A Light in the Dark: Afterglow
“He’s not what you expected, is he Severus... !?”
“No... he is not,” Snape responded stiffly, after a pause. “When he first arrived...” Snape’s pallid features flushed and he swallowed uncomfortably, unable to bring himself to say more.
“You saw James Potter!” The Headmaster’s clear blue eyes twinkled as he regarded the Potions professor. “So what changed, might I ask?”
Dumbledore had a feeling he knew the answer, but he wanted to hear Severus Snape say it for himself. Snape was silent for nearly a full minute before responding, his flaring nostrils the only sign of emotion.
“I... I saw Lily - in his eyes,” he said so quietly, it was almost a whisper.
“Yes! Harry has his mother’s eyes,” Dumbledore nodded, a sense of satisfaction filling him. “And I daresay, that in many respects, he is more like her at the same age, than he is like his father... though he no doubt has his father’s talent for quidditch, and perhaps a certain degree of his impetuousness!”
The Headmaster had seen the gradual change in Severus Snape since Harry’s first year, and he was pleased. Though the outcome of the events surrounding Sirius Black’s pardon had led to a potential problem, Dumbledore supposed that they would find other ways around it. Severus appeared to be thinking along similar lines.
“Unfortunately, I let the Rat - Pettigrew... he escaped!” Snape muttered. “If he does return to the Dark Lord and finds a way to restore him... I am finished as a spy! Voldemort will never accept me now. I surely let too much slip regarding my true allegiance...”
“Undoubtedly true...” Dumbledore sighed, but his eyes continued to twinkle warmly. “We shall simply have to find other means of keeping ourselves informed of Voldemort’s plans and movements when he eventually returns to Britain.”
“In the meantime, do not trouble yourself Severus. For the moment at least, the Malfoys still believe you to be one of theirs, and you have done very well indeed... I could not be happier at the turn of events! Sirius Black is a free man thanks to you, and Harry and Miss Granger are safe and sound... as are Remus and the Weasley boy!”
“They saved my life! ... Potter, Granger...” Snape interjected, nearly whispering, his eyes distant. “They saved all of our lives. I have no doubt that once the Dementors had finished feasting on Black and Pott... Harry - they would have not been able to resist temptation... they would have taken the souls of us all!”
Severus Snape was surprised at himself. The irony was not lost on him that yet another Potter had saved his life, but this felt wholly unlike being “saved” by his arch-rival at Hogwarts from a potentially deadly pranking. This time Severus felt no bitterness, no sense of humiliation, only a profound regret for what might have been.
Slowly, Snape and the Headmaster got to their feet, both worn from their late night at the Ministry as they made their way from Dumbledore’s office to the Great Hall for breakfast.
Harry blinked as the cheerful morning sun blazed through the window, wondering briefly at the fact that his dreams had all been peaceful after the terrors of the previous evening. Then he felt someone stirring in his arms, and saw a blur of gold reflecting from the tawny tresses strewn across his shoulder, tickling his chin, and it all flooded back.
Harry was in the Hospital Wing again, snuggling with his Hermione as Madam Pomfrey hadn’t had the heart to separate them, both still dressed in the clothes they had worn the night before. A curtain was drawn around the bed which they shared, and their nightstand was strewn with chocolate wrappers and empty vials of calming draught.
Harry pressed his lips against the bushy head on his shoulder, and before he could stop himself he whispered, “I love you Hermione!”
Hermione stirred again and Harry had a strong urge to kiss her as he had last night. But he restrained himself, suddenly feeling anxious. What if last night had been a fluke brought on by a release of their pent up terror after the Dementor Swarm had fled? What if Hermione really was just his best friend? Harry didn’t want what he had with Hermione to ever end, but he needed to know exactly what it was before he allowed himself to kiss her like that again.
Hermione sighed contentedly as she slowly drifted into consciousness, Harry’s arms encircling her. She hoped Madam Pomfrey would let them stay in the Hospital Wing all weekend surrounded by their curtain.
Then she heard him. It had been such a small whisper, that for a moment Hermione was afraid it was the remnant of a dream - an echo of the night that Harry had uttered those same words in Diagon Alley. But Hermione could still feel the sensation of Harry’s lips pressed against her hair, and the quickening of Harry’s pulse under the palm of her hand which lay upon his chest - and she knew it was true. Harry had said it again - with meaningful intent. Giddily, Hermione fully awoke.
Harry was startled when Hermione suddenly moved and her radiant face, framed in tumbling messy ringlets, hovered above his own, her brown eyes flashing golden in the morning sun.
“I love you too Harry!” she whispered.
Before Harry realised what was happening, Hermione’s lips were intertwined heatedly with his own, her fingers tangled in his hair. Instinctively, Harry’s hands clasped her sides as Hermione leaned over him, and he lost himself to the soaring elation within, his angst fleeing like Dementors on the wind. Harry grinned at Hermione who was giggling when their lips wetly parted.
“Hermione,” he said in a blissful daze, “...does this.... does this mean that it’s real? ... That we really are boyfriend and girlfriend?”
“It does if you want it to Harry...” Hermione responded, nodding, peering hopefully into Harry’s iridescent green eyes.
“Yeah... er... I’d really like that Hermione!” said Harry, unable to wipe the grin off his face.
Clicking footsteps and the wheel of a trolley told them both that Madam Pomfrey was approaching, and Hermione quickly withdrew to a position which hopefully appeared less compromising.
Pomfrey took one look at the flushed faces and the unsuccessfully hidden cheeriness of her favourite patients, and had a very good idea what they’d been getting up to. Needless to say, she managed to feign a business-like demeanor much better than they as she bustled in and drew their curtains back.
“No doubt Mr Weasley will wake when he smells breakfast. I would suggest that Miss Granger take the hospital bed next to yours Mr Potter, before he does awaken,” said Madam Pomfrey pointedly, then her features softened.
“Mr Weasley’s leg has healed splendidly, not requiring an administration of Skele-gro. He ought to be able to leave the ward by lunchtime. But after facing two hundred Dementors, I’d like to keep my eye on you both through the weekend,” she concluded with a knowing look.
Harry and Hermione couldn’t help themselves and both began giggling as Pomfrey departed, leaving the breakfast tray behind. Sure enough, as the giddy pair dug into the eggs and bacon, sausages, crumpets and porridge, Ron awoke in a bed on the other side of the ward, sniffing the air hungrily.
“Wh...what’s going on?” Ron groaned blearily, his leg feeling sore and stiff. “What happened? Why are we here?” Then bits of last night began to slide back into place in his brain. “Where’s Black? What happened to Lupin?”
Ron peered at Harry and Hermione in puzzlement as Pomfrey bustled back into the ward wheeling another cart full of breakfast for him.
“Wait, so Black is free now?” said a wide-awake, happily fed, but still bewildered Ron after they had all finished breakfast. He goggled at his friends as they recounted the events of last night, telling him the bits that he’d missed, and those that he'd forgotten in his blur of pain.
“Yeah...” Harry nodded, also filling in the bits that Lupin had told him about Sirius during Patronus lessons. “Dumbledore and Snape took him to London to be pardoned after we got back to the castle. Before they left, Sirius invited me to live with him when I’m not staying at the Dursleys - he’s my godfather - he and Lupin were my father’s best friends in school. I’m going to visit him at Easter after he gets out of St Mungo’s.”
Ron stared at Harry slackjawed, still having trouble contemplating that a deranged mass-murderer really wasn’t a killer, and that he was actually Harry’s godfather. Not to mention that Lupin was actually a werewolf. Then there was the business with the creepy, slovenly wizard who had been his pet rat. Ron shuddered in horror, remembering that he’d let Scabbers sleep in his bed.
“And Scabbers... er... Pettigrew I mean... he really was the killer then?” Ron moaned. “What happened to him?”
“Yes! He really was the killer!” Hermione said in a slightly cold tone. “The one who betrayed Harry’s parents...”
“But unfortunately he escaped when Lupin turned into a werewolf and then you fainted,” she said a bit more gently, recovering herself. Ron had apologised for blaming Crookshanks and blowing up at her after all, and it wasn’t his fault that his rat had really been an evil wizard.
“And after that, two hundred Dementors attacked you all! You would not be sitting here alive Mr Weasley, if it were not for these two...” said a warm new voice in the hospital wing.
Everyone spun around to face Dumbledore who had somehow managed to sneak up on the three students congregated at Ron Weasley’s hospital bed. Ron’s eyes widened when he realised what the Headmaster was saying.
“Two... two hundred D...Dementors....? ...attacked us?” stammered Ron. He glanced at Harry and Hermione who both averted their eyes, looking more embarrassed than anything.
“Indeed they did Mr Weasley... And it is thanks to the courage of Harry and Miss Granger, and their dedication to hard work, that they were able to summon their Patroni to repel all of the Dementors... and saved the lives of every last one of you.”
Harry gulped; he had been unsure of how to tell Ron about that bit without sounding like a boastful prat. And truth be told, Harry was still terrified that they might have all ended up as soulless husks in a state of living death - if it weren’t for how he and Hermione felt about each other.
Hermione let out a sigh of relief and peered gratefully at Dumbledore. She had been feeling equally reticent about explaining that bit to Ron after the way he’d sniped at her at Christmas for liking Harry.
Draco Malfoy was as infuriated as his father when classes resumed on Monday. He was so angry that he almost crumpled up and threw in the fireplace the magic parchment that they employed to communicate with each other quickly. But he restrained himself, knowing it would just annoy his father to have to send him another parchment by Owl Post.
And Draco was already smarting from the dressing down he’d received from his father for continuing to get slightly lesser marks than the Mudblood and Potter in many subjects - especially potions. He reread the offending lines again.
Severus has warned me that your marks are slipping due to your inattentiveness in class. How do you think it makes the Malfoy Apothecary look when an inferior breed outshines the son of the owner of the establishment? It simply won’t do Draco...
Draco was used to being pampered and spoiled, and he aimed to keep it that way. He glowered again at the message on the piece of parchment informing him that their petition to have the Hippogriff destroyed had been summarily dismissed by the Ministry. And Draco knew that his father was also enraged about something else which had gone wrong, but the elder Malfoy had kept that to himself.
Draco wondered if the bizarre Ministry release in the Sunday edition of the Daily Prophet regarding the Pardon of Sirius Black had anything to do with his father’s distraction, but he couldn’t for the life of himself fathom what it might be. Draco also considered the baffling possibility that Potter and the Mudblood had been involved in Black’s Pardon - but that made no sense to him.
Potter and the Mudblood must have had something to do with getting the Hippogriff and that Oaf who taught Care of Magical Creatures off the hook though. Potter seemed to have that stupid Minister wrapped around his little finger, and the Mudblood was clearly the brains of the operation. Draco wished for the thousandth time that the Basilisk had killed them both. If his father couldn’t come up with another plan for ridding Hogwarts of Mudbloods and Mudblood-lovers, he’d have to come up with one of his own.
“One day Potter! ... ” Draco muttered to himself, eyes narrowed in bitter hate. “One day I’ll see you and your pet Mudblood both dead!”
The weeks following that tempestuous night passed quickly and gloriously for Harry, for the second year running it appeared that he’d have a few peaceful months of spring at Hogwarts free of someone trying to murder him or Hermione. And to top it off, Hermione was officially his girlfriend.
Not that either of them had made any sort of announcement; they hadn’t hung any banners or advertised in the Daily Prophet. And they were both still anxious about what Ron’s reaction might be if he knew, and tried their best to act as if nothing had changed around him.
But at least they both knew it - as apparently did most of the other students in Third Year and above (not to mention many of the more precociously aware Second Years), which really was no different than things had been before, if Lee Jordan’s pronouncement during the Gryffindor/Ravenclaw quidditch match had been any indication. Though it was clear that eventually Ron would have to be told if he couldn't work it out for himself.
In any case, school had continued much as it had been, but without the threat of a mass-murderer hanging over him. Harry was speechless when Lupin had let him keep the Marauder’s Map, much to Hermione’s own surprise.
“But it’s best to keep this between yourself and Hermione, Harry,” said Lupin with a wry smile. “Dumbledore knows about it now of course, but he seems to be quite keen that you have it... He seems to feel as I do - which is that along with your Invisibility Cloak - this should give you a potential advantage against any possible future threats at Hogwarts. And as you are the only scion of a Marauder, you really are the ‘heir apparent’ after all.”
“That’s brilliant Harry!” Hermione had squeaked after Lupin left them both to it.
She was thrilled that Lupin had offered a sensible reason for Harry to keep it - especially with Dumbledore’s express permission - as she had been feeling very guilty for encouraging Harry not to turn it in after they’d had such a lovely time in Hogsmeade together.
“Of course we won’t need it for our next Hogsmeade trip,” she had concluded with a grin.
“You got the permission slip from your mum then?” said Harry.
“Hedwig brought it back this morning!”
“Excellent!” beamed Harry, giving Hermione a hug.
“But what about Ron?” he suddenly thought aloud. “He sort of knows about the map now... and I feel a bit guilty because Fred and George gave it to me to take you out instead of giving it to him.”
“Well... that’s alright if he knows about it now that you’re friends again,” said Hermione with a placating expression. “And in any case, you heard Lupin, it really does belong to you because your father is one of the people who made it. If Ron ever asks how you got it, that should hopefully be enough to convince him that it’s rightfully yours.”
“Yeah, I suppose you’re right! Thanks Hermione!” Harry grinned again, feeling a bit better about that. “By the way... what about Easter?”
“Mum said I can go to London and stay with you and your godfather,” Hermione squealed gleefully. “She says it’s alright as one of our professors is going to be staying with us too... And she’s going to come up to London herself for a few days to see me... to see us! She wants to meet you properly this time.”
Harry was almost beside himself with happiness as the Easter Holidays approached. Ron was a bit disappointed that he hadn’t been invited to London too, but not much, as the prospect of staying with Sirius Black and a werewolf - even if it was Professor Lupin - was slightly terrifying to him.
A week before the holidays, late in the afternoon, something that Ron found very cheering turned up as he was playing Exploding Snap with Harry, Hermione, and Neville at a table near one of the Common Room windows.
“Harry,” said Hermione suddenly, peering over his shoulder, “There‘s an adorable little owl outside the window.”
Sure enough, a tiny little owl barely bigger than a Snitch was doing its best to stay aloft, flapping its weeny little wings mightily as it carried a letter much too big for it. Harry chortled as he let the fluffy, minuscule bird in and it dropped the letter in front of him, appearing very pleased with itself. Crookshanks looked up at the minute owl lazily from Hermione’s lap with an apparent grin on his face, purring.
“Oooh, what a sweet little owl,” said Parvati when Lavender pointed it out with a squeak of delight.
“Who’s the letter from Harry?” Ron asked curiously.
“It’s from Sirius,” gasped Harry when he had torn open the envelope.
“The man who was pardoned? He’s your godfather isn’t he Harry?” asked Neville.
“Yeah,” Harry grinned. “He’s out of St Mungo’s now...”
“Read it aloud Harry,” said Hermione excitedly.
Thank you for your letters. St Mungo’s released me yesterday as I’m feeling much better. Besides, I think some of the nurses are probably very glad to see the back of me. I’m very happy to hear that Hermione is able to come too, and look forward to seeing you both under much nicer circumstances, and meeting her mother as well. Don’t worry, our chaperone Remus will make sure that I’m on my best behaviour!
It was indeed me who sent you the Firebolt. Crookshanks brought your owl, Hedwig, to me, and I sent her to Spintwitches in Hogsmeade with the order for it in your name, which also included a bank security code known only to the Gringotts goblins, giving them permission to release the gold to the shop from my own vaults. Please consider it 13 birthdays worth of presents from your godfather.
I must apologise for the fright I gave you when you left your Uncle’s home last year. I had only thought to catch a glimpse of you before returning back to the north, but I think the sight of me rather startled you.
I also feel rather badly for inadvertently breaking your friend Ron’s leg, and it’s my fault that he no longer has a rat. Please tell Ron that the owl is for him, to make up for his loss. And as you have indicated in your last letter that he is without a broom, I am enclosing a voucher which will be good at any Quidditch supply shop for the latest model of Cleansweep.
I hope that makes up in part for injuring him, and surely scaring the living daylights out of him. Please tell him that he also has a mean right-hook.
I can’t wait till I see you and Hermione with Remus next week.
“I can’t believe it!” said Ron hoarsely, utterly confounded and thrilled all at once. “An owl and a new broom? ... I can’t believe it!” Ron repeated. He peered at Harry with an embarrassed look in his eye as his ears turned pink, not sure how he felt about Harry mentioning the broom situation, wondering how much he’d told Sirius.
“Thanks Harry! That’s really nice of your godfather! Erm... I... er... I actually do have an ancient Shooting Star at home - it used to be Bill’s... It just wasn’t... er... worthbringingt’Hogwarts... ” he mumbled.
“I remember it,” said Harry with a grin, “The one you said was slower than passing butterflies when Hermione and I stayed with you the summer before Second Year. It’s alright Ron - now you’ll have something good to practice on over the summer and to bring to Hogwarts so you can try-out for the team next year.”
“Yeah... yeah, I will!” Ron beamed as the excitement at the idea of having a brand new broom all of his own finally really took hold. “Tell your godfather thanks from me... and for the owl too!”
Hermione almost felt like bursting with happiness and giving Harry a big kiss for being so sweet. But it was getting on for dinnertime, and they didn’t really have time to look for somewhere private, so she settled for squeezing Harry’s hand under the table.
Number 12 Grimmauld Place was dark and gloomy when they first arrived, but after giving Lupin a big hug, Sirius assured Harry and Hermione that they would be going out for dinner. Sirius wanted to treat them all to one of London’s best muggle restaurants, but Lupin suggested they might all feel more comfortable someplace a bit less upscale.
“Alright then Remus,” Sirius agreed with an exaggerated sigh, rolling his eyes at Lupin before giving Harry a wink. “But make no mistake, on Easter we will most certainly be dining in London’s finest establishment.”
“That sounds like a very reasonable compromise Sirius,” said Lupin with a wry smile.
“So what do you fancy Harry?” Sirius asked eagerly. “Burgers? Fish and Chips? A nice hot curry? Chinese? Italian? French?”
“Er...” said Harry, feeling a bit overwhelmed.
Except for the few weeks he’d spent in Diagon Alley with Hermione, Harry really wasn’t accustomed to eating out. The Dursleys had nearly always left him locked in the cupboard under the stairs, unless they were going to be gone on an all-day outing or longer, in which case they left him with Mrs Figg. The wizarding pubs and cafes in Diagon Alley had all had very tasty food, but he didn’t think he recalled ever seeing Burgers or Fish and Chips on their menus, much less anything else that Sirius had mentioned.
Hermione could see that Harry was feeling anxious and whispered in his ear, squeezing his hand. They held a hushed conversation as Sirius and Remus exchanged knowing glances. Finally Harry nodded and grinned nervously as Hermione spoke for him.
“Mr Black...” Hermione piped up.
“Please... call me Sirius!”
“Er... Sirius, would Burgers and Fish and Chips be out of the question? It’s just... Harry’s never really had anything like that out before.”
“I know just the place Hermione! Harry... you're sure to like it!” Sirius beamed. “And remind me to have a chat with your Aunt and Uncle will you? I know you have to pop back there for the first part of summer, Dumbledore spoke to me very briefly in a private ward at St Mungo’s before heading back to Hogwarts that night...”
“Oh! That’s alright Sirius...” Harry’s grin suddenly became more genuine as his excitement overruled his anxiety. “That situation should be all fixed since Fudge emancipated me! The Dursleys won’t be able to push me around anymore...”
“Really?” gasped Sirius. “Hmmm... they did more than push you around a bit from what I’ve gathered. But Remus, you never mentioned Harry’s emancipation... nor did Dumbledore!”
“Slipped my mind! Sorry Sirius, I really haven’t had a proper opportunity for a good chat with you yet,” said Lupin, a bit misty-eyed. “Dumbledore’s really been working hard behind the scenes to fix things for Harry since his First Year. And the emancipation was brought about in part in case he needed to protect himself from you outside of Hogwarts - or any other apparent followers of Voldemort - as much as it was to protect himself from his relatives at home...”
“Ah, I see!” Sirius grinned again. “Excellent! That makes perfect sense then... Good for Dumbledore and Fudge! Well, let’s be off shall we?”
Hermione smiled as she watched Harry cheerily polishing off a cheeseburger, sprinkling a piece of fish with some malt vinegar before wolfing it, and washing it all down with a gulp of Coke. Harry dipped a chip in some ketchup and grinned back at her. Sirius felt a surge of elation when he saw how much Harry was enjoying himself; he shot Remus and Hermione grateful looks for their suggestions.
By the time they returned to Number 12, Harry was happy, tired, and full. Sirius gave Harry and Hermione bedrooms right next to each other, but kept them chatting until he spied Lupin stepping into the parlour below for a drink.
“Right then you two... this is just for show!” Sirius chuckled. “When Hermione’s mum comes to visit, you and Lupin will need to be able to tell her with a straight face that you both have your own rooms. But I know what a dingy, creepy place this is - and I’ve seen how you both are together...”
Hermione bit her lip and blushed as Harry turned slightly pink.
“I expect you’ll both be wanting a bit of familiar company at nights. These are adjoining rooms and I’m giving Hermione the key to the door in between them - so it’s entirely up to her. Just don’t do anything I wouldn’t do!” Sirius concluded with a wink at Harry.
“Er... thanks Sirius,” said Harry awkwardly, his face reddening even more. He felt a wave of relief though, as the idea of sleeping all alone in a strange new place wasn’t very appealing to him.
“I’ll see you in a minute Harry,” giggled Hermione when Sirius went back downstairs to join Remus for a nightcap.
Harry glanced around his room as he changed into pyjamas after cleaning his teeth. It really wasn’t as horrible as Sirius had been making it out to be. Obviously Sirius had done some cleaning and dusting in the week and a bit that he’d been out of hospital. And the old-fashioned furnishings were actually quite nice, despite the much darker colour scheme than he was used to in Gryffindor Tower. The woods were nearly all ebony, excepting a few mahogany flourishes, and the bedclothes and hangings on the four-poster were black with gold trimmings.
Nonetheless, Harry sighed with relief when Hermione appeared in the doorway between their two rooms in her dressing gown and nightie. He was taken with a heady mix of joy and trepidation as she clambered into bed beside him, blushing shyly. This was the first time that they’d been in a private bed together since Diagon Alley, and he felt awkward all over again.
“Thanks for inviting me Harry,” said Hermione, giving him a minty kiss on the lips before snuggling under one of his arms and curling one of her own around him. “I had a good time tonight, and your godfather is really nice. He’s funny... nothing at all like a mass-murdering maniac!” she concluded with a nervous little giggle.
“I’m glad you’re here with me Hermione,” said Harry as he began to relax. “Sirius was right to tell me to invite some friends... I really like him, but I do need someone familiar with me. I... I don’t really know Sirius well yet after all. I almost invited Ron as well, and I considered inviting Neville, but.. but I just wanted to be with you!”
“It’s alright Harry...” said Hermione, giving him another kiss. “I just wanted to be with you too.”
Harry closed his eyes, enjoying the quiet, feeling a surging rush of warmth as he snuggled with Hermione, soon drifting into a peaceful slumber.
The Easter Holidays flew by quickly, but Harry and Hermione enjoyed nearly all of it. They only went to Diagon Alley with Sirius and Lupin on the first full day of the holidays to exchange some gold for muggle money. Most of the holidays were spent doing all the things in muggle London which Hermione had been dying to share with Harry.
Harry had never once been to the cinema, the theatre, or museums, or had picnics in the park. He had never been to a festival, a concert, or a street market. Nor had he ever shopped in muggle shops for records, books, comics, or brand new clothes. And never had he the opportunity to sample the cuisine of many different cultures from around the world. Yet he’d done all of those things during the two weeks of the Easter Holidays with Hermione, Sirius, and Lupin.
Harry and Hermione had both been surprised that Number 12 had a record player, old fashioned though it was, because as far as they had been taught, electrical equipment didn’t function properly around magic.
“It’s like the Wizard Wireless,” Lupin explained. “There really isn’t any electronics involved in the actual operation. They operate entirely on magic.”
“I wonder though, could a television, or other muggle equipment that usually needs electricity be charmed to operate with magic instead?” Hermione asked, biting her lip pensively.
“I believe so,” Sirius responded. “It’s not a common practice in Britain or Europe, but I think a few wizards do. And I believe I’ve heard that it’s quite a popular practice among American wizards...”
“But one must be careful,” Lupin added. “There are certain laws in Britain, and many countries, regarding the charming of items commonly used by muggles in order to remain in compliance with International Secrecy Statutes...”
“Bah! Arbitrary Ministry rules,” Sirius snorted, “designed to favour certain families and their businesses. There are plenty of common artifacts that muggles use which are legally charmed to fit the needs of wizards - brooms, trunks, and tents to name just a few. Flying Carpets are illegal here, but perfectly legal in other countries... It’s got very little to do with complying with International Statutes...”
“Sirius does have a very good point,” said Lupin with a chuckle. “Still, one does need to be aware of Ministry laws, and at the very least, be careful to keep things charmed for personal use out of muggle hands.”
“Yeah, I suppose so... Ron’s father, Mr Weasley, works for the misuse of muggle artifacts office,” said Harry, frowning thoughtfully. “And even he got in trouble for charming a car to fly because we got spotted by muggles...”
“Still - it doesn’t seem fair really. I don’t really see what the big deal is over secrecy laws if wizards aren’t actually vulnerable to muggle attacks once we learn how to protect ourselves with magic - like flame freezing charms for example.”
“...Seems to me that muggles are more vulnerable to dark wizards with secrecy laws in place - and look at all the good that wizards could do to help non-magic people if we were allowed to share magic with them,” Harry concluded.
“My point precisely,” beamed Sirius as he regarded Harry proudly.
Lupin and Hermione both looked a bit disconcerted as they considered the validity of Harry’s argument. Lupin really couldn’t think of anything to counter Harry’s point.
“I think you’re absolutely right Harry,” said Hermione finally, with a look of conviction after considering all of the angles.
But it wasn’t just exploring muggle London and the interesting conversations which Harry and Hermione enjoyed over the holidays; the few hours of cleaning every morning that Sirius and Lupin would engage in after breakfast was fascinating enough that Harry and Hermione were more than happy to join in.
“Sorry about this,” said Sirius, “My family’s House-Elf apparently didn’t feel it necessary to keep the place up with nobody in the house for 12 years.”
“You had a house-elf?” Harry gasped, sharing a distressed look with Hermione.
“I have a house-elf!” Sirius responded, looking a bit bewildered at the appalled expressions on Harry and Hermione’s faces. “But with you and Hermione coming to stay, I felt it best to send him to work at Hogwarts where Dumbledore can look after him... Kreacher tended to parrot my family’s pureblood mania. My family was quite dark. They were all in Slytherin - I was the only one to be sorted into Gryffindor...”
Sirius showed Harry and Hermione the hooks in the hallway where the mounted heads of past house-elves had hung before their arrival, and the family tree tapestry. Sirius had considered pulling down the wall in order to remove the tapestry, but thought better of it. Harry and Hermione were both surprised to see how inter-related many of the pureblood families were.
“What happened here?” Hermione asked when she pulled aside a long curtain and discovered a wall which had most of the plasterboard missing. Harry turned to peer at Sirius questioningly.
“Ah!” Sirius shook his head with a rueful smile. “That wall had my beloved Mum’s portrait on it. I couldn’t get it off the wall, so I just tore out that bit of wall completely. She was the worst pureblood of the lot really. It wouldn’t have done to have had her shouting disgusting, filthy names at you all the time Hermione...”
Besides a lot of dusting, pest, and cobweb removal, and the boggart banished by Lupin, the cleaning was really more of a purge of dark artifacts, some to be turned over to the Ministry, and others to be destroyed. And some were simply family possessions which brought back too many ugly memories for Sirius - those he put in a sack to be sold off. Despite themselves, Harry and Hermione found many of the items frankly intriguing.
It was on the day before Hermione’s mother was due to arrive that Harry felt the familiar prickling in his scar when they were clearing out a room which had belonged to Sirius’s brother, Regulus. Harry picked up the gold locket and felt his scar begin to burn with an intensity he hadn’t felt since Second Year.
“Harry!” shouted Hermione when he staggered and nearly collapsed, clutching his forehead with a groan.
“What’s wrong? What happened?” Sirius looked panic-stricken and Lupin ran across the room to help him examine Harry, who was on his knees.
“It’s alright...” Harry gasped, as he clambered back to his feet, out of breath.
“I’ll... I’ll be okay,” he muttered. “I’ve felt this way before... loads of times in First Year when Voldemort was trying to get the Philosopher’s Stone. And also around Voldemort’s - Tom Riddle’s - diary in Second Year...”
“It’s a lot more intense when Voldemort himself is actually near...” Harry continued between gulps of air, “...In the Chamber of Secrets when Riddle actually came out of the diary... it was almost as bad as when he was possessing Quirrell... It’s been about a year since I’ve felt it this strongly... So it’s a bit of a shock at first - but I’m okay... really! I... I think it means that this locket is one of his Horcruxes...”
“Voldemort has Horcruxes?” The blood drained from Sirius’s features, and for a moment he looked as haggard and gaunt as the day Harry had first seen him in the Shrieking Shack. “Remus, what do you know about this?”
“Very little,” Lupin admitted ruefully. “I asked Dumbledore about the whole Chamber of Secrets business after Flitwick mentioned it to me one day. Dumbledore told me about Riddle’s diary and that Voldemort seems to have inadvertently left a piece of himself in Harry the day that... er... Anyway, Dumbledore had hoped that the diary was the only completed Horcrux - but if this locket is also one...”
“...There could be more!” Sirius nodded, his face still ashen.
“We have to take it to Dumbledore!” said Hermione a bit shrilly. “He can destroy the locket with the Sword of Gryffindor.”
“The Sword of Gryffindor?” Sirius arched his eyebrows “It seems that there is a lot which I haven’t heard yet.”
“Harry and I both got the sword last year when we fought the Basilisk in the Chamber of Secrets...” Hermione anxiously explained. “Harry killed the Basilisk with the sword and made sure it got imbued with the venom so that we had a weapon which could destroy Horcruxes if we found any more of them...
“Yeah...” Harry said painfully, between gasps of breath, “It’s true... Dumbledore hoped that the diary was the only one... but he does suspect that Voldemort might have made more.”
“Right then, you can both fill me in on the details later,” said Sirius gently, giving Harry and Hermione a look of awe. “Remus, you keep the locket safe then - far away from Harry - until you get it back to Hogwarts... Hermione, why don’t you take Harry to lie down for a bit.”
Sirius glanced at Remus as Hermione took Harry’s arm and led him to his room. Remus saw the tears in his eyes and put his hand comfortingly on Sirius’s shoulder.
“He’ll be alright you know...” said Lupin sympathetically. “Especially now that he has you!”
“It’s not that...” responded Sirius hoarsely, “It’s... it’s just... seeing them together! It’s... it’s almost like...”
“...like having James and Lily back,” Lupin finished quietly when Sirius choked up. “I know! Hermione easily matches Lily in intellect and compassion, and Harry does have many of James's qualities, though I daresay that Harry is even more like Lily than James - He has her maturity and kind nature... He has...”
“...his mother’s eyes!” Sirius managed to gasp with a nod. Lupin thought it best to be done with cleaning for the day and took Sirius to the parlour to pour him a stiff drink.
Hermione’s lips tenderly encircled his, her arms enfolding Harry in a warm embrace as his hands found themselves entangled in her cascading tawny locks. The pain in Harry’s scar faded rapidly as the forbidding darkness fled before the luminous glow spreading within him. When his eyelids fluttered open again, Hermione saw peace in Harry’s eyes once more as his head slumped back against the pillow.
Wetness leaked from Hermione’s own eyes as she rested nearly atop Harry and felt his heart beating next to her own.
“It’s alright Hermione...” Harry whispered as he caressed her back in little circles and gave her another little kiss. “I feel loads better now! Thank You! That was brilliant - I don’t know what I’d do without you! I’d be a mess...”
Hermione and her mother shed many tears as they embraced when she arrived. The days with Mrs Granger passed happily as she finally got to spend time with her daughter again, and got to know Harry.
Sirius and Lupin had made adjustments to allow her to pass through the charms which warded Number Twelve against non-magical people. And after the thorough cleaning, the townhouse was already far more bright and cheerful than when Harry and Hermione had first entered it.
“It’s good to finally meet you properly Harry,” said Mrs Granger when she hugged him upon her arrival, sadly noting to herself that he flinched at her touch. “I’m glad she has a good friend like you to look after her...”
“Hermione’s been looking after me really,” Harry replied, feeling a bit awkward and not knowing what else to say, peering red-faced at Hermione for help, who was grinning at him.
“Well, judging from Hermione’s letters, I’d have to say that you’re both looking after each other very well indeed!” Mrs Granger gave Harry a warm smile, finding his endearing blushes positively adorable.
Mrs Granger was very pleased at how warmhearted and sensible Professor Lupin seemed to be, and she enjoyed the slightly rakish charm of Harry’s godfather, though for all of his airs, she sensed that Sirius Black was a big softy at heart.
“Please, call me Jean!” she told Sirius Black and Remus Lupin when they introduced themselves.
In another life, Jean could almost imagine being attracted to a man like Sirius, but she noted the closeness he shared with Remus Lupin, and suspected something much deeper between the pair of them. Both of them struck her as kind and intelligent, and she sighed inwardly as she thought of the man her husband had been before their daughter had left for Hogwarts.
Hermione was thrilled with how well everything was going. She could see that Harry felt awkward around her mum, but by the second day, Harry seemed to be relaxing and enjoying her company. Hermione kept the secret of their adjoining bedrooms though, not wanting to spoil things.
Jean Granger caught the looks her daughter shared with Harry when they thought she wasn’t watching, and she had noted Hermione’s attempts to avoid all eye contact with the locked door adjoining her room with Harry’s. She smiled to herself, and shook her head. For all of her keen intellect, Hermione had never been very good at hiding her feelings.
Mrs Granger had been able to detect how attached Hermione was to Harry since she had started writing about him in her letters during her first year after the incident with the troll. And once again, she found herself just feeling thankful that Hermione had managed to find someone intelligent and kindhearted to keep her company.
Hermione had endured more than enough bullying and belittling in her young life from those who felt threatened by her inestimable intellect, and Jean rather hoped that her daughter’s relationship with Harry Potter would be a lasting one.
True to his word, Sirius had taken everyone out to one of the poshest restaurants in London for Easter Dinner. At first Harry felt a bit weird in the tuxedo Sirius had bought him; he’d never worn anything like it in his life. Then Harry caught Hermione peering at him with a sort of hungry look. He grinned at her, deciding that maybe he liked the tux after all.
For his part, Harry was stunned at how gorgeous Hermione looked in the elegant pearly dress which Sirius had insisted on paying for, and she’d done something to straighten her hair. Harry had always thought Hermione was really pretty - from the day he had really noticed her when she had told him that she didn’t want to see him get hurt or in trouble for standing up to Malfoy - though Harry had gathered over all the time he’d spent with Hermione that she thought of herself as plain.
Truth be told, Harry loved Hermione’s bushy hair, and he liked her cute overbite, though he knew she felt really self-conscious about it. But there was something about the dress, the way it clung to her in just the right places...
Many of the goodbyes on platform nine and three quarters as the students who had left for the Easter Holidays gathered to return to Hogwarts were tearful, but none were more-so than Hermione’s and her mother’s. Though Sirius appeared to be doing his best not to let his own tears show.
Sirius had given Lupin a hug goodbye, and he wanted to give Harry a hug too, but he’d noticed how uncomfortable it made Harry for anyone to touch him - except for Hermione - and thought better of it.
“Bye Harry, I’ll miss you...” he said with a sad grin. “You will come and stay with me after the Dursleys, won’t you...?”
“Of course!” Harry beamed. “I’d stay with you all the time if it weren’t for the - you know...”
Sirius did know. That first night at St Mungo’s Dumbledore had explained in brief how Lily’s sacrifice had imbued Harry with a number of protections against Voldemort, including the additional protection charms based on Lily's magic which he himself had placed on Harry.
“Right... well then - I know you can look after yourself now Harry... but if the Dursleys try to hurt you again and you need me, just let me know. And Hermione is welcome to visit anytime.”
Jean Granger overheard Harry’s goodbye with his godfather as she was giving Hermione one last hug, and recalled how Harry had flinched when she'd embraced him upon arrival.
“Hermione,” she said quietly, frowning, “why didn’t you ever tell me that Harry’s relatives abused him?”
“I...” Hermione flushed and bit her lip, glancing at Harry who was still saying goodbye to Sirius “He didn’t want anyone to know... I promised I wouldn’t tell. But it’s alright now Mum - really! Dumbledore found out anyway somehow, and the Minister of Magic emancipated Harry so that he can use magic to protect himself if he has to.”
“Oh!” Mrs Granger’s eyes filled with a few fresh tears as she regarded her daughter’s earnest features. “Well I don’t have time now dear, but sometime we really should have a talk about what sorts of promises are alright to break...”
“Harry’s a very sweet boy! I’d hate to see anything happen to him... And he can stay with us at your Aunt’s whenever he likes!” concluded Hermione's mother.
A piercing whistle blew as billowing clouds of steam poured across the station, and the wheels of the train began to screech. Hermione let go of her mum and ran for it. Harry stood in the doorway of the carriage and pulled Hermione in as she leapt into his arms.
Dumbledore peered over the top of his half-moon spectacles with clear blue eyes at Harry and Hermione as he poured a shot of firewhiskey for everyone including himself with shaking hands. They both still looked more than a bit shaky as well. Harry’s face was pale; he was still clutching the Sword of Gryffindor in one hand, and Hermione’s hand in the other.
“Well, I wouldn’t normally be offering this to Third Years,” said the Headmaster, “But I daresay we could all use a sip after dealing with that!”
Harry gulped and nodded, glancing again at the charred and twisted ruin of Slytherin’s Locket lying on the floor of Dumbledore’s office, which was still oozing a black venomous pustulence. For all that he’d had to endure the prickling and burning of his scar for a short while again, Harry was glad that Dumbledore had allowed him to be the one to destroy the Horcrux.
It was late on the first evening back from Easter Holidays, and it was chilly on the top of the Astronomy Tower, but it was the most peaceful and private place in the castle that Harry could think of to be with Hermione as she soothed his still burning scar with her kisses. They sat under the stars in the clear night sky, cuddling and kissing, long after the soreness had fled.
It had been worth the pain of facing the spectre of Voldemort again to deal a death blow to another piece of him in Dumbledore’s office after dinner. Harry had been tempted to open the locket before cleaving it with the Sword of Gryffindor, and face Riddle’s Shade directly - which he knew was residing inside as it had been in the diary. But Dumbledore had advised against it, insisting that it was better to simply do away with it as Harry had already had far more than his fair share of dealing with the many faces of Tom Riddle.
And indeed, the violent reaction of Slytherin's Locket to being destroyed had been very disconcerting to put it mildly. A tumultuous maelstrom of wind had swept through Dumbledore's office, ruffling Fawkes' feathers, blowing papers off his desk, sending his delicate silver and golden instruments clattering to the floor. The locket had sparked and billowed black smoke, spewing its viscous black bile as it shuddered and shrieked in agony, and Harry had felt a searing burst of pain in his scar as if it had been branded with a hot poker.
And now that the pain of the experience was gone, Harry gave Hermione one last kiss before resignedly covering themselves both up with the Invisibility Cloak and returning to Gryffindor Tower. Well, it was the second to the last kiss in any case. The Fat Lady couldn’t wait to tell her friend Violet about this one.
Harry peered at the map, and seeing that it was all clear, he pulled off the Invisibility Cloak. But before he could give the password to enter Gryffindor Tower, Harry found his lips busily engaged with Hermione’s again as she pulled him in for one more heated kiss. When it was over, he fell back in a daze, a big soppy grin plastered all over his face.
“I just want to make sure that you’re really feeling better Harry...” giggled Hermione. “So you’ll have loads of nice dreams instead of horrible ones.”
“Er... Yeah! thanks Hermione!” said Harry giddily. “I think that one really did it...”
“Where’d’you go after dinner?” Ron asked when Harry finally crawled into bed. “I’ve been dying to tell you all about the Cleansweep 8 I got over the hols thanks to your godfather,” Ron grinned excitedly.
“Er... Dumbledore’s office,” Harry fudged a bit, thankful to have a good reason for grinning back at Ron. “I’ll tell you all about it later,” he concluded mysteriously.
Ron seemed to accept that and Harry quickly fell into a peaceful slumber, dreaming of being with Hermione, both of them dressed to the nines. The only thing odd about the dream was that they were both dancing under moonlit starry skies - and Harry had never danced a day in his life.
The fat orange cat had been purring, curled up contentedly on the young witch’s bed. Yawning, he stretched and shook his bushy tail as he woke, realising that he was a bit late. The young witch with hair as bushy as her cat’s tail stirred in her sleep. Purring a bit more, the cat rubbed his head a few times under the young witch’s chin.
“Stop it Harry, that tickles,” the young witch giggled in her sleep. “Focus on your feet and listen to the rhythm... 1, 2, 3... 1, 2, 3...” she murmured as she drifted through her dream.
The cat appeared to grin, knowing that his human was at peace, and padded off the bed, pushed open the door of the girls dorm, and trotted down the stairs, looking for an open window. He'd rather not wake the Fat Lady if he didn't have to.
Five minutes later, if that young witch in the girls dorm had awoken and peered out of her own window, she would have spied a very curious, but likely familiar sight. Had she seen her orange cat dancing on the lawn with the white snowy owl in the moonlight, she would have no doubt remembered the dance they had performed together in Diagon Alley on the day that the two animals had met for the first time.
And likewise, had the young wizard in the boys dorm been awake to peer out of his own window, he may have been compelled by the sight to remember seeing his wise owl and the young witch’s intuitive cat curled up together on top of an oak wardrobe on another moonlit night, as the young witch in question slumbered with her arm coiled around his waist.
Sign up to rate and review this story