Harry & Hermione
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muggledad - The End and the Beginning
Chapter 3 - Chapter 3
Crookshanks was curled up in Hermione's lap as she cuddled into Harry's side. It had been a quiet night for the couple as they hung out in the common room with the Quidditch team. Hermione was becoming quite friendly with 'the Girls'. Angelina loved Runes while Alicia and Katie were budding Arithmancers. She was glad to see that brawn didn't always exclude brain for the Chaser line.
It was late, so their friends had drifted off to various activities; homework, prank planning for the Twins, and more Quidditch prep for Oliver. This left Harry and Hermione comfortably alone. Surreptitiously, Harry had opened the Marauders' Map to activate it.
"Looky here. Someone's being a bad puppy," Harry whispered with an amused tone.
Hermione looked at the map and followed Harry's finger to the footprints labelled 'Padfoot'. He was down by the lake and stationary.
"Should we?" he asked.
"Bring him some food and warm clothes?" she replied.
He closed his eyes in gratitude for her cooperation, "Thanks love. Give me a minute to grab my cloak and we'll head to the kitchens."
A teasing smile graced her face as she needled, "Are you a wizard or what?" Drawing her wand from a recently purchased wrist holster, she gave a slight flick. First her cloak zoomed down the steps from the girls' dormitory, followed shortly by Harry's from the boys' dorm.
Hanging his head, he asked, "I'm never going to live that down, am I?"
Smiling, she kissed his cheek, "Nope."
Wrapping her cloak across her shoulders, he gave her a playful nudge, "Come on, let's get to the kitchens."
Ten minutes later they had a basket of food on top of which was two thick wool blankets. "We'll get his measurements to owl order him some outdoor type clothes." Hermione seemed just as excited to see Sirius as Harry was. He smiled at her eagerness, grateful for her positive attitude.
They poured out the front gate of the castle and were nearly running toward the lake, when Hermione abruptly called, "Harry, wait."
Confused, he turned to her expectantly. "We shouldn't do this," she groaned.
A flash of anger crossed his face before he reined it in. "What do you mean?"
Moving to a massive tree stump, she sat with a dispirited sigh. "We have no explanation for how we know Sirius, much less knowing that he's innocent. Based on all your 'before' knowledge, you should hate him, not be bringing him food and clothing. He'd know something was up if we find him tonight and we're all happy to see him and such."
Harry visibly deflated, "Fong." Moving to her side, he sat on the other half of the stump.
The Smartest Witch of the Age frowned slightly, but ploughed on. "We can get this stuff to Moony. He, in turn, can get it to Sirius. After that, we have an excuse as Remus will have 'told us the truth' and we can approach Padfoot with our cover intact."
Nodding in agreement, Harry sighed before he wrapped his arm around her shoulders. Slowly, they stood to make their way to the castle.
The Grim in the shadows watched them for a long moment, before settling down to wait for his surviving best friend to come out of the castle. He had quite a few questions for Moony.
"He's on the grounds?" Remus asked with an odd mixture of excitement and trepidation.
Harry pulled the map out of his pocket and after a moment's hesitation, handed it to Remus. "Would you like to do the honours?"
A sad smile crossed Moony's face as he drew his wand, tapped the Map and whispered, "I solemnly swear I am up to no good."
For some peculiar reason, it was a moment of great import for all in the room. Moony was activating The Map to find Padfoot. The ghosts of Hogwarts past swirled about them. Quickly scanning the Map, Remus nodded to himself, "He's outside the main doors under that little stand of hemlock trees."
Shrinking the food and blankets, he stuffed them in his pocket. "Head back to the Tower, I don't know how long I'll be. If I don't fetch you before curfew, we'll catch up after breakfast."
Harry nodded as he helped Hermione to her feet. "We need to find a safe hideout for him," Hermione mused aloud.
"Not Black Manor," Harry declared.
"He went there?" Remus asked in a shocked voice.
"Yep. Dumbledore insisted. Said the wards were the best he could find. Being there damn near drove Padfoot completely round the twist, too. He'll not go back there." Harry's face was drawn as he spoke, but his jaw set in an expression all too familiar to Hermione. He wasn't changing his mind on this one.
As the threesome moved down the empty hall, Remus muttered, "What about Rowan Hill?"
Not understanding the reference, Harry asked, "What's a Rowan Hill?"
Now Remus was confused, "You've never been to the Potter ancestral home?"
"We'll figure this out tomorrow, too. For now, know that it's your family's home on the coast of Cardigan Bay in Wales. The head of the family has always lived there going back to the time of the court of Camelot."
At the next intersection, the Potters headed off to Gryffindor Tower while Remus headed to the entrance hall and from there, the Lawn of Hogwarts.
"Do you think it'll be ok?" Hermione asked. When Harry gave her a questioning look, she continued, "With Padfoot and Moony?"
Harry gave a cynical snort. "I'm sure Padfoot will kick the fong out of Moony for not believing in his innocence before giving him the biggest hug Moony's ever received."
A faint smile crossed her face, "I do believe you're right."
The next morning at breakfast, Harry and Hermione were first in the Great Hall. Remus hadn't come to them by midnight, so they hurried to the Great Hall, hoping he'd come early.
Books spread in front of them they made a convincing show of reading ahead for their courses. No one caught on to the fact that the four books spread were magical copies of Minerva's animagus transformation book.
"Love, did you get this part on page one seventy three?" Harry asked in a distracted undertone.
Flipping back a few pages, Hermione asked in turn, "The part about instincts and possible conflicts?"
"Well, the way I understand it is…" she broke off as Remus Lupin limped into the hall.
A small smirk crossed Harry's face as he mentally paid himself five pounds for the bet he'd made with himself the previous night. Padfoot had laid a wallop on Moony that lasted until morning.
The grim expression on Remus' face drove off all humour though. Without preamble, he asked them, "Are you two done?"
When they nodded, he motioned to them, "Let's go, we've quite a bit to discuss." He spun on his heel, making his way out of the Great Hall at a quick clip.
Scrambling to pack their satchels, Harry and Hermione eventually made their way to the Defence Professor's office. While Harry froze the portraits in the room, Remus cast a Privacy ward that surprised Hermione. It not only prevented magical or mundane eavesdropping, but also stunned a person who came within fifteen feet of the ward line.
"Sirius knows," Remus declared with a solemn expression.
"Oh, shit," Harry groaned. Dropping into a chair, he briskly ran his hands through his hair.
A bit more demurely, Hermione sat next to her husband, "To be clear, what exactly does Sirius know?"
"He knows that you've time travelled in some way. He knows that you're playing a part here. He knows that you know he's innocent. He knows that I'm under an Unbreakable Vow not to reveal your secrets."
"Well." Hermione began before trailing off weakly. "Well, I guess that changes things." She looked to Harry and shrugged. It seemed that all their plans were being torn to ribbons.
"I also saw something on the Map," Remus growled.
"Fuck!" Harry griped. "Did you kill him?"
"Not yet. I'm going to get him right now, though."
"Look," Harry placated "Let me go get Peter. It will be a lot less conspicuous for me to go to the third year boys' dormitory than you. I'll bring him back here and we can talk."
"But what about…?" Hermione asked.
"If we decide to let him go, we'll Memory charm him to hell and back." Harry stood to leave. Remembering, he said to Hermione, "Could you fetch Minerva?" To Remus he asked, "And could you go fetch our wayward stray? I think a council of war is needed now. I'm completely at sea with this."
The threesome dispersed on their assigned errands, worry stamped on each face.
Minerva McGonagall had just made one of the more difficult decisions of her life. She had decided to break with Albus Dumbledore and his leadership. 'Blindly following' would be too strong a characterization for her behaviour over the last forty or so years.
"But bloody close," she muttered to herself.
Always considering herself an independent woman, Minerva was heartily ashamed of her lapdog like following of the Headmaster. Her father had been a farmer and a Highlander to boot. Life had never been easy on their small farm fifty miles northwest of Inverness. From sunup to sundown, Ian Fraser had worked the land. Magic had helped, but the fields weren't very fruitful, so every harvest had been hard won. He had taught his daughters through words and deeds to be independent. 'Always form your own opinions; never allow another to tell you how to think,' had been his message.
A twofold assignment, Minerva and her sister Venus had the responsibility for tending the family's small herd of Angora goats. Milking twice a day, shearing in the spring followed by washing and spinning the wool. It taught them responsibility and it also taught them to be aware of their charges. Ian and Jenny Fraser never checked on the goats. They were for the girls to mind. Lessons like that had formed and built the foundation of the woman she became.
She didn't find out until her father died, but he had saved every galleon he could to put toward his daughters' education. He was not an erudite man, but he loved his family in his stoic way.
To say that she had loved her father fell far short of her true emotion. Respected, venerated and even revered at times, Ian Fraser was as close to a deity as Minerva allowed in her life. Ian had died far too young.
It was a freak accident. He was mending a fence line on a clear sunny day when a bolt of lightning killed him. Jamie McGonagall had been her rock during her grief. They'd always been playmates and later classmates when they started Hogwarts together. She fell in love with him as he showed the side of himself that cradled, protected and loved her when she was unable to care for herself. Binding her so tightly to him with his love, care and support, it completely devastated Minerva when the Death Eaters had called on their home late one evening. A Decapitation curse made Minerva a widow at the age of twenty three.
She was catatonic for nearly a month. The house elves fed her as if she were a new born. Solly and Maeve cleaned up their mistress' mess, kept the house and did the shopping.
When Albus Dumbledore called, he had to use magic to bring her 'round. She didn't respond to any stimuli until Albus leveraged his immense magical strength to cast the strongest Cheering charm many had ever seen. He wasn't a truly bad man; Minerva liked to believe that he really did care for her well being. Common sense told her that there are very few people on the planet who are truly evil. Despite his actions, she didn't believe him to be one of those few. Voldemort on the other hand…
Nevertheless, Albus lifted her up to allow her to stand once more. He gave her an outlet for her grief and activity for her mind. Truly, he had saved her life. She was under no illusions regarding how long she would have lasted otherwise. Wasting away or suicide was just around the corner for her.
"It's most likely possible, that Albus had taken Father's place," she murmured to herself, late the night before. "And I transferred a child's unblinking devotion from her father to a father-like person. Father had his flaws – a quick temper being the most glaring – but he was a beacon for me in my childhood." Her head bowed, she admitted, "Yes, I put Albus in the same place. I made him my beacon when I shouldn't have."
The most shameful aspect of the situation for her was that she had done it of her own free will. This was not her father nor yet the love of her life. He was her supervisor. No more, and no less.
Oh, there were extenuating circumstances, she was well aware of that ugly fact. Her father had died unexpectedly. Her husband had been savagely murdered. In the end, though, she had blindly followed a man to the near ruin of many lives. If Harry and Hermione's experience of what was to come occurred, it would be to the ruin of millions of lives. She never seriously challenged or questioned him. She never exerted herself when her gut screamed that she was in the right.
That night in Surrey, her instincts were roaring to take the Potter boy far from the disgusting people in the home at 4 Privet Drive.
Yet, she did not. She followed the soothing, honeyed words of Albus Dumbledore.
Benjy Fenwick. Edgar Bones. James Potter. Lily Potter. Gideon Prewitt. Fabian Prewitt. The list went on ad infinitum.
And so she wept.
She wept for herself and her lost father from so many years before. She wept for baby Harry who'd lost his parents. She wept for the Harry of today who'd lost everyone because of the poor leadership and guidance of an old man. She wept for Albus, because he would never admit nor see his flaws.
It was a long night for Minerva; she never expected the turmoil of the next day. If she had, she'd most likely have taken a few days off to visit relatives. Or maybe not.
A rapid knocking on the portrait door warden interrupted her morning. Somewhat groggy from her long night, she yelled, "Open!"
Hermione Granger –or was it Potter?- fell through the doorway. Bouncing to her feet, she snapped, "Come to Remus' quarters, we've a problem."
Harry dashed through the hall, the breeze whipping his hair this way and that. Finally, I get to do something! Harry was very much an 'action' person. Despite Severus Snape's taunting, Harry was no moron. His IQ was a mere seven points below Hermione's. However, where her talent primarily lay in the ability to exercise abstract thought to a finite conclusion, his strength lay in the ability to fuse many variables to a course of action in the blink of an eye.
Their original plan to let the timeline proceed had been a viable one. They would use their foreknowledge to their advantage in order to 'cherry pick' events which they wanted to prevent or alter. Logically, it was sound and Harry conceded it to himself and Hermione. At the same time he hated it. He chafed at the restriction. The past two nights he'd almost killed Wormtail so many times he'd lost count. His instincts screamed at him to act. One the one hand he wanted to rend and maim his family's betrayer. On the other, he wanted to secret The Rat away in order to demonstrate Sirius' innocence.
At a cost to his own temper and sleep, he'd held back from giving in to his desires. Now that things were going to hell, he was going to secure The Rat. If Peter was 'jostled' a bit on the way back to Remus' quarters, well, he didn't think any of his family would care too much. Sirius might be pissed that he didn't get a shot, though.
The thought of Sirius almost caused a giggle of happy anticipation to bubble up his throat. Sirius was alive. Remus and Minerva, too. Should we bring Filius in on the secret? he wondered as he thundered up the steps to the boys' dormitory.
Pushing the thought to the side, he slowly opened the door. He'd already Silenced his feet, so he approached Ron's bed without making a sound.
Settling himself, he wordlessly performed the Summoning charm. With the rustle of sheets and curtains, a large grey rat flew out of Ron's bed. Hastily casting the Stunning charm, he knocked out Wormtail in mid flight.
Easily catching the quiescent Rat in his left hand, Harry let out a shaky breath. His usual trick was to summon a Death Eater and while the Slave of Voldemort was off balance, hit him with a Vanishing spell. The brain was the usual target of the spell. Harry liked it because it was a very effective and bloodless way to put a Death Eater down. Most people didn't know how to counter it, either. Out of pure habit, he almost cast that at Wormtail. Luckily, The Boy-Who-Lived remembered at the last minute to focus on Stunning The Rat and not gleefully removing his brain from his fuzzy little skull.
He stuffed The Rat into his pocket while turning to hustle back to Remus' quarters. Puffing a bit I need to start running again, this body's not in shape, he stopped suddenly. Neville was in the doorway, a dressing gown about him, his hair wet and a confused expression on his face.
"Harry, what are you on about with Ron's rat?" the Longbottom scion asked in a low tone.
FUCK! Harry raged internally. "Look Neville, it's a very long story that I don't have time to tell right now. Just know that things aren't as they seem."
Neville evaluated Harry with a long, contemplative expression. Finally, he nodded, "Alright then, I'll hold you to explaining this later." Silently, he moved to his wardrobe to pull out his clothes for the day.
Nodding at his friend, for Neville was most definitely his friend, Harry hurried out of the dorm as if the devil himself were on his heels.
Harry scooted through the door that led to Remus' quarters. Turning, he bolted down the passageway that led to the large receiving room that each professor had attached to their quarters.
Feeling the lumpy weight of Wormtail in his pocket, Harry pushed thoughts of the betrayer aside. Hopefully, Sirius was in the room five feet in front of him. He was excited, but not nearly as excited as he had been when he first arrived in the past. This wasn't his Hermione, but it was close.
Opening the door, his mind registered that Minerva and Hermione were already present and seated. He somehow recognized that Remus had stood, but his consciousness was completely consumed by the ragged wizard sitting in a wingback chair by the fire.
A ragged smile broke upon his face which was matched by a Padfoot special – a devious grin with the hint of charm. Slowly, Sirius rose to approach his godson. Throwing caution to the wind, Harry ran to Sirius, embracing him a hug. They were quiet, just holding each other, reassuring each other that they were really there. That they were all alive.
"It's good to see you Padfoot."
"It's good to see you, too, Pronglet."
They both surreptitiously sniffled back tears (which fooled no one) before taking their seats.
"Hermione gave us the gist of everything while you were gone," Sirius rasped.
Harry nodded, "Good. I've got him here," he patted his bulging pocket. Reacting to Remus and Sirius' rabid expressions, he held his palm up, "If I can keep from killing him, so too can you."
Remus' expression fell before he nodded. Sirius looked away while nodding and grumbling under his breath.
"So, where do we go from here?" Remus asked.
"Well," Hermione began, "We're afraid of changing the timeline too much. If we turn Peter in, we lose a chance at Voldemort when he's weakest."
Minerva, Remus and Sirius were still. Finally, Remus asked, "Do you know where he is now?"
"Somewhere in the forests of Albania."
"Hmmm," Remus hummed as he leaned back in his chair while scratching his chin.
"So, why don't you want to change the timeline too much?" Sirius asked in his disused voice. "The way I understand it, Voldemort wins if we stay on this path."
Hermione wagged her head in a 'so-so' motion. "True, but our plan is to hit him when he's most vulnerable. In the graveyard in early summer the year after next."
Sirius' brow crinkled while Minerva pursed her lips. Remus took a deep breath before taking the plunge, "I understand what you're saying, but wouldn't we be better served taking the offensive than playing a defensive strategy? Dumbledore's always advocated and pursued defence over offense and we'll lose the war following Dumbledore's lead, correct?"
"True…" Hermione admitted.
Harry was becoming more and more agitated as the three 'adults' questioned the wait and see plan they'd been pursuing. Fear rose up in him like a snake. It coiled about his heart, constricting and squeezing. His breathing was little more than shallow pants as he escalated into a full scale panic attack.
Before Hermione could go on, Harry bolted to his feet like a scalded cat. Sharp breaths rushed in and out of his nose sounding like a miniature freight train.
Alarmed, Hermione tentatively reached out to her husband, "Harry…?"
He shook his head in jerky motions while he continued to pace. The others had gone quiet as the youngest of the group walked back and forth like a pendulum. Finally Sirius croaked, "Pronglet, sit down. We need to discuss this…"
He was cut off by a sharp jabbing motion of Harry's hand. The Boy-Who-Lived turned on his godfather, a terrified expression on his face, tears pooling in his eyes. "Don't you get it?" he nearly shouted. "You all DIED!"
Wheeling on Sirius, he spat, "You! You were fucking around with Bellatrix and she killed you with a fucking Banishing charm! All because you weren't paying attention and not taking her seriously! Goddam you Sirius!"
Wheeling on Remus he cried, "Macnair cut you into pieces Remus! He hacked you up like a cow and fed you to Greyback's pack! Only after they raped Tonks to death in front of you, of course! Who knows what happened to little Teddy!"
Turning to Minerva with despair etched across his features, he told her, "You didn't look both ways before crossing the street. Something taught to toddlers; so a lorry with bad brakes killed you."
Finishing his circuit, he turned to Hermione. Mouth opening and closing like a landed fish, he couldn't speak. Dropping to his knees he sobbed, "You died. You left me."
The tears came in earnest now. Sobs wracked his frame as the grief of so many years and so many deaths enveloped and consumed him.
All of them were frozen in place with Harry's outburst. Hermione regained her composure first before flying to her husband's side.
"I'm here, Harry. I'm here, baby, I'm here…" she cooed to him as she rocked her man in her arms. Harry blubbered and cried, the tsunami of feelings wouldn't be restrained.
Wiping his face with shaking hands, Remus moved to speak, but Harry beat him to it.
"I can't lose you all again," Harry whispered. "I can't."
In the end, they tabled the discussion. Remus brewed a very powerful Sleeping potion which he forced down Peter's throat with a dropper. Minerva did the duty for confinement by conjuring a steel box with no seams, Peter trapped within.
Remus headed for Hogsmeade to purchase some healing and restorative potions for Sirius. And a replacement rat for Ron. Harry had shoved a bag full of gold in Moony's hand and waved off his nascent protests. "Go," he'd commanded.
Minerva 'tsked' before giving Sirius a quick haircut and charming off his scraggly beard. As Sirius rubbed his now smooth chin, Harry joked, "Padfoot, you'd best use Moony's shower."
With an exaggerated sniff at his armpit, Sirius drawled, "I'm fine."
"Shower. Now." Minerva commanded in her best teacher's voice.
Smiling with real affection, he bowed at the neck before replying, "Yes, Professor McGonagall."
Her face softened as she gave him a playful shove, "Scamp. Go, you stink."
When Sirius had disappeared into the bathroom, Minerva slowly turned to Harry before she asked, "Are you well, now?"
His face still a bit blotchy, Harry gave a one shouldered shrug. "I'll be Ok." Minerva stared hard at him. His eyes mirrored Sirius' for a quick moment; empty and hollow.
Hermione wrapped her arm around him before giving Minerva a reassuring nod. She'd take care of her man.
"Is it only lunch?" Harry asked.
Hermione gave a cynical snort, "Feels like it should be supper or even breakfast for tomorrow. I'm beat."
Under his breath, Harry told her, "Neville saw me take Scabbers. He wants an explanation."
Face crumpling with frustration, Hermione groaned, "This is the last thing we need now."
"That was my thought." He glanced at her sidelong, "Memory charm?"
She flinched at the thought. "I don't like it."
He sighed, "Neither do I." Taking a bite of his sandwich, he pondered. "Do we tell him? Do we ask him to trust us?"
His thinking aloud was derailed when Hermione joined in, "Maybe we give him a part of the truth. Tell him about Moony and the Marauders. Remus pulled us aside after the last Defence lesson to tell you that he knew your dad, was best friends with him, in fact. We stopped by his quarters today to listen to him reminisce. We'll say that we recognized The Rat from Moony's stories about your dad so…"
He leaned in, planting a very thorough kiss on his wife. "I knew there was a reason I married you," he added playfully.
"Admit it, I'm smart," she teased.
"You're the best, babe." His tone was playful, but the emotion behind the statement was serious. The haunted look from earlier still lingered in his eyes.
Recognizing his sentiment, she gave him a sad smile while squeezing his hand. "I love you," she told him in an undertone.
"And I you. With all my heart."
It had been a long day. They checked back on Sirius in Moony's quarters, only to find him dead asleep while seven different healing potions worked on him.
"He'll be out for a few days. Picking up pneumonia was the least of his worries. Staph infections, two broken fingers, a stress fracture in his leg and to top it off, he has the Flu." Shaking his head, Remus told them, "We can all catch up more in a few days. He'll be fine here."
"What about Dumbledore?" Hermione asked.
His eyes narrowing, Remus replied, "Minerva is taking care of that. She's responsible for guests who visit the professors, so she's back dating the visitor log and snowing Dumbledore."
"Snowing Dumbledore?" Harry commented. "Is that possible?"
"Sure, she can. Apparently, she slips her pet projects past him on Wednesday nights. That's when he deals with Wizengamot or ICW paperwork. What's today?"
"Wednesday," Harry answered with a smile.
"Excellent!" Remus replied with a mischievous smile. "Five points to Gryffindor, Mr Potter!"
Finally, they made it back to the tower after a boring Charms class. Sitting side by side in the window seat gave them a sliver of privacy amidst the hustle and bustle of the common room.
"Harry, Hermione, can we talk?"
The Potters turned to see Neville fidgeting behind them. "Hey mate," Harry called. Waving him to a seat next to them, Harry turned his body to face their friend. Discreetly, Hermione drew her wand to cast a Privacy ward.
Visibly nervous, Neville fidgeted as he sat. "Neville, about earlier," Harry began. "Professor Lupin was best friends with my dad and mum when they were in students here. That's why he asked us to stay behind after class the other day. He wanted to introduce himself on a more personal basis."
Hermione chimed in, "We stopped by after breakfast this morning and he was telling stories. Apparently they were all animagi in school. One of their friends was Peter Pettigrew."
Neville frowned, "I've heard that name."
"Yeah, he was supposed to be a hero for cornering Sirius Black, but Black killed him." Harry's eyes narrowed in genuine malice, "Pettigrew was a rat animagus."
Neville's eyes widened as his mind made the connection. "Scabbers…?"
Harry nodded, "Yeah. We took him to Professor Lupin who recognized him immediately. He did a spell which forced him back to his human shape. Sure enough, Peter Pettigrew."
"Wow," Neville breathed.
"Yeah. Hey, Nev, you can't tell anyone. This is a really big deal legally and all. We already got a rat to replace Pettigrew, Ron shouldn't know the difference." Harry had a decidedly earnest expression on his face.
"Sure, sure. No problem, I won't say anything." His chubby face screwed up in determination, "You can count on me, Harry."
His heart falling into his feet, Harry forced a smile on his face, "Thanks Nev. Thanks a lot."
"I am such a dick."
Hermione snuggled closer into Harry's side. They were snuggled in his bed, Sticking charms holding the curtains closed, Imperturbable charm keeping all sound in; they had a private bubble for themselves.
Sleeping apart had lasted a grand total of three nights. Sure, they both missed the sex, but the closeness, the physical intimacy of sharing a bed is something that all married couples can attest to missing. Even for only one night.
Their socially acceptable reasons for sleeping together didn't preclude them taking advantage of the situation. They relaxed in their post-coital afterglow, dozing in each other's arms.
"You're not a dick," Hermione countered.
"I am. I took advantage of Neville's trust in me to spin a yarn and lie to him."
"Really. What did you tell him that was a lie? That Scabbers was Peter Pettigrew's animagus form? That Remus was a childhood friend of your parents?"
"Come on, love. You and I both know that I lied to him."
Rubbing her hand on his hairless chest, she gave him a soft kiss. "I love you. You're a good man. We'll talk tomorrow about what we should do about Neville and Luna, Ok?"
He nodded sleepily, "Ok. Love you."
"I love you, too," she told him sadly. Harry drifted off to sleep quickly, but Hermione didn't fall off until after midnight. She had much to think about.
"Once more into the breech…" Hermione told Harry as she opened the door to the Potions classroom.
Harry and she'd talked some with Remus about the best way to deal with Snape. As he'd borne the brunt of Severus Snape attacks for years, they thought he'd be a good person to ask advice. They knew Sirius' advice would be 'prank him until he shits himself'.
Part of Remus' advice was centred on pranking. "I knew that I'd either pranked him quite viciously or was about to do the same. It helped me keep my tongue."
A less savoury reason also came up. "When Lily and I became friends in fourth year, she told me a bit about Severus. He had an extremely unhappy home life growing up. I don't know for sure, but I believe his father beat him."
Harry paled at the thought, his opinion of Severus Snape changed forever.
Shrugging at the uncomfortable thought, Remus finished, "I felt sorry for him to tell the truth. I'm sure he'd be infuriated if he knew that. His ego is quite massive."
"As big as my dad's?" Harry queried in a mock-innocent voice.
Barking a genuine laugh, Remus replied, "Not even close, Harry. I believe James had the world record until he deflated his head during sixth year."
All this information fermented, bubbled and eventually calmed Harry. It didn't mean that Snape was any less of a prick, though.
Harry had a plan, though and it involved The Twins and a gallon of axel grease. Maybe two gallons.
Surprisingly, Snape was semi-human during the lesson. Of course he got a few verbal jabs in on Harry and Neville, his favourite targets. Remus was right, the combination of Snape's tragic childhood coupled with a pretty severe prank in the future allowed Harry to maintain a semblance of equilibrium.
On the way out of the classroom, Hermione wrapped her arm around Harry's waist, slowing him down from the herd as it thundered out of the dungeons. When they were walking alone, she leaned in and asked, "What?"
Sort of confused, but not really, he replied, "What, what?"
She narrowed her eyes in mock annoyance, "You know."
He couldn't keep up the pretence any longer as he began to chuckle. "I've a plan!"
Pinning her to the wall and thoroughly kissing her, he broke off a minute or so later before he announced in mock triumph "Yes, a plan!"
Completely distracted, she grabbed his hand to drag him back to the tower and his bed, "Great, you've a plan, let's go."
Arriving at lunch a little mussed but thoroughly happy, Harry and Hermione sat across from Neville. "Hey mate!" Harry greeted.
Neville smiled back, a little shyly. He seemed to be breaking out of his shell faster than he ever did fifth year. He still lapsed back into his shy ways on occasion, but on the whole, his personality was expanding at an incredible rate.
Harry was grabbing for the platters for their lunch so he didn't see her wander up to the table. Hermione smiled as Luna plopped down next to Neville, across from Harry. "Hello, Luna," Hermione greeted.
"Good afternoon, Hermione. You seem quite happy."
Accepting the platter of roast beef from Harry, she replied, with the hint of a blush, "Yes, I am quite happy."
With a knowing smile, Luna turned to Neville, "Hello, Neville."
Blushing for an entirely different reason, Neville replied, "Erm, hello. I don't believe I've had the pleasure."
Neville frowned, "Of Ottery St. Catchpole?"
Luna nodded around her spoonful of soup.
Nodding in understanding, Neville formally introduced himself, "I'm Neville Longbottom of the Longbottoms from Green Hills."
"How do you do?" Luna replied with the ritual response.
"Well, and yourself?"
"Quite well, thank you."
Harry rolled his eyes as the etiquette dance played out across the table. Reaching for the milk, he poured for himself and Hermione.
Hermione smiled as she waited for their friends to finish introducing themselves. Mad Eye hadn't known if Neville and Luna were in a relationship when they'd been killed, but they had been together. Who knew, she may be seeing the beginning of a lifelong romance in front of her over French Onion soup and roast beef.
Finally, Neville turned to Harry to ask, "So how'd you keep your temper today? Snape wasn't as bad as he usually is, but he was still pretty stiff. After last lesson, I expected you to hex him."
With a devious grin, Harry answered, "It's a secret, but you'll see."
As if on cue, The Twins bounced in the Great Hall, grins wide and eyes bright. "You rang, o Son of Prongs?" George intoned. Fred waved the letter Harry had sent via Hedwig earlier in the day.
A quick wave of Holly and Phoenix feather incinerated the parchment. Kissing the crown of Hermione's head, he stood, "Lads, we're off to meet Moony." When their eyes widened in anticipation, he added in an undertone, "And to plan a prank of unprecedented proportions."
Hermione sat in the library savouring the entire atmosphere. She had been looking forward to this; sitting alone in her corner of the library, a small stack of books to work through. Spending all her time alongside Harry had hardly been drudgery. If anything, there was a tug on her soul when they separated, even for short periods.
At the same time, it was good for both of them to be by themselves. They were two very independent persons who needed their own pursuits. I'll just have to shag his brains out later. Smugly smiling at the thought, she dug into an advanced Transfiguration text.
Thoroughly engrossed in the proofs behind Gamp's law, she didn't hear him sneak up behind her. She didn't realize that anyone stood over her shoulder until Malfoy stole her wand from the table. Shooting to her feet, she wheeled about and punched the Ferret in the throat. As the bigoted chump fell, she instinctively grabbed her wand from his limp hand.
Watching Draco Malfoy wheeze while lying on the floor of the library, Hermione had the war inside her resolve itself. On one side, she had just violently reacted to an attack, which could have resulted in her injury or death. On the other hand, all the blonde boy had done was to take her wand. He could have only planned to taunt her or other such childish antics.
Could have planned to do, but what would he truly have done?
Right then the doubt and confusion she'd been working through since she'd arrived in the past fell away. She'd been of two minds regarding dealing with the worst of the offenders to come. Oh, some were easy. When they got the chance, Lucius Malfoy, Walden Macnair, Alecto and Amacus Carrow were all going to die. So too would many other of the older generation of Death Eaters.
But what should they do about the new generation? What about Draco Malfoy, Vincent Crabbe, Gregory Goyle, Adrian Pucey, Theodore Nott and so on? Even Severus Snape was a bit of a quandary for her. They hadn't done anything yet that warranted execution.
In that seminal moment in the Hogwarts Library, she began to see clearly. Draco Malfoy hadn't yet done anything worthy of his death, but he would. The person that he was, the path that he was on would inevitably lead him to visit death and destruction upon his fellows. There was very little doubt about his path. Should she spare his life on the slim possibility that he may turn out to be decent human being? Should she allow him to kill, maim, torture or rape an innocent to assuage her conscience?
Others such as Blaise Zabini, Robert Higgs and even Pansy Parkinson were in a different category. During the war, they'd followed the Dark Lord, taken his mark and helped lead the uprising and eventual subjugation of Europe. They'd also held back from the worst of the atrocities. In fact, Hermione knew that Zabini had been an administrator for public health under Emperor Voldemort.
However, like the Nazis of the thirties and forties, the administrators were guilty of aiding and abetting the atrocities perpetuated by others.
What to do about them? The bureaucrats and others of their type? They were hardly innocent, but had they committed capital crimes?
That problem wasn't so easily solved, but Draco Malfoy's fate was sealed on a late September day in the Hogwarts Library. He would die, and soon.
"You are the most foolish cretin it has ever been my misfortune to meet," she told the prone and gasping Malfoy scion. Her expression cold and her tone colder, she elaborated, "You are doomed, you know that don't you?"
"My father…" he croaked in his habitual response.
Rolling her eyes, she stomped on his face, breaking his nose and rendering him unconscious.
Thoroughly annoyed, Hermione stunned the Ferret. A quick Disillusionment charm followed by a series of Cleansing charms on the floor removed the traces of blood. Glancing around, she saw no one, so she incanted, "Obliviate," while rotating her wand in the requisite pattern. Draco Malfoy had just lost the previous half hour of his life. After a moment of indecision, she sighed, pointed her wand and incanted, "Episky," repairing the blonde boy's nose.
Shoving him underneath the table, Hermione checked her books out from Madam Pince. She found that she actually had missed the shrewish librarian. Like a touchstone, Madam Pince was a signpost of a happier age of Hermione's life.
Returning to her table, Hermione packed her books and supplies. Surreptitiously levitating the son of Lucius Malfoy, she headed out of the library to find an empty classroom far from where they'd had their encounter.
The Twins and Harry were chuckling as they left Remus' suite. He'd cleared it with the Marauder before bringing Fred and George to visit. So long as they were discreet, he had no problem chatting.
Fred and George were euphoric, in awe and excited about meeting a real life Marauder, as well as, discussing pranks and pranking methodology. Remus had told them of James' brainchild: The No Method Prank.
It was well known at Hogwarts in the seventies that the Marauders were pranksters. It was also a source of endless detentions for the four friends. In fourth year, James had realized their problem. He and Remus had been Transfiguration and Runes prodigies, respectively. Their pranks had played to those strengths.
Minerva McGonagall was no idiot, though. Even though most of The Marauders' pranks had been relatively harmless (unless it involved Severus Snape), she tired of being berated at the weekly staff meeting by Horace Slughorn over her charges admitted persecution of the unlikable Slytherin. Therefore, when she saw the pattern in the boys' pranks, she took action. For the first half of the fall term, the boys had detention nearly every night. It had been a sign of Minerva's soft heart that she'd allowed the foursome to do homework for half the time so they didn't fall too far behind.
Inspired by being constantly caught, James realized they needed to branch out. Potions, goops, pastes, static charms and transfigurations and so on needed to be incorporated into The Marauders' repertoire.
There was a twofold effect. The detentions ceased for the most part, as the professors lacked a modus operandi or evidence to pin various pranks on the boys. Also, their grades rose across the board.
George and Fred relied mostly on Potions related pranks. Remus encouraged them to consider Runes and Charms as sources. In fact, Harry and the Twins were going to use Runes and a little known fact about the Hogwarts Apparition wards.
They bumped into Hermione on the way back to the Tower. Her hair was still a bit dishevelled and she was slightly out of breath.
"Hey, Hermione," Harry called. He didn't want to be too affectionate in front of the Twins. They were supposed to be newly dating thirteen and fourteen year olds after all. "How was the library?"
Not meeting his eyes, she shrugged before replying, "It was Ok."
Frowning, Harry stopped, Fred and George along with him. Knowing her far too well to let her upset pass, he pressed, "What happened?"
"It was nothing. Malfoy was being a prick, that's all."
The smiles fell from the male faces. "What happened?" Harry asked again.
Sighing in exasperation, she summed up, "He took my wand while I was reading. Before he said anything, I punched him in the throat and broke his nose." She met his gaze meaningfully, "I took care of everything."
Understanding her meaning, he nodded, but the tension didn't leave him or Fred and George. In fact, the redheaded twins became more serious, "What else?" George asked, his voice ominous and serious.
Touched, Hermione told them, "Guys, I took care of it. A quick Memory charm and a half-assed Bone Knitting charm and the Ferret won't even remember it." She smirked, "And his nose won't ever be straight again."
Fred and George exchanged a look before reluctantly nodding. "We'll leave it alone for now. If he does something else, though, pranking is going to be the least of his worries."
A small smile crossed Hermione's lips, "Thanks guys."
Solemnly nodding, George replied, "No worries. We'll see you two lovebirds later." With a last evaluating look, Fred nodded and turned away with his brother.
"Give me your wand."
Harry was very suspicious now. Silently handing over the holly wand, he eyed his wife/girlfriend/best friend with a calculating eye. "It was that bad?"
"You have to promise not to go after Malfoy."
"Fong. It was that bad."
She merely nodded in reply.
Sighing, he muttered, "Fine. I won't go after the Ferret."
Snuggling under his arm on the loveseat in the Room of Requirement, Hermione related to Harry what had happened in the library. More importantly, she related to him her revelation regarding the future Death Eaters.
"Moony's not going to like it," was Harry's first impression. "Neither will Minerva." He laughed to himself, "Sirius will say, 'No fucking shit'."
Hermione laughed. That's exactly what Sirius would say. Stilling, she hesitantly asked, "What do you say?"
His expression hardened. Eyes narrowed, he told her, "No fonging shit, babe. No fonging shit."
They sat there in silence, digesting their resolution. Eventually, she pointed out, "I don't want to go hunting if Minerva and Remus feel strongly about it."
Eventually, he nodded, "I agree, though, our little family…we need them. For more than just Voldemort, I mean."
Pursing his lips, Harry pulled Hermione closer as he thought further about it. The witch in his arms continued, "We're not alone anymore. This isn't the last gasp against the Emperor; this is our surgical strike to avert The Second Blood War and the later reign of Voldemort."
Nodding absently, Harry muttered, "Wizarding Britain can go fuck itself as far as I'm concerned. I just want to live my life with you without that moron Voldemort breathing down our necks."
Not bothering to reprove him, she nodded in agreement. She was positive that Minerva and Remus wouldn't like that attitude, not one bit.
Dinner was quiet. They sat with Neville, but Luna was nowhere to be found. Remus and Minerva sat at there places at the Head Table. For the first time since they'd returned to the past, Albus Dumbledore joined the student body for dinner.
Not wanting to take any chances at the sharp old man noticing anything amiss, they didn't look to the front table, nor engage in any conversation. Fifteen minutes after dinner started, Harry and Hermione finished their meal. Leaving the Great Hall both let out a loud breath, the tension leaving their shoulders at the same time.
Harry cocked an eyebrow at Hermione as if to say, "That went well."
She rolled her eyes as if to say, "You're an idiot."
He laughed as he grabbed her hand. Swinging their arms between them, they smiled at each other as they made their way toward the main staircase and from their back to the Tower.
"Disgusting Potter. A mudblood. Well, since your mother was one, I guess your standards are pretty low. How do you stand the stench?"
Just like two days before, Harry froze. When Ron insulted Hermione, Harry knew deep inside that Ron was attacking from bitterness and feelings of rejection. Malfoy, on the other hand, was a little prick.
Slowly Harry turned to see Malfoy and the Bookends. As usual, Draco was surrounded by his thugs while he bore a shit eating grin.
A strong wind began to whip up the passageway and Harry's eyes began to glow a bright blue. Sparks shot from his fingers as he clenched his fists repeatedly.
The smug smile fell from Malfoy's face and was replaced by an expression of fear. The wind began to shriek and the Slytherins bent almost double to remain standing.
Silently, Harry raised a finger to Malfoy, pointing at him; promising retribution and punishment if the Malfoy scion continued his insults.
Sneering, Harry glanced at the bookends who took their cue. Scooping up an arm each, they ran away from Harry and Hermione, heading toward the safety of the dungeons.
When they were alone in the hallway again, the wind faded to nothing and Harry's eyes returned to their normal green. Then he collapsed.
Hermione caught him on the way down, shrieking his name. Eventually, she regained her wits and for the second time that day, levitated an unconscious person through the halls of Hogwarts. This time, they were headed to Remus' quarters.
"Magical Exhaustion," the grey haired Scot diagnosed. Turning to Hermione, Minerva asked, "Are you sure you don't want to take him to Poppy?"
Absently, Hermione shook her head. "Too many questions that'll come to Dumbledore's attention. We can't get his eye on us. He's too smart, too crafty and too relentless."
Once again, Remus was off to Hogsmeade's apothecary. This time, Minerva and Hermione sat down with him and the threesome knocked up a list of potions and remedies they'd probably need in the near future.
Sirius was still out like a light on a conjured bed in Remus' bedchamber. Next to him was Harry. "It looks like an infirmary in here," Minerva muttered.
Hermione ignored her, continuing her study of Harry. Finally, her eyes flicked over to the Transfiguration Professor. Seeing Minerva's focus on harry as well, Hermione asked, "Why, do you think?"
"The magical exhaustion?"
Rubbing her chin, Minerva sat back on her chair. "I'm not sure. His magical core's reading is all over the place. Mostly, though, it's huge." Her eyes narrowed before indicating toward the couch. Hermione lay down as bid, a puzzled expression on her face.
"Lay still, child. This'll just take a moment."
After various diagnostic spells and repetitions of the same, Minerva sat back, indicating that Hermione could sit up.
"Well?" Hermione asked.
"Your magical core is the same. I have no idea what is going on. Poppy would know…"
"But we're not going to see her," Hermione finished.
Minerva visibly bit her lip, withholding the comment that was aching to burst out. She was not used to one of her Lions telling her which way was up. Treating Harry and Hermione as peers had actually come effortlessly, once they'd shared memories in her pensieve. She believed they even looked different to her.
Hermione ignoring and countermanding her desires was very different for Minerva. Swallowing her pride, she also swallowed the biting remark that had wiggled its way up her throat.
"In short, I don't know what is going on with you or Harry. We can only wait until Remus returns, ply our boy with potions and wait until he wakes."
Nodding, Hermione sat on Remus' couch and did what she did best. Her eyes darted from Harry to Sirius and back before she said, "Hunh."
An eyebrow cocked was Minerva's only sacrifice to her curiosity. Turning to her teacher and mother-figure, Hermione commented, "This episode in the hallway was the first time Harry did high-power magic since we came back." She shook her head as she remembered, "I felt the magic roiling off him in waves. It was almost nauseating, plus he created a gale force wind. The raw magic was leaking out of his fingers and eyes. It was impressive, terrifying and …" Sexy as hell, she wanted to finish, but left that part out.
Remus returned around nine o'clock, so they dosed Harry as best they could while he was sleeping. Hermione stayed on Remus' couch, watching her man through the night.
She and Remus talked most of the night. The soft night time chatter as they got to know each other again. He was so painfully shy and withdrawn. Most likely due to his affliction.
Hermione was not known for being outgoing and vulnerable in her relationships. Mainly it was domineering and bossy. Except with those she loved. It had been with Harry first. She'd slowly let down the defence mechanisms which were her walls that shut out the ugliness of the world, which protected her from harm. Eventually, she and he were able to just be together. There was no pretence, no guile of any kind. That was when she knew that she loved Harry. He was the one for her, the only person with whom she'd ever been completely at ease. The only man with whom who she trusted the whole of her self.
Remus was a good man. She knew that then and she knew that now. She trusted him with a small amount, so they talked fairly freely. He was as reserved about personal matters as she; his Lycanthropy had burned reticence into his psyche. Around one in the morning, the question she'd been expecting was finally asked.
"Hermione, who was Teddy?"
"Are you sure you want to know?" There was a long pause as Moony seriously considered the question. Finally, he nodded.
"He was your son."
Remus was quiet for a full ten minutes. The shock on his face shone stark in the light of the waning moon. His mouth worked a few times before he gave it up as a bad job. Sitting back, he tried to absorb the idea that he not only married a woman, but they had a child together.
Feeling for the man, she rose from Harry's bedside to sit next to Remus. Taking his hand, she told him, "Your fate isn't written. If you want to pursue a relationship with Tonks, I think you should. She's a great person and I'm sure you two will be great together. Minerva thought you were a wonderful couple."
He was breathing rapidly, almost panicking.
Poking him hard in the ribs, she got his attention. "Look, you aren't a monster." He snorted in disagreement.
Pinching the underside of his arm, she refocused him on her words. "As I was saying. You're not a monster. You become something quite horrid for three days a month, but that doesn't make you a monster. Harry jokes that I become a monster for five days a month."
Remus smiled as he rolled his eyes.
Continuing, glad that her attempt at humour worked, she laid out the truth as she saw it, "If she can love you for who you are, not what you are, then why should you deny each other the opportunity for true love? Because of insecurity? Fear?"
He had no answer to her poignant questions. Like Hermione, he needed to mull over the issue for a while. She'd listen and be there for him when he wanted to talk. It's what friends did for each other.
Wrapping her arm about his shoulder, she squeezed. Remus was a good man. She was glad to have him back in her life.
Harry and Sirius woke up the next day. Grateful that they only had Herbology, Hermione dragged him to the Great Hall for a hasty lunch. He wasn't really cognizant of their surroundings, though.
At one point he turned to her and asked, "Hermione, why are we back at Hogwarts?"
Neville looked at Harry strangely while Hermione replied, "Because it's third year." He blinked at that.
She sighed in mock exasperation. "Harry, you really need to get to bed earlier, you're all fuddled today."
He was quiet for the rest of lunch and through Herbology. They partnered with Neville and Hermione was impressed with the boy's range of knowledge regarding plants and their magical properties.
"Neville, you are so good at this," she waved to indicate the greenhouse and its contents.
He blushed and shrugged, clearly uncomfortable with the praise. Waving, he made his way off to the castle, bustling up the path. Hermione thoughtfully watched him go.
"Hey," Harry interrupted her musings.
"Oh, feeling better now?" she teased.
"I guess. I wanted to check on the visitor."
She nodded. Interlocking their arms she leaned into him as they slowly made their way to the teachers' quarters.
"Hey, Sirius. How're you doing?"
"Hanging in there. A lot better, actually. How're you? Remus told me you had an issue. Something about magical exhaustion?"
"Yeah, we're not sure what's going on. Hermione's core is the same; fluctuating in power, growing, shrinking. The only consistent thing is that it's steadily expanding over time. We think it's something to do with the time travel."
"I've been thinking about that," Remus chimed in to the conversation. "Many magical cultures consider our magical core to be sourced in the soul. Different philosophers have different opinions, but another consistent thread is that our soul is unique to ourselves, so too is our consciousness. Therefore, the consciousness and magical core are both sourced in the soul. If that's true, when your consciousness time travelled, maybe your soul was the vehicle for that travel."
"And it brought our magic with us," Hermione breathed.
The foursome was quiet. The implications of the concept were staggering.
"The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches…" Harry recited.
Nodding absently, Hermione replied, "Maybe, love. Maybe."
Looking to Harry from Hermione and back, Sirius irritably asked, "For those of us incarcerated for the last twelve years, what the hell are you on about?"
"You don't know about the prophecy?" Harry asked, surprised.
Rolling his eyes, Sirius replied with a knocking on Harry's head. "Obviously, Pronglet. Give."
Harry explained about Dumbledore hearing the prophecy from Trelawney which in turn forced the Potters and Longbottoms into hiding. "Hermione and I figure that's why he came for us that Halloween night."
Hollowly, Sirius countered, "He'd have come for James and Lily anyway. He wanted them badly. Since he couldn't have the Black's gold," Padfoot smiled sardonically, "He wanted the Potter's gold on top of the Malfoy's gold. Evil Dark Lords can't have enough gold in their pockets."
"He wanted them anyway," Remus remembered. "Lily was a phenomenal brewer and a budding Charms mistress. James was better than McGonagall at Transfiguration. I wouldn't have doubted he could have bested Dumbledore."
Wide eyed, Harry asked, "Really?"
"Really," replied Minerva from the doorway. "I'm not too proud to say that the student had far outstripped the teacher when it came to James Potter. He was, at least as good as Albus. I'm not as qualified to speak to Lily, but she and Severus were the only persons I've ever heard obtaining perfect scores on their Potions NEWTs."
As she settled into her trademark hard-backed chair, the Head of Gryffindor House look took on an appearance of seeing something far away. "I know it's unprofessional, but even before they graduated, James and Lily were my friends. She was such a likable woman and despite his best efforts, one couldn't help but love James Potter. I think all the females in the castle were a little in love with him."
Her eyes twinkled with a hint of remembered amusement, "You boys were so troublesome, but so much fun as well."
Sirius smirked while Remus replied with mock gravity, "We did our best, Minerva."
Turning back to Harry, she picked up the thread where she'd dropped it, "There were quite a few reasons why Tom Riddle called on the Potters of Godric's Hollow that Halloween night of '81."
The time travellers kept to Gryffindor Tower over the next few days. They'd been disappearing for long stretches far too often. Thankfully, most thought the 'new' couple was sneaking off for some quality snog time.
"We don't want to wake Dumbledore to pay attention to us, though."
"I still don't understand why we don't use the time turner to go back and let ourselves be seen in public."
Hermione had received the time turner before the Welcoming Feast. Since time travelling, however, she'd dropped Muggle Studies and Divination like a hot potato. With Minerva in the know, she hadn't asked for the device to be returned. It was a wild card that could help them attain their goal.
"We're mucking with the time stream enough. I'm afraid of what will happen if we cavalierly prance about, using it for no good reason. The Sirius and Buckbeak rescue was a good reason. Providing evidence that we aren't shagging in a broom closet to preserve our reputation, however, is not a good reason."
"Because we're shagging in my bed."
"Exactly," she purred before she kissed him thoroughly.
The weekend came and with it torrents of rain which lasted for the next week. The Highlands of Scotland are a very wet place. Even still, this quantity of rain forced even Oliver Wood to cancel the Quidditch practise scheduled for Saturday.
Harry and Hermione were making good progress reading through the animagus book Minerva had loaned them. Having two practicing animagi in the castle to consult also helped significantly. The Transfiguration was fairly advanced, but the tokening process required some guidance from Sirius and Minerva.
"The meditative process described in the text will allow you to become more in tune with yourself and your surroundings," Minerva explained. "You will find items; a leaf, a flower, a sprig of grass and so on. These will connect with your inner beast and allow you a focus to help you in your initial transformation."
"Will these tokens all be natural, organic items?" Hermione asked.
"Well, I've never heard of an animagus tokening from a man-made item."
They spent time on the grounds whenever they could. Despite the curriculum being beyond simple for the duo, they still had written assignments they had to turn in, otherwise they'd attract attention from sources they'd rather not rouse. Harry usually completed the Charms and Potions assignments while Hermione focused on Runes, Creatures and Arithmancy. Remus and Minerva gave them a pass on their homework. They usually handed in blank pieces of parchment.
One time, Harry handed in an animated recording of him casting his Patronus. Remus had smiled happily to see the ghostly Prongs prancing across the parchment. He carefully laid it in his briefcase for later framing.
During one of the cancelled Quidditch practices, the five friends – family really – were gathered in Remus' quarters. It had become their de facto headquarters in the castle. They couldn't gather in Minerva's quarters as other staff members and students could come upon them at any time. Having Remus there wouldn't be too much out of the ordinary. But Harry, Hermione and Sirius/Padfoot would most definitely be noticed as out of the ordinary.
"We wanted to discuss something between us all," Harry began after they'd eaten a light lunch. Sirius was looking better day by day. A steady healthy diet while being surrounded by friends and family was doing wonders for his health. The haunted look in his eyes was fading more as time passed.
"One thing we've been conflicted about since we came back is what to do about the future Death Eaters," Hermione elaborated.
Minerva and Remus both nodded in understanding. They both had been contemplating the same thing.
"We know the bulk of the next generation here at Hogwarts right now. Obviously, killing two hundred students would be noticed." Sirius snorted but subsided under Minerva's glare.
"The older generation like Lucius Malfoy, Bellatrix Lestrange and their ilk are already condemned by their actions in the first Blood War." Silent acceptance from the other three was the only response.
"We've come to the conclusion that the worst of them need to go."
Frowns from Remus and Minerva preceded Sirius' "No fucking shit, Pronglet."
Harry almost smiled as he and Hermione had accurately predicted.
Pursing her lips, Minerva told the group, "I don't like it. We slaughter children for something they haven't yet done and may not do?"
"I'm unwilling to allow Draco Malfoy the chance to rape, kill or maim to assuage my conscience. What if his first victim was Lavender Brown? Katie Bell? Would you allow him to rape Parvati to ensure he really deserved to be eliminated?"
Minerva flinched under the verbal jabs, but said nothing.
Soothingly, Remus interrupted, "This is not something to be discussed lightly, much less agreed to in a five minute discussion. Both Minerva and Harry have valid positions which need to be considered and weighed by all of us. I suggest we consider the impact wholesale execution could affect us, as well as, the individuals."
With a haunted expression, Harry provided the answer, "it changes you, Moony. To that, we can attest."
Jerkily, Remus nodded his understanding, but was undeterred, "I need to think about this. I can't blithely condemn these people without substantial consideration."
Now it was Harry and Hermione's time to nod in understanding. They'd expected nothing less from Moony.
"What's the problem, Moons?" Sirius asked scathingly. "They're fucking scum who need to be cleansed from the earth."
"Padfoot, they're children."
"But they're going to be monsters!" He was wild eyed and the effect of Azkaban was as pronounced on him as the years of war were on Harry and Hermione.
Minerva held out her hands in a placating motion. "Peace. We'll all consider the situation and discuss it some more. I'm sure we'll revisit this on more than one occasion. Nothing shall be decided today."
The conversation became light as Minerva and Sirius discussed Harry and Hermione's progress in their animagus studying and preparation. Remus headed to his desk to grade sixth year essays. Their were difficult days ahead, but they were together. Family.
1. I own nothing. Thanks to all who took the time to review the first few chapters, it's always appreciated. Story status can always be found on my FanFiction (dot) net author's page.
2. Recommendation for the chapter is Souls Abound, by Robst.
3. Lotta angst in the last few chapters. Worldviews are shifting, the timeline is written in sand with the tide coming in on them all and they aren't really sure where to go or what to do.
4. When I have to travel for work, I do everything I can to minimize the trip to one day or less. I sleep for shit when I'm away from my wife.
5. Malfoy and the Bookends, it could be the name of a band.
6. Yep, stole the animagus transformation process from MissAnnThropic. I got tired of inventing new and different ways to become an animagus. The relationships of the characters is what matters to me, the science of the magic is very secondary.