Vernon and Petunia were not exactly happy to see Harry, and less happy to see that he had friends in tow who were also demanding accomodation. But once it was understood that Harry would be remaining for the weeks until he came of age and then never again... they could see it was for the best. So, for the last time, Harry had his old room. Hermione was shoved into what was meant to be the sewing room, although it was uncertain whether Petunia Dursley had actually done any sewing there, and Ron ended up in the attic, which suited him perfectly, as it meant that he had plenty of Muggle rubbish to examine to tell his father about.
The real fly in the ointment was Dudley. The blond lump had been spending the past year in and out of trouble, and was currently threatened with imprisonment if he were seen in public without parental supervision. One bored, destructive teenager trapped in the house was enough trouble - add in a cousin he despised and it could have been open war. However, desperate to keep her son in the house and out of jail, Petunia had spent a fortune on the latest Muggle video games. In Hermione's opinion, it was the best idea the woman had ever had. She managed to persuade Harry to exchange a few coins from his vault and send her off to buy similar equipment for him and Ron. And so it was that the future savior of the Wizarding World would spend the weeks before his seventeenth birthday playing Final Fantasy VII. Maybe it would be inspirational.
As for why it had been Hermione who bought the games... that was the detail that, even now, set her apart from her friends. Until Harry and Ron took (and passed!) the test in a few weeks, she was the only one with an Apparition license.
What would happen if they didn't pass? Apparate anyway, and hope the Ministry had better things to do than tracking them? Travel only by broom at night? Send her ahead to scout locations and then have the boys fly in?
Where would they even go, when it came time to begin that journey?
Something would happen to show them the way. It always did.
Harry didn't seem worried.
Harry never had been very good at planning ahead.
Hermione loved both her friends, but it really was irritating to feel like the only adult in the bunch. Harry had become more 'serious' - in the sense of recognising that a lot was at stake and failure would have terrible consequences. But more wise? Not really. As for Ron... there had been an awkward moment where he'd suggested she could stay in the attic with him. The Dursleys couldn't really have stopped them from doing anything they wanted to. The only thing stopping Hermione was Hermione. And Ron, while he might not have been able to put it in so many words, was perfectly capable of realising that.
What was it about Ron?
She loved him, of course. She'd always known it under the surface of things. Even when she was dancing with Viktor Krum, she had been thinking of Ron, wanting him to see her beautiful and successful and desired by others. He could make her laugh - sometimes, she admitted to herself, she really was too serious. He could argue with her without actually hating her. He had a temper, but it wasn't nearly as scary as Harry's. Ron could never be scary. He could drive her crazy by ignoring her or blathering about sport or wasting his time with stupid girls like Lavender, but he would never, ever hurt her.
So why did she suddenly feel like holding back?
Maybe Harry had been right to set Ginny aside - there was no room for romance now. She couldn't enjoy herself with Ron when she was worrying about Horcruxes and Unforgiveables. He would understand that... wouldn't he?
Anyway. The boys had their games to play, and Hermione did not want to mother them, and that was why she was finding other places to be.
The Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures had acted right on schedule, collecting all known werewolves into 'protective custody'. Many adults, of course, had managed to flee and were still being hunted by Aurors. The children and 'obedient' adults, like Lupin, had been ushered to a facility that reminded Hermione of a Muggle holiday camp, except that the whole area was enclosed in a silver chain-link fence. Each 'guest' had their own room - two to a cabin for the children, but the adults were allowed more privacy. There was a large library, an excellent cafeteria, a swimming pool, setups for various wizarding sports (not Quidditch, though, as that would need too much airspace to fence)... Visitors were allowed, but with precautions: comings and goings were recorded at the front gate, and only the staff were allowed wands inside the camp. The staff tended to be of the Burly Matron sort, healthy individuals with more muscle than magic and a forceful cheer that bullied their 'guests' from one activity to another.
Sitting on a bench with Remus in the sunlight and watching the children play was a lovely and peaceful scene, except for the diamond-patterned shadows that covered everything.
It was a far cry from Azkaban, but it was still a prison.
They weren't talking much this afternoon. Both of them had other things on their minds. Actually, Remus hadn't been very talkative since his incarceration. Hermione wondered if Tonks had forgiven him enough to visit him yet. Love, she mused, really sucked.
"The first full moon is tomorrow night," Remus remarked at last. "Everyone's first chance to see what they really think of us."
"What will they do?" Hermione wondered. "Clear out all the staff so you can run around inside the fence?"
He shook his head. "We're all going to be given potions and locked in our rooms. They're afraid we might damage property otherwise. Or fight each other."
"Wolfsbane for everyone? Isn't that expensive?"
A thin smile crossed his tired face. "This whole camp is expensive."
"But... if they could afford to give everyone Wolfsbane..." Hermione frowned. That potion was rare and hard to come by. Lupin had been grateful to Snape for providing it for him, implying he couldn't have gotten it on his own. "Why didn't they just make the potion available cheaply instead of locking everyone up?"
Remus shook his shaggy head. "The Ministry has its own priorities. A publically visible solution like this makes it clear that they are Doing Something about the werewolf problem. After all, if they just let us buy the potion, they couldn't guarantee we'd drink it. Now we have no choice - they can watch and pour it down our throats if we refuse."
"Something having to do with werewolves..." Hermione muttered under her breath. "A giant batch of potions." Her face suddenly went gray. "Oh, Merlin. Snape tried to warn us. He made absolutely certain Draco found out and came to let us know."
Remus blinked. "What are you talking about?"
Hermione brushed back her hair. "Voldemort had Snape mixing up some huge mess of potions - Draco had to help him stir. Draco didn't recognise it, but it reminded him of Wolfsbane. What if they're making a poison and disguising it as your treatment?" She clutched at his arm. "You can't drink it! You mustn't!"
He lay a gentle hand over hers. "Are you sure you're not jumping to conclusions? The Ministry is not in league with Voldemort. They have their own potion suppliers. It's more likely that whatever Snape was making was for their own werewolves. And that's if - well, neither Snape nor Draco is the most trustworthy source of information." He squeezed her fingers. "Hermione - I don't have a choice about drinking what the Ministry gives me. If we tried to resist, things would go very badly for us. And that could be the point. If we panic, if we try to fight, that could be all the proof they need that we are dangerous beasts, not people."
Hermione bit her lip. Couldn't he see? He'd said it himself - it would have been so EASY for Snape to poison his Wolfsbane all those months, and he'd never done it. Couldn't he trust? And couldn't he see that Snape was no doubt trying to avert disaster? He'd made a point of sending that message through Draco - even Draco thought it was odd how deliberate the information was! What other reason could there be? Even cold-hearted Severus Snape wouldn't want to be responsible for the murders of a camp filled with children...
Or was she misjudging again?
She couldn't argue with Remus. She couldn't pour out all the guesses and connections she'd been building - not when she'd finally understood that her loose tongue was part of the problem. But she couldn't let this happen, either.
"You're going to be locked in your room anyway," she whispered at last. "I'm going to try to find out what's going on. But if I can't stop it, if I can't get back to you - look at the potion they give you. You've drunk it many times. If you have even the slightest doubt about it, don't drink it. Find some way not to drink it. Please."
Remus' kind brown eyes stared into hers. At last, he smiled. Leaning over, he pressed a soft kiss to her cheek. "Thank you."
Slightly flustered, Hermione said her farewells and rushed out of the camp, reclaiming her wand. Only one day - would that be enough time to find out the truth about the potions? If they were poisoned, was there anything she could do to stop it?
And how could she get a message to Severus Snape?