Disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter or anything what you can recognize from the books. I do however own the plot of this story but I don't have profits because of it unless you count improving my English as a profit.
So read, enjoy and review (because I love to read your criticism and as long as you are logged in or I have your email I'm answering to your questions).
Thanks to omega13a for beta-reading and helpful suggestions.
Chapter three: Thin Ice.
The morning of 28th December found Harry, Hermione and Regulus seated in the same clearing Harry and Hermione watched Snape and his mysterious companion. Regulus was yawning every now and then as he listened to Hermione's story. Harry knew that Regulus wasn't trying to be rude, it wasn't his fault that Hermione made Harry drag him from the bed at six o'clock in the morning. After all it was for their safety.
"Mirzam Verascez?" Regulus asked finally when Hermione described Snape's companion and told the name of her former babysitter. "With Severus Snape?"
"That's at least the name which she uses in Muggle world," Hermione confirmed. "What is so weird about her?"
"The fact that she is chummy with our dear bat," Regulus snorted. "She was a year ahead of me, same year as Sirius, your parents, Harry, and of course Snape. She was a genius when it came to Ancient Runes, she had natural knack for learning languages. She was so good that our Ancient Runes professor allowed her to tutor other students. Most stuff I know I learned from her, she was a great tutor who encouraged people to learn new things and face new challenges. By the end of their sixth year Graham, my predecessor, allowed her to take Ancient Runes First Class Mastery Exam, he had a friend in the committee which prepares examinations and they put her on the list just to check how good she is."
"Was she?" Hermione asked curiously.
"She was a runner up to Dumbledore's result, by a point. I should add that Dumbledore had taken the exam when he was twenty-five years old and she was only seventeen," Regulus explained. "If she was inclined to teaching that subject I would be out from the post sooner than you can say 'Quidditch'. But teaching wasn't for her, she was made from the same clay as Sirius. They were born to be Aurors and she had good record for that, Ravenclaw prefect for three years straight, same with being captain of the Ravenclaw Quidditch team."
"But she works in flower shop now," Hermione added.
"Because some scars run too deep," Regulus said.
"She said that she is damaged," Harry added, remembering the conversation he and Hermione eavesdropped yesterday.
"She was Sirius's partner," Regulus said grimly. "As an Auror. But the nature of their relationship had to be far more deeper than a casual friendship between partners. They were like Snape and your mother, Harry. Sirius knew her before he went to Hogwarts, she lived nearby and there wasn't a power which would keep Sirius inside when he was a kid. I never learned the extent of their friendship until I saw them at Hogwarts but one day in the spring before his first year Sirius came back home totally crushed. He didn't say a word but it was obvious that something was bothering him. Later I learned that she moved away that day."
"I guess that it was hard," Harry said.
"It was," Regulus nodded. "Because Mirzam knew the real Sirius. I'm not trying to dismiss Sirius's friendship with your father or Lupin but I assure you that neither knew Sirius as well as Mirzam did. If they did, at least James because Lupin with his own condition, he would be much more tolerant than James would never be his friends."
"Why?" Hermione asked.
"Because James, like his father and generations of the Potters before him, was allergic to everything even remotely dark. If Sirius was cautious about making James his confidant then James' reaction to Snape and his knowledge in the field of the Dark Arts proved to him that James will remain his friend as long as he wouldn't learn the extent of Sirius's knowledge in that field," Regulus said grimly.
"Sirius knew the Dark Arts?" Harry asked dubiously.
"Why do you think he was hauled as Voldy's right hand man after his demise?" Regulus asked sharply. "Because he supposedly betrayed your parents and killed thirteen people? No, Harry. Crouch knew the Blacks, he is half-Black himself. He knew that being a Black equalled being educated in the field of the Dark Arts far beyond seventh year material even before going to Hogwarts. Dumbledore also knew about it and that's why he wasn't so eager to push for Sirius's trial after what happened."
"But he isn't evil," Harry said quickly.
"People with small minds tend to make mistakes," Regulus snorted. "Dimwits assume that knowing the Dark Arts equals using them. But the world isn't black or white, Harry. Knowledge and abilities doesn't make you evil. What makes you evil is how you use them. Sirius's knowledge is what saved his, and not only his, skin more than once. Mirzam knew that but when Sirius betrayed the Potters and murdered thirteen people her world crashed down. Mirzam wasn't like Lily. Lily was studious but she had lots of friends. Mirzam didn't. Sirius was her only friend and she was devastated to hear what he was accused of doing."
"It's so sad," Hermione whispered. "But how she could become friends with Snape?"
"He saved her ass, she saved his," Regulus replied. "I don't know the details. But even Dumbledore couldn't protect our resident vampire from Azkaban on his own. Mirzam was Severus's defender, she is skilled enough Occlumens to lie under Veritaserum, the standard dose of it anyway. Snape owes her his freedom as much as he owes it to Dumbledore."
"And they are damaged," Harry muttered. "That's what could bring them together in the first place."
"That and the fact that Mirzam was a decent herbologist. She was also a reasonably talented potion maker. Passing the Auror exams for Potions equals a standard second class potions mastery, even if the Aurors don't receive it," Regulus added. "I can understand what draws Severus to her, even if it's just friendship. She is this kind of a person whom Severus respects; quiet, intelligent, not very fussy but caring."
"She wasn't that quiet yesterday," Hermione interjected.
"True friendship forgives a lot," Regulus said quietly. "Severus isn't the most forgiving person I ever meet but I know that he would put his discomfort below their friendship. He learned the very hard way that sometimes it's better to shut your mouth and have something to cherish."
"Okay, we got that part covered," said Hermione. "What about Pettigrew?"
"The easiest and probably the wisest idea would be showing the rat to Minerva," Regulus said. "Tell her that you have done some reading on the subject concerning pet rats and that you are worried that Scabbers for a rat is too old. Minnie is obsessively overprotective and once you plant doubt in her mind she will do everything to ensure that Scabbers is no harm to you. But you will need to wait with another day because today her niece has a birthday and after lunch she is going to visit her."
"That's reasonable idea," Hermione said. "Do you know what was that emergency which made the Weasleys leave the castle so quickly?" she asked curiously.
Regulus snickered, "Oh, yeah I do. I only know what I heard from Minerva but it's so ridiculous that I'm having trouble with believing it."
"What's it anyway?" Harry asked impatiently.
"Charlie knocked up some witch at the reserve," Regulus chuckled.
"Could happen to anyone, you know," Hermione muttered.
"Not Charlie," Regulus coughed. "Trust me."
"Why?" Harry asked.
"Charlie is gay," Regulus snickered. "Was from the very beginning. Severus and I caught him enough times with his trousers around his ankles to assure you under Veritaserum that Charlie is zillion percent gay."
"Then how come he knocked up a witch?" Hermione asked sceptically.
"That's what I would like to know," Regulus chuckled. "Poor sod wrote to his parents and Molly being Molly is doing her best to make him miserable by pressing him to bond with that girl. That's why the Weasleys left so hastily. The bonding should take place on New Years and they had gone to Romania to meet the other family. Molly of course wants the whole family to be at the bonding and they know better than argue with her."
"But Mrs Weasley isn't like that," Harry objected. "She wouldn't do that."
"You think you know her, Harry," Regulus shook his head. "She is a pure-blood, for her a child out of wedlock would be an insult to her own parenting skills. Very hypocritical of her because Bill was born in November 1966 and she married Arthur in June of that year. I won't even say a word about a gay son … why do you think Charlie is in Romania?"
"But she was always kind," Harry said quickly. "She accepted us without problems."
"She can be mean if she wants, Harry," Hermione interjected. "Fourth year and Rita's article?"
"I'm not saying that she isn't kind," Regulus said simply. "Especially when she might have a very good reason to be kind, especially to you, Harry. I know her, Harry, not well these days but I knew her long before you two were born. Molly is more calculative than all seven years of Slytherin students put together. With my aunt being married into Prewett family, Molly's family, I grew up with gossip concerning the Prewetts, mostly Molly because aunt Lucy found most of Molly's actions very repulsive."
"That's why you are prejudiced," Hermione scoffed. "Maybe she doesn't want her children to make her mistakes."
"Not really," Regulus chuckled. "Women like Molly only make me laugh and pity their husbands because they never have an easy life with them. They marry early out of fear that they will become old maids. I'm not saying that Molly doesn't love Arthur. She does. I'm sure of that. But they also look at the benefits of that marriage, and for Molly, her marriage was supposed to be beneficial, literally. While the Weasleys are very open-minded to the point of being blood traitors, for most pure-blood families they were always quite wealthy. With Arthur being the oldest son and the heir of the family, Molly was pressing him to marry her with oldest trick in the book. But she meet her match in her mother-in-law, Cedrella might have married Septimus Weasley but she was born as a Black and a Black never let's his or hers instinct down, especially women in Black family."
"How so?" asked Hermione.
"Did you see Black family tree?" Regulus asked simply.
Harry and Hermione nodded quickly.
"The tree only will show you the Blacks born in marriage," Regulus said solemnly. "And only if the marriage is a proper magical bond, Muggle marriages don't show up. Phineas Nigellus had five children born in marriage with Ursula Flint, three sons and two daughters. But he also had three daughters with his two lovers. One of them, Roberta, was James' great-great-grandmother from Potter side of the family. The family paid quite well for silence and keeping the bastard children away from the others."
"So they were bastards," Hermione muttered.
"Women are extremely overprotective of their own children," Regulus said simply. "Bastard children mean a threat to their own heirs. Cedrella knew that, she remembered that all bastard daughters of Phineas were born before his marriage to Ursula. The poor women tried their best to bind Phineas to them to become Mrs Black. But his mother was adamant and done her best to ensure that he will marry Ursula and no one else."
"That doesn't speak well about your family," Harry snorted.
"To the contrary it does," Regulus shook his head. "Especially mother's are overprotective of their own children. Cedrella didn't want her son trapped in loveless marriage just because of a child. So she persuaded Septimus to change his last will and testament in favour to Arthur's younger brother if Arthur married Molly. Because testament could be changed if Cedrella and Septimus saw that Molly cares for Arthur only and not just his money it was very safe option. Unfortunately for Molly Septimus died a week before her and Arthur's hasty wedding which lead to the fact that all money your friend's family has is what Arthur brings home. I have no idea what Cedrella really planed for Molly but you know the outcome."
"That's sad," Harry said.
"Fitting," Regulus snorted. "Because that's exactly what mommy Prewett urged Molly to do. Don't forget that the Blacks are related to both the Prewetts and the Weasleys and while Cedrella for the most part was ignored by the rest of the family because she married a blood traitor, even if Septimus was quite wealthy for a blood traitor, all the women in Black family decided that they should warn Cedrella about the Prewett family master plan."
"What you are trying to imply?" asked Hermione in irritation.
"That if I was an orphan from old, very wealthy, pure-blood family, not to mention someone who beat the most dreaded Dark Lord of last centuries before I was even able to talk, I would be cautious about people I keep close and their families. Maybe I'm a bit paranoid but I prefer to be safe than sorry," Regulus said solemnly.
"I'm not going to break my friendship with Ron just because you have your personal issues!" Harry huffed angrily.
"I'm not asking you to stop being friends with Ron or his siblings, their friendship seems genuine enough, at least for me," Regulus shook his head. "They are obnoxious troublemakers whom sometimes I want to whack across the head for causing chaos but they aren't evil. I'm just asking you to be cautious around Molly because I'm not sure if her intentions towards you aren't coming from kind heart and with my knowledge I have quite good reason to doubt it."
"You are still prejudiced," Hermione huffed.
"I'm cautious," Regulus shook his head. "Being able to distance myself has saved my ass several times. If you doubt me, ask Snape. About being cautious with other people, not the Weasleys. But I know that Prewett women like to play with love potions, it's a fact you cannot change, Harry. Old habits die hard, especially for woman. I'm just asking you to be cautious because unlike some I have your best interest in mind. I don't want you to get hurt for pulling Lupin."
"Excuse me?" Harry muttered. "What Lupin has to do with it?"
"Don't forget that I watched you last four months and I watched Lupin for seven years. He is good man, Harry, one of the kindest people I ever meet but he has a major flaw. He likes to be liked. With his condition it's not easy to made friends, any act of kindness for him means that this person is worth trust … sometimes they aren't. Don't make his mistakes, Harry. Don't trust people blindly."
"That's rich," Hermione snorted.
"Fine I will do it," Harry said quickly.
While two young Gryffindors were arguing with Regulus Black, another duo consisting of a Slytherin and a Ravenclaw was having their morning coffee in Severus's quarters.
Severus accepted with a content sigh a cup of strong black coffee with three spoonfuls of sugar from Mirzam's hands as he sat himself in his favourite armchair. Wanting to be polite to her he let her take the bed and spend the night on the couch. This night reminded him that he wasn't getting younger and he spent a good five minutes after he woke up massaging his stiff neck from sleeping on the couch.
It was still too early for breakfast, besides neither Severus nor Mirzam were breakfast people. But nevertheless Mirzam managed to find a few eatable cookies in his kitchenette and put them on saucer on the coffee table.
He was chewing on one of the cookies when Mirzam said something which made him choke on it. He coughed, took a big gulp of coffee to wash it down before he mumbled.
"You lost your mind,"
"My mind is still intact," she said lightly. "It's perfectly good idea."
"It's not," he shook his head. "Dumbledore will never allow it and Binns would never agree to it."
"Leave it to me and he will," Mirzam smiled gently. "Binns likes logic and it will work to our advantage."
"What about your shop?" Severus asked sharply.
"Mrs Hopkins will do fine," Mirzam dismissed him with a wave of hand. "She takes care of the shop when I get sick and she is doing fine. Besides I know that she is looking for new challenges and a promotion. She will get one and if she will do fine she will get a bigger one. She will do it for me."
"You are too sure of your employee," Severus shook his head.
"She has been working for me since the beginning, Severus," Mirzam shook her head. "She is alone and very devoted to the shop. It's her pet case. She is worth as much gold as she weights and even more. She will do fine, trust me. The business is going so well that I was planning to open another shop before next September and put her in charge of that one. If I succeed in the coming few months, this will be a test for her to see if she is capable of running a shop on her own."
"Your employee, your choice," Severus shrugged.
He despised Mrs Hopkins a bit because she reminded him a bit too much of his Snape aunts. They were obsessively cheerful and no matter what happened they kept smiling. Severus despised those kind of people. But Mirzam liked Mrs Hopkins and treated her like a beloved aunt, with Mirzam's family history it was understandable that she clung to people who accepted her.
"What about Ruthie?" Severus asked sneakily. Ruthie was Mirzam's everything and if everything else would fail bringing Ruthie would work.
"She is with the Blackwells," Mirzam replied. "At least for now. Liam and Gloria were so excited about having her for few days on their own. I'm their favourite daughter-in-law because unlike other girls I allow them to spoil their grandchild rotten."
"I still don't understand why you and Blackwell got together in the first place since you are too damaged to have relationship with any men who aren't Black," Severus admitted.
"Daisy," Mirzam muttered. "She was pressing Bastian into having a family. But you know that given a choice Bastian would rather shag you than me," she winked at him. "He wanted to be a father without having a wife. It's sad that Ruthie will never know him."
"You are intending to bring her here if you succeed?" Severus asked carefully.
"Should I remind you about Graham?" Mirzam asked quickly. "Elizabeth grew up in the Ancient Runes classroom. Dumbledore didn't have a problem with having her around. She was his favourite."
"But ever since she grew up Hogwarts hasn't had a teacher who was a parent of a little child," Severus pointed out. "Try it out if you want, you have nothing to lose and if you will succeed one day your daughter will thank you for not keeping her from wizarding world."
"Then wish me luck," Mirzam grinned and after taking last gulp of her coffee she left the room.
Albus Dumbledore for the first time in recent years found himself genuinely surprised when Cuthbert Binns floated into his office followed by one of his older students, Mirzam Verascez.
"How can I help you, Cuthbert, Ms Verascez?" Albus asked politely.
"How would you feel, Albus if I requested a sabbatical for the rest of the school year?" Cuthbert asked simply.
That question rendered him speechless. Of course Cuthbert was teaching at Hogwarts for nearly as long as Albus did and he never, even when he was alive requested a sabbatical. He quickly shook off his initial shock.
"I wouldn't have a problem with it as long as if you pointed out someone who would take care of your classes," Albus replied calmly. "But I'm a bit surprised with that sudden desire to take a sabbatical in the middle of the school year."
"I'm not in need of a whole year worth sabbatical, Albus," Cuthbert answered. "I was talking with Ms Verascez about the latest discoveries in Egypt and I realised that learning history from the source might do good things for the students. Of course dragging them around the world would be pointless not to mention not very practical but I could use a little refreshing of my memory as well as learning something new. Besides you have to admit that I have enough of accumulated free time to request a sabbatical."
"Of course, but who will take care of your students?" Albus asked curiously.
"No student approached me this year for tutelage and as you know advanced classes are rather small but no students from them are planning to work in the history field, they need that class because of their chosen fields of work," Cuthbert said. "I think that Ms Verascez will be perfectly capable of working with them for the rest of the year."
Indeed Mirzam Verascez was one of the few students every year who took advanced lessons from History of Magic. She did decently on her N.E. too, from what he remembered. She got a well deserved Outstanding and Albus knew that her fascination with Ancient Runes had done her history education good.
"And what brought Ms Verascez to Hogwarts?" Albus asked curiously.
"I was visiting your Potions Master, Headmaster," Ms Verascez gave him a gentle smile. "I was discussing with him properties of belladonna. We stayed late and I decided to stay for the night. Before I left I wanted to visit the old corners and I meet Professor Binns. We talked and that's how we got here."
"Plausible explanation," Albus nodded. "I'm glad that you offered to help Professor Binns and I most certainly agree for your agreement concerning history lessons."
"There is something you should know, Professor," Ms Verascez said quickly. "I'm a single mother of nearly six year old girl. I know that for the most part of your staff remains unattached and childless but if I come to Hogwarts to teach I cannot leave my daughter behind and it would be too much if I asked her grandparents to watch her for me."
It was true, Hogwarts didn't have a child below first year ever since Elizabeth Graham grew up. But even back then they managed to help Graham bring up his daughter without much trouble. Having around a child younger than the rest of students was certainly entertaining and refreshing. Minerva sometimes complained that with her family living on the continent she didn't have enough time to enjoy spending time with her grandnieces and nephews outside the summer holidays. Filius was drawn to little children too and Albus knew that his charms Professor used to sneak out to visit youngest patients in St Mungo every now and then.
"It won't be a problem at all, Ms Verascez," Albus gave her small smile. "In fact I think that most staff will welcome a change. Children this age are the most endearing creatures. Most teachers wouldn't have a problem with keeping an eye on your daughter during their own free periods while you are teaching. In worst case your daughter will be allowed to attend your classes like Ms Graham was allowed when no one was around to watch her."
"Thank you Professor," Ms Verascez smiled gently. "Ruthie is going to be excited when she hears that she can come to Hogwarts. Ever since she blew up a cat she cannot wait for her own letter from Hogwarts."
Albus smiled at that statement. Despite his age he still remembered the thrill of doing magic for the first time and when he was around Ms Verascez daughter's age he also waited impatiently for the arrival of Hogwarts letter. Besides for young Ms Verascez learning some things early would be great advantage in the future and he found himself looking forward meeting the girl. Besides if Ms Verascez brought her daughter now Harry and Ms Granger would have a company for the rest of the Christmas break, company closer to their age than Hogwarts staff.
"When I should be expecting your arrival?" Albus asked eagerly.
"I wanted to go with Ms Verascez over the curriculums before my departure," Cuthbert cut in. "I think that it would be the best if we do this now. I think that some students remained behind and most staff has free time and could watch little Ms Verascez while her mother will be occupied."
"Splendid," Albus clapped his hands. "I will arrange quarters for you immediately. It wouldn't be a problem if I will put you on fifth floor."
"No problem at all," Ms Verascez shook her head. "The library is close by."
"Very well. Go fetch your daughter, Ms Verascez. Cuthbert will prepare curriculums and I will arrange your quarters for you. I shall introduce you and your daughter to the rest of the staff at lunch," Albus said.
Ms Verascez smiled and bid him goodbye, Cuthbert floated away and Albus was left pondering how to entertain a six years old before he reminded himself that he had to prepare a room for Ms Verascez and her daughter.
Mirzam didn't came back but Potter did, he asked nervously if Granger could accompany them during their lessons and that's how Severus found himself talking with one eleven year old and one twelve year old, supposedly eleven and twelve years old he reminded himself.
Neither let it slip that they saw him and Mirzam yesterday and part of Severus was itching to use Legilimency on them but he restrained himself. The best option would be luring them into false sense of security and then striking.
He hated to admit it but he enjoyed their company. Potter seemed to have found his brain finally and Granger tried her best to keep her know-it-all behaviour at bay. Lemeraude was right. He was getting soft. He longed for years to tutor someone who understood the beauty of potion making the way he did.
He spent with them most of the morning and when lunchtime arrived he lead them to the staff room. They agreed to take short break after lunch and resume their lessons a bit later.
He entered the staff room with Potter and Granger trailing behind them still discussing the usage of pixies eggshells in various potion. Lemeraude who was the only other teacher around when he saw them snickered quietly.
Hagrid, who came in soon after them busied the kids with discussion about Testrals and Severus was allowed to enjoy a cup of tea before the rest of the staff arrived. Pomona informed him that Quirrel hadn't come back yet and while Severus was worried what the stuttering fool was up to he was happy that he wasn't at Hogwarts at the moment.
He ended up on the left side of the table from Dumbledore's chair with two places free between him and Albus, who didn't arrive yet. Kettleburn was on the other side of him and silently cursing his rheumatism between a conversation with Pomona. Charity, who arrived shortly after Pomona, was sitting next to Lemeraude on the opposite side of the table. Potter and Granger were sitting opposite to him too, next to Lemeraude and Dumbledore's chair. Minerva was gone just like she promised few days ago. She would come back the next morning but she wanted to spend sometime with her family on the continent. Aurora was back and from Charity's right side she was sending Severus meaningful looks. Minerva's and Quirrel's chairs were empty and thankfully was the chair meant for Trelawney. But Filch was sitting next to her place and kept glaring, mostly at Potter and Granger.
They were halfway through the soup when Dumbledore arrived. Severus only looked up at him for a moment. He intended to look away quickly but then something caught his eyes. Behind Dumbledore, with nervous smile on her face and Ruthie on her right hip, Mirzam walked inside.
"My dear friends and colleagues allow me to introduce Ms Verascez," Albus said cheerfully as all eyes settled on them. "She came here to fill in for Cuthbert Binns for the rest of the school year. Her daughter will be living with her and I trust that you will help Ms Verascez to keep an eye on her daughter when she is teaching."
Dumbledore dragged Mirzam to the free chairs on his side. Ruthie ended up between Severus and Mirzam. The girl grinned at him and he grinned back to everyone's surprise. Ruthie knew him from his visits at Mirzam's place and Severus found her company enjoyable, mostly because Ruthie had her mother's brain and was very intelligent for a six years old.
She had him in a pleasant chat about flowers within minutes and he was distinctly aware that most occupants of the room, Dumbledore included, were gapping at him.
Finally he had enough and he hissed angrily, "If you are envious, get your own goddaughter! Now stop staring before I will hex you into New Year."
"Goddaughter?" Albus whispered in shock.
"I'm allowed to have friends, aren't I?" Severus huffed. "Ms Verascez is one of few people whose company I enjoy, seeing that for a long time I was the only person from our world who remained in touch with her it was more than obvious that I would be named Ruthie's godfather and unlike some people I take my duties seriously. Now pay attention to your own food."
The news that Ms Verascez had come to fill in for Binns was a bit unsettling but he reckoned that Dumbledore trusted her if Snape did so. What surprised him was how Ms Verascez's daughter reacted to Snape. It was obvious that the girl knew the man very well because she quickly got him into a conversation about herbology.
Harry was watching the girl as well as her mother curiously. Both had long, curly, jet-black hair. Ms Verascez had them pulled into a lousy ponytail and her daughter had them hanging around her face. Both had small snub noses, thin lips, almond-shaped eyes in violet colour, not dark blue like he suspected yesterday. Their faces were heart-shaped. The girl's face was a bit more softer and rounder than her mother's but it was something which one could expect from a child.
He never was around small children, not even after Teddy was born he had time to visit his godson. At the Dursleys all neighbours kept their children away from him. So he allowed himself to keep looking at the girl, Ruthie, with unhidden curiosity.
The girl seemed to know that she was being watched by him because every now and then she kept looking at him curiously as she was grinning at him.
"Harry, focus," Hermione hissed into his ear. "She is a child."
Harry nodded absent-mindedly. He knew that she was a child, he had eyes and could see it very well.
"Mr Potter, would it be a problem if I asked you and Ms Granger to show Ruthie around?" asked Ms Verascez kindly. "I need to go over the curriculum with Professor Binns. I think that it shouldn't take long and I know that Ruthie would want to check every nook and cranny in the castle. As you are closer to her age you know which things would be the most fascinating for children."
"Okay, Professor Verascez," Harry nodded eagerly and he looked at Snape, he and Hermione were supposed to have another Potions lesson after lunch. Snape gave him small nod and Harry sighed in relief.
After lunch Ruthie eagerly grabbed Harry's hand and a moment later Hermione's.
"What are we going to see first?" she asked curiously.
"Do you want to have a look at the castle from outside first?" Harry asked. "It looks amazing from outside, especially in the evening with all the light coming through the windows."
Ruthie nodded eagerly as she said, "I like being outside. Mum and I live on a farm, there are so many flowers and trees around."
"Did you know that your mother is a witch?" asked Hermione curiously.
"I do," Ruthie said. "But mum rarely uses her wand, she is Mug … Mud … no, Muggle-born."
"What about your dad?" Hermione continued prodding.
"Dad was Muggle. He died when I was very, very little. A bad man killed him. But his parents are great, I have so many aunts and uncles and cousins, all Muggle but mum thinks that the twins might be witches," Ruthie explained eagerly. "They will be in my year when I will go to Hogwarts. It would be great to have them."
"How old are you?" asked Harry.
"I'm six, almost," Ruthie said. "My birthday will be in February."
Harry cringed, if she was turning six in February then it mean that she was born 1986 and it meant that her first year at Hogwarts fell on that dreadful year which he, Hermione and Ron had spent on the run.
When they left the entrance hall and approached the lake Ruthie eagerly ran to the tree on the lakeside. Harry wanted to follow her but Hermione's hand which suddenly draped around his arm stopped him.
"It's her," Hermione whispered. "That girl who wasn't evacuated with the rest of the school."
"You are kidding me, right?" Harry whispered back.
"No, I've had little time to look at her but I'm sure that it was her. I would recognise those eyes anywhere. Besides something in my mind told me that I most certainly saw her before. I knew her because I used to know her mother when I was around the age she is now," Hermione whispered.
"That's curious," Harry muttered.
"I think that our coming back has changed something," Hermione continued. "Things happen different way. First Snape, then Regulus, Ron and the rest of Weasleys, now Ms Verascez and her daughter. As if what we had been through in our first life is drawing us together now … Don't you think?"
"We are more observant," Harry said. "We know what is going to happen and what we know can prevent bad things from happening."
"But that's still playing with time," Hermione whispered. "I guess that part of me is worried that if we change too much, something bad will happen."
"Voldemort is a bad thing, Hermione," Harry put his hand on her shoulders and looked her straight in the eye. "We know what he is up too, we know how to destroy him and I promise you that we will destroy him, together. You came here for a reason, just like I did. Together we can change the world we knew. We can make it better place for our children without loosing so many people who didn't deserve to die."
"You are always the hero," Hermione smiled at him gently. "You never lose hope no matter how hopeless the situation is. I never told you that I always admired it in you."
"I guess that's the way I am," Harry blushed slightly. "Once we will remove Tom from the scene we will be free to enjoy our lives fully and I don't think that it would take us as long as it did the first time around. You won't need to place yourself between a Death Eater and Ruthie and neither I will allow Voldemort to kill me again."
Hermione only beamed at him. The world was going to be a better place once Tom would depart from it.
Suddenly something splashed and to Harry's horror he realised that Ruthie fell into the lake. Without thinking, he totally forget that he was a wizard and launched himself to the lake. Thankfully the bottom of the lake by the lakeside wasn't too deep, it barely reached his knees but smaller than him, Ruthie barely managed to hold her head above the water. He run into icily cold water, scoped little girl in his arms and dragged her to the beach.
He started rubbing her small shoulders to keep her from fidgeting. Thankfully Hermione, unlike him, remembered that they were able to do magic and a moment later Ruthie's clothes were dry and as soon as Hermione was done with her, she dried Harry's clothes.
"I'm sorry," Ruthie whispered. "I wanted to look at something which was moving in the water and I slipped on the ice."
"No problem," Harry reassured her. "Just don't do it again. You scared me."
"You saved me," Ruthie said solemnly. "You did too," she added as she turned to Hermione.
"I only dried you," Hermione said simply. "The only thing I saved you from would be catching a cold. I think that we should get inside now, you two were in the water long enough for me to worry that you will catch a cold. We will get you warm."
"But you saved me," Ruthie said stubbornly. "I had a dream a few days ago, bad dream. I was older, like you are now and I was in a building which looked like something blew up. I saw you, you were older too. Then came that bad man. He told you to step away, but you didn't. Then he had done something bad to you and you fell on the ground."
Hermione's jaw dropped and so did Harry's. Ruthie couldn't have known what happened to her future self, assuming that Hermione was right and the girl she sacrificed herself for was Ruthie. Unless, like Harry and Hermione, she came from the future but it was very far fetched idea. It would be more logical if Ron came back with them, instead of her.
"It was just a dream?" Hermione asked nervously.
Ruthie nodded eagerly and she said, "Just a dream but it was so real that I felt as if I was there."
"You remember your dreams?" asked Harry.
"You don't?" Ruthie asked curiously. "I think that it was the dog," she added pensively, wrinkling her small nose. "Grandma says when the dog whines very loudly, the angel of death is passing over us. Pancake was whining for all evening and I think that he was whining even after I went to sleep. I was worried that someone died that night but no one did."
It wasn't the truth. Someone did die. Him and Hermione, both their older and younger selves. Otherwise how did their older souls would manage to come back in time to prevent Voldemort from raising again? They died. That was a fact.
"It was just a very bad dream, Ruthie," Hermione reassured her. "It won't happen, I promise you," she said as she knelt in front Ruthie and wrapped her arms around the smaller girl.
Clearly it was fate which brought them together. Perhaps Ruthie's mother could be trusted but Harry had no idea how to explain it to someone besides Regulus, Regulus found out by accident. Snape and Ms Verascez had to be told personally, preferable with Regulus around to stop them from hauling Harry and Hermione to St Mungo's.
"Merlin's balls," he heard someone gasp from nearby. "Were you trying to swim in the lake?"
"I fell, Harry saved me," Ruthie mumbled. "I'm sorry for causing troubles." Then she looked over Hermione's shoulder and gasped, "I saw you too. In my dream when that bad man hurt her," she pointed at Hermione. "You hit him with that green spell which hit her. You were very angry."
"Fuck," Regulus cursed. He looked at Harry and Harry realised that he knew what Regulus was thinking. Things were getting out of the hand and something had to be done. "I will collect your mother, Ruthie, Harry, Hermione, take her to Snape. Keep him occupied until I come."
Harry only nodded.
His instinct was turned on to its maximal capacity. Something was happening, something not good. It was approaching, quickly and when he heard a knock on the door of his office he sighed in relief. Normalcy at least. Potter and Granger decided that Ruthie was too much for them to handle and they came to him for their lesson.
He strode to his office and opened the door with one quick movement to their full capacity. He looked down at Potter, Granger and Ruthie and he cringed. Potter and Ruthie looked like someone dried them recently. Ruthie was showing first signs of fidgeting, which always indicated that she was coming down with a cold.
He didn't say a word as he waved at them to go inside and he shooed them to his sitting-room as he rummaged through the shelves in search for a Pepper Up potion. He picked the biggest bottle with the potion, poured it into three glasses he quickly conjured and brought them to his sitting room. He set two at the table and took the remaining one to Ruthie. From the corner of his eye he saw that Potter and Granger drank their potions quickly and he concentrated on giving the potion to Ruthie.
Once he was done with giving Ruthie the potion, without a word, he picked up three blankets from the other couch and handed them to Potter and Granger before he wrapped Ruthie into a tight bundle.
"Now can you tell me what happened?" he asked sharply.
"I fell into the lake," Ruthie said timidly. "Harry saved me and Hermione made me and Harry dry," she added solemnly.
"You wouldn't have fallen into the lake if …" he started but he immediately stopped. Potter and Granger were just eleven and at this age kids were hardly good babysitters.
"It's our fault, Professor," Hermione said quickly. "We turned around for a while because I wanted to say something to Harry, something not meant for Ruthie's ears. She fell to the lake and Harry dove in after her."
Amazing, as if Granger knew what he was thinking.
"I'm sorry that we failed Ms Verascez's trust," Potter mumbled nervously. "She trusted that we would look after Ruthie and we failed."
"You saved her daughter and brought her straight to someone who was able to prevent her from getting sick," Severus said. "She will thank you rather than scold you."
"Professor Lemeraude went to fetch her, we meet him in entrance hall," Granger said. "They should be here in a few minutes."
"You got awfully chummy with Lemeraude lately," Severus muttered. "Wise choice, while Ms Verascez would give him a run for his money when it comes to the subject of Ancient Runes, Professor Lemeraude without a doubt is a teacher with whom I would trust with any child."
"You know him well, sir?" Granger asked curiously.
"Well enough," Severus said sternly. "He is a natural radar for any slight shift in the wards at the same time he is a very private person. He rarely gets friendly with students but if he does he usually prevents them from getting in trouble," he paused and he finally said what he wanted. "Your game is over, Mr Potter, Ms Granger. You won't leave this room without explanations."
"It's a long story, Professor and I would prefer to have Professor Lemeraude and Ms Verascez here before I will start. I ask you only for one thing. Hear us out to the end and then you will decide what to do with us, but I will warn you that we won't give up without a fight," Potter said solemnly and Severus glimpsed again this unfamiliar expression on Potter's face.
He could wait few minutes for Mirzam and Lemeraude to arrive. Actually, it would be wise to remover Ruthie from the scene before they came there. So he picked her up and carried her to his bedroom where he carefully put her to sleep under mild sleeping charm.
"Sweet Merlin," Ms Verascez gasped as she entered the room. "Where is Ruthie?"
"Sleeping," Snape said from the doorway. "She is unharmed but after such a traumatic experience she could use a moment of rest. Mr Potter here told me that he has something very important to share with us."
"Oh," Ms Verascez sighed. "Would you mind if I take a look at Ruthie first?"
"By all means," Snape nodded.
In the meantime, when Ms Verascez was in the another room, Regulus, who came with her, locked the door and Harry practically could feel the power radiating from him as the door was warded and the floo disconnected. When Ms Verascez came back and seated herself on the couch next to Snape, Regulus flopped on free armchair.
Harry stood up and cast the strongest Muffalitio he could around the room. Nothing which was going to be said in this room would make it out of it. He felt Snape's glare on the back of his head. When he was done he sat down next to Hermione on the other couch and cleared his throat.
"What I'm going to say is extremely important and no matter how weird or even ridiculous it seems I ask you to hear us out to the very end. It's not easy for us to trust you, but we need help. All I ask is your patience and allowing me to speak. You can ask your questions once we are done with our tale," he said solemnly.
Ms Verascez give him a short nod and Snape nodded quickly.
Harry took a deep breath and started, "A long time ago …"
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