Chapter 1 – Old Friends

"Ron… Ron… Ron! Wake up you lazy sod!" Harry shouted at his red headed friend; as he threw open the curtains. "Ron, is my cloak in here?" Bright sunlight shone on Ron's hair and face, making it look as though his head was on fire. Ron winced and pulled the duvet over his head, exposing his feet and legs. "Here it is," Harry said picking up a black cloak that had been strewn across the floor. "Ron, if you don't get up now you'll be late."

"All right, Harry, I'm up," Ron's muffled voice came from his pillow. Harry left Ron's room and went down the rickety old stairs to Fred and George's old room and went in. He picked up his wand and book bag and went down to the kitchen where Mr. Weasley was reading the newspaper. Harry sat down in the chair next to Mr. Weasleys, put his bag on the floor, placed his wand next to the plate that was laid out for him and reached for a piece of toast.

The food, which was enough for the entire Weasley family, smelt delicious. The only problem was that only Harry and Ron were living with Mr. and Mrs. Weasley. After a few minutes a bleary-eyed and disheveled Ron appeared and sat in the seat opposite Harry. He was about to take some toast when he stopped and let out a strangled sob.

"Dad, can I see the Prophet?" Ron asked his father, suddenly awake. Mr. Weasley, grinning, handed the paper to Ron. Ron spread the paper out before him and Harry saw immediately what had caught his attention. A bushy haired witch was staring up at him from the front cover. Ron read the article out loud.

"Muggleborn Hermione Granger caused uproar yesterday at local London establishment The Leaky Cauldron. Ms. Granger, who was visiting with her parents, allegedly made a fuss when she found out a house-elf was cleaning her room. Tom the Innkeeper explained to Ms. Granger that he had always used house-elves. She then apparently started ranting and raving like a mad woman. Her parents allegedly looked quite shocked at her behavior. Her mother escorted her outside while her father settled the bill. The Grangers were scheduled to stay another night, but they decided after their daughter's outburst they would go home. 'I don't know what the big deal is, I have been using house-elves ever since my father died and left the business to me.' Tom said. This is not all that happened. About an hour or two later Ms. Granger appeared outside The Leaky Cauldron. 'She seemed to be holding signs of some sort and walking back and forth in front of the Wizarding entrance through the wall to the pub.' An anonymous bystander told reporters. Upon closer inspections it seems Ms. Granger was holding signs which said, 'Free the House-Elves and Equal Rights for All Non-Wizarding Kind.' After a few hours she had a few people join in her protest, all of whom would not give their names. This, however, is not the first instance of Ms. Granger's crazy antics in a bid to free house elves. In her years at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry she attempted to free all the house-elves by planting clothes around the common room where the elves would accidentally pick them up and unknowingly free themselves, our source says. Ms. Granger had this to say, 'Slavery is illegal. There is no way about it. Therefore using house-elves to clean rooms and cook without paying them, giving them sick leave, or holidays is also illegal. The Human Rights Documents say: "No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms." This is, of course, for humans, but it was created by Muggles, who do not know of our world. I am sure if they did know they would incorporate house-elves and other mistreated creatures in it.' Ms. Granger spoke in great detail about the Human Rights of Muggles quoting from the above document many times."

Ron finished with a smile on his face. "It goes on a bit more but it's not really about Hermione. Trust her."

"You're going to be late boys," Mr. Weasley stated. Harry and Ron jumped forgetting he was there. They got up, grabbed their bags and Apparated to just outside a large, old building. They walked up to the boarded up door which had a sign saying, "DO NOT ENTER: BUILDING COLLASPED" Harry took out his wand and tapped the sign.

"Name please," a crisp dry male voice asked.

"Harry Potter," Harry said to the door.

"Ron Weasley," Ron said coming up closer to Harry.

"Please place your wand in the mail flap, one at a time," Harry put his wand through the flap in the door, while Ron waited next to him. The door opened and Harry went through. The pretense of an abandoned building vanished as he stepped over the threshold. A high ceiling room was in front of him, with a wooden desk at the end of the small hallway. He closed the door behind him and he picked up his wand which was sitting in a holder the other side of the door. On his wand was a piece of parchment wrapped around it. Harry walked toward the front desk in front of him, a man with lots of gray hair and a pointy nose looked up at him.

"Morning Mr. Potter," the guard said. Harry handed him the piece of parchment from his wand.

"Morning Stu," Harry replied. Ron came up next to Harry and handed Stu his piece of parchment.

"Mornin' Mr. Weasley," Stu said to Ron.

"Hi Stu," Ron replied.

"Have a good day boys," Stu called after them. Harry and Ron walked down the hallway to the last door on the right. The old oak doors on either side of the hall were shut tightly so that no one could know what was happening in each room. No light came from outside but there was a plethora of candles down the hallway lighting the way. The sign on the door the two young men were about to enter had the sign: AUROR TRAINING ROOM. Ron tapped the doorknob with his wand and said.

"Muggles," the door creaked open and Harry and Ron went in. The room was small with a single window opposite the door, at the moment it had sunlight streaming in. The view was unspectacular, a few trees, a green field with a few sheep. In the distance the outline of a city could be seen. Harry thought he had heard it was Birmingham, but he wasn't sure. Inside the room there were 10 desks with a few people already sitting at them. At the front of the room was an old oak desk, where a wrinkled old Wizard with bright blue hair, a long thin nose, dark blue eyes and square glasses sat behind the desk reading what seemed to be a book that could have been as old as him. Harry and Ron took their usual places at their desks. The desks filled up around them and all the desks were taken up as 9:00am rolled around.

"'Ello, 'Arry, Ron," a young woman said. Nyx Alexius. She had dark midnight black hair, sometimes there even seemed to be stars glistening in her curly locks. Her eyes were of the deepest blue and Harry often found himself getting lost in them. Her face was long and thin, just like the rest of her. She was taller than Harry but not as tall as Ron. She was proud of her height and held herself well.

"Hi Nyx," Ron said turning in his seat to greet her. He was sitting in front of her and Harry was in the seat in front a row over.

"'Ow are you two today?" she asked them both. Her slight French accent coming through, she could speak with a perfect English accent unless the word began with an 'H'. She had moved to France when she was eight and she was schooled at Beauxbatons.

"I'm hungry; I didn't get to eat breakfast," Ron complained.

"Why not?" She asked.

"I forgot," Ron said. Nyx burst out laughing.

"You forgot to eat?" she said clearly shocked.

"Our friend was on the front cover of the newspaper," Harry explained.

"Oooh," she said understanding. "Surely that would not come as a shock though, being friends of 'Arry Potter and all."

"Did you see the article?" Ron asked.

"Non," Nyx shook her head, her black curly hair falling over her shoulder.

"We are going to Diagon Alley for lunch today. Come with us and we'll show you," Harry said.

"Ok," she smiled.

"Harry, you know what I just realized? Hermione didn't write to us to tell us she was going to be in Diagon Alley; she knows we go there for lunch once a week, I told her," Ron said, suddenly looking annoyed.

"Good morning," the old wizard behind the desk said before Harry could respond. The class murmured back. Ron and Harry turned around and gave their attention to the wizard at the front. He was called Ansel and didn't seem to have a last name. From what he had told them, which wasn't much, he had been Head Auror for 30 years at the Ministry; then he had become a protector of the Ministry's closest held secrets. Of course he didn't know the secrets anymore; it would be too dangerous.

They had been in this class for about seven weeks. Harry and Ron had passed all their character and aptitude tests, which took a whole month, three days a week for four weeks. Those tests were the hardest, as it was so nerve wracking; those four weeks decided Harry and Ron's whole future. When they finally got their letters saying they had passed the tests, they were both overjoyed. Now they had to spend a year learning spells, jinxes, potions, as well as what to do in different situations. They had exams at the end of every module they covered. If they failed it they would not get to go on to the next section of the course. Their first exam was to be just before Christmas.

After two hours of taking notes, 30 minutes break, and another hour and a half note taking they stopped for lunch. Harry, Ron, and Nyx went outside the building and Apparated to Diagon Alley. They walked through the main street until they arrived at Harry and Ron's favorite café, The Pumpkin. They sat down and Harry handed Nyx a copy of the Daily Prophet they'd purchased on the way. Nyx read it while Harry and Ron both watched her. They glanced at each other and looked away. It wasn't that Nyx wasn't especially attractive; she was beautiful, yes, but in a different way than normal beauty is defined. However, she had an upbeat attitude that made her endearing. She was funny in a subtle way, smart, and seemed to know what other people were feeling without them saying a word. When she finished she was grinning.

"I tink I like 'er," Nyx said. "May I meet 'er?"

Both Harry and Ron laughed.

"Actually we haven't seen her since July. She went to Spain with her parents over the summer, and we haven't seen her since she's been back. We have all been busy," Harry explained.

"Since July? It's November!" She exclaimed.

"She's been different and distant in her letters," Ron put in.

"You and 'Arry are living together right?" she asked. They nodded. "Well, she is probably feeling left out."

"But she never lived with us before," Ron said.

"You went to 'Ogwarts, and she stayed there as well? Yes?" Nyx asked. Ron nodded. "Dat's practically living together. I know I would consider it living together. Anyway you always saw her everyday, now you see only 'Arry every day. She probably does not feel included."

"But we sent her letters asking her to visit and to meet up," Ron argued.

"I didn't say dat was everything dat was wrong," Nyx said. Their food arrived and they started eating. "Why don't you go and visit 'er?"

Both were silent. Nyx rolled her eyes, and muttered something that sounded like 'men'.

"If this 'ermi-ony is everything you say she is, she might be protesting still today," Nyx said. Harry and Ron both held back laughs at the pronunciation of Hermione's name.

"We can go see," Harry said. They ate the rest of their lunch and paid. The three got up and walked to The Leaky Cauldron. Sure enough when they got close enough to see, there were some people walking back and forth in front of the pub. As they got closer they couldn't see Hermione among the seven people.

"Maybe she's inside the pub," Harry suggested.

"Why don't you go in and check. We will stay out 'ere to see if she comes out?" Nyx suggested. Harry nodded and went into the pub. It was dark but warmer than outside. He looked around and spotted a familiar bushy head talking to Tom, the owner. She had pieces of parchment spread out over the table and kept holding them up for him to read. She was waving her hands frantically around, Tom looked scared and confused. He stole the occasional glance around the almost empty pub. Hermione and her protesters were obviously scaring away his business. Harry went closer to them. He stood behind Hermione so he could hear what she was saying.

"…and I am NOT going anywhere until you either start paying or free the house-elves. You can see how much business you have lost in just one day. If I am out there much longer you'll probably have to end up closing. I will keep gaining followers, and it will all get bigger and bigger. See your predicament Tom?"

Tom seemed to be having an inner-battle; he looked up helplessly. "No one else pays 'em," he said a plea in his voice.

"Albus Dumbledore pays his house elves," Hermione said at once. Tom looked at Hermione for a moment, trying to figure out if she was lying. He decided she wasn't and bowed his head.

"All right, all right, I'll pay 'em, give 'em holidays," Tom said meekly. It was amazing how much guilt Hermione could inflict on a person.

"Good, I will draw up the paper work and send it for you to sign, and then there will be monthly visits to check on the standards of their living quarters. I'll be in touch," Hermione said beaming. Tom got up and shuffled over to behind the bar to serve a witch who was waiting. Hermione sat at the table gathering up her papers smiling to herself. She got up and started toward the door, she must have been so engrossed in her win she didn't see Harry standing there. She walked right into him. Looking up, she screamed, dropped everything and flung her arms around him.

"Harry, it's so good to see you! What are you doing here?" she exclaimed.

"Ron and I came to see you," he said.

"Ron's here? Where?"

"Outside," Harry replied. Harry helped Hermione pick up her things and then they went outside.

"One second," Hermione muttered to Harry. "We did it," Hermione shouted to the protestors. "Thanks so much for your support. You made a big difference."

Hermione beamed at them. Individually they went up to her and thanked her. She spoke to them exchanging a few words, then went over to Harry who was searching for Ron and Nyx. He spotted them and pointed them out to Hermione. At that moment Nyx, a smile on her face, laughed at something Ron had said. Hermione's face fell.

"Who is that?" she asked more harshly than deemed necessary.

"That's Nyx Alexius; she's a trainee Auror with us," Harry explained. She and Harry started toward them. They got closer, and Hermione's frown turned to a smile as Ron spotted her. Hermione made to hug Ron who hugged her back awkwardly. A few tense seconds passed as they just looked at each other.

"Good to see you Hermione," Ron said.

"You too, Ron," she said. Ron gestured to Nyx.

"This is Nyx; Nyx this is Hermione," Ron introduced.

"Nice to meet you 'Ermi- ooonee," she said pronouncing the name almost correctly.

"You too, Nick," Hermione said pronouncing Nyx's name wrong as well. Harry didn't know if it was intentional or not.

"It's Nyx," Nyx repeated.

"Oh, sorry," said Hermione clearly not sorry at all.

"Hermione, why have you been avoiding us?" Harry interrupted trying to avoid a competition between the two girls.

"I haven't been avoiding you," Hermione said indignantly.

"Hermione, we haven't seen you since July," Ron said.

"Oh well all right maybe I have, but I've been busy—"

"Doing what?" Ron shot.

"Stuff," Hermione said lamely.

"What stuff?" Ron countered.

"Just stuff," Hermione said now starting to get angry.

"Look Hermione, why don't you come to The Burrow tonight? I'm sure Mrs. Weasley won't mind," Harry said stopping the fight before it began.

"Oh, um, ok," Hermione floundered. Harry checked his watch.

"We had better go," Harry said.

"See you tonight, Hermione," Ron said.

"Well done on your protest, 'opefully we will see each other again," Nyx said.

"Yeah 'opefully, Nick," Hermione said. Nyx's face fell but she smiled and they prepared to Apparate.

The three trainee Aurors arrived back outside the training center in a blink of an eye. They went in the door individually and went through the entrance process. When they were all in and sat at their desks they spoke about the meeting with Hermione.

"She seemed to be happy to see us," Ron said. Harry agreed.

"She didn't like me," Nyx said, she looked very unhappy.

"Yes she did," Harry said automatically.

"Don't lie 'Arry. I can always tell when you lie," Nyx said.

"She just needs some time to get used to you," Ron said. Nyx shrugged and looked at her desk avoiding their eyes. Harry knew Hermione had been hostile toward Nyx, and thought he knew why; he just didn't want to say anything in front of Ron. He hoped tonight when they saw Hermione, she would tell them what she had been doing since July.