The Last Battle has been fought, and Harry Potter has won. The price, however, has been high. Nearly every person Harry cared for is dead, maimed, or otherwise injured. The magical culture of Br...
Friday, August 2, 1991
"And don't forget. . . ."
"Remus!" Harry nearly snapped, "you're as bad as Sirius. I think I've proven I can pretend to be eleven. In reality, I'm nineteen and unlike the pair of you, I'm housebroken. I speak more than enough languages, and I think I can take care of myself, even if two or three Death Eaters wander into our path, which we all know is extraordinarily unlikely. Now, you two, be careful." Harry's young face almost crumbled. "I don't want to lose either of you."
"We'll be careful," Sirius promised.
"Or at least I will, and I'll keep an eye on the mutt," Remus said.
"Hey!" Sirius protested.
Harry rolled his eyes as Sirius and Remus started bickering. "Old married couple," Harry grumblerd. He walked over to Moody. The four of them were in the basement of Grimmauld Place. "I'll see you in just over two weeks," he said. "Try and get the comedy team off on time."
"Have a good time, Potter, and remember. . . ."
"Constant Vigilance?" Harry suggested.
"Of course, but I was going to say, if you mess things up, we won't be letting you out on your own again until your body turns seventeen," Moody teased.
"TouchÃ©," Harry said with a grin. He tossed floo powder into the fire. Moody had arranged things with an old friend of his to have the Grangers' fireplace connected for that evening only, and just to Grimmauld Place. "The Grangers," Harry said, and ducked out.
"Harry?" Sirius asked.
"Right on the ball as always, Black," Moody taunted. "Now you two get over here! The pair of you obviously need some advice on helping the Weasley boys."
Sirius and Remus sighed and did as they were told.
Harry tumbled out of the fireplace and into the Grangers' sitting room, landing on his face. Harry coughed and, hearing soft giggles, opened his eyes. He realized his forehead was on a pair of bare feet. "Hi, Hermione," he managed to say.
Hermione helped him to his feet and brushed Harry off. Harry stared at Hermione. "What is it?" she asked, stepping back.
Harry looked over the young girl, dressed only in the top of a swim suit and short denim cut-offs.
"I never saw you so relaxed before," Harry realized.
"Really?" Hermione said. "Not even in my other life? And no," she added, "my parents aren't home yet, so we can talk about that."
"Then no, not really, not even then." Harry said. He considered. "Of course, we really weren't close friends the first two months of school, and I never saw you at home before this time around. And the other times, we were having deep discussions and all that."
"And this time, we're going to travel and have fun and romp on the beach and I'll have you all to my self," Hermione said joyfully and all in one breath.
"And yes, we're going to do all that," Harry agreed.
"And thank you for having me taught Italian and Latin magically," Hermione said, still bouncing. She already knew French.
Harry shrugged. He wasn't used to a bouncy, happy Hermione, but this was a good change. He spared a stray thought on how prettily Hermione might bounce once she went through puberty, but killed it quickly. "If we're going to Italy and France, you might as well know the languages, and it was just as easy to arrange two languages as one, and knowing Latin will help us is school."
"Harry," Hermione stated, "learn how to accept someone's thanks, okay?"
Harry smiled and Hermione grinned back. "Okay. In that case, you are very welcome."
"Now, let's get your suitcase up to the guest room," Hermione instructed. "Mum and Dad will be home with take-out soon, and we have to get up early to make the trip to the airport."
"What time is the flight tomorrow?" Harry asked, straining a bit at lifting his suitcase, while Hermione picked up his backpack.
"Eight-fifteen," Hermione replied. "It's just about a two hour flight to Nice, plus there's an hour's time change. We still have to be up before Five in order to drive to the airport and check in."
"Hermione?" Harry asked as he set his suitcase down in the Grangers' guest bedroom.
"May I talk to you about a subject which I know is a very sensitive one to you?"
Hermione smile faded into a frown out of confusion. "Sure," she finally said. "What about?" She became more nervous when Harry sat her on the edge of the bed, took her hands, and looked deep into her eyes. Hermione's heart fluttered.
Harry sighed, and said, "I know you're sensitive about your teeth."
Hermione flushed, but nodded slightly.
"They can be magically shrunken," Harry said. "You did it during our Fourth year, and your parents were very upset with you. If you want, I could shrink them a tiny bit several times over the years, and by the time we get to, say, Christmas our Fourth year, you'll have them where you want them."
"Really?" Hermione said eagerly.
"Really," Harry confirmed. "If we do them a little at a time, perhaps your parents won't really notice the changes."
"Maybe," Hermione agreed. "When?"
"I thought I could narrow them just a tiny bit now, and again before we get to Hogwarts," Harry answered. "Then not again until we get back from the Yule break."
"Alright," Hermione answered. "Every little bit is a help."
Saturday, August 3, 1991
Sirius Black flopped down in the kitchen chair, and managed to reopen one eye. "You're a brilliant house elf," he told Dobby, who was already standing next to chair with a large cup of strong black coffee.
"Thank you, Mister Sirius," Dobby said happily.
Sirius winced. It was 6:15, which was too early for him to really tolerate a happy house elf. He therefore looked at Remus, who seemed to be at best slightly only more alert than he was. "Wonder where Harry is?" Sirius mumbled.
"Mister Harry is with the Grangers, traveling just past the outskirts of London," Dobby supplied.
Sirius and Remus stared at Dobby. Finally, Remus said, "Dobby, you were freed of service to Sirius, but aren't you still pledged to him?"
Dobby looked very frightened.
"No need to look like that," Sirius said gruffly. "Are you bound to, or at least working for, Harry or for me?"
"Dobby works for Mister Sirius," Dobby answered.
"Go on," Sirius said.
"But . . . Dobby and Winky are close, and Winky is bound to Mister Harry, and . . . and Dobby feels somewhat bound to Mister Harry, too, although Dobby does not know why. However, Dobby must put his service to Mister Sirius and the House of Black ahead of service to Mister Harry. There will be no conflict."
"I'm sure there wouldn't be," Remus said, in order to calm the elf down.
Sirius managed to pick up the cue despite the early hour and only one sip of the strong coffee. "I can't say I understand, but I fully trust you, Dobby. And if something happens to me, never mind this house or the House of Black or anything like that. You get yourself to Harry."
Dobby happily nodded, and went off to polish silver.
"It's amazing how Harry attracts just about anyone who hasn't made up their mind to dislike him ahead of time," Remus said lightly.
"True," Sirius had to agree. He sighed and gulped down his coffee. "Shall we see to that portkey and get moving?"
Remus stretched. "We might as well."
That evening, Harry and Hermione sat in the lobby of the hotel they were staying in, people watching and listening to the French conversations. Nice was, well, nice, but not terribly interesting to two bright young magical children. Still, they were only staying there at the very beginning and end of the trip. Nice was merely a convenient central location to fly into. The Grangers had rented a car, and the next morning they would be off. Over the next eight days, they would hit Florence, Bologna, Parma, Milan, and Genoa. A week from Monday, they would drive from Genoa back past Nice and along the Mediterranean coast to a beach resort just past Narbonne-Plage, where they would stay from Monday afternoon until Saturday morning. Then they would go back to Nice and fly back to London on the Sunday.
The oddest thing about the vacation for Harry occurred when he finally arrived at the beach and he realized that the 'clothing optional' French private resort really meant 'no clothing'. It was slightly embarrassing at first walking around starkers, but he managed not to let it show. The most fun thing, other than spending time with Hermione and having the first real vacation in his life (unless he counted the time he had spent in Diagon Alley the weeks before his Third year), was discovering some gilly weed. He and Hermione had thereafter spent several hours swimming deep just off the resort's beaches, playing like seals and even finding 'treasure' (bits of ancient Greek and Roman amphora). The Grangers had been very disappointed when Harry had regretfully told them that the weed was mildly poisonous to Muggles.
"That is one of the hardest things for the Muggle parents of magical children to accept," Harry had told them that evening.
"What's that?" Emma Granger asked.
"That magical people are different than Muggles in some important physical aspects," Harry answered. "The vast majority of potions and such which affect us often just poison Muggles and when they don't, they just taste bad and have no effect."
"So, you think you're superior to us?" Dan asked.
"I suppose that depends on what you mean by 'superior'," Harry answered thoughtfully. "If you mean superior in terms of basic rights, then no, of course not. We have some superior abilities, in addition to the magic. We live longer, and tend to have better memories and much better health on average. On the other hand, wizards tend to be lazy, mentally and especially culturally. We're so out-numbered that if everyone knew about us, we'd be exploited."
"Which is why these so-called 'Pure-Bloods' Mister Lupin told us about hate us," Dan mused.
"That's one reason," Harry said. "And just think about things from a traditionalist's point of view. First of all, they want to stay hidden from the Muggle world, but because of Hermione, two more Muggles have learned that the magical world exists."
"I hadn't thought things that way," Emma admitted.
"Just think of a family where, say, there are five children, the parents, the grandparents, and aunts and uncles and cousins all living if not together then all near each other, and only one of the children is magical. Just think of all those possible security leaks."
"According to Hogwarts: A History, those children weren't even automatically contacted until the 1950s," Hermione put in. "In fact, when they were taken to Hogwarts, their family's memories were often modified to believe the child had died, or their memories might even be erased!"
"I can understand that," Dan admitted unhappily. "I'd hate for it to happen, but I can understand it."
"On top of that," Harry went on, "here we Muggle-raised are, coming into Hogwarts, talking about Muggle culture -- movies, television, music that's strange to them, football and rugby and cricket, slang, habits, and cars, messing up everyday Magical references, asking questions about things they've known for years and yet also making them feel ignorant by not knowing anything about the vast majority of people all around them. In short, they see us diluting their culture, and in some ways, we do."
Hermione spoke up. "We're immigrants, who keep going home every summer instead of becoming completely . . . what the word?"
"Acculturated?" Emma suggested.
"Exactly," Harry agreed.
"And why else do they hate us?" Dan demanded.
"As I said, wizards age more slowly than Muggles," Harry said. "Even a Muggle-born like Hermione will likely live until at least the age of a hundred to a hundred and twenty as often as a Muggle makes it to seventy-five. Professor Dumbledore is somewhere around a hundred and forty-six, and a few of his teachers still work as Ministry testers for the Fifth and Seventh years taking the standard exams." The three Grangers nodded, already knowing about O.W.L.s and N.E.W.T's, at least in general terms. "The current Minister was born around 1900 and is one of the younger ones in Europe. When he first worked in the Ministry around 1920, he worked with some people who had been in the Ministry before Queen Victoria took the throne." Harry changed subjects slightly. "How well have you adapted to computers?"
"We still can't get the silly thing to do the records right," Emma conceded, wondering about the switch. Most offices and smaller businesses were just moving towards computers in the early 1990s.
"And your oldest co-workers?" Harry asked.
"Most of the others in the building won't have anything to do with them," Dan agreed.
"Well, that's how people of Fudge's generation feel about cars and planes, and the older generation feels about electricity, and how their grandparents felt about steam engines and the industrial revolution. There are Pure-Bloods our age who have never tried to cross a busy Muggle street," Harry pointed out, thinking of Draco, "and who would likely get run over if they tried. The Muggle world is an alien world to them, and it's a very dangerous place." Harry grinned, but then frowned. "And just think, how can these aristocrats play the part if they come out into the everyday world, when every lorry terrifies them? They can only come out at night, dressed in masks and dark robes and terrify families they catch by surprise."
"Well, with the modifications that Mister Moody made to our alarm systems, they won't be catching us easily," Dan stated. "Tell me, if you know. How many wizards can stand up to a nine millimeter slug?"
"If you catch them by surprise, very few," Harry answered. "Give them more than a second or so, though, and about one out of a hundred could set up shield which could deflect it. Give them five or six seconds, and they can rip the gun out of your hand or hex you."
The Muggle dentist glared at Harry, who looked back calmly. Finally, he said, "Do you think there's a war coming in your world, Harry?"
"I don't know," Harry said honestly. "Voldemort is going to try and come back. If he succeeds, there may be a war. If he fails, there won't be one, at least not for a while.
"He is such an odd boy, isn't he?" Emma said that night as she and he husband settled into bed.
"He is," Dan agreed. "We always knew that, as brilliant as we both were as children, Hermione is a real prodigy. And yet Harry outshines her."
"He does," Emma agreed. "I've really read through some of Hermione's books, you know."
"I know," Dan agreed. The pair had split her books between them, trying to understand the world their daughter was going to. He had tried reading the potions and transfiguration books, and they had really made no sense to him. He was glad that at least the astronomy text had made sense.
"Merlin really is the gold standard as far as they are concerned," Emma said. "Even this Voldemort never claimed to be greater than Merlin."
"And what was it Lupin said? That Harry could be the greatest wizard since Merlin?" Dan shook his head. "I can believe it. As much as I hate sending our little girl into a world where she's something of a despised minority, it feels like the right thing to do, doesn't it?"
"It does," Emma agreed. "I just hope she sticks close to Harry."
"I'm not so sure we'll feel that way in a few years," Dan complained. "If they were even a year older, I'd say they were too close now!"
"That's why I wanted him to come with us now," Emma said. Like a fair number of naturists, Emma believed that the exposure of children to the nudist lifestyle would actually make them slightly less preoccupied with the opposite gender as teens, as they weren't as mysterious.
Unlike Emma, whose family had been naturists for three generations, Dan had only embraced the lifestyle when he had met Emma. He was a bit more uncertain of the theory, especially where his daughter was concerned. Still, he had agreed that it seemed to be true of most of the nudist families they had know over the years.
He hoped it was true of Harry and Hermione.
"Nothing," Bill Weasley said in disgust. Albania is not a particularly large country, about 50% larger than the American state of New Jersey or twice as large as Northern Ireland. Bill and Charlie had now spent over seven weeks searching the country, and Remus and Sirius had spent four of those weeks helping. There were few places that neither the Muggles nor the remnants of the magical community frequented, and those had been well-searched.
They had found a few traces of Voldemort's presence in some forested hills, and some reports of quite a few missing people, some of whom had turned up dead with traces of Dark Magic having been performed on them.
Beyond that, nothing.
The four were sitting in some of those hills, camping out under the stars (although they had two magical tents to retreat into). They had a small camp fire going.
"Well, while we had hoped that it would be easy we never thought it was likely to be," Remus pointed out.
"And remember, Voldemort claims to be a descendent of old Slytherin himself," Sirius added. "We know that Slytherin fled this way after he was driven from Hogwarts, before he headed north to help found the school that later evolved into Durmstrang. If there is magic that old at work, it might be hidden to most types of detection."
"I know that, Sirius," Bill retorted. "That is what I've been training to detect the last few years, you know."
"Sorry," Sirius said.
"So am I," Charlie complained. "I might just as well have gone on to Romania for all the good I'm doing here."
"But then who would be working with me?" Bill asked. "I can do most things, but I don't know if I'd want to tackle a lair created by Slytherin himself, occupied by You-Know-Who, and possibly with a magically-enhanced viper inside, all by myself."
"I think the important thing is, we've managed to at least superficially hit all the likely spots and basically drawn a blank, other than identifying a few places where Voldemort frequented these last nine and a half years," Remus said. "That gives you the most likely spots to get into with more detail, and hopefully you can do so before the snow sets in."
"Do we know for sure what we're looking for?" Charlie asked.
"We do," Remus answered. "We can't give you all the details or tell you how we know, but that magical emerald is important to the final defeat of Voldemort. We know he was planning on feeding it to a viper, we just don't know if he did or not. For what it's worth, I think either he has, or he left it in the viper's nest. Either way, the Dark magic would slowly mutate the beast, especially if it's inside him."
"You-Know-Who turned it into a Horcrux for himself, didn't he?" Bill asked.
Remus and Sirius stared at him, but Bill and Charlie stared back. Neither Weasley was stupid, and Bill was well-read and well-trained.
Sirius and Remus looked at each other, then Remus looked back at Bill and said, "It was one of six he created."
Bill was shocked. "How was there enough of a soul left to be split that many times!"
"There barely was," Remus said. "Voldemort isn't really human anymore. If he takes form again, 'humanoid' would be as close as words could describe what he is now."
"How many have you found?" Charlie asked.
"Four have been found and destroyed," Remus answered. "Voldemort is likely to discover that at some point over the next six months. That's why we warned you to be ready to clear out on a moment's notice."
"We knew your uncles, your mother's two brothers, and we don't want her to lose you two as well," Sirius told them. The two brave Weasley boys nodded nervously.
They almost wish they hadn't brought the subject up.
I had a long history of making Hermione's family naturists before coming to this site and reading the Hogwarts Exposed series. Read it, if you want to 'see' more of Hermione.