The Phoenix and the Wolf
Albus Dumbledore looked at his guests. He had to admit to himself that he had never had Muggles in his office before. Preferably, any business or meetings that had to come between a Muggleborn witch or wizard's parents was done on neutral ground, where the Ministry of Magic had not banned magic, but nor in a blatantly magical area where the Muggle parents might feel uncomfortable. Dumbledore silently watched as Alan and Emily Granger took in their new surroundings, clearly curious, and a tad uncomfortable, although, Dumbledore reasoned, some of that discomfort may have come from the fact that Mr. and Mrs. Granger had just returned from the hospital wing, where they were visiting Hermione, who had been petrified by the legendary snake of Slytherin. Dumbledore noted uneasily that Mrs. Granger's eyes were still a tad red.
Alan was a tall man, the son of a Scottish father and a French-Greek mother, who had a head of neatly parted, bushy brown hair which his daughter had clearly inherited, and an immaculate moustache that was trimmed, Dumbledore reflected, to rival the head of the Department of International Magical cooperation at the Ministry, Barty Crouch's moustache. Emily, on the other hand, had slightly thinner hair than her husband, but it was clearly her who had given her daughter the messy hair that both privately called a 'bird's nest', the color of which blurred the lines between red and brown. Emily was also very proud to have given her baby her chocolate brown eyes, of which she was justly proud.
"Mr. and Mrs. Granger, this is indeed an honor, and if I may say so, a rare pleasure, to have you two in my office," Dumbledore said pleasantly, "won't you please take a seat?"
"Thank you, Professor," Mr. Granger responded in his soft, thickly accented bass. He and his wife proceeded to sit down.
"Well," Dumbledore said, after they were all comfortable, and he had offered them a lemon drop, which Mr. and Mrs. Granger politely refused, "as Hermione may have told you, I would not ordinarily hold a meeting with you two here in my office, however, I feel that this meeting is of extra importance, so it will be to our advantage that as few people know about this as possible."
"Yes, sir," Mr. Granger replied. Dumbledore smiled at him in gratitude.
"This has to do with your daughter's friend Harry Potter. I trust you have been told about him?"
"Oh yes," Mrs. Granger spoke up, "I think we have enough tales that Hermione's told us to fill a book," she said, chuckling.
"Anyway," Dumbledore continued, "this has to do with his summer plans. I'm afraid that a few complications have arisen. His aunt and uncle are going to take him back for the first week only. I'm afraid that his aunt has obtained new levels of vindictiveness towards our world than before, and has blackmailed me…" Dumbledore suddenly stopped, a slight pink tinge entering his cheeks, as if he'd told them a little more than he had meant to. "Ahem…the point is, much as I am troubled by it, I cannot keep him at his relatives' house more than one week after the summer, and I was lucky to get that much out of his aunt…" Dumbledore paused again.
"Sir," Mrs. Granger said quietly, "I'm not trying to be rude, but what's this got to do with us?"
"A good question, Mrs. Granger, and to answer, I think I am forced to give you a bit of background on why Harry stays with his uncle and aunt. As he probably told you, his mother died protecting him and thus provided him with a blood protection. There is a very complex ward that can be constructed that can provide the utmost protection against dark magic, so long as he can call where his mother's blood resides—in this case, his aunt and himself—home. By returning there each summer, his protection is renewed. However, where his aunt and uncle are unwilling to have him longer than a week, I have to send him another place where he will be safe. I have been busy researching similar wards, and have concluded that there is another ward that can be constructed around a bond of close friendship. The protection on Harry will be much less effective than at his aunt's house, but it's the best I can do."
"Does that mean…" Mr. Granger said hesitantly,
"I would like you to keep Harry over the summer," Dumbledore confirmed, nodding.
"We'd be happy, to, of course," Mrs. Granger said, "but Hermione in her letters was always talking about that other friend of hers, Ron, and how he was Harry's first friend and that she thinks he gets along and…prefers Ron to her, so wouldn't you have asked Ron's family?"
"Ordinarily, yes. However, the Weasleys are one of the obstacles facing us. You see, Arthur Weasley just confided in me that he entered the Daily Prophet annual prize galleon draw and won only just last night—he's keeping it from the children and the paper itself until they are finished with the school year—and is planning a vacation, where they will go see Ron's eldest brother who works in Egypt currently, and then pay a visit to some unspecified extended family, and I did indeed ask Molly, who said that she would have been delighted to have Harry along, but despite the 1,000 galleon prize they got, most of the money has already been spent. I know Molly considers Harry a surrogate son, but I also suspect she is very much looking forward to spending time with her biological family." The Grangers nodded. Dumbledore smiled, though his face quickly became grim again.
"I…I feel it is my duty to inform you that there is a man, a criminal in our world, who, sources say, is after Harry. No wizarding child, including Hermione is safe with him on the loose, but I fear that with you serving as Harry's hosts, you may be under more danger. I promise to make the wards that I will put on your house as strong as possible, but I urge you to be vigilant and keep an eye on both children. I will have eyes out, too, but there is no such thing as having too many eyes out. Now, this news has not been made known to the public yet, and I trust you to be completely confidential." Both nodded. Mrs. Granger had slumped a tiny bit in her seat, though it was barely noticeable, and her eyes took on a dreamy look and she shivered a bit. Mr. Granger knew that she was feeling immensely frightened and worried; having just returned from visiting her daughter in a state much like a coma except that it was unlike a coma that Mrs. Granger had observed, and now they had been told that their daughter was in danger from an escaped convict.
"Is that all?" Mr. Granger asked, knowing that he had taken in his fill of revelations for the day. Dumbledore nodded, and stood from his desk, followed by the Grangers. He shook their hands and gestured towards the door. Smiling slightly, Mr. Granger left the office, followed by his wife.
"Back again? How did your meeting with the Headmaster go?" Madame Pomfrey, the Hogwarts nurse asked, beckoning Mr. and Mrs. Granger in when she saw them. "Never mind," she amended when she saw Mrs. Granger's tired face, "but I have some good news: The Mandrake Draught is all ready, and I was just about to do the honors. Would you like to administer Hermione's dose?"
"Yes, please," Mrs. Granger said quietly. Madame Pomfrey smiled comfortingly and pushed a medium sized goblet into Mrs. Granger's hand.
"See that Hermione drinks all of that," Madame Pomfrey said, indicating the goblet, "it will have Hermione restored to full health." The potion, Mr. Granger noted, was giving off a thick steam that alternated between being blue, red, orange and silver. It also smelled nasty, even worse than burnt haggis, but if it restored Hermione to full health, Mr. Granger knew he would never badmouth the foul liquid ever again. Mr. Granger followed his wife over to Hermione's bedside, looking sadly at Hermione's statue-like body, and put his arm around his wife, as he gently opened her mouth. Mrs. Granger's hand shook as she lowered the goblet into her mouth.
What happened was very frightening for either of the Grangers to observe. As Hermione's reflexes made her swallow the potion, Mr. and Mrs. Granger could hear eerie, very shrill and very menacing-sounding cries emanate from the potion…or so they assumed since there was no one else in the area, except for Madame Pomfrey and the other victims of the snake. Hermione's body was also outlined in the same steam that had come from the goblet, except the transition pattern of blue, red, orange, silver was happening much faster.
"Dear, I think we should call…" Mrs. Granger said in a slightly panicky voice, but before she was able to finish her sentence, Hermione gave a little barely audible moan, her eye fluttering, and went right into a deep sleep, but due to the fact that they could see her chest rise and fall, and hear her breaths, they knew the potion had worked. A grin spread rapidly across Mr. Granger's face. Mrs. Granger made to gently shake Hermione awake, but Mr. Granger held her back.
"Let her sleep," he said in a whisper, "we have plenty of time." She nodded, and planted a feather light kiss on Hermione's forehead, kneeling down and placing her own head beside Hermione's, quietly sobbing in relief.
Three hours later, with another soft moan, Hermione awoke. She could see two figures looking anxiously at her, but her vision was blurred, and her memory swam. As she blinked again, the figures came into focus.
"I'm here, sunflower."
"Baby, oh thank God, you're okay, oh sweetheart," Mrs. Granger said in a whisper.
"Shhh, sunflower, you're okay now, you're going to be fine," Mr. Granger said soothingly, gently pushing Hermione's head back on her pillow.
"Is this real?" Hermione asked her mother. Mrs. Granger bent down and hugged Hermione, as tenderly as possible while still hugging her with all her might, as Mr. Granger stroked her hair. As her mother embraced her, Hermione began to cry, embarrassedly and quietly at first, but eventually she was weeping, as everything that had happened, and the fact that she didn't know where her two best friends were, hit her.
"Shhh, baby, it's okay; I'm here, I'm here," Mrs. Granger droned on in a soothing whisper. After a few minutes, Hermione had calmed down, but neither she nor her mother seemed keen on letting their embrace end soon. When finally she did lie back down, her father eyed her, concernedly.
"Can I get you anything, sunflower? A cup of water, perhaps?" She shook her head. "Listen, sunflower, your mother, your Headmaster and I were talking, and there are quite a few things we need to talk about…"
"That can wait until tomorrow, can't it, Alan? Hermione needs her sleep."
"But tomorrow is the last day of the year, and as all this concerns our summer I don't think it's a good thing to wait."
"All right. Hermione, baby, are you up for listening to your father?"
"Yes," Hermione said, taking both of her parents' hands.
So Mr. Granger proceeded to tell Hermione everything they had discussed with Dumbledore, unawares that at that moment, two boys, a girl, and a (literally) mindless teacher, who were all covered in grime were climbing out of a secret pipe in a girls' bathroom, and making their way to the office of Professor Minerva McGonagall, the deputy Headmistress.
Harry Potter, Ron Weasley, and Neville Longbottom sat at the Gryffindor table, chatting amicably. As his head swung over his shoulder, Neville grinned to himself, recognizing a certain girl who was shyly profiled in the doorway to the Great Hall.
"Harry—it's Hermione!" He said excitedly. Both Ron and Harry looked first at Neville, confused, and then, following his line of gaze, both boys' mouths broke into identical grins. Hermione grinned back at them and ran down the table to meet them. They rose to meet her.
"Congratulations, I can't believe you solved it!!" Hermione squealed, throwing herself into Ron's arms, whose face matched then surpassed the color of his hair.
"I just can't believe you two solved it! This is so cool! I'm so proud of you," Hermione jabbered on, hugging Harry.
When her arms went around him, Harry couldn't help but notice how right it felt, how warm her embrace was, and how she looked…cute, all flushed with excitement.
"Well, we had loads of help from you," Harry responded modestly, "we couldn't have done it without you."
"Thanks," Hermione responded, smiling at her friend, but when she saw the twinkle in his eyes that said he was being honest, Hermione couldn't help asking herself, have my feelings for Harry Potter changed? But before she could answer herself, she was interrupted.
"Hello, Sir Nicholas," Percy Weasley, Ron's elder brother, and Gryffindor Prefect said, "good to have you back."
"Thank you," replied Sir Nicholas De Mimsy-Porpington, the resident ghost of Gryffindor tower, and another victim of the snake, grinning from a plate filled with lamb chops.
Dumbledore smiled at the congregation of students assembled as he rose to his feet and cleared his throat to make his customary speech.
"Another year gone," Dumbledore said, smiling, "and now, let us have a round of applause for Madame Pomfrey and professor Sprout, whose Mandrake Draught has been so successfully administered to all who had been petrified. It is also my duty to tell you that Professor Lockhart shall not be returning next year, as he has to spend some time in St. Mungo's hospital for memory loss, and lastly, some good news: In light of recent events, as a school treat, all exams have been cancelled!" The noise that followed was loud enough that it probably traveled over fifty miles (enough that only Harry and Ron heard Hermione mutter, "oh no"). It died down again, however, when the doors of the Great Hall opened with a bang, revealing Hagrid, the Hogwarts gamekeeper, and one of Harry's first friends from the magical world, who had been wrongly accused of being the one responsible for the snake petrifying the students, and had gone for what the Minister for Magic, Cornelius Fudge had called a 'precautionary' stay in Azkaban, the wizard prison, for a little while that term.
"Sorry I'm late," Hagrid said in his rumbling voice as he strode towards the head table, "the owl that delivered my release papers got all lost and confused. Some ruddy bird called, Errol." Harry and Hermione gave Ron amused looks. Apparently, Dumbledore had asked him to send Azkaban the release order, and Ron had chosen his old, tired family owl over a possibly more efficient school owl. Hagrid stopped in front of Harry, Ron and Hermione.
"Well, if it wasn't for you, Harry, and Ron, and Hermione, o'course, I would still, uh…I would still be you-know-where, so I'd just like to say…thanks!"
"There's no Hogwarts without you, Hagrid," Harry replied, getting to his feet. Smiling shyly, but meaningfully, at the half-giant and wrapped his arms as far around Hagrid's waist as he could manage. Stunned and touched, Hagrid returned the embrace. Up at the head table, Dumbledore, his smile widening, stood and applauded Hagrid, soon followed by McGonagall. Harry broke from his embrace, stepped back and began to clap, too, followed by Ron and then Hermione, Ginny Weasley, Ron's sister, Fred and George Weasley, Ron's twin brothers and eventually, the whole great hall, including a few Slytherins. Hagrid was beaming as tears fell down his face, causing Hermione and Ginny to break into tears, and both girls ran up and hugged Hagrid as well. The party raged on until after midnight, and everyone was in high spirits. As she looked through her tear-blurred vision at Harry, beaming and applauding Hagrid, one thought crossed her mind.
This is going to be an interesting summer.