It was nearly an hour after lunch and after retiring to the living room again that the Grangers brought up part of the reason for my visit that day again.
"Harry if you wouldn't mind showing us that ability of yours? I do need to head back to the office for a bit." Dan's sudden injection into the conversation startled me, and I realized that I was rather taking up a lot of their time.
"I'm sorry, I didn't realize it was getting this late. We'll need to move the coffee table a bit to give me room." I helped Dan shift the coffee table out of the way and shifted nervously as I took the necklace with the wards off my neck. It wouldn't do for them to not see me when I shifted. "Hermione has shown you the pictures, and explain that it is still 'me' that is in charge of the dragon right?"
"Honestly Harry!" Hermione was outright glaring at me and I swallowed heavily.
"Sorry, just a bit nervous." That earned me a grin, and I moved into the center of the space and reached for the beast inside me. The feeling as my body flowed into it was becoming almost familiar. In a moment I was nine feet of sinuous dragon in their living room.
"My word!" Dan exclaimed and I started to worriedly turn towards the trio before he quickly calmed me. "It is OK Harry, that just took me a bit by surprise. I had thought that the process would be slower, but that I guess is what I get from watching too many werewolf movies."
"Indeed dear. The pictures you showed us of the Peruvian Vipertooth had them much more duly colored, Hermione. Do you think that the brighter coloration of his scales indicates that his venom is heightened in potency?" I turned my head slightly to bring my gaze on them directly, and noticed Emma moving closer as she spoke. "You did mention that Harry had been exposed to Basilisk venom in the past, and the Vipertooth is known for adapting to magical exposure that does not outright kill it."
"Mom! That's brilliant! I had never thought of that. We'll need to test that when we get back to school Harry, and it means you have to be doubly careful until we are sure." Hermione had that studious look on her face I was all too familiar with. "It very well might explain the reds as well, since Harry was exposed to Phoenix tears at the same time. Both the venom, and the tears are very powerful magic."
"Do you think, well I guess he is right here, might I touch you Harry?" I gave a nod to Dan's request, and he was shortly exploring the texture of my scales and horns. It wasn't long after that Hermione and her mother were following suit. "Quite remarkable. Unlike a snake he is much warmer than room temperature, feverish for a human in fact. The scales are rough like sandpaper, or a shark's skin."
"Quite right Dan. I wonder why that wasn't mentioned in the book, maybe something else from the Basilisk interaction, or did the authors just not think it remarkable?" I listened to the theories exchanged between the three somewhat disappointed that I could not join in myself. After fifteen minutes or so Emma finally gave a sigh. "We really should be going Dan, if we are going to make our two o'clock appointment."
I immediately morphed back into my all too human self. Emma glanced between Hermione and me, finally giving a bit of a nod. She turned to Hermione.
"You know the rules Hermione. I'm going to trust that you will follow them. Dan will give Harry a ride back to the train station this evening after supper." I stood there gawking at her. I had hoped to get a few hours with Hermione so that we could plan out the summer, and maybe activate my parent's portrait, but now she was handing me the entire afternoon. "Harry, I expect you to call your guardians and ensure they know you'll be home on the evening train. You're to call when you arrive so that we'll know you made it safely there."
A heavy but gentle hand landed on my shoulder, and I looked up at Dan Granger. "We'll talk some more this evening Harry. Enjoy your afternoon together."
The elder Grangers' leave taking was rather rapid after that, and I felt slightly guilty that I had held them that long. After hugs for Hermione they left, and it left me alone with the bushy haired witch. It was almost awkward given my recent nascent feelings for her. When the door closed on her parents I looked to Hermione.
"So, I was hoping I could show you a few of my other gains from this morning." I swept the trunk out of my pocket and thumbed it after setting it upon the floor. It grew rapidly to full size, and I unlocked the compartment that I had stored my parents painting in. I leaned it up against the trunk and gestured towards it.
"Harry, this is, you can't really do this here. This is something that you should do in private." I could see the glisten of tears in Hermione's eyes as she turned to confront me.
"I'm afraid that I really can't do this alone, Hermione. I'd just sit and look at it without ever activating it. What if, what if they don't like me? What if they blame me for what happened to them?" I gave a sigh as I sat and looked at the painting.
I knew deep down inside my my mind that they were not really my parents, that they were just a compilation of thoughts, mannerizisms, memories, but without a soul. It was all I would ever know about my parents, and though it was in a way better than the stories that Remus and Sirius could give me in others it was worse. They could tell me that my parents had loved me, they could tell me that my parents had been proud of me, but they could not say that they did love me, or that they were proud of me?
"I need you here for this Hermione. To hold my hand while I do something that is scarier than confronting old Moldyshorts by the mirror and the basilisk rolled all together." I let my eyes plead for me as much as my words. There was nothing else to do now but hope she said yes.
Hermione gave a soft sigh, and looked quickly away her hand coming up to wipe away at her eyes. "I don't think I could ever really say no to you Harry. You were my first real friend, and even with Ron and Ginny my best friend."
"Three drops of blood is what Griphook said it took." I looked over at Hermione who was still trying to compose herself. "I don't suppose you know anything other than that?"
"Three drops on the seal at the bottom Harry."
I gave her a wan smile and tried to lighten the mood a bit. "I suppose I would have tried dropping it on the painting itself. Would have probbably buggered the whole deal."
It took only a moment to retrieve a pin from the trunk. There were a few other blood potions that I wanted to try in the Marauder's notebook if I ever had a chance. I'd picked up the stickpin, charmed for numbing, in order to make them a bit easier. The three drops of blood were easily dropped onto the seal, they disappeared once they touched the rune, and then I was sucking my finger as the paint seemed to smooth. I settled back into the couch by Hermione, and she wrapped her arm around my shoulder.
"What...where? Oh my this is a muggle house." The masculine voice was nothing like mine, and the painted figure of my father looked down at the sight of my mother. "Who do you think they are Lily?"
"Well it should be rather obvious James. That is obviously your son, and the other is likely a classmate or perhaps a half sister?" I gaped at the pair who smiled back at me, and I could feel Hermione stiffen beside me.
"I think not. Girlfriend likely. She has that studious look and Potters have always been fools for the studious types." There was a bit more silence before the figure of my father spoke again. "Well are you going to introduce us...Harry?"
"Y...yes. Dad...Mum... this is my dear friend Hermione Granger. She is a muggleborn student who started the same year I did." I looked down unable to keep the tears back that were leaking from my eyes, but luckily Hermione was there to take up the slack. "Hermione, that's my mum, Lily, and my father, James."
"You should probably know that you were killed by V-Voldemort shortly after you updated your painting." Hermione spoke while I was trying to get myself back under control. Then again I wasn't really trying hard, mainly because she was so much the better at this type of thing than I. "Harry has lived with your sister Petunia and her family ever since that night. The night that he defeated V-Voldemort."
"What the bloody hell!"
I looked up surprised at that outburst, because it was not my father's image that voiced it but my mother's. I stared in shock as she turned toward my father's image as if trying to will him to have something more.
"What of Sirius? Peter? Remus? The Longbottoms? Bloody hell what of McGonagall? Surely they were not all killed as well?" That was from my father, and I rallied under his outburst. It was becoming obvious to me that it had never been their wish for me to be with the Dursleys.
"Peter betrayed you. He gave the secret to Voldemort, and Sirius was jailed for ten years for your, and Peter's murder." My voice was hardly recognizable even to myself.
"Merlin's great balls! I told you we should have used Remus or Sirius for that James, and damned be the consequences." My mother was much more fiery tempered than I had ever imagined she would be.
"Peter, I can't believe it. Why?" I had no answer for my father's question. "Still even if Peter and Sirius were ruled out, what of Remus?"
"Professor Dumbledore was the one who decided that Harry should go with the Dursley's, Mrs. and Mr Potter." Hermione took a deep breath, and pulled me closer.
"I don't understand. I know we did not decide that at a later date, we would have updated ourselves. Dumbledore knew that Harry was never to go to my sister."
That had me on my feet. My hands clenched into fists, nails digging into my hands as I came very close to flashing over to the dragon. It was right there on the surface, ready to tear and rend, but Hermione's grip on the back of my shirt kept me from falling off the edge.
"Dumbledore knew? That bloody bastard!" I was already planning just what I was going to do to him.
"Of course he knew. With the prophecy and all hanging over your and Neville's heads, we had no choice but to tell him of our plans. He was the only one who knew the location of both of our Fidelius protected houses, and the only one we could trust would still be alive to see them through." James gave a long sigh and finally turned to his wife. "I was worried that he would chose the path of the 'Greater Good'. My father had always warned me that Dumbledore would work in his view of the world's interest, and not necessarily in our own."
Hermione's hand settled on my forearm and she squeezed lightly. I looked down at her and she gave me a wan smile. "Sit Harry. This is not something that we need to worry about now. Talk with your parents and get to know them. We will deal with Professor Dumbledore when we are both calmer, and after you've contacted Professor Remus, Sirius and Professor McGonagall."
Hermione's advice was well heeded, and it turned a day that would have been full of disappointment for me into something more. We took the hours provided by the absence of Hermione's parents to plan out our study schedule for the summer with input provided by my parent's portrait. Hedwig, the smart girl she is, found us part way through the day, and I used her services to send a quintuplet of letters. My parent's painting had assured me that they had left a copy of their will on file with Gringotts, and I wanted to ensure that a notarized copy was made while having the original secured in the family vault. We, or more succinctly I, were making dinner when the Grangers arrived back at home.
"Harry? Hermione? Did you let someone else in the… My word!" Emma was gaping at the painting, safely propped up on a counter, and called over her shoulder. "Dan, Dan forget about getting the cricket bat and come over here and look at this."
"If you're quite sure Emma." I smirked as Dan came around the corner and saw Hermione and I slaving over the stove. Or rather, I was slaving and Hermione was perched on the counter reading from the copy on the Maruader book on the Animagus transformation. "Harry is cooking? But that doesn't explain the…"
Emma reached up and turned Dan's head more to the left, and his jaw dropped open on seeing the painting wave back at him. The deep voice of my father answered Hermione's question.
"Yes, we had thought of taking a pain potion during the initial dosage of the binding potion. However, our source material indicated that any, and I do mean any, potions taken within twenty four hours previously could have unknown interactions with the blood potion." James stopped his lecture long enough to finally see that there were another pair of people at the entrance to the kitchen. "Well hello there, you must be Hermione's parents. Lily do look, Hermione is the spitting image of her mother."
"Mum! Dad!" Hermione set the book carefully aside, and then ran off to give them her patented rib-crushing hugs. I winced in sympathy before turning back to the soup simmering on the stove. Cooking, strangely enough, was the one thing I didn't mind doing at the Dursleys. If I was working over the stove they left me alone, and often I could sneak something to eat under the guise of 'tasting' it. "These are, well think of them as a holodeck representation of Harry's parents. They aren't his parents, but they have all their memories and mannerisms."
"Really? A holodeck representation you say? Is there anything that magic cannot do?" Emma had pried herself from Hermione's grasp, I saw out of the corner of my eye, and was approaching the painting.
"Well, yes there is. We can't bring back the dead, or conjure food from thin air." I smiled at the tone that my mother took with Mrs. Granger. I could tell that she and both female Grangers were going to get along famously. "Living forever is another, though supposedly the Sorcerer's Stone can grant a form of immortality if you continue taking the Elixir of Life."
"Just when did you bring this here? You didn't leave the house did you? That was quite against the rules…" Dan began before I jumped in to Hermione's rescue.
"No we didn't Mr. Granger. I picked up the portrait before I came over and I wanted Hermione's help to make sure I activated it correctly." I pulled the trunk from my pocket and sat it down on the floor anticipating his next question. It quickly grew to full size with a thumb print, and then shrank back down again. "That should explain how I got it here."
"Remarkable." Dan moved closer, and I could hear the hum of a lowered conversation between the Granger women and my parents in the painting. "I wish that the trunk maker would have told me that he sold such trunks. It would make loading Hermione's so much the easier."
"I can show you the shop that I purchased mine at. It's a bit off the main alley, and if I hadn't heard some students talking of it last year I doubt I would have known myself." I was still dealing with having my parents in a picture frame just a few feet behind me. It all seemed like a dream, one of those that you weren't quite sure was real or false, and weren't certain was good or a nightmare. "Oh, and that reminds me. Here."
I handed him the gift certificate that I had purchased at the household store. He peered at it strangely before looking back up at me.
"As thanks for letting me come over and work with Hermione. There's not a lot that you can buy there, and not get in trouble with using with the Secrecy Statute. Still there are charmed pots and dishes and everburning candles. I think you'd be able to use those alright." I could tell he was going to refuse, and so I cut him off before he could. "I insist Mr. Granger. I've never been welcomed in anyone's home before and it is the least I can do in return."
"Fine, but don't think we won't do something more in return. I know how much muggle money this converts into."
"Please. Hermione had mentioned that you don't get to see much of magic, and I thought that this might be a good way to introduce some into your lives." I didn't mention that I was looking forwards to going back into that store myself. This afternoon had opened my eyes to a couple things, upon being prompted by Hermione, and I rather thought a safari tent complete with kitchen, bathroom, and a bedroom might make my summer quite a bit more comfortable if plans for Dumbledore did not bear fruit.
"Dinner would have been thanks enough Harry." Heremione said as she pushed closer to my back, peering over my shoulder at the soup. "When is it going to be ready? I've been smelling it for hours."
"Well truthfully it is ready whenever you get done slicing the bread." I looked over my shoulder at Hermione. "Or are you going to make me do everything? It was your idea that we make dinner for your parents.."
"B-but that was before I knew you were such a good cook Harry! I was thinking take in pizza or something." I stared at her agast, but neither of her parents seemed to think it was out of sorts. "Really Harry. Mum and Dad are so busy, so we eat a lot of take out food."
"Hermione, just cut the bread." I pleaded half in an attempt to keep her from shattering anymore of my views on her family, and partly to get her to move. It was just far to distracting to have her, well bosom, pressed against my back.
There was a sigh beside me and it wasn't Hermione. "Should we start the plans already Dan?"
"Mmm... Perhaps. It would be a good thing to bring an actual cook into the family." I blushed and concentrated on the soup while Hermione whirled on her parents, bread knife in hand.
"Yes dear?" I could see Emma's smirk as she replied. She turned back to me. "You really should ask her to the movies sometime Harry. If her letters, which are so full of Harry this and Harry that, are anything to go by then she is sure to say yes."
"You said you weren't going to say anything about that!" Hermione stamped her foot against the floor as she said that, which was, I have to say quite cute.
"No dear. You told me I wasn't going to say anything about that. I never agreed." Emma smiled widely when she finished. Muffled snorts let me know that the visages of my parents found the whole thing as amusing as I found it mortifying. I decided to rescue myself before it got any worse.
"Soup's done!" I lifted the pot off the stove and turned, challenging anyone to tell me any different. Dan smirked before heading over to the small table in the kitchen.
"Good save lad, good save." I followed him over, and the female Grangers who were still eyeing each other joined us. Little did I know of the furor that my earlier letters had induced.
Minerva McGonagall was not a person that you could call overly emotional, but the letter that she had received from Harry had her seeing red. She was furious, absolutely furious, about what Albus had done to the boy. The nerve of that man sending Harry off to live with those horrid muggles when his true guardians were still very much alive, and unlikely to let the boy 'get a swelled head'.
The anger soon turned cold as she continued reading, and a small smile touched her lips as she read whom else he was sending a letter to. It was a good start, but there was an opportunity here to rub Albus' nose in the steaming pile he had made of things. If there was one thing Minerva understood it was the fact that you had to discipline a miscreant immediately after the deed otherwise they never got the message.
Minerva stood and in a flowing movement made for the door of her office. She was a cat before the first step had even made the first step, and for the first time in years made full use of her animagus form's powers. Walls became insubstantial as air as she made a beeline for the closest of the ward lines. There was much she had to accomplish before the Ministry and Gringotts closed for the evening.
If Minerva could, she would smile in her cat form. She had forgotten what a rush it was to simply run in the lithe form. To phase through one wall after another, leap chasms of stairways, and plummet down between one floor and the next. Her racing form scared at least one more life off of the horrid Mrs. Norris when she emerged from the ceiling of one hall, only to pass through the wall on her way through. That height that cat had jumped had Minerva chuckling mentally in mirth. In seemingly no time at all Minerva's feet hit the path leading from the castle to Hogsmead and after threading through the bars of the gate, she was racing down the path.
"Hello Remus, Sirius." Minerva was saying a few minutes later almost breathless from the headlong pace, and with a few hairs out of place from the mad race and apparition. Her cheeks were flushed red, and little did she know that both the werewolf and the illegal animagus were perhaps reevaluating everything they knew about her. It was not often that such a scion of discipline looked all too human.
"Professor." Remus replied smoothly as Sirius morphed from dog to human once again. "I take it that Harry's letter is what brought you here?"
"Yes indeed, and certain other information." Minerva paused as she looked from one man to the other, and eventually Sirius cleared his throat.
"No thank you, but it was kind to offer." Minerva settled into the offered chair though. "I believe that you both will agree that it is unlikely that either of you will be able to accept Mr. Potter's guardianship. Though I know of your innocence, and have always believe in it, Sirius it is unlikely that the Ministry will change its views anytime soon. Your own issues at the end of last term indicate that the Ministry will be very uneasy with you taking guardianship Remus."
"Yes." Remus was being rather reticent, but Minerva could not blame him. Sirius, well Sirius was looking almost murderous.
"I am sure that you are both aware that the letter indicated I was the next choice for guardianship?" Minerva cast a stern glare on both men until they gave the slightest of nods. "Good. Then to get all our cards out in the open as it were, I am informing you that I am going to press for that said guardianship, and to inform you that you are both welcome at any time in the halls of Dun McGonagall to visit Harry. That does include the entire summer if you wish, and all holidays. It is an invitation that I will be extending to a few, and will not be granting one Albus Dumbledore."
"Then he knew, and you didn't?" Sirius asked slowly.
Minerva gave a nod. "I suspected, I hoped, but I could never find any proof. Though Harry's letter is not the proof we need, it does point us to where the proof is."
"Just what are you planning on doing with this Professor?" Remus asked in that thoughtful voice of his.
"Please Remus it is Minerva, or if you're anything like that scallywag, Minnie." Minerva pursed her lips and then settled her hands on the table. "You know that Harry sent a letter to Mr. Weasley as well? Another to Gringotts to secure his parent's will against interference?"
She waited for their nods, and once she had received them continued. "Then I propose that we visit Arthur, and request that he use his position in the Ministry to take our fears to Director Bones. I am sure that with a little convincing that dear Amelia will no doubt be willing to request a viewing of the Potters' will."
"That is absolutely brilliant Minnie!" Sirius jumped up from his seat and almost hugged her before backing away from her dour look.