as she appeared the door opened and the same woman who had guided her before entered. Minerva was impressed; the Muggles certainly seemed to be doing their part to maintain the Statute of Secrecy within the institute.

 

“If you’ll follow me, Professor, we’ve moved the children to upstairs rooms nearby for extra privacy, so they can have access to the owls. There’s a conference room next to Hermione’s room that is set up.” Minerva followed her down the hall, impressed again. If these were the steps taken by the staff in their first weeks of awareness of the wizarding world, then she would be able to work with them very easily. She had not had this experience since working with Ted Tonks and his parents. The Tonks family had been very sensible people.

 

They found Patrick and Emily sitting at the table with a pile of books sporting bookmarks. It would seem that they had bought more than just the required textbooks. Now Minerva saw what had prompted Harry’s note. She joined them at the table, reaching into her bag for what she had brought.

 

“I have here information from the other schools I mentioned. I would truly love for Harry and his friends to come to Hogwarts, but I will understand and support you if decide that a smaller school is best.”

 

Patrick took the pamphlets, a bit surprised at the professor’s helpful attitude. “Thank you. We’ll look these over. Did you include anything from Hogwarts?”

 

“No, we’ve never had any kind of material to hand out, but there is a book, Hogwarts, A History, if you didn’t find a copy already when you visited Diagon Alley. Now, I understand from Harry’s letter that he wanted to know more about his parents. Will he be joining us?”

 

“Today was the usual pool-and-pizza outing for the children. We knew when we pushed them to take part that they might be late back, but if they’re about to leave for school, wherever said school is, they won’t have many more opportunities to swim and play with their friends.”

 

“That is true. There is a lake on the grounds at Hogwarts, but we are so far to the north that it never gets warm enough for swimming without Warming Charms. And besides, there’s the giant squid and merpeople—“

 

“Giant squid? Merpeople? As in mermaids?” Emily interrupted. “You mean to say that mermaids are real?”

 

Minerva nodded. “Naturally they keep to themselves, but our colony has been quite open to working with the occasional student or visitor who wishes to make a study of them. The headmaster has been able to maintain excellent relations with them.”

 

“Any other unusual beings we should be aware of?” Patrick asked, trying to relax the situation with a joke.

 

Minerva began counting on her fingers. “There are the goblins, of course, who run Gringotts. There are werewolves, though they stay mostly in the muggle world. It’s rather hard for them to find work, though I’ve heard rumours of a breakthrough in a potion that helps them keep their minds when they transform at the full moon so they won’t attack anyone. Vampires and giants aren’t anything to worry about since there are no colonies of them in Britain, but we do have a herd of centaurs that live in the forest next to Hogwarts.”

 

Patrick and Emily traded wide-eyed looks, feeling very out of their depth again.

 

Minerva tried to reassure them. “Truly, there is very little to fear from the magical races. There’s more danger in running across a stray dragon or manticore, but we have a department in the Ministry focused on regulating and controlling such creatures.”

 

Not very comforted, Patrick tried to steer the conversation back to the intended topic. “We were reading through some of the books Hermione bought, trying to get a better picture of your society, and we found these stories of what happened to Harry’s parents. He knew nothing of this; he’d been told by his aunt and uncle that his parents died in a car crash. It wasn’t until the wand person recognized him that we realized there was more to tell. It turns out that Harry is hugely famous in your world for something that he doesn’t even remember happening.”

 

Emily flapped a hand at the books. “You do understand why we’re worried, don’t you?”

 

Minerva nodded as she eyed Modern Magical History, grimacing. To her mind, a better title would have been Modern Magical Myths, given its penchant for focusing on the most sensational aspects of the events it recounted. It was the only one to put in print Albus’ idea that He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named might still be around in some form.

 

“I’ve been more and more worried myself as the time for Harry to come to Hogwarts has drawn near. It hasn’t been long enough for our world to lose their view of him as some kind of saviour or the second coming of Merlin. Children in our world grow up on the idea of the Boy Who Lived. There are whole series of books about him having the most ridiculous adventures. Toymakers have ‘Harry Potter’ dolls, wands and brooms. And they haven’t had any hint of the reality of Harry himself, thanks to the headmaster hiding him away.” She shook her head, a hint of tears gathering in her eyes. “I think my biggest regret in life will be not standing up to Albus that night when he said he was going to leave Harry with those people. I told him they were the worst sort of Muggles around, but he insisted that they were the only family he had left and that Harry needed to grow up away from such fame.”

 

“Not a completely unsound idea,” Patrick observed.

 

“But to leave him with those awful people! And now you tell me that Harry was completely in the dark about his parents. To not know that they were murdered, to not know about You-Know-Who or Sirius Black or any of it…it’s inexcusable!”

 

Emily frowned. “Who’s Sirius Black”?

 

Minerva blinked, focusing on her. “He’s Harry’s godfather. He’s the one who betrayed James and Lily to You-Know-Who. Here,” Minerva suddenly remembered the packet of photographs and pulled them out. “These are for Harry to keep. I found what pictures I could of his parents.” She shuffled through them and found one. It was a group photo showing the same couple from the picture the doctors had found with four other boys and another girl. They all looked to be around eighteen years old and waved merrily, mugging for the camera.

 

“The boy with the long dark hair is Sirius Black. He and James Potter were best friends, along with Remus Lupin and Peter Pettigrew. The other couple is the Longbottoms. When Harry was born, Black and Alice Longbottom were named godparents. Naturally when the Potters had to go into hiding, they entrusted Black with the secret of where they were. But he must have already gone over to Voldemort’s side and because of him the Potters died on that Halloween. He was captured by Aurors and sent to Azkaban Prison after being tracked down by Pettigrew. He caused an explosion that killed Pettigrew and a dozen innocent bystanders.”

 

Patrick frowned. “That sounds like something that should have been in one of these books. The aftermath of their deaths. The arrest and trial. Do you know of another book that would have that information?”

 

Minerva opened her mouth, then paused as she considered. “There should have been…but…I’m not sure he had a trial, now you’ve said that.”

 

“Lovely,” Patrick growled. “Your communications system with new magic users is non-existent until they turn an arbitrary age, you assume far too much when dealing with non-magical people, and now you throw people in prison without proof?”

 

“No, not at all!” Minerva snapped back. “We have trials! We collect evidence; we can detect what spells a wand has cast and verify the identity of a body. We also have ways to view a person’s memory and a potion that forces a person to speak the truth!”

 

“But you don’t remember this being done for this Sirius Black,” Emily said in a gentler tone.

 

“No. And that’s not right. It should have been done, even for an open and shut case such as his. Even Bellatrix Lestrange got a trial after her attack on the Longbottoms.” A sudden sense of urgency took hold and Minerva stood. “If I may, I really feel I should talk to someone about this immediately, at least verify whether the trial happened or not.”

 

“This headmaster of yours?” Patrick stood as well.

 

“No, he’s dreadfully busy with the coming school year. I’ll get a quicker answer if I check with our Ministry’s DMLE—sorry, Department of Magical Law Enforcement. I know the head there rather well, Amelia Bones. Her niece is entering Hogwarts this year as well as Harry. I can contact her tonight and at least set up an appointment within the next few days.”

 

Patrick held out a hand and they shook. As Minerva also shook with Emily, she said, “Please do let us know what you find out. Any information we can get will help us make a decision and better prepare the children for September.”

 

“I will.” Minerva vanished with a sharp crack.

 

Hearing a few cries of children in the distance, Patrick frowned and turned to Emily. “Have you any idea how much it costs to soundproof a room?”

 

*****

 

6 August 1991

 

As she entered her new bedroom, Hermione allowed herself a brief moment to revel in it. The new rooms for all three of them were much larger than those on the ground floor and she now had an extra bookcase ready and waiting to be filled. She also had a table to spread out the handful of paper she carried. The doctors had finally let her have the information about schools that the professor had brought, and she wanted to go over it closely. She knew Harry and Dean had planned to play some footie, so she would have solitude for a short while.

 

She opened the first brochure, for Wenlock Academy. The cover had a moving illustration of a witch with quite a bit of black hair. She would make notes with a quill on a parchment, then pause and look out over her pince-nez glasses. According to the caption below, she was Bridget Wenlock, famed Arithmancer and discoverer of the magical properties of the number seven.

 

Inside, the brochure explained that Wenlock had started the academy in the thirteenth century after going through Hogwarts and being highly dissatisfied with the quality of Arithmancy instruction to be found. As such, Arithmancy was a subject taught for seven years, in contrast to it being an elective for third years and above at Hogwarts. It boasted of having students score consistently higher on the O.W.L. and N.E.W.T. exams in the subject when compared to Hogwarts.

 

At this point Hermione seized a sheet of paper and began making a chart.

 

After going through the brochures, she felt she had as reasonable a picture she could get of the three schools with what she had. Going by the books they had purchased, it appeared that first year students at Hogwarts had eight subjects. She looked down the list, where she had tried to match book to subject:

 

-          Transfiguration, Beginner’s Guide to (taught by Professor McGonagall)

-          Potions, Magical Drafts and Potions

-          History, A History of Magic

-          Defence, The Dark Forces

-          Herbology, One Thousand Magical Herbs

-          Charms, Standard Book of Spells or Magical Theory?

-          Astronomy, book unknown but telescope on list

-          Zoology or “Care of Magical Creatures”?, Fantastic Beasts

 

Other topics mentioned in the brochures for the Wenlock Academy and the Cliodna Conservatory were Ancient Runes, Apparition, Arithmancy, Deportment, Divination, Healing Magic, Flight, Muggle Studies, Political Studies, Scrying, and Warding. It appeared that such subjects were electives at Hogwarts, if they were taught at all. The Wenlock Academy made much of its instruction in Arithmancy as well as boasting of being the only school in the United Kingdom to give serious attention to Warding. The Cliodna Conservatory, located in Ireland, seemed to have an emphasis on Herbology, Potions, and Scrying. It appeared that Hogwarts might have a wider range of topics, but no particular expertise in any of them.

 

As she looked at the lists, Hermione frowned. She stuffed the brochures in a drawer so the boys could have a look later, then folded her notes so no writing showed. She went downstairs, careful to listen before magically unlocking the door to the ground floor and slipping out to relock it and take the stairs down.

 

Of the three adults she was looking for, she found Dr Greene first. “Could you help me with something?”

 

The doctor willingly led her to her therapy room and Hermione spread out her charts on the table. “I’ve been going over those school brochures to try and compare them. Now, I’ve written down every single course or subject mentioned anywhere in what I had. Do you see what’s missing?”

 

She studied Hermione’s notes. “Well, I see no maths, unless this Arithmancy counts for it. I see no sciences other than this Herbology presumably having some botany and the Astronomy. There’s a single history course and it doesn’t seem to go over any world history or British history, just magic history. No arts, no music. And I don’t see a single language or literature course in the lot.”

 

Hermione wilted in relief. “So I’m not blind. They really don’t teach what you need to know to do your GSCEs, much less A Levels.”

 

Dr Greene shook her head. “Not from what I can see. Add that to the things to ask Ms McGonagall when she comes back.”

 

“Or at the offices of these other schools when we go back to get our trunks. But, what will we do if they don’t teach us what we need to know? How can I possibly get into a top university without my A Levels?”

 

“Hermione, stop! That’s your mother talking. If I remember correctly, Ms McGonagall said something about arrangements for students who want to go on to uni, though she made it sound like it’s rarely done.”

 

“What’ll we do? Harry definitely wants to go on to uni and now that he has money, Dean could as well. I have to go to uni if I’m going to do any of the things that I might want to do.”

 

Dr Greene took Hermione’s face in her hands and looked in her eyes. “I said to stop. We are not going to worry about this yet, not until we know there’s something to worry about. If it turns out to be necessary, we can help put together a tutoring program or support your parents in home education so you can get the necessary instruction. And consider, from what we’ve seen there’s a whole other society out there with its own professions and careers. You might find something on the other side that just captures you heart and soul, in which case you might not need those A Levels or that university.”

 

Hermione scowled. “And never study Shakespeare? Never learn another language? Never try chemistry or algebra? Never have the chance to be a scientist or an M.P. or an author?”

 

Dr Greene snickered. “You’re right. What was I thinking?”

 

Hermione huffed in indignation.

 

*****

Author’s Note: Thanks as always for reading!

Chapter Text

Disclaimer: If you recognize the character, it isn’t mine. Just playing in Rowling’s sandbox.

Sorry to be a bit late on this chapter – was waiting on my beta people, all of whom seem to be on vacation right now.

 

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7 August 1991

 

Harry was stretched out on his bed, flipping through The Rise and Fall of the Dark Arts. Of the three history texts, it gave the most information about what happened to his parents without the drama of Modern Magical History. Even then, the information was scant. There was no explanation of why his parents had been targeted, other than being members of some organization fighting this Voldemort. There were no details about how the protections they’d used had fallen. And as Dr Aymler had pointed out, once the authors stopped gushing over how Harry-Potter-the-Boy-Who-Lived had defeated the evil wizard, there was absolutely no follow-up of any kind. The “Death Eaters” were by and large not named except for a few arrests and trials, such as the Lestranges in the Longbottom case.

 

Hedwig flew into his open window and landed next to him, dropping a note. Harry sat up. “What’s this, girl?” He opened the folded sheet of notebook paper.

 

Come to my room. We have a surprise for you. —Hermione

 

Harry grinned and stroked the owl. “Thanks!”

 

He crossed the hall, waving at the pair of men using a stepladder to install the security camera at one end. He stuck his head into Hermione’s open door to find both her and Dean sitting at her table, a wrapped present between them.

 

“What is it?”

 

“Happy birthday!” they chorused.

 

“Not that I’m complaining, but why now?” Harry came forward and Hermione pushed the package at him.

 

“Because now we knew what to get you, of course,” she replied, rocking in anticipation as Harry began pulling the bow off.

 

He unwrapped a large book with a satin cover. He flipped through it, finding thick, slightly sticky blank pages covered in thin sheets of plastic, before it dawned on him. “A photo album! Thank you!”

 

“Now you have someplace to put all those pictures the professor brought, and we can put in some of us and the staff as well,” Hermione replied.

 

“And here’s something to help get it started,” Dean took out a piece of artist’s paper that he had been hiding behind his back. Harry took it and turned it over, finding a sketch showing the three of them, standing in a row with Hermione holding Sir Woof.

 

“Wow!” Harry had seen plenty of Dean’s drawings, but they had mostly been animals or footballers in action, not anyone they knew. He had captured a good likeness of them. “This is wonderful.” Harry promptly opened the album, peeled back the plastic, and carefully mounted the drawing in the centre of the first page.

 

He noticed through the corner of his eye that Hermione was nearly bouncing in her chair and looking eagerly at Dean. When he had the sketch in place, he looked at them both. “What’s going on?”

 

“Show him!” Hermione demanded.

 

Dean ducked and blushed a little, but reached out and touched the paper. As Harry watched, colours began seeping into the page and spreading, tinting the page until their features and clothes showed a picture that looked exactly as if Dean had gone over it with pencils and paint.

 

“Wicked! When did you learn that?”

 

Dean touched the paper and reversed the process, draining the colours until the sketch was its original black-and-white. “I was playing with my art pencils, shading them when they weren’t quite right, and I just decided to try making the drawing of Picasso turn brown. I’ve done one that the colour lasted from teatime to bedtime, but it was back to just pen by morning.”

 

Harry laid the plastic over the drawing and flipped through the rest of the album’s empty pages. Hermione asked, “D’you want to bring your photographs in here, spread them out and sort them?”

 

Harry shook his head. “Maybe later. Right now I want to make plans for Saturday. We know we need trunks and we need to go to the bookstore again for a copy of Hogwarts, a History and any better history books. Anything else?”

 

“How about the bank? We can ask who’d have a copy of your parents’ will since there wasn’t one in the papers they gave you.”

 

“Good idea. I want to set up some money in an account on this side, just so it’s there.”

 

Dean shot him a thumbs-up signal. “That will be easy if you have an account ready for them.”

 

“And we should stop by the offices for the Wenlock Academy and the Cliodna Conservatory, just to check everything out fully,” Hermione added.

 

The bell for afternoon tea chimed and they halted their conversation in favour of making their way downstairs.

 

*****

 

8 August 1991

 

Minerva McGonagall was working her way steadily through the class lists for the new sixth years, now that OWL results were in. She was also expecting other professors to check in and ask for the lists, so the sudden rush of green in her fireplace did not startle her. She did not even look up from her desk.

 

“I’ll have the lists in half an hour or so. Check back then.”

 

“Min, it’s Amelia.”

 

Now she jerked, surprised at the voice. “Oh, forgive me. I was expecting…never mind. Did you find out what happened?”

 

“Not exactly. May I come through?”

 

“Of course, of course.” Minerva Transfigured one of her infamous straight-back wooden chairs into something more comfortable.

 

Amelia Bones appeared, dusting herself off and removing her monocle to wipe the ash from it. She replaced the monocle and sat in the now-welcoming plush armchair.

 

“Tea? Biscuits? I can have an elf bring something.”

 

“Actually, I’ll take a few fingers of whisky.”

 

Minerva’s eyebrows rose at that, but she moved to her cabinet and poured out. Handing the glass to her friend, she asked, “What happened?”

 

“I started by sending my assistant to the Hall of Records, asking for anything on Black because with Harry Potter about to start school, I wanted to be familiar with the details on the case. She returned empty-handed, saying she couldn’t find any files under Black’s name. So I gave her a time frame of up to three months after the attack and also suggested she look against it being misfiled, checking all the Bs, the Ss, the Ps and so forth. This time, not only did she not find anything, but the clerk who was there at the time ran her out for ‘larking about’ and disturbing the records.” Amelia took her first swallow of whisky, savouring the flavour.

 

When she didn’t go on, Minerva burst out, “Well?”

 

Amelia gave a sardonic smile. “I went down there myself. I was met at the door by Pennick, the lead Record Keeper. He claimed that Minister Fudge himself had closed access to the records except by request.”

 

Minerva stood and poured a drink for herself, trying to give herself time to rein in her anger. “And?”

 

“I made the request. It’s currently ‘being considered’ by the undersecretary Fudge assigned.” Amelia gave her friend a significant look over her glass.

 

“Umbridge,” Minerva declared flatly.

 

“Who else? I also went around to ask Barty Crouch, since he was head of the DMLE at the time. He is in Anatolia trying to hammer out some new agreement or other and has no scheduled return date.”

 

They drained their glasses together.

 

Minerva banged her empty glass on her desk. “So we have Fudge deliberately withholding information, which suggests that my memory is correct and Black never had a trial. Crouch is out of reach and can’t confirm one way or another.”

 

“What about Dumbledore? He was Supreme Mugwump by then, wasn’t he?”

 

Minerva sighed. “I’d hoped to leave him out of it for as long as possible. I’ve been trying very hard to keep him distant from the people who have been taking care of Harry because they are certain to question him most severely for putting the boy with his aunt and uncle.”

 

Amelia sat up at that. “Wait, what? What’s going on, Min?”

 

Minerva refilled the glasses. “It’s quite a story. Best be ready.”

 

*****

 

10 August 1991

 

On the presumption that if the children ended up at Hogwarts they would be taking a train to it, the doctors and parents made arrangements for everyone to travel in to London by rail, then meet at the Leicester Square tube station. While none of the parents knew exactly where the Leaky Cauldron was, Terry Boot’s mother remembered the mention of a bookshop and had made a list of the ones on Charing Cross Road from the telephone directory.

 

The Hopkins and Perks families were on holiday. Terry’s father and Justin’s mother had commitments they could not break. It was a slightly more manageable twelve people who found one another in the underground and moved out to the street. Harry was wearing a baseball cap to help keep his scar covered.

 

As they made their way north, the children chattered about riding the train, Harry for the first time, and drank in the sights of a bustling London. They had passed Cranbourn and Great Newport Streets when Dean pointed and called out, “Look, there it is!”

 

The group stopped and, with a comical symmetry, the children began moving toward the shabby little door tucked between a bookshop and a record shop while the adults looked about them, befuddled. Hermione moved between her parents and seized them by the hand. “This way.” Once she touched them, the Grangers had no trouble seeing the entrance and followed her. The rest of the group followed her example.

 

Once inside, the children again led the way toward the back entrance. Dr Greene glanced around at the various people in hats and robes, mostly wearing their hair longer than the current fashion. She caught sight of one rather hideous old woman with a veil pulled to the side, eating what seemed to be a pile of raw meat. She moved closer to the Grangers, wishing profoundly that she hadn’t agreed to accompany the group instead of Dr Aymler.

 

Remembering that they were not to use their wands, Harry went to the bald man behind the bar. “Excuse me, sir? Could someone let us through the gate to the shops?”

 

The man grinned, showing a mouth with very few teeth. “No need. Use your wand. It’s the gate recognizing your wand, not you casting with it.”

 

Harry thanked him and re-joined the waiting group. “It’s all right to use our wands to get through the arch.”

 

They crowded into the courtyard as before and the children looked at each other hesitantly. “Who wants to do the honours?” Mr Thomas asked.

 

Justin stepped forward. “I’ll do it. Which brick was it again?”

 

“This one,” Hermione pointed.

 

Justin tapped the brick three times and Dr Greene jumped slightly as the wall melted back into its archway. Hermione gave a knowing smile and took her hand. “Amazing, isn’t it?”

 

Once through, the adults took a look around and Mr Granger asked, “Does anyone remember the name of the shop that sold trunks?”

 

“No, Dad, but we can probably ask in Flourish & Blotts or Madam Malkin’s.”

 

“Actually,” Mrs Boot spoke up, “This is probably it.” She pointed to a large storefront on the other side of the cauldron shop with a Gothic script on its windows announcing “Portman’s Portmanteaus”.

 

They entered to find a bright room full of trunks, old-fashioned Gladstone bags, and satchels. Several trunks were set on small stages and opened wide, each with a placard on an easel describing the features. Harry noticed one near the front prominently labelled “Hogwarts” and moved toward it.

 

A tall, thin wizard with mutton-chop sideburns and very little hair on his head appeared from a back room. “Welcome, welcome to Portman’s. I am Phileas Portman. How may I assist you?”

 

Robert spoke for the group. “We have a group heading to school next month and were advised to consider trunks.”

 

The man glanced over the group, counting the five children, and clasped his hands together enthusiastically. “Absolutely we can help you! I see you’ve already found the standard Hogwarts trunk.” He moved to it, adjusting the angle of the sign. “The basic trunk as is runs twelve galleons. We suggest the casting of a Cushioning Charm to protect any fragile items inside for another five sickles. From there we have other features involving everything from security to space alteration. And purchasing any three charms includes having a nameplate installed and engraved.”

 

They took turns looking into the trunk and playing with the removable shelf or experimentally opening and closing it. While she waited on the others, Hermione spotted another trunk, an upright model with a line of three locks on it. She wandered over to read the placard and homed in on the line that read, “Perfect for library storage”.

 

Portman noticed her interest and came over. “This is a marvellous model, triple the storage!”

 

“How does it work?”

 

The shopkeeper pulled out an enormous chatelaine from a cloak pocket that must have been quite deep. He hunted through the ribbons of various colour and design, each with one or more keys on the end. He found the correct one and separated the three keys on it. “The first chamber is a basic upright, hang robes on one side and other items in drawers. This is the second chamber.” He used a key in the middle lock and opened it.

 

Hermione peered in, astonished to see that the space appeared to be the size of a removal van. Portman smiled at her reaction. “It is such a pleasure to show these to someone new. This is designed for any large items that would be damaged by Reducing Charms. My third cousin, who is a bit mad for Muggle things, likes to keep something he calls a golf buggy in a trunk like this.” He closed it and locked it, then opened the third space with another key. This time the space below was about half as deep as the second room, but was lined with empty shelves to well above her head and had two more freestanding shelves in the centre. Hermione let out an eager little sigh, imagining loading every single one of her books at home into such a space.

 

“How much does one of these cost?”

 

“Well, of course they are dearer given their capacity. A basic three-chamber trunk starts at fifty-four galleons.”

 

Hermione did the math in her head and swallowed. “Maybe in a couple of years.”

 

To her surprise, Portman patted her shoulder kindly. “It’s rare that a student begins with such a trunk, unless they have a hand-me-down from their parents or have more money than sense. I do have a different model over here with two chambers, the standard and the library. It begins at thirty-eight galleons.”

 

Hermione realized that most of the group had followed her over and heard the last part of Portman’s pitch. Her father shook his head. “Not yet, Hermione. We’ll keep it in mind for later if your book collection gets out of control.” Hermione did her best to hide her disappointment, not noticing Harry get Dean’s attention for a whispered consultation.

 

All the students opted for a standard student trunk, though they chose different alterations and Mrs Boot kept throwing the same longing glances at the library trunk as Hermione did. Portman took down names and made lists of what each student wanted. When Harry gave his name, he paused and looked again. Reluctantly Harry lifted his cap.

 

“My word. It’s a genuine pleasure to meet you, Mr Potter, a genuine pleasure. Do let me offer you a discount and our entire range of alterations free of charge.”

 

“No, no need to do that, sir. I’d prefer to pay my way. But I heard our guide last week say something about blood locks.  How do those work?”

 

“Well, it’s an extra layer of security. The owner gives a drop of blood to spell the lock, and thereafter he or she is the only person who can open it. I don’t know that you would prefer one or not; you’ll be sharing quarters and might find it bothersome that your roommates can’t get you something you need.”

 

Harry thought about that for a moment, but decided that privacy would be more important. Then another idea occurred to him. “Can you have more than one person’s blood on a lock?”

 

“Why, yes. It’s a sensible precaution. The spell can usually handle up to five different people.”

 

“I’d like that, then, and add Dean Thomas and Hermione Granger to it.”

 

Dean and Hermione echoed him, and Portman looked around. “Getting the blood for three trunks and spelling all five of them will take a little time. Could you give me two hours?”

 

The adults glanced at one another and Robert replied, “I think we have enough errands to run that it won’t be a problem. Viola, why don’t you all start for Gringotts? I’ll stay with Hermione, Harry, and Dean, and we’ll meet you there.”

 

Viola nodded, and led the others out. Portman had taken advantage of their planning to fetch three small glass vials. He pulled out his wand. “I’ll need to make a small cut on your palm and I’ll be able to heal it right away.” Harry held out his hand and Portman took several drops of blood. He repeated the process with Hermione and Dean, then went back over his lists with each of the children, verifying that he had all the charms correct.

 

Robert led them out toward Gringotts. They paused when they saw Justin and his father waving from where they stood outside Eeylops. Justin explained, “Terry’s mum had a question about getting something for their owl to sleep on. Seems he’s clawed up a pair of chairs.”

 

As he spoke, a man and a boy in robes were passing. The boy glanced at them, taking in their street clothes, and looked up at his father to comment loudly, “Father, what kind of person would purchase an owl and not have a place for it to roost?”

 

The father answered in a drawl, swinging his cane carelessly. “That would be a Muggleborn, Draco.”

 

The boy looked over at them, a sneer on his face. But even as Harry, Dean, and Terry straightened and scowled, Justin spoke up in his most aristocratic tone, “And just who are you?”

 

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Author’s Note: Just for fun, can you identify the two little allusions to other authors that I included in this chapter?

 

As always, thank you for reading!

Chapter Text

Disclaimer: If you recognize the character, it isn’t mine. Just playing in Rowling’s sandbox.

 

Reminder: I'm on Twitter under "@avidbeader" if you are reading this on a guest account and would prefer to get your notifications of a new chapter that way. I promise I won't be spamming.

 

Answers: A lot of people rightly said that Justin’s question echoed the Caterpillar in “Alice in Wonderland”. That was unintentional. I named the trunk salesman Phileas after the traveling main character in “Around the World in 80 Days” and Barty being in Anatolia was a very obscure reference to the Agatha Christie mystery “Cat Among the Pigeons”, where a character travels there (modern-day Turkey) on a bus and is therefore hard to get in contact with.

 

Note: I’m late with this chapter. I will try to be back on track after this as the next chapter is already half-written. However, my life is lived by the academic calendar and I’m about to be extremely busy again. All I can promise is that I will keep writing and trying to update often.

 

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10 August 1991

 

 

Hermione had been taken aback by the fair-haired man and boy delivering their cutting remarks, remembering similar derision in school from the popular girls. She was even more surprised at Justin’s response. The amiable boy they had begun to know in the last week was acting every inch to the manor born. The look on his face suggested that he had discovered something disagreeable on the sole of his shoe.

 

His expression was mirrored by the man, who tightened his grip on his cane. The boy stared, open-mouthed, for a moment, before shooting back, “How dare you!”

 

Justin snorted. “How dare I? I wasn’t the one making ignorant remarks in the hearing of those I intended to insult.”

 

“Ignorant? You’re one to talk, you mu—”

 

The man gripped the boy’s shoulder to stop him, then looked the entire group over before fastening onto Justin’s father. With condescension dripping from his voice, he said, “To answer your son’s rather rude question, I am Lucius Malfoy. This is my son, Draco. And yourselves, gentlemen?”

 

Mr Finch-Fletchley pushed his glasses up his nose after looking them over. “Malfoy? That’s an unfamiliar surname. How long have you lived in Britain?”

 

Hermione exchanged a wide-eyed glance with Harry, sensing the tension building between the adults.

 

“Our family has been part of wizarding society since the fifteenth century.”

 

“Ah, that explains it twice.” Mr. Finch-Fletchley looked down at Justin and laid one hand on his shoulder.

 

“Twice?”

 

“Yes. First, of course, you’re newcomers. Most of the truly notable blood can be traced back to at least the Anarchy, if not before the Norman invasion. And second, you’re only important in here.” He waved vaguely at the street. “Not where it matters.”

 

The boy had been turning pink as he listened and finally burst out, “What do you mean, where it matters? Wizarding society is the only society that matters!”

 

Justin laughed. “Truly? Name one wizard in the Queen’s court. One wizard in Parliament. One great thing some wizard has done that has benefited the entire population, not just yourselves.”

 

Seeing both the Malfoys groping to answer, Hermione added, “Can you lot speak to anyone, anywhere in the world in an instant? Or are you limited to waiting for an owl to fly to you? Do you have magic that can make thousands of calculations in a second, like our computers?”

 

Dean joined in. “S’right, we’ve even sent men to the moon!”

 

“Impossible! You lie!” Draco, the boy, snarled.

 

“No, child,” Robert stepped up. “We’ve done quite well for ourselves without this magic we’ve heard about. And the fact that you are showing such appalling ignorance about the greater world has me agreeing with my daughter that this Hogwarts of yours offers an incomplete education. I think we should stop by the offices for those other schools and see if they do any better. Otherwise we may have to continue our children’s education as normal and supplement their magical abilities with some tutoring.”

 

Now Draco laughed. “Go ahead and try it!”

 

His father jerked him back by the shoulder, instantly silencing him. Hermione’s eyes narrowed at that reaction.

 

Malfoy shrugged his cloak to settle it more comfortably and led Draco away with a cold “Good day, gentlemen.” Hermione watched as they went into the bookstore. At that moment, the rest of the group emerged from Eeylops. Mrs Boot brandished a small shopping bag and was exclaiming over the timed shrinking charm that would end in twelve hours, after they had the stand at home.

 

“Dad, I’ll catch up to you. All we need from the bookstore is the Hogwarts book, right?”

 

“True, but if you go in alone we’ll not see you for hours. Go with her, Harry. We’ll wait for you at the bank.”

 

*****

 

As he watched his daughter and Harry dash toward the bookstore, Robert turned to Justin’s father, who had lingered with him. “Mr Finch-Fletchley, may I express how glad I am you haven’t turned that aristocratic side onto us?”

 

The other man smiled. “It’s Addison. And frankly I find the whole thing a bore most of the time. I can trace my Fletchley side back to Edward the Confessor, if I must, but it’s mainly useful for twitting someone like that Malfoy character. Not quite out of the top drawer if they only arrived sometime during the Hundred Years’ War.”

 

Robert shrugged. “That’s better than I can manage. I don’t think I can go back farther than my great-granddad without resorting to research.”

 

Addison laughed. “Robert, what you do have is wit and courage. These days that will take you quite as far as anyone with strawberry leaves hanging over their head. Much more than simply giving in to snobbery like those people.” With that they followed the others down Diagon Alley.

 

*****

 

Hermione and Harry slipped into a crowded Flourish & Blotts. She scanned the shop and immediately spotted the Malfoys looking over the Hogwarts textbooks. Seizing Harry’s hand, she pulled him along until they were on the other side of the shelves. She pretended to browse and pulled a book out to skim.

 

Harry looked puzzled, but followed her lead. Comprehension dawned when he heard the snivelling tone of the Malfoy boy. “Father, why didn’t you let me tell those mudbloods what would happen if they didn’t go to one of our schools?”

 

“Information is power, Draco. Always better to spend it carefully. If those people don’t know that they’d be Obliviated of all knowledge of magic, let them find out after they’ve committed to that course of action. A few less mudbloods for us to deal with.”

 

Hermione frowned, trying to place the unfamiliar term. She shelved her book and moved to an area with some general spell indexes and pulled down The A-Z Guide to Spells. She flipped to the Os and immediately found the entry.

 

Harry had followed her and paused when she looked up, white-faced. “What is it, Hermione?”

 

“If we don’t go to a magic school, they…” She paused and swallowed. “They wipe our memories.”

 

*****

 

Harry stuck close to Hermione as she rapidly bought a copy of Hogwarts, A History and The A-Z Guide to Spells. They entered Gringotts, nodded politely to Trobnor at his station, and found the rest waiting in a group while Dean spoke with Griphook. As they approached, the goblin was shaking his head. Dean spotted them and brightened. “Well, as Harry’s here now, you can tell him after all.”

 

Griphook turned to Harry. “I do apologize, but I was explaining to Mr Demirci-Thomas, we Goblins keep to a strict code of confidentiality. I can only talk about details of your accounts and vaults to you.”

 

“We understand. That’s very sensible of you,” Harry replied.

 

“Thank you for your understanding. Do you wish to move to a private location?”

 

“Er, would that be better?”

 

“It would ensure confidentiality, which is never a bad thing.”

 

“All right, but…” Harry looked around at the group. “Could Dr Greene, Mr Granger and Mr Finch-Fletchley come? I trust them to know about this stuff.”

 

The goblin nodded and gestured toward a door. “That is acceptable. This way.” He led the three to a sitting room, tastefully appointed with chairs to accommodate a wide variety of heights. Griphook sat in a small chair next to a low table and gestured for Harry to sit across from him. The adults sat to either side of Harry, Dr Greene choosing the one farthest away from Griphook. The goblin waved a hand and a sheaf of papers appeared on the table.

 

“These are copies of the papers we gave you on your last visit. After you sent the owl asking about your parents’ will, we investigated. It should have been with the rest of the papers. We have prepared a piece of magic that we rarely use, as it could be seen as an invasion of privacy by some wizards. What it will do is summon and duplicate a copy of the will from someone who has it in their records. In this case it will likely be one of the three witnesses. There should be a copy filed at the Ministry, but the spell is disrupted by wards of a certain strength.”

 

Mr Finch-Fletchley asked, “Can you tell us who the witnesses were?”

 

“I expect that two were Mr Potter’s godparents, Sirius Black and Alice Longbottom.”

 

Grasping desperately for something normal she could do, Dr Greene whipped out a notebook and pen and began taking notes. “We know the story of Sirius Black. Do you know why Harry’s godmother never came forward after his parents were killed?”

 

Griphook turned to her. “Unfortunately, I do. Just a few weeks after the deaths of the Potters, Death Eaters attacked the Longbottom family.”

 

The adults grimaced and Emily replied, “So they were killed as well?”

 

“Worse by some reckoning, actually. They were tortured until they went insane. They currently reside in St Mungo’s Hospital, completely unresponsive. They don’t recognize their own son, a child about Mr Potter’s age.”

 

Robert reached over to squeeze Harry’s shoulder, seeing how upset the story made him, while Emily frowned and scribbled more notes.

 

Mr Finch-Fletchley cleared his throat. “Be that as it may, we do need to see the Potter will if we can.”

 

“Of course,” Griphook stood and moved the papers away from the table. He stared at the empty expanse in fierce concentration for a moment, then raised his hands and moved them in a pattern. When nothing happened, he frowned and repeated the action.

 

“What’s wrong?” Harry asked.

 

“It would seem that all copies of the will are under strong wards. Of course the copy at the Ministry would not be retrievable in this fashion. I suspect the copy with Mrs Longbottom may be at her mother-in-law’s manor, also a heavily warded location. I cannot explain the other two at the moment. We will send requests to the Black and Longbottom estates and to the Ministry. If we hear nothing within six months or receive answers in the negative, we will change the status of the will to ‘missing’. This ensures that, per Gringotts policy, you will come into your full inheritance as the only remaining blood relative of the Potters on your fifteenth birthday. This is the age that we consider beings to be legal adults. Should a copy of the will be found before then, we will honour any legacies not discharged after your parents’ deaths, but you will still receive your inheritance at fifteen. Until then, you will have full access to your school vault to cover your expenses, as before.”

 

“Er…thank you, Griphook.” Harry’s head was spinning from the speed with which things were moving.

 

“Now that things are as settled as we can make them, shall we return to the rest of your group?”

 

 

*****

 

They trooped out of the office for the Cliodna Conservatory clutching copies of the same brochure that Professor McGonagall had given them. The expressions ranged from dazed to incredulous. The presentation in the brochure had seemed straightforward enough, showing the emphasis on nature that might be expected from a school named after a Druid. But the representative had lost them the moment she’d come from behind her desk to press her hand to each of theirs and sprinkle them with water and flower petals conjured from her wand. The group was patient as the witch described the classes and school routine, even as Viola Granger’s question about postgraduate opportunities drew a blank stare.

 

Now they filed into the office for the Wenlock Academy. This time the representative was a man in neat brown robes, happily scribbling calculations on parchment and consulting an abacus. Justin’s father cleared his throat, startling the man.

 

“I say, I do apologize. Euclid Pascal, at your service.”

 

“These children are of an age to enter magical schools and we wanted to know more about our opportunities.” Mr Finch-Fletchley waved at the group.

 

Pascal stood, grasping a stack of copies of a familiar-looking brochure. Hermione held up a hand. “We have that information already, sir, thank you. We wanted to know if your school incorporates non-magical subjects into your curriculum.”

 

“Non-magical? Why on earth would we do that?”

 

“To keep up with innovations in mathematics that might affect Arithmancy, of course!” Hermione’s tone was sharp with impatience. “Have you considered discoveries like fractal geometry and the four-colour theorem?”

 

“The what geometry? Four colours?” Pascal looked completely lost.

 

Harry whipped off his cap and wiped his brow in frustration. “Even I’ve heard of fractal geometry and I’m a dunce compared to Hermione! Are you really saying that your school completely ignores the rest of the world?”

 

The man looked at Harry to reply, but fell silent a moment as he stared at the boy’s face. He reached out to shake Harry’s hand. Harry resisted the urge to wipe his hand on his trousers to get rid of the sudden impression of sliminess.

 

“Harry Potter, we will be glad to accommodate the Boy Who Lived if you wish to make a special study of some area of Arithmancy. I think we have one Muggleborn on our staff who could assist if you insisted on working with such information. But sit, sit, let me get you and your companions some tea…”

 

“That’s all right, we have a lot of errands to run,” Harry lied frantically. Dean and Hermione immediately headed toward the door and the others began to follow.

 

“Are you sure? Madame Archimedes says that my tea is ambrosial!”

 

Everyone had escaped back into the street and Emily turned to Harry. “Did you have this kind of toadying going on last time?”

 

“No, doctor, not like that. That was horrid!” Harry shuddered, remembering the sudden eagerness in the wizard’s eyes.

 

Justin nodded in agreement. “Now I completely understand when dad complains about anyone sucking up to him.”

 

Dean looked toward the Leaky Cauldron passageway. “Let’s get out of here before it happens again!”

 

*****

 

17 August 1991

 

After a careful perusal of Hogwarts, A History, some phone calls between the Muggleborn families, and a flurry of exchanges by owl, Minerva McGonagall agreed to meet with everyone one more time. This time she decided against dressing like a Muggle. Whether or not the children decided to attend Hogwarts or one of the other schools, they needed to start getting used to how the wizarding world did things.

 

She Apparated directly into the conference room to be met by Dr Aymler. He greeted her cordially enough and opened the door. “There’s enough of us that we’ve set up in what was a parlour back in the day. All the families are here.”

 

“Do I need to alter my robes?”

 

“No, this floor is locked against the other residents and most of the staff. You’ll be fine.” He led her down the hall and through a foyer separating one wing of the manor from another.

 

The parlour was full of people sitting on a hodgepodge of chairs and couches brought in from other areas of the institute. Minerva saw all of the children and parents she had met except for the Entwhistles, who had opted for Wenlock Academy. She took an empty chair and greeted the room. “Good afternoon.” After the various replies died down, she turned to Aymler. “What more do you wish to know?”

 

“We have a few concerns that we’d like to share. One is the fact that none of your magical schools seem to teach any kind of material for students who plan on living the majority of their lives in our world. You say you provide records for students who want to attend university, but if they haven’t had courses in maths or sciences, our history or literature, how can they possibly succeed?”

 

Minerva thought about that for a moment. She knew it was possible to alter records and carefully charm an admissions officer or two—Albus had explained the process to her once. But the doctor’s question suggested that they expected students to actually learn Muggle subjects alongside magical ones, and that was a thing that had never been done at Hogwarts.

 

She weighed her answer, debating whether to temporize or not. She looked around and her gaze stopped at Harry, his green eyes focused on her. Lily’s eyes looking out from her son’s face.

 

That decided her. Lily Evans Potter had prized honesty above almost all else.

 

“I do not know if they can. We have never made provisions for Muggleborn students to learn such material. All we offer is Muggle Studies, which is designed for wizards and witches. Unfortunately I cannot remember the last time we had a student request help in applying to a university. Neither am I aware of any Muggleborn student who has gone back to this world permanently, although there may be a few.” She paused to look around and saw the frowns and thinned lips of the parents.

 

Dr Aymler asked, “Would you support us if we arranged for our students to have access to some of these courses?”

 

“I would, though I think it would be extremely difficult for them to essentially double their course loads, especially in the O.W.L. and N.E.W.T. years.”

 

“What if they did some of those studies during holidays?”

 

“That would be better for them. We do assign summer homework, but a diligent student can complete such work within several days.”

 

Several of the parents seemed to relax as they listened. Then Harry Potter traded glances with the little Granger girl and she raised a hand. Minerva looked at her. “Yes, dear?”

 

“How long must one attend a wizarding school before they may leave without having their memories taken away?”

 

The room erupted.

 

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Author’s Note: As always, thank you for reading! For the eager ones, I promise that a certain red steam engine will appear next chapter.

Chapter Text

Disclaimer: If you recognize the character, it isn’t mine. Just playing in Rowling’s sandbox.

News: This should bring me back to my usual schedule of updating around the 15th and 30th each month, as long as life behaves itself and my betas respond in a timely manner.

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17 August 1991

Andrea Thomas had grown up in a large family and was raising a large family of her own. She had a lifetime of experience in being loud to gain attention and it served her now. Her voice rose above the clamour of people reacting to Hermione’s question.

“What do you mean, wipe memories? That’s an inexcusable violation of privacy!”

“We don’t—we only—please, will you listen?”

Dr Aymler saw the professor helplessly trying to respond. He stuck his thumb and forefinger into his mouth and let out a shrill whistle. Startled, the others began to quiet down.

“Let’s give her the chance to explain.”

McGonagall nodded in gratitude and drew a breath to compose her thoughts. Honesty. Total honesty or I lose them all at this point.

“One of our most important laws is called the Statute of Secrecy. It was enacted in 1692 by an international confederation of wizards, in response to centuries of either persecution by Muggles or demands from heads of state for assistance in keeping their power. It was used to permanently separate the two societies, to hide magic from the rest of the world. In Britain, it gradually evolved into a section of law enforcement known as Obliviators, experts in memory charms, who usually work to contain large incidents that happen from time to time, such as a dragon escaping.

“As part of this separation, should a Muggleborn child choose not to attend one of our schools, we carefully erase all memories of doing magic and our world—only those things—from that child and anyone in the family who was told. They are then free to continue their lives without our interference.”

After a moment of silence, as everyone digested McGonagall’s words, Hermione spoke. “But, professor, that child can still do magic.”

“Yes, that’s true. There are potions that can suppress magical ability for short periods, but nothing short of catastrophic injury can permanently remove one’s magic.”

“So if Harry, Dean, or I were to choose not to attend a magic school, what would happen to us? We’d still be here, trying to fix our problem of having accidents, and never able to leave!”

The professor frowned slightly as she considered this. “That…that is true.”

“And is the only thing you do the Obliviation Charm? What if a child was keeping a diary, writing about their accidents, and then wrote about getting a letter from Hogwarts? Do the Obliviators go through a house looking for anything like that? If they don’t, what happens if a child goes back and reads about the things they’ve been made to forget?”

Now the colour drained from McGonagall’s face. “Sweet Merlin…I don’t know if anyone’s ever thought of that! Re-introduction of erased memories takes very skilled and prolonged Mind Healer, or it can lead to complications.”

Voicing the frustration that most of the parents were feeling, Viola Granger spoke up. “We’re getting off track here. You’ve told us what’s usually done when students don’t go to your schools and we find that unacceptable. No one is touching our memories or our children’s memories. That is non-negotiable. So we need to find a better way. Now, you have said you’re willing to help our children learn the skills they need to survive in our world. My question is this: in our system, a student may leave school at age sixteen, which tends to be after finishing their GCSEs. Do you have a similar situation there? Would Hermione or any of the children wanting to attend university be able to finish a certain level of magic education and then move to private tutoring to prepare for university? Even if we resort to Open University for Hermione, she would still be expected to take a certain set of courses at the start to fill in missing qualifications and that would put her behind.”

“Our students are permitted to leave school after they complete their O.W.L.s, Ordinary Wizarding Levels, in their fifth year. But most students who qualify continue for two more years as a great many professions require certain marks on the N.E.W.T.s, or the Nastily Exhaustive Wizarding Tests.”

A few people cracked smiles at the name for the tests. Robert Granger replied, “So, in theory, these children could attend your school for five years, perhaps working on regular coursework in the summers, and take that first set of tests. Then they would be free to choose to continue with you or leave without any sort of penalty.”

“That is correct. The only stipulation in that situation is to honour the Statute of Secrecy. And I promise to do what I can to assist them along the way. We have plenty of spare classrooms; one could be reserved for any of these students to use to work on the Mu— the regular side of their education. We could include shelves for any books they need and so forth.”

“Ooh, how about a few computers?” Dean’s eyes lit up at the possibility.

“A few what?” McGonagall was completely at sea.

“Computers are an invention, an electronic machine that can perform calculations, store information, and communicate with other computers through telephones,” Dr Aymler replied.

“Ah, if it is electric, then no. The amount of magical energy in the air around Hogwarts disrupts such devices. We discourage students from bringing wireless sets or television sets or the like.”

“Is that just Hogwarts or would a place like Diagon Alley have the same problem?” Hermione asked.

McGonagall beamed at her. Already making such connections at her age! She felt a surge of eagerness to teach such a keen mind. “Quite right. Any location with a concentration of magic being performed would do, even just a house with a large family of wizards. Basic security wards are often enough to muddle electricity.”

Dr Greene, who had been taking notes as usual, looked around. “Does anyone have other questions at this time?”

Harry sat up. “I do!” He pulled out the photo album that Hermione and Dean had given him. “I was looking at the pictures you sent, and thank you again for them, and saw that the uniforms have badges on them. The robes we bought don’t have them. Why is that?”

McGonagall held out a hand and Harry brought the album to show her. She looked fondly at the photograph of the group of seventh years. “Hogwarts has a house system. Every new student is sorted into one of the houses and takes classes with their house year group. Each house also has a Quidditch team and the four houses compete for the Quidditch Cup every year. Our discipline system includes house points toward a House Cup that can be given for good work or good behaviour and taken away when a student breaks a rule. Severe misbehaviour results in detentions. Anyway, when a student is sorted, the insignia for their house appears on their robes.”

“Who is in charge of these houses?” Addison Finch-Fletchley asked, remembering his own school days and the regular issues with supervision.

“Each house is led by a faculty member. I am head of Gryffindor, for example. We have a Head Boy and Head Girl and a group of students in fifth through seventh year that serve as prefects. Harry, you can see here that your parents were Head Boy and Head Girl their seventh year from these badges, and Remus Lupin was a prefect.”

McGonagall continued to identify people in the photographs as the other children gathered around her to look. The adults seized the distraction to pull together. Aymler began a quick discussion.

“I believe it’s decision time. Now, we are only legally responsible for Harry, but we have been working with Hermione and Dean as well. Given the information from the professor, we would support the children attending this school for at least the minimum requirement. If we were made to forget what we know, and I don’t know that we could stop them, we’d be condemning them to years of their lives being institutionalized while we try and help them with what they can do, afraid the entire time that they might lose control of it.”

“I agree with him,” Dr Greene said. “Without knowing what it was, we’ve been able to help our three get a reasonable amount of control over magic, at least to the point that accidents are quite rare, but it was still extremely frustrating for all of us not to be able to identify what was happening or fully predict it.”

“As for the other schools,” Aymler continued, “The druid one is right out. None of us liked how we were approached there, right? And both it and the Wenlock one seem to specialize in certain areas rather than a general magic education.”

“And Harry was quite unhappy at the toadying reaction of that abacus fellow to him,” Dr Greene added. “Given the notoriety attached to him in their world, the bigger the school population, the easier it will be for him to blend in after the initial sensation dies down.”

The Grangers exchanged looks, and Robert spoke. “I think our questions have been answered. As long as Hermione isn’t going to lose the option for further education if she wants it, we can manage.”

Mrs Boot held up a hand. “I’d like to know if there’s a way to make the professor our contact person even if our children aren’t in her house. She’s been very frank with us so far. I’d certainly rather deal with her than that fellow in the brass buttons.”

Most of the other parents were nodding. Mr Perks added, “The only thing we need is more details about options in the States, since it’s possible I’ll be taking a job there.”

Dr Greene looked over to see that the professor had stopped speaking and was content to watch the children flip through the album and marvel at the moving figures in the photographs. She motioned at McGonagall, who joined them.

The doctor began, “We would like to know if it is possible for you to be our official contact at the school, regardless of houses.”

McGonagall thought about that a moment. Professors Sprout and Flitwick were very easy to work with and would likely not mind. Snape, however, would see it as a mortal insult. Although, how likely is it that any Muggleborn child would be sorted into Slytherin? It certainly hasn’t happened in my memory! This would not be a hardship, especially since it would be a reason to keep a close eye on Harry if Dumbledore began meddling again. “I believe it can be done. It hasn’t before, but as Deputy Headmistress I am responsible for meeting families in your situation for the first time. It’s a logical request.”

Aymler held out a hand. “Then I believe we are agreed. We’ll see you in September.”

McGonagall took his hand and shook warmly. “I am very glad to hear it. Please don’t hesitate to send an owl if there is anything more I can do.”

*****

1 September 1991

Harry pushed his trolley with his trunk and Hedwig in her cage while Pippa kept a lookout. Hermione and Dean had gone home for a short holiday before leaving for school and they had agreed to meet at nine-thirty at the pastry shop. Harry eyed the bookstore next to it. “We’ll have to keep Hermione from going in there for just one more thing to read.”

Pippa laughed at that, then spotted the Thomases and waved. Geoffrey and Dean were lugging Dean’s trunk between them while Andrea carried Picasso in his cage. They stopped long enough to fetch a trolley, then joined Harry and Pippa. They began pushing tables together in anticipation of the Grangers.

The waitress distracted them, admiring the owls, which enabled Hermione to slip up behind the boys and throw an arm around each of their necks. “We’re here! It’s almost time!”

They chatted happily through a round of tea and croissants, filling each other in on things that had happened since they had spoken on the telephone. Hermione moaned about having to choose certain books to pack while the Thomases talked about their house-hunting and the Grangers tried to convince them to pull up stakes and come to Nottingham.

With forty minutes to spare, the group gathered things up and began moving to the entrance to platform nine and three quarters. As they got closer they could see a small crowd milling about as if waiting for a train on either side. Watching closely, they could see the occasional teenager slip into the wall while the accompanying adults drifted away. Harry noticed that the clothes some of the people wore were a bit odd: one woman was in a sundress and a padded anorak and an older man was in an Indian sarong with a deerstalker on his head.

They joined the crowd and shifted with the people around them, steadily moving up. Harry itched to pull his ball cap down more firmly, but resisted.

And then it was their turn. Pippa gave Harry a tight hug and whispered, “You write often, you hear? Let us know everything.”

He swallowed hard against a sudden lump in his throat. “I promise. Every week.”

Hermione and Dean finished hugging their parents and there were handshakes all around. Then Harry steered his trolley toward the portal, checked that he was reasonably hidden by the others, and strode into the wall.

The contrast from his previous visit to the platform was stark. The train was parked on the track, a few men going over the engine and couplings. It was a bright, shiny scarlet with gold trim. Parents and students were everywhere, checking trunks one more time and hugging goodbye. Harry moved forward carefully, trying to steer through to a car down the line without getting too far ahead of Hermione and Dean.

The three of them were almost to the car Harry had chosen when someone shouted, “Oi, Harry, guys!” They looked up to see Wayne Hopkins dragging his trolley toward them. Harry also realized that a lot of people around them were suddenly paying closer attention at hearing his name. He waved at Wayne to join them.

“Let’s get our stuff into a compartment and then keep an eye out for the others.”

They discovered compartments that looked to hold six people and decided to claim two and keep an eye out for the others. Hermione agreed to stand guard and hold them while the others got the trunks in. Sally-Anne found them as they loaded the owls and instantly ran off again as she and Justin had arrived together and split up to search for the rest.

As the time moved toward eleven without a sign of Terry, the others began to get worried. Finally Harry shooed them in. “He could have arrived before us. I’ll stay at the steps until we leave and after we’ve started we can check the rest of the train.”

Reluctantly, Hermione and Dean went into their compartment, with the other three in the next one. Harry leaned out, watching as the last groups began to board and the train whistle blew.

Harry suddenly spied Terry, pushing his trolley through the portal and looking quite grumpy. He waved frantically. “Terry! Oi, Terry!” He noticed a large group of red-headed people filing in behind his friend.

Terry spotted him and Harry jumped down to meet him, taking the owl’s cage and handing it up to Justin, who had heard the shout. They quickly shoved Terry’s trunk into the car as the conductor began shouting “All aboard!”

Terry joined Justin and Wayne, complaining about some pushy red-haired woman who had insisted on explaining the entrance to the platform to him, while Sally-Anne moved to sit with Hermione. They all looked eagerly out the windows as the train began to move, exiting the station and chuffing through London.

Hermione squealed and bounced on her seat. “We’re going!”

Harry grinned. “We’re off to see some wizards!”

*****

After the first hour of watching London shift into suburbs, swapping seats, and trying to fit all seven of them in one compartment, Justin gave a frustrated sigh. “I wish we could just make a door between the two, like that one to the shopping from the pub.”

Hermione traded looks with Harry, who was next to her. “You think we could?”

Harry thought for a moment. “Guess it couldn’t hurt to try. And we’ve been able to put things right after changing them for a while now. D’you want to give it a go?”

“All right.” Hermione stood and braced herself against the rocking of the train with a hand on his shoulder. Harry put a hand to her back to help.

Hermione concentrated on the doorway to Diagon Alley. We need one of those doors here, just for the train ride. She put a hand against the wall between the compartments. For several minutes nothing happened. Hermione’s face twisted up as she focused even more. Then a golden light appeared under her hand. As the others watched in growing pride or awe, it grew, and as it spread below the luggage racks they could see through the expanding hole to the other compartment. It stopped and the light faded, leaving a wide, open space from the compartment doors to the two seats next to the windows. Hermione looked at the seats fixedly and they melded together into one bench.

“Bloody brilliant!” Terry cried, leaping through. They quickly rearranged the owl cages and spread out, everyone beaming that they could sit comfortably as one large group.

Sally-Anne was the first to ask. “I know you said before that you’d learned a bit about controlling it when weird things happened to you, but that was incredible!”

Hermione blushed and looked at her feet. “I don’t know about incredible, but really all it took was observation and practice. The doctors at Esperança House were ever so helpful in getting us to notice and feel what was happening when there was a problem and finding ways to redirect it.”

Justin asked, “Can you show us?”

“I think so. Maybe if Professor McGonagall really is able to get us a room for our own use, we can also practice. And of course we can write to the doctors if you have questions.”

They continued to chat, sharing some of the accidents they had experienced and asking questions about one another. The subject of wands cropped up and everyone dug theirs out of trunks, passing them around and comparing the resulting feelings of “right” and “a little bit off” and “utterly wrong”.

They grew bored of it and stowed their wands in pockets and sleeves. Dean was about to suggest some poker when there was a knock. One of the compartment doors slid open and a voice began, “I don’t suppose there’s room to sit in here? Only my brothers told me to shove off for a bit…” The red-haired boy trailed off and his eyes widened as he realized that there was much more room in here than there should be.

Oblivious to the slightly guilty expressions of the group, he breathed, “Wicked!”

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Author’s Note: Thank you as always for reading!

Chapter Text

Disclaimer: If you recognize the character, it isn’t mine. Just playing in Rowling’s sandbox.

News: A reader has begun to translate this story into Chinese. The link seems to be down as I type this, but I shared it on my Twitter account – @avidbeader – if you are curious. I also hope to begin the audio version soon, if you can stand my American accent.

As I feared, now that school is back in session I am extremely busy. I will try my best to keep up with twice-a-month updates, but if I’m late (like I am with this one, although Dragon*Con is partially to blame), trust that I will update as soon as I can.

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1 September 1991

Dean looked the newcomer over. He wore regular clothes, but they had a somewhat out-of-date look to them, like the clothes he’d seen his da wear in pictures from his childhood. Dean had no memory of the last time he had seen someone his age wearing corduroy trousers, and his jumper appeared handmade, under a threadbare windcheater. Thinking that they might be meeting their first young wizard who was not a git, Dean waved to the remaining empty place. “Sure, we’ve room.”

The boy sat, still admiring the spacious double compartment. “Thanks. My brothers never said that there was a compartment like this one on the train.”

Hermione moved to cover for them. “It is nice, isn’t it? So it’s your first time going to Hogwarts School?”

He nodded. “I know a lot about it though. All my brothers have gone and my sister will next year. Ron Weasley, by the way.”

The others began introducing themselves and Ron nodded politely until they got to Harry. At hearing the name, Ron goggled all over again. “Really? The Harry Potter?”

Harry nodded uncomfortably. “Yeah. Seems I’m famous for something I don’t even remember.”

“But… but you’re the Boy Who Lived! You’re the one that killed You-Know-Who!” His eyes grew wide with admiration.

Hermione saw Harry’s teeth clenching and the suddenly uneasy looks on their friends’ faces. While they had mentioned to the others in passing that Harry was famous because somehow he had deflected a deadly curse as a baby, hearing it phrased that way with such glaring hero-worship from a stranger was disconcerting. She jumped in to defend Harry.

“He said he didn’t remember it happening! And he didn’t kill this Voldemort person—” She was stopped when the boy squeaked.

“Don’t say the name!”

“Honestly? You’re going to let yourself be afraid of a word? Anyway, Harry didn’t kill him. He killed Harry’s parents and tried to kill Harry, but his spell backfired on him for some reason that no one’s ever figured out.” She reached over and took Harry’s hand. “We know it’s nothing Harry did. He wasn’t even two years old yet.”

Ron’s mumbled apology and Harry’s acceptance helped to finish Hermione’s attempt to defuse the situation. Knowing that Ron was part of a family of wizards, they began asking him questions. As astonishment grew to comical heights on both sides, they turned it into a game to see who could tell the most unbelievable-but-true story about wizards or Muggles. It turned out Ron was slightly harder to shock than they expected from their experience with the Malfoys; Ron’s father was rather interested in all things Muggle but sometimes had his information crossed. Ron knew that Muggles had gone to the moon, for instance, but was under the impression that there were cities there by now.

The arrival of the trolley helped break the ice further. Those who had remembered to bring galleons pooled their money and bought a large selection for everyone to share. They listened as Ron explained things like Chocolate Frog cards and Bertie Bott’s Every-Flavour Beans. The conversation was going well, though Hermione noticed Ron giving Harry glances now and again.

They had moved on to sport, with Dean and Justin arguing passionately about football or cricket being better, the other boys chiming in, and Ron trying to follow the conversation. There was a knock at the door and it slid open to reveal a round-faced boy who looked upset. He blinked at the double-size compartment, but asked, “Sorry to bother you, but have you all seen a toad? Mine’s gone missing.”

They all shook their heads. Justin replied, “We’ll keep our eyes out, though.”

The boy left and Hermione noticed Ron sniggering. “Something funny?”

“Oh, just no one really wants a toad. An owl’s the thing.” His expression turned grumpy. “Not that I have much better, just my brother’s old rat. He got an owl for making prefect.”

Hermione set her jaw and stood. “I’m going to go help him look. Anyone care to come along?”

Sally-Anne stood with her. “I will.”

The two girls left and Hermione gave Sally-Anne a quick one-armed hug. “Thanks.”

“Not at all. It’s the right thing to do, even if that Weasley boy doesn’t think so. Where should we start?”

“Actually, I think we can find it quickly if we get methodical about it. Let’s stop in every car and I’ll try to make it come to us.”

Sally-Anne stopped in her tracks with a surprised look. Then she relaxed. “This is like calling your wands, isn’t it?”

“Sort of. We just called it come here at the institute but we could do it pretty well.” With that, they set off down the corridor.

*****

The girls struck gold in the third car and a large toad sailed from a corner into Hermione’s hands. She made a face at the feel of its skin, but tucked it into the crook of her arm. “That’s the toad, now we need to find the boy.” They continued toward the end of the train, glancing in open compartments as they went.

They were close to the end of the train when they saw the boy. He was surrounded by three other boys. The two large, heavy-set boys were strangers, but Hermione recognized the third one from his pale hair and snivelling voice.

“You’re worthless, Longbottom, and you know it! No better than those filthy mudbloods! You couldn’t work a spell if your life depended on it!”

Hermione put a hand out to stop Sally-Anne and narrowed her eyes. She was determined to put a stop to this but wanted to be careful about it. As she watched, the train swayed and all the boys shifted to try and stay upright.

“Can you do anything, Longbottom? Anything at all?”

As the boy called Longbottom clenched his fists, Hermione acted. With a sweep of her hand the three bullies were thrown back against the corridor walls and found themselves stuck like glue. Hermione pulled Sally-Anne back a few paces as Longbottom looked around in surprise.

The Malfoy boy began yelling to be let down, struggling to loosen his arms and legs from the wall, and Hermione called out, “Oh, my! That was impressive. Look, we found a toad. Is it yours?”

“Trevor!” The boy ran up to them and took the toad from Hermione. “Thank you!”

“You! You girls! Help us down!”

Hermione’s smile curled up slowly. “Why, you mean someone as upper-crust as you can’t sort out Mr. Longbottom’s spell? I think if you try very hard, you’ll manage before we get to school.” She spun on her heel, tugging at the sleeves of her companions to follow her.

Once they were a few cars away, the boy repeated his thanks.

“Don’t mention it. I’m Hermione Granger, this is Sally-Anne Perks. We’re new to Hogwarts and rather new to this whole magic thing. How about you?”

“Neville Longbottom. It’s my first time to Hogwarts as well. My family goes back a long way in wizarding society, but they didn’t think for ages that I’d have enough magic to be let in.”

“Nonsense,” Sally-Anne replied, eager to help back up Hermione’s intentions. “Look how you handled those nasty bullies! I’d say that’s plenty of magic to go on with.”

Neville reddened and smiled shyly, shifting Trevor to his other arm.

*****

With the girls off to find a toad, the boys spread out a bit and continued their talk. Terry turned to Ron and asked about the shop in Diagon Alley that seemed to have sporting equipment, giving him the opening to describe the wizard game Quidditch. He enjoyed being the centre of attention, making bigger gestures and raising his voice as he described the rules and play.

One of the doors slid open and the girls returned in triumph, shepherding in the round-faced boy and his toad.

“Budge up!” Hermione insisted, sitting half on Harry’s lap to make room. “This is Neville Longbottom, another first year like us.”

Harry deliberately took charge of introductions, saving himself for last. “And I’m Harry Potter.”

Instead of falling into stunned silence, Neville gravely held out a hand. “It’s nice to finally meet you. I don’t know if you know, but our mums asked each other to be godmother to us.”

Harry’s eyes widened, placing the name. “I found out your mum was my godmother at Gringotts. I didn’t know my mum was yours.” He took Neville’s hand and shook.

“I see you found the toad,” Wayne offered.

Sally-Anne described how she and Hermione had found it in a corner. “And then we went looking for Neville. When we saw him there were three boys being nasty, and Neville pushed them all against the walls and stuck them there with magic! It was marvellous!”

Harry and Dean glanced at Hermione, who winked.

Neville was holding out his toad. “I know he isn’t much, but my Great Uncle Algie bought him for me after I got my letter from Hogwarts.”

Ron reached into a pocket. “I’ve a rat, my brother gave him to me when my dad got him an owl for making prefect. His name’s Scabbers. Pathetic, isn’t he?” Ron held out the rat, who seemed determined to continue his nap.

The others pointed out their owls, sleeping in their cages as they swung gently from hooks under the baggage shelves. Before the conversation could drift from pets, Ron announced, “I tried to turn Scabbers yellow yesterday, to make him more interesting, but it didn’t work. Here, I’ll show you.” He produced a wand rather the worse for wear, with chips in places and one end showing the core of unicorn hair. He cleared his throat.

“Sunshine, daisies, butter mellow,

Turn this stupid, fat rat yellow.”

He finished with a flourish of his wand, but nothing happened. Ron gave a frustrated sigh.

“Are you sure that’s a real spell?” Hermione asked. “I mean, I’ve read all our course books and they seem to use incantations based on Latin words. What would a Latin word for ‘change’ be?”

“How about ‘mutato’?” Wayne asked. “Like the mutants in the X-men superhero comics?”

Harry leaned behind Hermione slightly so his face was hidden. “Dean, you’re the artist. Give it a try.” He winked at his friend and Dean controlled a grin with an effort. Ron shrugged and handed Scabbers over.

Dean put the rat in his lap and pulled his wand from his sleeve, holding it up dramatically. I want to make this rat turn yellow all over. He let the feeling in his head build a little, then released it, gesturing with the wand and shouting, “Mutato!”

Scabbers’ fur took on a distinctly canary tone and his feet, ears, and tail turned a darker yellow. He squeaked and curled into a tighter ball.

Ron’s mouth dropped open as the others applauded and congratulated Dean. His cheeks turned pink in anger. “Change him back!”

“All right, all right, hold a tic.” Dean tried to feel what he’d done with his magic and found it surprisingly difficult. The power shimmering around the rat seemed much stronger than the bit of effort he’d put into it. All right, nothing for it. Remove all the magic spells around this rat.

He had barely begun to wave his wand when Scabbers darkened and started to expand. Dean screeched and shoved him off his lap and into the floor. As all the children looked on in growing shock, the rat morphed into a man.

*****

An early tea was laid out in the sitting room reserved for staff, in anticipation of the Welcoming Feast later that evening. Professor McGonagall was discussing the schedule for flying lessons with Madame Hooch when a deep, echoing bell sounded, shaking the stone walls of the castle.

“What on earth?” Hooch leapt to her feet.

McGonagall stood as well. “It’s the Express! Something’s gone wrong! Grab some brooms—we’ll have to Apparate to York and scout by air to find the train! I’ll meet you at the gate with everyone I can find.”

The two witches hiked up their robes and sprinted in opposite directions.

*****

Scabbers, now a short fellow with matted hair, a pointed nose, and tatty clothes, looked around wildly. He spied Harry and focused on him.

“You?” He spared another glance around the compartment, taking in the group of frightened children, and scrambled to his feet. He hesitated for a brief moment, then leapt at Harry. “YOU! Your fault! It all went wrong because of you!”

He tried to seize Harry by the throat but only managed one hand as Hermione moved to Harry instead of dodging away. She grabbed his other hand and bit it as hard as she could. The man screamed and let go of Harry to strike her across the face. That produced shouts of anger from several of the other children, jumping to their feet to pummel at him.

Harry gasped for air, swallowing painfully from where the man’s thumb had pressed against his windpipe. “Dean, help me! We need to make him sleep!” The boys clasped hands and focused everything they had on SLEEP!

Everyone else in the compartment dropped like a stone.

*****

McGonagall had rounded up enough staff members to fill the armful of brooms Hooch brought. They converged at the main gates and McGonagall began, “You all heard the alarm, there’s something wrong on the train. We Apparate to Upper Flagley and fly to the train tracks from there. Half of us will go north and half south to locate the train.”

Dumbledore and Hagrid came rushing down as they exited the gates and mounted brooms. “Minerva? What’s happening?”

“Didna you hear the alarm? Something’s happened on the Express!”

“I was with Hagrid at his hut. Are we ready?”

We are! You get a broom and join us in Upper Flagley!” With that, the staff disappeared in a series of pops like firecrackers.

*****

Harry and Dean worked quickly, ransacking their trunks for socks to knot together and tie the man’s hands and feet. They moved to Hermione and Harry’s eyes narrowed in anger, seeing the large bruise developing on her cheek. “Wake up, Hermione,” he murmured, letting out just a trickle of magic.

She stirred and opened her eyes. Harry and Dean helped her to a seat. She focused and looked around. “What happened?” She looked back at Harry and saw the red marks on his throat. “You’re hurt!”

“So are you, Hermione. We’ll be fine. We just need to wake the others up without waking him up, too.”

Dean scanned the walls of the compartment. “I don’t see an emergency cord for calling for help, do you?”

Hermione shook her head. “I didn’t see any adults when Sally-Anne and I went to find Neville’s toad. Just other students.”

“Let’s put the compartments back before we do anything else,” Harry said.

Hermione nodded. “We’ll need Ron and the man on the same side as us. Neville, too, since they were talking about pets. Everyone else on the other side.” After a few minutes of tugging and shoving inert bodies, Hermione concentrated and returned the wall between the compartments to its original state. While Harry stood guard, Hermione and Dean went into the other compartment, revived their friends, and explained.

Justin shook his head. “So there’s no way to stop the train and there doesn’t seem to be anyone in charge. How about the owls? Sending one to Professor McGonagall?”

“I don’t know,” Hermione replied. “We don’t know how far away we are from school. Justin, you go toward the front and see if you can find anyone in charge. Surely there’s a crew at the engine! Terry, you go the other way and look for an adult. The trolley lady at least has to be somewhere. And don’t give any details yet other than a rat turned into a man and attacked us. We still have to explain the compartments to Ron and Neville somehow."

Hermione re-entered Harry’s compartment and Dean stayed in the corridor to keep a lookout. He noticed that a few students at the other end of the car were looking out uncertainly. “All right there?” Dean called to them.

“Thought we heard someone scream,” a girl with auburn hair responded.

“Someone started a food fight in our car and got pumpkin everywhere from one of those pasties. Everything’s sorted now.”

“Ah, cheers, then.” The students retreated behind their doors and Dean took up his position once more.

*****

In the compartment, Harry woke Neville first. “All right there, mate?”

Neville looked around, frowning. “The compartment got smaller.”

“No, it didn’t,” Harry lied, looking at Neville pleadingly.

Neville gave Harry a long, measuring stare and nodded. “All right, we’re in a regular compartment. But there’s a strange man where Weasley’s rat used to be.” He faced Harry, daring him to tell another one.

“Yes, and we have no idea who he is or why he attacked us.”

Hermione looked closely at the man. “Harry, he looks a little familiar.”

“I don’t see how. We never met any wizards until Professor McGonagall arrived to explain the letters.”

Neville’s mouth opened in surprise. “Wait, explain the letters? You didn’t even know you were a wizard?”

“Nope, not a bloody clue.” Harry moved over to Ron and reached out a hand to wake him. Neville’s eyes widened as he watched Harry revive the other boy without a wand.

No wand…wait, does HE have a wand? Neville carefully began checking the unconscious man’s robes.

Ron woke and began looking around wildly. “Scabbers! Scabbers turned into a wizard! Scabbers attacked Harry Potter!”

“Yes, we know. It’s all right, he’s not going to hurt us now.” Hermione tried to soothe him.

“But he’s my rat! He was Percy’s rat! How can he be a wizard?”

As Hermione continued to try and calm Ron down, Terry returned with an older student, a girl with long curly hair and a prefect badge on her robes. “I’m Penelope Clearwater, Ravenclaw prefect. What’s going on here?

***************************************

Author's Note: As always, thank you for reading!

Chapter Text

Disclaimer: If you recognize the character, it isn’t mine. Just playing in Rowling’s sandbox.

News: So, that part about regularly updating once the school year started? Yeah.

 

Life – 1, Eternal Optimist – 0.

 

All I can promise is that I will keep writing and I will keep posting, but it’ll be a matter of whenever I can manage a chapter. This year has been all kinds of hell so far and I don’t see that changing much for the next few months. I will continue to reply to reviews, though it may be several days before I get around to yours. But I continue to be very, very glad of everyone who is reading and enjoying and thinking constructively about my story.

 

 

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Chapter 24

 

1 September 1991

 

The Ravenclaw prefect looked down at a bound and unconscious man and a group of firsties. The girl was trying to calm down Percy Weasley’s little brother. One boy had found two wands on the man and was holding them, staring at the man’s arm where he had pushed the sleeve up. Penelope saw the Dark Mark and clapped both hands to her mouth in fear.

 

The dark-haired boy with glasses stepped forward and addressed her. “Miss, if something happens on the train, how do we signal that we need help?”

 

His straightforward question helped her to focus. Before she answered, she pulled out her wand and pointed it at the man. “Incarcerous!” Thick, black ropes shot from her wand to wrap around the man, binding him more securely.  “I never thought I’d really have to use a spell like that. Now, the only adults on the train are the sweets lady and the driver. I only hope one of them can summon someone from Hogwarts or the Ministry.” She knelt beside the girl and the Weasley boy. “Don, no…Ron, is it?” He nodded. “Do you know where Percy is?”

 

“He left me and Fred and George in a compartment. Said he had to attend the prefects’ meeting.”

 

“Right. But he didn’t come back?”

 

“No.”

 

Penelope looked frustrated for a moment and stood. “Do you think you will be all right long enough for me to go to the driver?”

 

The girl spoke up. “We sent one of our friends in that direction…” She trailed off as they all sensed the train slowing down.

 

Penelope sighed in relief. “Good, looks like he managed to get someone’s attention. Ron, can you please look for your brother and bring him here? If you see any other prefects, tell them to please stay in the corridors and keep the students inside.”

 

As Ron took off, she turned to the others. “Can you explain what happened?”

 

The tall black boy spoke. “We were just talking about things and had gotten to our pets. Ron was showing us his rat and tried to make it change colour. It didn’t work and he got angry. The rest of us tried to guess what the spell might be and I gave it a go and turned him yellow. Then Ron got angrier and told me to fix it. When I tried to change it back, the rat turned into a man.”

 

The girl spoke up. “The man seemed to recognize Harry here—”

 

“Harry? As in Harry Potter?” Penelope interrupted. When the boy with glasses nodded, she swallowed hard and turned her attention back to the girl.

 

“And he tried to grab Harry. I was next to Harry and got hold of one of the man’s arms and bit his hand to make him let go. Then he hit me, but he stood up too far and hit his head on the baggage rack, knocking himself out.”

 

Penelope raised an eyebrow at that, but didn’t question it. The man was deeply unconscious and the girl did have a darkening bruise on one side of her face. As she was trying to decide what to do, another boy and a man entered from the other end of the car.

 

“Justin!” The girl cried in relief.

 

The boy named Justin smiled. “I found the driver—would you believe the train runs magically? No crew riding along, not even a blinking conductor. Anyway, I got him to stop. See in here, sir? That’s the man who changed from a rat.”

 

Penelope pointed. “Sir, look, he carries the mark of You-Know-Who.”

 

The driver studied the man, frowned and tugged on his goatee. “And that’s not all. If I didn’t know better, I’d swear that was a student a few years behind me when I was at Hogwarts. But he’s dead, murdered by that dark wizard Black.”

 

Harry Potter, the girl, and the black boy paid fast attention and Harry asked, “Wait, d’you mean Peter Pettigrew?”

 

The girl gasped and cried, “Harry, the pictures of your parents and their friends! The ones from Professor McGonagall! That’s why he looks familiar! It is him!”

 

Penelope felt her head begin to spin. “But, if he was murdered, how can it be that he’s here now?”

 

*****

 

Back in her youth, Minerva McGonagall had enjoyed playing Quidditch. She had left off in her early twenties once the group of friends that liked to put a match together now and then dispersed. After that there had been little reason to be on a broomstick.

 

Her bum was reminding her that she was no longer young.

 

In front of her, Madame Hooch began to descend and McGonagall spotted the stopped train. She hovered long enough to concentrate fiercely on the last time Gryffindor had won the Quidditch Cup and sent a silvery Patronus message to Dumbledore. He had gone south with the other team after flashing into Upper Flagley with his phoenix.

 

The group descended quickly, taking advantage of the empty moors around the train. McGonagall dismounted with a groan and Flitwick gave her a commiserating look.

 

They boarded near the front of the train, gathering curious looks from some of the prefects looking out through doors into the corridor. McGonagall called out sternly, “Mr Dobbins! Miss Langley!” The Head Boy and Girl emerged from compartments, looking nervous. “Do you have any idea what has happened? The security alarm sounded at the school!”

 

“No, professor, we were just—”

 

Rapid footsteps interrupted and a red-haired boy burst in from the other end of the car. “Percy! Percy!”

 

Making a quick guess, McGonagall stepped forward to stop him. “Mr Weasley? What is it?”

 

The child panted out, “Rat…changed…man…attacked…us…”

 

“Show us! Filius and Pomona, come with me. Rolanda, organise the prefects and have them stand guard in every car.”

 

*****

 

It heartened McGonagall that most of the Muggleborns charged at her like frightened kittens to a mother cat, looking for reassurance. She had earned some of their trust, and by Merlin, she intended to keep it. She hugged each of them, including the Longbottom boy, who shoved two wands into her hand. She passed the children to Pomona for more hugs, and listened as they took turns summarizing what had happened. The Clearwater girl was very pale but stood guard, pointing her wand into the open compartment.

 

McGonagall looked into the compartment at the bound figure on the floor. “Miss Clearwater, remind me to award you twenty-five points for an excellent Incarcerous conjuration. That should serve you well on your O.W.L.”

 

“Thank you, professor. Is…is he really one of them?”

 

McGonagall looked more closely at the bared arm and back at her new prefect. “Yes, my dear, he is.”

 

“And is he really Peter Pettigrew?”

 

“What?” McGonagall spun back so fast that her hat slid perilously close to one side. She looked more closely at the face with its sharpish nose and prominent teeth. “Merlin’s great ghost…I think it is!”

 

“But Pettigrew died, killed by Sirius Black!” Flitwick protested.

 

Sally-Anne was standing in the door to the next compartment. “And how do you know that, sir?”

 

“Black blew up a Muggle street! Killed a dozen people and Pettigrew! All they found of Pettigrew was a finger,” Flitwick responded.

 

Hermione’s eyes narrowed. “Hang on, wasn’t the rat missing a toe?”

 

McGonagall moved into the compartment and used her wand to loosen the prisoner’s wrists just enough. She found the hand missing its pinkie finger. “Filius, would you send for the DMLE?”

 

Her colleague did not immediately respond and McGonagall re-bound Pettigrew and stepped back into the corridor. There she saw her Muggleborns looking uneasy: Sally-Anne and Hermione had drawn behind Flitwick while Sprout had an arm around Justin and Terry on either side of her. McGonagall turned to find that Dumbledore had arrived with Snape, Vector, Quirrell, and Burbage. He stood tall in silver-gray robes that complemented his beard and hair, peering over his glasses at the scene.

 

Dean Thomas broke the sudden silence. “Well, if it isn’t Merlin!”

 

*****

 

Albus Dumbledore was dying for a sherbet lemon.

 

He had a Hogwarts Express, stopped for an emergency situation for the first time since the year some of Gellert’s minions had taken it upon themselves to attack the train. He had a supposedly dead Order of Merlin winner, somewhat worse for wear but very clearly alive and throwing a giant spanner into a situation that everyone had thought settled a decade ago. He had a deputy headmistress who was showing an alarming streak of independence; snapping at him in front of half the senior staff was very unlike her.

 

And he had the Boy Who Lived clinging like a burr to her side.

 

He looked at Harry Potter, who stared back at him warily with fistfuls of Minerva’s robes in his hands. He then cast his eyes over the large number of first-year students, all of whom seemed to be huddled defensively with each other or one of the teachers with Minerva’s group. She cleared her throat and broke the silence that had grown after Dean’s exclamation.

 

“Filius, send for the DMLE, please.”

Albus tried to head her off. “Now, wait, Minerva. This is Hogwarts’ jurisdiction—”

 

“And we have a man who was thought killed in a heroic battle that earned him a posthumous Order of Merlin, hiding out in an animagus form, and attacking our students! How can you possibly justify not calling in the authorities?” Without waiting for his answer, she raised her wand and concentrated. The children looked on with varying degrees of intensity and admiration as her Patronus message took off in a silver streak.

 

Flitwick spoke up. “Shall we get the students settled and the train going again?”

 

“Won’t we need to stay here? The police will need to examine the scene,” Hermione protested.

 

“I shouldn’t think so. Everything they need to investigate happened in this car, did it not? We just need to find room for you elsewhere, perhaps in the prefects’ car. They usually have a compartment or two to spare.”

“Actually, Filius, we should stay long enough for Director Bones to arrive as I asked her to follow my message back to me. Trying to Apparate onto a moving target is not recommended for one’s health, after all. Otherwise we wouldn’t have had to take brooms here.”

 

“So you really do fly on brooms?” The Hopkins boy looked at her with round eyes.

 

“Some people do. Some of us prefer other means of transportation.” Minerva decided to take advantage of the situation and introduced all the Muggleborns and young Longbottom to the professors, noting the other heads of houses as well as the headmaster. She didn’t miss the speculative look Miss Granger gave him. She could practically see the wheels spinning furiously in the child’s mind as she began making connections.

 

Several loud pops and cracks sounded from outside the train, much like a spate of fireworks. The Aurors had arrived.

 

*****

 

Amelia Bones was dying for a generous nip of Minerva’s single malt.

 

She had a murder victim very much alive and sporting a Dark Mark on his arm. She had a pair of Aurors who were being almost ridiculously yin and yang: Proudfoot was ready to hit Pettigrew with everything short of an Unforgiveable while Dawlish refused to believe his eyes. The excuses he produced to deny the evidence would have given a contortionist a run for the money.

 

And she could feel Susan’s eyes boring into her back from the other end of the car, probably willing her aunt to ask for an autograph from the Boy Who Lived.

 

Even if she hadn’t heard from Minerva directly about Dumbledore’s mishandling of Harry Potter, Amelia would have picked up immediately that all was not well from the body language displayed. The children had arranged themselves behind Minerva and were wary of Dumbledore. She wasn’t surprised to see Minerva ready to challenge him, but she was surprised that little Flitwick and the normally jolly Sprout had their eyes narrowed at the headmaster. Severus Snape looked bored to tears with the entire situation, but there was the slightest tic under one eye. Snape was holding in some strong emotion with all his might.

 

Similarly, Dumbledore was exuding his strongest grandfather aura. “Really, Director, this is a Hogwarts matter. Let us get to the bottom of it and then turn the man over to you.”

 

And Amelia placed what was wrong. Dumbledore wasn’t twinkling.

 

“Headmaster, Hogwarts may be self-governing when it comes to education. But I have a previously unknown marked Death Eater, one who is an unregistered animagus, whose very existence proves that Sirius Black is innocent of at least one crime that put him in prison, and who attacked children!” By now Amelia was roaring. “You will get out and let me and my Aurors do our job or I will gladly shove you into a cell for interfering in an investigation!”

 

She didn’t know whether she had got through his thick skull on her own or if it was three heads of house moving to stand behind her in clear support. Whatever it was, Dumbledore backed down. Dawlish was charged with guarding Pettigrew in the next compartment as she and Proudfoot began investigating.

 

After the initial once-over, Amelia’s reluctant conclusion was that something wasn’t quite right with the stories being told. She had the physical proof that Pettigrew had choked Harry, that Hermione had bitten him and that he in turn had hit her. But there was no trace of Pettigrew hitting his head on the luggage rack hard enough to knock himself senseless, even if he had been tall enough to do so – if she had to make a guess, she would have thought Pettigrew to be in a bewitched sleep.

 

She decided to investigate the discrepancies later. For now there was a marked Death Eater in custody with a great deal of explaining to do. She levitated him out of the train and wrapped a studded leather band around one wrist. Each stud was a portkey to a specific cell in the Ministry’s holding area and could only be activated by the wand of a DMLE member. She tapped a gold stud for the highest-security cell available and Pettigrew vanished.

 

“Gentlemen, go report to Scrimgeour and tell him I’ll be there in a few minutes to supervise questioning under Veritaserum.” Both men stood to attention, then Disapparated with loud cracks.

 

Amelia turned to Minerva, who stepped forward to hand her the wands that the Longbottom child had given her. “Thank you very much for responding personally. Children, may I present Amelia Bones, director of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement.” She named each child and Amelia solemnly shook hands all around, noting that Harry Potter, one of the girls, and the black boy seemed particularly anxious.

 

The girl drew a deep breath and spoke. “Director, what will happen to Sirius Black?”

 

Amelia didn’t miss Dumbledore jerk as if he had been jabbed with a pin.

 

“Well, I now have an undisputable reason to recall him from Azkaban Prison. I promise I will get the full story from both of them.”

 

The girl nodded and took young Potter’s hand and squeezed it. Amelia looked around at the small crowd, gave Dumbledore a deliberate stare, then addressed Minerva. “I’ll contact you as soon as I have any information worth sharing.” She Disapparated, feeling a certain glee at obviously snubbing the Chief Warlock.

 

*****

 

As they moved to a pair of empty compartments in the first car, Harry looked over the other professors carefully. At this point he felt McGonagall was firmly in their camp, and the woman named Sprout had a good hug: warm but not smothering. The little man named Flitwick also seemed a good sort. Hooch reminded him of Fishman back at the institute with her not unkindly no-nonsense attitude.

 

He wasn’t completely sure about the headmaster and his attempts to undermine the director’s authority. He also didn’t like how the man with greasy black hair and a hook nose kept glaring at him.

 

Harry glanced at the man, who was still staring at him with glittering black eyes even as he worked with the man in a turban to load their trunks and owls into the new compartments. A sharp, burning pain seared into his forehead briefly and Harry put a hand to his scar.  Hermione noticed and moved to his side, taking his free hand.

 

“All right there, Harry?”

 

He turned to her and the pain vanished. “I think so. Let’s go get seated.”

 

The Express began to move again and they could dimly hear the cheers of other students. Harry and Hermione sat together on one seat, with Dean on the other side of Hermione and McGonagall across from them with Neville Longbottom. The others were sitting with Professor Sprout in the next compartment. Most of the teachers had decided to ride with the train and help soothe any worried students, although the headmaster and the unpleasant hook-nosed man had elected to return to the school. Harry absently rubbed at his scar, remembering the jolt of pain and trying to shake off a feeling of foreboding about what Hogwarts might bring.

 

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Author’s Note: Thank you as always for reading!

 

Chapter Text

Disclaimer: If you recognize the character, it isn't mine. Just playing in Rowling's sandbox.

Reminder: I'm on Twitter under "avidbeader" if you are reading this on a guest account and would prefer to get your notifications of a new chapter that way. I promise I won't be spamming. I’m also on Tumblr under the same name, though that’s more for my own fannish appreciation of others than my writing at this point.

 

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1 September 1991

 

Hermione stared past a fleet of little boats across a large lake. A castle loomed in the gathering darkness, spilling warm light from every window and crevice and reflecting moonlight from the turrets. It was a marvel straight out of a fairy story.

 

“No more’n four to a boat!”

 

“Hermione, come on!”

 

The voices broke her out of her thoughts and she picked her way down to the shore. Dean and Harry were holding a place for her in one boat, Dean actually grabbing the arm of the Weasley boy to keep him from climbing in beside Sally-Anne. Hermione hurried forward to take her place. The red-haired boy gave her a dirty look and eyed the next boat, but Justin was already climbing in beside Terry, Wayne, and Neville Longbottom.

 

As they sailed across, the true size of the castle became apparent. It loomed over them, blotting out most of the moon in the sky before they approached the shore. Hermione studied it hungrily, picking out details as they drew closer: the great tower rising to the left, a covered bridge with support arches that reminded her of the Roman aqueduct in Segovia, a daunting series of stairs leading up the craggy tor from the little covered dock that seemed to be their destination.

 

Sally-Anne squeezed her hand as they went past the dock and into a cove between the two parts of the castle. The huge man that had gathered the first years shouted, “Mind yer heads!” and they watched as he ducked under a curtain of trailing ivy. On the other side was a cavern with a large pebbly beach. Each of the boats floated to an assigned spot and drove itself onto shore far enough for the children to get out.

 

As they followed the large man out of the cavern and up a grassy hill, Hermione slipped forward to walk next to Harry and Dean. They mounted a steep set of stone stairs to an enormous oaken door. The man pounded three times, announcing their presence.

 

The door opened to reveal a familiar face.

 

“The firs’ years, Professor.”

 

“Thank you, Hagrid. I will take them from here.”

 

The Muggle-raised group wormed their way forward. McGonagall nodded at them, then led the group up the stairs into an enormous entrance hall. The silent group could hear the murmur of voices on the other side of an imposing pair of doors. The professor opened another door and the children gathered in an anteroom.

 

“Welcome to Hogwarts. We will enter the Great Hall for the start-of-term banquet momentarily, but before you all can be seated you must be sorted into your houses. The Sorting is an important step, as your house will be something like your family during your time here. We use a points system at Hogwarts: good behaviour and achievement will be rewarded with points for your house while any rule-breaking will lose points. The house with the most points at the end of the year is awarded the House Cup. The four houses are Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, and Slytherin. Each house has a remarkable history and has produced notable witches and wizards in all fields. You will be sorted by means of the Sorting Hat; each of you will put the Hat on and it will decide the most appropriate house for you.

 

“Please stay here while we make the final preparations. Do take the opportunity to tidy yourselves up. I will return in a few minutes for you.”

 

McGonagall’s departure produced shifting and murmuring among the first years as some of them straightened cloaks and robes. Hermione leaned over to whisper to Ron Weasley, “You’ve got dirt on your nose, by the way.”

 

He glared at her but scrubbed at his nose with his sleeve.

 

Sally-Anne slipped over to Hermione. “I don’t suppose we’ll be lucky enough to all be together.”

 

Hermione looked around the room, counting swiftly. “There’s not even forty of us here. If about the same number of students goes to each house, the odds aren’t good for all seven of us to be in one house.”

 

“I think I’d be all right with anywhere but Slytherin – their head of house seemed really unpleasant.”

 

Hermione nodded in agreement. “I think after reading Hogwarts, A History I’m most likely for Ravenclaw, which I suppose would be all right. But I’d rather have Professor McGonagall as my head of house.” She noticed Harry had been listening in. He nodded his agreement at her.

 

At that moment, McGonagall entered the room once more. “We’re ready for you. Please follow me.”

 

*****

 

It quickly became apparent that the first years were being called alphabetically. Two girls were sorted into Hufflepuff and then Terry was called.

 

Terry sat and his vision was obscured as the too-large hat slipped down over his eyes. He jumped slightly as a voice spoke.

 

Let’s see here, Mr Boot…you’re a bit of a clever one, aren’t you? Brave as well, willing to do your part. But where will you fit best?

 

An image of his mother’s library sprang into Terry’s mind and the memory of the little professor who spoke enthusiastically about the collections housed in Hogwarts School and in the Ravenclaw tower.

 

Knowledge above all else, eh? That’s an easy enough decision for—

 

“RAVENCLAW!”

 

Terry blinked as the Hat was lifted from his head and the students at one table clapped and gestured at him to join them. He met his friends’ gazes as they smiled and applauded as well.

 

After a few more students, Justin heard his name and stepped forward to sit on the stool and let McGonagall place the hat on his head.

 

Well, hello there, Mr Finch-Fletchley. Let’s see what you have…fairly smart, but you’d rather be doing something than studying about it. And not all that ambitious…I tend to see that when we get someone of your background…you’re still all about loyalty at this point.

 

Justin immediately pictured Professor Sprout, who had ridden most of the way with them after the incident on the train. He had been quite taken with the friendly, motherly woman.

 

Well, then, if you have that strong of a preference, I see no problem with—

 

“HUFFLEPUFF!”

 

The Hufflepuff table applauded and the two girls who had been sorted first waved at him to join them.

 

After “Finnegan, Seamus” went to Gryffindor and “Goldstein, Anthony” to Ravenclaw, McGonagall called out, “Granger, Hermione!” Hermione went forward, warmed by the slight smile in the professor’s expression as she approached.

 

Welcome, Miss Granger. Let me have a look at you…

 

The hat went silent for a moment and Hermione felt an odd sensation, as if something was rummaging in her mind like a clothes drawer, looking for matching socks.

 

I haven’t seen intellectual potential like this in quite some time. But there’s also terrific ambition here and bravery and devotion to those you care about. You could be sorted anywhere and have the tools to succeed…

 

“I want to be near Professor McGonagall,” Hermione whispered.

 

You do seem to have formed an attachment. And she is a bit protective of you from what I saw as she called your name. Well, I did say anywhere would do, and that includes—

 

“GRYFFINDOR!”

 

Harry waited on tenterhooks as more students were sorted. Some seemed to take longer than others; Hermione had sat for nearly two minutes and Neville Longbottom needed almost five to be sent to Gryffindor, while the Malfoy boy they had met in Diagon Alley was called for Slytherin almost before the hat touched his head. Wayne joined Justin at the Hufflepuff table. Sally-Anne took a few minutes, a stubborn expression on her face, before the hat declared her a Ravenclaw.

 

“Potter, Harry!”

 

Instantly a buzz grew among the tables as students confirmed to one another that they had indeed heard the famous name. Harry swallowed hard and stepped forward.

 

The hat slid down, pushing against his glasses. He started at the voice that sounded close to his ears.

 

You’re a difficult one, aren’t you? Plenty of courage, not a bad mind…not afraid of hard work and so very eager to prove yourself. But where am I going to put you, Mr Potter?

 

“Gryffindor,” Harry whispered. “Put me in Gryffindor!”

 

Oh, now, it’s not that easy. Just because Miss Granger is there—

 

It’s not just her, Harry thought fiercely. It’s Professor McGonagall and my parents and even Neville Longbottom that we met on the train—

 

All right, all right. I see. But truly, you could be great and Slytherin would help you on your way to greatness.

 

NOT Slytherin! Harry felt bile rise from an already nervous stomach at the thought of sharing most of his time with Malfoy.

 

If you’re sure, then, better be—

 

“GRYFFINDOR!”

 

Hermione squealed and jumped up to hug him, while a pair of red-headed twins began chanting, “We got Potter! We got Potter!”

 

Harry sat next to Hermione and across from Neville, paying less attention until he heard Dean’s name. Dean went so far as to cross his arms as he seemed to argue with the hat until it shouted, “GRYFFINDOR!”

 

Harry and Hermione jumped up to greet him, relieved. He sat on Harry’s other side and shook his head. “Daft thing, kept going on about Hufflepuff but I insisted that I wanted to be with my friends.”

 

“You insisted?” A dusky girl, one of the Patil twins, looked at him with wide eyes.

 

“Yeah, I did. I wanted to be with my mates and I wanted Professor McGonagall as my head of house. Hufflepuff would have been all right, I suppose, but this is better.”

 

They were interrupted as the Weasley boy approached them, sitting next to Neville. “Good show, mate. Glad we’re in Gryffindor together! Imagine being stuck in Slytherin!”

 

Hermione’s eyes narrowed at the familiarity of this boy toward Harry. “And what’s wrong with Slytherin? The hat said I could‘ve fit in there.”

 

Weasley’s eyes grew wide. “But Slytherins are evil! There wasn’t a wizard or witch who went bad that wasn’t a snake!”

 

“That’s not right!” Hermione contradicted him instantly, drawing attention from a few of the older students near them. “From what Professor McGonagall told us, Sirius Black was supposed to be one of those Death Eaters and betrayed Harry’s parents to Voldemort—” At the chorus of gasps around her, she muttered “Honestly!”

 

“And since we learned today that Peter Pettigrew was a Death Eater and faked being dead, he was obviously cunning enough for Slytherin as well in spite of being a Gryffindor!” Harry continued hotly. “Seems like there will be plenty of good and bad people in any house!”

 

Weasley looked ready to argue, but McGonagall was rolling up the list she had used and the headmaster had stood to address the students. He quickly sat on the other side of Dean, looking cross.

 

“Welcome, one and all, to a new year at Hogwarts! Let me say just a few words before we start our feast: Rappel! Butter! Periwinkle! Moonbeam!” He clapped his hands and the tables suddenly filled with an astonishing variety of piping hot food.

 

Harry and Dean did not hesitate to start filling their plates, while Hermione looked toward the staff table and the headmaster, now happily loading his plate with what appeared to be fish fingers and custard. She turned to the older student who happened to be next to her, yet another red-haired boy. “Is he always like that?”

 

“Who, Professor Dumbledore? Mostly, yes. He’s rather mad but quite brilliant, really.”

 

With a huff, Hermione began her meal as well.

 

*****

 

2 September 1991

 

Justin and Wayne were cautiously pleased with Hogwarts so far. Of the other boys in their year sharing their quarters, Ernie Macmillan was very friendly and Stebbins seemed a decent sort. Zacharias Smith had been a little offensive, boasting about not having a single spell of accidental magic after the first time when he was three. He had also woken the others up with a bout of snoring not long before they were due to get up anyway, serving as a most unpleasant alarm clock.

 

As the two entered the Great Hall for breakfast, they noted that, unlike dinner the night before, breakfast was something of a casual affair. Terry and Sally-Anne were sitting near one end of a somewhat empty Ravenclaw table and waved them over.

 

“I asked an older student, there’s no rule about sitting at one’s house table for meals but it’s generally understood that we should at dinner,” Terry told them.

 

“Brilliant.” Justin sat and blinked as a plate and utensils appeared in front of him. He took the invitation and began loading up on eggs and sausages.

 

Wayne started with some toast. “Seen the others yet?”

 

Sally-Anne shook her head. “Not yet. That’s why we sat near the doors, so we could watch for you all.”

 

Terry asked, “What’s it like in your house? I’ve got three others with me. Corner, Cornfoot and Goldstein. Corner’s a bit of an ass – he and Goldstein argued about who should have one of the beds near a window. They ended up drawing lots for it and when Corner lost he got all sulky about it.”

 

Sally-Anne continued, “The girls seem pleasant enough. Padma Patil was especially nice, telling me about visiting her grandmum in India. Over there they start teaching children magic around age seven, though they mostly still use wands.”

 

Justin finished chewing and swallowing before chiming in. “The worst thing so far is we’ve got someone who snores. Most everyone seems friendly enough, though.”

 

Sally-Anne waved suddenly. “Hermione! Over here!”

 

Hermione had entered the hall and smiled at the summons. She practically skipped over to sit with them. “Good morning, did you all sleep well?”

 

“Well enough. What about Harry and Dean?”

 

“They should be along in a minute.  Neville Longbottom, the boy with the toad, was walking with us and got his foot caught – there’s a step on the main staircase that you have to remember to skip otherwise your foot sinks in it. Harry and Dean are trying to help him out and I’m supposed to tell a professor or prefect if they aren’t here soon.”

 

Justin smiled as he saw the three boys enter. “Looks like they managed it.”

 

“Morning, everyone.” Dean sat and grabbed a plate. “We’ve had our bit of adventure for this morning.”

 

Neville blushed and accepted the plate that Hermione passed to him. “Must remember not to put a foot on the thirteenth stair.”

 

Wayne shifted from toast to sausage and started the platter around. “How is it in your house? We’re not too bad other than someone who snores.”

 

The Gryffindor boys groaned almost simultaneously and the others laughed. Wayne continued, “I suppose you have the same problem?”

 

Harry nodded. “Ron Weasley. Like a ruddy chainsaw, he is. Hermione, can I borrow that spell index you bought? Maybe there’s something in there on how to make a person quiet?”

 

“Certainly. I’ll fetch it after we eat.”

 

A voice broke into their conversation. “I see we’ve moved a bit afield this morning.”

 

As the chorus of “Good morning, Professor” died down, Terry defended himself.

 

“I asked around and the older students said it was permitted.”

 

“And so it is, but generally not on the first day. It’s a bit difficult to hand out timetables if we have to hunt for our students at all the tables.” McGonagall passed forms to her four Lions and nodded to the others. “You’ll need to return to your rooms for your books in time for your first class.”

 

Hermione studied her timetable eagerly. “Gryffindor and Hufflepuff share Herbology and Astronomy. We’ve History of Magic and Charms with the Ravenclaws. Potions and Defence are with Slytherin and we seem to be by ourselves for Transfiguration. There’ll be flying lessons in a couple of weeks with all the houses together.”

 

“Did we ever figure out what subject the Fantastic Beasts book was for?” Dean asked.

 

“No, we didn’t. I meant to ask Professor McGonagall and I forgot. I’ll go ask her now.” Hermione jumped up and headed to the far table where a few sleepy Gryffindors were taking their timetables from the professor.

 

Neville glanced after her. “Is she always so…energetic?”

 

Harry and Dean chuckled and Harry answered, “Yes, that’s our Hermione.”

 

*****

 

3 September 1991

 

The first day went smoothly enough. History of Magic was quite boring once the novelty of being taught by a ghost wore off. Herbology was rather interesting between the fun of working with the plants and Professor Sprout’s steady stream of information. They hadn’t got very far in Charms, partly due to Professor Flitwick needing to go to the hospital wing; as he was calling roll he had tried to bow to Harry from the stack of books he was standing on and had taken a bad spill.

 

The first class on the second day was Double Potions with the Slytherins. Harry felt the tension as he entered the room, with the students sporting green badges and ties all sitting to the left, while Weasley dragged Finnegan to the rightmost table. He drew Hermione to sit beside him and Dean and Neville took the table next to them. Harry noted the Malfoy boy, sitting with a dark-haired girl that looked vaguely familiar.

 

It was chilly in the dark dungeon, being surrounded by stone walls and shelves full of containers. The stone jars added to the dreariness while the glass ones contained things that after first glimpse Harry would rather not study closely.

 

The thin, sallow potions professor entered from a side door and began class by calling roll. He paused when he got to Harry’s name. “Mr Potter…our new celebrity.”

 

Harry’s eyes narrowed at the cold tone in Snape’s voice. “Present, sir.”

 

“Tell me, Potter, what would I get if I added powdered root of asphodel to an infusion of wormwood?”

 

Hermione’s hand shot up but Harry patted her arm and she lowered it. “I don’t know yet, sir.”

 

“Hm. I see fame clearly isn’t everything. Let’s try again. Where would you look if I told you to find me a bezoar?”

 

Harry frowned, as the word seemed familiar. He could hear it being pronounced and spelled by Pippa as she talked about some of the stranger medical tales that would come up in her classes. “It…it forms in the intestines, sir.”

 

“Hmph. Specifically in the intestines or stomach of a goat. A bezoar will protect one from most poisons. One more. What is the difference between monkshood and wolfsbane?”

 

Harry sat up, thinking hard, because “monkshood” was definitely familiar to him. Hermione brushed her hand against his leg and whispered, “Brother Cadfael!”

 

That’s it! The Cadfael books! Hermione’s mother had an impressive collection of mysteries and had shared them willingly on his visits to the Granger home.

 

“They’re two names for the same plant, sir, a poisonous one.”

 

The professor raised an eyebrow and studied Harry for a moment. “Well, then. Here’s hoping you lot aren’t as big a bunch of dunderheads as I usually have to teach.”

 

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Author’s Note: Thanks as always for reading! The next chapter will happen when it happens.

Chapter Text

Disclaimer: If you recognize the character, it isn't mine. Just playing in Rowling's sandbox.

Apologies: Life sometimes gets busy. And then sometimes life gets insane. On the bright side summer is within reach and the next chapter is already in progress, so I hope the gap won’t be as long next time.

Reminder : I'm on Twitter under "avidbeader" if you are reading this on a guest account and would prefer to get your notifications of a new chapter that way. I promise I won't be spamming. I’m also on Tumblr under the same name; it’s mostly for my own fannish glee but I have begun posting there with the tag “perils of innocence by avidbeader”.

 

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2 September 1991

“Really, Amelia, must it be today?”

Amelia Bones pinched the bridge of her nose, nearly dislodging her monocle, as she fought to stay patient in the face of the Minister’s whining. “Yes, Cornelius, it must be today. You’ve seen Pettigrew for yourself, you’ve read the transcript of the Veritaserum interrogation. It is a hundred percent proven that Black did not kill Pettigrew, which calls into question everything else he was accused of. And the fact that there appears not to have been a trial for Black at all is going to prompt some very harsh questions.”

“But that was during Bagnold’s time!”

“Which is exactly why you should be leaping at this! If you want your political capital to rise, you’ll move heaven and earth to get Black out of there and get to the bottom of this! Whether he was part of a conspiracy against the Potters or completely innocent, you will look good for making sure that the truth is known.”

Cornelius Fudge bit his lip, wavering, and Amelia pressed her point. “I want to go today because if Black is innocent, he doesn’t deserve to be in that hellhole a moment longer. I also want to go today because Dumbledore will be distracted with the first day of classes at Hogwarts. I don’t need his signature to get Black out of Azkaban, but I will have to deal with him in getting a trial scheduled. And right now I don’t trust Dumbledore. You didn’t see his reaction to Pettigrew on the train.”

Fudge weighed his options and relented, signing the form she was waving around. Ultimately, she was right in that his only option was to publically investigate the matter and either confirm that Black was where he belonged or vindicate an innocent man.

 

*****

 

Dumbledore awoke to find that he still had the headache he had developed after yesterday’s incident with the train. This was really most upsetting; he had been so distracted with the pain that he’d said some rather short and ridiculous thing before the feast and then proceeded to eat without even noticing what he put on his plate. Whatever it was, it had upset his stomach. He had taken a pair of Poppy’s potions and tried to go to sleep.

It was quite tempting to send a message to Minerva and let her know he was feeling poorly and staying in bed. However, it would be very bad form to do so on the first day of classes.

He did summon a piece of parchment and a quill.

Minerva, I’m feeling a bit under the weather. Don’t look for me at breakfast, but I will be in my office by the time classes start. – D

He rolled up the parchment and held it out. “Fawkes, if you would be so kind.” The phoenix took off from his perch and carefully plucked the scroll from his hand before sailing out of the open window. Dumbledore then sat up carefully and rearranged his pillows with a wave of his wand. “Maxy?”

An elderly house-elf appeared. “Yes, Headmaster Dumbles?”

“I’m having a slow start. Could I ask for a breakfast tray, just some eggs and toast, and for someone to bring me a fairly strong headache potion?”

Maxy bowed and disappeared. Dumbledore summoned the lists of new first year students from his desk and began looking it over. He was pleased that Harry had been put in Gryffindor; the Weasley children were there and they could help introduce him to the wizarding world. He was a bit concerned about the other Muggleborns. If he remembered correctly—and with his head aching he wasn’t sure he did—the Thomas boy and Granger girl were the other two students who had been at that hospital with Harry.

As a matter of fact, it seemed that Harry had been part of a large group of children last night, mostly with unfamiliar names. Dumbledore felt a frisson of unease, but he couldn’t place why through the pain in his head.

A breakfast tray appeared on his knees, exactly as he had asked, down to the corked bottle in a corner that held one of Snape’s remedies. He gulped down the contents and attacked his food, eager to shake off this unwellness.

 

*****

 

A large black dog, curled up in a corner of a stone room, lifted its ears at the sounds of doors opening above. This was the wrong time of day for anyone to be stirring in this part of Azkaban. Cautiously, the dog stood, shook its fur, and morphed into a man.

The man shivered with the sudden absence of fur to insulate him from the cold North Sea wind and gathered the few ragged blankets around him as he lay down on the straw mat that served as a bed. He rolled to face the wall and did his best to imitate a limp dishrag.

Footsteps sounded down the corridor. This was most definitely unusual. Even more unusual, there was no impending chill of dementors accompanying the guards. The footsteps halted and he heard a key rattle in his door.

“You shouldn’t go in, mum. He’s one of our most dangerous criminals.”

“You will follow orders. Sirius Black is being transferred to the Ministry for further questioning as new evidence has come to light.”

The prisoner fought to appear unresponsive as his hand was lifted. He felt a leather strap wrap around his wrist, binding it together with another person’s. Before he could suss out what might be happening, the yanking sensation of a Portkey took over.

 

*****

 

The second Amelia landed in the security cell with Sirius Black, she stunned him and then removed the bracelet from their wrists. Kingsley Shacklebolt, one of her better Aurors, was at the door. He quickly levitated Black to an interrogation chair and wrapped him in chains. Amelia went to the door and waved in two people.

Croaker, the Unspeakable, produced the vial of Veritaserum. Jorkins was acting as recorder and Amelia frowned at that. The woman had proved to be a bit unreliable at her job while being most efficient at spreading gossip around. She decided to at least try and delay the inevitable.

“This interrogation is to be kept under a seal of secrecy until I say otherwise. Is that understood?”

Croaker nodded and moved to Black. Amelia revived the prisoner and Croaker quickly administered the three drops of potion. As the familiar glazed look in his eyes took over, Amelia began.

“What is your name?”

“Sirius Orion Black.”

“How old are you?”

“Er, I’ve lost track. I was born in 1959.”

“What was your house at Hogwarts?”

“Gryffindor. Brassed my parents off completely.”

Croaker nodded to Amelia that the potion had taken effect. She took a deep breath and began the important questions. “Did you kill Peter Pettigrew?”

“NO!” The vehemence in his tone made everyone jump. A typical side effect of Veritaserum was to keep the person being questioned in a relaxed and dreamy state.

“What happened?”

“We tried to bluff Voldemort. Everyone would assume I was Secret-Keeper for James and Lily, that he would try to attack them through me. We made Peter Secret-Keeper instead. We thought it would draw out some Death Eaters, maybe even the big man himself.”

Sirius paused and Amelia prompted him. “What went wrong?”

“We didn’t know the little rat had already gone over to Voldemort’s side. I was afraid Remus was a spy, because Voldemort was openly courting the werewolves. We never dreamed that Peter would betray us.”

“Tell us what happened the night of 31 October, 1981.”

“I was uneasy. Things had been very quiet for several days. I went to where Peter was hiding out, but he wasn’t there. He wasn’t at his home or his mother’s home. At that point I was terrified that he’d been caught and tortured and went to Godric’s Hollow to get James and Lily to move.

“When I arrived, it was too late. The cottage had been half-destroyed by some kind of magical backlash. James was downstairs, dead. Lily was upstairs in the nursery, also dead. Harry was in his cot, crying. I picked him up and tried to calm him down. I was trying to decide how I could keep Harry safe and go after Peter at the same time when Hagrid arrived. He said Dumbledore had told him to come get Harry, to take him somewhere safe.”

Amelia filed that bit of information away for later. “So you went after Pettigrew?”

“Yes. I finally tracked him down the next day in Muggle London. I was so furious I don’t even know what I was shouting at him. Then he screamed back about me being the one to betray James and Lily. He blew up the street and must have transformed into his Animagus form, he’s a—”

“A rat, we know. That’s how he was discovered.”

“All I remember after that is just staring at the destruction and laughing. Laughing that little lumpy Peter had betrayed us all, had gotten away from me.” Sirius’ face fell and a few tears began gathering in his eyes.

Amelia knew the signs of the Veritaserum weakening. “We’ve got enough. Kingsley, help him get cleaned up and find him some robes. Keep him here for the moment, but put together a comfortable bed and warm meals. Croaker, validate Bertha’s transcript and you two can go while I inform Fudge. And none of us is to breathe a word until I say so.”

Shacklebolt had vanished the chains around Black and his hand shot out to seize Amelia’s wrist. “Harry? Where’s Harry?”

Amelia patted his hand. “He’s safe as houses right now. He arrived at Hogwarts yesterday for his first year.”

Black brightened at that. “He’s at Hogwarts? And he’s all right?”

“He looked all right to me yesterday. Kingsley can fill you in on the rest. Let me go deliver this to Fudge so we can get you cleared.”

 

*****

 

Amelia waited until nine o’clock, the curfew at Hogwarts, before calling Minerva through the Floo. The first time she found an empty room. The second time she opened the fire just as a tabby cat came in and stretched.

“Minerva! May I come through?”

The cat looked at her, then grew in size, morphing into the deputy headmistress. “Of course, Amelia.”

Amelia stepped out, carrying an armful of scrolls. “You wouldn’t believe the day we had.”

“Well, I suppose the chaos had to go somewhere. We had a remarkably smooth first day here.”

Amelia held out three of the scrolls. “I’d like to ask you to pass these to Dumbledore. This one is an official request for a trial to be held within ten days for one Sirius Orion Black on charges of murder. The second is a request that he recuse himself from the trial once it is scheduled. The third is a summons for him as a witness in the trial.”

Minerva’s eyebrows were reaching for her hairline by the time Amelia finished. “I take it that things have happened?”

“This needs to be kept between us until the trial, but we questioned Black under Veritaserum. He’s completely innocent – they tried to bluff Voldemort by making everyone think he was the Secret-Keeper and using Pettigrew instead. But Pettigrew had already switched to Voldemort’s side. When Black cornered him he caused the explosion and escaped in his Animagus form.”

Minerva stared for a minute, then spun on her heel and made for the whisky bottle.

 

*****

 

Sirius Black slept around the clock on his first day out of Azkaban. He was warm, truly warm, in a gloriously soft bed. He was clean, with no itch of straw or bites from insects plaguing his skin. His dreams did not suddenly morph into nightmares as the dementors made their rounds.

He refused to stir the first few times the Auror Shacklebolt tried to rouse him. Finally the scales tipped and his hunger won out over his exhaustion. He sat up in the bed in the cell and looked over the tray. Porridge, eggs, a pile of bacon, and toast with three kinds of jam awaited him.

“I wasn’t sure what you’d like, so I brought a variety. Now eat. Bones wants you able to stand when you have your trial.”

“A trial.” Sirius looked at the Auror with a sceptical expression.

“Yes, a trial. Madam Bones started looking for the transcripts after Professor McGonagall began asking questions. Seems young Potter wanted some answers about his parents’ deaths because his aunt and uncle never told him anything.”

Sirius froze, the spoonful of porridge halfway to his mouth. “Aunt and uncle? You mean he ended up with Lily’s sister? That’s the last place she wanted him to be!”

Shacklebolt shrugged. “All I know is that Madam Bones’ investigation showed that you never actually had a trial of any kind, and then Pettigrew turned up alive, which shows you’re innocent in at least one count. So you will have a trial soon and in the meantime you are to be treated as kindly as possible in a high-security cell in the Ministry.” He pointed to a dark square on the pale brick wall near the door. “Press your hand there if you need anything.”

“Any chance of something to read?”

“I’ll bring you the last few Prophets to start.”

 

*****

 

The potions had made a dent and Dumbledore was feeling better as long as he focused on Hogwarts. When he entered his office after dinner, he discovered a set of scrolls on his desk with seals from the DMLE. He opened the first one with a frown. Upon seeing the name of “Sirius Black” in the opening text, his headache returned with a vengeance.

This was most disturbing. Black was guilty of betraying the Potters and had been rightly sent to Azkaban. Dumbledore had been there as the high emotions swept magical Britain, seen the public’s need to punish someone as Harry Potter had already removed the first target for their anger. With the eyewitness descriptions obtained from the Muggles of Peter Pettigrew’s last words, Dumbledore had allowed then-Minister Bagnold to simply throw the man into Azkaban without protest. As soon as the wizarding community had learned of Black’s fate, emotions had been soothed and things had calmed down.

And now the whole business was being raked up again.

Dumbledore opened the second scroll and his eyes widened. Recuse myself? I’m the Chief Warlock! Not enough people will trust Madam Longbottom to direct the trial!

The third scroll made the request clear. Of course anyone called as a witness should not be in a position of leadership or judgment in a trial. But even the thought of having to revisit that night set his head almost to throbbing. He tried to remember where he had gotten his last potion. At this rate, Poppy was sure to question his sudden intake and Severus might even be moved to express concern.

A sudden burst of flames in front of him made him shy back before he realized that it was Fawkes. The phoenix clutched a familiar bottle in its claws. Dumbledore took it gratefully. “Thank you, my friend.”

Fawkes’ trilling song of response helped bring the headache down to manageable levels before he got the stopper out.

 

*****

 

9 September 1991

Amelia surveyed the courtroom, noting that almost every seat was filled. Cornelius had arranged a press conference to announce the discovery that Sirius Black had never been formally tried and his intentions to rectify that oversight. He had taken the stance that justice must be served fairly to one and all, even to the Potters’ betrayer, and that a complete accounting of the night was long overdue. They had purposely not set a date before the press conference – Amelia’s intention was to have a closed trial with only the Wizengamot present. The summons had been bespelled to be readable only by the members with strict instructions not to share the information until after the trial in order to preserve legal integrity. Judging from the faces she saw, the instructions had been taken seriously.

Fudge, Umbridge, Augusta Longbottom, Tiberius Lancaster, and Crispin York entered from a side door to take their positions. Lancaster was acting as prosecutor for the case while York was defending Black. Both lawyers had gone over the transcript from the questioning under Veritaserum and had planned the approach accordingly. Madame Longbottom took the raised chair designated for the Chief Warlock and raised the gavel to signal the beginning of the trial. “Aurors, please bring in the accused.”

The Aurors, Shaclkebolt and Robards, did so, causing a ripple of unease through the assembled crowd as they walked with Sirius Black between them with no sign of any bindings. The week away from Azkaban had helped: Black’s hair and beard had been neatly trimmed and he was dressed in formal robes bearing the crest of the House of Black. But his skin was still deadly pale from over a decade in a cell and he had barely begun to put on some much-needed weight.

The Aurors led him to his place and he sat beside York, who shook his hand. When no chains of any kind appeared to secure him, the murmurs of the crowd grew louder.

Madame Longbottom spoke again. “Witnesses are to come forward.”

Black sat up suddenly, looking very intent, and Amelia frowned. Her first instinct was to palm her wand, but the Veritaserum testimony had been clear. Black was innocent.

Dumbledore entered, leading the remaining Hit Wizards of the group that had arrested Black. They took seats and Black leaned forward, staring at Dumbledore. Amelia noted that the headmaster had a hand across his eyes, rubbing his temples with thumb and forefinger, as if his head ached. Finally Robards gently pulled Black back into his seat. Amelia saw the frustration in his expression, which shifted into resignation.

Just as Madame Longbottom raised the gavel to open the trial, Black drew a deep breath and shouted, “Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their country!”

Dumbledore keeled over and chaos erupted in the courtroom.

 

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Author’s Note: Thanks as always for reading! The next chapter will happen when it happens.

Chapter Text

Disclaimer: If you recognize the character, it isn't mine. Just playing in Rowling's sandbox.

Astonishment: Yes, two updates in as many weeks! I love having an Easter vacation. Sadly, it was my last for a while, so I’m not sure how quickly the next chapter will arrive, but I thought you all put up with that sudden cliffhanger pretty well and deserved a rapid continuation.

Reminder : I'm on Twitter under "avidbeader" if you are reading this on a guest account and would prefer to get your notifications of a new chapter that way. I promise I won't be spamming. I’m also on Tumblr under the same name; it’s mostly for my own fannish glee but I have begun posting there with the tag “perils of innocence by avidbeader”.

 

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9 September 1991

Sirius was immediately covered by three wands; both Shacklebolt and Robards had theirs pressed to either side of his neck and Bones was across the room in a shot to add hers. “What the hell, Black?”

He held his peace, hands spread out and not daring to move. “You have my testimony under truth serum, Director. If I could have managed to do this in private, I would have. But I asked for a meeting with Albus twice and received no response.”

Whatever the director planned to say next was lost as a familiar voice rang out behind her. “Madame Bones, please have your Aurors stand down!”

She shook her head at Shacklebolt and he kept his wand in place as she turned to face the headmaster. He was sitting up and being helped to his feet by Lancaster. He was pale and sweating, rearranging his robes fussily. The Wizengamot members in the gallery began to relax.

“I ask the prosecution and Madame Longbottom to be allowed to take the stand first.”

The acting Chief Witch frowned in concern. “Is that wise, Albus? You look quite ill. I think we should summon a Healer.”

“No, no need for that. I promise to see Madame Pomfrey as soon as I return to Hogwarts, if it will put your mind at ease, but what I have to say should not wait a moment longer.” He gave Madame Longbottom a reassuring smile, his eyes twinkling madly, and she relented.

Sirius felt hands on his shoulders and obeyed the unspoken command to sit. People returned to their places as Dumbledore climbed to the witness stand. He took out his wand and used it to freshen himself up. With one final massage to his temples, he leaned on the railing for support and looked at Lancaster expectantly.

The prosecuting wizard shuffled frantically for the list of questions that had been prepared, obviously rattled. “Pl—please state your name for the court.”

“Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore.”

“What is your relationship to the accused?”

“Sirius was a student at Hogwarts from 1971 to 1978. After graduation he began Auror training and worked with me to help fight Voldemort and his ranks of Death Eaters.”

Sirius noticed the shiver of fear in the room at Voldemort’s name and could not keep his eyes from rolling. The man’s been dead almost ten years!

“What can you tell us about the events on 31 October, 1981?”

Dumbledore straightened and smiled over at Sirius. “I can tell you that Sirius was most definitely not the Secret-Keeper for the Potters.”

The crowd began to buzz as people reacted to the news with their neighbours. Madame Longbottom pounded on her gavel to restore order. “Quiet! Please continue, Lancaster.”

“Thank you, Madame. Mr Dumbledore, why did you not make this statement at the time of Black’s arrest?”

“Because I allowed myself to be Obliviated of the knowledge as an extra measure of security. I performed the Fidelius to hide the Potters away and was part of the discussion to give the public the impression that Sirius was Secret-Keeper when in reality we chose Peter Pettigrew in an attempt to bluff Voldemort. My former students were incorrigible pranksters at school and this was just the kind of thing they would think of. I allowed Lily Potter to perform the memory charms so I would not give the plan away.”

A number of people brightened, putting the pieces together. Dumbledore nodded, noticing the comprehension dawning.

“Mrs Potter was most proficient with charms. In other circumstances she would surely have gone for her mastery and might have ended up taking Professor Flitwick’s place upon his retirement. But I digress. We arranged that any of the four involved—James, Lily, Sirius and Peter—would be able to break the memory charm with the code phrase ‘Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their country’. It was something Lily had heard from her sister, something to do with Muggle schooling.”

“And because Bagnold and Crouch sent Black to Azkaban without a trial, he was never able to cancel the charm,” Lancaster observed.

“Precisely. Because of the memory charm, I made the same assumptions as everyone else, much to my shame, and never sought a trial for Sirius. The public’s need for a scapegoat was so great that it threatened to destabilize our society just at the point where the worst danger had passed.” Dumbledore turned to look at Sirius directly. “I apologize for that. I apologize for taking the easy path instead of seeing things through properly.”

Sirius nodded at him. With the memory charm in place, Sirius didn’t blame him for what he believed. For not fulfilling his duty, for following Crouch’s lead, Sirius blamed him very much. But now was not the time to dig into that.

“It explains everything now, my headaches and attempts to avoid even mentioning Sirius since Pettigrew was discovered. The pressure on the hidden memory was quite strong.”

Lancaster looked at Madame Longbottom. “The prosecution rests its case.”

“Rightly so. York, do you have anything to add?”

York stood. “Only the submitted evidence of Peter Pettigrew being alive and in Auror custody along with the Veritaserum testimony of both Pettigrew and the defendant.” He sat back down.

The acting Chief Witch waved Dumbledore to his chair and looked around the room. “Wands out and ready, please. Lit for guilty and unlit for not. On the charge of betrayal of James and Lily Potter and being a Death Eater?”

A few wands lit up and Sirius saw Bones nearly put her face in her hands. But the vote was indisputably “not guilty”.

“On the charge of murdering Peter Pettigrew?”

This time not a single wand was lit.

“By the evidence presented and the decision of his peers, Sirius Black is found not guilty of the crimes for which he stood accused and is free to leave the court without a stain on his character.” Madame Longbottom pounded the gavel for the last time. “You are hereby free to go, Mr Black.”

 

*****

 

After collecting a copy of Amelia’s report on Black’s trial, Minerva went down to the gates of Hogwarts to keep her appointment with the Esperança House doctors. She had communicated with them by owl the evening of the train’s arrival, assuming that the children would send their own letters. Once the trial date had been set, she had arranged to meet them the same evening.

She Apparated to the same upstairs conference room as before, finding the red-haired nurse waiting for her. “Good evening, professor. If you’ll wait here I’ll let Dr Greene and Dr Aymler know you’re here.” She waved a hand at a tea set. “Help yourself while you wait.”

Minerva investigated and found the tea to still be warm, but not piping hot. She cast a warming charm on it and poured for herself. She poked her head into the other rooms, finding them still furnished as bedrooms but empty of the children’s belongings. She returned to her seat and pulled out the parchments that Amelia had prepared. A few minutes later, Dr Aymler entered.

“Good evening, professor. I apologize, but Dr Greene is delayed. We have an issue involving one of our new residents and the fact that we frown upon biting our aides.”

Minerva chuckled at that. “I would most certainly support that. In my school days we might have Transfigured the offender into a beaver for a few hours of non-stop chewing to make our point. We don’t allow such punishments anymore.”

“Pity. It strikes me as effective.” The doctor poured a cup of tea and sat down. “Now, do you have all the information needed to tell us what has happened?”

She passed over the parchments. “You may keep this report. It is by Director Bones, our top official when it comes to police and criminal matters.”

He eyed the sheaf of uneven, buff-coloured paper. “I don’t suppose you could make that look like a printed report?”

“Show me.”

He opened a folder in a stack he carried with him and showed her the crisp, white pages with neat black lettering. With a wave of her wand, the report turned into a similar handful of pages. She continued, “The short version is that I remembered correctly. Sirius Black was never tried for his crimes in 1981. That has now happened and Black was found to be innocent of all charges against him.”

“How was it proven, besides the fact that the murder victim turned up alive?”

“Director Bones conducted questioning of Black with Veritaserum, a potion that forces a person to speak the truth for a short while. She learned that Harry’s father and Black tried to bluff the Death Eaters, making them think that Black would be the one to hold the knowledge of where the Potters were hiding. They actually used Pettigrew instead, unaware that he had already defected to the other side.”

Aymler nodded. “I see. So what does this mean for Harry going forward?”

“Well, Black is Harry’s godfather, so it’s possible he’ll ask for custody of Harry once he’s sorted out his own affairs after being imprisoned.”

Aymler sat back, tugging on his moustache. “We’d need to discuss it with Dr Greene, but I think we’d be open to the possibility of visitation and such, let Harry get to know the man in advance of a slow transition. A sudden switch in living arrangements on top of everything else would be a great deal to ask of Harry, not to mention the need to provide enough documentation on this side for there to suddenly be a new guardian after so many years.”

Minerva nodded, thinking about the exasperating man-child that Sirius Black had been before the Potters’ murders. “I agree that any transition should be taken slowly.”

“Now, tell me how the kids are settling in. We’ve had letters from Harry and Hermione so far and they sound excited about everything. Dean wrote one short note to his parents, but didn’t give many details. How do you think they are doing?”

Minerva did a quick spell to add tea from the pot to her cup and warmed it again. “They’re doing very well, much better than we usually see with our Muggleborn pupils. The whole lot of them stick together, though they’re friendly enough with the other students. They’ve even added one child to their ranks, a boy named Neville Longbottom, and it might be the making of him. I do see them having some issues with the actual magic, getting it to focus through their wands and behave accordingly, but that isn’t unusual with Muggleborns.”

What she did not share, what she was not going to share with anyone just yet, was her suspicion that the three who had stayed at Esperança House might have a tremendously difficult time adjusting to wands. Nothing had been declared in the open and her only evidence was the amazing display of wandless magic at the first meeting. Yet she felt sure that between the methodical atmosphere of the institution, Hermione’s thirst for knowledge, and the likelihood of Harry having his father’s curious nature, there had been experimenting going on.

“The classroom that we talked about setting aside for the children to work on their non-magical education is almost ready. I’ll have the children send an owl when they’re ready for the first round of books needed. Space will be somewhat limited, but we’ll do what we can.”

The doctor grinned. “Actually, space may not be a tremendous issue after all. Let me show you what Harry and Dean are giving Hermione for her birthday.”

 

*****


19 September 1991

“Please, Hermione? It’s just back down the stairs.”

She grumbled but began following Harry back to the staircase. “How on earth did you manage to leave your Charms homework in our schoolroom in the first place? We hardly ever unpack our magical homework in there.”

They were returning to what they had begun calling the schoolroom, to separate it from the various classrooms for their magical subjects. In the week since Professor McGonagall had shown the Muggleborn group their space, the children had rearranged the furniture and shelves to their liking and even decorated it a bit. They had tacked posters up, looking incongruous against the stone walls: a West Ham poster from Dean, Terry’s poster from the movie The Empire Strikes Back, and Sally Anne’s poster of a boy band named New Kids on the Block. Hermione had carefully labelled each bookshelf in anticipation of the subjects they would study, leaving space for fiction and magazines. Professor McGonagall had sealed the room for them and given them a password to prevent magical students from entering without permission.

She was jerked from her thoughts as the staircase suddenly moved under her feet. They had been told, along with the other Firsties, that the staircases could shift without warning, but this was the first time she had seen it. Harry gripped the banister above her and growled, “Why now? Come on, shift back!” She could see him straining to try and reverse their course, but they swung around until the bottom of the stairs met a hallway they hadn’t visited before.

They scrambled down to the landing. Harry was sweating from his efforts to divert the stairs and Hermione offered him a handkerchief – she had found the long, loose sleeves of the Hogwarts robes to be quite handy for storing extras. They looked around, trying to sort where they were now, and Harry spotted a doorway at the end of the hall. “Isn’t that the Defence classroom?”

As he ran down to open it, Hermione frowned. “Harry, I think we’re on the wrong floor!”

He ignored her, intent on checking for himself. The door refused to open and Harry tugged at it again. “Come on, open!”

Hermione felt him add his magic to the order and the lock clicked, allowing the door to swing open. Harry ducked inside to see which room it was and Hermione followed him.

He halted and she bumped into him. For an instant she thought he was groping for the lights before remembering that they were in a magical castle, not a house with electric switches. Then she heard the growls.

The light from the corridor showed her two heads and two enormous paws standing on a trap door in the floor before she seized Harry’s arm and yanked him beyond the reach of huge teeth. The heads began barking as they slammed the door shut.

They ran back to the staircase and mounted it in leaps to the next floor. Once they were on the landing, the staircase began to move once more, returning to its original position. Gasping for breath, Hermione threw her arms around Harry, who clung to her in return.

“What was that thing?”

She buried her face in his shoulder. “Obviously it was a two-headed dog.”

“Three.”

“What?” She lifted her head to look at him.

“It had three heads, not two, as if it makes a difference! What is a three-headed dog doing inside the castle?”

Hermione pulled back and gave him a look. “One, if it had three heads, that makes it a Cerberus. They’re listed in the Fantastic Beasts book. And two, didn’t you see the trap door at its feet?”

Harry glared back. “I was paying more attention to its teeth!”

“Anyway, it’s guarding something. That’s what a Cerberus is for. They guarded the gateway to the underworld in old Greek mythology.”

Harry frowned, as if he had remembered something, and held up his hands. “Okay, I’m sorry. We should leave it alone. And we need to get back to the schoolroom.”

Hermione nodded, accepting the apology. “I’m sorry, too.”

They ran back down the stairs before they could be redirected yet again and headed for the schoolroom. They were nearly there when Harry shouted, “Come on, Hermione!”

She looked at him, bemused, as he opened the door and held it for her.

“SURPRISE!”

 

*****

 

Hermione basked in the attention, the perfect remedy after the adventure with the dog. Harry and Dean had gathered the rest of the Muggleborns and a few of the other students they’d begun to make friends with. There was a small pile of cards and a few presents on top of a very big wrapped box.

The Weasley twins arrived, levitating a large cake and two buckets of bottles. She saw Ron glance over at Harry and give a thumbs-up, which Harry returned. Dean leaned over to her. “When Harry asked about how one got food other than mealtimes, Ron said his brothers could take care of it.”

The twins also demonstrated basic conjuring and produced party plates, forks, and hats for everyone. When Neville put his hat on, it gave a loud bang and shot out sparks through the tip. Hermione sorted her cards during the next few minutes of chaos as everyone else tried a hat. She laid the letters from her parents and the doctors aside for later.

When things calmed down, she quickly opened and read the cards, then the small packages. Every package was a book and she smiled at the mix of Muggle and magical titles, laughing out loud at a children’s book titled Harry Potter and the Clever Clauricorn.

“Seriously?” She held up the book for Harry to see. He covered his face with his hands.

Seamus Finnegan nodded. “There’s a whole series of them, A to Zed. Most wizarding children grew up with them. I liked this one since it takes place in Ireland. I thought it would be a good joke.”

Ron chimed in. “My sister has them all. Re-reads them until Mum had to put Reparos on them, they were falling apart.”

Hermione set it to the side. “Well, at least it gives us an idea what kids here think of Harry, if this is how they know him.” She stood. “That just leaves this thing!”

She looked at the tag that said from Harry and Dean—we dare you to fill it all the way! Her eyes lit up as she speculated what might be under the paper and began tearing it off. She squealed as her efforts revealed the upright storage trunk she had begged her parents for on their second trip to Diagon Alley. “Thank you, thank you!”

Padma Patil perked up. “Is that a library trunk?”

“Sure is!” Terry stepped forward to help Hermione open it. “My mum told my dad that she wants one for Christmas.”

Once it stood open, Hermione let everyone step in and explore the small shelved room it contained. She was further awed that the boys had managed to get all her books from Nottingham into the trunk, arranged in the exact same way that they had been in her room, filling over half of one wall of shelves. The wizarding children looked at the collection with interest, asking about various titles.

“This is perfect!” Hermione gushed. “We can keep it in here and we’ll have enough room for all our course books.”

Ron shook his head. “I don’t get it. Why would you want to do more studying?”

She glared at him. “Because we want to keep our options open. If we want to go on to university after Hogwarts, the best way to be prepared is to keep doing our normal courses.”

“Why would you want to keep going to school? Seven years of Hogwarts is plenty!”

“Oh, I don’t know. Maybe I want a career that isn’t part of the wizarding world, like being an astronaut or an architect or a pilot or a Member of Parliament!”

“What’s an astronaut?” Neville piped up, preventing the fight from escalating. Harry began to explain it to the rest while Dean guided Hermione over to the cake so she could cut it and share it out.

As conversation died down in favour of enjoying the cake, Hermione’s thoughts went back to the Cerberus in the corridor. She glanced at Harry, seeing him also quiet and thoughtful. What in the world could be so important as to have that beast protecting it? And if it’s that important, why on earth is it in a school?

 

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Author’s Note: As always, thank you for reading! I hope the first part addressed most of the immediate questions about that cliffie. As I told a few folks in my review replies, this time it was rather out of the blue with only a fumbly Dumbledore to hint at it. But this will set up something down the road. Thanks again for your patience!

 

Chapter Text

Disclaimer: If you recognize the character, it isn't mine. Just playing in Rowling's sandbox.

 

Apology: Yes, I know, too long. I’m sorry. There was family health. There was kitty health. There was a computer that decided to up and die (flash drives are your friends, boys and girls). There was the need for an extra job for a few weeks to pay for some of this. And there were muses that were much-needed (see signal boost below) but recalcitrant. Thank you to every single one of you, from the beginning to the steady stream of you who continue to find and enjoy this story. More will come as soon as I can bang it out.

 

Reminder : I'm on Twitter under "avidbeader" if you are reading this on a guest account and would prefer to get your notifications of a new chapter that way. I promise I won't be spamming. I’m also on Tumblr under the same name; it’s mostly for my own fannish glee but I have begun posting there with the tag “perils of innocence by avidbeader”.

 

Signal boost: If you would like to read a new "Harry Potter" fanfic by me (unrelated to my "Perils" universe), donate at least $10 to The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, forward your receipt to Fandom4LLS AT gmail DOT com, and you will receive a compilation of stories from your favorite fic authors. These written pieces will not be published anywhere else for a minimum of 3 months. But if you donate you will have a chance to read them before anyone else! All monetary donations are due August 30th. The compilations will be emailed in early September.

 

Think of it like this. They have ten days as of my posting this and $4603.00 to make their goal. They ask for $10 in order for you to receive the fanfic compilation. But even if you didn’t want the stories, if every single person who followed “Perils” were to donate $5…that would be over $20,000 raised to help fight these diseases and support people suffering from them. Please consider it. Take a look at fandom4lls DOT blogspot DOT com for more information.

 

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Chapter 28

 

5 October 1991

 

Minerva McGonagall was a witch on a mission.

 

A fortnight ago, Mr Potter and Miss Granger had come to her to tell her about the three-headed dog on the third floor. She confirmed that it had been put there on purpose to guard something, but that she was going to try and get both moved out. They were to please not say a word and stay away from that part of the castle. The children had agreed, but had glanced at one another in a way that told her they were uncertain about keeping the secret from Mr Thomas. She offered them the option of Obliviation very carefully, knowing it was a sore spot for the children. As expected, they refused but promised to keep the secret.

 

The conversation woke Minerva up from the habits she had fallen into with the beginning of the school year. Once the sensation of Harry Potter being at Hogwarts had died down, she had let routine take over rather than keep a close eye on things as she had promised the parents of the Muggleborns. Even setting up the room for their study of non-magical subjects had not shaken her out of her typical schedule. Given all of that, she was rather surprised and quite grateful that the children had confided in her. She also knew that if she charged in now to try and correct where she had gone wrong, they would very likely see right through her and she would lose much of their trust.

 

So she waited, patiently, keeping an eye on the little group that had formed around the three students from Esperança House. She noticed very quickly that they seemed to do well in the classes with less focus on wandwork and to struggle with wands. When asked to complete essays, their grasp of the lectures and readings was sound, but when it came to the practical demonstrations they faltered. After confirming with Filius that he was seeing the same pattern in Charms, she began shadowing them a little more closely.

 

In her Animagus form, she watched the firstflying lesson and how all the Muggleborns picked up on the concept after a brief struggle, though within their own comfort zones. Miss Granger had stayed close to the ground, keeping an eye on Mr Longbottom, while toward the end Mr Potter led a group on something of a follow-my-leader game. Her eyes lit up at the way Potter weaved around the Quidditch goals with the grace of a natural flyer. Perhaps he could be persuaded to try out for the team next year.

 

The Muggleborns all showed progress in Herbology and Astronomy and even Snape was hard pressed to find something of consequence to complain about. Quirrell stammered so hard when askedthat she finally asked him to write it down, but his impression was positive as well. She did not waste time with Binns; the most he could possibly say was whether they managed to stay awake in his classes, presuming he even noticed.

 

Now she was in her cat form again, nosing around the classroom that had been set aside for them. The latest additions included a knitted afghan in Gryffindor red and gold across one of the window seats from Miss Granger’s needles; she had heard that a black and yellow one for Hufflepuff was in progress. There were plants here and there thanks to Mr Longbottom.

 

She rounded a set of shelves to discover that the room was occupied.

 

Transforming out of her feline guise, the professor cleared her throat. “Hello, Harry.”

 

He looked up from a letter in his hand. “Hullo, professor.”

 

“I’m surprised to see you here alone. It’s such a lovely day and we won’t have many more of them this far north.”

 

“I wanted to…I needed to think. I have to show this letter to the others and it’ll probably upset Hermione.”

 

“May I?” She moved to sit beside him.

 

Harry handed the neat white paper to her. “It’s from Kevin Entwhistle. He—”

 

“Went to Wenlock Academy. They alerted us when he enrolled.” She glanced at the letter, then focused to read more carefully as its message sank in.

 

Dear Harry,

 

I hope you and everyone else are well. Please tell them I’ll write a different person each time, but I wanted to start with you.

 

I wanted to thank you again for your offer. Now I rather wish I could have taken it, but I have got to think of Mum as well. Being able to go home when classes end is about the best part of being here. Are any of you feeling really homesick?

 

I can get along in the theory classes and potions, and the basic Arithmancy class is interesting. Charms and Transfiguration are harder but I’m managing. The teachers are all nice enough and so are some of the other students. But there is this group of students that call themselves “pureblood”, meaning that everyone in their family is magical and has been for several generations. They stick together and generally make things as unpleasant for the rest of us as possible. One of the older students explained to me that except for a few who are really interested in Arithmancy or warding, most of the purebloods here want to be at Hogwarts but can’t because of money. So they spend all their time making sure that they feel superior to the rest of us. Is it any better there for you?

 

I also made the mistake of mentioning that I met you. Now not a day goes by without someone asking questions about you or wanting me to get your autograph, even a few of the teachers. I’ve had two pureblood girls wanting to know whether you’re betrothed yet! I hope you aren’t getting hounded there like this.

 

Tell Hermione that I’ll send her copies of my Arithmancy notes. Nancy MacIntyre, one of the school prefects, said she’ll do a duplication charm on them. I’ll write her next and include the notes.

 

Kevin

 

Minerva thought she knew, but decided to ask anyway. “Why do you think this will upset Miss Granger? He’s offering her a leg up on a course that won’t be available to you until third year.”

 

“She encouraged Kevin to go to Wenlock. At least, she didn’t try to change their minds—I offered to cover tuition for him, but he was concerned about leaving his mum alone for the whole term. Now that Kevin isn’t happy there, she’ll feel guilty about it.”

 

“I see.”

 

“Is it possible for students to transfer from one school to the other?”

 

“It is possible, but very rarely done. More often a student stays for the seven years and addresses any deficiencies in their education with apprenticeships or other study. Most often if a student transfers, it’s because the family moves to another country or they can no longer afford Hogwarts.”

 

She reached over and placed a comforting hand on his back. When he didn’t flinch from her touch, she rubbed her hand in small circles. After a few minutes, he looked up.

 

“Professor, are there students like that here? Students who look down on us because we didn’t grow up knowing about magic? I really haven’t seen anything like that here, just a few people when we were in Diagon Alley. But we’ve been sticking together as much as possible…a group of eight or ten is harder to pick on that than just one kid.”

 

“I’m afraid so. There is a population here like that, though they tend to end up sorted into Slytherin. If they ever do anything to bother you, name-calling or bullying, please let me know and I will deal with it.”

 

“Yes, ma’am.” Harry smiled a little. “Thank you.”

 

“Now, are you sure you don’t want to go find your friends? If you haven’t walked down to the lake, you should. The Giant Squid usually surfaces around this time for a little sun.”

 

“Yes, ma’am.” Harry tucked the letter into his sleeve and left.

 

*****

 

Harry found the girls first. Hermione and Sally-Anne were sitting on a stone bench overlooking a hut. Hermione spotted him and patted the seat next to her. “We were just talking about the Patil twins and how different they are. Padma, the one in Ravenclaw, is very studious but Parvati has nothing in her head but clothes and boys! They even—” She broke off and Harry raised his eyebrows.

 

“Yes?”

 

Hermione’s cheeks turned pink. “She and Lavender keep asking questions about you, wanting to know what kind of girl you’d like. I’ve tried to put them off but they’re being terribly nosy.”

 

“They aren’t making fun of you or anything, are they?”

 

Hermione frowned, considering the question. “Well, no, at least, not where I can hear it. They’re nice enough about answering questions or telling me something when they realise I don’t know. And the girls from Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw are nice enough as well. It’s only the Slytherins that won’t talk to us.”

 

Harry nodded, about to share the conversation with McGonagall, when a huge black boarhound came bounding up the hill, barking eagerly. Harry stood and moved in front of the girls and the dog skidded to a stop, barked once more, and darted forward to lick Harry across the face.

 

“Eeewww!” the girls chorused, giggling as Harry tried to pet the dog with one hand and wipe his face with the other. As Hermione plucked a handkerchief from her sleeve, a huge man that Harry remembered from Gringotts appeared from behind the hut and began running toward them.

 

“Fang, you useless beast! Down! Down, I say! Fluffy’s easier to handle that than you and he’s got three heads!”

 

Hermione’s and Harry’s heads snapped around at that. Hermione remembered Sally-Anne’s presence first and began wiping at Harry’s face. He whispered in disbelief, “Fluffy?”

 

Hermione shook her head at him, but Sally-Anne was already petting the great boarhound. “Aren’t you a good fellow? Aren’t you?”

 

The man came up and made as if to cuff the dog. “Fang, you blithering idiot! That’s not the way to introduce yourself!”

 

Hermione finished polishing Harry’s glasses and handed them back to him. “No harm done. I’m sure Harry needed his face washed.”

 

He mock-glared at her and put his glasses on. The man chuckled as he got a firm grip on the dog’s collar. “Hello again, Harry. Ladies, Rubeus Hagrid at your service. Keeper o’ Keys and Grounds here at Hogwarts.”

 

Harry let them fall into conversation for a moment about how new and exciting Hogwarts was for the girls before tossing his question in. “So why is this Fluffy easier to handle even with three heads?”

 

Hagrid was pulling at Fang, trying to make him sit. “Oh, Fluffy’s easy! Play a bit of music and he goes right to sleep. But this one has no habit to him at all. Sometimes it’s food he wants. Sometimes it’s petting. Sometimes it’s exercise. Bloody useless thing.”

 

Sally-Anne giggled, still petting Fang, and Hagrid blinked.

 

“Pardon, shouldna been so blunt in my language. Would you three like a cup o’tea? Been meaning to invite ye for a while, Harry. Don’t know how much those Dursleys told you about your mum and dad, but I have a few stories I could share.”

 

Even as Harry’s eyes lit up at that, Hermione answered, “We’d love to. Come on, Fang. You want tea, don’t you?”

 

*****

 

16 October 1991

 

Many Wednesday afternoons, with Astronomy scheduled for midnight, the first years used the free time for study or grabbing a nap before dinner. The Muggle-based group had taken to gathering in the schoolroom for company, working on any pressing magical work, or studying up on regular subjects. They often invited others, but of the wizarding students, only Neville was a frequent participant. Ron Weasley had come a couple of times, but claimed that the posters frozen in place were just too weird, and most of the others who accepted an invitation had quickly become bored with the lack of magical focus or, in many of the girls’ cases, frustrated with how efficiently Hermione and Sally-Anne kept them from getting too cosy with Harry.

 

Hermione was in one of the squashy chairs, working on the last rows of the Hufflepuff afghan. Dean was working on a drawing of the Great Hall; he had begun to sketch out things to better show his parents and the Esperança House doctors their life at Hogwarts. Justin and Sally-Anne were working on French. Harry, Terry, and Wayne tried yet again to change matchsticks into needles with wands.

 

Harry growled in frustration, poking at the matchstick with his wand and only managing to make it slightly silver-coloured. He slapped his free hand over the matchstick and after a moment’s concentration, lifted it to reveal the shiny sharp needle.

 

“What are we doing wrong? We can feel the power in the air here, it’s so thick. Just like Diagon Alley. Why can we direct it just like that, but not with our wands?”

 

“At least you can control it,” Wayne snapped back. He imitated Harry, but his result was a completely silver matchstick rather than a needle.

 

Dean looked over. “Keep your hair on, Wayne. We’ve just had more practice, is all.”

 

Terry sat up straighter. “Yeah, about that. How did that happen? I know Hermione said something about you all being in a psych ward when she talked us through calling our wands. But what happened?”

 

Harry and Dean looked at each other uncertainly, while Hermione set her knitting in her lap and went into lecture mode. “It wasn’t a psych ward. It was an institution for children with problems. Mostly emotional problems, some learning problems, but it was meant for kids to live there and get help, then return home. My parents brought me there as a last resort because things kept happening around me when I was angry or upset, things they couldn’t explain.”

 

“Same with me. My doctor met their doctors at a conference and realized that we all had the same problem,” Dean added.

 

“My aunt and uncle abandoned me there when I was five. I think I did that Apparition thing and moved from the bathroom to the kitchen and scared them too much. The doctors started by just helping me sort out my emotions, and then we started observing what happened, when or why it happened, and how I felt. I eventually learned to control the energy I was feeling in my head. It’s the same energy that’s so thick in the air around here, around the shopping district.”

 

Justin and Sally-Anne had left off to listen. Justin nodded toward Hermione, who had begun knitting again. “I remember how Hermione described it and it suddenly made sense. But trying to wave our wands through it just feels sludgy, like waving through water.”

 

“I kind of expected the brooms to feel the same as wands,” Harry said. “And they did feel sort of warm and alive. But it was like they already knew what do to and just needed us to tell them to do it. Potions are kind of the same. Once you get the mix made and going, it’s like you’ve put the energy together in a way that will complete what it’s meant to do. The wands just feel…unfocused.”

 

Terry had begun looking off in the distance as he listened, which was a habit the others had got used to. He watched as Hermione moved her needles, using the points to loop the yarn together into the proper stitches. “Half a mo… What if that’s the whole point of a wand? To focus the power so we can use it better?”

 

The others paid fast attention. Harry pulled his wand from his sleeve. Ignoring Professor McGonagall’s instructions for the moment, he simply concentrated, trying to pull in energy and send it through the wand. The same little fountain of red and gold sparks from Ollivander’s shop burst from the tip. Harry kept it going, paying attention to how it felt to have that old swelling-balloon feeling change and follow the path from his head through his chest and arm and into the warm wood of the wand. Then, just as he had in his sessions with the doctors, he tried to channel the feeling away from random destruction and into something positive. Then he pointed the wand at a matchstick.

 

It shimmered and morphed into a gold needle.

 

Most of the other children cheered and clapped. Hermione picked it up, her eyes dancing with humour. “I don’t know…it’s rather blunt for a needle, you know.”

 

Harry stuck his tongue out at her and put another matchstick from the box onto the table. “Come on, everyone give it a go.”

 

 

*****

 

 

19 October, 1991

 

Sirius Black looked around the clearing. Minerva had brought him here with Side-Along Apparition, a shrunken trunk of Muggle-style clothes in his pocket. He turned his face to the warm autumn sunshine. The manor house in their view was a handsome enough example, certainly more inviting than the Black family home in London. When his cousin Andromeda had realized that Sirius had been within inches of slaughtering the last remaining house elf in the family—provoked, yes, but Andy was not willing to let Sirius wallow in bitterness and fury—she had approached Minerva.

 

And the first thought that came to Minerva’s mind was a pair of doctors who had helped to heal a badly abused little boy.

 

Minerva, her robes transfigured into a set of sensible tweeds, took him by the arm and led him to the door. Inside, she went to the welcome area with a dusky, rather attractive woman who smiled at them.

 

“Minerva McGonagall to speak to either Dr Greene, Dr Aymler, or Miss Pippa, please?”

 

“Certainly.” The woman picked up a handset and spoke into it. Sirius thought it might be something Lily had described once, wishing for it after a prolonged session on her knees with a Floo call. A telering? Tele-something, anyway.

 

A few minutes later, another woman approached, one with a brisk professional air that made it necessary to look harder for her lovely blue eyes. She shook hands with Minerva, who asked if they might go upstairs.

 

The upstairs, achieved through a discreet locked door, had once been a set of bedrooms for manor guests. They were currently furnished as three simple bedrooms, one with a bit more pink-and-flowers, and a meeting room. The woman waved at them to sit at the table in the meeting room.

 

“Doctor, I would like to introduce Sirius Black. Sirius, this is Emily Greene, one of the doctors who helped essentially raise Harry and teach him to control his accidental magic.”

 

Sirius shook hands. “I must thank you for that, since I managed to land myself in prison and wasn’t able to be a proper godfather to him.”

 

She returned the courtesy. “We’re glad to know you. It will be helpful for Harry to reconnect with a father figure now that he’s in this magic world of yours.”

 

Minerva sat up. “Speaking of worlds, I think Sirius could use a break from ours. There is still so much pain and anger over his situation, not to mention he still needs to recover his health. I wanted to ask what you would think about him staying here, in the rooms you set aside for Harry and the others? He could very easily pay for it, and I thought…” she looked a bit apprehensively at Sirius, “…perhaps a set of ears that hadn’t spent the last ten years hearing about the villainous betrayer of the Potters?”

 

Dr Greene looked him over. “So, a bit of rest and some professional support? Any time frame in mind?”

 

“I thought, perhaps, that if he stayed until December—”

 

“December? That’s two months, Minerva!”

 

She glared at him for the interruption. “When Harry will be able to return here for Christmas?”

 

Sirius paused at that, admiring the practical, elegant beauty of it. The doctor seemed to catch on as well and offered a smile.

 

A smile with some very cute dimples, Sirius noted.

 

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Author’s Note: As always, thank you for reading!

 

Chapter Text

Disclaimer: If you recognize the character, it isn't mine. Just playing in Rowling's sandbox.

Happy Holidays! Here’s your gift from me: finally getting another chapter out. I apologize for the delays that continue to plague me, but work provides the income and must be priority #1. Trust that this story is not abandoned and more chapters will arrive as I manage to get them written. Thank you to everyone who continues to read, fave/follow, recommend and review.

Reminder : I'm on Twitter under "avidbeader" if you are reading this on a guest account and would prefer to get your notifications of a new chapter that way. I promise I won't be spamming. I’m also on Tumblr under the same name; it’s mostly for my own fannish glee but I have begun posting there with the tag “perils of innocence by avidbeader”. 

 

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Chapter 29

 

29 October 1991

 

Harry and Justin were in the library after Potions, wanting to check on something Snape had said in class about mistletoe that sounded odd compared to their knowledge of the plant. Hermione and Dean had left them in favour of the Owlery to respond to a letter from Dean’s parents. The Grangers had convinced the Thomases to look for a new house in Nottingham, along with steering Geoff Thomas to a position with a small transport company that still used the Trent River as a route to Nottingham. Geoff’s years on the docks of the Thames would serve him well there. Dean was grumbling at having to choose whether to support Notts County or Nottingham Forest behind his beloved West Ham.

 

Harry brought a large index of potion ingredients to a table while Justin continued to search the shelves. He had just found a nice long entry on mistletoe when a scornful voice interrupted him.

 

“So, you’re the great Harry Potter.”

 

Harry looked up, his eyes narrowing as he recognized the blond boy from Diagon Alley, whose father had unknowingly warned the group of the consequences if they had tried to stick to being educated in the normal world and study magic on the side. He deliberately raised his voice to alert Justin, as the other boy had reinforcements in the shape of two quite large fellows behind him.

 

“I wouldn’t say ‘great’, but yes I am Harry Potter. Who wants to know?”

 

“My name’s Malfoy. Draco Malfoy. This is Crabbe and Goyle. Our fathers are very well placed in wizarding society. You might want to think about the company you’ve been keeping. Someone from a pureblood family like your father’s shouldn’t be hanging around mu—muggleborn riffraff.”

 

“Oh, you think I should network elsewhere?” Harry bit the inside of his cheek to hold the smile in, enjoying the confusion on Malfoy’s face. He continued, “Be friends with your sort?”

 

Malfoy stiffened, hearing the implied insult.

 

“You know, people that don’t even know we’ve visited the moon?”

 

Malfoy scowled, realizing that Harry must have been part of the large group that day. The two boys behind him looked completely lost. Goyle, the larger of the two, even looked toward a sunny window, as if to verify whether the moon was still there after being visited by muggles.

 

While Malfoy searched for a way to respond, Harry concentrated on sticking the shoes of all three boys in place on the floor. He picked up the index, intending to ask the librarian about checking it out, but Justin rounded the corner.

 

“So, we meet again. Malfoy, wasn’t it? Found some manners yet?”

 

“I don’t have to stand here and take insults from the likes of you!” Malfoy attempted to stalk off, only to fall into Goyle as his shoes refused to budge. Goyle tried to catch him, but as his shoes were also stuck, he fell back as Malfoy’s weight sent him to the floor. Crabbe stared at the two stupidly, then found himself also sprawled as he tried to bend and help them up.

 

Harry and Justin snickered and Harry jeered, “No, you don’t have to stand. You can fall over and take the insults that way. You really should look for coordination, too, while you’re searching for those manners.”

 

Malfoy had managed to pull his feet free from his shoes and clamber to his feet. “Wait until my father hears about this!”

 

Justin shrugged. “And I’ll gladly inform my father what sort of people attend this school. Perhaps Downing Street ought to be informed that the supposed premier magical institution of the nation is allowing just anyone with delusions of grandeur to bully others.”

 

Harry smiled, hearing his friend assume what the others called his ‘nob act’.

 

“I’ll have you know my father is a confidant of the Minister of Magic!”

 

“Can your father or this minister request audience with the queen? I would imagine that as British wizards are still British first, that she’s a wee bit higher on the scale that a minister. But you wouldn’t know anything about that, would you? I’ve been talking to some of the other students, and you magical people are shockingly ignorant of the world you live in. Do you even know where Buckingham Palace is? Would you even know where to begin to seek out an invitation?”

 

“Why would I want to set foot in some muggle palace?”

 

“I didn’t ask you if you wanted to walk into Buckingham Palace. I asked you if you could. Would you have the first clue how to dress, how to behave, how to address Her Majesty if given an audience? I don’t believe you would.” Justin picked up his satchel. “Come on, Harry, we’ve got better things to do with our time than try to educate those who refuse to learn.”

 

Harry picked up his satchel and the book and followed Justin, leaving Malfoy sputtering and his cronies trying to work their feet free of their shoes.

 

*****

 

31 October 1991

 

Hermione ground her teeth as the red-haired boy tried and failed again. Professor Flitwick’s voice could be heard over the voices of students as they attempted the Levitation Charm.

 

“…saying the magic words properly is very important, too…”

 

She ducked as Weasley nearly poked her in the face with his wand. At that point her patience ran out. He had been ignoring the professor’s instructions for the entire class and she was tired of being partnered with him.

 

Putting a hand out, she ordered, “Stop, stop. You’re going to put someone’s eye out like that. You’re saying it wrong. It’s ‘win-GAR-dium le-vi-O-sa’. Make the ‘gar’ good and long and put the stress on the ‘o’ in ‘leviosa’, not the ‘a’.”

 

Weasley all but threw his wand down on the table. “If you’re so bloody smart for someone who didn’t even know about magic until this year, you do it!”

 

Hermione rolled up her sleeves, took a deep breath, and began to focus her energy into the wand as she and the rest of their group had practiced since discovering the trick a fortnight ago. It was still tremendously easier to simply manipulate the magic directly as they had learned at Esperança House, but they were starting to get the hang of the thing.

 

When she had the energy flowing through the wand, she waved it in imitation of Professor Flitwick and spoke very clearly and decisively. “Wingardium Leviosa!

 

As the feather rose into the air, the tiny professor clapped. “Well done, Miss Granger!”

 

She continued poking the air with her wand, but now had the feather floating through her will alone. Harry and Dean gave her a thumbs-up sign and she smiled. Next to her, Weasley slumped in his chair and glared at her.

 

*****

 

After Charms, the students filed out of the classroom and began going their separate ways, some to put their satchels away for the day, others on a quick run to the library. Harry, Dean, and Terry charged ahead, poking good-natured fun at Seamus Finnegan for setting his feather on fire. Sally-Anne was chatting with Padma Patil. Hermione had taken a moment to put her things away neatly in her bag and emerged to see Ronald Weasley talking to Michael Corner.

 

“She’s a nightmare! So high and mighty with her ‘win-GAR-dium levi-O-sa’! She ought to know she’s got no business telling real witches and wizards what to do!”

 

Hermione paused at that. Anger flared at hearing a variation of the prejudices spouted by Malfoy’s father from someone who was supposed to be part of her own house. Her family, according to what Professor McGonagall had said before the Opening Feast. For the first time in ages, that feeling of a balloon swelling in her head surged. It was so quick and fast that she nearly sent Weasley into a nearby suit of armour. Sucking in a breath, she spun and made for the nearest girls’ toilet, hoping to get herself under control before she caused a problem.

 

*****

 

Harry and Dean entered the Great Hall, taking in the giant pumpkins and live bats marking Hallowe’en. They looked around as they headed to their usual seats. Dean addressed Neville as he sat beside him.

 

“Neville, have you seen Hermione?”

 

“Not since Charms. She wasn’t in the common-room, was she?”

 

“She wasn’t in the library that we saw,” Lavender Brown interjected, showing her impressive ability to follow many conversations at once as she was watching Fred Weasley and Angelina Johnson discuss the next Hogsmeade weekend. “But Parvati and I only went to turn in books.”

 

Most of the students had entered and sat down, and food suddenly appeared down the centre of each table as usual. Harry and Dean looked at each other, indecisive about waiting for Hermione, when a familiar turbaned figure raced into the hall. He ran to the front where the other professors were seated and cried out, “Troll! In the dungeon! Thought you ought to know—“

 

As Quirrell dropped to the floor, out cold, pandemonium broke out among the students. Dumbledore produced a series of loud bangs from his wand to try and regain control. A red-haired girl from the Hufflepuff table made her way over to the Gryffindors.

 

“Potter! Thomas! It’s about Granger, she’s in the girls’ toilets. She chased Hannah and me out earlier after Charms.”

 

Harry felt the blood drain from his face. “She won’t know about the troll! We’ve got to find her and warn her!”

 

“I’ll let a prefect know,” Neville volunteered. Harry nodded his thanks and he and Dean slipped into the line of Hufflepuffs following their prefects, away from Gryffindor Tower.

 

 

*****

 

Hermione paced the length of the toilet, trying to channel her anger away from her magic. Her face was wet with tears and she scrubbed at them. She was furious at Weasley for his bigotry, furious at Corner for not arguing with Weasley, and furious with herself for not standing up to them right then and there. But she had been caught by surprise at the swiftness and strength of the upsurge in her magic and had run for the nearest place to try and get control again.

 

She counted the steps from one wall to the other, spun, and counted again. Twenty-four steps across. She remembered the surprised faces of the two Hufflepuff girls, almost shouting at them to leave, and felt ashamed. Then the surprise on the girls’ faces morphed in her mind to the fright on her mother’s the day she had wrecked the kitchen.

 

The cracking of glass made her jump, and Hermione sidestepped away from the broken mirror. She took a few panicked breaths, but only made things worse as the stained-glass window above her shattered and rained down trumpery gems.

 

“Stop it, stop it, STOP IT!

 

She flung herself to the floor, back to the wall. She squeezed her eyes shut and fought to get control. “The owl and the pussycat went to sea, in a beautiful pea-green boat! They brought some honey and plenty of money, wrapped up in a five-pound note…” She could feel the floor beneath her tremble and pressed her hands to her head, trying harder. “The Owl looked up to the stars above, and sang to a small guitar, o lovely Pussy, o Pussy, my love, what a beautiful Pussy you are…”

 

The hoarse breathing registered just before a guttural growl sounded above her and Hermione looked up.

 

A lumpish grey figure towered over her, with a menacing leer on its face. It tilted its head to one side, as if trying to decide whether she was a threat. Hermione tried to slide away from it, under the dubious shelter of a sink, and her movement seemed to decide things. The creature raised an enormous club to smash into her.

 

She flung her arms up instinctively and instantly thought of the experiments with Harry’s protective wall at Esperança House. SHIELD! I need a shield!

 

The club descended, but bounced while still a half-metre from her head. It nearly recoiled into the creature’s face, and that seemed to enrage it. It swung again, harder, and Hermione balled her fists, pouring more energy into the now-visible protective barrier. She was in a bubble of swirling lilac-coloured light and she tried to expand it and give herself more room to move around the beast.

 

The thing was watching her path, striking the shield repeatedly as if sensing that its prey was escaping. It changed its swing from overhand to sideways, trying to knock her back into the corner. In a burst of panic, Hermione moved to meet it and reinforced the shield yet again. A sudden sharp pain in her chest made her gasp and the shield’s light flared and dimmed. The creature’s next blow made the shield dip inward and Hermione tried yet again to bring more energy into herself.

 

This time the pain spread up from her chest into her head and she fell to her knees. The light began flickering and she screamed in pain and despair as the troll wound up for another swing.

 

 

*****

 

Harry and Dean raced down the corridor until they found an intersection. Harry hesitated, glancing from left to right in indecision. He knew the boys’ toilet was to the left, but had no recollection of a girls’ toilet nearby. He pointed to the left. “Dean, you go that way, I’ll go this way. Shout as soon as one of us finds her.”

 

Harry moved swiftly down the right-hand hallway, checking every door. He had just found the third broom closet in a row and was seriously questioning the logic of the castle when he heard a terrified scream. He spotted the door to the girls’ loo and charged through.

 

An enormous, repulsive figure was standing over Hermione, who was surrounded by a light purple bubble. As Harry ran toward them, shouting Dean’s name, the troll brought a large club down on the bubble, shattering it into a splash of tiny shimmering sparks.

 

Hermione collapsed and Harry pushed at the troll with all the raw energy he could channel. It began sliding backwards across the stone floor until it was pressed to the far wall. Harry turned toward Hermione and tried to lift her. Her wand slipped out of a pocket in her robe and clattered to the floor.

 

Dean burst in and Harry looked up to see the troll roar and work one arm loose. “Get the professors!”

 

Dean hesitated for one brief second to argue, then turned and sprinted away. Harry was about to try and drag Hermione out of the toilet when the troll wrenched itself free and raised the club in both hands.

 

Harry dropped to his knees and wrapped his arms around Hermione to shield her and his panicked mind wished to be far away from this place, somewhere safe.

 

His chest, his entire body felt constricted, as if being squeezed through a tiny tube, and the toilet disappeared.

 

 

*****

 

Sirius Black was at the table in the conference room. Dr Greene and Dr Aymler had talked with him about the strategy of writing things down as a way of getting them out of one’s head and in a form where they could be examined and organized. He didn’t see the harm in it and was currently pouring out his hatred of Peter Pettigrew and his betrayal. The fact that he was using a muggle biro and that strange white paper that Lily had sometimes had made the experience a bit of a novelty, enough to keep him concentrating on the act of writing without losing himself in his anger.

 

A sudden boomthat shook the entire room had him on his feet and grabbing for his wand. He could hear the shouts of children in the distance, and the voices of staff rising as they tried to calm everyone.

 

And then, through the open door, he heard a cry and realized he was not alone.

 

Sirius moved across the hall and cautiously looked in his bedroom. He stopped in shock at the sight of the two children on the floor before him.

 

Or better put, the two half-children on the floor.

 

 

*****

 

Harry gasped as the squeezing feeling let up and fell forward on Hermione. He tried to scramble up, but fell again as his knees wouldn’t move. He managed to prop himself up, letting out a soft wail as he registered the pain in his knees.

 

He stayed on all fours, trying to sort out what was happening. His head snapped up when he heard a voice full of astonishment.

 

“Harry?”

 

Harry recognized the man from the pictures in the newspaper that many of the students read. This was Sirius Black, the man who was supposed to have raised him. He strode over and crouched next to them.

 

“Mr. Bl—Mr. Black, it hurts. My legs hurt so much!”

 

“It’s no wonder, Harry. You’ve managed to splinch both yourself and Miss Granger. I presume that this is Miss Granger?”

 

“Hermione, the troll was about to attack her and she fainted…”

 

Sirius raised his wand and concentrated. Harry saw a bright silver light form and streak out of the room. “Help will be here soon. Let me take a look at you two.”

 

Harry watched as he ran his wand over Hermione’s body and for the first time realized that she…wasn’t all there. Her left arm and leg were missing.

 

He tried and failed again to move from his knees and realized that both his legs were gone from the knee down.

 

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Author’s Note: Thank you as always for reading!

 

Chapter Text

Disclaimer: If you recognize the character, it isn't mine. Just playing in Rowling's sandbox.

Isn’t it nice when one has a long holiday break? When one actually has plenty of time for all the things? Thanks to everyone for putting up with my vile and evil cliffie there. As always, trust that this story is not abandoned and more chapters will arrive as I manage to get them written. Thank you to everyone who continues to read, fave/follow, recommend and review.

Reminder : I'm on Twitter under "avidbeader" if you are reading this on a guest account and would prefer to get your notifications of a new chapter that way. I promise I won't be spamming. I’m also on Tumblr under the same name; it’s mostly for my own fannish glee but I have begun posting there with the tag “perils of innocence by avidbeader”. 

 

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31 October 1991

 

Sirius saw the screams coming and quickly silenced the room before Harry could frighten those downstairs even further. He then returned to trying to stabilize the girl. She was not only thoroughly splinched, but had drained her magical stores almost to the breaking point. He cast a temporary link between her and himself to allow her to draw on his magic just to stay alive. As her breathing became less shallow, he turned to Harry and seized his shoulders, shaking him slightly to break off his terrified cries.

 

“You’re going to be okay. We can fix this. I’ve already sent for help. I’m going to numb the pain and then you can tell me what happened.” Sirius cast a pain-blocking charm that Frank Longbottom had shared with him long ago, one that the aurors found very handy. Some colour returned to Harry’s face and he drew a steadying breath. He looked to the girl at his side.

 

“Do Hermione, too!”

 

Sirius was about to explain that while unconscious Hermione would not be feeling any pain, but the pleading look in those green eyes stopped him. He repeated the charm and noticed that the girl’s muscles seemed to relax slightly. The pull on his magic also seemed to slow down. He was about to ask Harry to tell him the story when footsteps sounded down the hallway and Pippa, the red-haired nurse, appeared in the doorway.

 

“Mr. Black, the doctors asked me to come up and check on you. We think there was a really bad accident out on the carriageway—” She stopped and her mouth dropped open at the sight before her. “Harry? Hermione? Oh my god, what happened to you?”

 

Harry held out a hand toward her and she rushed in, crouching down next to him and gathering him in her arms. Harry’s control crumbled and he began to cry, clinging to his first friend as she stroked his hair and murmured in his ear.

 

A series of sharp pops had Pippa pulling Harry protectively closer, but Sirius breathed a sigh of relief at the arrival of Amelia Bones and a pair of wizards, one in Healers’ green and the other in the blue robes that marked him as a member of the Accidental Magic Reversal Squad. The Healer began scanning Hermione with his wand while the other wizard addressed Sirius.

 

“Any idea where the other parts of the children are?”

 

Harry gulped and lifted his head from Pippa’s shoulder. “Hogwarts. The girls’ toilet on the ground floor. There was a troll attacking her and the only thing I could think of was trying to get us away.”

 

The man’s eyebrows rose and he looked at Amelia. “Those wards were supposed to be altered to the modern type decades ago! I remember the discussion during Dippet’s time as headmaster and he promised to make the changes!”

 

Amelia’s expression hardened. “I will see to it personally that Dumbledore corrects that before the week is out. And I think it will be faster if I go and set the beacons on their limbs. Which way do you want to send them, Halley? Isn’t it easier to send them back to the point of origin?”

 

“No!” Harry struggled against his immobile knees and Pippa grabbed him to keep him from falling. “There was a troll in the toilet! It was attacking us! You can’t send us back!”

 

After one wide-eyed glance at Halley, Amelia knelt next to Harry in order to be at eye level with him. “Take a deep breath. Then tell me what happened, slowly.”

 

Harry obeyed and began, “Just after we came in to dinner, we were looking for Hermione. Then Professor Quirrell ran in, shouting about a troll in the dungeon. Dumbledore told the prefects to lead the students back to the dormitories. A couple of Hufflepuff girls came over to tell us that Hermione was in the girls’ toilet, so Dean and I went to find her since she didn’t know about the troll. One of the girls was related to you, I think? Susan Bones? She seems nice.” He looked up at Amelia with a slight smile on his face. His eyes were dilated and he seemed to be looking through her rather than at her.

 

Pippa put a hand to his face. “He’s cold. I think he’s going into shock, but we can’t move him to lay him down.”

 

Amelia had also seen the signs and quietly got the Healer’s attention. “Myrist, have you got a Calming Draught on you?”

 

The Healer paused in his work on Hermione and dug into a deep pocket, passing her a vial. Amelia uncorked it and handed it to Harry. “Here, drink this.”

 

Pippa put out a hand. “Wait, just what is that?”

 

“A potion to alleviate the symptoms. It will steady him emotionally and regulate his heartbeat and breathing.”

 

The nurse’s eyes narrowed, but she helped Harry down the liquid. For good measure, Amelia cast a charm to warm him. After a moment, Harry was breathing more steadily and continued.

 

“Dean and I split up and I found Hermione first. The troll had got in and was trying to hit her with its club, but she had a shield up. It broke the shield but I managed to stick it to the wall. Hermione passed out when the shield broke. I was trying to pull her out, but the troll was getting loose again. Dean came in and I shouted at him to go get help. Then the troll was coming at us again and all I could think of was wishing we were somewhere safe. Then we were here.”

 

“So I’ll be safe enough going into the front entrance, if someone already notified the professors where the troll was. Good lad, Harry. We’ll get it all sorted now.” She stood and looked at Pippa. “If he looks like he might nod off, it’ll be all right. Typical side effect.”

 

Harry blinked and nuzzled into Pippa’s side, watching as the wizard in green continued to wave his wand over Hermione.

 

Halley pulled out a pair of stone discs decorated with intricate carvings. Harry now knew enough about magic to recognize runes. Halley cast a spell to duplicate the discs, then made one pair glow a soft green and the other a sunny gold. With one more wave of his wand, two of the discs split again to make groups of three in each colour. He took one of each and handed the rest to Amelia. “Green for her, gold for him. One on each part, the ehwaz rune against the skin. We’ll begin the rejoining when you return.” He patted Harry on the shoulder. “Good show, lad. You at least got the both of you out of there.”

 

Harry nodded at him, feeling more distanced from everything around him. In a flat voice, he said, “I hope Dean’s all right.”

 

“I’ll check on that while I’m there.” With that, Amelia Apparated away with yet another loud pop.

 

Pippa shook her head. “It’s going to be chaos downstairs.”

 

Sirius came to sit on Harry’s other side. “It should be all right. I silenced the room just after they arrived.”

 

“Silenced it?”

 

“That’s right. No one can hear what’s going on in this room until I lift the spell.”

 

Pippa shook her head and fell into contemplation, stroking Harry’s hair and watching Hermione.

 

*****

 

Minerva would normally be at the front of any charge to the rescue of her lion cubs, but they were mob-handed as Dumbledore led the way to the girls’ toilet. She hung back slightly, keeping Dean to her side as the boy was close to hysterics.

 

They heard the guttural roars of the troll well ahead of them. Rounding the final corner, they saw the beast emerge from the toilet, slamming its club furiously into the walls. Dumbledore halted the group.

 

“Filius, try to disrupt its footing. Aurora, see if you can separate it from its club. Severus, the strongest mental attack you can muster. Everyone else, stunning spells on my command.”

 

Minerva kept Dean to her side but pulled out her wand to add to the support. Trolls were notoriously difficult to subdue.

 

“Now!” At Dumbledore’s shout, the spells began flying. The floor was coated in a sheet of ice, causing the troll to slip. Professor Sinistra Vanished the club, throwing it further off balance as the weight of the club disappeared. A number of red spells connected and the beast crashed down.

 

Dean took off the minute the professors lowered their wands. “Harry! Hermione!”

 

Minerva went after him, afraid of what might be waiting for them in that toilet. Dean charged in and within seconds her fears were confirmed as the boy began screaming. She burst in, steeling herself.

 

She bumped into him and embraced him, trying to hide his view before she absorbed the fact that there was no blood anywhere. Then she realised what she was seeing and understood Dean’s reaction. She knelt and put a hand to either side of his face to make him focus on her, ignoring the others as they crowded in.

 

“Sh, it’s all right, it really is. They’ve only managed to splinch themselves. We’ll find the rest of them and put them back together. I promise you, Dean, they’ll be all right.”

 

She began getting through to him and he stopped trying to get away. He drew deep, ragged breaths and glanced again fearfully at the display of three legs and an arm. “That…that’s normal? That’s something you people really do?”

 

Minerva stifled a laugh at that and pulled him into her arms again. “Not willingly, trust me. I’m told it hurts something terrible when it happens. Have you heard of a magical method of travel called Apparition?”

 

He nodded, trembling as the adrenalin began to leave. “Yeah, that git who showed us where to shop mentioned it. Harry did it accidentally when he was five.”

 

Dumbledore had been listening and made as if to speak, but Minerva glared at him and he retreated.

 

“So Harry must have tried to Apparate himself and Hermione to safety. He might have thought of the common room or your dormitory since no one can Apparate into or out of Hogwarts. We’ll have the prefects begin searching. But because he tried to take her with him, he splinched them. Like I said, it happens regularly when one learns how to do it or when one is careless or in too much of a hurry. We can fix it.” She pulled him close once more and this time he allowed it. “It’s all going to work out.”

 

“Until the next time one of those things gets in.”

 

Minerva pulled back at that and looked into his eyes. “There has not been a case of any dangerous creature getting into the castle for decades. We will take steps to make sure this doesn’t happen again, I assure you.”

 

Whatever response Dean had was lost as Hagrid came in, booming, “Make way! Got Director Bones ‘erself, says she’s here to help fix ‘Arry and ‘Ermione? What’s 'appened?”

 

Dumbledore stepped forward. “Madame Bones? How did you get here so quickly?”

 

She brushed him aside, moving to lift cuffs and find bare skin for the beacons. “The rest of your two students are at a location where Sirius Black is recuperating from his imprisonment in Azkaban. I have a member of the Accidental Magic Reversal Squad ready to re-join them there and a Healer standing by.”

 

“They…they managed to get through the wards?” Dumbledore’s face paled at the implications.

 

“They did get through, but the wards did what they were designed to do and splinched them. It seems that Dippet was advised to change them when the modern type of ward was invented but never did. You and I will be making those changes tomorrow, Headmaster.”

 

He nodded, recovering his composure. A misguided attempt at Apparition was much easier to handle than the possibility that Harry Potter had the strength to force his way through wards powered by Hogwarts herself.

 

Amelia stood and dusted off her hands. “I agreed that they would appear at the other location because Mr Potter was afraid the troll was still here. And the Healer is there and ready to assist the girl.”

 

“What’s wrong with her?” Dean demanded.

 

“I don’t know for sure, but I would guess magical exhaustion. Mr Potter described her as holding a visible shield against the troll – see where her wand fell when she collapsed? Maintaining a shield of any kind, much less one strong enough to be seen, takes a great deal of magical power. Now, I need to get back to the gates so I can return. I’ll let them know I’m on my way—”

 

“Wait, Director!” Dumbledore held out an arm. “Fawkes!”

 

Most of the others in the toilet jumped as a gout of flames appeared, taking the shape of a large golden bird on the headmaster’s arm.

 

“Cor…” Dean breathed.

 

“Fawkes, would you kindly take Director Bones, Professor McGonagall and…” He paused, catching Minerva’s eye. “Mr Thomas?” At her nod, he continued. “Take them to Director Bones’ destination, please. You three, gather around and grasp one of his tail feathers, but gently.”

 

Amelia gave Dumbledore a long, assessing look. “Thank you, Headmaster. I greatly appreciate this.” She raised her wand and concentrated, sending a silvery Patronus message out to Sirius to alert the others of their unconventional arrival.

 

The three of them gathered around. Dean looked admiringly at the Phoenix and dared to stroke its chest before taking the feather. Fawkes trilled and then swept them all up in a torrent of fire.

 

*****

 

Sirius conjured one last comfortable chair in the parlour as Dr Greene carried in a tray of various bottles. Pippa followed with a second tray of glasses. Sirius added a quick table for them and both women hesitated briefly. Pippa gave one of the legs a kick before setting her tray down on the table. Sirius grinned at her and with a flourish cast a Silencing Charm around the room so the others could Apparate in and out easily.

 

Dr Aymler entered and did a quick count. “Twelve chairs? I thought there were only nine of us?”

 

Sirius stowed his wand in a wrist holster and pulled down his sleeves. “You’ll probably want Director Bones here to answer questions and I thought having the Healer and the Magic Reversal Squad member available might be more efficient.”

 

Minerva popped into view with an explosive blast, holding onto the frazzled Grangers. “I’ll be back with the Thomases in a few minutes – they needed more time to arrange a sitter for the children.” She Disapparated again.

 

“Can someone please tell us what is going on?” Viola ran a hand over herself as if checking that she was still in one piece. Sirius covered his mouth with one hand to try and prevent the laughter. He was reasonably certain that Viola would not appreciate the irony of her gesture.

 

Dr Greene led the parents down the hall and across to the wing with the children’s quarters. Opening a door, she let them look in. Both the Grangers smiled at the sight of Harry and Hermione deeply asleep, side by side in a large bed, and Dean dozing on a chaise beside the bed. A man in green robes was running his wand above Hermione and nodding. He looked up and shot a thumbs-up with an encouraging smile.

 

Dr Greene remembered what Sirius had said. “I’ll send Pippa in to relieve you. I imagine we’ll have questions that only you can answer.” He nodded and she led the Grangers back.

 

Minerva had returned with the Thomases, and Dr Greene repeated the trip with them so they could see that Dean was safe. Once all the adults were settled with a soothing beverage in hand, they began eying the faces unfamiliar to them.

 

Minerva took a deep breath and stood. She made a very quick round of introductions and then began. “We gathered you here tonight because of a very serious incident that came close to causing serious harm to your children. I will be visiting the other parents in our group this weekend to bring them up to date as well. I apologize for the need to move you so quickly, but thought discretion and speed were the priority.

 

“Tonight a troll managed to get inside the castle. And yes, I mean a troll. There are different breeds but this one was a twelve-foot mountain troll. They are rather slow and stupid, but incredibly strong. It is difficult to bring them down unless one is part of a team. We don’t know yet how it managed to get inside, but will be investigating thoroughly and strengthening the school’s defences.

 

“One of the teachers informed us just as dinner was beginning. Hermione was not in the hall at the time, but in the girls’ toilet. Harry and Dean went to search for her, sending another student to inform a professor. They found Hermione, trapped by the troll, and Harry sent Dean back while he tried to help Hermione. Harry tried to use a form of magical travel called Apparition, which is how I brought you all here. However, the school has wards against that method of travel for security reasons. The result was what we call splinching, where part of the person is left behind and the other part moves to the destination.”

 

“Oh my god! How much blood did he lose?” Viola nearly dropped her glass and Robert shifted to take it from her.

 

“Actually splinching does not cause blood loss. The wizard is simply stuck in both places, unable to move. The nerves do react to the separation with great pain, however. But as you saw, we are able to reverse such situations and have done so with Harry and Hermione.”

 

“Hermione, too?”

 

“Harry was trying to take her with him to safety. Hermione’s situation was further complicated by the fact that she had exhausted much of her magical power defending herself from the troll. Mr. Black here was able to stabilize her by creating a channel that allowed her to draw on his magic. Healer Myrist, am I correct in stating that he probably saved her life?”

 

The green-robed wizard nodded. “I think that is a fair assumption.”

 

The Grangers immediately turned to Sirius, who held up a hand. “Glad to help. Anything for one of Harry’s friends.”

 

Minerva sipped her drink, a rather nice Scotch from Aymler’s stock. She made a note to ask him for the name of the distiller. “At this point all three children are safe and being allowed to sleep. I will be sending you the full report from Myrist along with my notes to help explain anything that might be unclear. As tomorrow is Friday and the children will not miss more than a few classes, I had thought to let them either remain here or go home for the weekend.”

 

Aymler smiled. “I think we’re growing on you, Professor. That is exactly what I would suggest.”

 

At this point Amelia Bones stood. “I would like to add my assurances that I will be spending tomorrow with the headmaster to change the wards so that Apparition no longer results in splinching. Most of our wards simply prevent it from happening now. I’ll also be looking everything over to help prevent another situation like tonight’s from happening again.”

 

Minerva looked around the room. “Are there any other questions I can answer?”

 

The Grangers and Thomases shook their heads. Andrea Thomas replied, “You’ve answered all the questions I could think of already. Thank you very much for being so forthcoming.”

 

Minerva privately sighed in relief as they broke up into smaller groups, with the Grangers asking more questions of the Healer. As the atmosphere shifted from formal to casual, she sipped some more from her drink. Aymler moved to stand beside her.

 

“That went better than anything we deserved.”

 

He shrugged, stroking his moustache with a thumb and forefinger. “You did the best possible thing in being fully honest. It was a situation not of your making but you reacted in full support of the children. We’ll talk with all three of them this weekend, start helping them deal with the trauma. And it gives Harry a chance to meet Sirius.”

 

Minerva smiled at that. “I’m glad something good is coming out of this mess.”

 

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Author’s Note: Thank you as always for reading!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Disclaimer: If you recognize the character, it isn’t mine. Just playing in Rowling’s sandbox.

 

Not dead, not writers’ blocked, not giving up. Just infernally busy with a job where I was promoted and other interfering things that life brings. As always, I assure you that the story is not abandoned and I thank every single reader who has been waiting patiently and who has taken the time to fave/follow, recommend, and review.

 

Reminder: I’m on Twitter under “avidbeader” if you are reading this as a guest rather than with an account and would like notifications that way. Eventually I’ll get my Tumblr under the same name caught up.

 

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1 November 1991

 

Harry burst into the toilet, skidding to a halt as he took in the repulsive grey giant between him and Hermione. He seemed to be moving in slow motion as it brought its club down to smash Hermione’s protective glowing bubble and raised its arm for the blow that would kill her—

 

“Wake up! Shh, it’s all right, wake up!”

 

Hands took her shoulders, shaking gently. “Come on, it’s all right, it’s just a dream.”

 

Viola Granger shot up and gasped, looking around wildly. Robert was beside her, still holding her.

 

“Vi, wake up!”

 

“I’m awake.” She covered her face with her hands, trembling as she remembered her dream. “I’m awake.” She drew in a ragged breath, trying to slow her racing heart. “Oh, Rob, we almost lost her!”

 

As she sank into his embrace, shuddering, she gasped out, “We have to take her home, put her back in her school—”

 

“No, Vi.”

 

His simple but firm answer stopped her short. “But look what almost happened! That school is too dangerous!”

 

“First of all, in the middle of the night after terrible dreams is no time to make any kind of decision. Second, there’s danger anywhere. It’s just different danger there.”

 

“Rubbish!”

 

“Hungerford.”

 

Viola had opened her mouth to continue, but was brought up short. Robert had family from Hungerford and two of his cousins had witnessed the violence on Hungerford Common when Michael Ryan had gone on his killing spree. She remembered that Ryan had broken into a school to hold off police before killing himself. What if it had been just days later, with term started and the school full of children instead of empty?

 

“Also, if we remove Hermione from Hogwarts, we either have to enrol her in another magical school or submit to having everything we know of magic taken from our minds. We’re back to where we were last year, with a daughter causing inexplicable things around her.”

 

“But she can control it now!”

 

“Yes, she’s got better about it, but who knows what could happen when puberty hits and her body changes radically? Or if she becomes ill with something that sends her into a delirium? And if they remove the knowledge of magic from her, she won’t know that she has something that needs control. And Vi, there’s the biggest reason of all.”

 

“Which is?”

 

“How can we possibly take her away from the two best friends she’s ever had in her life?”

 

Viola wanted to keep arguing, to answer the need to have Hermione home and safe where no monsters would suddenly appear. But she remembered the long, lonely days of summer, of afternoons where Hermione retreated to her room and her books instead of playing with other children. The stark contrast to her interactions with Harry and Dean, with the other children in their group, was quite clear.

 

“But…”

 

“But you’re frightened. So am I. I don’t think the answer is to run away. We learn what the dangers are and we guide Hermione to learn how to deal with them. We don’t take her from where she belongs right now.”

 

Her arguments exhausted for now, Viola allowed her husband to draw her back down on the bed and hold her. But she stayed awake for a long time, considering the possibilities.

 

*****

 

Harry was at loose ends. The three of them had spent nearly two hours in a session with Dr Aymler and Healer Myrist about the troll and the aftermath, working their way through the situation. Now Hermione was off with her parents and Dean had agreed to go home with his parents for one night and see his siblings. It felt like ages until tea. Pippa had brought up some books and games, but nothing there caught Harry’s interest at first. He smiled at the box that held the first game he had ever played with Pippa, remembering the numerous rematches during his first years at Esperança House.

 

A sound in the next room reminded him he wasn’t alone, after all. Sirius Black was also up here, had been staying here to recover his health after his wrongful imprisonment in Azkaban. Black had been his father’s best friend since the two of them met on the Hogwarts Express their first year…

 

Not stopping to think about the sudden impulse, Harry grabbed the game and went through the en suite that connected the two rooms. He knocked on the open door.

 

The man, his dark hair drawn back in a neat ponytail, looked up from a sheaf of parchment papers. “Hello there, Harry. How are you feeling today?”

 

“Good, thanks. Am I interrupting you?”

 

He gathered the parchment and tossed it to one side of the table. “Family finances and such. The goblins would like the Black estate to be active and earning a profit again. It’s just been sitting there since my mother died, with a caretaker who only did just enough so that money wasn’t being lost. You’ll see when you come of age and they expect you to deal with the Potter estate.”

 

“I was wondering if you’d like to play a game, Mr Black.”

 

“That sounds infinitely more interesting than this stuff. You’re on. And call me Sirius.”

 

Harry laid the box on the table. “This one’s one of my favourites.”

 

Sirius looked at the brightly-coloured box. “I’ve never seen that game before in my life.”

 

“I can teach you, it’s not hard. First you pick your colour…”

 

 

*****

 

“…and he had roses coming out of his ears for three days before Moony worked out a counter-curse! That was the last time he tried to give flowers to your mum until the first anniversary of them becoming a couple.”

 

Harry was sprawled on the bed in Sirius’ room, having fallen over with laughter yet again. After playing a best-of-three with the game, Harry had felt comfortable enough to ask a question or two about his parents. Sirius had responded happily, telling Harry several stories that jumped around from the early years at Hogwarts to when they began dating, to their life as parents.

 

They both stayed firmly on the side of happy and funny memories. Harry sensed that talking about his parents’ deaths might be difficult for Sirius, and he had to admit that he might not be ready to hear it.

 

“So has Mr Lupin come by to visit yet?”

 

Sirius’ face fell a little and Harry sat up. “I’m sorry! I shouldn’t’ve asked.”

 

“No, it’s all right. It just reminded me of Moony’s situation. He had to go abroad in order to find work after everything happened. I’ve been in touch and he’s working to save up enough so he can come back, but he won’t take any money from me or let me set up an international portkey. He’s off in Western Canada doing Merlin only knows what.”

 

Harry pursed his lips, thinking. “Would he take money from me if I begged for ‘Unca Moony’ to come?”

 

Sirius chuckled. “Perhaps. It’ll still take a while to contact him.”

 

“Why? Wouldn’t he have a phone?”

 

“A phone?”

 

“Yeah, a telephone. You know, pick it up, dial the number, ring ring?”

 

“Oh, one of those things! Lily mentioned those from time to time, usually after a long Floo call. I suppose it depends on whether Moony is working in the wizarding world or the muggle one. I do know he’s got an account at a Canadian branch of Gringotts, because when I tried to deposit some galleons for him he rejected them immediately.”

 

Harry sat up. “Well, there’s your answer, then. Deliver a message through Gringotts!”

 

Sirius stared at his godson for a moment. “Harry, the goblins…aren’t messengers.”

 

“Have you asked politely? Or offered a fee for their services?”

 

“Um…no?”

 

“So ask. Or I can ask. The goblins seemed to like us when we went there this summer.”

 

“Wait a minute, the goblins liked you?”

 

“Sure. Hermione started it by being super-polite and asking nicely for information since we were all from the non-magical world. They were all business, sure, but really helpful.”

 

“Well, I’ll be cursed…” Sirius trailed off and looked out the window for a moment, considering. “All right, nothing to lose by trying.” He shuffled through the parchments on the table for a blank piece and picked up a quill. “Let’s do it.”

 

*****

 

9 November 1991

 

Hermione huddled close to Harry as the wind picked up. She could think of so many things that would be more enjoyable than sitting outside on a cold and cloudy winter’s day, in stands that were elevated where they would catch the worst of the icy currents.

 

But today was Quidditch. And the school had seemed to talk of nothing else for a week straight other than the match between Gryffindor and Slytherin.

 

Harry absent-mindedly opened his cloak so she could wrap part of it around her. He and Dean continued arguing with Seamus and Ron about whether Quidditch or football was the better sport.

 

“But who’s the better athlete, then? Someone who can run and kick and dribble and head the ball or someone flying around and catching things, eh? We’ve all flown around, it’s only a matter of sitting and steering on a broom!”

 

“Dean’s got a point there. Could you or me run flat out for more’n five minutes?”

 

“Seamus, you’re not helping! The point is flying in a match takes real skills! You’re not just steering in a line, you’ve got to be able to stop, change direction all at once, dive and pull up! Beaters need to be strong as well, in order to knock the Bludgers about.”

 

“The beaters are the ones with the sticks like cricket bats, right?”

 

Ron looked at Seamus, who had turned his attention to winking at Lavender Brown. Finding no more help from that quarter, he asked, “Er, Harry, how can a cricket hold a bat?”

 

Hermione snorted at that, which earned a glare from Ron, and shifted a little closer to Harry as a student’s voice sounded out, booming around the pitch like an announcer on a speaker. On her other side, Parvati Patil scooted a bit closer to her and the bench creaked under them. While Hermione was not nearly as friendly to her housemates as she was to Sally-Anne, Parvati was pleasant enough and a welcome addition to trying to keep warm. Hermione knew she could warm the air around her, but nothing in her first-year spell index listed anything that would do something similar. There were a few spells for conjuring fire, but that would hardly do for a crowd in a set of wooden stands.

 

Harry leaned back to her as a whistle sounded and the teams took off on their brooms, eager to watch the flyers. Harry had been to nearly every practice that Madam Hooch offered on flying—the instructor had even let Harry chase after a spare Snitch one day and told him he ought to try out for Quidditch next year. As he leaned forward, the wood creaked under them again and Hermione thought she felt the bench shift.

 

She wrapped both her arms around Harry’s arm. “I wonder how old these stands are.”

 

“It’s all right, Hermione. Surely they do some kind of maintenance on them, just like real stands in a regular pitch.”

 

She was prevented from replying as one of the Gryffindors, Angelina Johnson, scored a goal. Harry jumped to his feet with most of their housemates, shouting approval as the announcer betrayed his loyalties by cheering just as loudly. She glanced over where the announcer was seated near the professors and recognized Lee Jordan, a boy from their house who was great friends with the Weasley twins. Some of the professors appeared as enthusiastic as she did about being at the match. Snape looked like a raven among peacocks in his black robes with arms crossed and Quirrell with his ridiculous turban appeared to be staring through the action on the pitch rather than at it.

 

Harry sat back down and Hermione definitely heard the wood pop and creak as he did. “Harry, I don’t think these stands are safe!”

 

Ron turned around to glare at her. “They’re perfectly safe, Granger! Just because you’re afraid of heights doesn’t mean you can ruin it for the rest of us!”

 

“Leave her alone, Weasley!” Dean snapped and rose to his feet again, with Harry beside him.

 

Whatever retort Ron might have had was lost as the wood under Harry and Dean’s feet gave way with a crack that echoed loudly enough to distract the players nearby. The wood parted and both boys began to slip through the hole. Hermione seized Harry’s nearest arm, holding on as tightly as she could as his weight pulled her to the floorboards. Neville and Seamus were grabbing for Dean on the other side while Parvati’s screams alerted the others that something was wrong.

 

Her gloves made it difficult to get a firm grasp. Harry was using his free hand to try and get purchase on the broken beam. Hermione vaguely heard a shrill whistle in the distance, but focused solely on not letting him go, even as her arms and shoulders began to flare with pain.

 

“Hermione, they’ve got them. Hermione!” Parvati’s voice jolted her out of her concentration and she realized that the players had come flying under the stands to help. Madam Hooch and one of the Weasley twins were supporting Dean while the keeper, Wood, had got under Harry.

 

Harry nodded to her and Hermione let him go to drop onto the broom in front of Wood. Everyone began sinking gently to the ground and she breathed a sigh of relief. Parvati helped her slide away from the jagged hole and get to her feet. Hermione saw that some of the professors had made it to the ground and were running across the pitch.

 

Yells from below made her heart lurch again and she dropped to her knees just in time to see Harry and Wood thrown from the suddenly jerking broom. As the two boys fell she flung a hand out, thinking SAFE! with all her will.

 

*****

 

Minerva had her wand in her hand but slowed slightly, as Rolanda and two of the Gryffindor Quidditch team had got the boys and were beginning to descend. Her relief was short-lived, as she watched Wood’s broom heave unexpectedly and fling both of her lion cubs off. She cast a desperate Cushioning Charm, even though she was still too far away to aim it properly.

 

Wood’s cry turned into a surprised grunt as both he and Harry seemed to bounce from the ground before they actually touched it. Harry landed on his feet while Wood instinctively rolled as he reached the grass again.

 

Filius had caught up to her and was leaning forward to catch his breath. “Oh, well done, Minerva!” he panted out. “Marvellous distance!”

 

She hesitated briefly, and simply nodded her acknowledgement. “We need Poppy to make sure no one is injured.”

 

*****

 

22 November 1991

 

Patrick and Emily filed out of the conference room with the rest of the audience and slipped out of the stream of humanity headed for lifts and stairs. They paused to tuck programs and notebooks back into the canvas carryalls supplied by the conference hosts. As they waited for the crowd to disperse, they heard a voice call to them.

 

“Chandra!” Emily recognized Dean Thomas’ first doctor and moved forward to greet her. “It’s good to see you again. How are you?”

 

“Fine, fine. Is everything well with you?”

 

“We’re doing very well, thanks.” Patrick stepped forward to shake hands. “What brings you to the conference this year?”

 

Dr Misra waved a hand. “I have family here, so I don’t have to pay for a hotel room. And you?”

 

Patrick shrugged. “Well, we’re only over in Coventry, so it’s easy to drive in to Birmingham each day. No reason not to attend with it that close.”

 

“Would you be free for dinner? My family owns a restaurant not far away. It’s the best korma in town.”

 

“That sounds perfect. Pat?”

 

Patrick was about to agree when a large blond fellow barrelled toward them and seized Dr Misra’s hand. “Doctor, it is good to see you again! Did you ever find any answers with your patient? Did you do the MRI?”

 

Taken aback, she stammered, “I found others who were able to help him. These doctors run a residence clinic for children with various problems and took him in.”

 

The newcomer seized Emily’s hand and began pumping it enthusiastically. “Yes, I remember you were in the audience as well! Tomas Ericsson. It is a pleasure.”

 

Emily blinked as he gave a wide grin. “Well, your memory is frightening. Emily Greene. And this is my colleague Patrick Aymler.”

 

“Greene…Aymler…yes! You run Sprinza House!”

 

“ES-pe-RAN-sa House,” Emily corrected him.

 

“And what was it that brought you to my presentation last year?”

 

Patrick stepped in. “Mainly curiosity. Always good to keep tabs on various subjects outside the mainstream. Never know what will be useful.”

 

Ericsson peered at him, as if trying to decide whether he was being insulted. Before he could respond, a young woman with the same blond hair and Nordic accent rushed up. “Doctor, you wanted to speak to the professors from Kings College. They’re waiting now.”

 

“Ah, good, yes. Thank you, must hurry. Thank you!” Ericsson allowed the assistant to lead him away.

 

Emily and Patrick both relaxed slightly. Dr Misra shook her head and muttered under her breath, “Idiot.” She smiled and turned back to them. “Now, I want to know how Dean is doing. The last I heard his parents had moved up north somewhere because the father landed a terrific job. Is Dean still with you?”

 

They shook their heads and Emily responded with the cover story they had prepared weeks ago. “He recovered very well, has his issues under control now. He was offered a scholarship to a school up in Scotland.”

 

“For art, I would bet. He’s brilliant with a paintbrush. I pushed his mother to try someone experienced in art therapy, but they couldn’t afford the fees.”

 

Emily smiled, happy to let the other doctor fill in blanks for herself. “Yes, indeed. We may see his work hanging in the Tate twenty years from now.”

 

As the two women led the way to the car park, Patrick followed them, trying to shake off a sudden sense of foreboding that had begun with the intrusion by Ericsson. That crackpot with his ESP ideas had nothing to do with their work and was simply looking for new ways to spread his theories.

 

Surely it was nothing.

 

*************************************

 

Author’s Note: Thank you as always for reading!

Chapter Text

 

 

11 December 1991

 

The goblin observed a wizard entering into the bank. While this was a daily occurrence in any Gringotts branch, Beltdirk could smell the difference. This wizard was also a werewolf. And the London branch had put the word out, offering a hefty bonus from the heirs of a pair of prominent families in Wizarding Britain for locating a werewolf here in Western Canada.

 

Beltdirk stepped forward, intercepting the wizard. “How may Gringotts be of assistance to you today?”

 

The wizard looked down at him, slightly puzzled at being approached first. “I need to access my vault and exchange some galleons for dollars.”

 

“That can be arranged. Your name and your vault key?”

 

The wizard handed over a key. “Remus Lupin.”

 

Beltdirk affected surprise, pleased that he had guessed correctly. “Really? We have something for you, then. Please follow me to our director’s office. I will be pleased to bring your dollars to you if you will tell me how much you need.”

 

The wizard blinked, taken aback at a goblin being anything other than barely helpful. “I need one hundred dollars, please.”

 

Beltdirk led him to an office, where a second goblin looked up from a desk as they entered. Beltdirk saluted. “Director Strikeblade, this is Remus Lupin.”

 

Strikeblade opened a drawer and pulled out a bowl and a sharp knife. He tore a scrap of parchment from a scroll on his desk and dropped it into the bowl. “I need to verify your identity. It only requires a drop of blood.”

 

Remus held out his hand with some hesitation, but the goblin was true to his word and only pricked one finger with the tip of the knife before running his finger along the parchment. The resulting red slash glowed, then began streaking out in thin lines, like an insect emerging from a cocoon. The lines quickly formed into words: Remus John Lupin.

 

Strikeblade looked up with a satisfied expression. He scrawled a note on another parchment and handed it to Beltdirk. “Take this to Accounting for your bonus.”

 

Beltdirk grinned eagerly and left. Remus looked back to Strikeblade in confusion.

 

“Mr. Lupin, all Gringotts locations in this area were requested to keep a watch for you so we might deliver a message. Master Harry Potter wishes to pay your way back to England so he might spend Christmas with both his godfather and his honorary uncle for the first time in ten years.”

 

Remus blinked in surprise. “What? I told Sirius I wouldn’t accept any money from him!”

 

Strikeblade nodded. “Yes, we were aware of your instructions in regard to Mr Black. This request comes from Master Potter. We have been asked to obtain a reply.”

 

Remus ground his teeth at the goblin’s pedantic tone. “Very well.  But I don’t think I’ll make it in time for Christmas. I won’t be able to travel between the 20th through the 22nd and international portkeys before then are almost certainly booked.”

 

“Do you have a passport?”

 

Remus raised his eyebrows at that. “Yes. It makes things a little easier.”

 

“Then airline tickets will be arranged well in advance of the 20th. You can leave as soon as you make your own arrangements, as soon as the day after tomorrow. Do you have a preference between flying from Calgary or Edmonton?”

 

“I…ah…sorry. I wasn’t expecting this. May I send an owl tomorrow?”

 

Strikeblade nodded and looked up at some invisible signal. “Enter.”

 

Beltdirk came in with a money pouch and a rolled parchment. He handed both to Remus. “This arrived from our Ottawa branch as I was returning from the vaults.”

 

Remus unrolled the scroll addressed to him and found a note. A few simple lines were scrawled across the parchment:

 

Moony, do NOT blame me! This was all Harry’s idea! But please come home.

 

Remus laughed in joy for the first time in a very long while.

 

*****

 

13 December 1991

 

Emily exited the taxi and glanced around uneasily at the dingy London neighbourhood. Sirius emerged behind her, followed by Pippa. Patrick got out of the front passenger seat after paying the driver, who drove off immediately for better pickings than a side street in Camden Town. They were standing in front of Number 11, a week’s worth of refuse sitting on its front steps.

 

As they had planned, the three non-magicals surrounded Sirius so he could draw his wand. He waved it as discreetly as possible, verifying the existence of the new wards.

 

“Looks like the goblins did a perfect job. All the usual wards for a magical home in a Muggle neighbourhood – repellers and concealers – with extra defence wards and the Fidelius as requested. Since I am the Secret Keeper, I can do this.” He handed the three of them scraps of parchment with identical messages on them.

 

The Town Residence for the Black Family is located at Number 12 Grimmauld Place, London.

 

After reading the note, Emily looked up and blinked. There was now another residence between Number 11 and Number 13, looking in much better repair than its neighbours. Sirius poked his wand toward each of them in turn, muttering an incantation. When Pippa raised one eyebrow at him, he explained.

 

“Just something so you can pass through all the wards. Come on, let’s see how bad the inside is. I only paid the Goblins to clear out any dangerous infestations and correct structural defects.”

 

*****

 

Finally.

 

Draco Malfoy signed his name to the letter and addressed it to his father. It had taken far too many weeks of hovering around students from other houses, trying to hide his interest as he listened in on conversations, dealing with Pansy Parkinson’s annoying presence as she gathered and shared gossip. But he finally had the information his father wanted: Potter was going to spend the winter holiday at the place he had been living before coming to Hogwarts, with plans to visit Granger and Thomas.

 

He had no idea why his father wanted to know this. Lucius Malfoy had gone very quiet since Black had been exonerated from his crimes, not even appearing for charity events like usual. Draco had even asked his mother about it in a personal letter, but received only assurances that his father was very busy with more important things.

 

As he climbed stairs toward the Owlery, he heard voices coming from above. Recognizing the despised plummy tones of Finch-Fletchley, Draco backtracked and hid behind a tapestry. Every time they had crossed paths, the dratted mudblood had been able to talk rings around him. As the steps grew closer, he heard Granger answer him and was doubly glad to avoid them. After a few missteps in the classes using wands, she had risen to the top of every single subject in their year and rumour had it she was putting the second years to shame as well.

 

As they passed him, Granger was chattering excitedly. “And Mr Black has invited all of us to his place in London for the New Year! Do you think you’ll be able to come?”

 

“I don’t know, but I’ll ask Father. That’s great that Harry gets to spend more time with him.”

 

“And Harry said they made contact with the other friend of his dad, Mr Lupin! So he might be there as well!”

 

Their voices faded as they continued down the stairs. Draco frowned. He slipped out and dashed up the stairs to the Owlery, seizing one of the bespelled self-inking quills from the pot and opening the scroll. His father needed this new information.

 

*****

 

14 December 1991

Remus followed the other first-class passengers into the hallway that led to the terminal. He had not yet shaken off the dazed feeling of being in some other dimension, one where a werewolf like him rode on a plane, overwhelmed by top-notch customer service. He stepped through the doorway and was surprised yet again to see someone holding a sign that clearly bore his name: R.J. Lupin.

 

Remus moved forward, looking from the sign to the man holding it. He waved uncertainly at the sign. “Er, I’m Remus Lupin.”

 

The man smiled, teeth peeking from behind an impressive walrus-like mustache. “A pleasure to meet you. I’m Patrick Aymler. Sirius should be back any minute – he wanted to read the display with arrival times again—”

 

“MOONY!” The bellow made them both jump and then Sirius was on Remus, his arms wrapped around the other man in a bear hug.

 

Remus returned the hug, laughing, and pushed back to get a look at his friend. His eyebrows quirked up at seeing Sirius remarkably turned out in jeans and jumper, topped by an overcoat. There wasn’t a single wrong note to mark him as a wizard in disguise. Then he took in the pale tone of his skin and the prominence of his jawline and cheekbones. Remus pulled him close again.

 

“Merlin, I am so sorry.”

 

“What do you have to be sorry about? We kept you out of the plan because we suspected you. No one would have believed you if you had known.” Sirius pulled back and looked him in the eye. “It was a cock-up and it sucked, but it’s over and we have a kid to get to know again.”

 

Remus blinked. This was not the Sirius he knew from a decade ago. “That is…remarkably mature of you.”

 

Sirius grinned and clapped Aymler on the shoulder, drawing him into the circle. “I’ve had some very good listeners the last few months. You should try them. Now, let’s get your things and get out of here. There’s a lot to catch up on.”

 

*****

 

15 December 1991

 

“Excuse me, Albus, but I don’t think I heard you correctly.”

 

“No, my dear, you heard very clearly.”

 

“The minister has no right to demand that Harry stay in Hogwarts for the holidays!”

 

“He claims it’s for Harry’s own safety.”

 

“And he hasn’t been safe the last six years at Esperança House?”

 

“My dear, I know. I am only sharing what the minister said because you are Harry’s head of house.”

 

“Have you contacted Sirius yet?”

 

“I have sent an owl. I am awaiting a reply.”

 

Minerva grumbled, thinking of the speed of those telephone things that the Esperança House doctors and parents used.

 

The doctors… So far Patrick and Emily had been extremely clever in figuring out ways to work in the children’s best interests no matter what the magical world demanded. She fished for a little more information so she could give them all the ammunition possible. “It isn’t like Fudge to interfere like this without being pushed. Who put him up to it?”

 

Dumbledore offered a cynical smile. “Who else? Malfoy expressed concerns, based on a run-in he had with the group back in August. I believe the issues involved the only scion of House Potter, a most important wizard in our society, continuing to associate so closely with muggleborn riffraff.”

 

“And if Harry gets on the train anyway…”

 

“Then my understanding is that Fudge will have his people meet the train in London and take Harry somewhere deemed safe for the holidays.”

 

Minerva snorted. “Like hell he will. Sirius was awarded custody in the magical world in October.”

 

“I know, but questions of Sirius’ mental state after so many years of exposure to dementors persist, especially as he has been keeping a low profile somewhere. And there were also concerns expressed about the presence of Remus Lupin, a werewolf.”

 

She let out an exasperated bark. “Harry won’t even be arriving at Grimmauld Place until well after the full moon! This is ludicrous, Albus!”

 

“I agree, but I am not sure how we can avoid it. If Sirius is up to the task of stepping in—”

 

“Oh!” Minerva threw up her hands. “Albus, your insistence on treating incompetent people like they’re competent and evildoers like they’re misguided is infuriating! I will handle this and Harry will go home for the holidays!”

 

She spun on her heel and left, slamming the door behind her.

 

*****

 

Emily was taking advantage of the empty upstairs rooms to organize the holiday gifts for the current residents and the staff. She was using Hermione’s room to store and organize and the makeshift conference room for wrapping. She was almost to the point where she could bring Pippa in to help.

 

She had filled a box with enough tissue to cushion the snowglobe she had chosen for Pippa and lifted it to set it inside. A loud pop made her jump and lose her hold. Emily cried out as the glass globe crashed onto the hardwood floor and shattered.

 

“Oh, I am so sorry! Here!” Professor McGonagall whipped out her wand and pointed it at the drenched wreckage. “Reparo!”

 

Emily couldn’t hold in the gasp as the pieces flew back together on the floor, the water regathering and the glitter swirling inside.

 

“Is that right?”

 

Emily nodded, staring at the recovered snowglobe and remembering the Grangers’ description so long ago of a destroyed kitchen fixing itself. She shook her head, bringing herself back to the present, and replied. “Yes, that’s perfect. Thank you so much!”

 

“Well, it’s only fair since I’m the one who caused you to drop it.”

 

Emily put the snowglobe in its box and closed the lid. The professor held up her wand again. “May I?”

 

She nodded, puzzled. McGonagall pointed at the box with her wand and waved it in a zigzag motion. She intoned, “Involvere.” Pristine white wrapping paper appeared from nowhere, crawling up the box and surrounding it, followed by a sky-blue ribbon with a glittery snowflake design. Emily stared at the beautifully wrapped package.

 

“That’s…thank you. I’m tempted to ask you to stick around. I hate wrapping gifts.”

 

McGonagall smiled at that, but her expression faded. “Ordinarily, I would be happy to. But I came because I need your help.”

 

Emily paid fast attention. “Are the kids all right?”

 

“Yes, it’s nothing like that. But some of those problem pureblood families have decided to poke their noses where they’re not wanted. They’ve convinced the minister to demand that Harry stay at Hogwarts for the holidays. For his ‘own safety’, although they’re really trying to find a way to become an influence in his life.”

 

“I don’t understand. We still have legal custody.”

 

“In this world, yes. And Sirius has custody in the magical world.”

 

“So why do they think they can dictate Harry’s movements?”

 

McGonagall held out her hands in a helpless gesture. “Because no one’s ever told them they can’t? At the time I objected to Albus dumping Harry with those awful Dursleys, but he was right in one regard. It was better for Harry to grow up away from the magical world, away from all these people trying to use him.”

 

“So, how do we fight this?”

 

“That’s why I came to you. I was hoping you all would have some ideas.”

Emily thought for a moment. “Have you gotten in touch with Sirius yet?”

 

“No, Albus sent an owl but he hadn’t got a response before I left.”

 

Emily chewed her lip, recalling a discussion with the other doctors on getting pagers and whether mobile or car phones would be worth their expensive prices. Right now it would be very helpful to be able to find Patrick immediately instead of waiting for him to return from his Christmas shopping. “So, what’s their plan?”

 

The professor filled her in and Emily thought. “So we have two ways to approach this. One way is to send Harry back to London on the train and have Sirius and some of us be there to intercept whoever the minister sends to collect him. That has the advantage of making it clear that we won’t tolerate others trying to interfere with Harry’s life but also turns it into an incident that might cause retaliation. The other way is to have Harry stay behind and Sirius can just pick him up from Hogwarts that afternoon. That could keep the whole issue under the radar for a while if the minister or whoever doesn’t bother to check up on him.”

 

McGonagall frowned. “I rather feel that we need to make a stand. If the minister thinks he’s won this time, he’ll simply try again at Easter. And then possibly the summer holidays as well.”

 

“Yes, I see that. But we can’t expect Sirius to take on a whole squad of security officers or whatever. He just got out of prison.”

 

“I can think of at least two others who could help him. Amelia Bones and Augusta Longbottom will be picking up their children from the train as well. If we forewarn them, we have more wands at the ready to make our point.”

 

Emily nodded slowly, considering the implications of having a leader in their parliament and their Lord Chief Justice equivalent standing next to them. “That might work. Let me see what Pat thinks and we can decide by tomorrow? Sirius said something about coming over, so we can tell him and have him tell you.”

 

“Or I can send Nyctimine to wait on your reply.”

 

“Who?”

 

“My owl. She can stay here for the night and take your note whenever you are ready.”

 

“Oh… Sure. That’s a good idea. Although I wish we could just pick up a phone and call you in an emergency.”

 

McGonagall shook her head. “Such a thing would be ruined the minute it entered Hogsmeade or the castle grounds. But I’ve wished for the same thing several times since Harry and the others arrived.”

 

“Is there really no other way to communicate?”

 

“Some people speak through the floo network, but that requires a working fireplace that is connected. It’s a potential breach of security if the proper wards aren’t in place. The next best thing is a specific charm that can deliver a message with the caster’s voice, but it is one-way and is also a very difficult piece of magic.”

 

Emily pursed her lips. “All this magic stuff and there’s no way to communicate effectively. We need to figure out something better.”

 

McGonagall nodded and got a thoughtful look on her face, as if an idea had just occurred to her.

 

*****

 

20 December 1991

 

As the train slowed, everyone stood and began pulling down bags. Dean and Justin helped Neville get his trunk down.

 

“We’ll get you a suitcase for Christmas, Neville. That way you won’t have to bring a whacking great trunk home every hols,” Wayne said. He cuffed Neville on the shoulder as the other boy blushed.

 

“I’m not sure what my gran would say…”

 

Hermione gave him a one-armed hug as she picked up her holdall in the other hand. “I would think she’d see the convenience of it, honestly.”

 

“Oi, Trevor!” Terry scooped up the toad as he tried to hop out the door and handed him to Neville.

 

“The boys can get your suitcase. Hermione and I are going to a pet shop and getting you a carrier for Trevor,” Sally-Anne declared.

 

Hermione beamed. “That’s a brilliant idea! We can give them to you at New Year’s!”

 

Neville turned bright pink. “You…you don’t have to…”

 

Harry laid a hand on his shoulder. “No, but we want to. That’s what friends are for. Now, come on.”

 

As they had arranged after Professor McGonagall had talked with them about the minister’s plans, the other children surrounded Harry after they got off the train so that no one would be able to simply walk up and grab his arm. Harry added his baseball cap to hide his scar and part of his face. They all scanned for a trusted adult and Dean was the first to spot his parents. “There!” He waved and his mother waved back. The two groups moved toward one another and the children continued to scan the crowds.

 

Harry was the one to spot Clott and hissed to the others. “On our six! The Clod!” Terry shifted so he was between them.

 

“Pippa!” Hermione cried, and Harry’s eyes snapped in her direction. His first friend was there, with Sirius Black next to her. They started to converge, and then another Hogwarts student shifted into their group.

 

“Oi!” Dean cried, itching to shove back as she had run her trolley over his foot.

 

“Sorry! Auntie told me to find you lot and stick with you!”

 

Neville looked her over, tightening his grip on Trevor as the toad made a break for it. “Bones? Why?”

 

“She’s going to help if Fudge’s people try something. Keep moving!”

 

Harry peeked toward where he had seen Clott and they made eye contact. Harry bit back a curse and hooked his arm with Hermione’s. “He saw us.”

 

But then Dean’s parents and Sirius arrived at the same time. Sirius lifted two fingers to his mouth and let out an ear-splitting whistle. As the people around them jumped, Sirius bellowed, “Found them! Heading to the exit!” He slid in and put a hand to Harry’s shoulder. “Pippa’s gone to collect the doctors and as many parents as she can find. We’ll be out of here in a few minutes.”

 

“Black,” a voice drawled near them and Sirius glanced over.

 

“Malfoy,” he replied in the same tone, adding an eye-roll for good measure.

 

Harry looked up to see the same man from Diagon Alley, with long hair the same shade as his son. Two men in brown auror robes were behind him. The man was toying with a cane and as Harry watched, the silver snake-head lifted up slightly from the body of it.

 

Harry wanted to laugh. This pretentious blighter had his wand made like a sword-cane. He focused on the cane, making the head stick to the wood, while the men began verbally sparring.

 

“I’m not sure why you’re here, Black. Surely you received word that young Harry is staying in a secure location for the holidays.”

 

“And as his legal guardian, I thanked the minister for his concern and declined. Surely you received word of that as well.”

 

The press of people grew and Harry glanced around, relieved to see the doctors, the Grangers, and the Finch-Fletchleys. Another woman stepped forward, one eyebrow raised over a monocle, and Harry recognized Amelia Bones.

 

“Malfoy, I am aware that you were told of Mr Black’s decision. There is also the claim of Mr Potter’s muggle guardians to be considered. Please go collect your own child, and only your own child.”

 

Malfoy glanced around. The aurors retreated at the sight of their immediate superior. Clott was trying to work through the crowd but was still too far away.

 

And then Augusta Longbottom was there as well, reaching in for her grandson. “Ah, there you are, Neville! Shall we get a trolley?”

 

Neville glanced at Harry, a bright look in his eyes that hadn’t been there before. “No, gran, thank you. My friends are helping me.”

 

Dean and Wayne straightened and Dean spoke. “That’s right, ma’am. We’ve got it. Let’s go.”

 

Outnumbered, Malfoy glared as the group moved toward the exit.

 

As they began exiting through the portal, Sirius pulled Harry closer. “Oh, I wish Remus could have been here! That was perfect!”

 

Harry grinned and threw an arm around the man’s waist. “This is going to be the best Christmas ever!”