A/N: I decided to edit this story. It's still AU and even more so from on chapter 3, where some changes to the first version start to occur. Until then I just edited a bit and rounded things up that seemed edgy in the first version.
Enjoy and don't hesitate to review :-)
A Year In Switzerland - V.2
Chapter 01 – A New Home
I wake up and notice I must have screamed. Once again I saw the atrocious scene of Voldemort's rebirth in my dreams! Once again I watched the killing of my schoolmate Cedric Diggory. I find myself sitting bolt upright in my bed. I must surely have woken up Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon as well as my cousin Dudley, even though Dudley probably is incapable to roll out of his bed as fast as my aunt.
They all come scrambling into my room and are now the ones who scream at me. I cower and try to vanish under my blanket, but I can't tune out their voices. For two weeks since I have returned from school I have been having these nightmares, much to the dismay of my relatives who start to feel the lack of sleep as much as I do. They don't dare touching me though. Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia have had a visit from headmaster Albus Dumbledore two days before I came back. He seems to have been clear about the consequences they had to face if they lay a hand on me. But Uncle Vernon was aggravated, and he constantly grunted what an ingrate and useless invader of his family I was since then. Uncle Vernon now looks to have an idea, he turns around and shouts:
"This is it! That's been the one time too many you've woken us all up, boy! That old codger could bully us into not touching you the way you deserve, but he said nothing about getting rid of you. By tomorrow evening you'll be OUT OF HERE!"
With that the Dursleys turn around and roll out of my room. I still breathe hard as the message sinks in. Panic sets in next, my heart starts to beat faster and faster and I think it might just break right now. Then I hear a soft hoot and Hedwig flies over to me. Crying softly I stroke her plumage.
"Where shall I go, Hedwig? The Burrow is not safe enough for me and I'd put all the Weasleys in terrible danger. I can't go to Hogwarts, it's probably all closed. I can't go to Sirius, he's still on the run. I can't even go to Hermione's, her parents surely wouldn't want me there and I know no one else…"
Hedwig flies over to the desk and picks up a quill. I look at her and ask:
"You want me to write a letter? To whom? Dumbledore? Sirius?"
Hedwig hoots. I think she means Sirius! I'm not sure what my godfather, who is still on the run from the Ministry could do for me, but Hedwig is wise and so I get up and sit down at the desk. I pick up the quill and a piece of parchment and start to write:
I'm in trouble. The Dursleys want me out by tomorrow evening, but I can't go anywhere. Please help me!"
Then an idea strikes me and I quickly add:
"I'll ask Mrs Figg if I could wait at her place, she lives two streets away at Wisteria Walk. She used to baby-sit me when I was little and though she's kind of a batty old lady, but she's always been kind to me.
I give the letter to Hedwig and stroke her again.
"Hurry up as fast as you can, girl, then find me wherever I may be. I think I'll be at Mrs Figg's, she will probably help me."
I keep to my room the next day. I pack everything into my trunk and carry it down the stairs. I see and hear nothing of my dreadful relatives who seem to have left the house. I sigh. I wait, but until it is time to leave I don't see Hedwig coming back. So I pick up my trunk and carry and drag it all the way to old Mrs Figg's. When I knock on her door it takes a while until she opens, and when she does, she calls out:
"Harry! What happened to you?"
"Mrs Figg, do you think I could stay here and wait for someone to pick me up? The Dursleys have thrown me out…"
"What? How could they? What happened? Do come in, Harry! Put your trunk here next to the door, if need be we'll bring it up to your room later on."
She ushers me inside and I put my trunk down. She leads me to the living room and asks, while she summons tea things, frightening me to bits as I find out she is a witch:
"Who did you inform? Dumbledore?"
I shake my head. My eyes have gone wide, but when she mentions my headmaster I quickly put facts together.
"Are you Arabella Figg, Mrs Figg?" I ask back.
"Yes, I am. How did you know that?"
"Has Sirius contacted you already? Professor Dumbledore sent him to gather 'the old crowd' and he mentioned your name. That's why I ask."
"Yes, he's left yesterday after staying the night. I think he's on his way to Remus Lupin now. He was very sorry about it, but he wasn't allowed to come over to you."
"I wrote Sirius. Hedwig is not back yet."
"Oh dear. She will have to look for him. He's on the road. As a dog."
"She'll find him. She always does."
I'm running along a deserted unpaved path through the forest and I know I'll be at Remus' in just another hour or two when suddenly Hedwig swoops through the trees and sits down in front of me. I look around and transform.
"Hello, dear girl, what have you got for me?" I ask her and caress her plumage.
She holds out her leg and hoots until I take the letter off it. It's from Harry of course and when I read the content of his missive I cry out in frustration. Those damn, damn Dursleys! What the hell have they done to him now? I'm in no state to turn back and run down there right now, I'm just too exhausted from 36 hours of running straight through. I sit back and look at Hedwig. Harry has done the best thing he can have done and I know that Arabella is the right person to turn to, so I decide it's better for him to stay there until Remus can go and look after him. It's just a short bit to get to Remus anyway. I turn the letter around, scribble my answer and give it back to Hedwig.
"Here, take that to Harry, I suppose he's at Mrs Figg's place, she won't turn him away, no worries for your master, my dear. We'll come and help him as soon as we can, Remus and myself."
She takes off and I transform back into the dog and follow the path that leads to the other side of the forest where Remus lives. I get there about two hours later and he takes me in, just welcoming me home, the sweet man! How I still love him I dare not even breathe. He certainly must have moved on and left our love behind, a thought that hurts, but I would understand him. After all, he has lived a real life in those past fourteen years. I feel like a very immature child next to him! Just how he has taken charge of the situation back in the Shrieking Shack last year… so self assured, so powerful! I love him… but there's Harry! He comes first and so I tell Remus all about what he wrote to me, so he decides to floo over to Arabella. And he hasn't left for more than five minutes, when Albus apparates right into his living room. I tell him that Remus is at Arabella's now, so he follows. I have to stay behind and wait for their decision. I can only hope that Harry is well.
Merlin, the boy looks totally run down! What have the Dursleys done to him, I wonder, but there's no time to think about that, all I can do is get him inside, sit him down and get some tea for him, not caring if he finds out this way that I'm a witch. I pour tea for Harry and summon a plate of biscuits and when I find out that he hasn't eaten all day I have to go to the kitchen and put some food together for him. I'm sure it tastes a lot better than the Muggle cooking I have given him when I used to baby-sit him. While he eats I apologise:
"I'm sorry I've fed you so awfully, but my Muggle cooking is just that – awful. I wasn't ever capable of doing it and because I was not allowed to tell you I'm a witch I had to act as a Muggle. Couldn't well cook magically then."
Harry smiles. What a sweet boy he is. So patient and forgiving.
"It's okay. I don't mind. But why were you not allowed to tell me you're a witch?"
"For one because one of your protections is a Fidelius Charm and I'm your Secret Keeper. That's next to the old blood relative magic and the anti-apparition wards and several other wards on your relatives' house. I was watching out that nothing too bad could happen to you. But the Dursleys were not to suspect anything. You know yourself how they react to anything doing with magic."
"Only too well."
"So you can imagine how small my chances were to get to baby-sit you if they got wind that I'm a witch. Do you have everything?"
"Yes, I do."
"Okay. So, now that you've calmed down a bit we'll contact Albus, okay?"
I go to the fireplace and throw some Floo powder into the fire which I quickly conjure. Harry notices that I haven't used my wand even once so far. I've stopped using one after living in the Muggle world for a while as it's just too easy to spot. Dumbledore turns up in the fire.
"Good evening, Arabella. Has something happened?"
"Good evening, Albus. Yes, you could say that. Your visit to the Dursleys hasn't been quite successful. You sufficiently bullied them not to touch Harry, but instead of getting violent they decided to get rid of him altogether and they cast him out."
"Oh no! Where is he? Do you know?"
"He's had the good sense to come to me, but he's also sent Hedwig to Snuffles. But he's told Snuffles in his letter that he'd come here."
"That means you'll see Snuffles again very soon, I suppose. I think, Harry can stay with you for a few days, I'll find a solution in the meantime, okay?"
"Okay, Albus. I'll gladly keep him here."
"Then I'll leave you two. Harry, you're not to leave the house until Snuffles arrives, is that clear?"
"Yes, Professor," Harry says from the sofa.
"Very well. Good night then!"
I pamper Harry the whole evening, then I prepare a room for him, now nicely furnished and comfortable and luckily free from cat hairs, I know he doesn't like it at all, but I have already cleaned for Sirius who doesn't only not like it, he's shown a tendency to be allergic even, the poor boy. Just as he starts for the stairs, we hear Hedwig at the kitchen window. I walk there to let her in.
"There's your good girl, Harry. – Oh, she's got a note, too."
I take the note from Hedwig's leg and we read it together.
Stay at Mrs Figg's place, I'll come as soon as I can! Do not move away from there!
Harry smiles. Now that he knows I'm a witch the note makes complete sense. He drops it on the kitchen table and wishes me a good night.
"Thanks, Mrs Figg! I'll go to sleep now."
"Wait, Harry. You have had nightmares about your third task, haven't you? About what happened afterwards…"
"Yes. That's why they cast me out. I screamed."
"Don't worry about waking me up, Harry. Do you want a Dreamless Sleep Potion?"
"Isn't it addictive?"
"Only if you take it for longer periods of time without interrupting. Right now you look like you desperately need some good night's sleep."
"I don't like potions in general, but maybe you're right."
"Come here. You don't need much, let me prepare a dose for you."
Harry moves to drink the potion, but I stop him:
"Take it upstairs to your room, Harry, and get to bed before you drink it. Otherwise I will have to levitate you into your bed," I say and smile.
"Oh! Okay. Good night – and thanks for everything."
"You're most welcome, Harry."
Once Harry is asleep, I start to wait for Sirius. He doesn't turn up, but Remus calls me through the Floo network.
"Snuffles just came in and said he had to come back to you, because Harry needed him."
"I contacted Albus in the meantime. Can you come over, so I can fill you in?"
"I'll be right there."
I apparate to Arabella's living room and sit down.
"He's gone to sleep. I've given him some Dreamless Sleep Potion," she tells me.
"Good. I expect he needs it."
"He does. He looks like he hasn't slept since he's come back from Hogwarts. Well, Albus asked me to keep Harry for a while and promised to find a better solution."
"Sirius is out of his mind of course…" I say.
"I can somehow understand that. Harry seems to be his first priority right now," she remarks.
"And he's got his priorities spot on, Arabella," I say, blushing slightly.
"Are you still in love with him?" she asks me tenderly.
This direct question gets me breathing in heavily but I remain silent.
"Then I wouldn't worry, sweetheart, he's still thinking of you! While he was here he was so restless because he knew you'd be next on his list," the old witch says with a smile.
She has no idea how this relieves me even though I don't really believe her yet. How can he possibly forgive me so easily? After all I practically betrayed him by believing he was guilty. We have a lot of issues and they all scare me almost out of my mind. But I have to draw my attention on Harry now, he's what's important at this moment.
Right then, Albus turns up in Arabella's living room. He smiles.
"Sirius told me you'd be here, Remus. We've got to speak about what to do with our young protégé. He needs a place to stay it seems. I've just been to the Dursleys, but they are adamantly refusing to take him in again, no matter how great the danger that's looming above them. They believe he's attracting it himself more than anything else."
"Yes, he does. I wish it could be with us," I say sadly.
"Actually I was thinking of you two. Do you still have connections to Switzerland?"
"Yes, lots of relatives all across the country, why?"
"Since you are to hide an escaped convict and an endangered child I was thinking you could hide out in Switzerland somewhere. You'd be safer abroad."
"That is quite a good idea. But it will take me a few days to get some place to stay."
"I'd like you to get your things together and leave as immediately as you can. You can stay at a hotel somewhere, choose a small pension or something either in a big city or far outside, then quietly look for a place to stay. And please do not use Hedwig as a messenger, use your own owl. Racer is much less conspicuous being the barn owl he is."
"That's for sure. Okay, I know just the place to go, we'll pick up Harry tomorrow and leave immediately. Does he have a passport? And I'll have to get a vet's certificate for Snuffles, the poor dear will have to put up with some nasty shots."
Albus and Arabella laugh, but they know it is the only way we can get Sirius onto the ferry and across borders the Muggle way without a passport.
"That shouldn't be a problem. He'll want to be with Harry! I think right now he'll accept just about anything just to be with Harry and you."
"Okay. Then let me go and pack up at home and bring the mutt here. Do you know a vet where we could turn up without an appointment, Arabella?"
"Mine. She's getting a lot of business from me what with all of my kneazles, so she shouldn't be difficult, I'll give her a quick call," Arabella explains.
"Meanwhile I'll have to get the funds for you, so you can stay there. You'll be supplied regularly, if you can give us information where to send money as soon as you can, Remus," says Albus.
"We'll do that. I might have to buy a car, Albus. In Switzerland most wizards and witches live like Muggles most of the time and they look like Muggles, too."
"No problem. You can draw on either Sirius' or my account for that. Gringotts has a branch in Switzerland, if I'm right, don't they?" Albus asks me.
"Yes, in Bern – I'll have to reacquaint myself with the local wizarding community, we had little to do with them back when we were living there. But it's not too difficult to find out. I'll need a confirmation from you to draw on that account though."
"Here – already prepared. Sirius seems to have a secret word for his."
"I know. We will contact you as soon as we're settled. Meeting point for direct communication is the "Zouberbär" (Translation from Bernese German: Magical Bear), that's the Swiss equivalent to the Leaky Cauldron."
"Can you write that down, please?" Albus asks with a smile.
I quickly jot it down on a slip of parchment. Then I leave to go back to my own house and find Sirius asleep on the sofa. I kneel down and wake my friend who I do not dare to call my lover again yet. Sirius looks up, a bit drowsy and says, yawning heartily:
"Oh, you're back."
"Hi. Did you find something to eat?" I ask.
"Yes, thank you. Did you see Albus and Arabella?"
"Yes, I did. We've decided to take you and Harry out of the country, at least for the rest of the summer."
"Oh, that seems to be a very good idea. Where to?"
"Oh. Even better idea. And how are we getting there?"
"First by rented car and ferry, then train, then rented car again. And you'll have to be a dog, I'm afraid. And that means a visit to the vet's tomorrow to get the necessary shots and the vet's certificate, sorry. But it's the only way we can get you out of here so quickly."
"You can't be serious!" he protests and his face is pulled into a grimace.
"No, but I'm sincere. I'm sorry, love, but it has to be."
'Love?' I think, panicking. Oh Merlin, I haven't thought and now I'm worried sick about what Sirius would say about it. But when he looks up from the sofa there's warmth showing up in his grey eyes. He doesn't react otherwise, just sits up and sighs.
"Oh well, so be it."
"We have to pack as much as we can and reduce it in size. In Switzerland you'll be able to go and get a new wand. I'll just take as much with me as I can."
"How do we finance ourselves?"
"I have permission to draw onto Albus' Gringotts account and he'll supply me with a good amount of money tomorrow."
"And onto mine, you know… I have a secret code word, which the Goblins will accept," Sirius says.
"Only when we're in Switzerland. I'm not marching into Gringotts here and go down into your vault, you know."
"Okay. Then let's gather all the things you want with you."
We work almost through the whole night. First I get all my papers together, my passport, and now I'm very glad I have kept it and renewed it over the years, and all I will need to be able to take residence in Switzerland again. Next there are all the clothes, then my personal effects. We get Sirius' boxes from the attic, so he gets some clean clothes and I also take out all the photo albums and finally all my books, I'm not leaving my home for a long time, and for what we know it might be a longer exile, without taking all of my books. I banish them into a quickly conjured overlarge box, reducing them in size while banishing them.
"All the rest we'll probably have to buy. Or transfigure. Now let's reduce all this," I say quietly.
After this is done we put everything in a large suitcase. I still have a leash and a collar for Snuffles. It's a nice pink and Sirius hates it. He growls when he sees it, but he knows he won't get around it.
We return to Arabella's in the morning, via Floo. Harry greets Sirius enthusiastically and turns to me to shake my hand and says:
"Hello, Professor Lupin, it's nice to see you again, too!"
"You don't need to call me Professor anymore, Harry, just call me Remus, alright? It's very nice to see you again," I tell him.
"Oh, that's much nicer, thank you, Remus, I will do that."
He is such a wonderfully polite child! Just from where did he get that? Must have been passed down to him by Lily. James at his age was much more of a prat sometimes.
Albus comes later on, brings us a lot of money, Muggle and wizarding variety, which we will need and a large bottle for me, containing Wolfsbane potion for the next three months. I charm the glass unbreakable and put it into the suitcase. Then I leave to go to the next car rental to get a car while Arabella takes Sirius to the vet. We meet again two hours later. I park a mid-sized car on the drive and pack everything inside, our suitcase containing dozens of tiny boxes, Harry's trunk, the cages containing Racer and Hedwig. Arabella has been clever enough to take them both to the vet as well, something I have totally forgotten about, but they probably would need certificates, too. Arabella sooths my nerves though and explains that the vet told her it wasn't necessary for birds. If worst would come to worst we could always let them fly above our car.
I go and get Harry's passport from the Dursleys since Albus doesn't have it and Harry doesn't have it either. But for some reason Albus had insisted that Harry got one just a few years prior. So I walk over to No 4, Privet Drive and knock on the door. Petunia answers the knock. I get right to the point:
"Good morning, Petunia. I need Harry's papers."
She wants to close the door to my nose, but I'm inside faster than the eye can blink and pull out my wand knowing full well how afraid she is of that.
"No mistakes, Petunia. Hand me his papers, including any kind of passport or identity card he might have and quick! After all it's you who threw him out…"
"Who are you?" she screeches, but I just show her my wand again and that does it, she cowers back.
"I.. I'll get them…" she says and I follow her into a small study next to the kitchen. She digs into a drawer and finds Harry's papers. There is a birth certificate and a passport, much to my astonishment and I look inside, finding it only three years old. It would be fine.
"Good. I should hex you into the next century, Petunia, but I won't – I don't like trouble with the Ministry for performing magic on a Muggle, so you'll not hear from us anymore for now. But don't think we have forgotten!"
I march out and walk away from the house, where Petunia slams the door shut. Snuffles and Harry and I get into the car, wave goodbye to Arabella, then we leave for the coast to find the next possible ferry. We are quite lucky to be able to catch a ferry just three hours after we arrive. We give the car back and board the ferry as foot passengers. Customs is no issue, since we are leaving the country for another European country, thank the European Union. Once we reach France, I check the trains to Paris. I buy tickets for us all and even find empty seats in the fast train to Paris, where we intend to rent a car again.
We have to wait several hours for the train though. It's a bit awkward, but I remember that I have packed a chess set in my luggage, stealthily resize it and then Harry and I play several rounds of Muggle chess, after I've silenced my otherwise always very noisy chessmen. Finally it's time to board the train. We play some more chess. Sirius has been very meek, as he has received four different shots in the morning and they must have made him rather drowsy. Harry keeps caressing him and scratches him behind the ears. I know how much he loves that in his dog form and smile about them. Most of the time Sirius sits close to Harry with his head on either Harry's or, at times, even on my lap. I realise it's the first time they can be together like this.
By the time we reach Paris, Harry asks:
"Are you as tired as I am, Remus?"
"Yes. We'll stay here for the night. I won't be able to drive. There are hotel guides at every station here, we'll have one soon and we'll take a taxi there. You're officially taking care of the dog now, okay? I need to find a hotel that will accept our pets."
"Fine with me."
I transfigure Harry's trunk into a cap and put it on his head. Harry smiles.
"You're great, you know that?"
"Thanks," I reply and smile back.
We put the suitcase and the two cages on a trolley and find a taxi that takes us to the hotel at which we can stay. Two hours later we finally sink down on a fairly big double bed in a fairly nice room, Sirius in his dog form on the rug. I have ordered the receptionist to call a car rental and reserve a car for us. She has promised me that it would be waiting for us in front of the hotel the next morning. We get a night's rest, Harry is taking the potion again as he doesn't want to wake the whole hotel. He sleeps through the night and even I sleep well. We don't get up before Harry's potion wears off just in time to leave the room. While we eat our breakfast, of which we have a bit packed up for Sirius to eat later in the car, Harry asks:
"So where will we go to now?"
"See one of my cousins. He lives near Bern. Went to Beauxbatons. He's quite a nice fellow and he'll certainly have some tips for us to find a place to stay. I don't think we'll need to stay at another hotel."
"How long will it take to get there?"
"Only a couple of hours, it's not so far."
"Great. Switzerland must be nice…"
"You'll like it, it's very green, like in England, and of course there are the mountains, which we'll surely explore once we've settled in a bit. There's lots to see."
I then go and pay the bill as well as the deposit for the rented car, load the car and we board it. Harry looks at it critically, but it's a nicely sized modern Peugeot station wagon. As long as we are still in the city, Sirius occupies the back seat where he is stretched out still as Snuffles. Once we reach the outskirts he transforms though and sighs happily.
"You'll have to transform again before we reach the border, Siri, you're aware of that, aren't you?" I say and grin.
"Yes, I know, don't worry, just alert me when it's time. At least inside the car I don't have to wear the bloody collar."
Harry and I laugh. Harry turns the radio on and looks for a station where they play music and I tell him, how loud he is allowed to turn it.
"I'm sorry, but I can't have it too loud, Harry, my werewolf ears can't bear it. Though I am able to take a lot more since my school days. Thanks to Sirius, mostly. He used to fill the dorm and the common room with rock music!"
"Really? How did you do that? All we have is the WWN in the common room!" Harry asks and looks back at Sirius.
"Enchanted a record player of course. I'll teach you the charm, maybe you can do this with whatever you use these days. I've recognised that vinyl records don't seem to be in use anymore…"
"I don't even know what they are…" Harry admits.
"Well, you're too young for it," I say and grin.
"We have CDs now." Harry explains.
"And what are those?" asks Sirius.
"Compact discs. They are laser discs. The device to play them is a laser that reads the digitalised information on it."
Then Siri and I have to tell him what music we liked and he nods at most of the Muggle ones, as he knows at least the names of the groups or musicians. Even though I have to concentrate on the driving I enjoy this discussion as it distracts us completely from the things going on.
I really don't mind the long drive. For the first time since I have known my godfather I can spend time with him leisurely. There seems to be no imminent danger for us right now and we are able to talk freely about anything we like. I'm glad none of them wants me to talk about the Triwizard Tournament. But both of them seem inclined to answer all my questions about Mum and Dad and tell me a lot of stories. I know that it isn't easy for them, but they do want me to know as much about my parents as they can tell me. There are funny stories and some sad ones, too.
"I've packed my photo albums, Harry. I actually went up to the attic and dug them out of Siri's boxes. When Sirius was sent to Azkaban I just stuffed everything up there, everything I found in the house that had been Sirius'. I couldn't stand his things around me, but I had been unable to throw anything away…"
"He's a packrat, Harry! The worst packrat you'll ever meet! And he's the most nostalgic romantic you'll find on this planet, too! I bet there are all of his school assignments still in that attic. He's had a whole trunk full of school stuff when we first moved into this house," Sirius interrupts.
Remus blushes. I wonder why. Were they more than friends? And if they were lovers, would they want to be lovers again? I ask tentatively:
"So you lived together?"
"Yes, we shared a flat the first year after school, in the middle of Muggle London. That was awkward, as we had to apparate out to some far away place every full moon. So we looked to buy a house out of the way. We could always apparate to work. Which we did," Remus explained.
"And you shared the house, too?"
Remus throws a quick glance into the rear view mirror and nods. I notice he seems to be uneasy now. Sirius leans on the door on the side of the passenger seat and stretches his long legs over the seat of the car.
"Yes, we did…" Remus finally admits in words.
Three hours later we already approach the vicinity of the border, so Remus tells Sirius to transform. He tells us that we are a bit off the main roads, so we would probably be checked at the gate. The customs officer stops us, Remus opens the window and asks me:
"The passports, Harry…"
When Harry gives me the two booklets, my Swiss one and Harry's British one, the customs officer becomes friendlier, especially when I reply to his questions in perfect French.
"Bonjour. Avez-vous quelque chose à déclarer?" (Good day, do you have any goods to declare?)
"Bonjour, monsieur. Non, mon neveu ici viens nous visiter à Berne. On n'a que des effets personnels et nos animaux. Nous avons choisi un chemin un peu plus scénique que l'autoroute." (Good day, sir, no, my nephew here comes for a visit to Bern. We have only personal effects and our pets. But we've chosen a more scenic route than the highways.)
« Est-ce que vous avez les certificats de santé pour votre chien ? » (Do you have a vet's certificate for your dog?)
« Bien sur. – Harry, can you please pass me the vet's dog's booklet there?" (Certainly.)
I showed it to the officer who checked it over quickly and then nodded.
"Ah, très bien ! Alors, je vous souhaite le bon voyage!" (Ah, very good! I wish you a very nice journey then.) (AN: any one who ever met a Swiss customs officer would probably have noticed that most of them ARE that nice )
We are not checked any further. I give Harry the passports back to stow them away and close the windows, then we drive on.
"Welcome to Switzerland, Harry."
"This is the first time I've gone outside of Great Britain, Remus. I'm really quite excited," Harry says.
"That's good! You'll like it. I have an idea where I want to look for us to stay. I'll get some Polyglot potion for you, which will help you learn the language within a week."
"Wow! That sounds neat!"
We drive through a long valley. The road twists and turns along a river, which Remus calls the Doubs. We stop in a village and have a very early dinner of trout. Sirius dares transforming to his normal self. Remus gives him a glamour, since he doesn't look very trustworthy yet. He still has his matted hair and gaunt face and he has only dressed into a set of old robes Remus has found in the attic. So for everyone else he now looks like a tall well built blond man. And he wears glasses.
The food is excellent. I enjoy the fresh fish. It is seasoned with a lot of herbs, fried in butter and tastes wonderful. Sirius and Remus both eat two whole fish, I have enough with one as they are pretty big. After the dinner Remus uses the pay phone and calls his cousin. It takes a while, then he comes back to us and tells us:
"Okay, we'll be off to a place near Bern now, my cousin Roland has space enough for us. He's described the way to me, so hopefully I will find it."
We still have to drive for two more hours, before we reach our destination. Remus has changed to the highway and passes Bern in the direction of the Emmental. He follows the directions of his cousin's and finally finds the place where Roland lives. It is a farmhouse outside Lützelflüh, a romantic looking village in the middle of the Emmental. Sirius and I look around and we are delighted. It looks like a very nice old place full of farmhouse type houses mostly timbered with low hanging roofs and lots of small windows.
"This is very beautiful here!" I exclaim.
"It's a lovely area, especially in summer," Remus says and parks the car.
We all climb out of it and a young woman who has heard us comes out of the door on the side of the house. I don't understand a word of what she says and the language she talks sounds very guttural at first. Remus joins her and they shake hands.
"You must be Remus!" she calls in Bernese German.
"Yes, I am. And you are Klara, right?" I reply.
"Yes, that's right, too. Roland has told me you'd be coming, he's just getting the rooms ready for you."
"Thank you so much for putting us up with such short notice. We're in a bit of a fix, so we couldn't call earlier. This is Sirius Black and this is Harry Potter."
"That's okay, we've got a load of space here. So you're all wizards?" she asked.
"Yes, we are."
"Great! Come over here, we've been sitting outside!"
She speaks English now, and a fairly good English I think, glad to notice that Sirius and Harry will be able to talk to her, too.
We follow Klara to the southern side of the house where there is a long table and a bench and several chairs. They are set up on a kind of terrace, which runs along the front of the house between the house and the typical farmer's garden that can be seen throughout the Emmental.
"Are you hungry?"
"No, we've had some dinner a bit early. But I think we're in for something to drink…"
"Coming up. What would you like? Just cool drinks, cold tea or beer? A glass of white wine?"
"I'd not say no to some beer, thank you," Sirius says.
She summons several different bottles of cool drinks and pours Sirius a beer, Harry a coke and I'm in for the iced tea. Then Roland comes out and welcomes us, too. We haven't seen each other in years, just sent the odd owl and once he came to see me in England. He's several years older than I am, but we have always been friends. Prejudice is a foreign word to Roland and like most of my Swiss relatives he has never had a problem with my werewolf. He's a rather stocky man by now, smaller than I am, but a bit wider. He has the same light brown hair that runs in my mother's family and his eyes are the kind of brown mine would be had it not been for the werewolf to add the gold inside. He wears gold rimmed glasses. His wand looks out of the pocket of his jeans. We embrace and exchange kisses on each other's cheeks as it is the custom here in Switzerland.
"Hey! It's great to see you again, Remus, it's been much too long! I'm happy to have you here!" he exclaims.
"Hi Roland. It's great to be here again. We need to find a place to rent as soon as possible, Harry and Sirius are both quite in danger, so I need to be able to hide them quickly. You wouldn't have some tips for us?" I come right to the point.
"Getting right to the point directly, as usual, Remus! Actually I have! You might be lucky, too. There's an old farmer and his wife that I know, they would both like to retire, but can't afford it with their regular governmental pension, so if you'd rent their house, they could afford to get some rest. They're great people, Muggles, but very nice ones. The house is quite huge, they don't have any animals left, just a few cats and a dog. You could always redo the stables and the middle part for more space, if you want any. Three years ago they have redone all of their bathrooms and the kitchen, which ate most of what they had put aside, so they'd certainly be very glad about getting your rent."
"Wow, looks like this opportunity has been waiting for us then, doesn't it?"
I can't believe our luck. We'll have to see this house as soon as we can get there.
"I think so. – So you're going to Hogwarts, Harry? Do you like it there?"
"Yes, I do! It's a great school!"
"I'm sure it is. Remus loved it there in any case. Unfortunately they wouldn't take him at Beauxbatons, because they're so darn opinionated when it comes to werewolves, so luckily he was able to go to Hogwarts. I think, two or three of our other cousins went to Hogwarts, too, but later on, because he was so excited about the school."
"Best thing that could have happened to me anyway," I say and smile at Sirius. I suppose he does know why I say it.
"Don't you have your own magic school here?" Harry asks.
"There's a tiny school in the Black Forest, but they cannot offer the same quality education of Hogwarts or Beauxbatons. German speaking parents are usually in the position that they can choose from the magical schools all around Europe."
"Do you fly, Harry?" Roland asks on.
"Yes, I love to. I'm the Seeker for my house team at Hogwarts. Sirius gave me a Firebolt for Christmas the year before last and it's just great!"
"Wow, I've heard about those, but haven't ever seen one. You must show it to me! If you get that house I was talking about you can fly there. It's usually difficult and we have to work with concealment charms from here to Timbuktu, because the space in this country is so limited. But back there you'll love it. It's behind a fairly large forest on the southern side of one of the many hills here, about 900 meters above sea level. You'd be all by yourself. Which is another reason why Housi and Barb Leuenberger want to get out there. They are cut off from everything and they don't like to drive around much anymore. But they have to go by car for every bit of grocery they need to shop."
"Well, let's meet them as soon as we can, Roland. This sounds like an ideal place for us," I say.
"We can go there tomorrow. No appointment necessary."
"We need to give the car back and get our own as soon as possible. And I'll need to take Sirius to a wand-maker."
"You'll need to go to Bern for that. Do you remember the entrance to the Chatzegass (Translation from Bernese German: Cat's Alley)? It's through the Zouberbär on the lowest point of the Grächtere. (AN: the main alley in Bern is named Gerechtigkeitsgasse, Alley of Justice, but for us in Bern it's the Grächtere)"
"Yes, I remember that place. Easy to get there. Is someone there to show us the procedure inside?"
"You go in and it's right out the back door. Something that no other house down there has, actually. Only magical folks can open that door. Then you'll see the place. It's not very large, but you'll find a good wand-maker there."
"Good. Sirius urgently needs a new wand."
"Gringotts has a small branch, too, if you need money."
"We will. We'll have to open an account, too."
We then change to English again and talk for quite some time into the night, then we're shown to our rooms. Roland apologises:
"Sorry, but two of you will have to bunk together, we only have two spare rooms."
"That's no problem. Harry, you can have your own room," I decide.
"I don't mind to share…" Harry offers.
"It's okay, Sirius and I have shared before, so no problem. I still have to give him a trim of his hair. He will certainly want a bath, too, has gathered enough dirt for a lifetime on those dusty roads."
So Harry gets the room for himself and takes another dose of the Dreamless Sleep Potion, before settling into the bed. I take Sirius to the bathroom and finally give him a proper haircut, then Sirius enjoys a soak in the tub before we go to bed.
Oh that bath is wonderful! For such a long time all I've known was icy water in a river or creek, soap of course has become a foreign word for me. Azkaban does not provide anything to keep one clean and what little water I got was strictly for drinking. Remus has done a wonderful job with my hair, not everything had to go and I know it will grow out again quickly. I miss my long hair, though of course I'm not keen on the matted tangled dirty mess I've had to carry around after Azkaban. While I wash myself I muse about what the next day would bring. I can't wait to get a new wand! I need it badly, if not only to feel like a proper wizard again.
When I finally slip into bed it feels awkward. It's not that I mind that Remus decided to share the room with me, we've been together for so long and we've shared a bed for so long that it's not really a problem, but I don't know how to approach Remus. I'm still very much in love with him, but Remus has been rather nonchalant and hasn't given me any sign at all except for that term of endearment two nights ago. I get into the bed in a pair of pyjama bottoms. Remus wears a pair of pyjama bottoms himself so I'd like to be on the safe side. It's very warm, we leave both windows in the room open and we hardly need the duvet that covers the bed. Remus lays down and turns on his back, securely on his side, then he says:
"Good night, Sirius."
"Good night, Remus. Sleep well," I reply.
I turn onto my side, pull the pillow under my head and close my eyes. But my mind's eye won't let me sleep right away. I have a lot of memories, that surface again after my prison stint. Memories I thought lost, slowly start to come back to me, often in the worst moments and I find it frightening. I look over to Remus in the dark and remember how we used to share our bed back in our youth, how we wouldn't have bothered with pyjamas and how we couldn't wait to embrace, as soon as we felt the mattress below our bodies. I long to be touched again. It frightens me at the same time, but I know I need human touch again. I can smell Remus next to me, feel the heat emanating from his body and remember how his hands used to cleverly caress and stroke me, bringing me pleasure. I close my eyes again, but sleep would not come.
I don't dare to get closer to Sirius. I know I could not hold myself back if I scooted closer. I think he's not interested in taking up our relationship again. He's not protested when I suggested to share the bed, but we didn't talk. I need to talk about it badly. I need to know what is in his heart. I try to keep my breathing even and hope he thinks I'm sleeping.
This night is going to be endless. I suppose it will be easier once we have our own place and our separate rooms. On the other hand I don't feel any of the usual pain in my head and my heart for the first time since Sirius has been taken to Azkaban. I know my own feelings and my heart grows heavy. Finally I find sleep, having listened to Sirius' soft snoring for a while.
When I wake up, I find Remus curled tightly around me. I look at the beloved face and wonder, whether Remus has closed up to me consciously or if he has just done it in his sleep. We have both pushed down the duvet as the night has been very warm. I can't stop looking at the sleeping werewolf. He looks so peaceful in his sleep. He's beautiful.
I think about possible signs I could give to Remus, so he'd be able to guess how I feel, but I don't have a good idea how to do it right. I'm so afraid to lose Remus' friendship again, if I just tell him. I'm feeling so unbelievably insecure. I don't want him to notice how he slept close to me. I untangle myself gently from him and get up. I go to the bathroom and when I get back to the room fully dressed, my hair brushed to a sleek black shining mass, I look down at Remus, who has turned back in his sleep. I decide to let him sleep in. I need to be on my own for a while and there's a big forest close to this house so I'll go for a run as Padfoot. That has always helped me to clear my head. I go down to the kitchen, where I see a clock on the wall, it's not even seven o'clock yet. I leave the house, transform and run in the nearby forest. I'm out for almost an hour, finding Remus, Harry and Roland laying the table outside for the breakfast when I return. They look around and see me come running around the corner of the house.
"There you are, Padfoot! I was scared to find you gone when I woke up! Bad dog, I don't want to see that again without a note, do you get me? You could have met anything and we wouldn't even have been the wiser!" Remus chides.
I'm sitting down on my hind legs, look up and put a sad expression on my dog face. I whine, but Remus of course doesn't buy it:
"No, don't give me the puppy dog eyes, Sirius! If you do that again you leave me a note that you've left for a run, ok?"
Roland watches how the dog smoothly morphs into my human form. I place a chaste kiss on Remus' cheek and mumble:
"… didn't think, I know. That's what you usually forget…" Remus completes the sentence.
"Can I help something?" I try to change the subject.
"No, it's been taken care of, just sit down," says Roland.
"That Animagus transformation is awesome, Sirius!" Roland says then.
"I don't know how it looks, I don't even know how it feels, it's so swift," I say and shrug my shoulders.
We enjoy a lengthy breakfast. Then we discuss the day's plans. Remus suggests we should get our financial affairs in order, then get my new wand and finally do some shopping and look for our own car.
"And then we need to owl Dumbledore to tell him, where we are. We'll send Racer, he's a lot less conspicuous than Hedwig, even though he's a bit aged," Remus says.
"Aged? That bird is positively ancient by now, Remy!" I exclaim, "I remember when you got it for your fifth year!"
"Well, he may be ancient, but he certainly still delivers all mail properly! Don't insult him, will you?"
"I won't… he's a link to the past," I say in a low voice, "And it's amazing he's even still alive. Proof of how well you took care of him…"
I hear the remark and look up to see that Sirius' face has taken a very sombre look. Remus has heard the remark, too, but doesn't respond. He looks over the lovely garden, which is full of the most colourful summer flowers.
We drive to Bern. Remus returns the car at the car rental and we move to the magical part of the town on foot. We find the Zouberbär and enter. The tavern does remind us of the Leaky Cauldron. Remus talks to the woman behind the counter and asks her for the best shops for wands and the apothecary, and of course Gringotts. Then we enter the magical alley through the back door of the pub and shop. Sirius is very insecure in the beginning, but as no one looks at us at all, Sirius looks like he starts to feel more and more at ease. First we visit Gringotts and set up a new account, then we transfer a large sum of money from Sirius' account to the new one. Sirius gets access to his old account through his secret password. Then he and Remus get new keys to the new account. We know we can count on the discretion of the goblins who will only care for their business relations and who cherish the bank secrecy above anything else. They have not passed any information about the few transactions Sirius has ordered in the past two years. Then Remus hands over his form from Dumbledore and picks up another large sum and exchanges it to Muggle money.
"We'll need to buy our own car, so there will be a down payment for that and we'll probably need to make a deposit for the house if we get it. Now let's get the wand for Sirius," Remus declares.
"Yes! I'm in dire need to have one again. I've got enough of having my socks pulled off when I use your wand…" Sirius says.
This image makes me laugh and I ask: "Did that really happen?"
"All the time! I've used it about four times now and every time the spell worked, but my socks came off! I think, his wand hates me still, and he's still got it to this day" Sirius tells me and grins sheepishly.
Remus chuckles, too. It must have been too funny to see.
We enter a shop not unlike Ollivander at Diagon Alley. The owner and wand-maker here is an elderly woman named Vatter. I manage to stifle a cry of surprise by holding my hand over my mouth. Then I whisper to Sirius:
"Oh my! This woman could be Ollivander' twin sister!"
"She could, couldn't she? She has the same strange eyes. Only hers are even more owlish…"
She seems to be very kind though and greets us.
"Good morning, gentlemen…"
"Good morning, Madam. We need a new wand for my friend here…" I explain.
"We'll surely find something. May I ask you a few questions, sir?" the woman asks Sirius.
"I'll have to translate, he's English. He's had his broken beyond repair last week and we didn't have time to pass at Ollivander."
"Oh, very well then. What's his wand arm?"
"Good. What was the old wand?"
"Ebony and dragon heartstring, wasn't it, Siri?" I ask Sirius.
"Ebony and dragon heartstring," I repeat for the wand-maker.
"Powerful combination, very powerful…" the woman mumbles.
She begins to measure Sirius and then starts to rumble through her boxes of wands. She brings out a few and says:
"I know Mr. Ollivander personally. An excellent artisan. I know he uses only phoenix feathers, unicorn hairs and dragon heartstrings. We don't have any dragons anymore around here, haven't had any for centuries. Our cores are rather from unicorns, phoenixes and we've had excellent results with werewolf hair here…"
"Werewolves?" asks Harry and I'm equally baffled. And I feel a slight prickle under my scalp.
"Yes, werewolves. They're not for everyone, but they certainly are powerful cores, very powerful. We also have the odd centaur who will offer some of their hairs. In fact I use them quite regularly, because I happen to be good friends with one who lives in our National Park. He lets me have all his grey hairs, which he pulls out so that no one would think he's getting on in his years, the vain fellow. Very good material for wands though. We have a magical creature that only exists in the lakes of the Alps, nowhere else, it's a Gluntschi, something similar to the merpeople, even though they look a bit different. They are sometimes willing to give something as well. The rarest core I'm using is the feather of the Turul bird. We don't often get some of these, but if we do, then we pay enormous prices for them. Worth it though. – So, let's see. Since you had a dragon heartstring as a core let's start here with oak and werewolf hair."
Sirius tries out several wands and finally ends up with a wand made of oak and a core of the Turul bird. This amazes me, because in the course of my travelling in the eastern part of Europe I have come across this bird and of course I know exactly what this magical bird means. I explain it to Sirius and Harry when we walk from the shop.
"I think you have an extremely rare wand, Sirius, because the Turul is not a bird that turns up often. For the Hungarian Muggles it was the mythical falcon that was a messenger of god, holy, but a myth, as the bird is magical and the Muggles won't ever be in a position to even see it. The legend dates back to the days when Muggles were still well aware of the existence of magic. For the wizarding people in Hungary and Romania it is a messenger, too, one that brings happy news, and it will only be seen in times of great festivity. But it has a nasty downside, as it can become deadly to all those who get too close. The Turul attracts mostly children, carries them high in the air and then drops them to their death."
"Wow!" says Harry.
"I would imagine that this is a pretty powerful wand you have there, Siri."
"We'll see. I'll do some transfigurations tonight, then we'll see if it really responds well to my abilities – or I to its power. Though it certainly looked like it at the shop, didn't it?" he says and looks at it.
It's made from shimmering dark oak. Polished it exudes a dark power which would only do good in the hands of a wizard of the Light like Sirius.
We move on to the apothecary. I ask for some readymade Polyglot Potion and am told this would have to be brewed as they only sell on special orders.
"In this case I'd like to get the ingredients, then we'll brew it ourselves."
"I'll check the necessary ingredients with the recipe, just a few minutes, please."
"That's fine, thank you."
While we wait we have a look around the shop. I get to stand near the glass door and look out on the street. As I happen to peer across the road I see a familiar shock of silvery blond hair. I'm sure it's Lucius Malfoy and my heart drops down low into my abdomen, I can only surmise that we have been betrayed already.
"Remus, come over here, but so that you can't be seen from the outside," I call softly.
"What's up, Harry?"
Remus comes closer.
"Lucius Malfoy is up…" I remark and point with my finger.
It doesn't seem as if Malfoy has noticed us though. He isn't watching the apothecary at all and since it doesn't look like it sells dark stuff, so he walks on away, but Remus doesn't take chances. As soon as we have received our ingredients, he asks:
"Do you have another exit from your shop?"
"Yes, through the cellar, why?"
"Do you think we could use it? There's someone outside whom we don't want to meet."
"Yes, I'll lead you, come along."
We pick up our purchases, glad that we already have what we need from the wizarding area and then walk out of the house on another side. We leave the wizarding area immediately, knowing well that Malfoy will shun the Muggle areas anywhere.
"What could he have possibly wanted there…? They can't already know we're in Switzerland, now can they?" Sirius asks worriedly.
"I fervently hope not, Sirius, but we don't take chances. I can't imagine either, that was surely a coincidence. We won't set ourselves up to be seen though and when we leave the city we'll have a good long look around. We'll see about a car now."
Remus leads us to a garage, where he inquires after used cars first. We find a fairly nice car, only two years old, and buy it on the spot. It's a light blue, two years old four wheel drive Mercedes van, for which Remus makes a good sized down payment and arranges to have the rest paid through the bank soonest. The best thing about the deal is that we are able to take the car and drive away with it on the spot as soon as the temporary plaques from the garage are put on. Remus drives it out of the town carefully. He brings us back to Lützelflüh and we carry our purchases into the house. Remus sits down to write his report for Dumbledore. He attaches the letter onto Racer's leg and sends his owl off.
"Take that to Professor Dumbledore as fast as you can, Racer, don't wait for a reply, okay?" Remus says tenderly and caresses the bird.
Racer gives a hoot and takes off. It's in the middle of the afternoon and we wait for Roland to come and take us to his friends. When he comes, we show him our new car.
"Wow, not bad!"
"It's great, and we just had to wait for two hours until they had the plaques fixed and prepared the temporary papers and we could get out of the garage. Well, it's still a garage number, but we'll have our own within a week or so, we just need to give them our new address then we'll send these back."
"Great. And it's a big van, too. That's practical."
"Four wheel drive as well."
"Good! So, let's go and see Housi and Barb… if you get that house you will be glad for the four wheel drive."
"I remember you said it's high on the hill, so I thought it might be better," Remus says.
"Very perceptive you are," Roland grins.
We drive through the forest, for about twenty minutes, all along a fairly steep slope and when we emerge on the other side, there are open pastures all up a mountain. Roland gestures up and says:
"The house is just after that crest over there. Still a bit away."
When we get to see it, we notice that it is standing completely solitary. There is the farmhouse itself, a typical wooden farmhouse of the area, stretched out with the front façade to the south, the barn part in the middle and the stables at the back, all under the same roof. There is a 'Stöckli' (A.N. That's an extra house for the older farmer when the younger generation takes over – a custom started in the Emmental in the early 19th century) not far away from the main house, a small timbered house. Both houses look old, but well kept. Behind the farmhouse we can see another big barn.
Roland parks the car next to the drive up to the barn doors in the roof on the second floor in the centre of the house. We get out of the car and step into the house. Roland knocks on the kitchen door, opens it and calls inside:
"Housi! Barb! Are you there?"
"We're in here, Roland, just come in!" a cheerful voice answers.
We enter and follow the voice into the living room where we meet the two elderly farmers. Noticing that Roland brings friends along, they stand up and Roland introduces us. We all shake hands. Then Roland explains:
"Housi, are you still interested in letting the Sunnegg to tenants or selling it? Remus would be interested in renting it."
"Yes, we would be. It's getting much too big for us and our daughter has no interest to settle up here. She's living in Bern now," Housi tells me.
"We would like to rent at first, as we don't know how long we'll stay here, though we expect it to be for a long time," I say.
"That would be fine. Until you are sure we can move into the Stöckli, later on we'd be more interested to get to Lützelflüh, so we wouldn't have to drive anymore."
"We can take over the driving for you as long as we're here if you'd rather stay in your Stöckli. And the shopping, whatever you need, we'll need to go ourselves, so we can just as well shop for you also" I offer.
"You are very kind. Would you like to see the house?" he asks.
We go on a tour through the house. Housi explains:
"We don't have the cows anymore. The land we own has been let to other farmers in the area, they mostly use it as pastures for their cows. We have mostly dairy and cattle farming around here. It's too high to grow good cereals. I hope you don't mind cow bells, you can still hear them often around here."
"I'm sure it sounds lovely," I say, remembering childhood vacations in other areas of Switzerland where cows wore their bells on the pastures. I had always loved the sound in the night. It felt comforting.
"Yes. Well, this is the living room, there's another two rooms you can reach from here, one which we use as our bedroom right now. All three rooms have the same size. This here is the kitchen, which our daughter made us modernise three years ago, so it has all the latest fancy, which my wife actually quite likes. When we had the kitchen redone, we also built in a nice bathroom for Barb and me, since we're using the bedroom down here. Down these stairs we get to the cellar, there are three rooms to this side and a fourth, a bit larger, on the other one. Let's go upstairs now…"
There is a staircase in the kitchen leading up to the next level. Barb gestures to the staircase:
"We also had this built in on the inside, up and down to the cellar, but that's been long ago already. Otherwise we always had to use the staircases on the outside of the house, you've surely seen it next to the entrance to the kitchen. Up here are three more rooms, all bedrooms, and a bath, which we had redone with the bath below. And there's another floor above here with two more rooms."
We look at all the rooms. They're all situated above the three same rooms on the ground floor. A bathroom lies to one end of the corridor, the other end is free and large enough to fit a wall, so we could make another room there. The view from all of them is quite breathtaking and for the first time Sirius and Harry really get to see the Swiss Alps now.
"Wow, this is really beautiful here!" Harry says.
"It is! I'd love to live here," I confirm and look at Sirius.
"What do you think?" I ask.
"It's amazing! Let's fix the thing as quickly as we can."
We walk around the house and see the stable, which is now empty and the barn, which is open to one side on the ground floor. It has a door in the roof, with a drive leading up, making a wide bridge under which we reach the stable and barn area. The drive up to the barn covers a small outside room, which formerly served for the short term storage of the milk before it was picked up, so the room contains two long fountains. The milk cans were kept in the water to cool down the milk and hold the temperature. Now the room is empty except for the fountains. It has two small windows on both sides. Practically every window of the house holds rectangular flower pots full of red geraniums. I point them out and ask Barb:
"Geraniums will be the preferred flowers here forever, won't they?"
"Yes, it does look like it, doesn't it? I really like them, because they blossom from May through to the end of October. And the red is so lovely."
The ground floor here is fitted with huge wooden doors on both ends, which are standing open. All the farming equipment has been taken out and sold already. The room is thus very large, high and very empty safe for a leftover of hay on the large wooden floor in the middle of the room. We pass the barn and walk on to the stables. It fills the remaining third of the house and is completely empty, too. Here, too, there are doors on both ends. There's a small fully tiled room that contained the milking machine before, but that one's also gone.
"Fits thirty cows nicely," the farmer says with a wistful voice.
"Must have been hard to let them go, I expect," I ask.
"Very hard. But I've had growing health problems last year and my wife can't do it all on her own, that's why we had to part with them. At least we get a good rent for the land we let and the cows were all bought by neighbours so we know they've found good homes. That's made it a bit easier."
We return to the front of the house. Barb serves self-made lemonade and we take a seat at the table on the terrace.
"Could we fix the contract as soon as possible? We'd like to move in as soon as we can."
"Yes, that's no problem. We have to move into the Stöckli though, that will certainly take a while as it's completely empty right now. Luckily the facilities there have been redone along with the kitchen and bath in the main house. We just have to clean it a bit."
"We'll help you cleaning and moving!" I promise. "But first we'll have to tell you a few bits and pieces about us."
We sit down together in front of the house. Barb serves cool drinks and I take over to do the talking. I ask them:
"Do you know about Roland' special abilities?"
"No… you have special abilities, Roli? What are they?" Housi wants to know.
"Remus…" Roland isn't sure this is a good idea.
"We have to tell them, Roland. We can't live so close by and not tell them. They'd notice anyway! – Yes, he does have special abilities. He's a wizard. We three are wizards, too."
"You mean, you're magicians? You can do tricks like magicians in the circus?" Barb asks, obviously intrigued and very interested.
"Not quite. Circus magicians act magic, we are magic," I explain.
Barb and her husband look puzzled. Roland grins and tells them:
"Remus knows these things perfectly well, he's a magical teacher, you know…"
"So, when you are magic, does this mean you can do magic in bringing something here that's not here at all? Or changing something into something else?" Barb asks, interested. She seems to be a very intelligent and perceptive woman.
"That's a pretty accurate description of two magical disciplines," I confirm with a smile.
"Can you show us?" asks Housi who obviously prefers to see nails with a good solid head.
"Sure," I say. "Sirius, why don't you try out your new wand?"
"Why not. What should I do?"
I turn to Barb and suggest:
"Name any kind of thing around here and tell me what you want it to be. It can be animate or inanimate…"
Barb looks around, gets up and brings us a basket from the kitchen. It looks old and slightly ratty.
"How about you turn this basket into a suitcase?" she asks.
"Sirius, she wants a suitcase out of this basket! Make it nice!" I order, sit back and watch Sirius pull out his wand.
Sirius points to the basket, mutters the incantations under his breath and taps the basket, then watches as it morphs into a nice modern suitcase, complete with pull out handle and rolls on the bottom. Barb and Housi gape. Then look at Sirius.
"That's unbelievable!" Housi finally manages.
"What's the trick?" Barb asks.
"There is no 'trick'. It's called transfiguration and that was Sirius' best subject at school. To achieve this transfiguration he needed a couple of incantations and spells. No circus magician could have done this, because Sirius didn't take the basket away and brought up a suitcase. His transfiguration actually changed the material from the basket into the suitcase. Where would you like to store your new suitcase?" I ask.
It's the first time I've ever shown anything like that to a Muggle and I enjoy the fun of their amazement.
"Well, just put it over there in the corner of the kitchen…" Barb says and points to a place.
I pull out my own wand and banish the suitcase to the requested place. It flies there directly and then I say:
"That's called a banishing charm. I can also summon anything I want. We have many different subjects to study, for which we have our own special schools. Actually almost every country also has a hidden magical community complete with political and social institutions, shopping malls and entertainment facilities. No Muggles, non-magical people that is, would even have the faintest idea about them, almost none of them, that is. As soon as those who are not supposed to know start getting an idea, the ministries send out their Obliviators to modify the memories of the Muggles concerned. Harry here is 15 and still at school, he'll start his fifth year of the usual seven years of wizarding education in September. Next to Transfiguration he learns Charms, magical Potions, magical Herbology, Divination and some other things. Among them what we call Defence against the Dark Arts."
As I'm still speaking, we hear the fluttering of wings and a small owl flies right to where we all still sit. It looks for me, sits down on my shoulder and holds out a leg. I smile. It isn't Racer, it's a lovely tawny owl. I take the letter and ask:
"Would you excuse me while I read this? It might be important."
"Go ahead!" Barb says.
Barb and Housi turn to Roland and ask him more questions. I open the letter and start to read:
I'm very glad to have news about your whereabouts already. The owl I'm sending here is Anana. She is one of two owls we will be using to stay in contact with you. She is charmed, so she looks like a crow to anyone but a small circle of people, among them you, Sirius, Harry, myself, a few members of the Hogwarts teaching staff, Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley as well as their families. Please only use her and Benana in future, unless you do have something urgent, then charm a letter so that only I can read it.
We have had a new situation arising here. Yesterday in the late evening there was an attempt to attack the house of Hermione Granger's family. And at the same time there was a group of six Death Eaters attacking the Burrow of the Weasleys. Luckily both attempts remained attempts, but we now believe, that Hermione, Ronald and Ginevra are as much in danger as Harry, so we would like to have them join you three. Do you think it's possible? Then I will collect them and bring them to you. Currently they are all here at Hogwarts.
We're also thinking that you and Sirius could take over their tutoring over there, so they would be out of the way and completely safe. Would you be willing to take over this task? I can grant you a monthly salary for this as you would be officially employed by Hogwarts.
The situation is getting more difficult every day and we may have more students we need to hide.
Please send Anana back as soon as possible with your reply.
I pass the letter on to Sirius. I wait until Sirius has read it and ask:
"Well, what do you think?"
"That would change the situation here completely, it would be better to buy the house then…"
"So you'd be willing to help with the tutoring?"
"Sure, why not? Could be fun!"
"Sirius, be serious, because we have to prepare them to take their OWLS this year. And Ginny is a fourth year."
"Well, we could move her up, couldn't we? Harry, Ron and Hermione can help tutoring her in the fourth year syllabus and we do the fifth with them all."
"Yes, that's well possible, I suppose she'd be capable to do it. Good, let's write back to Albus, that he can bring them here."
"Hey, what happened?" Harry wants to know. "You're speaking about Ginny, what is with her?"
As a reply I pass the letter over to Harry and I ask for some paper to quickly write a reply to Albus, which I send back with Anana. The bird takes off immediately.
"Owls are our means of transport for anything mail," I explain.
"But that was a crow!" Housi protests.
"Not really. There is a concealment charm on this one so she looks like a crow to almost everyone. It's to make sure no one will intercept the mail between us and Albus Dumbledore, who is the headmaster of Harry's school. There will be three other students, two of Harry's classmates and the younger sister of one of them, who will join us here. We'll stay on for longer, not only the summer. The four of them will be tutored by Sirius and I. So what would you prefer? If we buy your house or if we rent it?"
"So far we thought renting, but we can always discuss it with our daughter and see what she thinks about it. For the moment, I suggest we fix a contract for renting, if that's alright with you. That would also be the fastest way to make sure you can move in immediately."
"That will be fine! But we will need to do some renovation work to make the space for a classroom to work with the students. This would have to be part of the contract, that we are allowed to alter the house and should we not buy it we'd like to have this mentioned as it will raise the value of the building. So we'll start helping you move over to your smaller house. And with our magical help you will have this done in no time, as you'll see!" I say.
Housi and Barb both agree with my proposition.
Of course you can renovate and alter the house. As long as you keep the façade as it is. And of course it will be mentioned in the contract. It's just nice to see that the old house is filled with new young life."
We start the very next day. Barb decides what she wants to take over to the small house and Sirius, Harry and I reduce everything in size, put it into a large crate and levitate the crate over to the other house where we swiftly resize all the things and put them down after a thorough magical cleaning. Harry is allowed to participate and places furniture where Barb wants it. He visibly relishes this practical training of many charms that he would otherwise only learn after school. He's only once reminded me of the Decree for the Reasonable Restriction of Underage Sorcery, but I quickly dissolve his anxiety by telling him that the British Ministry is certainly not entitled to monitor his using magic in a foreign country.