The Princess and the Hippogriff
The Head of the Improper Use of Magic Office eyed the backside of the handsome lanky figure with long platinum hair as he departed her office in a furious swirl of robes, her lips pursed as she tried to make sense of things and keep her own temper in check. She was at least as angry as the Warlock who had just stormed from her office, if not more-so. But she hated to lose control of her anger. Loss of control led to mistakes.
It was incomprehensible that their plan had failed not once, not twice, but three times. Potter was still at Hogwarts and still very much alive; Dumbledore was still Headmaster, and Cornelius Fudge was now more supportive of them both than ever. And to top things off, over the weekend, Sirius Black had become a free man - he hadn’t been the top priority of course, but as an escaped convict, he had been such a very convenient excuse.
Neither she nor the Warlock were able to conclude that any mistakes had been made on their part, at least not on the second and third tries. And she almost wished that they had; errors could be accounted for and fixed.
The first attempt had been a matter of not accounting for the presence of a highly skilled teacher on the Hogwarts Express, and not having enough units in place - that had been a mistake. There was something about the name Lupin though which rang a bell... Lupin, where had she heard that name before? She put that on the back-burner to investigate later as she considered the other things which had gone wrong.
On the second attempt, given the great numbers she had set to the job at hand, Potter had only been saved by sheer dumb luck - falling off his broom during the Quidditch match and surviving. But the third attempt should have been a guaranteed success, as she had doubled the number of units and given them carte blanche to ignore previous Ministry instructions, and to eliminate anyone who stood between them and their prey.
It should have taken at least fifteen or more highly trained wizards to have expelled the legion which had been tasked for the third attempt, yet she had been informed by the group leader that only Potter and a little girl - a Mudblood no less - had been the ones to forcefully eject them from Hogwarts. Which was impossible of course. Clearly, Dumbledore must have devised some sort of secret weapon and given it to Potter.
The Head of the Improper Use of Magic Office needed a new angle if she and the Warlock were to achieve their mutual goals without drawing attention to themselves. And now that Black had been pardoned, the Dementors were no longer a viable option - at least not for the time being. It would be equally problematic to stage some sort of direct attack on Potter outside of Hogwarts as it could lead to far too many questions.
It had to look like an accident, or something which Potter had brought upon himself. And as the laws currently stood, she had no authority at Hogwarts. She needed a way to get the Ministry’s foot in the door at Hogwarts, and to get to Potter. She would have to contend with Fudge of course. It was obvious that he was a dead loss, no longer worth the effort of persuading, having utterly given himself over to Dumbledore’s counsel. A new Minister would be required, someone more amenable to the goals of those such as herself and the Warlock.
The Ministry Witch sipped her chamomile tea and eyed her collection of pink kitten plates as she pondered the possibilities. As her mind churned, a plan began to form and the Witch’s eyes began to gleam. The Warlock would no doubt be delighted to arrange the sort of mayhem necessary to discredit Fudge, and the perfect opportunity was approaching in the not so distant future.
And as for dealing with Dumbledore and Potter, well, that plan would require her to put on her Senior Undersecretary Hat.
The Head of the Improper Use of Magic Office opened the drawer on the side of her desk reserved for her other Official Duties, and retrieved a memo slip with her Senior Undersecretary header. A little cackle escaped her lips as she began to scribble a strongly suggestive memo to Bartemius Crouch and Ludo Bagman. It was still quite early in the morning on the last Monday of February, and if they began now, everything should be in place for the beginning of the next term at Hogwarts.
It was after midnight when Harry crossed off July 30th on his calendar after wiping the cold sweat from his brow with his t-shirt and flinging it on the floor with an odd mix of trepidation and exhilaration. It was now July 31st and officially his 14th birthday, and he could leave the Dursleys any time he liked without having to worry about Voldemort.
Which was good, because Harry’s disturbing dreams had returned in full force that evening after he’d fallen asleep, not to mention that his scar had begun burning painfully again, waking him right up. And unfortunately, Harry didn’t have Hermione to cuddle at the moment as she was still staying with her mum at her aunt’s in Bournemouth.
As Harry was technically an adult in the wizard world, thanks to being emancipated by Cornelius Fudge, he had at least been able to come and go from Number 4 Privet Drive as he liked while he stayed with the Dursleys. So when Hermione’s mother had invited him to visit for a few days he had eagerly accepted. And Harry hadn’t even had to put up with Uncle Vernon complaining about being a taxi-driver, for Harry had taken the Knight Bus directly to Hermione’s Aunt’s house.
Uncle Vernon had still been a fuming purple-faced picture of fury over the set of circumstances. But ever since Vernon Dursley had been notified by the Ministry that Harry could now use magic whenever he liked, and had received another warning - much more strongly worded than the previous missive, one might have even called it threatening - he hadn’t said one word to Harry for a whole month.
Aunt Petunia hadn’t spoken to Harry much either, but he had caught her mysteriously giving him odd quavering looks whenever Uncle Vernon wasn’t around. If Harry hadn’t known how much his aunt despised him, he might have thought they were almost apologetic.
The most unusual situation though was with Dudley. Terrified out of his wits that an emancipated Harry would turn him into a pig completely, Dudley had locked himself in his room whenever he wasn’t hanging out with his gang, and refused to leave it even for meals. Aunt Petunia had been forced to bring Dudley’s breakfast and dinner to his room, and had given him money to eat lunch out with his little friends.
The first four days, Harry had just enjoyed the peace and quiet, but on the fifth day, Harry had started to feel guilty when he thought he heard sniffles coming from Dudley’s room. Harry had thought about what Hermione might say, then sighed when he knew what he had to do. Harry had knocked on Dudley’s door and heard a squeak of fright from the other side.
“Alohomora,” Harry had muttered, pointing his wand at the handle.
“Please... d...don’t hurt me!” Dudley had squealed when Harry had pushed the door open.
Harry had rolled his eyes. The worst he had ever done to Dudley in retaliation for all of the beatings Dudley and his mates had given him, was accidentally set a snake loose at the zoo, and insult him a few times.
“Look Dudley...” Harry had sighed, “I’m not interested in hurting you! Even though you do deserve a good thumping!” Dudley had flinched and whimpered, but Harry ignored it and pressed on.
“Anyway,” Harry continued, “I reckon if Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia hadn’t spoiled you rotten and egged you on when you and your gang were beating me up, things might have been different between us growing up. I...” Harry had swallowed uncertainly, then carried on.
“Er... I’ve come to offer a pax and put that all behind us! If.... if you’re willing to try and be friends that is.”
Dudley’s piggy eyes had grown bigger and his mouth had gaped in befuddlement. Undeserved forgiveness was the last thing that he’d ever expected from Harry.
“Well... how about it Dudley?” Harry had said, sounding a bit more exasperated than he intended when Dudley didn’t answer.
“R...r...really?” Dudley had stammered in response. “You mean it?”
Harry had nodded. He hadn’t said anything more, because he was already having second thoughts, and wasn’t sure if he could actually sound like he meant it at all. Harry had reached out his hand; Dudley had stared at it for several moments... then put forth his own sweaty hand tentatively and clasped Harry’s, shaking it.
“Er... alright then,” Dudley had replied with a fearful little smile; an hour later he was showing Harry how to shoot aliens on his Playstation, and the beginnings of something bordering on friendship was born.
It had been the following week when Harry had taken the Knight Bus to Bournemouth. Harry had been extremely nervous even though he’d met Hermione’s mum properly for the first time at Easter, but Hermione’s mother and aunt were very welcoming, and he’d spent three nights there.
Harry had been afraid that he might not get a chance for a proper cuddle with Hermione, but her mother had allowed them to spend a whole day by themselves together. Harry and Hermione had gone on a bus and ferry trip across the bay, taking a picnic lunch which they’d eaten amidst the ruins of an old castle on the top of a green hill. Hermione had been thrilled, as it was her first time visiting the crumbling fortification.
“It was built in the 11th century by William the Conqueror...” she had told Harry eagerly. “And it’s one of the first castles in England built with stone.”
“Really? I thought all castles were made of stone.”
“No! Actually the first castles were made with earth and wood...”
Harry had grinned, thoroughly enjoying Hermione’s lecture on the history of castles in Britain as puffy white clouds scudded across the bright blue summer sky. When Hermione had concluded the lesson, she caught Harry’s blissful expression.
“What’s up Harry?” she had asked, somewhat bemused. “Did you hear even one word I said?”
“I heard every word!” he had retorted, still grinning. “It’s just... you looked so happy - I love it when you go into lecture mode.”
Hermione had blushed, and Harry pulled her a bit closer for a kiss. As their lips parted, she had glanced about the ruins anxiously.
“It’s just us,” Harry had said softly, brushing aside the few locks of Hermione’s tawny curls which had blown across her pink cheeks. “The only other tourists who were here left while you were telling me all about castles - and it’s the middle of the week, so more aren’t very likely today...”
Hermione had peered around nervously a bit more, but she couldn’t fault Harry’s logic, and she had been dying for this moment alone together with him. She had blushed shyly again, fluttering her lashes as she leaned in for another kiss.
Arms curling around each other as they sat under an ancient archway, the second kiss had lasted longer than the first, and the ones which followed had been steamy enough to keep them warm when the cool breeze from the nearby sea picked up.
Hedwig fluttered her wings as she rested on the windowsill in the moonlight, startling Harry out of his comforting reverie. But the memory of his visit was not one to be put aside so easily. Harry could almost still feel Hermione’s lips against his as he cheerfully tore open the first of the envelopes his Snowy Owl had brought him. It was a birthday card with a letter from Ron.
Harry - I can’t believe it - DAD GOT TICKETS TO THE WORLD CUP - THE BEST SEATS TOO! Is your godfather bringing you? If not, just let me know. Dad said he can get extra passes for guests if he needs to!
Harry grinned and set the card down; Sirius had already purchased six tickets for the Quidditch World Cup. Harry caught a whiff of mint when he opened the second envelope, and knew it was a card and a letter from Hermione before he even looked at it.
I had a lovely time when you came to visit, and I’m really looking forward to seeing you again soon. I’ve missed you lots! Mum is driving me up to London tomorrow. We can meet in Diagon Alley and pick up our school things together. And she said I can go with you and your godfather and Professor Lupin to the World Cup. It was really sweet of you to invite Luna and Neville as well.
But even better, Mum said I can stay with you the rest of the Summer. She and Auntie have decided to spend a week and a half in London - they’ve booked a hotel room already - so that they can still see me for a bit before we go to the World Cup.
♥ Loads of Love ♥
♥ Hermione ♥
Harry blinked back the tears which sprang to his eyes, wondering where they had come from. Then it hit him as he reread the letter and the closing phrase - Hermione was the only one who had ever sent him letters signed with love. Harry touched the little hearts and the hugs and kisses which surrounded Hermione’s signature with his forefinger and sighed happily, laying his head down on the pillow as the throbbing in his scar continued to ebb.
Harry kept the memory of the day that he had snogged Hermione among the ruins of Corfe Castle in his mind as he went back to sleep, hoping it would keep his nightmare at bay. He had more than a sneaking suspicion that his dream of Voldemort, Wormtail, and an enormous snake killing an elderly man in an ivy covered manor with dusty cobwebbed rooms and peeling wallpaper was more than just a nightmare.
And if Harry was certain of one thing, when he was with Hermione, he could face anything - even his worst nightmares come to life.
“Look ‘oo it is Ern...” beamed Stan Shunpike as he heaved the trunk onto the triple-decker bus. “It’s ‘Arry Potter again!”
The elderly bus driver chortled at the young conductor’s excitement.
“ Good ter see yeh again Mr Potter,” greeted Ernie. “Where mightcha be headed today?”
“London,” said Harry, grimacing as he shielded his eyes from the morning sun which was glaring directly at him through the windows of the bus, as if cross to have been awoken so early. “The Leaky Cauldron... Don’t you two ever sleep by the way?”
“Sleep?” Stan snorted mirthfully as Harry settled into a poofy armchair by a round table, “...‘Oo needs that? I’m savin’ up for an early retirement I am...”
Stan hung on for dear life as the Knight Bus lurched into motion, still chortling at his own little joke.
“Nah...” he continued, “Me an’ Ern... we’re actually both workin’ extra shifts to save up for tickets to the World Cup! We should ‘ave enough by the end o’ the week for entrance tickets an’ a campsite. So wot abou’ you then ‘Arry? You goin’?”
“Er... Yeah! I’m going with my godfather and my... er... my girlfriend!” said Harry, unable to keep himself from grinning when the term “girlfriend” rolled off his tongue.
“Takin’ Granger are ya?” Stan smirked and gave Harry a wink. “She’s a right nice girl, she is... a real sweet’eart! You’re a real lucky fella...”
“Yeah... yeah I am!” said Harry a bit dreamily, rubbing at his scar. “But if you’re saving up for the World Cup... are you sure you don’t want me to pay for her trip last sum...”
“I wouldn’ ‘ear of it!” interrupted Stan with a wave of his hand. “Like me an’ Ern toldja on the way to Bournemouth a couple o’ weeks ago, it was an honour to ‘elp a damsel in distress!”
Harry nodded, giving Stan a grateful smile. The youthful bus conductor staggered back up to the front of the hurtling bus to chat with Ern, leaving Harry to his thoughts. The last few months at Hogwarts before term had ended were vivid in his mind.
The irony wasn’t lost on Harry that someone of such meager means as Stan Shunpike could be far more noble of spirit than a spoiled peacock like Draco Malfoy, who considered himself to be royalty. And Hermione, whom Malfoy considered to be less than human, had shown the pretentious little princeling that she was a force to be reckoned with.
Harry and Hermione had been as surprised as anyone to hear that Buckbeak the Hippogriff had been given a reprieve by the Ministry, but Malfoy had made it plain that he blamed them both. Harry hadn’t thought it possible that Malfoy could be any more vindictive than he had been during the private moment in Second Year, when Draco had let it be known to a Harry polyjuiced as Gregory Goyle - in no uncertain terms - that he hoped the Basilisk would kill Hermione.
But Malfoy’s sneering jibes in public had taken on the same cold hard edge of that unguarded moment, devoid of the boastful glee which had usually accompanied them previously. Harry had begun to worry that he might take matters into his own hands rather than leaving it up to his father.
And Malfoy’s mood had only gone from bad to worse after the final Quidditch match between Gryffindor and Slytherin. Despite using every dirty tactic in the book, Slytherin had been clobbered badly: the final outcome 230 to 20, and Gryffindor had taken the Cup for the second year running.
Between keeping an eye out for some sort of retaliation from Malfoy, and June exams, Harry and Hermione’s final month at Hogwarts had been far more stressful than they had hoped. But despite everything, Harry had still managed to do very well in most of his classes - except for Arithmancy, which he was certain he had failed miserably.
“Nonsense Harry... I’m sure you achieved passing marks!” Hermione had assured him. “And I know you got top marks in Ancient Runes!”
“Yeah, that’s something isn’t it?” Harry had grinned, feeling cheered.
While everyone else had exited the Transfiguration Final Exam moaning and complaining bitterly, the worst he and Hermione had had to be concerned about was whether their tortoises looked more like snapping turtles.
“I hope they don’t bite someone,” Hermione had said anxiously.
“Yeah... ours did look a bit vicious,” Harry had muttered in response. “I wonder if worrying about being attacked by Malfoy at any moment had something to do with it.”
Hermione’s eyebrows had furrowed thoughtfully. “You know Harry, I think you might have something there...”
They had both felt much better after their Charms exam though, as Cheering Charms had come up during the Practical part of the test. Ron had been partnered with Neville, and had had to be taken to a quiet room to calm down for an hour after being sent into a violent paroxysm of laughter when Neville vastly overdid the Charm due to a fit of nerves.
Finally it had been Harry and Hermione’s turn. Hermione had performed flawlessly of course, despite her own extremely high levels of anxiety. Then it was all down to Harry.
“Hmmm... Granger seems a wee bit giggly to me Potter,” Flitwick had said with a discerning eye.
“I did that on purpose sir! Hermione’s been under a lot of stress... I thought she could use the extra boost. I don’t care if I lose a few points as long as Hermione is happy...”
“Oh... well done indeed then Potter!” Flitwick had seemed quite impressed, and been profuse in his praises. “Taking the needs of the moment into consideration and adjusting to them is actually a very crucial element in Charms,” he had told them both.
“Some people erroneously conclude that the more flexible nature of Charm-work makes it somehow an easier branch of magic - a ‘soft option’ if you will - compared to the rigid requirements and exacting nature of Transfiguration for example...”
“But I can assure you, the precise opposite is the case - which is something anyone keen on defensive magic and dueling will eventually discover when they are put to the test in the real world...”
“Mark my word Potter - you too Granger - when you’re in a pickle, knowing how and when to make adjustments to your spells on the fly can make the difference between life and death! This is something I don’t usually get into until Sixth Year... I don’t generally expect Third Years to be capable of grasping that... 120% to the both of you!”
“That was brilliant Harry!” Hermione had said after the conclusion of the exam, her eyes gleaming.
She had been so thrilled by the unexpected extra bit of keen insight and the high marks that Harry had inspired Flitwick to give them, that she had thrown caution to the wind and pulled Harry behind a suit of armour, kissing him with reckless abandon. When they emerged from behind the armour, Harry had felt as giddy as Hermione had apparently been after his Cheering Charm.
The following morning had brought Care of Magical Creatures though, and they had both been on high alert for any violent mischief on Malfoy’s part. But their worry had been for naught, as Hagrid had still been so pleased about Buckbeak’s reprieve that he had simply passed around flobberworms, and then given everyone top marks when they were still alive at the end of class. Even Malfoy couldn’t work out how to create trouble with a flobberworm.
It was after their Potions Final that Malfoy had looked the most murderous. Harry and Hermione had both turned in flawless potions. Malfoy’s had been good, but it was slightly thinner than it should have been, earning him a 98% mark. Harry knew with a certainty when he saw the look in Malfoy’s eye that the Slytherin had something planned.
Anyone else would have been thrilled to have done as well as Malfoy. Certainly Ron, Seamus, or Neville would have been. As it was, Ron and Seamus had tied with Crabbe and Goyle for lowest marks, while Neville and Dean had at least managed to achieve a passing percentage.
The morning after that had been Defence Against the Dark Arts, which had consisted of an obstacle course featuring all of the creatures which Lupin had taught them about during the year. Harry had completed it perfectly, emerging from the wardrobe containing the boggart with a grin on his face. Ron, Seamus, and Neville never made it past the hinkypunks. Dean, Parvati, and Lavender had all returned from the wardrobe with the boggart looking quite shaken after a considerable length of time had passed.
Hermione had performed flawlessly... until she got to the boggart in the wardrobe. She had exited the wardrobe screaming within moments of entering it, and refused to answer when Lupin and Harry asked her what was wrong. They had all forgotten that it wouldn’t turn into a Dementor for her. Harry had a bad feeling that he knew what the matter was.
Fortunately, as neither of them had taken Muggle studies or Divination, that had been their last exam of the week. Harry had taken Hermione to sit under a willow by the lake, far away from everyone else. She had still been trembling and crying, even as Harry embraced her.
“Hermione... Please! Tell me what happened with the boggart!”
“I... I d...don’t th...think I can Harry,” she had stammered, still weeping inconsolably. That’s when Harry had been certain. His heart crumbled as he worried that his own reticence to discuss the subject might have rubbed off on her.
“It’s alright Hermione...” he had said gently, comfortingly rubbing her back and kissing her cheek. “You can tell me - you know I’ll understand... I’ll do a Cheering Charm on you, but only after you tell me what happened... alright? Please?”
Finally Hermione nodded.
“It... it was D...Dad!” she had sobbed. “The boggart t...turned into my f...father. He h...hit me and tried to t...take my wand...”
Harry had lifted his wand to perform the Cheering Charm, but Hermione put her hand up to stop him.
“Not just yet... in a minute!” she had said. “Just g...give me a b...bit more t...time to cry! I... I need to f...face up to it...”
Harry had put his wand back down, understanding all too well.
Hermione still hadn’t quite come to terms with how badly her father had frightened her by trying to break down her door to get to her wand, and then by smashing her things and hitting her mum after she had run away. She had never known fear at the hands of family before - from someone who was supposed to love her and protect her from harm.
That sort of fear was relatively new to her still, and palpable, even after facing down the Dementors. Which had puzzled Harry as they sat there, until he had suddenly been struck with the notion that their feelings for one another had sustained each other during the Dementor attack, but that the underlying fear of her father's behaviour - and the anger and confusion it must also make her feel - was still there.
Harry still didn’t like discussing his own feelings with others much, but he knew he could with Hermione, and he’d gradually come to understand himself better. The fear was something he had eventually grown used to - almost inured to - experiencing it throughout his childhood with the Dursleys. Before he had learned he was a wizard and come to Hogwarts, except for occasional flashes of anger, Harry hadn’t been sure what he felt anymore - other than a pervading numbness.
He had worried that meant he was a bad person, but when he’d begun to experience friendships and love at Hogwarts, Harry had found out that he could still feel happy and hurt - he could still feel sadness and fear - not so much for himself, but for others. After facing the boggart-dementor in the trunk during the DADA Final Exam, he’d had an epiphany: What Harry really feared most, was losing the people he loved - especially Hermione.
Harry had grown quite attached to Lupin over Third Year, and to Sirius surprisingly quickly in the very short time he’d known him; they really did feel like the family he had always wished for. Harry had thought about all the friends he’d made at Hogwarts, but while he had comforted Hermione under that willow tree by the lake, he knew that she was the one he couldn’t live without.
Hermione’s crying had ebbed, slowing to a trickle, and she had given Harry a wan little smile.
“I...I think I’m ready for that Cheering Charm now!”
Harry had performed the charm and they had then gone for a stroll, seeking out Hagrid. The Care of Magical Creatures professor hadn’t been at home, but they had spied Buckbeak near the pumpkin patch, eating some dead ferrets which Hagrid had left out for the Hippogriff.
“...Mate Griffins with mares, and in the coming age shy deer and hounds together come to drink...” Hermione had whispered, eyes shining, this time with tears of happiness.
“It’s from Virgil, a book of poems called Eclogues. Hippogriffs are a symbol of love - a supposedly impossible mating between Griffins and mares...”
“Would you like a ride Hermione?” Harry had eagerly asked her as they stroked Buckbeak’s feathers, making a note to himself to put Virgil on his to-read list.
Hermione’s eyes had widened in bewilderment at Harry’s question; he knew she was terrified of heights. But then she had recited the line again under her breath and slowly nodded, blushing in understanding.
Harry had gently lifted Hermione onto Buckbeak’s back and clambered up behind her. The hippogriff had lifted off, and moments later they were soaring over the forest, skimming the surface of the lake, hair billowing as a spray of fine mist stung their faces.
“I’ve got you Hermione,” Harry had said in her ear over the rushing sound of the wind, his arms wrapped tightly around her waist. “I won’t let you go!”
Hermione had slowly released her death-grip around Buckbeak’s neck and held her arms out, giggling nervously at the exhilarating sensation of the wind beneath her “wings,” trusting Harry to not let her fall.
When they had returned from their flight, Hermione had been glowing and breathless as Harry carefully lifted her to the ground from the Hippogriff’s back. Backlit by the early afternoon sun, Hermione’s tawny brown windswept tresses had seemed framed by a golden crown. She had fallen into Harry’s arms and their lips met for an eternal moment of bliss.
A piercing screech of terror from the edge of the Forbidden Forest had interrupted their passionate embrace. Alarm had shot through them both as they parted and dashed into the woods looking for the source of the sound. That’s when Harry and Hermione had spotted them.
Crabbe and Goyle had managed to snare another of Hagrid’s hippogriffs in the paddock - which they had clearly mistaken for Buckbeak - with strong ropes as Draco Malfoy stood far back from it with his wand out.
“Hold the bloody chicken still!” Malfoy had snapped at his henchmen. “How am I supposed to cut off its head with a diffindo spell if it keeps moving?”
Harry had angrily whipped out his wand, but Hermione had charged at Malfoy furiously, darting into Harry’s line of fire. Draco Malfoy had whirled around, eyes bulging in fright to see the bushy haired missile hurtling towards him, dropping his wand.
“You foul, loathsome, little cockroach!” Hermione had shrieked as she launched herself at Malfoy.
Her knee had connected with Malfoy’s privates, and her balled up fist had struck his face as he doubled over in pain. Harry had felt like cheering and egging Hermione on a bit, but instead he had grabbed her before she could properly aim her kick at Malfoy while he was still prostrate on the ground, holding his bloody nose. Crabbe and Goyle had just stood there petrified in shock, mouths agape.
“Let me GO Harry!” Hermione had screamed, hot tears of fury flooding her blazing cheeks as her foot barely missed Malfoy’s head.
“I know he deserves it Hermione,” Harry had muttered, as he struggled to hold onto her, “but I don’t want you to get in trouble for hitting him while he’s down.”
“She broke it...” Malfoy had wailed, “...da budblood broke by dose!”
“I’ll let her go if you don’t clear off now!” Harry had snarled at the sniveling wretch. “...And if I hear that any of Hagrid’s pets have been harmed in the future, I won’t hold her back next time.”
Malfoy’s face had been a picture of rage and fear as he snatched his wand from the ground with one hand, still holding the other over his bleeding nose. He had scarpered as fast as his feet could carry him, followed by his two terrified goons.
Hermione had deflated in Harry’s arms, still panting breathlessly as Harry wiped her angry tears with the sleeves of his robes. He had held Hermione until she had calmed, planting little kisses all over her face, gently stroking her messy hair.
“It’s alright Hermione! I think you scared him off!” he had said, giving her a little smile. “That was brilliant! ... Malfoy won’t be going near any more of Hagrid’s pets anytime soon!”
“I... I did frighten him, didn’t I!?” she had responded, looking more than a bit ashamed of herself and finally relaxing enough to let out a guilty little giggle.
The Knight Bus lurched again; one of the tables and several wooden chairs went flying down the aisle as the bus screeched to a halt just outside of Leeds, jarring Harry out of his reminiscence. But Harry couldn’t stop chortling to himself at the image of Malfoy scurrying away with his tail between his legs after Hermione had clobbered him.
The image was almost enough to make up for the fact that several days later Harry and Hermione had discovered Professor Lupin packing his bags. Somehow, Malfoy had found out that Lupin was a werewolf and told everyone in earshot.
“I have to leave for now. I expect Dumbledore is already getting letters from angry parents. But never mind Harry - Hermione...” Lupin had sighed, giving them both a little smile. “I’ll be alright - and I expect I’ll be seeing you both at Sirius’s later this summer...”
The next stop after Leeds was London; Harry was still chuckling about Malfoy’s disgrace. Harry knew that he couldn’t let Stan and Ernie’s Chivalry go unrewarded. After the youthful Conductor had lugged Harry’s trunk to the entrance of the Leaky Cauldron and returned to the bus, Harry ran after him and shoved the entire contents of his pockets into Stan’s hands.
“Oi... wot’s this then?” asked a perplexed Stan Shunpike as he goggled at the fistful of galleons.
“TIP!” yelled Harry gleefully from the doorway of the Pub as he dragged his trunk and broom into the Wizard World. “Share it with Ern... I’ll see you both at the World Cup!”
Harry heard someone squeal his name, and as the oak door to the Muggle World shut with a heavy thunk behind him, he turned around to beam at the radiant girl hurtling towards him. Only the smiling presence of her mother kept Hermione from snogging Harry silly the moment she spotted him entering the Leaky Cauldron.
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