Chapter 1 – A Tiny School
Four years had gone by and still the family lived in their comfortable home on Gargle Island. When they had moved in, the house had been habitable, clearly a once very elegant, now a bit worn down house, so Remus and Sirius had spent a lot of effort into renovating it. Kisty had of course kept the inside perfectly clean, but she could not do all the repairs that were needed to keep the house in perfect shape. Remus had taken up the work on the outside of the house in the first summer of their stay. It shone in a light lilac colour, with the typical Victorian white lines surrounding edges, windows and doors, which was a good background for the thickly growing honeysuckle, wisteria and clematis.
The windows on the first and second floor had shutters, which Remus painted in a darker lilac. All the window frames and sills were white. The roof was new as well and had been rebuilt with anthracite roof tiles.
Inside Remus had painted the walls in the living and dining rooms in soft creamy colours and added a few wallpapers on some walls for some more pizzazz. Everything now looked well used but crisp and clean. Any surprise visitor would have found a perfect house kept by two bachelor men with a caring house-elf. No one would have guessed that there was an ancient protection charm that hid two little children from unwelcome eyes. In fact, many a guest had passed at the house, but only those who were informed by Dumbledore could see the children. But Sirius did have the occasional guest he had to entertain from work, so he brought them home now and then.
Remus looked at the two children who were now five and four year old. The siblings had their days when they fought over everything and others, when they actually played together very nicely. Remus had the suspicion that they always switched to harmonious sibling mood when someone dared criticising either of them. He knew that the two loved each other as much as they loved their daddies. When he and Sirius had become their parents after their real parents' deaths they had actually decided that they would remain to be Moony and Padfoot for the children, but that had soon been forgotten, when first Harry and then Hannah started to call them daddy and daddy, too. Since Remus didn't really like to be called daddy he had changed the title to papa. And Sirius, who had been a bit jealous to have the too (or: two) added to his title, became daddy after a while.
Harry patiently explained to his sister why she couldn't yet be the captain of their band of robbers, as she was the younger one and Hannah complained loudly about always being put back for being the younger one. They had just finished breakfast and because it was raining outside they settled in the living room to spend the morning playing. Throwing a last glance at the role-playing children, Remus picked up the Daily Prophet and started to read.
"Return of the Boy Who Lived and his sister to their guardians' care in Britain" said the headline. Remus sighed, read the article that warmed up the whole story of the 'Boy Who Lived' and why he had been placed in a wizarding family in Canada for a few years and that they would now live with their originally appointed guardians on the Scilly Islands. Dumbledore had thought it best if the public was informed that the children were back on British territory, and he hoped that after this article the curiosity would die down.
Another year and then Dumbledore would quietly take off the Fidelius charm. It had done its work in the best of ways, keeping the children safe and giving the two wizards who took care of them time and space to raise them with as much privacy as possible. Remus thought back on these four years fondly. Not one single thing had gone wrong since Sirius and he had taken up residence in Gargle Hall. Their relationship had bloomed, the children had grown happy and healthy, well cared for by Remus and Kisty. They were in their best form right now, both with shiny black hair, Harry with his mother's brilliant emerald green eyes, Hannah with her father's hazel eyes. Their personality had turned out very similar, both tended to have their mother's temper and that flared up quite frequently between them. But they were both placid enough that such quick anger also died down again quickly.
The only unhappy time they spent together was usually at Halloween. Neither Sirius nor Remus could still find anything remotely pleasurable in this holiday, so it was never celebrated as such in their house.
Harry had started to ask questions about his parents once he understood that normally children had a father and a mother, and not two fathers. Remus and Sirius had then explained to him that his real parents had been their best friends and that they had died when Harry and Hannah were still babies. Remus had to take a while to explain to Harry what it meant to be dead. As Harry had only been about three at the time he had taken this information and hadn't really understood, but over the next two years the questions came and Remus showed the children the photos of their parents. He still didn't know that James and Lily had been murdered. Remus was prepared to tell him gradually, also the reason why a mad mass murderer wanted him dead when he was a baby, although much of that was still a mystery to the children's guardians, too.
Sirius had it a bit easier these days, because after the mass of Death Eater trials had been concluded he had taken the chance of going over the magical laws with a group of internal and external lawyers to clean it out and reform it from the beginning to the end. They were now looking through and comparing all the different laws in the legal body. Sirius was able to do a lot of work at home and had his study filled with all his law books and piles of parchment with notes.
Remus thought fondly of his mate who sat a few rooms away from his family deeply engrossed in his studies. It was untypical for the ever-moving Sirius Black to find pleasure in something that contained so much studying, but when the occasion had come up Sirius had sought Dumbledore's advice, and Dumbledore had told him to take the chance, because it would be a great opportunity to get some much needed reforms through.
Lunchtime meant having Sirius eating with the rest of the family at least twice a week. He discussed the findings with the five other members of the group twice a week. The other three days he either spent at home, reading, or at his office and in the archives at the Ministry, researching. The Ministry kept almost two thousand years worth of legal texts in its archives. It was high time that the laws were renewed and straightened. The Death Eater trials had shown one or two loopholes too many, which had been the main cause for the order to go over the texts. Sirius had almost worked himself to death when he prepared the trials. Amelia and he had been the ones to preside over most of them, as Barty Crouch had fallen from grace in the year after Voldemort's fall. Remus shuddered when he remembered what happened to the Longbottoms! Crouch's own son had been one of the Death Eaters caught with Sirius' cousin Bellatrix Lestrange, her husband and her brother-in-law. They were sentenced for life to Azkaban. But that had not returned Alice and Frank Longbottom's sanity; the two of them had resided in St. Mungo's ever since. Poor little Neville! He often came to play with Harry and Hannah. His grandmother, Augusta Longbottom, an elderly witch of great stance and strength, believed he needed to have a few friends of his own age before he went to Hogwarts.
Remus mused about Neville. Harry and Neville almost shared their birthday; Neville was born just one day before Harry. They needed to be tutored, he thought and prepared a mental letter to Mrs Longbottom, offering her to take on Neville together with Harry and Hannah, if she would entrust the primary education of her grandson to him. Mrs Longbottom knew he was a werewolf, but didn't care much about that. She cared a lot more that Remus had been a good friend of Alice's and an almost as close friend to Frank. It was now the beginning of July, so it was high time to ask his question.
So Remus threw a quick glance at the children again who were still playing rather peacefully. He stood up and went to the other living room, where he had his own study and sat down to write that letter. He had already gathered the school materials for Harry. As he knew that Hannah would not be kept out he had bought the same books for her, too, he was quite sure she'd learn to read and write just like Harry, even though she was a year younger.
Once his owl had taken off with the letter Remus looked at the clock and noticed it was shortly before lunch. He got up, checked up the kids and then left to see how far Kisty was with cooking their lunch. She greeted him cheerfully and announced:
"Lunch is quite ready, master Remus!"
"Thank you, Kisty! I'll get the children to wash their hands then."
Sirius smelled the food from his study and came out of it, carefully locking it behind him. He wasn't scared that someone could go and get everything rumpled and mixed up, but two years ago the family had acquired two kittens and a year later a Border collie puppy and the young animals in combination with the young children could be quite disastrous if they set their minds to it. Naturally Sirius was quite pleased to see James in the children. He hoped they'd become as mischievous as their father and as clever as their mother. So to lock the study meant to avoid time-costly things to happen.
Together Sirius and Remus checked that both children sat properly on their chairs. Tipsy, the collie sat next to Sirius at every meal. She hardly ever got anything off the table, but she always remained hopeful. That was something that highly amused Harry and Hannah, who were able to giggle about the dog's antics for hours. Before taking his own seat Sirius quickly kissed Remus.
"Hey love! How's your morning been?" Remus inquired.
"Not too bad. I found another law that was never abolished when a new one was passed. We should just simply add "replaces all earlier versions of this law" and half the work would be done…"
"But then there would certainly still be loopholes…"
"Which is why I continue to read," Sirius admitted, smiling.
"How many loopholes did the Malfoy lawyer find again?"
"Eleven! If we had not been able to simply question the Malfoys under Veritaserum they'd have got off on the claim of being under Imperius!"
"We were all glad, when they vanished in Azkaban."
"That we were. And I tell you what, little Draco is certainly better off under Andy's care!"
"Remember the howling in the rest of the Black clan when she got the custody because she was Narcissa's closest remaining relative?"
"Geez, yes! It was too funny… I am very glad I could convince people that my mother wasn't a fit parent for a small child; Andy has done a marvellous job so far, he's a very normal kid, not spoiled, just with the healthy amount of self-confidence," Sirius replied.
The children listened to what their fathers talked. They knew Draco well enough, because once the question of the custody had been cleared Andromeda Tonks had asked Sirius if Draco was welcome to come and play with the Potter children. Sirius had invited the boy in quickly, hoping he could be turned away from the dark Malfoy side. A child was rarely born evil after all. So Draco had become one of the children who were allowed to play with the "Boy-Who-Lived" and the two liked each other well enough.
Early afternoons were story time for Harry and Hannah. For two hours Remus sat down with them somewhere comfortably and read them book after book. He enjoyed these hours a lot and he hoped that he had roused their curiosity for reading well enough through all the reading they did. They always kept an extra book going on when there were visitors, so the children who only came for a day or two would not only hear fragments. Remus had started this to give the children a quiet time during the day and to replace the nap they had taken until recently. It calmed them down enough to get some fresh energy for the late afternoon and the early evening. Gone were the days when the children went to bed at just after seven. Hannah was usually still going on full speed at that time. But then she was an incredible tomboy. Since she mostly had boys as playmates she had become like a boy for the most part. She wore robes but would never have worn a dress. Sirius and Remus had given up offering her nice girly clothes; she didn't want them. When she chose her daywear she always went for the jeans or the shorts, even when Susan Bones or Hannah Abbot were coming over. The latest addition to the female visitors on Gargle were the twin daughters of an old friend of Sirius and Remus', Vaidyanathan Patil. Parvati and Padma were much more girly than Susan and Hannah Abbot, but that didn't mean they weren't ready for some roughhousing.
So once the children were allowed to get up from the lunch table they usually went straight to the living room, got out the book they were reading and called impatiently for Remus to come and continue reading. Sirius grinned and kissed Remus before vanishing in his study again.
"Have fun, love!"
"Thanks! I will. As long as they still want to listen I'll love reading to them."
"No wonder they love to listen to you! You have a great voice and you read just great, too!"
Sirius grinned and went over to his study. He loved the room. It was situated between the library and the small living room. It had a door into both of these rooms and the big living room. When he did some of his work in the evening (mostly when the weather was too good to pass up playing with the children outside) Remus would sit down in one of the leather chairs and read, too. The resulting silence was always most comforting and usually ended in a good snog and sex.
But today he was doing his job, working until five when he put his quill down and marked the book he was studying. He prepared everything he'd need for his research at the Ministry the next day. A list of texts, laws and possible sources to pick up. An owl rapped on the window of his study. Most owls normally came to the kitchen window where Kisty took their mail. Sirius looked up and recognised Andy's owl. He opened the window and let the bird inside.
"Oh dear, you must be soaked in this weather. Come, have a rest near the fireplace in the living room, dear."
Sirius took the letter and led the way to the living room, where a huge fire kept the room nice and warm. There was a perch near the fire and Sirius meant to feel some relief in the owl as she took off to warm herself up. Sirius sat down next to Remus and looked at the letter. Andy usually fire-called, but this time she sent a letter. He broke the seal and opened the flap of the envelope, then he pulled a single sheet out of it.
I've just been called to see to your mother, she's in a very bad shape. I would go as far as to say she's in such a bad shape that if you want to come and see her one more time you'll have to drop everything and floo!
Sorry to have such bad news!
"Oh shit!" Sirius cursed and in the next moment covered his mouth.
"They'll pick that up anyway, Sirius. – What's up?"
Sirius passed the letter to Remus and said:
"Well, I probably have to go."
"Best of luck then, love."
"To which direction? I hope she goes – preferably sooner rather than later," Sirius said honestly.
"Ungrateful son that you are!" Remus teased.
"Well, I couldn't care less. How can you become a grateful son when your own mother treats you like a monster? I'm in no mood to show gratefulness in any form. All I can offer is the hope that it is fast and not too hard. More sympathy just isn't there."
"Shouldn't tease you with this, sorry, love! I hope you can come home soon. We need you."
"I'll count the minutes, love…"
Sirius went up to their room to get dressed. He put black trousers and a white shirt on and searched his wardrobe for a more elegant black robe. Then he brushed and tied his hair and went back down to get his shoes and cloak. He said goodbye to his family and kissed Remus, holding him tight.
"Well. Off to the horror place then… I hope Andy is there to catch the fallout when I get under mum's eyes…"
"You're terrible, Sirius! Can't wait to have you back, love!"
Sirius gave Remus a last kiss and turned to the fireplace. He threw in some floo powder and stepped inside.
"12, Grimmauld Place!" he called and vanished.
Remus looked after him and sighed.
Sirius stepped out of the fireplace in the kitchen of number 12, Grimmauld Place. The kitchen was very dark, only illuminated by two small torches. Sirius took the staircase under his feet, taking two steps at once until he arrived at the door leading into the entrance hall. This was even worse than the kitchen; the two gaslights flickered and threw shadows at the dark walls. Sirius took off his cloak and put it over his arm. He braced himself when he moved up to the first floor, where the drawing room was. He entered it to see if he could find his cousin there. She wasn't. Sirius climbed up one more floor and entered the master bedroom. Also this room was barely lit. In the huge four-poster bed laid his mother, even paler than he remembered. Sirius saw his mother for the first time since he had fled his home, ten years before. Andy was sitting in one of the armchairs in a corner of the room, where the only better light in the room was. She saw him enter and stood up.
Sirius rushed to her, dropped his cloak over the back of an armchair and pulled her in his arms.
"No one else here?"
"Who would be? There's no one else left. Almost no one. Two or three of your uncles and aunts are in Azkaban and the rest is either dead or too old to even move…"
Sirius threw a glance at the form in the bed. She was unconscious. Sirius turned back to Andy and asked:
"How long do you think she has?"
"No idea. She would have died all alone here if I hadn't thought of coming to see if she was still alive…"
"Did you find her still conscious?"
"I did. But she wasn't very coherent. I just took care of her basic needs. Her heart's completely down. Her liver is completely destroyed; she must have been drinking for years. She's confused…"
"…that's not exactly new…" Sirius threw in.
"No, I know it's not, but the alcohol has done nothing to make that any better. I couldn't take anything from what she babbled. And she's not going to come out of this anymore. You'd better send an owl to the family lawyer, Sirius."
Sirius looked pensive. He nodded and went to have another look at his mother. Her eyes were closed. She barely breathed. Sirius turned to Andy and asked:
"Will you stay with her?"
"Can you take Dora and Draco for a few days to Gargle Hall?"
"Of course. Should I go and get them?"
"Please. Ted had to take off to look after them today."
"I organise that and return afterwards, okay? Can you fire-call Remus and tell him to expect the two children for dinner?"
"Will do; thanks, Sirius."
Sirius summoned his cloak, put it on and apparated to Andy's house. Ted welcomed him and asked:
"How's your mother?"
"Probably out of it for good, Ted. I don't think I'll cry anymore than when my father died, I just can't. Andy asked me if Remus and I would take Dora and Draco to Gargle Hall for a few days."
"Would you? I could take off for today, but I should be back at work tomorrow."
"Of course. I suppose, the kids won't mind?"
"Certainly not. They usually love to come out to Gargle Island. Don't you, kids?"
"Yes! Kisty's kitchen and Remus' books!" cried Nymphadora.
"Harry and Hannah!" added Draco.
Sirius ruffled the blond head of his nephew.
"They'll certainly love to have you around for a while."
"Can I share Harry's room?" Draco asked.
"Just ask him. I don't think he'll say no," Sirius advised with a smile.
"Then let's pack something for the two of you, so you can sleep over a few nights. We don't know how long mummy will be away…" said Ted and stood up.
He took the children along to let them choose what they wanted to take along. When they came back down, Dora and Draco were dressed up and had their bags with them, reduced in size. Sirius and Ted helped them through the Floo. Dora with her ten years could go alone, Sirius took Draco's hand.
"Then let's go! – Gargle Hall, Hannah's tiger…"
Remus was already waiting. Harry, Hannah and Draco said hello and ran off to their playroom on the top floor of the house. Remus called right after them to be ready for dinner in half an hour.
"Are you still staying for dinner, Siri?"
"Yes, I think so. Who knows what I'll find at the mausoleum. Or I might take two portions for Andy and me back to there…"
"Good idea. Let's have Kisty prepare them."
Sirius returned to Grimmauld Place with dinner for himself and his cousin. Andy didn't mind the good food at all. She was very hungry and very tired. After dinner Sirius went and looked through the study for anything that might clear the problems that might arise from his mother's death. Since he fell out with his family he had never learned about the family statutes or the way the family inheritance was handled. Now he studied what he could find in his father's study. He found some information, especially the name of the family lawyer, so he wrote his letter to summon the man.
He released Andy for a few hours, so she could find some rest. When she returned he went back to Gargle Hall, where an owl reached him the next morning. It was the lawyer who announced that he would come to Grimmauld Place in the morning. Sirius got up and sent an owl to Amelia Bones, informing her he would be unable to come to work in the next few days due to the imminent death of his mother. Amelia had no problems with this and granted him the leave.
Then he met the lawyer. Sirius received him in the study. He had opened the curtains and the shutters to let some daylight into the room. Kreacher, the house-elf led the lawyer in there and reluctantly served tea.
"Mr. Ingram?" Sirius asked.
"Correct. I presume you are Mr. Sirius Black?"
"That's right. Take a seat, please. Have you any information for me how such a death of the last member of a generation in my family is usually handled? My mother will die in the next few hours or the next few days, but she will die and I need to know beforehand if there are things happening by magic or so…"
"There is not. Not really. The accounts will be temporarily frozen until all necessary papers will be signed. To my knowledge you are the last heir of the family, thus everything will go to you. You will have to take possession of the estates, in other words you will have to key this house and the Black Estate in Hampshire to you. The smaller houses should not cause a problem. The procedure is described somewhere, I think you should find it in the library."
"I'll do that. And we'll look for it. The library won't seal itself or something?"
"Not to my knowledge."
"I shall look for any pertinent information at the library then. Do you know how I can pass on the family name and fortune? Do I have to have children of my own, or would my adopted children be eligible? I wouldn't want the family heritage to be lost."
"There are some written statutes around here some place. I suggest you should look for those, too. I can have my assistant send you a copy, too."
"Please do. There is enough I already have to look around for. Is there a will that my mother left?"
"No. You'll inherit everything. You're free to make personal gifts to other family members."
Sirius was busy in the next few days to find the relevant information in the house. He couldn't bear the darkness, so he opened all the heavy curtains and let light and air into the house. He also had to contend with the old house-elf Kreacher, who was less than helpful and tried to close the windows and curtains again until Sirius ordered him to vanish in his corner and not turn up until he called him. He studied the old texts in the library and the years he had spent in the meantime doing such research really came in handy at this time. Andy helped him to sight all the details and together they were able to get a fairly good grip on the magics that took place when one generation of Blacks took over from the former.
But finally, after two weeks of work for Sirius, the whole legal consequences were cleared. Together with Andy Sirius had freed Grimmauld Place of the worst of the many spells that covered the house, certain rooms and had freed it from the darkness. It was cleaned up from the dark objects, which Sirius unceremoniously dumped into the main Black vault. The house was now ready for a thorough cleaning and renovation. Andy and Sirius had also taken care of the furniture in the house, so that it was now completely empty and bare.
Kreacher remained to be a problem. Sirius finally asked Dumbledore if he had any use of the house-elf at Hogwarts. They agreed that Kreacher was officially sold to Hogwarts. He had to comply and work at the school. Dumbledore didn't really care whether he actually worked or not, as long as he left the other house-elves in peace.
Meanwhile the children on Gargle Island had great fun and were running around the island playing pirates under the firm lead of Nymphadora, who had changed her look into one dangerous looking pirate. Remus only needed to look out of the different windows now and then to see that they got along just fine. He had read them the Treasure Island, several times already even, because they loved how he played the different characters and now they were playing a search for a treasure on their own island. Remus chuckled. They were convinced that somewhere on the island there must be a treasure. He had allowed them to dig in the sand, but nowhere else.
Andy came with Sirius to take her two children back home. Draco looked like he came out of a pigsty! All the adults had to laugh when the children came trouping inside, but Remus successfully caught them on the patio.
"I want to clean you up before you enter the house and bring everything inside!" he called and scourgified them on the spot. Draco and Dora grudgingly went to fetch their things from their rooms. They brought everything down, ready to go, but Andy said:
"We do have time for tea here, then we'll go home, okay?"
The children took that as an excuse to vanish upstairs to play something for a while still. Remus asked Andy:
"Do you have Draco's tutoring already organised, Andy?"
"Yes, he'll go to Hogsmeade Primary. Why?"
"I will homeschool Harry and Hannah, and probably Neville, too. You could have sent Draco, too."
"I believe that the school will be quite good for him. Even more exposure to 'normal' kids. He'll be able to meet other children, too."
"I wish we could send Harry, but Dumbledore won't have it. I'm just glad we have a good number of other children around, so he and Hannah won't be completely shy or arrogant around them once they go to Hogwarts. But I will ask Dumbledore that Hannah and Harry can both start at the same time. She'll be ready to go with him, of that I'm already sure," Sirius said with a sigh.
"He'll be fine, Sirius! So many children are home-schooled and most of them do perfectly fine."
"I know. Dumbledore is just denying my boy so much it hurts. He still hasn't lifted the Fidelius, even though he promised."
"Fetch him from the school and insist! If anyone who comes here does not find the slightest trace of the children here after that announcement in the Daily Prophet, there will be hell to pay in the media!"
"You're right! What a good argument! Of course they know that there won't be more than a glimpse of the child, but that they should get. I excluded any media contact for Harry until he is at least 16 and even then only in my or Remus' presence.
"Seems to be a good move."
A few days later Remus had a letter from Mrs Longbottom asking him for the fees and what her grandson would need for his tutoring in terms of books and materials. Remus wrote back and gave her a list of the books he intended to use but refused to take any kind of a fee.
So, at the end of the summer, three children happily congregated at Gargle Island and were taught how to read and write, how to count and calculate, and Remus taught them all sorts of other things, like biology, history and their first foreign language, French. Since he had brought up Harry and Hannah to be very curious they loved to learn and pulled Neville into it.
On a Wednesday in November Sirius was in the Ministry canteen with a few other witches and wizards when one of the collaborators from the Accidental Magic Reversal Squad came to them.
"What the heck happened to you?" Sirius asked.
"Just had to do a clean-up from the accidental magic performed by a little Muggle-born witch. She must have been highly distressed, because she actually almost blew up a whole schoolyard."
"Dear me! How old?"
"Just turned 6 in September. I talked to her parents, because this is a really big one! She's quite a powerful little one and a very precocious one, too, methinks."
Sirius thought for a moment.
"Will she go back to her school?"
"That's just the problem. The poor child seems to have been the victim of a lot of hate from her classmates. She is a bit too much for them, it seems."
"She sounds interesting, Curt, do you think you could give me her name and address?"
"Sorry. You'd have to speak to the boss about that. I have to grant confidentiality as you know. Why are you interested in her?"
"Harry and Hannah could do with another friend. I might suggest to the girl's parents to add her to our three children Remus tutors."
"Ah, okay. I'm pretty sure Bones would be willing to bend the rules a little for you."
"I hope that no rules will need to be bent to help a little child. I would have to meet her before even mentioning anything anyway. Did you leave the knowledge to her parents that she is a witch?"
"We haven't obliviated them, no. We thought it's better to have them know, because then accidents will happen less frequently."
Sirius was curious. He met with Amelia Bones a few hours later and asked her about the girl.
"Her name is Hermione Granger. She's just turned six in September, so she will be in Harry's year. Here's her address. Her parents are dentists. Do you know what that is?"
"Muggle medical doctors who specialise in the care and repair of teeth, Amelia," Sirius replied with a smile.
"Oh. Never heard that one before. So you think they are intellectuals?"
"I suppose so. They have to have studied for a good long while at the university to become doctors. And Curt described little Hermione as precocious."
"So he would. She seems to have been quite a feisty little one."
"I'll go and visit her parents, then we'll see."
"Taking her into our world early would probably not be a bad thing. The little witch was able to uproot several trees in her schoolyard and some of her classmates had been fairly badly injured. Luckily our AMRS was there quicker than any Muggle policeman. They also had a medical aid with them. The girl is staying at home for a few days."
"She will have to be taught about her powers. She has to learn to channel them."
"Yes, but I suppose I can leave that to you and Remus, can't I?"
Sirius went home in the evening and told Remus about the girl. The next day he paid the Grangers a visit at their dental practice in Oxford. To be able to speak with them he invited them for Lunch to Gargle Island.
"You will have to trust me, because I will transport you both to my home on the Scilly Islands. Shouldn't hurt you one bit though and it's instantaneous," Sirius said.
"You mean that you can actually just want to be somewhere and you get there?" Mrs Granger asked.
"Yes, that's about it," Sirius confirmed with a grin.
"Wow. That other man who brought Hermione back yesterday, he said she was very powerful for a six years old. What did he mean by that?"
"He meant that your little girl has a good amount of magical power, because he hasn't seen a child uproot any trees yet, let alone half a dozen."
"Okay, then we would like to come with you. Hermione is at her grandmother's for the day, so she's cared for," decided Mr. Granger.
Sirius side-along apparated the Grangers to Gargle Island. When they landed right on the front door of the house, both Grangers looked around in astonishment.
"Wowzers! This is amazing, Mr. Black! So this is really one of the Scilly Islands? Which one?"
"It's Gargle Island. You won't find it on the map when you look for it, because it is magically concealed. It's a tiny private island I inherited from a great-uncle of mine."
Sirius led the Grangers inside and they joined the family at the lunch table. Kisty served the food in her best manners. She had never even seen a Muggle before. The Grangers stared at the little creature and were informed about her status in the family. When Kisty left back to the kitchen, Remus said:
"Technically she's a slave. She's bound to the house and the family by ages old magic rules. We could give her freedom by giving her clothes, and then employ her properly, but she would refuse that or almost die, because she wants to do what she does. If we tell her to go and get some rest she usually protests, loudly. We love her a lot and the children have been brought up to respect her. They're not allowed to demand things from her unless they've consulted us first. If Kisty is the one looking after them for short time periods she's the one in charge. That was something she had to learn!"
"A slave! But that's horrible," Mrs Granger called.
"It is. We would love nothing better than to employ her as a free elf, but there's nothing doing. We don't want to make her angry or worse, sad. So she stays what she is, but she's privileged compared to other house-elves across the country," Sirius said.
"I see. So she is bound to you and your house, but she's happy doing it?"
"Absolutely. She has a lot of magic on her own, you know, it's not like she's slaving over work that's too hard for her. She uses her elf magic to do her work, usually with a snip of her fingers."
After lunch, Remus and Sirius sent the children outside to play and sat down in the living room with the Grangers to enjoy a perfect espresso and to talk about Hermione.
"You said that Hermione is at her grandparents for a few days?"
"Yes, we have taken her out of the school for a few days, to calm down and to discuss how to proceed. She has been the victim of several bullies it seems, children in her class who believe her to be something they don't want. Now it's clear to us that she is very different from them if she has that magical power. Hermione is a bit of a precocious child. She already knows how to read and write, she reads everything that comes under her nose. It seems that the bullies in her class were singling her out because she already knows a lot more than them and she has pointed that out repeatedly right from the start in her eagerness to learn more. We want her to receive a good education. But now we have doubts if this primary school is a good thing for her."
Remus nodded understandingly. Sirius nodded, too, and then offered:
"You have just met Harry, Neville and Hannah. Harry and Neville are a few months younger than Hermione and Hannah is a year younger than them. Remus teaches them here on Gargle Island. I have heard about Hermione first from a colleague who was there cleaning up and then from our boss, Amelia Bones, it was she who gave me your address. We think it might be good for Hermione to join our children for her schooling. She could be taught according to her abilities, because Remus is an excellent teacher."
"But how would she get from Oxford to here and back every day?" Mrs Granger asked and her husband wanted to know:
"Do you have a degree as a teacher, Mr. Lupin?"
"The transportation problem first. I suppose I could get a Floo connection set up to your house. Do you have a fireplace somewhere in your house?"
"Yes, we do, but what does that have to do…?"
"It's one of our methods for travelling. It's how little Neville comes here every day from his place. Hermione could do the same as it's a child-friendly means of travelling. We travel through the fire. A special magical powder makes that possible. But we'll have to have a connection set up to your fireplace for that."
The Grangers nodded and then turned to Remus to ask him how he taught, what he taught and also asked the children a few questions. Then they both agreed to give it a try.
"This way we also know where she is every day and she would be with children of her own kind. Thank you for that kind offer. We'll have to work out a payment for your kind help, Mr. Lupin. Are there specific books we need to get for Hermione?"
Remus passed a list to Hermione's parents and said:
"These are the books I'm using to teach, Harry, Hannah and Neville. I believe they are the standard first grade books."
Mrs Granger studied the list and said:
"These three here I know she already has. The others I'm not sure, but she'll tell me. Not that I'll have to force Hermione to visit a bookstore. She loves to read! I do hope she'll make some friends now. She's so difficult to get close to. That may partly be our fault, because she's been only with us and hasn't had the chance to see other children before the regular school started."
"Ours have the reputation to be very open-minded. Occasionally we might have other magical children of her age here, so she'll have a good choice. But Harry, Hannah and Neville are especially open kids; they'll grab her and maybe help her to be a bit child again, too."
"That would be great. She needs that badly. A bit of silliness would be good for her. When do you expect to have that connection done?"
"This afternoon. I'll head over to the respective department, but first I have to come over to you to see the fireplace, then you should decide on a name for your end, which we'll hand in. More than one suggestion would be handy to have one more, should your first wish already exist," Sirius said with a smile.
"Then we should probably return to our house now, or we won't have enough time before we open the practice for the afternoon patients."
Sirius apparated them to their house. They landed exactly behind their front door. Mr. Granger grinned.
"This is great. How far would that method reach?"
"Up to a few thousand kilometres, I think. Never tried that far until now though. I'd do it in several steps. Now then – any idea for your Floo name?"
"How about Hermione's Home?"
"That's certainly personal enough; I like it! And I'd bet that no one has used that… it's not like Hermione is a common name."
"Lots of names like that and lots of names with just the address. Let me go and talk to the respective officers at our Ministry."
"You have a Ministry? How does that work? You're like a state within a state!"
"Yes, kind of. The Ministry is there to regulate the wizarding population in all aspects, from education to economy. We're also responsible for the wizarding police and justice, which is where I work. I'm a lawyer within the Ministry's Magical Law Enforcement Department."
"When we have a bit more time I'd like to learn about that society a bit more, Mr. Black! I find this very, very fascinating. While my wife has always been the pure down to earth person I've always fancied fantasy a bit, but now it turns out that what I would have put firmly in the realm of fantasy is actually existing! You can imagine how that excites me!"
"It's very nice to hear you are interested in this, Mr. Granger. I'm sure we can get some time for a dinner together or something? Kisty just loves to cook for guests! For her taste we don't entertain near enough."
"We'll have to! But how are we proceeding now? We should head back to the practice."
"When do you finish tonight?"
"At 5pm we close shop. We'll be home by about 5.30-ish."
"Okay, let me come back here with the Ministry colleague while you're out to test the connection, then I'll come back tonight to show you all how it works. How about that?"
"Sounds perfectly fine to me. I'm sure some people would call that a bit stupid, but I trust you, Mr. Black."
Sirius couldn't help but laugh.
"That's very kind of you, Mr. Granger. Let me assure you that my old head of house, Professor McGonagall would tell you that I'm not to be trusted, ever! But that would be because too many people at my old school have been the victims of my pranks."
"I like your openness anyway. I do think we'll get Hermione from her grandmother's place then. You would do well not to come before 7pm."
"That's fine. Just after dinner then. For us, anyway…"
"Normally for us, too, but if we fetch Hermione home we'll be a bit later."
With the help of Amelia Sirius got his Floo connection set up in the afternoon. He tested it and found it in good working order. He brought some Floo powder from Diagon Alley when he visited the Grangers after dinner. He was welcomed by the elder Grangers and presented to Hermione. Sirius crouched down to be on eye-level with the girl when he talked to her:
"Hello, Hermione. I'm very pleased to meet you! I have two little persons at home who are almost the same age as you are. What would you say to spending the day with them and learning what you would learn in regular school? And maybe you could learn even a bit beyond that. There is a third child who comes to school to my partner and the three of them usually have great fun."
"Hello. Are they like me, too?"
"They certainly are! So am I. My name is Sirius Black and you may call me Sirius or Padfoot, that's my nickname."
"What a funny nickname you have! Padfoot! How did you get that?"
"It's nice, isn't? I can turn myself into a dog, you know, and my friends thought that's a real Padfoot, so I got tagged with the name."
"Mum and dad said I didn't have to go to the primary school anymore, that I'd come to your house instead. Is that true?"
"Yes, that's true. Would you like to meet my two children? They are also first graders. Hannah is actually still a bit young, but she's always been with Harry and so they learned everything together. Then there is Neville, who is the same age as Harry."
Hermione looked at her parents and nodded. She looked happy enough that she didn't have to go back to the primary school. But she was also practical and wanted to know:
"How do I get to your house? Do you live somewhere close?"
"No, I don't. I actually live quite far away, on Gargle Island, which belongs to the Scilly Islands, but it's unknown to the Muggles."
"But that's too far away, isn't it?"
"Which is why this afternoon we've installed the Floo connection for you to come by the fire every morning. All we have to do is start a fire in this lovely fireplace – Incendio!"
Hermione jumped when she saw the fire flare up in the grate.
"Now, look at this: I have here a powder, which we call Floo powder. You take a pinch of it and throw it in the fireplace. Do you see how it changes colour to green?"
"You can touch it now, it won't burn you at all, see?"
Sirius held his hand into the fire and waited for Hermione to follow suit. It took a moment, but then she smiled when she tried it.
"Wow! And now?"
"Now we'll first call my family. All you have to do is call the destination, in our case Gargle Island!"
Remus' head became visible in the fireplace a moment later.
"This is my partner, Hermione, Remus Lupin. You can call him Remus or Moony, that's his nickname."
"Can he turn into an animal, too?"
"Sometimes. Remus, this little lady here would be Hermione."
"Hello, Hermione! I'm pleased to meet you!"
"Hello, Remus. Sirius is teaching me how to use this fireplace."
"Good. I'm looking forward to seeing you soon!"
Remus took his head out of the fireplace and Sirius demonstrated how to re-instate the connection to go through.
"To pass through the fire you now have to throw in your powder, step in as soon as the flames are green and clearly pronounce Gargle Island. Would you like to try that out? As soon as you've given your destination you'll start spinning and will be coming out of the fireplace in my house. We can go together if you'd like."
"Please – together."
"Sure. Come here and hold my left hand. Take a pinch of the powder and throw it into the flames."
Hermione followed his order and together they stepped into the flames. Sirius asked her to say the destination, which she did very well and both spun out of the fireplace, through the Floo and came back down into a Floo. Sirius helped her to stay upright when she got out of the fireplace. She looked around and saw that not only Remus was there, but also Harry and Hannah. Remus offered his hand and said:
"Well done, Hermione! This here are Harry, who's a few months younger than you, and Hannah, his sister, who's almost exactly a year younger than Harry. This is Hermione, kids!"
"Hi Hermione! Can you stay for a while? Then we'll show you around!" Harry offered immediately.
"Tomorrow, Harry! She can come even though she doesn't have all her books yet, you can always share what she doesn't have with her, can't you?"
"'Course! We're having loads of fun, Hermione! Papa is a great teacher."
Hermione smiled, still a bit shy, but she liked the room she saw. Hannah smiled back and said:
"You'll come tomorrow, won't you, Hermione? I could do with another girl here."
Sirius turned to the girl again and asked:
Hermione nodded and smiled more.
"Yes. I'll come tomorrow if mum and dad allow it."
Sirius took Hermione back to her parents. Mr. Granger wanted to know:
"Would this work for us, too? Or do you have to be magical?"
"It works for you. The magic in this case is in the powder and the fire."
"That's wonderful. And does the fire have to be started magically?"
"No, any fire will do."
They discussed the schedule for the next few days, which Sirius noted down and brought back to Remus when he returned home. The children were looking forward to the next day, which would bring some change to the usual, since Hermione would be joining them. They were finally off to bed and Remus and Sirius had time to spend together for a while. They went to bed fairly early and cuddled.
Sirius kissed his mate and started to caress him. Remus gave back as good as he got, kissing and nipping Sirius' flesh until the Animagus squirmed and sighed. The necking quickly expanded to petting and then heavy love-making.
They didn't need to keep their door open anymore, the children slept well and usually undisturbed. Remus loved nothing more than falling asleep after the sex and waking up in his lover's arms in the morning. They started the day the same way they had ended the one before. Knowing they usually didn't have much time in the morning Sirius penetrated Remus quickly and they enjoyed their usual morning quickie.
"So good, so good, Remus!" Sirius cried when he let go and they almost shared their climax. Remus pulled Sirius down for another kiss and sighed:
"Never enough of you… never!"
Sirius smiled. It was just the best feeling for him when Remus let himself go completely while they were joined. They were still deeply in love and shared every bit of intimacy they could get.
Their daily routine began by waking the children and sharing a quick shower. Once everyone was dressed they all went down to have breakfast. At eight, Sirius vanished into his study and Neville came in. Hermione arrived only minutes later, a bit shaky still, but she came in whole. Remus gathered the children in their usual place set up in the dining room. The table was an oval where the children were sat on either side, Harry next to Neville, Hermione next to Hannah.
"Good morning, children. Today we can welcome Hermione among us. I hope she will find our kind of school enjoyable and inspiring."
Hermione was still a bit held back, which was understandable. She had got used to regular frontal teaching with a very quiet class. Here she quickly found that all children were more interacting and that Remus integrated them in his teaching, read to them and then discussed with them what they hadn't understood. Little Hannah constantly made some little comments, which were for the most part disregarded by Remus. The two boys snickered quite often though. Hermione didn't know if she should be embarrassed, and had a hard time to hold back.
For their first lesson on this morning Remus had them write the letters they had already learned. He knew that Hermione could already read and write, so he asked her:
"Would you rather like to read or to draw something, Hermione?"
"I would like to draw, Remus," she replied.
"Very well. Come with me, we'll pick what you need…"
Hermione chose watercolours and soon sat happily at the table painting a picture while Remus instructed the three others on the next letters. She spent quite a while looking at her new classmates and painting them on the piece of parchment in front of her.
Remus then went on to teach them some history, some natural history and some maths. Soon it was time to clear the dining room so they could all eat their lunch. Sirius came over and they all found a seat around the table. Hermione still didn't talk very much, but rather listened to what the others talked about. When Remus or Sirius asked her something she did reply. Naturally Hannah, Harry or Neville would have a comment and with time she was coming out of herself a little more.
The children got a little free playing time right after lunch. Then Harry, Neville and Hannah demanded their story time, so Remus invited them to listen to him reading their current book. Hermione didn't know the story, so Remus had the other three tell her what had happened so far. Together they brought Hermione up to speed and she enjoyed to hear her book read to her just like the other three did.
Remus didn't overtax the children in the afternoons. The more difficult and demanding things he taught in the morning. The smallest children going to Hogsmeade Primary had two afternoons off completely, so he welcomed the children's usual friends to play on Gargle Island. They arrived, a very noisy bunch of five little children, all four and five years old, on Hermione's first Tuesday afternoon. Draco, Parvati and Padma were the loudest of the five, with little Luna Lovegood and Susan Bones being the more quiet ones.
All of them stood still on the spot when they noticed a new child among the others. Hermione herself felt a bit exposed again and was not the most open child. But soon she was taken in by her new friends and found herself running around outside, playing tag and hide and seek all over the little island.
The next day Remus brought brooms and told them they could learn how to fly them. Of course that was what Harry and Hannah had been waiting for a long time. They still had their baby brooms, but those wouldn't allow them to go higher than half a metre. The new set consisted of regular brooms, though not the fastest ones. All four were quite excited. Neville was a little shy though and said:
"Remus, do you think that Gran will allow me to fly?"
"If she doesn't she will when she sees how you can do it, don't you think? Until then she doesn't need to know."
Neville grinned. Hermione wasn't sure if this was the right way to go about it, and said so, but Neville just grinned and told her:
"If you knew my Gran, you knew that she has to be presented with the existing facts, which she will accept no problems. Tell her before and she'll panic and say no to everything! Remus knows that very well."
"Oh, I see…"
So they all trouped outside and took their brooms with them. Remus showed them how to call them up to their hands. All four managed to do that, but of course Harry and Hannah were the first who got it done. They were both very keen to learn to fly, which Remus expected, since both of them had a lot of James in them.
"Now, the most important thing is to stay on the island! Therefore you all go slowly when you take off. Taking off is fairly easy, but the harder you kick off, the faster you will fly. That's why I want you to just do a small hop, nothing harder. This way you'll be able to control your broom just fine. Neville, please go first."
Neville held on to his broom and jumped up, getting into the air a bit fast. Remus was after him in no time and pulled him back a little.
"There, that's about the speed you should have. Come down again by pointing your broom downward. Look how I do it…"
Neville looked and followed the example. He got back down to the earth easily. Remus made him kick off again, telling him to jump off at only half his speed from before. This time Neville rose very gently into the air and when Remus told him to level the broom he kept flying just fine. He quickly learned to go left and right and ahead again. But when he got close to the shore of the island Remus was after him again and guided him right back to the house. Together they came back down again. Remus gave Hermione the next spot to lift off. She actually did it quite easily. Since it went slowly, she wasn't so afraid of the height. Harry and Hannah cheered her on like they had already cheered on Neville before.
"May we go up as well now, Papa?" Hannah cried.
"Yep. Come on up, all four of you, we'll fly around for a bit. I want Hannah at the front, then Harry, then Neville and Hermione and I'll be last. You do not go out of the island's boundaries, sweetie!"
It was a pleasure for Remus to watch his goddaughter taking the lead. At only four years of age she was almost as well developed as Harry. She certainly was neither afraid of height nor of speed, but happily led the way in a criss-cross pattern all over the island.
Hermione's parents were very happy with their decision to let their little girl be tutored at the Black-Lupins' house. They had arranged with Remus that Hermione would stay there until her parents were home from their practice, which was usually no later than half past five, and on two evenings it was at seven. On those two evenings Hermione would be allowed to stay longer and eat dinner with the Black-Lupin family. She enjoyed those dinners just as she enjoyed the lunches. Remus had an old-fashioned view on eating habits and wanted the family together for all three meals if he could. Sometimes Sirius missed out, because he was working at the Ministry, but the children got used to regular meal times.
Hermione started with them being a very skinny girl. Neither her mother nor her father were really good cooks and so she had eaten very strangely. As she was a bit on the shy side, she didn't dare complaining about the food she got at Remus' table and soon learned to enjoy Kisty's excellent cooking. She was happy to have a good place to stay while her parents were working in their dental practice. Emma and Dan Granger were happy that she was at a very safe place, learned loads and had fun. For the first time in her young life she also had friends. They were pleased to see her develop solid friendships and become much more sociable. Every night Hermione told them exactly and eagerly what she learned and how she had spent the day.
"I learned to fly on the broom today, mum! I was so afraid of the height at first, but then I saw how Hannah did it and I thought I'm almost two years older than her, I can do that! And I could!"
Emma also noticed that Hermione seemed to be much more active when she was at Gargle Island. She came home very exhausted, but Emma felt it was a good form of exhaustion, the one her child must have got because she spent some time outside, running with the other children. Carefully she asked Hermione, what else she played with the other children.
"Oh, lots! We play tag and hide and seek! When we play hide and seek we hide all over the island! And Remus said we could do tag also on brooms, so when we get better and catch up to Harry and Hannah we can play tag on our brooms."