Harry & Hermione
UltimateHPfanfiction.com Story id: 5783428 (Please submit reviews!)
muggledad - The End and the Beginning
Chapter 5 - Chapter 5
"Professor McGonagall, do you have a few moments?"
Hermione regarded Harry with surprise, but gave his hand a squeeze before muttering, "I'll be in Remus' rooms."
He nodded to his wife before turning back to Minerva. The door shut, leaving the two alone. "Your office?" he prompted.
Nodding silently, Minerva headed into her office. Instead of sitting in her usual position behind her desk, she moved to the straight backed chair. – with arms on it no less. Before he sat, Harry reached into a charmed pocket, withdrew a bottle and set it on the table, conjuring glasses to go with it.
Minerva cocked an eyebrow, "Harry, why do we need Irish whiskey?"
Snorting in amusement, Harry opened the bottle. "Jameson is a respectable whiskey, Minerva. Don't tell me that you're a whiskey snob." Pouring a generous three fingers for each of them, he saluted her before drinking it down.
She didn't drink, just waited for his explanation. Leaning forward while resting his elbows on his knees, Harry told her, "Min, I need to talk. Would you be willing to listen?"
Swallowing back emotion, she replied, "I'd be honoured to hear what you have to say, Harry."
Then she drank her whiskey.
Harry was silent for a long time. Minerva waited patiently until she realized his problem. Softly, she prompted, "Tell me about the first man you killed."
Rolling his eyes, Harry replied, "His name was Quirinus Quirrel. I think you've met him."
The sarcastic humour drained out of his face before he drank off another shot of whiskey. "I don't know his name," he told her in a near whisper. Studying the glass in his hands, he continued, "I don't know most of their names. He was big, maybe six foot six, blonde hair and beefy. I decapitated him with a Cutter."
Looking out the window, he mused, "There was so much blood. I froze. It was nothing like when I killed Quirrel during first year. Back then I was a thoroughly confused firstie. Hell, I barely remember it. The fact that I'd killed a man didn't even sink in until the middle of second year and by then the 'Heir of Slytherin' thing was in full swing." Shaking his head at the memory, he mused, "Why didn't Dumbledore address that? He knew I wasn't the heir. One announcement at dinner and the whole school would have been off my tits. And while I'm at it, why did he send me back to Surrey with a pat on my head and a bunch of platitudes after the Stone?" He sighed, "But that's not why I'm here.
"It was after we'd left Cardiff and reunited with you, Arthur, Alastor and Filius. We were going on a supply raid. Half of our ops were for necessities at that point. Food and medicines were high on the priority list. Anyway, we were hitting a supply depot outside Leeds that Alastor had been watching. We jumped just after zero two hundred, mass Apparating to the back of the depot. A quick Severing charm and the wire parted. We'd picked this one since they didn't have any wards. That should have tipped us off, though.
"We'd just filled a series of bottomless bags when all hell broke loose. There were at least a dozen Death Eaters, fortunately most were morons. This big guy was up front and before I knew it, I snap cast a Cutting curse that relieved him of his head." He stared for a long moment, fully immersed in the memory.
Hollowly, he told her, "His neck fountained blood over me and you. Did you know that blood smells? It gets sticky too." Shaking off the memory, he refocused, "I didn't scream or anything, I just stood there as the enormity of what I'd just done hit me. Then Hermione shielded for me and I got into it. Four more fell that night...
"I killed a lot of men and women in similar situations. Supply raids, assassinations – you're pretty damn good on the long range shot with the Piercing charm – and the extractions. Good Lord, we must have smuggled a hundred people out via the Chunnel before Lucius Malfoy got smart and had it warded it to hell and back.
"The worst were the ones we couldn't save in time. Arthur found Lavender Brown in an Entertainment House in the middle of February. The house was empty save for her. She was nearly catatonic; seven months along with child, obviously by rape, beaten so badly that her bone structure was permanently altered. There was a mild recognition in her eyes when she saw you, me and Hermione. The only thing she would say for days was 'Kill me'."
The first tear fell down his cheek. "After two weeks, I gave her what she asked. I buried her in the heather up there," he indicated with his chin to the north of the school.
Minerva poured the next round.
"When I found out that Remus had been killed and how he'd died, I went crazy. I left Grimmauld Place in the middle of the night all alone. Moody was so angry. Not that I went, but that I went alone." Rolling his eyes at the old warrior's priorities, Harry continued. "Pure dumb luck allowed me to bump into Greyback. I was walking down the street and there he was. It was the first time I cast the Killing curse."
Scrubbing his face in shame, he added, "The other time was when I thought Hermione had been killed." He paused, swallowed twice before explaining. "She and I were doing reconnaissance on a rail yard in Birmingham. It was a major rail centre for the Death Eaters to move muggleborns to the camps. The camps that Snape ran," he hissed.
"Anyway, she was doing the ward diagnostics while I prowled on overwatch. A fairly piss-poor job I did, too. I was working back and forth in a semi circle with her in the centre. Somehow, a Death Eater got at her from the opposite side from me. He hit her with a horrible curse which began to slowly consume her magic. Her screams still haunt me in my nightmares."
Another tear ran down his cheek.
"When I killed Greyback, I didn't even think. My arm was moving, the hatred was flowing and my mouth shouted, 'Avada Kedavra.' It wasn't pre-planned at all, it just happened. With this fuck, I meant it. I Bludgeoned him twice in the ribs, broke both his legs and hit him with the Entrail Expelling curse. It took maybe two seconds before the bastard was laying in the dirt, bleeding his life away. As he lay there moaning and trying to stuff his guts back in his belly, I stood over him, pointed my wand between his eyes, caught his attention and told him I was going to kill him. After I saw recognition in his eyes, only then did I cast." Choking on his self-revulsion, Harry finished, "I got Hermione out of there and back to you and Mad-Eye. She took a few weeks to recover, but got there in the end."
Minerva was silent, but she did reach over to place her hand on his shoulder. "Thank you," he croaked to her unspoken reassurance.
"The night I killed Greyback wasn't my first Unforgivable. When Sirius was killed I tried to use the Cruciatus on Bellatrix Lestrange. I hadn't the slightest idea what I was doing so it didn't really do anything. I had enough hatred to power that curse for Greyback, though." Narrowing his eyes, he said, "I've never told anyone any of this."
"You should tell Hermione," Minerva directed.
Softly he shook his head in negation before she interrupted his response. "Harry, you should tell your wife." When he looked at her as if she were daft, Minerva explained, "For your sake, not hers. Good heavens, you could vivisect the Archbishop of Canterbury and she'd still love you. It's the secret that you hold, that's the problem. You can't have a secret from her."
"I can't tell her."
"Why?" he asked in a shrill, terrified voice.
"Because it will destroy you if you don't. It will tear your marriage apart. You both deserve better. Tell her." This was pure Minerva; firm, caring, unyielding and yet loving. Only a select few had the opportunity to know her at this basic level.
Shakily, he nodded his acquiescence. "The one I always dream about is when Hermione was killed. We were just going to the grocers, you know. Grab some beans and peas. Our area of Cornwall was pretty sparsely inhabited and most of us had significant kitchen gardens. The canned goods we scrounged were because we got lazy every once in a while. I had just put a can of artichoke hearts in the bag when they showed up. I got five of them. I suppose she got the other two." With a rueful shake of his head, he muttered, "I even made a joke about she was getting slower in her old age. When I turned around, I saw her on the floor, eyes wide open…" he broke off as soundless sobs wracked his form.
Slowly, Minerva rose from her chair and knelt in front of her charge as she took him in her arms. It was the first time she'd embraced anyone since her Jamie had been killed. It was the first time, but not the last by far.
It was nearly midnight when he crawled into their bed in the third year boys' dormitory. Half asleep, she shifted to take him in her arms. As he lay his head on the pillow and wrapped his arms around his love, she whispered, "I love you."
"I love you, too."
Hermione had decided to very publicly lay claim to Harry. She'd rummaged in his trunk for a full five minutes before she found that which she'd been looking. Muttering, 'You're a slob, dear," she pulled his Gryffindor Quidditch Jersey over her head.
Since she was Disillusioned at the time, Harry found the effect quite odd.
Nevertheless, after he'd showered and dressed he met up with his clean and fully dressed better half in the common room. She was still wearing his jersey as it was Saturday.
His mouth slightly agape, he murmured, "You look incredibly hot in that."
She smiled and mock preened for a bit. Both of them yawned at the same time before she tugged on his arm. "Come on, let's eat before we go back to bed and sleep 'til noon."
Harry and Hermione were groggily eating their breakfast. On top of their late night, they were emotionally exhausted; Harry from his soul baring heart-to-heart with Minerva, Hermione from fretting about Harry while she waited for him to get back.
Remus strolled into the Great Hall, whistling an old Royal Navy tune. Seeing his friends/students, he changed course to the Gryffindor table. Dropping the morning Daily Prophet on the table, he raised his eyebrows in amusement before he continued on to the Head Table.
HOGWARTS PROFESSOR ASSAULTS BOY-WHO-LIVED screamed at the couple from the front page.
Harry and Hermione were now fully awake.
"How…?" Hermione asked. Before Harry could reply, they both slowly turned to the Head Table. Remus was sitting in his chair, a smug smile dancing about the corners of his mouth.
Harry couldn't help himself. Consumed by laughter, he fell off the bench.
"I can't believe you did that!" Harry half laughed/half shouted. They were on the front lawn after a hastily eaten breakfast.
Remus smiled and shrugged, 'Who me?' written all over his face. "Actually," he replied, "I didn't." He paused, stretching out the punch line. "I told Padfoot."
"And he went running to Rita Skeeter,' Hermione finished. Shaking her head, she paused, "Did you tell him anything else?"
His eyes twinkling to rival Dumbledore's, Moony of the Marauders sat on a bench, crossed his legs and adopted his best professorial pose. "I may have mentioned a few things."
With a wide grin, Harry prompted, "Give, Remus."
With a small smile, Moony elaborated, "We may have discussed Barty Crouch and his son, Dolores Umbridge and her penchant for torture devices, Lucius Malfoy and a hidden chamber under his drawing room floor." Shaking his head in mock confusion, Moony whinged, "There's so much I believe I've lost track."
"You're not going to go to the DMLE…" Hermione observed in unabashed respect.
The smug smile in place, Moony nodded, "We're going to use Rita Skeeter as our stalking horse."
"You're a god," Harry joked. "Uncle Moony, when I grow up, can I be just like you?" Harry teased in a little boy voice.
Shaking his head, Moony replied, "As I told your father, young Harry, you're not nearly good looking enough."
They all dissolved in laughter. After a few minutes and regaining their composure, Remus observed, "Albus, Minerva and Severus are at a meeting with the Board of Governors, one of whom, I believe, is Amelia Bones." His eyes narrowing, Remus warned his young friend, "Expect to be asked for a statement sometime soon, the Twins as well. I doubt this will be swept under the rug. It's far too public and you're far too famous."
"Which was your and Padfoot's intent the entire time."
"Basically." Remus became serious for a moment then explained, "We can't just drop the whole mess on Amelia Bones and the DMLE. If we do, the corruption will easily cover up any misdeeds and crimes we bring to light. She's a good woman, but only one person. There are too many issues perpetrated by too many influential persons for her to deal with it on the QT. By using the Prophet and Skeeter as a stalking horse, we rally public opinion. If there's anything a politician is sensitive to, it's public opinion."
"And Skeeter is such a rumour monger, that she'll ensure all get crucified," Harry observed as he recollected her persecution of Hagrid in their original fourth year.
"Fudge will have to act. He'll have no choice. Was this your idea?" asked Hermione.
"Actually, it was Sirius'. Together we mapped out the gradual feeding of Skeeter information which she could then dig up more dirt before she went to print. This altercation with Severus was too juicy to pass by, though. It went to her first."
"What's next?" Harry asked.
"Probably Crouch and his son. That's the most tenuous situation. With Crouch being ousted from the Ministry after Sirius' clearing, he's in the most unstable situation. Then Umbridge. Fortunately, Malfoy can't move his goods fast enough to escape."
"Where is Sirius?" Harry asked as he sat and pulled Hermione into his lap.
"I think he's at Gringotts today. The Black Trust is as enormous as the Potter Trust, but is much more complicated in its disbursements and controls. He'll be at it for a week or so, at least. I don't envy him wading through forms and what not."
Hermione rolled her eyes but then noticed Minerva striding from the front doors. Poking Harry in the ribs, she motioned with her chin. Remus and Harry noticed the elder member of the family just as she reached hailing range.
"Professor," Harry greeted solemnly.
Not bothering to respond to Harry's greeting, Minerva drew her wand in order to cast a quick Privacy charm. "Severus was sacked and taken into custody. Amelia is going to charge him with assault, battery and anything else she can find. Also, she told me on the side that she's going to dig through the records to see if there are any residual charges that were not covered in his Albus sponsored pardon."
She looked at Harry with intent and he caught her meaning. Pulling a face, he told her, "I'd rather not think of what I saw in his mind, but if I can borrow your pensieve, we can sift through the memories either with or without Amelia. I'm fairly certain his original pardon didn't include use of the Unforgivables. Or murder. Or rape."
Tapping the bench on which she was sitting, Minerva was lost in thought. Eventually, she roused herself, mentioning, "I can't recall if it did or not. I'll mention it to Amelia. If he can be prosecuted for the Unforgivables, there's no need to go ransacking through the more disgusting memories."
Exhaling a sigh of relief, Harry murmured, "Good." Hermione gave him a sad smile from his lap while she ran her fingers through his hair.
"What was the Headmaster's response to the whole affair?" The Smartest Witch of the Age asked.
Her eyes narrowing, Minerva replied, "Disapprobation of Amelia's action and the Prophet, primarily. He told Amelia that to arrest Severus on a suspicion without ever interviewing a witness was inappropriate. He said that Severus had done great things for the British Magical community and deserved better from its government."
"He said that Snape had done great things?" Harry asked in amazement. A quick nod from the grey haired Scot was all the answer her got.
"He's lost his fonging mind," Harry continued. Truly befuddled, he asked, "How can he say that?"
Her face hard, Minerva told him, "If what Albus says about Severus' spying for the Order during the last war is fact and not fancy, he's telling the truth that Severus has done our country a service."
"But that doesn't give him a free pass on his other monstrous acts," Hermione observed with a cold voice.
"No, it doesn't," Remus agreed in a surprisingly cold tone.
Winning the war with her anger, Minerva told Harry, "There are two Aurors in my office waiting to take your statement; the Weasley Twins' have already been interviewed."
Nodding, Harry and Hermione stood in tandem. Remus gave a short wave, muttering about grading third year essays and they all headed up the hill to the castle.
"Fong," Harry muttered as he walked in the Deputy Headmistress' office where Aurors Dawlish and Tonks were waiting for him. Dawlish had always been a prick and when the world went in the toilet face first, the spineless bastard had run. Last Harry had heard, Dawlish had made it to an island in the Pacific – the exact opposite side of the planet from Britain. "Pussy," Harry continued, sotto voce.
Apparently, it wasn't sotto voce enough. Tonks barked her braying laugh as Dawlish spun about, face purpling.
Adopting an expression of innocence that would have brought his father to tears of joy and pride, Harry asked the two law enforcement officers, "You wanted to see me?"
As Dawlish was currently incandescent with rage, Tonks replied for them both. "We needed to ask you a few questions about any altercations you may have had in the last few days."
Adopting a serious expression, Harry 'pondered' the situation for a moment. Finally, he looked up and asked Tonks, "Shouldn't my legal guardian be present?"
Dawlish started to answer, but Tonks cut him off. "Do you have a loco parentis form signed by your guardian that allows the Headmaster and the Deputy Head to act en loco parentis while you're here at Hogwarts?"
Harry snorted, "Not bloody likely."
Tonks smiled, "Well, I guess we'd best call my cousin, then."
"Cousin?" Dawlish responded as he blinked owlishly. His upset had quickly been replaced with befuddlement. Tonks was his trainee and he wasn't used to trainees speaking, much less taking over an interview.
The fire roared green after Tonks tossed a pinch of Floo powder in it. A few moments later, Sirius Black in all his glory tumbled out of the fireplace. "Nymphy!" he bellowed jovially.
He moved approximately one step before his skin was green, he had tentacles sprouting out of his head and his outstretched hands had been transfigured into flippers.
Pulling a face that looked disturbingly like the gorgon, Sirius mumbled, "Sorry. Please, undo it."
With a smirk the Metamorphmagus Auror waved her wand, cancelling the charm and transfigurations. "Good to see you too, Sirius."
"Sirius Black is your cousin?" Dawlish asked suspiciously.
"Yeah," Tonks answered absently, giving Sirius an affectionate hug. Redirecting her attention to the animagus in her arms she warmly greeted him, "It's good to see you well, cousin."
"You too, Dora. It's been too damn long."
"Well, don't go to prison next time!" she mocked.
Shaking his head ruefully, Sirius jabbed, "I thought I was the only person in the family to make spectacularly inappropriate jokes."
"Nah, Dad is good for it too."
A warm expression on his face, Sirius asked, "So, why am i…here?" He trailed off as he put together the pieces of the puzzle. Harry and Minerva on one side of the room. Tonks and Dawlish on the other. The Aurors were in uniform.
A large Cheshire Cat smile spread across his face.
With a very 'Padfoot' expression, Sirius turned to Tonks and asked, "Why Auror Tonks, what business do we have to conduct this fine day?"
"We need to interview your godson and ward, my Lord Black."
"Really? Do tell."
The interview was very quick and to the point. Harry left out Snape's Legilimancy attack as he didn't want to explain how he defended it. He downplayed the Twins' intervention, hoping to draw attention away from them in case the entire thing backfired on them. At one point, Dawlish interrupted Harry's recital. "You mean to tell me that you think that a Hogwarts Professor attacked you because his house lost a Quidditch match to your team?" The sarcasm was dripping from the man's words and the condescension palpable.
"No you blithering idiot," Sirius replied for his godson. "My godson said that he joked with Fred and George Weasley about that being the cause. Do you have operative ears? Excessive ear wax? I know a good potion to unclog those ear canals for you."
"Lord Black," Tonks admonished with a half smile dancing across her face.
Hiding his smirk behind a patently false expression of contrition, Sirius sighed. "My apologies Auror Tonks. Sometimes my mouth runs away."
"Shouldn't you track it down soon?" Harry asked with faux concern.
Minerva put an end to the shenanigans with one firm clearing of her throat.
"Right, so Misters Weasley pulled the professor off you…" Tonks prompted Harry.
Finishing his story, he wound up with, "He gave the twins an excessive punishment considering they were defending me. Five hundred points and a month of detentions." Turning to Minerva, he asked, "I assume those detentions are cancelled and all points reinstated."
A nod was his only reply.
Tonks checked the dicta-quill to ensure that it had recorded the entire conversation; snide comments and all. Nodding her head in satisfaction, Tonks tapped the parchment with her wand to dry the ink, rolled up the record of the conversation before stuffing it in her pocket. Pulling it back out, she told Harry, "Mr Potter, you'll need to sign this attesting that it's a true record of the conversation we just had." Nodding to Sirius she added, "You'll need to sign as well, Lord Black."
Harry read quickly through the transcript, Sirius reading over his shoulder. Nodding, Harry stole Tonks' quill to sign his name in the space provided. After handing it to Sirius, Padfoot signed as well.
Handing the parchment to Tonks, Sirius told her, "You should come out with us on Friday, Dora. Me and Remus are gonna paint the town red."
Cocking an eyebrow, Tonks asked, "And Remus is…?"
Harry hid a smile behind his hand as Sirius replied, "Oh, an old friend of mine. He's a great guy. I'm sure the two of you will hit if off."
"If you don't mind, trainee," Dawlish interrupted snidely, "We need to get back to work. Social hour is over."
With real malice, Sirius turned his grey eyes on the older Auror. In that instant, all the years in Azkaban came to the forefront causing Dawlish to step back a pace. Turning away, he nearly ran to the fireplace. "Come on Tonks," he called over his shoulder.
"See you Friday?" Sirius asked.
"Sure, meet at the Cauldron? Seven-ish?"
"Yeah, we'll go from there." Patting her shoulder, he added, "It really is good to see you all grown up and doing well, Dora."
"Thanks Sirius." After another hug, she disappeared into the green fire.
Harry couldn't hold it in any longer. As soon as Tonks' feet disappeared in the fire, he broke out in laughter. Sirius, knowing what was tickling his godson's fancy, danced a little jig as he sang, "Oh, I'm a happy boy! Moony's getting his girl! Moony's gonna get laid!" over and over until Minerva Silenced them both.
"Good Lord. It's worse than the seventies."
"Hey, you got a minute?"
Hermione looked up from her book. An expression of confusion crossed her face as she set down, A Compendium of Wards for Private Residences. "Of course," she told Harry.
After he nervously twitched his head toward the portrait hole, Hermione stood to follow him. Eventually, they found themselves in the Room of Requirement. Hermione was becoming nervous herself, now. Harry hadn't spoken a word en route to the room. Now, he was sitting in the edge of the couch the room had provided, all the while holding his head in his hands.
Trying to be patient, she gently rubbed his back, waiting for him to tell her what was on his mind. Just as she was about to give in to her anxious curiosity, he whispered, "I talked with Minerva last week."
She merely nodded in reply. When he disappeared for seven hours, she figured he'd finally worked up the nerve to talk to someone. She knew that he'd confide in Minerva. The older witch was the closest person he'd ever had to a mother, despite Molly Weasley's protestations. Sirius was still a bit unstable, but had made surprising progress in such a short time. He'd come far farther than Hermione'd ever expected, actually. However, Minerva was his mother for all intents and purposes.
"She told me that I need to tell you some things. Some things I've never told you."
Hermione stilled. Many other wives or girlfriends would be in terror that their man was about to disclose an adulterous act. That was the farthest thing from her mind. Her imagination had taken her to 4 Privet Drive in Surrey and drawn up the most heinous crimes those monsters could have inflicted on her man.
Harry was silent for almost five minutes. Quietly, Hermione reassured him, "I love you, Harry. I always shall."
"I've cast the Killing curse. Twice."
Completely taken aback, Hermione gaped. That was not what she had expected. Shaking herself out of her stupor, she lamely replied, "Oh."
"Oh?" he challenged with a hint of anger.
Rolling her eyes at her husband, she tried to sooth him. She knew he must have been terrified to tell her this, but didn't he know it would never matter to her? He was everything.
"Yes, 'oh'. Give a girl a break, Potter. To say that I didn't expect that is a mild understatement."
Flushing a bit, Harry offered, "Sorry."
Rubbing his back again, she gave him a quick sideways hug. "I'm surprised, but I still love you more than I can ever tell you."
A deep sigh vented from deep in Harry's chest. Loosening the tension in his shoulders, he leaned into her.
"You were really worried about my reaction?"
Contemplatively, he began, "I've been so ashamed of those two instances for so long, I didn't know what to expect." Scrubbing his hands through his hair, he elaborated, "If there is any spell that I hate, it's the Killing curse. It took my parents away, it took you away and it thrust me into a life I never wanted. I hate it and yet, I used it to kill two people.
She gently brushed the tears off his cheeks. Tears he wasn't even aware of until her action. "Tell me," she encouraged.
So, he did.
When he finished, he was dry eyed. He had worked out the more overpowering emotions with Minerva. The residual tears from earlier were of apprehension regarding Hermione's reaction to his news. Apprehension that hadn't receded. Silently, he awaited his wife's verdict.
Without speaking, she stood and straddled his legs. Sitting on his lap, she stared directly in his eyes as she recited, "Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends…"
His voice full of emotion, he remembered, "From our wedding."
She nodded. After a moment, she asked, "Do you understand?"
He nodded before embracing her tightly. "I'll always love you, Harry. From now to the close of time without end, I'll always love you."
His voice muffled, he replied, "I don't deserve you, but I need you. I love you."
Gently caressing his back with one hand, she pulled back slightly. Their eyes met before she kissed him – hard. She tried to convey all the passion, devotion, love and desire she'd ever felt for Harry James Potter. That her love was eternal.
Slowly, their kiss ended. Small nuzzles replaced the passionate embrace until they ended up entwined in each other's arms. "Thank you for not hating me," he whispered.
She was pursing her lips, which was always a prelude to the actual gnawing of her bottom lip. "I'm most annoyed that you kept it a secret. If I were in your shoes, I doubt I'd have done much different."
With a mischievous grin, she challenged, "Oh?"
Snorting at her gallows humour, he muttered, "Fong off." Gathering himself, he thought about her words. Slowly turning out of her embrace, he faced his wife. "I'm truly sorry about keeping it a secret. I was so ashamed…" Shaking off the wave of guilt, he asserted, "I've no other secrets of note, I promise."
Silently nodding, she took him back into her arms. All was not well, but getting there. Each day, they healed a bit more. Each day they got a few steps closer to their humanity.
"So, how was your date?" Hermione asked Remus. Harry had a Quidditch meeting and Sirius was who knew where. Despite not being on the faculty, Padfoot spent a surprising amount of time in the castle. Harry had told her that Sirius had dared Dumbledore to restrict his access to Harry and Remus. Apparently, Dumbledore backed down.
Flushing slightly, Moony replied, "It wasn't a date."
"Uh-huh. Sure it wasn't. So, how was your evening with a woman that I'm sure you've been bothering Sirius about for the last few weeks trying to find out all you can about her?"
Grimacing, Remus dodged, "He told you that, did he?"
Hermione nodded but didn't say anything. Finally, Remus caved. "We all had a wonderful time. She's a delightful woman who maintains a child's wonder at the world mixed with a world weariness to which I can relate and understand."
"World weariness?" Hermione asked.
"Imagine all your life, everyone outside of your family has been asking you to change into someone else. They want you to be someone you're not for their personal amusement, or in later years, their lust."
"Ah. World weariness indeed."
Remus nodded while a contemplative expression fell over his face and a faraway look took over his eyes.
Hermione stifled her smile. The man was smitten and didn't even know it yet. "Do you like her?"
Without looking, Remus nodded. "Are you going to go out again? Just the two of you?"
Remus nodded again, but now a sad expression began to steal over his face. Finally, Hermione couldn't stand it so she asked, "What's wrong?"
"I feel like I'm lying to her."
"You want to tell her about the time travel." It was a statement, not a question.
Sighing, he nodded a third time. "She already knows about the Lycanthropy. I always feel obligated to get that out there immediately when I meet someone." He snorted and smiled, "She called me 'Wolfie' the rest of the night."
After a second's consideration, he elaborated with a question. "How would you feel if Harry came back in time, courted you and you found out a later date that you'd been married in the future that was?"
Hermione reflected on the question, trying to be as honest as possible. "I'd be pretty upset that he kept that kind of a secret."
Nodding, Remus agreed, "I would too."
"I'll talk to Harry about releasing you from the Vow. We don't really need it anymore." Her expression flexed with worry, "You understand why we asked for it, don't you?"
Remus waved away her concerns, "I understood then and I understand now. I'm considering asking Tonks for a Vow, just at the beginning."
Hermione wrinkled her nose, "Sounds like a prenuptial agreement."
"Yeah, I guess it does."
"We never really knew her 'before'. Do you trust her?"
Remus sat back in his chair and considered. "Pushing my feelings and attraction aside, I have to admit that I don't know her well enough to trust her. Neither does Sirius, really."
"Would she be offended by us requesting a Vow?"
"I don't believe so. After we tell her, I'm sure that there wouldn't be any trouble whatsoever. Despite her buoyant cheerfulness, she has a pretty level head on her shoulders."
"You've been on one pseudo-date and we're already discussing revealing deep secrets. You must be pretty serious about her," Hermione smiled as she finished.
"My heart tells me that if I fell in love with her once, I can do so again. She's a great person whose perpetual optimism easily counters my oft found depression." A devilish smile crept across Remus' face, "Despite appearances, don't forget, I am Moony of the Marauders."
"That's something I'll never forget," Hermione replied as she rolled her eyes. "I'll talk to Harry," she reassured Remus. "Maybe the whole family should discuss it?"
"That's a good idea. I'd like to know what Minerva thinks."
"What about Sirius?"
In a deadpan tone, he told her, "I'm well aware of what Sirius thinks, thank you very much."
"I can imagine," she laughed.
"No. You can't and be grateful you can't." This only caused her to laugh harder.
In early November, Harry's magical core began to 'settle out'. He and Hermione had pretty much opted out of spellcasting in all classes but Charms. Even then, Minerva had a private word with Filius, so the diminutive Professor had refrained from using the Potters as test students during class.
"So, what's the verdict?" Harry jibed from the couch in Minerva' office.
"That you're a smart mouthed boy like your father before you," Minerva returned without missing a beat. When her furrowed brow cleared, she told him, "Well, your Murchison magical index is off the chart, but the secondary diagnostics show you as having a relatively stable core. Stable for a thirteen year old boy, that is."
Curious, Hermione asked, "His core is still growing?"
"It appears to be. Physically, he's still thirteen. The 'extra' magical capability that he brought back merely caused an immediate expansion of his reservoirs of magic at his command." With a sharp motion, Minerva indicated Harry and Hermione to switch places before she performed the same tests on Hermione.
"You have the same stability as Harry, but your core is growing at a slower rate. Witches reach magical puberty much earlier than wizards, so they also stop growing earlier."
"So, we're cleared for high powered casting?" Harry asked as a smile tugged at the corner of his mouth.
"Yes," Minerva replied hesitantly. "Why?"
"Oh, Sirius told me that I was a ponce and that he could kick my arse any day of the week and twice on Sunday. I intend to prove him wrong."
"Boys," Hermione muttered to herself.
Sirius was still limping when they all assembled in Minerva's rooms two days later. Harry smirked when Sirius winced as he sat on the couch. "Bum a little sore, Pads?"
The two fingered salute was Sirius' only response to his godson.
Remus hustled in as Minerva poured for everyone. Harry accepted his tea gratefully; he was nearly exhausted. He'd been on a tear with his animagus tokening. Ever since coming clean with Hermione and telling all to Minerva, he'd tokened seven times during the last three weeks. Strangely, it was very emotionally tiring each time. Hermione hypothesized that it was because they were reaching out to the natural world around them, stretching themselves in ways they'd never done before. Any muscle that is unused, rebels at first exercise.
"We're here at Remus' request," Hermione began. Indicating Harry with a casual motion of her hand, she told the group, "Harry released Remus from his Unbreakable Vow to keep him from telling anyone about our story. The reason is that Remus feels that he owes it to Tonks to be honest with her upfront about his knowledge of the future. About their past in the future that was."
In a soft voice, Remus added, "It wouldn't be fair otherwise."
"We'd like the whole family to discuss the matter, though," Hermione continued. "Harry and I have talked about this and we're Ok with it if you all are." Harry nodded to reinforce the point.
Sirius shrugged. At Harry's pointed look he elaborated, "Look, she's family. If worst comes to worst I'll invoke head of house on her. I'd rather not, but I will if it's necessary." Leaning forward, he added, "I don't think it'll be necessary, though. Andi and Ted raised Dora right. There's also enough Black blood in her so she has a certain disregard for the rules. She'll join up."
Hermione nodded, assuming Sirius' vote was 'yes'. Turning to the oldest member of the family, she asked, "Minerva?"
Surprisingly, Minerva's lips were in a straight line, thinning to paper's edge thickness. This only happened when she was upset or distressed. "Sirius is correct that Nymphadora is a good person. She definitely has a disregard for the rules."
She left her analysis at that point forcing Harry to ask, "But…?"
Taking a deep breath, she finished, "But I'm unsure if Miss Tonks is mature enough to join us."
When Sirius scoffed, Minerva wagged her finger as she corrected him, "You can be extremely silly on occasion Sirius. However, you know the time and he place for your jesting."
"Some of the time," Hermione teased.
The thinness of her lips lessened by a minute amount. "True. Some of the time indeed."
"Min, are you basing your opinion on current experience with Tonks or based on knowing her as a seventh year Hufflepuff?" Harry asked.
Nodding in acquiescence, Minerva conceded, "That's a very good point. I'm basing my opinion on her behaviour as a seventh year."
"Are you willing to take the chance?" Remus asked softly.
With real emotion, Minerva replied, "For you, I am."
Touched, Remus nodded. To all of them, he said, "Thank you."
"I'm going to Memory charm her into a vegetable if this goes wrong, though," Harry joked. The humour was well timed and the group snickered and laughed for a few minutes.
After a suitable moment passed, Sirius spoke up. "I'd like to talk about another topic. The adult Death Eaters; those in and out of Azkaban." Waving his hand, he added, "I'm not even going to bring up the whelps because I realize that it's a confusing issue at best. Let's talk about my cousins, for example: Bellatrix Lestrange and Narcissa Malfoy.
"We all agreed last time we met that those already marked have signed their death warrant."
Now it was down to brass tacks. Sirius was mostly healthy, had full control of his family's fortune, had been exonerated and recompensed for his years in prison and was ready to take some action. There was only one kind of action to be taken in this situation.
With a steady gaze he met Remus' eye. Surprisingly, Moony's gaze was hard as he nodded his approval of Padfoot's unspoken but plain to see plan.
Unblinking, Minerva nodded as well.
Hermione nodded, her gaze losing focus as she remembered Days of Futures Past.
Harry's face was completely devoid of emotion. He and Sirius had discussed it before their duel and come up with a simple yet workable plan for the imprisoned Death Eaters. Now that Harry and Hermione's magical cores had stabilized, they could execute it as soon as they achieved their animagus transformation.
"Do we wait to see if Dora comes into the fold?" Sirius asked.
Pursing his lips, Remus admitted, "We've a date tonight. I'll tell her the whole story and we'll know tomorrow."
Uncharacteristically thoughtful, Sirius asked, "Are you sure? She is an Auror."
Considering his best friend's question for a long minute, Remus replied, "Yes."
"Right then. Potters!" Sirius mockingly ordered the time travellers, "Get finished with this animagus business, we've work to do. Moony! Go get your woman. Minerva!" She glared at him in reply. "You do whatever you wish," he finished lamely. "I'm going to get sotted tonight!"
"Who's this Slughorn fellow? Does he know Potions?" Harry asked the Twins as they all meandered to the Great Hall. Hermione was to meet them there as she was finishing her Occlumency tutoring session with Luna.
Fred shrugged, but George piped up, "He taught Bill for most of his time here. Charlie said he had him for a few years before Snape got hired. Bit of a self-important poof, Bill says. Always sucking up to the rich and famous," he gave Harry an appraising look as he finished.
"Great, that's all I need," Harry groused.
"Ah, ah, Harrikins. Mustn't be cynical, you're far too young to be cynical without sounding like you're whinging," Fred teased. The entire time, George watched Harry with a solemn expression.
Rounding the corner they saw the doorway to the Great Hall. A brief smile flickered across the faces of all three, but was quickly banished. Moving toward the Gryffindor table, they sat, leaving a space for Hermione. Harry surreptitiously drew his wand as he ladled soup from the tureen.
The Twins were fiddling with their potatoes as the hall filled. Harry's face brightened as Hermione and Luna entered, chatting about some topic or another. Beaming at her friend, Hermione broke off to sit with Harry as Luna gave a cheery wave before joining the Ravenclaws.
"How'd it go?" Harry asked.
"Surprisingly well. She has an affinity for the topic and is making remarkable progress," Hermione was enthusiastic as she helped herself to the roast beef.
"How remarkably?" Harry asked in an undertone.
Wincing a little, Hermione replied, "Not that well, but she's probably a year off at the rate she's going."
"Really?" he asked. That kind of progress was impressive to say the least.
"Mm-hmm," Hermione replied as she chewed her green beans.
"So what are you teaching Little Luna?" Fred asked,.
"Really?" George asked, surprised. "You know Occlumency?"
Hermione was surprised in turn, "You know what Occlumency is?"
Rolling his eyes, Fred replied, "Duh. We're the Weasley Twins. We were researching all the ways we could get caught when we came across Legilimency and Occlumency in a book. Couldn't find anything more detailed than a general overview."
"When was this?" Harry asked.
"Why am I surprised?" Hermione rhetorically asked herself.
"So, will you teach us?"
Hermione sighed before she shrugged. "Sure, but it'll have to be after the New Year. I'm swamped with a project plus teaching Luna. Things should slow down by then."
Noticing Harry's hand, Hermione frowned. "Why is your wand in your hand?" she hissed.
"Ssssshhhhh!" George urged.
"Oh, no. You idiots have corrupted him, haven't you?"
"It was originally for Snape, but with him gone, we've had to switch to our alternate target."
"Ah," George smiled. "He just entered the hall." In a hushed mock announcer tone, "Ladies and Gentlemen, Elvis is now in the building."
Slowly turning her head, Hermione saw none other than Draco Malfoy prancing to the Slytherin table.
She smiled. "I love you boys."
Out of her peripheral vision, she saw Harry flick his wrist in a complicated movement. There was a heartbeat pause before it began.
First, young Malfoy's robes began billowing in an impressive impersonation of the effect Snape always seemed to create as he stalked down the halls.
Then the robes turned yellow.
At this point, the blonde ponce was staring down at his robes in horror, the dreaded sentence forming on his lips, "My father…"
Suddenly, fiery letters shimmered into life over Malfoy's head. Slowly rotating so that everyone in the hall could have the chance to read them, they proclaimed "THE NEW GREASY GIT." There was an arrow pointing down to Malfoy in case the dimmer members of the student body missed the object of the declaration.
Everyone held their breath as they waited for the punch line.
The Hogwarts anti-Apparition wards are world renown. No one can Apparate in or out of the school grounds regardless of magical skill or power level. There is a little known fact about the wards, though. While prohibiting Apparition through the wards, one is able to Apparate for short distances within the wards. Say from fifty feet away, which coincidentally was the distance to the hidden package that Harry had ordered and the Twins prepared just that very morning.
Ancient Runes can be a deadly dull subject, but in the hands of a true Runemaster like Remus Lupin, all sorts of interesting avenues for magic can be explored. For example, after the coincident carving of the Norse rune Thera and the Egyptian rune Iwa are charged, they can cause an object to be apparated to its companion runes, wherever they may be carved.
Also of note, Runes don't have to be a certain size. They can be carved on the requisite slate and then shrunk to the size of a grain of sand and then sprinkled into the hair of Draco Malfoy while one is wearing your father's invisibility cloak.
Remus was standing in said broom closet waiting for Harry's signal. When the Communication charm sounded "Now," in his ear, he muttered the simple charging spell. This spell in turn charged Thera and Iwa, causing the forced Apparition of the contents of a fifty five gallon drum of axel grease.
On to the head of Draco Malfoy.
Fortunately, the grease had been treated by the Weasley Twins so that it couldn't be cleaned by magical means.
There was a pause of stupefied silence before the entire hall exploded in laughter.
Fortunately, it was a Hogsmeade weekend. After Harry joyfully waved his Sirius signed permission slip at Filch, he and Hermione tromped down the road to the only all-magical village in Britain. 'Accidentally' bumping into Minerva near the Three Broomsticks, the threesome began chatting about the latest topic in Transfiguration as they headed down a side street, presumably to cut across the village to Binding and Stitches, purveyors of rare books.
Harry quickly scanned their surroundings magically and visually. When all three nodded, there was a triple pop- pop- pop, as they Apparated away.
They appeared at the front gates of Rowan Hill. Minerva hadn't made the time before so that Harry could key her into the wards, so she was escorted on the grounds. It was a fair walk to the house, at least a half a mile. Hermione and Minerva were quiet, their minds preoccupied with the meeting to come. Harry was muttering while occasionally jabbing his wand at Minerva as he keyed her into the wards.
With a final flourish, he finished. "Apparition, floo and portkey," he told Minerva meaning that she was now allowed to travel to the estate via the named methods.
The wind was brisk as it blew off Cardigan Bay. Bundled in a heavy woollen coat, Hermione flipped the collar up against those pesky draughts which seem to burrow under one's jacket.
Eventually, they made their way to the front doors where Dobby was waiting for them. Harry had tried to hire the little fellow to be their discreet go-between, but when the hyperactive house elf found out about Harry and Hermione's home, he'd insisted on bonding with the couple.
After she sighed and rubbed her face in resignation, Hermione conceded.
Dobby had taken to Rowan Hill like a possessing demon. All the living areas on the main floor were now spotless and the master suite liveable again. As Dobby popped away with Harry and Hermione's coats with Minerva's cloak draped across his arm, Harry doubted he'd ever seen the little fellow happier.
Heading to the main drawing room, they found Sirius, Remus and Tonks waiting for them. Padfoot and Moony were quiet and Tonks obviously nervous. She was fidgeting and crossing her legs back and forth. Knowing that Sirius was such a boisterous person, Tonks was well aware that something was up and it didn't bode well for her cousin to be so subdued,.
Dobby returned with tea and biscuits before popping out again.
After Hermione poured for them all, Harry began without preamble. Turning to Tonks he asked, "Remus told you everything?"
A bit pensive, she replied, "He told me that he had future knowledge and it included us being married with a boy." With a slight grin, she added, "I think he was just trying to get me out of my knickers."
They all smiled briefly, but the levity was forced and they quickly got back to business. "First, I want you to know that we all want you as part of our family. I'll need an Unbreakable Vow if you want to know the whole story, though," he indicated the others sitting quietly.
Soberly, Tonks contemplated the issue before asking, "Why me? What's so important that you need a Vow?"
Sirius answered, "It's important enough. Trust me Dora, it's important enough." Remus nodded absently in concurrence.
"Why you?" Hermione asked in reply. "For starters, because Remus asked us to let you into our family." Tonks turned to her boyfriend with a wide eyed expression. He smiled gently. Sirius rolled his eyes before making a 'get on with it' motion to Hermione.
Chuckling, Hermione continued, "Also, because…well, most of it is part of the story, but we trust you enough to tell you."
"But not enough without a Vow," Tonks finished matter of factly.
"It's part of…"
"Yeah, yeah, it's part of the story, I get it," Tonks waved away. Coming to a decision, she asked, "How exactly will this Vow be worded?"
They laid out the words which were identical to the Vow that Remus had taken. Nodding her agreement, she made her Vow with Harry, bound by Hermione.
"Originally, a little over a year and a half from now, Voldemort will be resurrected. Two and a half years from now, Sirius will be killed and the next day, so too will Dumbledore. A week later, Voldemort will take over the Ministry. Shortly thereafter, he will take control of all of the UK and the world will swirl down the crapper in ever tightening circles. Hogwarts will be torn down, extermination camps are constructed to reinvigorate the 'Final Solution', but with muggleborns and half bloods replacing the Jews,," Harry baldly stated.
Tonks' face first was confused, but the more she processed Harry's statements, the paler she became. Being a metamorph, it meant her face was literally white by the time the full impact of the future realized itself for her.
Without pausing, she ran from the room, the sounds of retching following her. A few minutes later, she returned, a little wobbly but with more colour in her face. "Sorry," she mumbled. "Bit much to take in all at once."
"We understand completely. Moony here cried like a little girl," Harry teased.
"Fuck you," Remus muttered. Tonks smiled at the interplay, which was Harry's intent.
"How? How do you know?" the Auror asked.
Harry turned to Hermione who began, "We have the memories of our twenty seven year old selves…"
By the time she and Harry finished their tale, the tea had been replaced by a fine single malt whiskey. "…and when I came to, I was in Care of Magical Creatures class of all things. Harry was across the way, standing next to a hippogriff. He was looking at me with an intensity only my husband could muster." Hermione took his hand while smiling fondly. "We…reconnected," which drew humorous snorts from Padfoot, "And sought out Minerva," Hermione continued, ignoring the man-child in the corner.
Harry laid out the action they had taken to avert the future that was. Pettigrew's capture, Snape's imprisonment and the coup de grace, "Today, if I'm not mistaken, Ms Skeeter shall be revealing all about Barty Crouch and his wayward son."
Frowning, Harry turned to Sirius, "Did you give Amelia Bones the tip that the article was coming out? We don't need either Crouches doing a runner."
Sirius gave a hurt look to his godson, placing his hand dramatically on his chest. "Who me?" Throwing a pillow at Harry, he added, "Of course I did you twit. Sent it yestermorning."
Harry nodded while Hermione cuddled into Harry's side. They had been working day and night on their animagus tokening process. They felt comfortable with the Transfiguration side, and they both had thirteen tokens. Minerva had suggested fifteen as a solid number, so they had gone out the night previous as it was a new moon, hoping to find mooncalves or any other lunar sensitive being.
"So what's the plan?" Tonks asked.
With a half smile, Harry replied, "Free Sirius, kill Voldemort and tell the rest to bugger off. So far, we've one item ticked off our list," Moony, Padfoot, Hermione and even Minerva smiled slightly at his quip. It had become Harry's standard reply to any question regarding planning.
Rolling her eyes, Tonks stuck her tongue out at Harry before reiterating, "Really, what's the plan to deal with his Dark Lordishness and his fan boys?"
"Well, we intend on killing Voldemort," Sirius replied. "Actually, Pronglet over there gets that honour. We've a plan to deal with the slime that are in Azkaban. They're the really dangerous jackals."
Nodding, Tonks processed the thought before she asked, "But what about all the rest that aren't in prison? Malfoy, Macnair and their ilk?"
"I've a plan for lucky Lucy, but the rest…not my problem," Sirius replied offhandedly.
"Not your problem?" Tonks asked with a hint of indignation in her tone.
"Yes, Dora. Not my problem. It's the government's problem. It's the Department of Magical Law Enforcement's problem." Standing, his expression turned thunderous, "Are we the only persons on the planet who know that Malfoy and their 'brethren' are Death Eater scum? Are we the duly appointed constabulary who's job it is to round up these criminals? We're shutting down Crouch, Pettigrew and Snape because they were integral to Voldemort's rise. The rest aren't our problem."
"The only thing that allows evil to flourish is for good men to do nothing, yeah?" Remus quoted. When his girlfriend nodded, he continued, "We are doing something. We are working toward the end so that Voldemort is destroyed forever. Without him, the future that was won't be realized. Think about it." Remus implored.
Turning in his seat so that he was facing her full on, he proposed, "All these people that escaped Azkaban have been out there for the last twelve years and done nothing other than be evil gits. Unpleasant and so forth. They haven't been seditious. Leeches, that's what they are. The truth is that they are so poisonous to any growth of society that it's why their behaviour is criminal. They are the reason our society is so backward. They are the reason that innovation dies of strangulation here in the UK. People like Lucius Malfoy have bribed and used their wealth or influence to make society more corrupt than ever, but in the end, they aren't about to take over the world. That's what Voldemort can do. Without him, they're a bunch of poncy arseholes."
Sirius stared at Remus for a long moment before he burst out in laughter. "My cousin, a poncy arsehole!"
Harry chuckled and Hermione smiled at the thought of Remus calling Bellatrix Lestrange a poncy arsehole and the madwoman's response.
"But all those people could die!" Tonks objected
"The crux of the problem is not Voldemort," Remus explained. "The crux of the problem is the inherent bigotry, the rampant corruption and the sheep like mentality of magical Britain. They need a revolutionary like Ghandi, King or Christ to lead them out of this problem."
Tonks turned to Harry, her conclusion clear. If The Boy-Who-Lived took a stand, he could be that leader.
"Magical Britain can go fuck itself as far as I'm concerned," Harry drawled.
Hermione didn't look up, merely curled a bit closer to her husband. Sirius was stone faced while Remus merely nodded his concurrence. None of them had any reason to love their country aside from jingoistic pride. All of them had lost much from the worst excesses of their motherland.
Sirius had lost a third of his life to the Dementors. After his brother in all but blood had been slaughtered due to a betrayal by another he'd trusted; he'd been betrayed again. By his country. The betrayal had been life altering and nearly life ending.
Remus lost any possibility of acceptance by everyday Britons when, as a six year old boy, he'd been bitten by Fenrir Greyback. He was the most decent man that most would ever know, yet housewives had stoned him on four occasions. He'd been beaten bloody three times. The last time he'd awoken covered in piss. It was a testament to his humanity that he wasn't feral.
Hermione was a muggleborn witch who, due to her lineage, would never hold any gainful employment at any established firm, much less the Ministry. She'd been shunned by many even before the walls came down on the world. Afterwards, she'd been forgotten by the rest. In the end, her life had ended in a shitty grocer's, a tin of beans in her hand. No one besides her husband and parents had cared. She was one of many.
Harry had lost his entire life twice over. The first time had been when he'd been placed in the agony of torment that was his relatives' home and forgotten by all who should have looked out for him. The second time had been when his country disavowed his many sacrifices and heroics in order to turn their back on him. They allowed their eventual destroyer time to manifest the power necessary to seal their doom. Voldemort had annihilated the world as they knew it. Yet most everyday magical Britons didn't want to be inconvenienced. They didn't want to believe that their downfall was nigh. They wouldn't believe the one who'd bled, killed and suffered for them.
The others all knew Minerva's story, but they would respect her silence and allow her to tell it to the newest member of the family when she felt it was time. She caught Tonks' anguished gaze as she told her the Truth.
"You'll try to reveal what should remain hidden, you'll try to incite people to learn from the past and rebel, but they will refuse to believe you. They will not listen to you…You'll possess the truth, you already do; but it's the truth of a madman," Minerva's passion was palpable as she railed against society and its adherence to custom. As a whole, all societies' behaviour was reprehensible, only striving against the norm in times of great strife, because of great necessity. Society never changed because it ought to, it only changed when it hurt too badly.
Tonks hung her head, admitting defeat. Nodding she conceded with, "You're right."
"I wish I wasn't," Minerva whispered.
They were late getting back to school, but in the end, Minerva apparated back to Hogsmeade with the Potters. Remus had stayed behind at Rowan Hill as Tonks wanted to talk. Sirius stayed with them.
All three were emotionally exhausted, so they were quiet as they hiked up the road which led to the castle. Absently waving to Minerva, Harry took Hermione in his arm as they trudged up the stairs to Gryffindor tower.
Turning the corner, they found Fred and George lounging against the wall, apparently nonchalantly killing time.
"Hey, guys,' Harry greeted as he and Hermione moved past the redheaded twins.
"You two have a minute?" George asked.
"We're knackered, is it quick?"
The Twins exchanged one of their 'looks' before shrugging, "It can be. That depends on you two."
After that enigmatic reply, Hermione's curiosity was piqued. "Room of Requirement?" she asked.
"Nah, too far." Tapping his wand in a triangular fashion on the face of the statue of Glinda the Good Witch of the North, they all entered the hidden room behind her when she floated to the side.
Fortunately, there was a comfortable couch which Harry sank onto with a sigh. Hermione followed him, nuzzling into his side.
"So, what's so important," Harry asked as he rubbed his eyes with his free hand.
In the most serious tone Harry or Hermione had ever heard, George asked, "How'd you do it?"
Harry froze. Dropping his hand, he stared at George. When he didn't flinch, Harry switched his gaze to Fred. He too was watching the 'third year' couple with a solemn expression.
"How'd we do what?" Hermione asked, attempting to be offhand.
1. I own nothing. Thanks to all who reviewed the first four 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 the Three Travellers by Schlamboozle. Despite my loathing of horcruxes as a plot device (splitting your soul?), it's one of the best post-HBP fics I've read.
3. For those of you unaware, Hermione recited from 1 Corinthians, chapter 13, verses 1-8.
4. Minerva's little speech to Tonks is plucked from Elie Wiesel's A Beggar in Jerusalem. If you haven't read anything by this incredibly moving writer, make the time. It's worth it.
5. When Remus referenced "Ghandi, King or Christ" when speaking to Dora, I was having him refer to the social upheaval and change spurred by His teachings; divorcing that aspect of Him from His Divinity.
6. This was a very emotional chapter to write, hence the longer wait time. Hope it was worth it, it took a lot out of me.