1996. Hermione Granger enters the Department of Mysteries, never to return.
1970. A girl appears within the grounds of Potter Manor, where she forms an instantaneous bond with one James Potter. Realizing that the girl is an orphan, Charlus Potter satisfies his beloved wife's need for another baby by adopting her into the fold. Hermione Potter is born.
1995. Sirius Black moves into his ancestral home to find a ghost has taken up residence. Occupants complain of Poltergeist antics; books taken from the library, food thrown at them in the kitchen, and mysterious locked doors in the upper halls. The only thing is - nobody has ever seen it.
A/N: Hello! Welcome to The Ghost Of Grimmauld Place. It's a plot bunny that has been dancing around in my head a bit, and I have been itching to put pen to paper for it for a couple of days. I should warn you now that it is planned to be a bit odd, and we'll hopefully be dancing around in time, mostly between the 70's, the 90's, and in-between. It's non-linear, in that chapters will be put up from the 90's, 70's and inbetween in different orders. I hope it makes sense as we go along because it's pretty hard to explain.
Endgame Severus/Hermione, because they are my perfect little butterflies, but it'll take a while and there should be diversions along the way. When I say Hermione, what I mean is the person Hermione becomes.
As always with my stories, it could go anywhere, and those of who who have been reading Iacta Alea Est will know that anywhere literally means anywhere. No promises on the update schedule but I'll try to keep it regular.
EDIT 16/06/18: Thank you to Exeidur for beta-ing this chapter for me (and explaining what an Oxford comma is meant to be); you're a doll and I'm infinitely grateful!
Disclaimer: I do not own the works herein, all characters from the Harry Potter Universe belong to JK Rowling, and all characters, storylines, situations, plots and the like do not belong to me. I make no money from this work.
Warnings: Rated M for situations, swearing, violence, sexual scenes... The whole lot, basically.
The Ghost of Grimmauld Place
"It was not the thorn bending to the honeysuckles, but the honeysuckles embracing the thorn."
- Emily Bronte, Wuthering Heights
Thursday 6th January 1994
Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Seventh Floor
Moonlight filtered through the windows, casting shadows across the floor and illuminating the cracks in the aging stone walls. Crevices and alcoves were conspicuous by their darkness, coats of armour and statues looming from the blackness to appear, all of a sudden, to shock those that passed. Not that many traversed these halls this night; curfew was but a half hour away and patrols had begun in earnest. It was too cold to linger in the corridors for all but those with the staunchest of dispositions; the biting Scottish wind penetrated the smallest of gaps in the imposing rock face of the castle. Most students were in their common rooms, playing Exploding Snap by the comfort of the fires, or gossiping through the curtains of their four-posters to a backing track of giggles and snorts.
Remus remembered those days fondly, even now when everything seemed to be falling apart. He preferred to think of the past when his present seemed so bleak; it helped alleviate some of the crushing grief and guilt he suffered on the daily. Being back at Hogwarts helped, for he had always found the place to be his home despite its many and varied faults. There were numerous rules and strictures placed upon him yet he had never felt so free as he did here. Hogwarts, to him, represented safety and comfort, qualities which had been sadly lacking these past twelve years.
His footsteps on stone, smoothed by centuries of passage, echoed oddly in the air, returning to him tenfold. It was embarrassingly slow and shambling, evidence of his years catching up with him, but in the silence even the repeated noise was comforting. Tap-tap-shush-tap-tap-shush it went as his slight limp caused the heel of his left shoe – a heel which was held onto its casing by a few strings of glue and willpower – to catch on the lip of the stones and slip across the surface. It was music to his ears; a homely noise to remind him of who he was in a world where every day his personality slipped further away.
The sound of water rushing through the pipes in the walls touched his ears followed by the laugh of a far-off student, no doubt enjoying a pre-curfew rendezvous with a lover. It came from the East, nearer Ravenclaw Tower, but sound travelled oddly here so he couldn't be sure. Remus made a note to give them twenty minutes or so before he headed in that direction. He saw no reason to spoil their fun. There was so little joy to be had in the world; he firmly believed that people should enjoy it while it was theirs.
He turned the corner onto the outer corridors, not really expecting to find anybody around. The air here was frosty, the ice almost visible and waiting to clog someone's throat. No students used this path; even the staff avoided it when they could, for it was open to the air in several places. Here and there erosion had thinned the rocks from their neighbours and they had fallen victim to the gaping fissure in the earth several floors below. Headmaster Dumbledore kept promising to have the wall repaired, but after fifteen years of the problem they had stopped holding their breaths and simply skirted the entire area.
Not Remus, though. Remus had always liked it up here, even back when he had been a little firstie getting lost on the way to bed. He could stand here for hours, looking out over the hills and rivers and lakes of Scotland, breathing in the fresh, life-giving air, free from the claustrophobia that always seemed to attack when he spent too long indoors. His heightened body temperature protected him from the icy winds, and if that didn't work, then he had his cardigan and his robes, tatty though they were. It was a fact of his nature that he could stand in a snowstorm and still be warm as long as he had a jumper.
He leaned against the make-shift balustrade at a section of wall where the whole thing had succumbed to gravity years ago and peered out over the castle-grounds. It was the best view in the whole castle, he believed, even better than the Astronomy tower. He could watch the Thestrals fly above the forest canopy, dancing with one another on the wind currents, their foals playing and nickering in the night air. Above him owls cooed, down below foxes pranced in the frost-coated grass, barking warnings at each other while Pomona shuffled about into her gardens. In the distance he could see a streak of smoke spiralling up from Hagrid's hut, almost able to taste the bitter tang of his over-steeped tea, feel the stab in his gums from his lovingly baked rock cakes. A hippogriff broke free of the canopy as he watched, launching itself towards the moon and gliding off across the lake in search of its own prey.
For twenty-eight years of his life, Remus had been fighting his more feral instincts. He shied away from anything reminiscent of the Wolf - he barely ate meat, he refused to get a dog, he stayed firmly in the daylight and lived mainly in the city – but it was nights like this where he could hardly deny his furry inheritance, a heritage passed on by Fenrir Greyback, which, while having its obvious downsides, allowed him to appreciate the beauty and wildness of nature. Let him feel at home amongst the majestic creatures of the night. The other wolves would always welcome him, he could slink amongst the Thestrals with nary a problem, and the centaurs would allow him passage in either form – cold comfort in the daylight when he suffered estrangement from wizardkind, but at night it felt like a blessing.
He took the cool air into his lungs, held it there, with the taste of winter on his tongue. His senses were dull today, his wolf tired after a long night; the loss was acutely felt and yet, also, comforting in a way only the knowledge of his own humanity could be. Remus himself was tired but he had promised Minerva he would patrol, even if he made a distinctly half-hearted effort of it. Pushing away, he made to continue his trek down the corridor, and that was when he spotted her.
She stared up at him fearfully, half-hidden in the shadows of a suit of armour; she had taken shelter when she became aware of his approach. That he had missed her said a lot about his state of mind.
He didn't particularly want to take points from anybody today. Especially not someone who had been crying, as it was obvious this girl had. She blinked tear-filled big brown eyes up at him, her face as pale as snow, expecting a scolding, or even detention. Remus wished he was that sort of teacher, that he had the temperament to shout at a girl for hiding away for a cry, because life would have been so much easier if he was just a smidgeon more ruthless, but he never had been and probably never would, not with children.
And she was definitely a child. All of twelve, with fiery ginger hair that added a distrustful element to her mournful visage. She looked like she would rather be fighting than crying, like she would grow up to hex-first, ask-questions-later. It just hadn't come to that point yet.
"Miss Weasley?" he asked in his gentlest voice, kneeling down beside the plinth behind which she was curled. "Are you alright?"
She sniffed, wiping her nose on the edge of her robe, which had Remus fighting a wince. Instead he offered her his handkerchief, one of a collection his assigned house-elf had monogrammed lovingly for him when he had arrived and first began to come across weeping women in the halls. "I'm s-sorry, Professor," she sniffled, her chin jutting out in a juvenile gesture of defiance. In her eyes he could see her embarrassment morphing into frustrated anger, but even stronger was her despair. "I'll just get back to my d-dormit-tory."
She lifted herself to her feet unsteadily and made to set off down the corridor, but Remus stopped her with a sympathetic frown. "Would you like to talk about it?" he said, his voice still low, inviting confidence. She blinked up at him, looking startled.
"I wouldn't want t-to impose," she whispered, staring at her feet before remembering that she wanted to project a tough-girl appearance and whipping her head up to stare determinedly up into his eyes. "I'm sure you're very busy."
Remus, who viewed the assistance he gave students as the highlights of his short teaching career, smiled encouragingly. "Not at all," he said pleasantly, "I was just going to have a cup of tea in my office. It's rather cold out tonight, isn't it?"
Shuffling her feet, she nodded. "Would you care to join me?" he prodded further, jerking his head in the direction of his office. Her eyes flicked between him and the hall where he pointed, then back. He stayed quiet to let her decide. He'd found that you couldn't force these things, and he didn't want to. If the girl wanted someone to talk to, he was there. If she simply wanted to return to her room, he would allow her that, too. The only reason he pushed was because of the pain in her eyes, it was heart-wrenching, and he didn't see how she could bear that burden alone.
After a long minute, she nodded again, and fell into step behind him as he led the way back towards his classroom. They walked in companionable silence, but Remus' head was whirling with questions. Why would Ginny Weasley, of all people, be crying in the corridor late at night? He had seen her around, had taught her in his lessons, and thought she was rather well adjusted. Especially considering the fiasco her first-year had turned out to be. She must have been damaged from that experience, but she had a large family. Her brothers seemed both proud and protective of her, and the other children in her year didn't eschew her company. Indeed, she was in a better position socially than he had been at her age.
Well, no doubt he would find out soon, he thought to himself as he opened the door to his office and ushered her inside. He left the door open a couple of inches, just enough for propriety but not enough that any passer-by might overhear the conversation, and bustled over to his kettle. "Tea or chocolate?" he asked, and nodded when she indicated the chocolate. "Good choice. Honeyduke's finest hot cocoa. It's my favourite, I must get through two tubs every winter."
He continued to blather absently about nothing as he pottered around collecting mugs and ensuring their cleanliness, and then as he stirred the cocoa and added cream. He was aware of her examining his desk in the corner of his eye, playing with his quills and prodding the little box in which he kept a small, semi-sentient Nundu model for his seventh-years to examine. As she poked, the Nundu opened one eye and snarled, sending Miss Weasley back into her chair, wide-eyed. Remus stifled a snicker as she looked in his direction to check if he had seen, guilt plastered over her face.
Finally he walked back over, falling silent as he placed one steaming mug in front of the girl and taking the other to his chair, sipping it with grave concentration, relaxing inside as the rich liquid seeped over his tongue. He carefully avoided looking in Miss Weasley's direction, not wanting to pressure her into any revelations she was uncomfortable with, and instead applied himself to coaxing the Nundu back to sleep. It was only a little plastic model, incapable of the real Nundu's poisonous breath, but accurate in nearly every other aspect. They had even given it the ability to breathe a grey-green fog when threatened, which Remus thought was ingenious.
"It's silly," Miss Weasley blurted abruptly. He turned his attention back to her in time to see her blush.
"It's not silly if it upsets you," he replied delicately. Miss Weasley shook her head, her hair falling about her face as if to provide her with a shield.
"I wasn't- I mean, I was- look, Professor, I'm not usually like this. I don't get upset very easily, especially not about something so pathetic." Her eyes dared him to comment, challenging him. Instead he took another sip of his cocoa, enjoying the taste, the silky texture. Miss Weasley drank a little herself, the heat putting roses back into her cheeks. "It's my brothers." She said finally, quietly, her eyes inspecting the surface of her drink. "I have six brothers, did you know?" She tapped her little black pumps against the floor, having to stretch her feet to do so, as they dangled an inch from the ground when she was seated. "I'm the little one; the only girl and the youngest. It's a curse."
Remus could imagine that. He was an only child, but he had known boys who had younger sisters, had witnessed the unique mixture of protectiveness and exasperation they bestowed upon them as children, emotions which only strengthened as they grew older. Often the girls felt stifled and abandoned in turns. It wasn't an uncommon problem.
"I don't want you to think it's like last year, because it's not," Miss Weasley clarified hurriedly, responding to something she might have thought she had seen in his eyes or his face. "I'm not talking to diaries or anything, I swear. I've learned my lesson." She gave a laugh that held within it such a wealth of bitterness that it threw Remus. Suddenly she seemed older, world weary, though in her physical state she looked like a porcelain doll. He recognised himself in her, in her traumatised psyche, in her loneliness. "They're avoiding me," her voice was mournful but accepting. "I know it's my own fault, and I deserve it, probably, but that doesn't mean it doesn't hurt." Tears began to slip from her eyes again, sliding along her lashes and quivering on the ends like jewels in the candlelight before falling and splashing onto the wool of her robes and being absorbed. "We used to be so close, and they've just forgotten about me!"
He reached over with a box of tissues, replacing the now empty mug with them. She clutched a handful gratefully, bunching them up beneath her eyes as though to stop the flow entirely. "I'm fine about it most days, I don't cry all the time, it's just that… well tonight I was in the common room and Fred and George were laughing about something-or-other with their friends and Ron was playing Wizards Chess with Harry Bloody Potter-" (somehow Remus knew this was a frequent curse for her to use, something to do with how the 'bloody' fit so perfectly, like it was his real middle name instead of James) "-and none of them recognised that I was there. Even bloody Pompous Percy was swanning about, and usually I can count on him to come over and embarrass me, but he was too busy whispering with swotty Granger!" She let out a few loud sobs, then; "I don't mean to call her a swot, she's a really lovely girl, she's just in the wrong place at the wrong time, and please don't tell Percy I called him that, even though he is, because he'll be really upset. You've got to promise me, Professor."
"I promise," he intoned solemnly, trying not to smile. She was so somber about it, with eyes regarding him gravely to check on his seriousness. She couldn't really believe that her brother didn't know what she called him, but she didn't want him hurt anyway, which was admirable.
"Good, thank you, sir." She gave a hiccough and then sobbed again, looking surprised even as it happened. "I just… I want my brothers back! We used to be so close. Fred and George were always a team together, but I was their little assistant. Now we're at Hogwarts they don't seem to care about me at all." She wiped her eyes again with the sodden mass of tissue. "I feel so stupid to be feeling like this, but it's… I feel like I'm losing them. Like they're abandoning me. The utter twats!" Her eyes blew wide and she stared up at him, her face burning red. "Sorry, sir."
He couldn't hold back the laugh this time, letting it trickle out of him as a chuckle. She went to look offended, but it didn't hold and she ended up laughing too. Her eyes lost some of their glassy appearance from the mirth, and soon she was smiling faintly, if a bit uncertainly.
"I'm sorry, Miss Weasley, I wasn't laughing at you, I swear," Remus assured her, his chuckles dying off. "You remind me of someone I went to school with. She had the same problem. At home she and her brother were as thick as thieves, absolutely inseparable. Where one went, the other followed. When her brother went to school, though, he made other friends, much like yours did." She gave a nod, and Remus joined the motion. "She felt adrift, confused and alone, no doubt like you do."
"It's so hard," Miss Weasley whispered.
"I understand. It was hard for her too. When she joined Hogwarts she thought it would get better, now that she could be a part of his stories, but he kept pushing her away, snapping at her for getting in his business, to get a life. I understand it was very hurtful for her, in the beginning."
"I bet she didn't set loose a monster, though," Miss Weasley said, a thread of morbid humour in her voice. Remus shook his head, still smiling.
"No, she didn't. What she did do, was start making friends with all of his enemies. When James began to bully someone, she would sneak up on the other side and fight back. When he disliked a teacher, she would suddenly become the best in class. She was quiet at first, but sneaky, and she fought dirty."
"She sounds like a Slytherin," Miss Weasley smirked. "Did it work?"
"She was a Gryffindor." Remus cast his mind back through the years, remembering a little girl with black hair and hazel eyes, snarling her displeasure across a hallway. She had seemed so young then, the age gap nearly insurmountable for the lads and her, despite it being less than a year. "James did begin to regret how he treated her, yes. It cost them a lot, though. With the both of them fighting one another, they grew apart. Their relationship was never the same, despite them attempting to overcome their differences as they got older. He was never quite able to overlook her choice of company, and she was never able to overlook his attitude. By the end of her schooling they had a good relationship, but the trust wasn't there."
Miss Weasley's mouth fell open, obviously shocked by the turn the conversation had taken. "But they made up, right? They were family!"
Remus shook his head sadly. "No, I'm afraid not. She left school and got engaged to the wrong person, and then she and her fiancé both disappeared. It was a war," he said, his feeling of loss seeping into his voice before he could stop it. "Times were uncertain, as they are now. I suppose the best advice I can give you is to hold onto your family with both hands. Nothing is forever, and even love you have to work at. Your brothers love you, but at the moment they're growing up. You're all growing up, and you need space to explore yourselves and make other friends. It's a temporary situation, and you need to be there for each other at the end. Don't do anything you can't take back."
"But what if I've already done the unforgivable, sir?" Miss Weasley asked, her face pale and head spinning.
"What, your little debacle last year?" he teased lightly. "I rather think it's already forgotten, don't you?"
She bit her lip, eyes lowered to pick at her nails. "I'm not sure. I thought everything was getting better, but then school began again and…"
"These things take time," he advised her, sounding quite sage if he did say so himself. "Try to be the best person you can, that's all you can do right now. In time things will fade, the memories won't be so fresh, and you'll all be older and wiser. Give the boys some space. They'll come to you soon enough."
She smiled up at him. "Ok, I guess I can do that." Slipping down off the chair, she fastened her cloak securely and smirked impishly. "But I can still hex them if they're rude to me, right? That won't severely affect our future relationship?"
Grinning, Remus stood up, a permission slip in one hand, using the other to open the door. He passed the slip to her as she walked past. "Of course you can, Ginny. If anything, I think they'll expect it." Suddenly wrinkling his nose, he lowered his voice as he adjusted his wards. "But I must ask you not to tell anybody I said that, it could mean my job."
"Of course not, sir. You can trust me." With that agreement between them, he sent her back to Gryffindor tower and resumed his patrols. The Ravenclaw couple had vacated the area, presumably having completed their rendezvous while he was otherwise occupied. There was a third-year Hufflepuff using a Charms classroom for homework, a sixth-year Slytherin lurking in the Astronomy Tower, and a second-year Ravenclaw wandering absently around the Entrance Hall, but once all were safely ensconced in their beds Remus managed to turn back to his rooms.
Outside of his office, Severus lurked like a spectre of death, scowling into the shadows.
"How long have you been there?" Remus asked, dispensing with the pleasantries. It was obvious he wanted to be seen, perhaps even to talk. He only wondered how much the Potions Master had heard.
"Long enough, wolf," Severus spat, his eyes dark with anger. "You broke our pact."
"I never agreed to your pact," Remus returned, his voice sharp. "I think it's shameful what you've all done, and I want no part of it."
Severus hissed, appearing less than inches from Remus. The other man worked not to step back, but Severus had an intimidating aura that none could withstand for too long. "What part of dangerous do you not understand?"
"All of it!" He took a deep breath, pushing his own emotion far, far down where nobody could find it. "I'm not discussing this with you. She deserves better than what you're all giving her, and you of all people should agree."
"She is gone, it matters not what she deserves."
Remus snarled, shoving violently with his magic, wandlessly expressing his ire to the other man's cost. Severus stumbled back a few steps, just enough for Remus to get through the door. His wards bore up against Severus' sudden attack, keeping Remus safe on the other side. "You're a cold-hearted bastard," he growled, allowing his revulsion for the man to show on his face. Sparks shattered, littering the floor around them, winking red and blue. Remus ignored the show, staring straight at Severus, his face set. "You, Sirius, James, Peter, all of you took that oath out of guilt, out of shame. I have nothing to be ashamed of, not when it comes to her. You betrayed her, you all betrayed her, and now you're trying to pretend she didn't exist, like she didn't mean a thing to you." He stepped back, ignoring Severus' wrath as he pummelled the wards, roaring in outrage.
"You're pathetic, Snape," Remus said, his voice level, chillingly smooth. "How do you live with yourself?"
The door slammed shut; locking him out, locking Remus in. He staggered back a few steps until his bottom hit a desk, stunned at his own actions. He hadn't known he could be so malicious, had spent years being kind - even when he'd much rather not.
But Snape had had to bring it up. Acting all holier-than-thou, threatening him outside his own quarters. Pretending that wiping an entire woman from history was an ok thing to do.
Remus couldn't take back what had happened, but he could protect her memory. It was the least he owed her.