Chapter Thirty-Nine

July 6th, 1992
Phoenix Theatre — Charing Cross Road

Down the street from the Leaky Cauldron sat a Muggle theatre. While Muggles partook of nightly entertainment, none had any idea that through a backstage door on the side of the building, a door opened into a magically expanded set of rooms, all hidden away from Muggle eyes.

Muggle-borns, however, were not only able to see the hidden door, but the rooms inside were set specifically for them.

While the coven had wanted to secure a building of their own for the Muggle-born Overview Programme, security was an issue at the start. Bringing strangers into any of the homes belonging to the coven witches was obviously not going to work, but openly purchasing a public area in Diagon Alley was just as dangerous, as it invited anyone to walk inside and potentially cause the children harm. So a witch in London, the owner of the Phoenix Theatre—and former acquaintance of Madam Crouch's—had offered up her space for the programme.

This was the story the Muggle-borns had been told the previous summer when they'd been introduced to the magical world and the Muggle-born Overview Programme. Hermione remembered listening to the story with rapt attention, taking down notes with a pen and paper because she'd yet to go to Diagon Alley for proper school supplies.

Back in the classroom, she retook her old seat, smiling when Dean plopped into the one right beside hers. "Not too Gryffindor to sit with a Slytherin now?" she asked with a teasing smile.

He shrugged, grinning at her. "I figure if you try to curse me with all that dark snakey magic, the Ministry will snatch you up for underaged magic outside of school."

"How has your summer been?"

Several other Muggle-borns began filing into the room, most taking up seats with the Houses they'd been assigned to in Hogwarts. Hermione, the lone Slytherin Muggle-born was glad to have Dean there with her. Tracey had come to stay over at her house the weekend before, endlessly amused with all things Muggle, and even went so far as to beg her parents for a dental exam, much to Hermione's embarrassment. She had not heard much from any of her other friends since King's Cross. Millie was back in study mode, ever working hard to impress the Black Coven, and Greg had written her one letter, delivered by a black owl with moulting feathers that bit her when she tried to grab the envelope.

"Not much of a summer yet," Dean replied. "Been looking after my little sisters while Mum works. The usual. You'd think discovering I'm a wizard would at least get me out of babysitting duty, right?"

Hermione laughed, shaking her head. "If I still have to weed the garden and wash the dishes at my house, then I think it's fair to assume our magic has had little change on our parents. I wonder what the others do at home. The ones raised in magical homes, I mean. Surely they're not allowed to use magic, even at home, right?"

Dean thought about it for a moment and shook his head. "Maybe some of them. I don't see Malfoy cleaning up his own room by hand, do you?"

"Draco has house-elves. Most of my friends do, actually," she said with a furrowed brow. "I met two of them when I went to Harry's house for Yule."

Sighing, Dean pulled out a pencil and notebook from his bag and began doodling in the corners. "Disappointed that I couldn't go. My grandad had been sick. He's always sick, though."

Frowning, Hermione thought of her own grandparents. Her father's parents had moved to France recently, and Hermione missed them from time to time. Her grandfather was a great storyteller, and her grandmother had taught her how to knit. She'd stopped practising two years earlier but figured she might want to take it up again. Her mother's father, however, lived in America, and Hermione had never met him due to the distance and his illness. Her mother often said that he was just very old and his memory had been giving him problems for decades. All she knew of her grandfather was that he was a good man, a war veteran, and he'd passed down a few recipes to Hermione's mother. All she knew about her mother's mother was that she was dead. Her mum didn't like to talk about her other than to say that she could see her in Hermione's smile.

"At least you have a chance to know him?" she tried offering her friend with a sad smile.

Dean gave a half-hearted shrug. "He's not that great to know. Always makes my mum feel bad. She got pregnant with me without getting married, and then with my sisters only to marry my step-dad after. Now he's gone, and Grandad thinks she needs to find someone else. Doesn't like me much either," he said, scratching at his notebook with more force put on the pencil in his hand. "Says I'm too soft. Should take up a sport or something."

"Don't you like football?" Hermione asked, hoping to provide something to ease Dean's obvious frustration.

He laughed, genuinely, which made the tightness in her chest loosen up a bit. "If Hogwarts had a team, sure. As it is, I don't think I'm Quidditch quality like Harry and Ron."

Hermione made a face. "They're not really going to try out this year, are they?"

Dean gave her a sceptical look. "Are you taking the—? They are dead set on playing Quidditch."

Letting out a heavy sigh, she shook her head. "Well, you tell Harry Potter that I absolutely refuse to visit him in the hospital wing when he ultimately breaks his head."

"Liar," Dean said with a chuckle.

"Are the two of you an item now?" Sally-Anne Perks said as she sat behind Hermione. "That's adorable."

Dean looked absolutely horrified at the suggestion, and Hermione tried not to be too insulted over it. "Just because we're of the opposite sex and speaking to one another, does not imply any sort of romance. Girls can be friends with boys, you know."

"Don't bother, Sally-Anne," Lisa Turpin said as she sat down behind Dean. "Everyone knows that Hermione fancies Malfoy. He's always sitting near her. And I heard from some Slytherins that when she's not around, he's always asking if she's okay and being treated well."

Eyes wide, Hermione blanched as she turned to look at Lisa. "I happen to know, for a fact, that the only Slytherins who would bother to speak to you are my best friends, and they would never say such things."

Lisa's nose twitched. "I overheard Parkinson and Greengrass talking. They're very jealous, you know. I think they both fancy Malfoy. I don't see the appeal. I think he's just a rich prat. Same as Potter."

Hermione stood, glaring down at the other girl. She remembered everything that Millie and Tracey had taught her, everything that she'd learned from watching Gemma conduct herself, all of Cassius's words of wisdom. Letting her anger cool, she folded her arms. "Aren't there plenty of boys in Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw you can flirt with? Or, perhaps, rich prats like Draco and Harry would enjoy more than just having a simpering girl batting their eyelashes at them and giggling like an idiot."

"How dare—" Sally-Anne said, standing up.

"Green is for Slytherins," Hermione said, cutting the girl off. "It looks terrible on you, Sally-Anne. Clashes a bit with your complexion."

Without another word, she turned around and sat back in her seat. The entire room had gone deathly silent other than Dean trying his best to conceal his laughter. Eventually, Justin Finch-Fletchley whistled low and said, "Ten points to Slytherin. That had to hurt."

"No points to award here, I'm afraid," Mr Lupin said as he walked in, looking around the classroom, eyeing everyone with obvious suspicion. "But please be advised that all activities here in the programme are not only being reported to your parents, but to your Heads of House back at Hogwarts."

Thinking of that, Hermione sat up a little straighter, wondering if Professor Snape would be annoyed or pleased with her display. Raising her hand, she asked, "Are you reporting on our activities to all of the Heads of Houses, or just our own?"

Mr Lupin looked at her, raising a curiously amused brow. Before he could answer, however, Sally-Anne muttered, "I highly doubt that Professor Sprout gives a fig for what you do over the summer, Granger."

Without looking back, Hermione smiled. "No, but perhaps Professor McGonagall might."

Mr Lupin chuckled softly, shaking his head. "They are not even slightly prepared for you, Miss Granger. I feel I should warn some of them."

"I'm not afraid, sir."

"I can see that."

Dean raised his hand, feigning nervousness. "I'm a little afraid of her, sir. Can I move to another seat?"

Hermione gently shoved him in the shoulder, laughing. "Prat."

"All right," Mr Lupin said, shaking his head in an obvious mixture of exasperation and amusement. "I've reviewed everyone's end of year exams, and there are areas I want you all focusing more on this year. Mr Finch-Fletchley, I'd like you to focus more on your Potions please, paying special attention to the reasons behind clockwise versus counterclockwise stirring. Mr Malone, Professor Sprout says you've done exceptionally well in Herbology, and she'd like you to stretch a bit more by reading a few books this summer. They should have already been picked up by your parents."

As Mr Lupin continued to look over his list, Dean passed Hermione the paper he'd been doodling on. It was a snake with big hair, hissing at a frightened baby eagle and badger with a group of lions cheering from the sides. Unable to stop herself, she let out a soft chuckle under her breath, pushing the paper beneath one of her books.

"Miss Perks, your Charms work needs a bit more refinement, and Miss Turpin . . . Professor Snape has sent notes that . . . well—" He read over the paper in his hand and sighed. "We'll work a bit more on your aim this summer."

He moved to stand right in front of Dean's desk. "Mr Thomas, Professor McGonagall would like you to look over your essays from this year now that you've learned more, and see where you can correct previous mistakes."

Dean sighed as he took a stack of essays from Mr Lupin. "Yes, sir."

"And that leaves Miss Granger."

Hermione knew how well she'd done on her exams, and she sat up proudly at her desk, eagerly anticipating the praise that she'd worked so hard for.

Mr Lupin knelt down and smiled. "Would you care for supplemental flying lessons."

Ego deflated, she let out an indignant huff and folded her arms. "Is flying required, sir?"

Mr Lupin grinned, his eyes twinkling with a bit of mischief. "Great work this year, Hermione. Here's a Defence book for you to read."

She took the book from his hand, examining it carefully. "Sir, this book isn't on the curriculum."

"No, you're right about that, but I had assumed you'd already read the required text. Was I wrong?"

Blushing slightly, Hermione sighed. "No, sir."

"I want to make a quick announcement for everyone," he said, standing back up to his full height. "You will have a new Theoretical Defence teacher next year. I want to firmly state that you already have all the textbooks you need for your classes. Anything that your new professor encourages you to read is not required regardless of what they might imply."

Confused, Hermione raised her hand. "Do you know who our new teacher will be?"

Mr Lupin sighed and leant back against his desk. "I do. And please remember that Theoretical Defence is an optional class."

Dean raised his hand. "What books do you think they'll want us to read?"

Looking completely unamused, Mr Lupin stiffly replied, "Fictional."

July 6th, 1992
Thomas Residence — London

"You're a wizard now." Harry flopped back on Dean's bed, flipping through some of the adverts at the end of the comic book he'd been reading. "Homework is just a given. Even during hols."

Dean looked up from his small desk in the corner of his room. They'd had to clear off countless art books, comics, and drawings that he had been working on all summer. Apparently, Harry showing up to visit had reminded Dean—or more aptly, Dean's mother—that he'd not yet finished the essay work that had been given to him during his programme classes.

"That right? You get any?" Dean asked.

Harry snorted, closing the comic book and grabbing the football at the end of the bed, attempting to spin it on his middle finger. "Not writing essays. I've been training with my dad and Remus. Even though I can't use magic outside of school, I need to . . . how did Remus say it? Ah, 'Attune my magic to my wand.'"

"Still acting up?"

"Not since before school let out," Harry said, losing balance of the ball and accidentally letting it drop to the floor, where it bounced and landed in Dean's open trunk. "You gonna bring a broom this year?"

"No," Dean said with a heavy sigh. "We can't afford one. Mum's been working doubles lately since another nurse had a baby two months before she was supposed to. Mum offered to take up the extra shifts thinking that I'd be at Hogwarts by then, and she'd only have to worry about Olivia and Amelia."

Harry laughed, thinking of Dean's sisters, who were just downstairs turning their Barbie dreamhouse into a haunted mansion with a box of washable markers that they'd pilfered from Dean's room when he and Harry were sorting through comics.

"You could take one of mine," Harry offered, not wanting to ask anything about Dean's mum's work. Her extra hours had been why Dean wasn't able to come to Potter Manor. Well, that, and the fact that anytime she did have time available to let him come over, the coven had rituals scheduled. Even though Harry and his cousins knew to stay inside during those times, it was summer, and he had wanted to play Quidditch, or maybe even football, with his friend. The best option appeared to be braving the Muggle world and going to Dean's instead. "Dad got me the newest Nimbus last Christmas. I still have a bunch of others. Even my old Cleansweep still works brilliantly."

Shaking his head with his attention back on his parchment, Dean muttered, "I still don't get how metal transfiguration doesn't work on money. It's just another material, right?"

Harry shrugged. "I don't think I did too well on that essay. I could always ask Sirius, though. That's mostly what he's doing at Dervish and Banges."

They'd gone up to see the shop once since Harry had been home from school. A job was apparently something his godfather had been working on while Harry was away at Hogwarts, and after trial and error, Sirius had decided to put his charm work to use fixing things with a mixture of Muggle tricks and metal charming. Harry figured that being close to Hogwarts was another reason he had so readily accepted the job. Still, it wasn't the same not having his entire family around all the time. Remus had been kind enough to take Harry to Dean's house since Sirius had to work that day.

"Forget it," Dean said, tossing his quill down with gusto. "I'm done. I'll just ask McGonagall when we get back."

"Play a game?" Harry asked, picking up the football. "It may not be while flying, but I bet I'm still faster than you."

Dean stood, grinning. "You wish, Potter."

They trampled down the stairs loudly, leaping over the bottom four steps.

"Sounds like a herd of elephants," Dean's mother, Darlene, said as they barely missed colliding with the cupboard door at the foot of the stairs.

"Sorry, Mrs Thomas," Harry said with an awkward grin. "Are elephants that loud? Never seen one in real life before."

She raised a brow. "You've never been to a zoo? Or watched them on the telly?"

"Harry's house doesn't have a telly, Mum," Dean said. "Muggle things don't work around magic."

"They do sometimes," Harry argued. "It's just that if Muggle things are enchanted to work, sometimes they kind of . . . come alive?"

Dean's eyes widened dramatically. "You oughta tell Ron that. He wrote me last week saying something about his dad working on a car."

Harry cringed. "That'll end badly."

Darlene sat at the nearby table, watching them with an amused look on her face. "Well, this is at least more entertaining than being at work."

"You're a nurse, right?" Harry asked as they approached, cringing at the sound of Dean's sisters shrieking with laughter from the living room behind them. "One of my aunts is a Healer."

"Isn't your dad's . . . you know," Dean said, looking suddenly uncomfortable.

Harry furrowed his brow. "My dad's what? Oh, his boyfriend you mean?"

He watched as Dean made eye contact with his mother.

Darlene sighed and rolled her eyes. "Ignore my son, Harry. Dean's grandfather likes to go on at length about all the things that old men don't understand, and therefore, dislike. He's a bit old fashioned."

"A bit?" Dean muttered.

"So your father is gay?" Darlene asked, looking perfectly at ease.

Harry shrugged. "Not sure? He's dated women before. There was a nice lady up in Hogsmeade. And I know he had girlfriends before I was born. I don't think he and Healer Dillonsby are still together. I only saw him once this summer, and they weren't exactly . . . I dunno. Acting like a couple. Dad's got a job now. That keeps him busy."

"I hear that," Darlene said with a little smirk. "Work definitely can keep a person too busy to have a relationship. Which is good advice for you boys. Get a job, not a girlfriend."

"Mum!" Dean said, looking mortified.

Darlene laughed into the palm of her hand, looking like embarrassing him had been the whole point. "Go and play," she said, gesturing to the back door. "But don't get too dirty. No Cleaning Charms here, I'm afraid. And I'm not letting Mr Lupin pick Harry up covered in mud and grass stains."

As they opened the back door to leave, Dean asked, "Speaking of girls, you hear from Hermione this summer?"

"Talking about girls?" Darlene called from behind them in a teasing voice.


Harry laughed and closed the back door before tossing the football at Dean, who proceeded to attempt to kick it a few times in the air, trying to catch it with his foot each time. "She doesn't have an owl yet, especially since her parents are still getting used to Crookshanks. So she replies when I write her. I told her that I would've invited her to my birthday, but since my family decided to change plans and go out together instead of having a party, I couldn't."

"Bad luck," Dean said, kicking the ball to Harry. "Remember, you can't touch it with your hands."

Harry frowned down at the ball. "No flying, no hands, and only one ball? This seems too easy."

Dean grinned. "I'll remember that you said that when you're eating grass."

August 1st, 1992
Granger Residence — London

"You really didn't need to go to all this trouble," Lucretia said with a smile as Helen Granger handed her a small plate with a beautiful pastry on it.

"Nonsense," Helen said as she took a seat on the opposite sofa with her husband after dutifully handing identical plates to Andromeda and Mary. "I enjoy baking. One of these days I'll let go of some control in the kitchen and teach Hermione. Don't let my job fool you, I'm a sugar addict. It's hereditary."

Richard Granger chuckled, chewing on a large bite of the strudel. After swallowing, he wiped his mouth with a napkin and said, "It's true. I don't run four kilometres every day to look good." He patted his stomach. "She keeps me well fed."

"You'd do well in the magical world," Andromeda said, bringing her cup of tea to her lips. "While I've not read any of the studies myself, because I doubt their actual existence, my husband claims that someone has proven that sugar helps aid in magical development."

Helen smiled brightly. "Your husband is quite a person, Mrs Tonks."

"Andromeda, please."

"You said hereditary," Lucretia commented after taking a bite and swallowing, holding her napkin to her lips. "Sugar addiction runs in the family?"

"Don't mind her," Mary said sweetly, putting her thumb in her mouth to suck off the crumbs. "She's mad for all sorts of history."

"Like our Hermione," Richard said.

"It's my mother's recipe," Helen said, gesturing to the strudel.

"If you think this is good, you ought to try her pączki." Richard leant forward, reaching for his cup of tea, covering it with his hand when Helen tried to sneak in an extra lump of sugar. He narrowed his eyes playfully at her before swatting her hand away.

"My father was a baker," Helen admitted. "A house doesn't smell right unless something's baking if you ask me."

Andromeda let out a short little laugh. "You'd hate my home. Even after all these years without a house-elf, I've not grown accustomed to the kitchen. My poor daughter grew up on takeaway for the most part. It's a wonder she didn't try to stay at Hogwarts during the holidays, what with home cooked meals three times a day."

"Hermione said it's quite the feast," Richard commented. "She's loving it there. So much has happened already. She has friends and . . . just . . . thank you all so much."

Lucretia felt a warmth for the couple. "There's no need to thank us. Your daughter is a witch. It's her birthright to go to Hogwarts. What the coven does is only a means to help facilitate her entry and a concentration on her growth thereafter."

"You mentioned something about a new class?" Helen asked, refilling Mary and Andromeda's cups. "Hermione said that they don't get to choose electives until their third year. Is that correct?"

Brimming with pride, Lucretia straightened her spine. "True, and while this class is technically an elective, it's new. I'll actually be teaching it myself; a course I've been trying to get installed in the curriculum for some years now. The class is actually why we've come here today. You see, it will cover a variety of subjects, notably magical history that's not often covered in the typical sense, as well as culture in the Wizarding world for those, like Hermione, who did not grow up with it. But it will also cover things of a more delicate nature, and we've sent letters to all the parents for permission. Some, mostly purebloods, will likely opt out, but we feel it's in the Muggle-borns' best interest to take the class."

With a furrowed brow, Richard asked, "Delicate nature?"

"She means sex, dear," Helen said. Her husband sat up abruptly, and Helen made eye contact with Lucretia. "Am I correct?"

Not for the first time, Lucretia found herself quite enamoured with the Muggle. "You're very perceptive, Helen. Sex is, in fact, one part of the lesson plan. While I am quite sure all parents are capable of instructing their children on the matter, a magical child needs to know other things. Their bodies mature differently along with their magic, and there are, well . . ." She hesitated, looking to Andromeda and Mary for help.

"Consent," Andromeda clarified. "We'll go into such things in great detail. We believe, just as with every spell and potion learnt at Hogwarts, that children should be educated thoroughly in regards to the magic that can be learned from intimate connections with one another—in due time."

"A long time," Richard said under his breath.

Mary laughed. "Of course. Of course."

"There are other concerns, however," Andromeda finished.

"Such as?" Helen asked.

"Dark magic," Lucretia offered. "There is a class, I'm sure Hermione has told you, covering defence of such things, but since the coven practices blood magic, it's an area we are concerned about. While it's not very prevalent in Britain, not for several decades, there are countries with dark wizards still practising the art of—"

"It's dastardly," Mary cut in with a stern look on her face. "Which is why we want to protect the children."

Helen's eyes widened as though she understood what was not being spoken. Lucretia half wondered if she figured it out on her own. Richard, however, looked concerned and very much still in the dark.

"Virginal blood," Lucretia ventured, "is still a prime ingredient in dark potions, rituals, and the like. We mean to educate the children on how to protect themselves and learn a better respect for such things."

Bringing a suddenly shaking hand to her chest, Helen asked, "You said this doesn't happen in Britain anymore?"

Lucretia shook her head. "Mostly in America these days, but one can never be too careful."

Richard covered his mouth, looking sternly down at the table. "But she'll be protected? How? More defence spells to fight off potential, what? Attackers?"

Mary jumped in, "They're all safe at Hogwarts. We've seen to that. But—"

"I wrote a pamphlet." Lucretia pulled it from the sleeve of her robe. "It has an age containment spell on it, so Hermione will not be able to read if you decide to opt out of the course. But we highly recommend it."

Richard finished his cup of tea, looking like he wished that it had whisky in it, while Helen perused the pamphlet. "There's a lot in here," she said. "I see the boys are included in the class?"

"Some parts are co-educational and then for others, the genders separate according to where they feel most comfortable. Madam Pomfrey, the school's mediwitch has also offered her assistance in speaking to the children, should they prefer a more one-on-one conversation regarding any private matters," Lucretia said. "We abhor the idea that subjects like this should be humiliating or considered shameful in nature, but discretion is sometimes required, and we understand this."

Pursing his lips in thought, Richard asked, "So it's like . . . abstinence? My school didn't cover much, but we had an hour-long class once. Basically told us not to do a bloody thing until marriage, of course."

Andromeda snorted, earning a look of concern from Richard.

"Forgive our frankness, Mr Granger. The children are still very young now, but they will remain at Hogwarts until adulthood blossoms. We've all lived at Hogwarts," Lucretia said with a raised brow, "and we are not so naive to believe that broom cupboards are actually used for storing brooms."

The man made an adorable little rumbling noise of discontent.

"Hush," Helen said, gently slapping his arm. "Some of the more mature subjects aren't covered in detail until fourth year. Read this." She thrust the pamphlet into his hand. "Obviously they're not encouraging Hermione to go about . . . you know."

"Both boys and girls are going to be taught respect," Mary said firmly. "A foundation, if you will."

Leaning back on the sofa, Richard let out a heavy, put-upon sigh; a noise only the father of a teenage girl would make. Lucretia remembered her own father making that sound when she'd come home from Hogwarts at the age of fifteen, declaring her intent to marry Ignatius Prewett, even though he was two years older than her and had no idea she even existed, let alone of her affections for him. It was the sound a man made when he realised he was no longer in control.

Standing up from her chair, Lucretia stepped around the coffee table between them, perching herself lightly on the arm of the sofa and taking Richard's hand. "She's in good hands. We'll not let harm come to her, I assure you."

"Everyone in the programme has been so very—" Helen began, but stopped when Andromeda and Lucretia shared a look. "What?"

Andromeda cleared her throat. "We offer protection and guidance to all of the young Muggle-borns, but Hermione is different. Her respect for magic and her drive for learning it are unfortunately a bit unusual compared to many of her peers. She has ambition, your daughter. There have been no decisions made, seeing as there's still another year to think about it, but she, along with a select group of young witches, are being groomed for coven participation."

When neither Muggle reacted, looking a little confused, Mary leant forward and whispered, "It's a very big deal."

"We don't just fund the programme. The Black Coven is working to reshape Wizarding Britain," Andromeda said with a soft smile.

"A magical Britain that is safe for people like Hermione," Lucretia added, squeezing Richard's hand.

"Safe for people like Hermione and myself," Mary chimed in with a sweet smile. "She's going great places, your girl. She's very bright. And the coven, well, they . . . er, we," she corrected herself with an embarrassed little laugh, "we take very good care of our own."

Letting go of Richard's hand, Lucretia retook her seat. "And I'll guarantee her membership in exchange for this strudel recipe."

Helen let out a laugh at that, looking as though she needed the break in the tension. "Not on your life."

Richard let out a sad little smile and ran his hands through his hair. "I suppose she has to grow up sometime." He glanced down at the pamphlet. "I'd like to read more before we sign anything."

"Of course," Lucretia said.

"And, well, I guess as long as she doesn't lose her virginity beneath a full moon ritual or whatever, surrounded by bonfires," he added, trying, uncomfortably, to make a joke.

"We would never." Lucretia grinned, reaching for her cup once more.

Mary leant back in her chair, primly crossing her ankles. "Besides, the new moon is much better for—Ow!" Her gaze snapped toward Andromeda, who was innocently pretending that she had not pinched her.