7. Free at last.
Two weeks later she made the final preparations for her departure. She put on her old dress, making sure none of the repairs were visible. She hadn't bathed for a few days, or combed her hair, and she carefully mussed her bushy hair until it looked properly matted. She wasn't as thin as most prisoners were after several years in Azkaban, thanks to Professor Snape's supplements, but the food had been all but tasty and she had lost enough weight, she didn't think the Aurors would notice how strong she was. There was the problem of her inner coldness and her lower body temperature, but the Dementor would remain close as long as he could and she'd try to avoid direct skin contact. Fortunately she had been imprisoned in winter, her dress had long sleeves and was made of a pretty thick material.
They'd said their goodbyes earlier that morning, in private, but of course the Dementor was the one to hand her over to the Aurors.
'Watch the young one,' he cautioned her as they entered the small room where the prisoners entered and, occasionally, left.
She thought she recognized him, a Ravenclaw who'd been four or five years ahead of her. He was one of those who would make their rounds through the prison, too, when he came here. She could feel his contempt for her and the Dementors effortlessly, and she hated to think what he might do if he knew even half their secrets. The other Auror was somewhat older, she'd never seen him before, and she felt mostly pity from him.
'I'll be careful,' she promised.
"Come on, Miss," the youngest Auror said as he took her arm and, rather roughly, hauled her along. "You're free, if you still know what that means."
The Dementor flashed anger, and she sent back an image of reassurance, she'd be fine but she'd miss him. The mental language was better suited to convey the complete message in the short time left to them.
Acting docile and withdrawn, she followed the Aurors out of the prison and onto the small boat, then sat where they pointed, muttering in herself. She'd seen enough of those who'd truly lost their minds to know how to put on a convincing act.
It took about twenty minutes to reach the coast. The presence of the Dementor slowly faded as the distance increased, but even as the Aurors tied off at a small dock she thought she could send to him if she were to try.
There was a small cottage here that was always manned by a few Aurors who watched the wards and kept an eye on the rare coming and goings of the Dementors. Hermione paid it no attention until the Aurors led her directly towards it. She acted hesitant as they led her inside, but not overtly so.
They entered what was clearly a kind of waiting room, a small room with nothing but some seats and a low table just off the main entrance. Madam Pomfrey veered up, shock on her face as she saw Hermione. Professor Snape looked blank. They both would know she was not mad, but she still felt concern, even from Professor Snape, hidden underneath a layer of anger and irritation. Concern from Professor Snape! If she hadn't had such tight control of herself, she would have smiled.
"Hermione, oh, Hermione," Madam Pomfrey said, and Hermione could feel her dismay. She was sincerely worried. Well, it had been some time since she had last been able to contact Hogwarts and she had taken care to look properly crazy and unkempt. She didn't dare reassure the school nurse, even by sending to her privately, for she was afraid of her reaction to that.
"Here's your precious star student," the younger Auror sneered. "If you find she isn't quite as smart as she was before, you can always take her to St. Mungo's. They have plenty of experience."
"I'd say she can still brew a better potion than you managed on your finals," Professor Snape remarked acidly. The Auror flinched and Hermione wished she could take a look at that particular memory.
"Let it be, Xander," the older one said, then turned to Professor Snape. "You have the Portkey?"
Professor Snape held up an old book, very appropriate Hermione thought.
"You better watch her," the older Auror continued. "She's been pretty docile but they sometimes go wild when they are ported, the orderlies from St. Mungo's tell us."
"I am sure we can handle her," Professor Snape ensured him.
With a shrug, the Auror pulled her forward and Madam Pomfrey took her hand. She felt a shock as the school nurse noticed her coldness, but Professor Snape wasted no more time and activated the Portkey as soon as they all touched it.
For just a moment, she was distracted. Portkeys were never her favorite method of travel –she preferred to Apparate any time- and there was also the sudden change in her mind as she realized she could no longer feel the Dementor at all. But she recovered immediately.
"Don't worry, I'm fine," she said, responding to the feelings of Madam Pomfrey and Professor Snape.
"Hermione, you're freezing!" Madam Pomfrey exclaimed.
She laughed, relieved at being here and being back with people who cared. "It's okay, really. I'm not cold, please don't worry."
Madam Pomfrey looked doubtful.
"I wasn't concerned," Professor Snape lied. He'd definitely hate it when he learned she could read his emotions, no matter how good he was at hiding them!
"We'll take you to the infirmary," Madam Pomfrey said. She hesitated again. "I would offer you chocolate but if you indeed took on some part of the Dementors, I'm not sure. Would you like some?"
Hermione hadn't even thought of chocolate, but the idea held no appeal to her at all. Which probably meant it was better not to try it, she'd loved chocolate for any reason, before the Sharing. "I guess I shouldn't," she said. "But thank you."
Madam Pomfrey nodded, then opened the large front doors.
"It would be good if some of the students saw me come in," Hermione suggested. They would keep up the ruse she was insane, at least for a while, and the students would spread the word as well as anyone.
"My third year Slytherin/Gryffindor class is somewhere roaming the school at the moment, I'd be surprised if some of them weren't watching the infirmary trying to satisfy their unhealthy curiosity," Professor Snape remarked dryly.
Hermione nodded, then allowed herself to be led inside, once again looking vacant, startling at any sudden noise and stumbling over the moving stairs.
And indeed, they met a few students. First a pair of Slytherins who stepped aside but didn't conceal their curious stares, then a trio of Gryffindors who quickly took off when Professor Snape glared at them.
In the infirmary Madam Pomfrey took her into the back, where a tiny room had been prepared. It was small, but held a fireplace. They had barely entered when Professor Dumbledore came in after them.
"Hermione!" He, too, felt somewhat worried, but that quickly changed to relief when she straightened as she turned towards him.
"Professor Dumbledore! Thank you for letting me come to Hogwarts."
"My only regret is that I could not help you sooner."
Hermione snorted. "Fudge would never have released me any quicker."
Professor Dumbledore nodded gravely. Of course Tonks had told him what the three years meant to most. "Anything you need, we will do our best to help now that you are here."
"First of all a bath would be great, and some clean clothes," Hermione said. "Then food –anything as long as it isn't beans or rice or porridge. And I must let my parents know I'm okay."
Professor Dumbledore nodded. "As far as anyone knows, you are staying here in this private room, but the fireplace is connected to the guest quarters on the third floor. Floo from this fireplace or mine is the only way in, so there won't be any curious students who will see you enter or leave. There's a private bathroom and the house-elves have put fresh clothes and other basic needs in the room. I will instruct them to bring you food up there when you are done. Minerva will bring your parents to Hogwarts after lunch."
"Thank you so much," Hermione said. That would cover her immediate needs.
"Anything else?" the Headmaster asked.
She thought for a moment. "Is there a wand I can use? I can't go to Ollivander's."
"I will bring a few old wands we keep for emergencies, you can pick the one that suits you best," the Headmaster promised. "And we will arrange to get you a wand of your own soon."
"I would still like to do a check-up when you are done eating," Madam Pomfrey put in. "You're awfully thin."
While Hermione felt fine, she didn't protest. Azkaban was far from a healthy place, even the past two years. "I'll return here as soon as I've finished."
They left her to herself and she Floo'd to her rooms. She soaked in the luxurious bath, almost as large as the Prefects' bath she remembered from her school years. Then she ate, trying to keep from over-eating on the fabulous meal the house-elves had prepared. Finally she returned to the infirmary. Madam Pomfrey entered immediately.
"You're looking much better." She reached out to feel her hands. "But you're still cold as ice, aren't you freezing?"
Hermione shook her head. "That's part of what the Dementor shared with me. He exchanged part of himself with me, first only to teach me how to block those who would from feeding too deeply on my thoughts, later…" She hesitated. "More of everything. We're a couple."
Madam Pomfrey started, but Hermione was glad she did not feel the disgust or horror she'd feared. Shocked concern though, yes. "With a Dementor? He didn't force you, did he?"
"No," Hermione reassured her. "That is one thing that never happens in Azkaban. Before me, no one would've thought of a human that way, most still wouldn't."
Madam Pomfrey pursed her lips as she nodded. "Well, if you are absolutely sure the cold does not affect you. Are there any other effects?"
Hermione explained her empathic abilities the best she could. She had to stop and think sometimes, she was so used to simply showing anything in her mind instead of using words to describe it. She could feel puzzlement and intrigue in the school nurse as she explained and illustrated by using her sending instead of speaking aloud.
Hermione felt her voice starting to go, she'd practiced a little by speaking aloud the past few days, but her voice still wasn't up to this much use. Madam Pomfrey handed her a potion to ease her sore throat, and agreed to switch to sending entirely, although it made her a little uneasy.
Finally, Madam Pomfrey was satisfied that Hermione was basically in good health. Somewhat out of shape, in spite of her daily walks through the prison, but she'd expected that. It'd hardly been the equivalent of a nice, long walk through the countryside.
Soon after Madam Pomfrey was done, Professor McGonagall entered, followed by her parents. Hermione shot up. They hugged her and of course started at her cold skin, too.
"It's nothing to worry about, I'll explain later," she said. "Mom, dad, I missed you so much!" She hugged them again, and thanked Professor McGonagall for bringing them here to Hogwarts. She hadn't seen them but twice a year or so while she'd been at the university, living in an apartment with several classmates over summer, but she'd written frequently and she'd always known they were there.
"We would've been here sooner, but Professor Dumbledore insisted we wait until you had bathed," her mother said.
Hermione nodded. Of course her parents knew they would have to act as if she were crazy, too, but there was no need to make them see her like that. "I looked pretty bad when I came in," she said. "But it's all a ruse for the Aurors, I'm fine."
"Those Dementors sound terrible, they really didn't hurt you?" her mother asked anxiously.
"No," Hermione replied simply. Perhaps some day she'd tell about her arrival, or those who disliked her, but that was so long ago it didn't matter now. "I lived with them for most of the time, they hate humans but among themselves they aren't so different from us."
Her parents weren't completely reassured, but as they saw she looked fine they were slowly getting more at ease. Madam Pomfrey and Professor McGonagall excused themselves, leaving them alone.
Hermione told them as much as she could. She left out the worst parts, the confrontations with those who didn't like her, her initial struggle with the cold and the terrible hygiene, and the details of how the other prisoners were treated. She told them about the Dementors, showing her parents the sending she'd learned, and their language. Finally, she told them about her relationship with the one who was now her lover and her partner.
She held her breath as she waited for their reaction. Her parents had been the ones to teach her to treat everyone equally, to not judge someone by their race or appearance. But black or white, those had all been human, the Dementor was an energy creature they wouldn't even be able to see.
Her parents were silent for a few moments as they grasped the meaning of what she'd said, then her father asked the same question Madam Pomfrey had asked earlier. Fortunately, she could answer that question satisfactory. She still felt some apprehension from both of them, but she knew it could be overcome.
Finally, her parents told her about themselves, their family and the Muggle world. They stayed until dinner and ate with her in her guest quarters, after a dizzying first experience with the Floo system. Hermione didn't eat much, still full from the exquisite lunch and used to eating only one meal a day, but the food still tasted wonderful. After dinner her parents left. Professor McGonagall led them out and, as agreed, they acted distraught and upset. Hermione had to admit they weren't very good actors, but Professor McGonagall made sure there was little contact with the students and there were no other empaths around.
That evening Professor Dumbledore Floo'd in and asked her to come over to his office. There she found most of the Hogwarts senior staff –Professor Snape, Professor McGonagall, Professor Sprout, Professor Flitwick, and Madam Pomfrey.
Once again, she told most everything. In spite of the potion Madam Pomfrey had given her, her voice gave out again after the long talk with her parents, and she sent instead. This time she did not leave anything out, preferring to be honest about the difficult start, the ones who were less than happy with her, and the treatment of the other prisoners. But there were more good parts, the way the Dementors had been careful what they took from her, had taught her their language, and finally accepted her in their midst.
She did not block any of the emotions she felt in response to her tale, although it was a little loud to be with six people who did little to block their feelings. Professor Snape kept his face impassionate, as he usually did when he wasn't scowling, but she could not possibly miss his uneasiness. He'd been closer to Azkaban than the others, and still was as long as Fudge was the Minister of Magic. And there was the concern she'd felt that afternoon. Yet it still surprised her when he was the one to ask her the same question Madam Pomfrey and her father had asked. She wondered if he was changing or if he'd always cared more than he let on.
Apart from that one time, no one asked her any questions until she was done sending. Then they did, inquiring after the Dementors mostly, but also after her Dementor abilities. Hermione answered as well as she could, but some questions were better asked of the Dementors themselves when they would come here during Christmas break. Eventually there was nothing left to tell, and she was exhausted, too. She returned to her quarters and had no trouble falling asleep.
The next day, Friday, she could not leave the guest room or the infirmary, and the Professors all had their classes to teach, but Professor McGonagall dug up a wand for her and she practiced some spells. It was like riding a bicycle, once you knew you never forgot how, but it still felt wonderful to do magic again.
She also asked for some books from the library and Madam Pomfrey made sure she got them. She researched a few things for the skin care potion she wanted to brew for the Dementors and was satisfied to find her ideas seemed to fit with the information in the books exactly.
After classes were over, she sent a message to Professor Snape, asking him to permission to use the lab and explaining what she needed it for. She hadn't expected to get his permission without further ado, but he sent her a message telling her she could use the lab after the students' curfew, and to Floo from the infirmary directly to his office.
She did just that, stepping out of his fireplace at the appointed time. Professor Snape was working at his desk, but got up as she entered.
"I am sure you can find what you need," he said tersely. "If you need me, I will be in the staff room."
He felt uneasy still, underneath the irritation he showed openly.
"I don't want to keep you from your own work," Hermione said.
"You don't, I have some other things I must see to. I trust you are capable of brewing a potion without my help," Professor Snape replied.
She nodded, and although she knew he was not speaking the truth she did not mention it. Even so, he stopped and turned as he almost made his way out.
"Oh, hell, you can tell anyhow. I don't particularly want to be around anyone I can't block from my mind. Write down what you use so I know what ingredients to order and don't blow anything up." Before she could comment he whirled around again and stalked out of the office. Sighing, she gathered the ingredients she needed, straightened the notes she'd made that afternoon, and set to work.
It was a pleasure to brew a potion again, almost as great as it was to do magic after all that time. She stirred, measured and carefully watched every change to the potion as she added the new ingredients. Several hours later she was quite happy with the result.
Saturday morning Professor McGonagall took her to Diagon Alley. Her Professor helped her make several changes to her hair, face and eye color to where Hermione didn't recognize herself in the mirror. Only Ollivander needed to know, but Professor Dumbledore had contacted him and trusted him not to give anything away.
They did not tell him anything about the Dementors, but he was puzzled as he had her test the first wand. "You've changed," he stated.
There was no denying that, but she was reluctant to give any details. She just nodded and tried another wand, but while she could work with any of them, none gave the tell-tale sparks that told them it was the right wand for her. Finally, the wand maker frowned and climbed a ladder, pulling out a dusty box from the very top shelf.
He muttered as he handed the wand to her, and before she even waved it she knew it felt right. Indeed, when she gave it a wave the sparks shot from the tip in a bright arch.
"What is it?" she asked.
"Oak, ten inches, with a core of a Veela hair," Mr Ollivander said. "I never use it, too temperamental, but my grandfather once traded a hair with a wizard from the continent. It never worked for anyone while my grandfather still ran the store, but I believe you can handle it."
"It feels wonderful," Hermione said as she held her wand.
Ollivander nodded. "Yes, it does work for you. Some day you must tell me what happened to you in there."
He didn't name Azkaban and he suddenly felt uneasy as he had brought it up. But Hermione smiled, reassuring him. "I will, when it's safe," she promised.
They didn't stay in Diagon Alley any longer, although Hermione would have loved to look in the Flourish and Blotts and browse the books. But it was too risky to be gone from the castle for too long, or to be seen by anyone who might accidentally counter the transformation spells. Besides, Professor McGonagall had promised to help her with her first Animagus transformation once they returned.
Apparating back, she Floo'd to Professor McGonagall's office and together they went to the transfiguration classroom. The classroom was larger than her own quarters or the Professor's office and would stand up better to anything she might do in her animal form, in case she did lose control.
Professor McGonagall started with running her through a few of the exercises she'd send her. Those were all very simple for her, and Hermione performed them without hesitation. The kind of control the Dementors had was similar to the control that was required for transforming. Then it was time to try.
Hermione frowned. "The one thing I couldn't find anywhere is how to select what animal I want to be," she said when Professor McGonagall was satisfied she was ready.
The question startled her Professor. "You don't. You become whatever animal you become, I've never heard of anyone who chose."
That was a problem. What if she were a cat, or a horse, or any land-bound animal? That would help her get around without being spotted, but it wouldn't help her get where she needed to go most. So no one had chosen their animal. Well, no one had her conscious control, either. She knew exactly what she wanted to be. Focusing on the transformation and on the animal she desired, she closed her eyes and transformed.
Suddenly, she felt herself change and a moment later she was a small gray gull. She'd done it! And she still had her wits about her. She felt a little odd, with an urge in the back of her mind to fly away, to catch a fish or to ride on the wind, but it was not so strong she worried about it. She flapped her wings experimentally, flew to the other side of the classroom, and transformed back.
The astonishment of Professor McGonagall was almost palpable. "I've never seen anything like that before," she said, shaking her head in disbelief. But she had to agree the transformation went smoothly and it would be safe for Hermione to transform on her own.
Hermione longed to fly and she did, some, later that afternoon. She was quickly out of breath. It didn't matter she'd never flown before, magic compensated for that, but she was still out of shape in any form she held. She spent the next two weeks practicing frequently, flying whenever she could to build up her stamina.
Finally, most of the students left on the Hogwarts express, returning home for the Christmas holidays, only a few staying behind. The Dementors arrived early the next morning, while Professor Flitwick made sure the handful of students who were still at Hogwarts were all in the Great Hall, eating breakfast.
Hermione could feel them –or him, anyhow- as they came closer, so she was at the gate when they arrived. She hugged him, then kissed, until she felt the alarm behind her. She turned quickly to Professor Dumbledore, Professor McGonagall and Professor Snape.
"I'm fine, don't worry," she said. "This is.." she sent his image, then introduced the others as well. His sister had come, and one of the others who often dealt with the Aurors. The elder had declined.
The Professors greeted the Dementors politely, although Hermione could feel their uneasiness, especially in Professor McGonagall and Professor Snape. At least Professor Snape did not deny he had been concerned, this time around.
Professor McGonagall led the way in and showed them their quarters, well away from the student dormitories but roomy and sufficiently cool in this time of the year.
She sent her success at the transforming and the news she had a potion she hoped would work as they walked the halls of Hogwarts.
His relief was immediate. He, too, had been worried her plan to come and go as she wished might not work. There were far more animals that couldn't make the trip to and from the island than that could.
When they were shown their quarters, the Professors left them alone. They'd meet with the Headmaster again that afternoon. They took the time to test the potion, and while the full effects would take a few hours, it seemed to work. After that, they met at the appointed time and spoke at length with the Headmaster.
Professor Dumbledore was the only one who could meet with them without feeling afraid. His concerns were for the reaction of the rest of society, and not without reason. The staff was uneasy, even though they tried hard to keep their fears in check. Professor Snape acted his usual self, barely polite only because of the Headmaster, but he was uneasy and irritable, as he had been when she was around. He seemed to be more concerned about others than about himself, his fears flared when the Dementors came close to rest of the staff. And all were concerned about the students.
It wasn't that they didn't believe Hermione and her partner were sincere, but there were still plenty of uncertainties. What if there would be confrontations with those who were less inclined to work with the humans? What if someone would panic and cast a Patronus, and make the Dementors feel threatened in turn? It was far from easy.
They met with others, apart from the Hogwarts staff. Tonks, the Weasleys, Remus Lupin, Moody.
The meetings were mostly in the afternoon and evening, and the mornings were their own. While there were some students at the school and they had to stay out of sight, they managed to go out and into the mountains several times. The weather was wonderful, just below freezing and with a nice snow cover on the ground. Sometimes it was just the two of them, a few times the others came along.
The Dementors discussed the proceedings and the people, although they could of course converse among themselves all they wished without being overheard, even at Hogwarts.
'Professor Snape is like that to everyone. But he's a good Potions Master and he can be trusted,' Hermione told them, in defense of the Potions Master. Professor Snape acted as rude and derogatory as ever, or perhaps more so, irritated by the invasion of his emotions.
The Dementor concurred, he'd seen a lot of Professor Snape's behavior to others in her thoughts and memories.
'I think he's interesting,' his sister sent.
Hermione showed her surprise.
'Almost all humans act nicer than they are. They try to be polite while they're really uncomfortable, or worse. He doesn't, he's just the opposite.'
Dementors rarely pretended to be different than they felt. While they, too, considered it polite not to shout out every opinion they might hold, they were rarely insincere. Children couldn't block their emotions so pretending to feel anything different was futile, and while older Dementors could pretend if they wanted to, on the whole they were lousy liars and didn't often try. Of course humans were completely transparent to them.
Hermione smiled as she imagined what Professor Snape would think if he ever heard of this. She felt little fear from him anymore, yet he hated the Dementors reading his thoughts as much as ever. For this very reason, no doubt.
They celebrated Christmas the human way. They couldn't go down to the Great Hall on account of the students, but her parents came to Hogwarts again and they had dinner in her guest room. Being Muggles, they shouldn't have been able to see the Dementors, but to everyone's astonishment they could see her partner, even if they said he looked indistinct and fuzzy. It was a concern to remember, for he wouldn't be able to move around other Muggles undetected, but Hermione was extremely glad her parents could see him. They were a little uneasy around him, as they were of course not used to any non-humans, but not near as bad as the wizards.
New Year's came and all too soon the students would return. They had made a lot of progress but Professor Dumbledore could not yet offer the Dementors a working alternative. They'd need more time to convince more people, and also to solidify their own position. As long as Fudge was Minister of Magic, any open friendship with the Dementors would certainly be used against the Headmaster and Hogwarts. For the time being, the Dementors returned to Azkaban. And thus, Hermione returned with them.
When she transformed, her clothing and any items she had directly on her transformed as well, just like Professor McGonagall's glasses remained with her. Hermione's wand showed as a single brown feather on her chest, where she carried it in her waistband when she were in her human form, and her clothing didn't seem to influence her coat of feathers at all. So carrying her wand and one set of clothing was no problem.
The rest was a little harder, but with Tonks' help she confirmed the wards of Azkaban didn't detect magic being used inside the prison. Wizards couldn't take their wand into the prison, there were wards all around, and the Aurors went through some lengths to scan any of those who were to be imprisoned or entered for any reason. When no one could take a wand inside, there was no need for a specific detector ward, they must have thought.
She packed a trunk with clothing, food, books and other necessities, using shrinking spells to make it all fit, then a featherweight spell so she could carry it, and finally transfigured the entire thing into a fish. It wasn't easy to transfigure anything that already was under two different spells, but with some pointers from Professor McGonagall she managed. She Apparated to the coast, transformed, and holding the fish in her beak she flew out toward Azkaban.
As she'd learned during her training flights, the real gulls paid her little attention. Somehow they knew something was strange about her, and they kept their distance, even when she carried a fish. The Aurors had no reason whatsoever to notice one bird among hundreds, so she landed on the island without incident.
The Dementor let her in and she transformed, then spat out the fish with a grimace. The Dementor laughed and she glared at him, then laughed too as she picked up the fish and carried it down to their quarters, in her hand this time.
It was easier to undo the spells than it had been to cast them. Hermione set to work and soon their small, bare quarters were unrecognizable. They were clean for the first time –years without adequate cleaning supplies had left a layer of grime on everything, but a few cleaning spells took care of that. She transfigured a few old pieces of furniture and fixed a crack in the table with Reparo.
When she was done there was a small book shelf, another shelf full of food, a cauldron with a small but well-stocked case of ingredients, real bed linens, a stack of clothing and towels that weren't threadbare, a writing desk, and a few pictures of her parents and Crookshanks. She looked around, quite satisfied with her redecorating skills.
From then on her stay at Azkaban was far more comfortable. Her only regret was that they were still cooped up in here. She could come and go as she wished, and she frequently flew out for exercise, supplies, and to visit Hogwarts and her parents. But the Dementor couldn't leave so often without raising suspicion. It was a wonderful winter, cold and with frequent snows, and she wished they could simply go outside, even if it were only on the island itself.
She brewed a large supply of the skin care potion for the Dementors. The first batch had been a success, and soon the Dementors were rid of their sores and scabs. She also started to teach some of them how to brew the potion themselves. There was no reason why they couldn't learn Potions, there was no 'foolish wand waving' needed at all. Their lack of sight was a handicap but it wasn't absolutely vital to see, either. They were all used to doing without sight, and compensated by using their other senses and conscientiously keeping all ingredients in their own place.
Using her wand, she was also able to improve the general conditions in the prison somewhat. She cleaned the shower stalls and treated the worst cases of vermin and sometimes treated a sick inmate without having to wait for the weekly supplies.
She didn't try to tackle it all, like she would've done, once. Perhaps she had hardened too, and it would be too dangerous if the Aurors would notice something amiss. She chose not to risk everything to help the prisoners more than she could do safely.