Harry & Hermione
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muggledad - The End and the Beginning
Chapter 4 - Chapter 4
Hermione smiled while Harry watched the oak leaf in his hand as if it held the secrets to all existence. They'd spent the last few weeks out on the grounds studying and meditating. The tokening process of their animagus transformation was harder than either had expected.
Hermione had been convinced that Harry would do well in finding his tokens as he'd always been a very instinctive person. Since the tokening process was the path in which the witch or wizard became aware of and connected with the inner beast, she figured Harry was a shoe in for rapid accumulation of tokens.
Harry had been convinced that Hermione would do well as she never failed at anything she'd ever set her mind to accomplish. Occlumency, Legilimancy, Summoning and Banishing Rituals all fell before the machine that was Hermione Potter née Granger.
They were both right and both wrong.
It was very hard. All the guilt, shame and remorse over their roles in the history to come was a severe impediment to calming their psyches so that they could recognize their connection with the natural world around them. They were hardly innocents and their inner turmoil showed plain in their failings at the meditation.
Hermione had suggested confession of sorts. "You want me to go to church?" he had replied in disbelief.
Rolling her eyes at her husband, Hermione retorted, "No. Idjit. I wanted to know what you thought about laying it all out there with another person."
He looked decidedly uncomfortable, "But you know everything already."
She nodded. "I was actually intending to talk to Remus."
"Oh." His brow furrowed as he frowned. Humming as he considered the idea, she watched him intently. She was looking for that relaxing around the corners of his eyes and mouth which indicated he'd give in to her desires.
It didn't come.
"I'll think about it," he temporized.
The next day, she'd gone to see Remus. Not one to beat around the bush, she addressed the problem as she saw it. With Harry and a disguised Sirius at Gringotts to place control of the Potter fortune squarely in the hands of the rightful heir, Hermione knew Remus would have the afternoon free.
Slipping into his quarters, she closed the door quietly. Moving toward Moony's lounge/receiving room she called, "Remus?"
"In here," he replied.
Picking up her pace, she found him at his desk with two piles of parchment. The neat pile of ungraded essays was small, while the heap of graded essays covered his feet and threatened to bury him altogether.
With a small smile, she offered, "I can come back later if it's a bad time."
"No!" he replied with mock desperation. "Save me from moronic fourth years who're convinced they hold the secrets to locking away evil forever."
She laughed lightly as she sat on Remus' now very familiar couch. He conjured a plain tea set after setting the kettle to boil.
"You don't heat the water magically?" she asked.
"Doesn't taste the same. Besides, if I can't wait five minutes for the kettle to boil, I've bigger problems."
She nodded, hesitant and afraid to begin.
"What can I do for you Hermione?" Remus asked to get the ball rolling.
They were interrupted by the shrill whistle of the kettle. Silently, Remus poured the hot water on the tea leaves before he left it to steep. "Sorry. What can I help you with?"
Softly, she told him, "I trust you Remus."
An expression of gentle surprise graced his face. The half smile was all the reply he needed. "I need to talk about…before. The nightmares are only held at bay because of Harry and…" she looked away, tears starting in her eyes.
Gently, Remus reached out to take her hand. Silently, he offered his support by his presence and by not flinching away.
Remus Lupin was a very smart man. He had to be to have been one of the masterminds that called themselves The Marauders. Where James had been the leader, Sirius the wit and Peter the comic relief; Remus had been their heart. That didn't mean he was stupid, though. He knew, or could realistically imagine, some of the atrocities that Hermione and Harry had seen and probably perpetrated. He also knew that this young couple who he'd come to love in a short time were not monsters. Therefore, those memories of war yet to come must be burdensome, to say the least.
When Hermione turned back to him, tears streaming down her cheeks, she croaked, "I've killed at least two hundred people, Remus. Some of them horribly. I set one man on fire and watched him burn to death. It took seventeen minutes for him to die Remus and I didn't make one attempt to lessen his pain or stop the fire." Now the tears were flowing in earnest.
He didn't try to comfort her at this point, as he knew she didn't want comfort yet. Holding her hand as a show of support, he nodded to her before saying, "Go on,"
So she did. For two hours she spilled the gruesome memories all over the quiet quarters. Remus never said anything other than quiet encouragement. He let go of her hand only to pour the tea which she used to wet her dry throat.
By the time lunch was being served in the Great Hall, Hermione was cried out. Finally able to allow comfort, she leaned into Remus' embrace. He was her older brother, her favourite uncle and good friend all rolled into one for her.
"You did some horrific things, Hermione. But you're still a good person. We all love you very much, you know that, right?" When she nodded, he added, "I can't love an evil person. Nor can Minerva or Sirius. Especially, Harry. He could never love someone evil. You're a good woman, Hermione Potter. War brings out the beast in all of us."
She nodded her head, grateful she'd made the decision to confide in Remus. To say that she felt better was an understatement. The oppressive guilt and remorse from days to come that had been a millstone about her neck was gone. Although life wasn't peaches and cream, she began to believe in herself again. Not her abilities, for she'd never doubted her abilities one jot. She began to believe in Hermione; daughter of Steven and Alice, wife of Harry and loved by Minerva, Sirius and Remus. It was exhilarating.
At Gringotts, matters proceeded with remarkable alacrity for Harry and Sirius. Snagrat seemed to anticipate Sirius' arrival, having the entirety of the forms and documents prepared ahead of time. After Harry signed his name sixty three times and Sirius signed his fourteen times they proceeded to magically seal everything.
All in all, after four hours of reading, signing, casting and finally filing an even two stone of parchment, Harry was placed in the position of Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer of The Potter Trust. All deeds and titles not held by the Trust were transferred accordingly, as well.
The blonde haired, brown eyed Sirius patted Harry on the shoulder as they left the bank. Striding confidently down the alley they didn't draw a second glance from the on duty Aurors. Something Mad Eye had taught Harry before had paid dividends. "Acting like you belong in a place is over half the battle. Most guards won't look at you twice if you have the right attitude."
Harry was quietly thoughtful as they wended through the midday crowds. With the lessening of the rain that had deluged the entire UK over the previous week, the shoppers were out in droves.
"What's bothering you?" Sirius asked in an undertone.
"Where will Hermione and I live when school is out?" His brow furrowed, "I have plenty of places to live, but I won't live without her. I can't."
Pursing his lips, Sirius Apparated away to the Honeydukes tunnel. When Harry arrived, Sirius asked, "Are you two going to tell her parents? That would solve it. You could live at her place, or her family could move to Rowan Hill. They should probably move in with you, there're better wards at the house in Wales."
A thoughtful expression on his face, Harry replied, "I don't know if we'll tell Steven and Alice. We've yet to talk about it."
Being uncharacteristically sensitive, Sirius gently told his godson, "Do that Har-bear. She's your wife and best friend. If you can't talk to her, who can you talk to?"
Harry jolted at Sirius' words about 'talking to people'. He'd unknowingly struck a nerve, but Harry covered it by grumbling, "Don't call me Har-bear. You called me that when I was shitting my nappy."
"Give me a night free and clear of the law, a few bottles of Firewhiskey and you'll be shitting your pants tomorrow," Padfoot crowed. Harry was following Sirius in the passageway, so Padfoot never saw Harry give him the two fingered salute.
The remaining Marauders and the Potters lounged about Remus' quarters early in the evening. Classes had settled down and so too had the tedium. Most times, Harry and Hermione read from the animagus book, but they'd finished it twice over by now and had asked Minerva for more material on the subject.
They were sitting on the couch, sharing a six pack of Guinness. Remus had looked askance when Harry had requested the stout, but Sirius had quickly reminded him that it was Moony who had first sneaked Firewhiskey into the third year boys' dormitory in 1975.
Remus and Sirius were sharing a bottle of brandy and the foursome was pleasantly buzzed. They were laughing and carrying on about old times when Minerva opened the door to the common room, her expression stern.
Not speaking to any, she grabbed the bottle of brandy, conjured a tumbler, filled it to the rim and drank it off in one go.
Recognizing the signs, the other four quickly cast Sobriety charms on themselves.
"It's Severus. He asked me why my Lions are 'cavorting with a known werewolf'." Minerva's expression was hard, but her eyes burned with a deep felt fire.
There was quiet as the five some digested the news. Snape was bitter enough to spread the news far and wide, fanning the flames if he could extract a measure of revenge on his childhood tormentors. All knew it.
"Memory charm?" Remus suggested.
Hermione shook her head, "What would we erase? The last month and a half?"
"Fuck it, I say we transfigure him into a rock and drop him to the middle of the lake," Sirius snarled.
All five seriously considered the option. Eventually, Harry shook it off, declaring, "Dumbledore would have a snit and not rest until he knew what happened." Sirius sighed in resignation, but nodded agreement.
"The problem is that he's too proficient an Occlumencer. He'd either resist it or be aware of the gap in his memory," Hermione mused aloud.
"What if we…" Sirius laid out his idea.
After some modifications by Minerva and Hermione, they adopted Sirius' plan.
Harry saw Minerva's jaw tighten repeatedly throughout the discussion. Once they'd refined and adopted the plan, she abruptly rose to leave. Absently kissing Hermione on the mouth, he murmured, "Be back in a bit."
Hurrying after his head of house, he softly called, "Hold up."
Turning, she impatiently waited for Harry to draw even with her. "Let's go to your quarters."
Minerva cocked an eyebrow, "If you were thirty years older and I thirty years younger, I'd think your proposal was improper, Mr Potter." Rolling his eyes, he followed her to her rooms.
Minerva kept all the portraits in her private rooms and offices permanently frozen nowadays. On the one hand she wanted to always be ready for a 'situation' where she needed privacy from Albus' prying spies and also on principal. It galled her that the Headmaster was using the portraits in such a manner. She disrobed in rooms with portraits!
Cooking a quick dish of tea, Minerva set up biscuits and the milk absently. Finally sitting across from Harry, she was so distracted she didn't even notice he'd been watching her the entire time.
"What's bothering you, Min?"
Taken aback by his question, she blurted out the truth. "I've never wanted to kill a man so much as I wanted to kill Severus earlier."
Blinking in surprise, Harry paused before saying, "Didn't really expect that."
Now that she'd let the lid off the pot, she really began to simmer. "After all you've shown me and all I've seen that greasy Sassenach perpetrate on the student body, I wanted to rip his liver out and shove it down his throat!" Standing and panting like a racehorse, she ranted, "He stood there gloating and unctuous, grinning his yellow toothed smile with his disgusting breath a miasma. I wanted to curse his beak right off his face! Lording Remus' affliction over us all…."
Snorting in disgust, she pointed out, "Blackmail is what it was! He knows what Remus means to you, he knows that you've no real family and yet he wants to exploit the poor man's Lycanthropy to get a pound of flesh twenty years later! Damn him!"
Completely taken aback by Minerva's rant, Harry sat back to let her get it all off her chest.
Abruptly, she stopped, took in Harry's presence and sat down. Blushing slightly at being exposed in such an emotional manner, Minerva fidgeted for a moment before reaching for her teacup to hide her embarrassment.
"Don't worry about it Min. I could tell something was bothering you. I hope you feel better."
Nodding reluctantly, she told him, "I don't understand why Albus lets him run unchecked. I just can't fathom it."
Patting her on the shoulder, he told her, "And that is why you're a better person than Albus."
As with all the best plans, Sirius' plan to deal with Snape was simple and straightforward. The next night Sirius and Harry waited in the shadows of the dungeons near Snape's quarters, both of them Disillusioned. Hermione and Remus, who was Polyjuiced as Harry, were in the great hall lingering over supper.
Originally, Sirius had called for it to be Harry and Hermione lying in wait for Snape. Remus had argued that Harry would be a prime suspect, so he volunteered to acquire a dose of the transformative potion so that he could impersonate The Boy-Who-Lived. Anything can be purchased for a price in Knockturn Alley.
Snape stormed around the corner, his eyes intent on the door to his rooms. Wordlessly, Harry stunned and cast the Body Bind on the dour Potions master. Sirius ran forward, tapping Snape on the head, completing the Disillusionment charm for the head of Slytherin house.
On Silenced feet, Padfoot and Pronglet hustled Snape into a nearby classroom. Once inside, they bound their captive to a chair and forced a Confuzzle draught down his throat. After the prearranged three minute wait, Sirius positioned himself behind Snape, maintaining his own Disillusionment charm. Harry ended the charm on Snape before silently casting "Ennervate."
Harry was still Disillusioned while under his father's cloak. They were taking no chances that the Snarky Git would ever recognize his captor. Groggily, Snape awoke. Before he could get his bearings, Harry lashed out with a full power Legilimancy attack.
Reeling as if struck, Snape's unfocused eyes rolled under the assault. Picking his way through Snape's memories, Harry was repeatedly casting Memory charms, removing individual memories – a few moments here and a few moments there. Nothing that would be missed, but taken together, would eliminate Snape's suspicions and conclusions regarding Harry and Hermione's visiting Remus.
Harry was sweating with the exertion. Snape was many things, but he was a superior Occlumencer. Breaking past his shields, even with the effects of the Confuzzle draught had been a near Herculean task. Staying in his mind had been difficult as well. Combining the task of searching for pertinent memories with the delicate Memory charms left The Boy-Who-Lived sweating and gasping for breath. As the sweat dripped off his nose and he cast the last Memory charm of the sequence, he couldn't help himself and dove into Snape's greater memory bank.
It was a cess pit.
The things the man did as an active Death Eater made Harry want to puke. Rape. Murder. Torture. The use of all three Unforgivables was merely the beginning of the man's depravities. On top of it, the perverted things he thought about Lily Potter made Harry see red. Then, Harry found the memory of a night in Hogsmeade where Snape had crouched outside a door in the Hogshead pub, overhearing an interesting conversation.
"You fucking bastard!"
Before Sirius could react, Harry lashed out with three magically enhanced punches. The first shattered Snape's nose. The second broke the man's right cheekbone into three separate pieces. The third ruptured Snape's windpipe.
The screaming gurgle that bubbled from Snape's mangled throat broke Sirius from his stupor. Instinctively stunning Harry, Sirius began to cast as many healing spells on his former nemesis as he could remember. Slowly, the man's screaming devolved into a low groan which in turn became a wheeze.
Satisfied that the odious man was breathing easily, he stunned the head of Slytherin before he shook his head in disbelief. Sirius Black had just defended Severus Snape. Hell just froze over while four pigs had flown over the Astronomy Tower. James must've been so disappointed in his best friend. After levitating his godson to the far side of the room, Padfoot woke him.
Harry's eyes were wild as he searched the room. Locking on the still bound form of Snape, Harry bolted to his feet only to be pushed back to the floor by Sirius.
"What the fuck, Harry? You damn near killed him?"
"He told Voldemort about the Prophecy. Snape put him on our trail," Harry snarled as Sirius' arms encircled The Boy-Who-Lived.
Slowly, Sirius turned, his expression blank. Walking up to Snape, he stared at the man for a long minute before he kicked him in the ribs. He kept kicking Snape with a viciousness that Harry had never imagined. Sirius only stopped when a satisfying snap announced the breaking of at least one bone. Panting hard, he turned to his godson.
"Fetch Minerva. We're going to need some Skele-gro if we want this to stay quiet." Sirius stood stock still, staring at the man bound to the chair in front of him as Harry hurried out the door.
It was to be a very long night.
A very, very long night.
Harry found Minerva in her quarters. Without outlining the situation, he merely summoned her and relayed the need for Skele-gro. Cursing in her native Gaelic, she hustled to Remus' quarters, grabbed the odd bottle of potion before following Harry to the dungeons. She cursed the entire way.
"Holy sweet Mother of God," she murmured when she saw the Severus' state. Without asking questions about how Snape came to be in this condition, she merely asked, "Where is he injured?"
"Nose, cheekbone, ribs and maybe throat. I did what I could to repair that before Harry left," Sirius explained in a flat tone. The fire in his eyes hadn't dimmed one iota.
"Dammit," she cursed again. After a quick spell to determine Severus' weight, she measured a dose of the vile potion and poured it down his throat, a Swallowing charm assisting its passage.
Without taking her gaze from the monitoring charms she'd cast on their captive, she gave Harry his orders. "Go get Hermione and Remus. We'll need some delicate work to fix his memories for the evening. She's far more suited to it and you're wiped out," she told Harry.
Harry nodded before he left again. The remorse for his actions was starting to creep into his consciousness. Not remorse for hurting Snape, never that. It was, rather, remorse for putting them all into danger which was bothering him. Harry doubted he'd feel remorse even if he'd killed Snape tonight so long as it wouldn't importune the rest of his family.
The plan had been for Hermione and 'Harry' to return to the Gryffindor common room to do homework until nine or so. At that point, they'd head out for a 'snog' where they'd rejoin everyone else in Remus' quarters. Unfortunately, it was only eight o'clock.
Still under his cloak, Harry ran up to the Fat Lady, shouting the password. Slowing, he scuttled in the common room, flattening himself against the wall. Hermione and 'Harry' were on one of the couches in front of the fire, books open in their laps and noses buried deep. Moving as fast as he dared, for the common room was fairly full, he circled over toward the fireplace.
"Change in plans," he whispered. "Rendezvous now."
Without looking up, both Hermione and Remus-Polyjuiced-as-Harry nodded in understanding. Harry made his way to the portrait hole before drafting behind Remus as they exited. When Harry was sure they were alone, he murmured, "Things are pear shaped. We've got the target, but…it's complicated."
Remus nodded while Hermione only cocked an eyebrow. He was in for it, he knew it.
Harry cancelled the Disillusionment charm on himself before hiking up his cloak a bit. Remus and Hermione followed Harry's trainers as they moved to the dungeons. Dispelling Sirius' security spells, the threesome moved in the classroom. Harry erected a new set of wards and spells.
"What happened?" Hermione asked flatly. Harry barely noticed Remus regaining his natural form.
Carefully folding his cloak before placing it in the pocket of his robes, Harry delayed answering. His temper was spiking again as he thought about those revolutionary moments in Snape's mind. A few days before, he'd been on the verge of feeling sorry for the dour Potions Master for the man's hard lot in life. No more.
Snape chose his path in life. Harry himself had been brutally raised, just like life had been for young Severus Snape in Spinner's End. On more than one occasion Harry had even been savagely beaten on top of the 'usual' slaps, kicks and insults just like young Snape. The Boy-Who-Lived didn't fall into the Dark Arts. He'd not perpetrated the horrific acts of torture and maiming that Snape had gleefully enacted on the innocent.
Severus Snape lived his entire life for himself. He only cared what he could get out of any situation. He pursued Lily Evans for how happy she made him feel, not for how he could make her feel happy. He fought against Voldemort, for vengeance, not because it was the right thing to do. He became one of the most highly respected Potioneers in Europe because he wanted the fame and respect, not for a love of the art. Every action in his life was motivated by self interest. Not once in his pathetic life, did Severus Snape willingly give of himself to anyone, any cause or any organization. Never.
Harry Potter was the complete antithesis of Severus Snape. Harry willingly gave of himself to those about him. Only once in his life had he acted out of self motivation, but even then, he had left Hogwarts that fateful night to protect Hermione more than himself.
By a cruel and ironic twist of fate, they'd had nearly similar upbringings, but the choices made by Harry lifted him into the light, while Severus sank into the dark. Dumbledore had been right all those years ago, it truly was our choices which define us.
Snape had made his choice and it showed up in all his behaviour, large and small. The man bullied children. He abused, castigated and betrayed them on a regular basis. Snape had made his choice.
"Harry, what happened?" Hermione repeated.
Blinking away the memories, Harry explained Snape's role in Voldemort becoming aware of the Prophecy which linked Harry Potter to Tom Riddle. When he finished his recounting, Hermione and Remus began to advance on Snape, the intention to do him significant harm was written plainly on their faces.
"Wait," Minerva called in a commanding tone.
The other four turned to her expectantly, the question painted across their expression: Why shouldn't we kill him now?
Her face hardening to near ferocity, she glared at each, making them back down. When the four younger members of the family were suitably cowed Minerva told them, "Have none of you realized that Albus let Severus leave the Hogshead after he'd heard part of the Prophecy?"
Thunderstruck, they all stared at Minerva. Remus fell into a chair, all his illusions of Dumbledore shattered.
"He left me in prison, didn't he?" Sirius wondered aloud. "He was the Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot. He knew I didn't have a trial but never ordered one conducted. Barty Crouch be damned, Albus could have ordered one."
Minerva had realized this and many other unsavoury behaviours of the esteemed Headmaster of Hogwarts. Nodding sharply, she agreed with Sirius' speculation. Turning to Harry she elaborated, "His placement of you with your aunt and uncle is suspect, to say the least. He may have had some good intentions in placing you there. The blood wards may truly protect you, I don't know. But I also know that when you showed up here for your sorting, you would do anything to keep you away from Surrey and you looked to Albus as a saviour." She paused; "I don't know if he intentionally sent you there for your spirit to be broken, but…" she trailed off, her deduction plain.
Everyone looked at the odious former Death Eater, unconscious and bound to the chair. A flash of insight filled Hermione's mind. Snape was a pawn. First he was a pawn of Voldemort and later a pawn of Dumbledore. A disgusting, morally repugnant pawn, but a pawn nonetheless.
Waving Sirius to the side, Hermione pulled a chair so she could sit across from the bound man. Harry was by far stronger in the Mind Arts, but Hermione had a more delicate touch for fine work. "Love," she told Harry, "I'm going to be going at this for a while. Could you get a Pepper Up for me?"
Nodding, Harry wrapped his cloak about his shoulders and hurried back to Remus' quarters. Don't need to run today, I've run nearly three miles so far tonight.
By the time Hermione had finished removing the memories of being beaten and added memories of a quiet night in his rooms, she was ready to pass out. Downing the Pepper Up potion, she sighed as the tiredness faded alongside the steam pouring from her ears.
Minerva Disillusioned herself before levitating Snape into his quarters. She came back a few minutes later, evaluating the younger members of her family.
Harry and Hermione were clinging to each other as they sat on a conjured loveseat. Remus sat on the edge of a chair, his head in his hands. Sirius paced back and forth from corner to corner. Eventually, Padfoot stilled. Minerva caught his eye and waited. Eventually, Sirius nodded in resignation.
"We need to move forward," Harry muttered from his embrace with Hermione. "We should publicly turn in Pettigrew tomorrow. Sirius deserves to be cleared."
"I agree," Hermione chimed in. Remus nodded as did Minerva. Sirius stared at Harry, the challenge clear on his face.
Hermione rolled her eyes, "Sirius…" she said to get his attention. When he didn't break his stare from Harry, Hermione huffed, hit him with a Stinging hex on the arm before repeating, "Sirius. You're not going to kill him."
Scowling and rubbing his arm, he spat, "Why not?"
"Because I need you," Harry replied for his wife. Indicating the others in the room, he continued, "We all need you and you'll completely lose your mind if you're on the run."
"He deserves to die."
Annoyed now, Harry stood and jabbed his finger at his godfather, "No shit, he deserves to die. He betrayed me and my parents. My parents are dead because of his betrayal."
Sirius flinched at Harry's words, but The Boy-Who-Lived was remorseless and ploughed on. "If I can let go of my need for revenge, then you can too. Damn you, Padfoot! Are you going to make the same mistakes again! Stop thinking only about yourself!"
"Alright," Sirius sighed as he sat down. "Jesus, what a night. What time is it?"
"Two AM," Remus replied.
"Let's all get some sleep," Minerva counselled. "We'll take care of Peter tomorrow, I've an idea how we can carry this out."
SIRIUS BLACK INNOCENT; PETTIGREW THE BETRAYER
In a stunning turn of events, it has been discovered that Peter Pettigrew, Order of Merlin Third Class Awardee, was the Potters' secret keeper so long ago. It was Pettigrew who sold the Head of the Ancient and Noble House of Potter and his Lady to He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. Professor Minerva McGonagall brought the treacherous Pettigrew to Director of Magical Law Enforcement Amelia Bones' office early yesterday morning.
In a press release, Director Bones had the following to say: "Professor McGonagall appeared in my offices this morning with a man stunned and bound in tow. He has since been identified as one Peter Charles Pettigrew. After questioning under the influence of Veritaserum, he was arrested and charged with multiple homicides, conspiracy to commit murder, sedition and many other charges. The man bears the Dark Mark of [He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named]."
Professor McGonagall related to this reporter that, "I was heading to Hogsmeade to make some purchases when I was accosted by Sirius Black." The Professor was well past the line of Dementors which were encircling the school at that time. "Black tossed his wand to the ground before placing his hands in the air. I was surprised, but immediately Summoned his wand. Before I had the chance to bind him, he begged me to listen to his story. Being cautious, I bound him but listened to his tale.
"He told me that Peter Pettigrew was the betrayer of James and Lily Potter and that the man was an animagus. A rat animagus to be specific. I immediately thought of one of my Gryffindors who has a rat for a companion. Black told me that he'd seen a picture of Pettigrew with the boy which drove him to escape from Azkaban in order to protect his godson, Harry Potter.
"Deciding that time was of the essence, I Stunned Black and took him back to the Castle. There was a bit of a tussle with the Dementors at the gates, but I've long been proficient with the Patronus charm. Once in the castle, I placed him under the care of Professor Flitwick before proceeding to Gryffindor Tower. There I found the rat, verified he was an animagus and brought him to Director Bones. I believe she immediately cancelled the search for Black, signed a writ proclaiming his innocence and is actively looking to see to his compensation for wrongs done to him over the course of his twelve long years of imprisonment."
It should be noted that Sirius Black was a Gryffindor when he attended Hogwarts (1972-1979) and Professor McGonagall was his head of House. Director Bones has intimated that Professor McGonagall is being submitted for an Order of Merlin Second Class. As of print time, Harry Potter was unavailable for comment.
According to Director Bones, all Dementors have been removed from the greater Hogwarts area, having been sent back to the North Sea to guard Azkaban.
For a biography of Minerva McGonagall, Head of Gryffindor House, Mistress of Transfiguration and Deputy Headmistress of Hogwarts, see page 7
For a biography of Sirius Black, Lord Black and head of the Ancient and Noble house of Black, see page 9.
"Minerva can lie really well, can't she?"
Hermione smiled at her husband. They were lying in bed in the master suite at Rowan Hill. It wasn't a Hogsmeade weekend, yet, but they had all their work done through the end of the term so they thought they'd investigate the home about which Sirius and Remus had told them so much. They'd fallen in love with the grounds, the view of the mountains, the sea – all of it. The veranda of the main house overlooked an expansive garden tended by two house elves. Harry had to smile when he met Rauri and Madi. He'd never seen elves so moved or heard them speak with a Welsh lilt.
The front of the house was set a quarter mile from cliffs, in which was a set of stairs led to a beach on Cardigan Bay.
"It's like we're in a dream," Harry had commented as they entered the house. The house itself was massive and ornate but had a distinct 'home' feel about it. The few portraits of former heads of House Potter gave credence to the distinctive Potter trait of dark hair, lean build and 'sexy smiles'. Or at least that's what Hermione had said.
Upon arriving at the estate in Wales, they'd found Sirius dancing his way through the kitchen wearing a 'Kiss the Cook' apron while dirtying every pan the Potters owned. They owned a lot of pans. "I'm cooking a meal for myself," he shouted. "I dreamt of shepherd's pie with Guinness for a dozen years and by god I'm going to have one!" The wireless was turned up to window rattling levels as Led Zeppelin shook the Houses of the Holy.
The first thing Sirius did as a free man (after cleaning up the kitchen and downing his meal) was to go the Wizarding Office of Child Services and begin the process of gaining custody of Harry. They all knew it would be a legal fiction, but Harry was touched, nonetheless. In fact, Sirius had apparated away from Rowan Hill an hour ago to present the Dursleys with the solution to all their problems. They could relinquish Harry's guardianship with a few signatures.
"This'll get Dumbledore's back up," Hermione observed.
Harry nodded. The wards on Privet Drive would fall – probably immediately – and Dumbledore would be alerted by one of the various gadgets in his office.
"Screw him. I'm very rapidly tiring of tip-toeing around him and his sensibilities. But at the same time…"
Hermione rolled her eyes before she hiked her leg over her husband's waist and sat up, straddling him. "I know. You want him to come to our side. Look, you need to be careful. He can seriously derail us, so you better play nice," she wiggled a little to emphasize the point.
"Wench." He glanced at the clock which he couldn't see as his spectacles were somewhere on the floor. He asked, "How much time 'til we're due back?"
Leaning down to kiss him, she murmured, "Enough time."
The summons came at dinner the next evening.
Holding the note up, Harry murmured, "Dumbledore wants to see me in his office after dinner."
Hermione's face was set in a determined expression. She wasn't bidden to the meeting and her presence would be made much of by the Headmaster if she showed up uninvited. Narrowing her eyes, she coached her husband, "Keep your temper. You don't know anything about anything, remember?"
He nodded, collecting himself. Hermione squeezed his shoulder before she thought of something, "Minerva."
"What about her?"
"Ask her to accompany you as your head of house. He can't do anything outrageous if she's there."
He nodded before looking to the staff table. Catching the Transfiguration Professor's eye, he nodded to the note in his hand. Understanding his meaning, she quickly finished her meal before wiping her mouth with her napkin and standing.
Stopping at Harry's spot, she told him, "Come along Mr Potter."
He too wiped his mouth, gave Hermione's hand a last squeeze and followed his teacher. Once they left the Great Hall, she asked, "Albus?"
"Yeah. I've no idea what he wants, do you?"
"Hopefully, it's merely a discussion about Sirius. To his knowledge," she reminded her charge, "You've never met your godfather."
Shortly, they stood before the Gargoyle blocking the Headmaster's staircase. "Tootsie Roll," Minerva replied to the unspoken challenge for password. Shaking her head at Dumbledore's penchant for confections, she preceded Harry up the stairs.
Not bothering with the pretence of knocking, Minerva opened the door and strode in to the lavish office of the Headmaster of Hogwarts.
"Ah, Minerva, Harry, so good to see you this fine evening. Lemon Drop?" One had to pay special close attention to see that the wily old Headmaster had been thrown slightly off his game by the appearance of his Deputy.
Not trusting what else the sweet may have been covered with, Harry politely declined. The green eyed seeker intentionally focused all his attention on the ring that gathered Dumbledore's beard just about the same level as the man's heart. It was doubtful that eye contact was required for such a powerful Legilimencer as Dumbledore to skim his target's surface thoughts, but Harry wasn't taking chances. Maybe I'm being paranoid, but I don't want the old man wondering why and when I developed Occlumatic shields.
Settling next to Minerva on a comfortable chair, Harry decided to be meek and mild. "You wished to see me Headmaster?" he asked in a near whisper.
Dumbledore's expression became serious. Pursing his lips, the old man began, "I regret the manner in which you learned the entire truth regarding your parents' betrayal and death, Harry. I wished to spare you the unpleasant story, but in hindsight, I should have been more forthcoming. I'm sure it was quite a shock to read all about it on the front page of the Daily Prophet."
Harry shrugged before looking at his feet. Unbidden, he wondered if he could replace his tatty trainers with new ones without it being noticed. Mentally shaking himself, he paid attention to Dumbledore.
"Nevertheless, I am sorry," Dumbledore replied to Harry's unspoken 'It's alright'. "I wished to discuss another matter with you as well this evening and that is to do with your residence when you leave Hogwarts in the summer upcoming."
Instinctively frowning at the topic, Harry sat silently.
"I'm afraid you must return to your relatives, Harry."
"But Sirius is my godfather. He's the one my parents wanted to take care of me should the worst happen." Which did happen, he added silently.
Nodding his acquiescence at the point, Dumbledore admitted, "True enough. But there are very good reasons why you should continue to live with your aunt and uncle."
When Dumbledore didn't continue, Minerva asked, "And those reasons are?"
Surprised at her question, Dumbledore didn't reply other than to say, "You know very well what those reasons are, Minerva."
"Yes I do, but young Harry does not. I was not asking for my own edification, but rather for his."
His bushy brows beetling, Dumbledore opened his mouth to decline to answer when Harry interjected, "Please, Professor. I have the right to know."
This was Dumbledore's last chance before Harry gave up on him. 'Before', the Headmaster had done unconscionable things during Harry's fourth and fifth years. Granted, Dumbledore was already guilty of a list of crimes as long as Harry's arm, but Harry was giving the man one last chance.
"There are wards which protect you at Privet Drive, Harry. They are blood wards which are powered by your mother's sacrifice. So long as you live with someone of her blood, Voldemort cannot touch you there."
Harry nodded his head. Stunned that the Headmaster had actually answered honestly, Harry was lost as to what to do about the man. Pushing the matter aside, he asked, "What about his Death Eaters. Can they find me there?"
A slight tic next to Dumbledore's eye gave him away. "No one who wishes to cause you harm can find you whilst you reside with your aunt and uncle."
Without thinking, The Boy-Who-Lived replied, "But my uncle and cousin beat me regularly. How does that happen?"
Dumbledore noticeably paled under his snowy white beard. "That is because it is from them that the ward is powered."
His hopes for working with Dumbledore dashed, Harry sighed loudly for the Headmaster was lying again. "My uncle is of no blood relation to my mother, Headmaster," Harry observed in a defeated tone. The time traveling teen was looking into his lap, trying to hold back tears of frustration. Dumbledore would have been such an asset. Between his immense magical ability, his incredibly powerful positions that he held in the Magical World and his force of personality, he would have been of inestimable value to the eradication of Lord Voldemort.. But like Snape, Albus Dumbledore also made choices. Choices that Harry hadn't wanted to believe would be repeated.
He'd hoped that he and Hermione had been wrong for all those years. He'd hoped that his gut was in error when it screamed that Dumbledore would walk over anyone in the pursuit of what he believed to be right.
In the end, though, Harry and Hermione had been right. Dumbledore may have cared for those about him, but not enough to put them first. His vision of the correct path ahead always came first.
Maybe the first time through his third year, Harry mightn't have picked up on the Headmaster's deceit or the error in logic. Maybe Dumbledore was counting on Harry not being quick or attentive enough to catch the detail. Unfortunately for all in the room, Harry did catch it and did call it to everyone's attention.
When Dumbledore didn't reply to Harry's observation, Harry sighed. "Thank you for your efforts, sir. I'll consider your input come the end of the year."
Not liking the sound of Harry's words, Dumbledore countered, "Harry, I must insist…" but was cut off by a hiss from Harry's right.
Harry turned to see the fiercest expression on Minerva McGonagall's face he'd ever seen. His imagination smeared the blue war paint worn by ancient Scots into battle across her cheekbones and forehead as Minerva glared at Dumbledore. It was the first time he'd ever truly feared his friend.
"Mr Potter, return to the Tower. I need to have a discussion with the Headmaster."
Suitably impressed and quite ready to leave, Harry popped to his feet, muttered, "Good evening Headmaster, Professor McGonagall," before nearly running for the door.
Harry couldn't find Hermione in the common room. "Nev, you seen Hermione?"
"Yeah, she's meeting with Luna in the library about something."
"Ah," Harry muttered. Remembering that this evening was when Luna and Hermione met to practice Occlumency, he plopped down on the sofa next to Neville.
"So, what did the Headmaster want?" Neville asked.
Shaking his head, Harry summed up, "He wanted to apologize for not telling me about Sirius Black earlier and also tell me I should go back to live with my magic hating aunt and uncle."
Thoroughly confused, Neville asked, "Why?"
"Apparently there are wards that keep Voldemort from getting to me. Unfortunately, it doesn't keep my uncle and cousin off me."
At this point Hermione entered via the portrait hole, a pensive expression on her face. Seeing Harry next to Neville, her face brightened as she hurried to her husband's side.
"So?" she asked with trepidation alongside anticipation.
He sighed and it was answer enough for her. "He apologized for not telling me about the secret keeper situation before it showed up in the paper, even if he had it wrong. Then he told me I need to go back to the Dursley's come summer."
Hermione couldn't help herself, she snorted in disgust. "Never going to happen," she muttered. She ran her hand absently through the hair on the back of his head. It always calmed him. After they'd married and settled in Cornwall, she'd teased him about it being Pavlovian.
Harry didn't want to go into specifics about Dumbledore's deceptions with Neville actively listening to the conversation. Opting for physical comfort in lieu of words, Harry pulled Hermione into his lap before burying his face in her hair. Breathing deeply, he calmed even further.
The Smartest Witch of the Age wrapped both arms about the neck of The Boy-Who-Lived, pulling him close. Taking the hint, Neville murmured, "See you all in the morning."
As the third year boy headed for the staircase of the boys' dorm, Hermione whispered, "What else?"
In an undertone, Harry related the rest of the story. At the end, they both let out a disappointed sigh at the Headmaster's behaviour. Unexpectedly, Hermione chuckled.
"What?" he asked.
"I'd have paid good gold to be a fly on the wall when Minerva was giving him what for."
Smiling, Harry ducked his head into her tresses again. "I don't know, she was pretty terrifying."
After Transfiguration the next day, they loitered behind the rest of the crowd. Ron was the last student to leave as he drifted aimlessly out the door calling, "Seamus! Wait up!" Harry and Hermione looked to Minerva with expectant expressions.
With a quick wave of her wand, Minerva warded the room and locked the door. "So…?" Harry prompted, a wicked grin on his face now.
With a faint blush, Minerva told them, "Albus and I had a discussion."
Hermione rolled her eyes, "Oh please, Minerva. Harry showed me the memory. I'm surprised you weren't screaming in Gaelic while you attacked him with a targe and dirk."
The blush was a bit more evident as she relented and explained, "I told Albus, in fairly forceful terms, that I'd warned him against placing Harry with his relatives and that he'd ignored me. I also pointed out his glaring personality defect of being unwilling to take others' counsel."
"At a very high volume?" Harry asked with a mischievous grin.
Looking at her desk for a moment, she admitted, "I may have raised my voice a bit."
Settling down a bit, Hermione asked in a serious tone, "How'd it go?"
Frowning as she shook her head, Minerva replied, "Not well. He readily admitted that he could have done more to ensure your," she nodded at Harry, "Well being while under your relatives dubious care. He never admitted that he ought never to have placed you there, though. Quite the opposite, he insisted that Harry must return to Privet Drive come the end of the school year."
The only response from the teens was mutual disbelief at the old man's intransigence. They'd deal with Dumbledore's issues regarding Harry's living conditions when the time came. They had far more important issues in front of them.
For the first time in years, Halloween passed without a significant event that caused mayhem, death or destruction.
For two weeks after the assault and memory modification on Severus Snape, there was nothing amiss. In short, he was as unpleasant as usual, but there were no suspicious looks. He didn't conduct any spontaneous Legilimancy attacks or anything else that would tip off the Family that he was aware of the tampering which had been done to his memories. Harry began to hope that he and Hermione had effectively modified the man's memory.
He knew that in the short run, the man was an annoyance. Those of the family knew full well that Harry or Hermione could defeat the Potions Master in a duel. In the long run, though, there are few people on the planet who can hold a grudge like Severus Snape. His picture is next to the word 'vindictive' in the OED.
Harry and Hermione tried to live a semi-normal life, despite being sensitive to Snape's mood. They went to classes (which were dead dull), worked on their animagus transformation, practised duelling with Remus and Sirius but most of all, they savoured the time with Moony, Padfoot and Minerva.
Since Malfoy had no incident with Buckbeak at the beginning of the year, the Gryffindor/Slytherin match went off first as scheduled. It wasn't even close. With Oliver at the top of his game, The Girls weaving a tapestry as the Twins joyfully created mayhem, Harry dominated Malfoy. Ploughing the lad once on a Wronski Feint and one time sending the boy headfirst into the stands. Harry liked to call it a 'Horizontal Wronski Feint'. Oliver called it The Potter Plough.
Amusingly enough, Draco had ploughed his own father. Not that Harry had intended that in the least. He'd actually been aiming for Snape, but Draco was so incompetent that he couldn't even fly straight. It was a shutout; 340-0 in Gryffindor's favour.
It was the aftermath of this first Quidditch match of the season when there was a definitive sign that the Potions Master suspected something as Snape accosted Harry outside the changing rooms.
Grabbing Harry by the shoulder, he pushed The Boy-Who-Lived against the wall. Snarling into Harry's face, Snape stared into Harry's eyes. "I know you did something Potter," he growled while attacking Harry's Occlumatic shields.
Harry had to resist laughing. Wandless, incantation less Legilimancy is effective enough against a defenceless third year, but was the same as pissing on an erupting volcano to a Master Occlumencer. Little did Severus know that Harry was a Master Occlumencer.
When Harry's only reaction to the mental attack was an expression of mild curiosity, Snape slid his hand from Harry's shoulder to his neck and began to slowly choke the Gryffindor Seeker.
This was far beyond anything they'd ever envisioned Snape doing. Something very significant had to have happened for the master of control, Severus Snape, to lose said control of himself.
Was it Pettigrew being turned in as a Death Eater? Snape had to have known that Peter was a Death Eater and in turn, Peter would know that Severus was a Death Eater. Wormtail might even testify that Snape set Voldemort on the trail of the Potters. Unlikely, but possible.
Also, the other half of the most hated duo had just been publicly exonerated. With James Potter dead, the focus of Severus Snape's ire was focused on Sirius Black and Remus Lupin. Of the two, Sirius was far more offensive to Snape. With Sirius publicly justified, Snape's long held private gloating over a man he knew to be innocent was dashed to flinders. Snape had known that Sirius was not a Death Eater. As Voldemort's spy and personal brewer, Severus Snape had access to the Dark Lord and his minions that few outside of the Lestrange, Malfoy and Nott families had. He had known that Sirius was innocent and revelled in the fact that one of the primary tormentors from his school years was being viciously punished for a crime which he didn't commit. For the object of those bitter reveries to be cleared had to enrage the sour man.
All that wasn't important at the moment, though, as Harry was being choked. Not finding the situation amusing any longer, Harry moved to shift the Greasy Git's hand from his throat. With his hand moving in a punch that would most likely dislocate Snape's elbow, Harry's attacker was suddenly plucked off the young man to be thrown back a few feet.
Surprised, Harry watched Fred and George dust off their hands. "You alright mate?"
Harry smiled and stifled a laugh. "Yeah, thanks lads. I think he's just pissed that we trounced his boys."
"You two!" Snape spat as he clambered to his feet. "Detention for a month! Five hundred points from Gryffindor and come with me to the Headmaster's office!"
In a bored tone, Fred replied, "Sure. I'd love to see your explanation for physically assaulting Mr Potter here."
"Indeed brother. That would be a sight to see." Turning to Snape with false bonhomie, he asked, "Shall we?"
Snape's face twisted with real hatred. His normally jaundiced eyes burned red as he glared at the three students. Without any further comment, the Potions master spun on his heel and stormed off.
The three Gryffindors watched him go with real concern. "Lads," Harry began, "He'll be coming for you now, you know that. Not points or detentions. He'll be trying to hurt you." Maybe even kill you.
"Yep," replied Fred. "But what were we going to do? Let him kill you?"
There was a long moment of silence as they all contemplated the situation. Two light bulbs went off for Harry so he beckoned to the Twins, "Let's talk to McGonagall. She may be able to help."
He hooked an arm across each of the Twins' shoulders, "Oh, yeah. My godfather, Sirius Black? He's Padfoot."
The squeals from the Twins could be heard in Hogsmeade.
Where Hermione began to token far more quickly for her animagus change, Harry still only had his oak leaf in his box under their bed. Hermione had told her boyfriend/husband/best friend about her talk with Remus and the aftereffects.
"I've never felt freer," she related. It was late at night ant they were cuddled in bed.
Harry scrunched his face before replying, "I'm not really comfortable talking about those kind of things."
In their original third year, Hermione would have lost her temper and told Harry, "No one is comfortable with those things, stop being a baby and go talk to someone!" Fortunately, she'd matured. She also recognized that between ten years of war, an extraordinarily abusive childhood and a complete lack of anything resembling a social life, Harry was a damaged individual. As such, he didn't express himself well outside of his tightknit family. Even then, the only person with whom he let down his entire guard was Hermione.
"Love, I understand. I was incredibly nervous when I approached Remus. He's the most mild mannered, open minded person I've ever known and yet I was still all pins and needles." Wrapping her arms around him, she snuggled into his chest.
After a few minutes in comfortable silence, she said, "There's a way that you may be able to look at this and not be so intimidated."
"I'm not intimidated," Harry replied instantly.
Rolling her eyes in the dark, Hermione mocked, "Sure you're not, love. Anyway, as I was saying. You know how you always get a spell when it's life and death?"
He smiled, "Like the Summoning charm?"
"Or the Patronus charm, yes. Look at this like that. Babe, this is going to eat you up unless you deal with the feelings and memories. I know. It was eating me alive. It was a millstone hung about my neck which held me down and was slowly souring me like old milk." She shivered at the memory. "I didn't even know how bad it was until I got it all off my chest."
Hermione was trying very hard to stay low key about the entire affair all the while impressing upon Harry the necessity and even urgency of the task. This was an issue far beyond the animagus transformation. His nightmares were becoming worse, even with them sharing a bed every night where hers had completely abated.
She left her urgings lie at this stage. Hooking her leg over his knees she pulled him close. A gentle kiss on the shoulder preceded her whisper soft, "I love you. No matter what, I'll always love you. So will they."
He pulled her close. Tightly binding her to him, he used her as a physical anchor for the frenzy of emotions within his heart.
Hermione breathed a sigh of relief. He hadn't refused nor temporized. He would talk to someone soon.
1. I own nothing. Thanks to all who reviewed the first three chapters. Story status can always be found on my Author's page on FanFiction (dot) net.
2. Recommendation for the chapter is Harry Potter and Future's Past by Driftwood1965. It's one of the best takes on Reptilla's challenge. If you haven't read it, take the time.
3. Many thanks to brigrove for his review of chapter 3. He pointed out that the use of the term 'tabling' has opposite meanings to Americans and Britons. To an American, to table an item is to put it off to a future date. To a Briton, it means to deal with it immediately. I was unaware as to the two meanings so, as I'm an American, I meant that the group had decided to postpone the discussion. Thanks brigrove! My apologies to those who were confused, I strive for authenticity, but don't always succeed.
4. I'm not really nice to Snape in this chapter for a very good reason. The man is an abuser, a bully and a punk. The rest is explained in the chapter. That he and Dumbledore claimed to be fighting for the Light in canon is a joke. If you don't agree, that's fine. You don't have to agree with me. It's my opinion and evaluation. You know what they say about opinions, everyone has one…