1I do not own Harry Potter.
Thank you to my faithful readers and dedicated reviewers.
Chapter 13: bp 120/80
Sirius sat at a table in a small café in muggle London. He had been glad to see that McKendrick's was still open. Other than a fresh paint job, the place really hadn't changed too much.
It had been one of Lily's favourite destinations.
He sighed over his cup of tea as he waited for his guest to arrive. The last two some months had been both good and bad for him. On one hand, he and everyone else had failed to find any sign of Peter Pettigrew. After ten years it was difficult to say whether or not the traitor was even alive. There had been false sightings of the man written to the Aurors that were in charge of finding him, but they were losing hope. There were just too many magical means of changing one's appearance and the only pictures they had for reference were a decade out of date. Peter's animagus form was no help. There were thousands upon thousands of rats in Britain. Besides, what sort of person would spend ten years as a rat?
On the other hand, he had been in constant contact with Harry, a box of every flavoured beans in and of itself. He sent a letter every week, sometimes telling stories about his and James' years in school. He paid particular attention to James' antics with Lily and some of the Marauders' more memorable pranks. He also told Harry about trying to fix up his old family house. The replies he had gotten back usually expressed pleasure at the tales and generally included anecdotes about some incident or other that happened over the week.
He was not sure what to do about Harry's custody. Technically, as Harry's godfather, and with him having no living magical relatives, Sirius could legally take him away from Petunia. He had been planning to do exactly that when he found out that his godson lived with her. Having met Lily's older sister and her vitriol before, he could not imagine that Harry would have had a happy childhood with her. Harry declining to stay with him for the winter holiday had him confused.
Sirius had thought that they were getting close, and so invited Harry to stay with him. It had been a letdown when Harry had declined. He had planned to ask Harry to live with him during the summer, but if he was happy living with his aunt then Sirius would not want to disturb that. He was mollified and a bit puzzled by Harry's promise to spend time with him on Christmas. If he liked Petunia enough to return for the holidays, why would he spend Christmas day with his godfather? If Harry had invited Sirius to spend Christmas he would understand better, but he didn't.
Sirius sighed as the brown haired man he was waiting for came through the door, and put the puzzle aside until he picked Harry up in the Leaky Cauldron on the 24th.
Remus Lupin pushed open the door to the café and looked around for one of his former best friends.
Sirius was looking, predictably enough, older than the last time Remus had seen him. What Remus wasn't as prepared to see was the haunted cast in his grey eyes. A mix of subdued fondness, hurt, anger, and accusation flashed across his face. That look made Remus feel guilty and ashamed.
Guilt and Shame were familiar friends to Remus.
When he was eight years old and had just gotten bitten, he had felt guilty because he was careless and went out on the night of the full moon. The feeling was joined by shame after the first time he changed. He would be a burden to his parents for years to come.
When he made friends with the three that shared his dorm, he had felt guilty that he was lying to them. When they had found out about his lycanthropy, he had felt ashamed that he couldn't keep such an important secret.
In his fifth year, he had felt guilty when James and Sirius were being complete berks, and despite having the authority to stop them, he sat by and did nothing.
After he graduated, he couldn't hold down a job due to his 'furry problem'. He had been ashamed of depending on James to support him.
Then James and Lily died. And Peter after them.
In his head, he knew he could not have known, but his heart told him that he should have been aware that Sirius was a traitor, that his Black blood would breed true.
Remus had gone to Dumbledore to find out about what would happen to Harry. He had objected to Harry being put with Petunia, but he could not offer anything. The Ministry would never have allowed him to claim guardianship of a child. Dumbledore had even warned him away from visiting. There were still Death Eaters around and, as a known friend of the Potters, he could be followed.
Remus had decided to leave the country. With no way to support himself, and nothing to stay for, he had traveled to Romania. The country's policies were much more creature friendly than Britain's. He had been very out of touch with Britain for the last ten years, so the letter he had received from Sirius had been a shock.
A month later and here he was, pulling off his winter coat and taking a seat across from the man he had thought deserved to spend the rest of his life in Azkaban.
Sirius laughed softly, the haunted look never leaving his eyes.
There was a pause as a waitress came by to take their order. The werewolf stared down at his clasped hands unable to look into those accusatory eyes anymore.
Those words could barely be heard over the background chatter of the other patrons.
"Did you really think that I would betray James and Lily?"
"They were dead Sirius, and you were their Secret Keeper. The Aurors found you laughing in front of a torn up street littered with bodies. What was I supposed to think?"
"I would never," he started angrily, only to stop as the waitress came back with Remus' tea. Remus thanked her before discreetly putting up a privacy barrier. Sirius glared at him, fisted hands resting on the table.
"I would never betray James. Never. You of all people should have trusted me enough to know that. At the very least you should have come to me to hear it from my own mouth."
"I said I was sorry. Sorry I didn't trust in your loyalty. Sorry that you spent ten years in Azkaban. And I'm sorry," Remus took a deep breath before hunching into himself, "I'm sorry, that none of you trusted me enough to tell me that you were switching to Peter."
There was a measure of vindication in Remus as he watched Sirius physically recoil back from his last words. Sirius had no room to be talking about trust, or the lack thereof. It was the height of hypocrisy.
"What about Harry?" Sirius asked, recovering himself. "Do you know where he's been living?"
"With Petunia. Dumbledore told me."
"You allowed it to happen?" Sirius was getting himself worked up again. Remus knew he was just trying to distract himself from the implications at the end of the last subject. He would always get angry when he was losing an argument.
"There was nothing that I could do. The Headmaster said it was the safest place for him. Even if I had taken him, there was no way that I could have supported both of us. And it's not as if I were in the best frame of mind at the time either."
"Were you ever going to meet with him?"
"In the beginning, there was just too much of a risk that I would lead the Death Eaters straight to him. Then I left the country and it was a little while before I could take care of myself properly. By the time he was old enough that I could send him a letter that he would be able to read and understand, I didn't think that he would want to meet me."
Sirius bit his lips for a few moments. "I guess we both messed up, didn't we?"
"I guess we did. So, Peter then."
"Who would have thought, right?"
Remus relaxed a bit inside. They weren't back to what they used to be, not yet, maybe not ever, but the potential was there. It would take work on both their parts.
"How's the search going?"
Sirius adjusted the low ponytail his hair was in, frustration evident in every movement.
"It isn't. The trail is ten years cold. Unless he slips up there's no way that we can find him. I can't believe we were ever friends with that traitor."
Sirius sat back in his chair and looked at him.
"How long are you staying?"
"I can only stay a couple of weeks. Then I have to go back if I want to keep my job. My boss is out of town for a few weeks too. I just have to return and have everything in order before he comes back."
"What do you do?"
"I'm an archivist for a scholar. He always has books and scrolls coming in and out of his library. I think he might be meeting with the people he exchanges those books with. He gave all of us time off for as long as he's gone."
Sirius looked around briefly, then settled his eyes on Remus. There was a determination in them that put the werewolf on alert.
"Do you want to meet Harry?"
Remus stared down at the dregs in his cup. "Do you think he would want to meet me?"
"Yes. Yes I do."
He felt the slightest stirring of unease at the tone in Sirius' voice.
"What's he like?"
"Ravenclaw. With a presence you have to experience to believe."
"Ravenclaw? I would have thought –"
"Me too. Once you spend some time with him you'll understand why though. I'm going to meet him in the Leaky Cauldron on Christmas Eve. If you want to spend the holidays with us, I have more than enough space."
Remus looked at the Sirius' hopeful face and nodded. He didn't have much else to do in Britain after all.
"I saw your mud-, muggleborn friend coming out of Dumbledore's office Thursday night."
Harry looked over at the man reclining in an armchair on the other side of his desk. Voldemort had taken to dropping by every week, either for conversation or just for the company. Most of their discussions centered around the Dark Lord and his travels before the war. He really liked to talk about himself, not that Harry minded. While Voldemort did not tell him exactly what rituals he learned and used on himself, the shade was a fascinating font of information on ancient magical societies. It went without saying that he was much more entertaining than Binns.
The first words out of his mouth this week surprised Harry though. Not because of the information in it, but because Voldemort chose to tell him. Harry would never have volunteered that sort of knowledge.
He's been making recruitment noises lately. Maybe it's a show of support? Of course, if I'm being spied on, then he could possibly come under scrutiny. I still say Dumbledore already knows about him. This Granger issue is sort of aggravating though.
Hermione was getting along very well with Padma and Su Li. She had been thriving in the last few weeks, much happier than anyone had seen her since the beginning of school. Professor McGonagall's mind had been eased as one of her young Gryffindors went from lonely overachiever to a smiling child with friends.
Harry was less thrilled.
At first, it was just a matter of wounded pride. Where was the breakdown he had predicted? Isolating herself in the restroom should only have been the beginning, with Weasley's reported words as a catalyst. She should have become unhappier as time passed with a few more incidents of her shutting everyone out. The time she spent with her parents over the winter holiday should have been the lowest point, with her questioning if she should return at all. Only after the winter holidays should she have approached him.
Instead of following his time-line, what happens? She comes to him after a traumatic experience – one that should have had her questioning her stay even more – nervous, but smiling. What the hell?
"I know she sees him," he said, a crease appearing between his eyebrows. "I followed her for two weeks after the troll incident. She was far too happy for someone who almost died." And I don't like being proven wrong. "She spent a half hour with him on the second Friday. After observing her subsequent behaviour I'm not inclined to think that they were discussing me. The past few weeks have seen her researching transfiguration texts and writing essays that don't make it to McGonagall. Not that it matters with his reported legilimence skill."
"You shouldn't underestimate him. Dumbledore might come off a little eccentric, but he's a crafty old bastard when he wants to be. How do you even know what legilimence is, anyway? I didn't even hear about it until my fourth year."
"Let's just say that a certain professor teaches more than he thinks he does. As for Ms. Granger, she loves her authority figures entirely too much for me to trust her. It doesn't matter if she's telling him what I'm doing or if he's lifting the information out of her mind, she doesn't know enough now to be a danger. My aim to keep it that way will take some doing though, since he couldn't have chosen a better person."
"Are you sure about that?" Voldemort asked, raising one of Quirrell's eyebrows.
"Yes. I like Su Li and Padma well enough. They're nice to spend time with and while both of them want to know what I do on the weekend they don't pry. Padma is assertive and curious, but not pushy enough to ask and Su Li is just too shy. Granger isn't quite like that, and she wants to know everything. I place glamours on the pages of my personal books now. The ones I read around her all look like potion texts. It makes sense since I'm at the top of that class. If she had followed the time-line that I estimated this wouldn't be a problem since she wouldn't want to rock the boat –,"
"Wait, wait. Go back. What time-line?" Voldemort interrupted. Harry explained his original thoughts about the witch and her reactions.
"The fact that she is a muggleborn should have added to her feeling of loneliness. She only learned about the wizarding world this summer after all. If she returned to finish the year then she would have been too happy to have friends at all to risk antagonizing me about what I do in my spare time.
"Instead, a troll somehow," at this he threw a wry look at the shade, "manages to enter the school, whereupon she is saved by a team of professors led by our esteemed Headmaster. Then she shows up months ahead of schedule and nowhere near as tractable as she should have been. The reason I say Dumbledore couldn't have chosen better, is that she doesn't seem to understand that people – namely me – could voluntarily isolate themselves when they have friends. Padma and Su will let it go when I say I need time to myself. Granger wants to know why. I'd have cut my losses and sent her on her way if I could be sure that Dumbledore's next bid to get closer to me would be as easy to spot."
"You did tell her something, right?" Voldemort said, sitting up. "Please, tell me you told her something."
"Tch. I told her that I was use to being alone and needed the time to center myself."
"That's the best thing you could think of?"
"It fits with what Dumbledore saw of me this summer. It is also quite true, if not completely so. If Granger attempts to follow me, and I full expect that she will, there is no way that she can properly navigate the passages that I use to reach here. She could very well get lost in one of them."
Harry contemplated that thought for a moment. Several of the paths that he used had entrances that were only one way and the exits required tapping a stone with magic. It was only his ability to sense the different structure of the magic within the stones in question that had allowed him to leave those passages. Should Hermione follow him into one of those, she might just starve to death before she was found.
Maybe I should leave her in one of them for a day or two. Just long enough for her to feel very sorry. That's not even factoring in the darkness. Sometimes I forget that someone else would need a light to move around. Granger has an above average core, but would she be able to hold the light spell for hours on end? It should be enough to cause some mental stress.
"I never use the same path to come and go on the same day," he mused quietly.
"You do realize that if she dies, Dumbledore could forbid anyone from using the hidden passages right?" Voldemort had been following Harry's line of thought, though he came to a different conclusion.
"I rather doubt he would be able to enforce that. And if I were to leave her in one of those it's not like anyone would know. I don't intend to leave her there for long. If she does it again though," Harry's face hardened, "well, anyone who follows me down dark corridors deserves everything they get."
Voldemort leaned back in his chair gestured toward him with a hand.
"Even if she just disappears, it could cause trouble for you if she expressed her intention to follow you to anyone. Deaths within the school are just trouble, especially when the Headmaster is involved. Believe me. I know what I'm talking about. Why don't you just lead her on a wild goose chase around the hallways?"
"Firstly, because it would just encourage her to follow me again. If I leave her in the cold and dark overnight, she'll think twice about doing a repeat performance. Second I don't like wandering the halls. The portraits talk too much. That's one of the reasons that I know the back ways so well. I like my privacy, surely you realized that there are no portraits in this part of the castle? I don't want them telling anyone where I frequent."
"What about me? Am I not intruding on your privacy?" Curiosity was evident in the question.
Harry sent him a cool look with a slight hint of amusement. "I rather doubt you'll be telling anyone."
Voldemort scowled at him briefly before turning the conversation back on track. "If you really want to travel that route, you have to be prepared to deal with the fallout. You might want to make friends with a few of those portraits too. They can be valuable sources of information."
"The fallout shouldn't be that bad on my side," Harry murmured, "After all, it would hardly be my fault if she gets lost while stalking me. I'm not supposed to know that she's there, right? Besides which, if a student disappears from the school this soon after that troll, Dumbledore will have more that me to worry about."
"I suppose you're right about that. So, since you've decided to commit to this course of action," the Dark Lord smirked at him, "are you going to stay here or visit your family over the holidays?"
Harry huffed at him. "Don't be ridiculous. I arranged a reservation at the Novotel months ago. There's a magical section there, you know. My relations and I are not close enough to celebrate any holiday together, but there's no way in hell that I am hanging around here. I'll be more than happy to get back to technology again."
"I still don't see how you could prefer the muggle world to the magical one."
"Give me a computer and a ball point pen any day."
"You have so much potential. It's a shame that you want to waste it. Wouldn't you want to be a part of restructuring an entire society? At my right hand, you can be great."
"I don't think I will be wasting my potential, just directing it elsewhere. I feel that my drive will not be well served by staying here. Who knows, maybe I'll travel like you did for a while. It'll be years before I could significantly contribute to any society."
Voldemort, giving up his recruiting pitch for now, rose from the armchair and got ready to leave.
"This upcoming week is all school and I won't get the chance, so, happy Christmas and enjoy your new year."
"Happy Christmas to you too."
"You won't believe what I heard last night," Hermione whispered.
It was the last day before the students would be leaving the castle, and the end of Transfiguration signaled the end of the last class of the year for the first year Ravenclaws and Gryffindors. Hermione, who had been bursting with energy all day finally got a chance to tell them what was going on with her.
Padma and Su moved in closer as they walked. They had never seen Hermione act like this, and were curious as to what caused the girl to behave like a gossip with the juiciest scoop ever. Harry, following behind, paid attention as well.
"What happened?" Padma asked.
"Well, I was close to the Gryffindor dorms when I heard what sounded like arguing. It was Professor McGonagall, with Professor Dumbledore, and Rubeus Hagrid," Hermione paused to make sure they were all understanding.
"Who's Rubeus Hagrid?" Su gasped.
"He's the groundskeeper. You know, the big guy," after they nodded, she continued. "Hagrid was saying that Fluffy was a bit down about being cooped up inside all the time. Professor McGonagall asked how he could know what 'that monstrosity' was thinking," Hermione made sure to include the air quotes.
"Anyway, Hagrid says that Professor McGonagall had no right to call Fluffy a monstrosity, that he was 'harmless and just misunderstood.' So Professor McGonagall says that a three headed dog with three mouths full of teeth is not very hard to understand, and that it had no business being in a school. Then Professor Dumbledore chimes in and says that Fluffy was necessary for the protection of the stone. That's all I heard before they went into his office."
"They have a three headed dog in the school," Su Li whispered harshly as they reached the Great Hall. "Do you know how dangerous that is? What if somebody stumbles into it?"
"How much do you want to bet that it's on the third floor corridor that we aren't supposed to enter?" Padma returned. "The Headmaster did say that we should stay out unless we want a gruesome and painful death."
"I'm more interested in the stone that it's guarding. Is it a jewel or something. It must be very valuable for the Headmaster to keep it here, right? Do you think the troll on Halloween was someone trying to steal it?"
The three of them huddled together at the end of the Ravenclaw table while Harry looked on with well hidden amusement. He sat across from them as they theorized about what sort of stone could be valuable enough to require the sort of protection that Hogwarts offered.
"Harry," Padma hissed at him, "Aren't you in the least bit curious?"
"Not particularly, no," he said raising an eyebrow at the three of them.
"Not even a little bit?" Hermione voiced, incredulous.
"Look at it this way, even if you think you know what sort of stone it is, what are you going to do with that information? And how would you prove it? You can't ask a teacher, because you are not supposed to know about it. The mystery stone is sufficiently protected where ever it is, so there is no point in me caring."
"Oh, come on Harry. It's nice a puzzle, and it will be fun," Padma said.
"We're leaving tomorrow. Whatever puzzle you want to solve will have to wait till you get back."
"Uh. You are so stuffy. Fine then, we'll just have to do it without you." Harry rolled his eyes at Padma's declaration. With any luck they wouldn't run into Voldemort while they were at it.
Harry sighed, almost soundlessly. All four of them were in a train car, and the other three were throwing around ideas for the stone. He tuned them out and flipped through his runes book. The ride in the supposedly 'horseless' carriages had been interesting, if only because of the Thestrals.
It had been fascinating to be able to feel the magic pulsing along with the creatures' blood, outlining where the animals were and still be unable to see them. He also noted that Thestrals had a different magical arrangement than wizards. A wizard had a central core at chest level which released an aura that flared, saturating the entire body and stopping just beneath the surface of the skin. There was also some leakage that occurred regularly that mingled with the ambient magic in nature. Thestrals did not have that center core. Harry could feel the magic emanate from every part of the creatures, down to the strands of their manes. He supposed that was what made then magical creatures.
About halfway through the ride, Draco Malfoy invited himself into the compartment, silencing the girls who had progressed to discussing holiday plans. He had his two bookends plus one more with him. The dark toned skin with slanted brown eyes and distinctive cheekbones, identified the lesser known Slytherin as Blaise Zabini.
There really had not been much conversation between Malfoy and himself. Actually, it would be more accurate to say that Harry had not spoken much with his peers in general. Following Padma, Su, and Hermione, the person he talked to the most was Voldemort.
Huh. How's that for perspective.
"How may we help you, Mr. Malfoy, Mr. Zabini?"he asked over the top of his book.
"Hello, Potter," Malfoy sneered as his eyes lingered on Hermione. "I see your taste in company hasn't improved. Hanging around with a mudblood."
"Now, now, Mr. Malfoy," Harry said serenely, adjusting his glasses as Hermione swelled up with indignation, "There's no need to be rude here. It is, after all, unbecoming of one of your station to be so publicly. . . crass."
Padma, Su Li, and Zabini smirked while Malfoy blushed.
"I am Blaise Zabini, and it is a pleasure to meet you, Hogwarts' very own Enigma."
"Harry Potter. My companions are Miss Padma Patil, Mis Su Li, and Miss Hermione Granger," Zabini inclined his head in acknowledgment to the three, pausing only slightly when he came to the muggleborn. Harry allowed some query into his voice as he continued, "Enigma?"
Zabini snickered. "Not many know too much about you, Potter, and the ones that do," at this he looked about pointedly at the girls, "are not talking."
"I'm a very private person, Mr. Zabini."
"A lot of people think that you're a snob. You don't talk to anyone, barring the odd greeting."
"A lot of people aren't important enough for me to care what they think."
The Slytherin laughed. Malfoy, not content to let Zabini direct the conversation piped in.
"You are definitely not what everyone expected. We all thought that you'd take the position of Gryffindor Golden Boy, not a bookworm Ravenclaw."
"Tch. I'm sure shattered dreams were left in the wake of crushing disappointment."
"And a lot of lost gallons." Zabini agreed.
"Assumptions can be costly things," Harry said, lowering his tone slightly. It would be amusing to see what the Slytherin made of that.
"So they can," Zabini said, his forehead creased. He stared at Harry's face, but got nothing from the small smile. "You're alright in my book Potter," he indicated, stepping out of the compartment, "See you in the new year."
And then there were three.
"Yes, Mr. Malfoy?" Harry said to the blond, who made no move to leave.
"You're interesting Potter."
"Thank you."Polite and bland as ever.
Malfoy blinked at him, sure he had been insulted in some manner, but unable to tell pass the words and tone. The blond nodded to him before looking at the others in the compartment.
"Patil, Li," he paused, grimacing, before jerking his head stiffly, "Granger." With that he took his bodyguards with him and left, shutting the door behind him.
"What was that all about?" Hermione, still smarting from the mudblood comment, demanded.
"Zabini was scouting, and Malfoy was just being Malfoy," he answered.
Confusion doused what was left of her anger.
"I'm sure by now the story of what happened is making the rounds with the Slytherins. My reaction will be the object of much scrutiny, and when school starts again, I will probably be approached by several more Slytherins," he put his attention back to his book and commented absently, "Should be interesting."
"Malfoy likely won't call you a mudblood again in public though, so something good did come out of his visit," Su Li said.
Harry glanced up to see her looking between Su and himself.
"What do you mean?"
"Noble pureblood families are all about poise and etiquette. The term 'mudblood' is derogatory and not something that you should say in public. No matter how much he might agree, Malfoy, as a heir of one of these families shouldn't be saying it so casually out in the open."
"You mean to say. . .?"
Su nodded. "Harry told him that he was behaving like he had no class."
"How do you know all this?"
"My father is fairly high up in the Ministry. Sometimes we have to go to events and mingle. My father's family might not be nobles like the Malfoy's or," she nodded toward Harry, "The Potters, but they are respected purebloods. My father caught a lot of flak for marrying a muggleborn, but since he wasn't the heir it wasn't as bad as it could have been."
Hermione turned to Padma. "You know all of this too?"
"Of course. My parents can prove Indian pureblood ancestry going back three thousand years. They only sent me and my sister to Hogwarts because they are spreading out the family to make more contacts. The two of us had to learn the rules of etiquette to not offend prospective friends. We have an older brother who goes to Durmstrang."
"You never told us that," Su accused.
"British wizards act very strange when they hear that someone in your family goes to Durmstrang, so I didn't tell you when we first met. After that it never came up."
"Why would there be problems with having a brother in Durmstrang?" Hermione asked.
"Britain claims that Durmstrang is a breeding ground for dark wizards," Padma explained to her, "So saying that someone in your family goes there is equated to them being 'dark', and in Britain dark equals evil."
"So, what about you?" Hermione asked, turning to Harry. "You grew up in the muggle world, how did you know how to behave?"
"Manners have always been very important for me to learn. A book on etiquette was one of the first things I bought."
"May I borrow it?"
"I'll send you a copy for Christmas."
Harry tuned out her thanks and remained quiet for the rest of the ride.
When they pulled into the station, Harry bid his friends farewell and made his way off the train. He was surprised when he spotted Sirius waiting on the platform with another man, evidently waiting for him.
Sirius was dressed in expensive, top quality linen slacks and a silk shirt, holding a full length coat and a scarf over his arm. In contrast, the stranger was in sensible trousers and heavy jumper over a long sleeved cotton shirt. He too, was holding a winter coat in his arms.
Harry walk up to the two his trunk shrunken and tucked into his coat pocket, messenger bag resting on his thigh.
"Harry," Sirius visible checked himself to stop from reaching for him. "It's good to see you again. This is Remus Lupin," he said gesturing to the man. Remus stepped forward.
"It's nice to see you after so long," he said holding out a hand.
The green eyed boy was only barely paying attention. As he had moved closer, he felt something that was completely new.
What on earth is going on with him? It's a bit hard to tell through the surrounding magic, but it feels like Lupin's core has an addition to it.
He examined Sirius' magic then Remus' after it.
Yes, there is something extra in Lupin's. Something interesting.
It was only when Remus shifted uncomfortably and retracted his hand, that Harry realized that he had not responded in time. Ignoring the sadness and discomfort in the man's face , he met Remus' eyes and decided to satisfy his curiosity.
"Do you have some sort of magical illness?" Harry wanted to smile when Remus took a step back and his heartbeat picked up.
Remus exchanged shocked looks with Sirius. "Um, something like that."
"Really?" Remus backed away another step at the glint in the green eyes.
"So how long have you –"
Schooling his face into it's usual polite lines, he turned to face Hermione who was hurrying toward him with her parents in tow. Displeasure spiked through him as his speci-, godfather's old friend, took the opportunity to shuffle slightly behind the Black Lord.
That's alright though, I will undoubtably get another chance to examine him. Why he never got in contact with me is suddenly much more important than it used to be. Smart money says that his illness had something to do with his absence.
"Harry, these are my parents Sarah and Michael Granger. Mum, Dad, this is Harry Potter."
Harry made sure to inject some warmth in face as he smiled at her parents.
"It's a pleasure to meet you, Mr. Granger," he said, shaking the hand of the man. Michael Granger was a tall man, with narrow shoulders. With his hair cut short it was difficult to tell, but Hermione probably got hers from him.
"I'm enchanted, Mrs. Granger," he said brushing his lips over the back of her hand. Sarah Granger had a pleasant face, not too remarkable, but it never hurt to be flattering.
"Such a little charmer you are," she said laughing.
"He gets it from his father," Sirius announced with a smile.
Harry turned to his godfather and beckoned him forward. "Everyone, this is my godfather, Sirius Black and his friend Remus Lupin. Sirius, Mr. Lupin, my friend Hermione Granger and, as you know, Sarah and Michael Granger."
Two rounds of handshaking later, the Grangers left through the portal into muggle London and Harry started that way as well.
"Are the Dursley's waiting for you on the other side?" Sirius asked, following behind him. "I wanted to meet them."
"Why would the Dursley's be waiting for me?" Harry asked in confusion, walking through the portal. His mind was already on the attachment that rested next to Remus' magical core.
Is it like a tumor? And does it make it harder for Lupin to do magic?
"So you're going to travel to Surrey on your own then?" Remus stated in disapproval as he came through, pulling on his coat as he did so.
"How could you have possibly gotten the idea that I would spoil my holiday by spending it with the Dursley's?"
Harry navigated his way through the pre-holiday crush until they reached outside. The afternoon sky was overcast and dirty snow crunched underfoot. He set off at a brisk walk, the bracing winter air not affecting him in the slightest. Remus pulled his coat shut tighter and pushed his gloved hands into his pockets.
"Where are we going, then?" Sirius demanded, donning his coat and scarf.
"I, am going to my hotel."
"Hotel!" Sirius exclaimed in concert with Remus.
"There's more than enough space at Grimmauld Place for you to stay, why didn't you say yes when I asked you to?" he continued alone. "You know, if you don't like me then you could just say so."
"Sirius," Harry stopped walking and turned to pin him with a cool, disdainful stare. "My reservation for the Novotel was made long in advance of your invitation. I have plans for the upcoming week that were made months ago. It has nothing to do with you."
Holiday shoppers were forced to walk around the three that were now standing in silence.
"Oh," Sirius said awkwardly, looking down at the street. Harry turned around and set off again. Within several minutes, they stepped into the decorated lobby of the hotel. Harry, having never paid much attention to the day, save for marking it as another where Dudley received a mountain of presents, dismissed the cheerful atmosphere from his mind as he walked up to the reception desk.
A short wait later had him in front of a young blonde woman wearing a 'Nadine' name-tag. She looked at Sirius walking behind him before turning a rather condescending smile in his direction.
"Welcome to the Novotel. How may I help you today?"
Harry smiled politely, before saying in an equally condescending tone, "Please tell Zadriel that Harry James Potter is here to see him. He should be expecting me."
Nadine blinked at him and then at the two silent adults behind him, but did not protest as she picked up the phone to call in.
Stradruk did say that this hotel catered to magical creatures and those that didn't want to mix with most other wizards. The three of us are probably not the strangest group she's seen asking for Zadriel. I do wonder why Stradruk said that a conversation with this man would be enlightening though.
"Okay then, you're all set. If you would step to the side Mr. Novak will–"
"Thank you Nadine," a smooth voice interrupted. Harry looked at the well dressed man that was walking toward the desk and immediately resolved to talk to Stradruk about his sense of humour.
The dark haired, pale skinned being that was heading toward him gave off the same feeling of magic that the thestrals did, but much more prevalent in his blood.
Which flowed along with no heartbeat whatsoever.
I guess a vampire would have a lot to say that would seem enlightening to me.
AN: The end of another chapter. Next up: a heritage ritual and Sirius' insecurities. Also, remember that shield over the Dursley house? It finally gives out, alarming Dumbledore.