Disclaimer- I own nothing.
Always Have Us
Hermione discovered soon after arriving at Number Twelve Grimmauld Place that a hard day's cleaning could really tire you out. As she changed into her pajamas in the room she shared with Ginny, Hermione tried not to think about the new housework terrors they would be facing tomorrow. Cleaning Grimmauld Place was not her idea of a good time.
Usually, Hermione would settle into bed with a good book before going to sleep but tonight her arms hurt from scrubbing and her feet hurt from standing all day and her bed looked just too comfortable not to fall asleep in right this minute. So Hermione decided that she and her books could have a night off, despite it still being rather early.
She was just lifting the covers of the bed to get in when the quiet was disturbed by a loud tapping noise.
Hermione's first thought was that someone was knocking on the door but when the noise didn't stop she realized it was coming from behind her, at the window. She turned to see Hedwig perched on the sill, at least one letter clasped in the beak that was knocking incessantly on her window.
Hermione hurried over to the window, eager to let Hedwig in and more than a little surprised that the owl was here. Harry had, for the most part, been ignoring their letters all summer, not even writing back thank you's for the birthday gifts they had sent him.
The instant Hermione unlatched the window Hedwig burst inside with a great flurrying of her wings. The owl swept around quickly and landed on Hermione's bed, hopping impatiently.
As soon as Hermione relieved Hedwig of the letters, the owl swooped up from the bed to perch atop the tall dresser in the corner of the room, her wide eyes watching Hermione intently.
Looking down, Hermione saw that there were three letters, one addressed to her and one each for Ron and Sirius. They were all short, written on scraps of parchment that had clearly been torn from a larger piece before being hastily folded and sent off.
Hermione set Ron's and Sirius's letters down on the bed and unfolded her own. What she found made her heart start racing.
I've just been attacked by dementors and I might be expelled from Hogwarts. I want to know what's going on and when I'm going to get out of here.
Hermione forced herself to read it again, certain she had been mistaken. But as she stared at the scrap of parchment in her hands the words remained the same.
I've just been attacked by dementors…
Dementors. In a muggle neighborhood. Attacking Harry.
I might be expelled from Hogwarts.
This wasn't making any sense. Hermione's normally quick thinking had become sluggish with denial and she merely stood there and stared at the inked words in front of her.
Hedwig let out a low, short screech that startled Hermione out of her shock and she looked up to see the owl still watching her intently. And then she remembered. There were two more letters.
Before she knew what she was doing, Hermione snatched the other two letters off the bed and burst out of the room into the hall.
"RON!" she shouted as she rushed towards the staircase. "RON!"
Hermione was about to bound down the stairs when Ron appeared at the bottom of them, looking up at her in concern.
"Hermione!" he said, climbing up three stairs at a time. "Are you all right? What's wrong?"
Hermione thrust Ron's letter into his hands but the light in the hall was too dim for him to read it. He glanced at her before entering her room for better light. She watched as he read the short letter and his face went white. From his reaction she was sure his letter was the same as hers.
"Dementors?" he asked, looking up at her, aghast. "Harry's been attacked by dementors? These just came?"
Hermione nodded and glanced up at Hedwig. "Hedwig just got here," she said. "She hasn't left. I think she's waiting for an answer."
Ron didn't turn around to look at the owl but raised an eyebrow at Hermione. "And just what are we supposed to say exactly? 'Sorry about the dementors, Harry. That really sucks.'" He paused. "Harry must be okay if he's writing us letters. But we should tell someone."
"You're right," Hermione said, glad that someone's brain was working. But as she turned to the door Hedwig screeched again and flew down from her perch on the wardrobe. She flew at Hermione and started pecking at her hands, flapping her wings loudly. Hermione let out a cry of pain as Hedwig's beak cut into the flesh on her fingers.
"What the—" gasped Ron, before rushing forward. "Get off her, you bloody bird!" He tried to grab Hedwig, or swat her away but all that succeeded in doing was turning Hedwig's attack on Ron. Ron yelped as the owl's sharp beak started pecking at his hands.
"Hedwig, no, don't," Hermione cried.
"Get off, damn it!" Ron shouted, unable to keep his hands out of Hedwig's reach.
"Oh, let's just get out of here," Hermione said anxiously, and grabbed Ron's sleeve to start pulling him in the direction of the door. The two of them rushed out, Ron still trying to fend off the angry owl. They made it into the hall and managed to shut Hedwig in the room. Ron leaned against the door and took a deep breath.
"What the hell got into her?" he asked angrily.
Hermione sighed unhappily, considering the door behind Ron. Hedwig never usually behaved like this but she was clearly agitated. Much like Harry must be. "I think Harry's tired of not hearing anything from us," she said quietly. "I think he just wants some answers."
"And so he set his bird on us?" Ron asked somewhat incredulously. "Harry wouldn't do that."
Hermione didn't say anything, not so sure herself. She knew it must be frustrating for Harry, trapped with his relatives and getting no news, not even from his best friends. From Hedwig's reaction to them not writing back to Harry, Hermione supposed that he was angry, and she didn't blame him.
And now he's been attacked by dementors, she remembered.
There was a loud commotion from downstairs and Hermione jumped. It sounded like shouting. She looked up at Ron and after a moment the two of them hurried down the stairs toward the kitchen.
The door to the kitchen had been propped open and Hermione had a clear view inside before they made it down the hall. The most startling thing she saw was a very angry Albus Dumbledore standing over a very frightened Mundungus Fletcher. Dumbledore was clearly furious, his voice louder than usual, though not a shout, and his expression terrifying. Hermione stopped in the hall, transfixed on the scene before her, and Ron bumped into her from behind.
"Shh," she whispered and pointed ahead of them. Ron didn't say anything.
"—don't realize what you've done tonight, Mundungus Fletcher," Dumbledore was saying, his voice dangerous and frightening. Hermione was very glad not to be on the receiving end of it.
"You've put my student in jeopardy, you've abandoned a post set to you by the Order, and you've lost any of my trust you may have had in the past. Now leave here."
Hermione watched, frozen, as Dung practically crawled as he fled the kitchen. The filthy man ran past her and Ron down the hall and towards the stairs that would lead him to the front door and then he was gone. Hermione turned to look at Ron and he nodded towards the kitchen with a questioning look on his face. She heard Dumbledore disapperate with a loud bang and she started to walk slowly towards the kitchen, Ron next to her.
To her surprise, the only occupant left in the kitchen was Sirius. He was seated at the long, wooden table and was staring moodily at wall in front of him.
Hermione suddenly remembered the letters clenched in her hand and how one of them had been addressed to Sirius. She entered the kitchen hesitantly. She was always wary of Sirius when he was in his more morose moods. Ron announced their presence by addressing the man before them.
"So, you all know then," he said. Sirius looked up, a surprised expression crossing his face. "About the dementors," Ron clarified.
"Oh yes," Sirius said evenly, turning to face the wall again. "We know. How do you know?"
Hermione sat on the bench across from Sirius and Ron sat beside her. "Harry sent us letters," she said. "He sent you one too."
She handed him the now crinkled piece of parchment and Sirius took it.
"What happened to you hand?" he asked when he took the letter from it.
"Hedwig went crazy, that's what happened" Ron muttered, rubbing absently at his own wounded hands. Hermione shot him a look before turning back towards Sirius.
"We think she was just upset that we haven't responded to Harry yet. But what are we supposed to say? What is he expecting?"
Sirius looked at her for a moment before unfolding his letter and reading it over. His reaction was much calmer than hers or Ron's had been but that was to be expected seeing as he already knew what had happened.
"Harry is coming to stay now, right?" Ron asked. "I mean, I know it's supposed to be safe at his relatives' and all but he just got attacked by dementors. There's no reason he shouldn't be able to come."
Sirius's expression grew dark. "He'll be coming in a few days," he said and Hermione didn't miss the bitter undertone. "Dumbledore has a few things to work out with the Ministry for Harry's hearing and it's better that Harry stay with his aunt and uncle until then."
Hermione gasped. "Hearing? Why does Harry have to go to a hearing at the Ministry?"
Sirius raised an eyebrow at her. "How do you think he got rid of the dementors? He did magic, performed a Patronus Charm, and the Ministry didn't take kindly to it."
"But underage magic is permitted in life-threatening situations! They can't possibly think Harry did anything wrong!"
Hermione couldn't believe this. Harry couldn't possibly be in trouble for saving his own life against dementors. The law was very clear about underage wizards being able to protect themselves.
But Sirius let out a bark of a laugh that made Hermione flinch a little. "You've been reading the Prophet, Hermione. You know what they're saying about Harry. And they're not about to admit that a couple of dementors wandered into a muggle suburb and just happened upon Harry Potter."
Hermione felt a weight settle in her stomach and she knew that Sirius was right. The Daily Prophet had been peppering their articles with jibes at Harry for weeks now. This would be no different.
"Why was Dumbledore so mad at Dung? Was he watching Harry when it happened?" Ron asked. Hermione glanced over at him and then looked back at Sirius, waiting for his response.
"Dung abandoned his watch to go jump on some stolen cauldrons he wanted to sell. And this just happened to be right before the dementors showed up. Dumbledore was understandably… irate."
Though Hermione noted that Sirius himself did not seem all that upset at the thought of Mundungus abandoning his post. And from his next words, neither did Ron.
"Well, I can't say I'm choked up over Dung leaving," Ron said, almost cheerfully. "If the dementors hadn't showed up, Harry might have been stuck with his relatives all summer."
Hermione had to agree that she was excited at the promise of seeing Harry again soon, but she couldn't brush over Harry getting attacked so easily.
"Harry could've been really hurt, Ron!" she told him reproachfully, crossing her arms.
Ron didn't look at all ashamed. "Yeah, well he wasn't, was he? And now he gets to leave those rotten muggles until next summer so I'm sure Harry's not all that upset about it either."
Hermione was about to retort when she caught sight of Sirius's inquisitive look.
"What do you mean, rotten muggles?"
Ron answered before Hermione could. "Harry's aunt and uncle," he said, resting his arms on the table. "He hates going there, they're terrible to him."
Hermione watched as Sirius narrowed his eyes and she began to get a little worried at this turn in the conversation. "Terrible how?" he asked quietly.
"They hate him," Ron said seriously. "He's never told you about them?"
Sirius simply shook his head and waited. Hermione swallowed. Clearly, he expected Ron and her to tell him.
"Sirius do you remember when we were leaving the Shrieking Shack and you asked Harry if he wanted to live with you?" Hermione asked.
Sirius nodded. "Yeah," he said shortly. "Right before that bastard Peter escaped."
Hermione ignored that last part. "Didn't it seem strange to you that Harry jumped at the chance to live with you despite the fact that an hour earlier he'd thought you were responsible for his parents' death? He barely knew you."
Sirius stared at her for a moment and Hermione didn't look away. She let her hands rest in her lap and tried to look calm.
"How are they terrible to him?" he asked.
Hermione glanced at Ron, not sure what to say. Ron didn't look too comfortable either and was staring fixedly at the wall behind Sirius's shoulder.
"They don't… hit him or anything," Hermione said slowly. "But they're not very nice to him. They would make him do all chores and cooking and things." Hermione suddenly remembered her weariness at having to clean all of Grimmauld Place. It didn't seem such a bad chore anymore.
Ron let out a snort. "Not very nice to him? Come on Hermione, they put bars on his window. Not very nice is an understatement."
Hermione failed to hold in a wince and watched Sirius's eyes darken.
"Bars?" he practically snarled and Hermione leaned away. "What the hell for?"
"It was after our first year," Ron said. "They found out he wasn't allowed to use magic outside school and they tried to stop him going back to Hogwarts."
"By putting bars on his window?" Sirius asked incredulously. "What's to stop him using the front door?"
Ron huffed. "I'd say the handful of locks on his door would've done it. I saw them when Fred, George and I went to get him. Saw his uncle too when he tried to stop Harry leaving. Scary bloke. Ugly sort with a giant, stupid mustache."
Ron seemed to cheer a little at insulting Harry's uncle and Hermione smiled briefly. It wasn't often that she condoned Ron's insults, joking or no, but when it came to Harry's uncle she had no qualms. The first time Hermione had seen Vernon Dursley she had been shocked that anyone could be so unpleasant. Harry's stories about his relatives hadn't been so unbelievable after that.
"How did you get him out of there," Sirius asked curiously.
Ron grinned. "Flying car," he said with a touch of pride, resting his head in one of his hands. "I'm sure my dad's told you about it."
Sirius laughed again, this time a real laugh, but Hermione frowned.
"That car nearly got you and Harry expelled," she reminded Ron and it wiped the smile off his face.
"It also saved our life," he retorted hotly, raising his head from his hand and glaring at her defensively.
"I'm missing something," Sirius put in sardonically.
Hermione rolled her eyes. "Harry and Ron missed the train before our second year and had the brilliant idea to fly that car to Hogwarts." It was impossible to miss the sarcasm in her voice.
Sirius was looking impressed and Hermione turned to Ron expectantly.
"We may or may not have hit the Whomping Willow when we landed," Ron admitted, a little sheepishly. "But it did save our life when we went into the Forbidden Forest."
"You were also seen by multiple muggles," Hermione reminded him and was sure Ron's ears went a little pink, from embarrassment or anger she didn't know.
Sirius raised his eyebrows. "Flying a car to Hogwarts, venturing into the Forbidden Forest. I'm impressed."
Hermione frowned but Ron was looking quite pleased at the praise.
"Bars on the window must have been the worst thing they did, right?" Sirius asked confidently, steering the conversation back towards Harry's life with the Dursleys.
Hermione glanced at Ron again who was looking more serious than ever.
"No," Ron said quietly. "The bars were not the worst thing they did."
Hermione held her breath, knowing what was coming. It was the most disturbing thing about Harry's childhood and Hermione often wondered how anyone could be so neglectful and cruel. It was a miracle that Harry had turned out so normal and such a wonderful person when he'd received so little love as a child. Harry was the kindest and caring person she knew, such a contradiction to the way he'd been brought up.
"What did they do?" Sirius asked in a deadly quiet voice. Hermione felt tears sting behind her eyes as she thought about it.
"They made him sleep in the cupboard under the stairs," Ron said in a deadly voice, his fists clenched, "until he was eleven."
Hermione shut her eyes tight as if this could shut out Ron's words, but it didn't' help. She could only see Harry, the skinny eleven-year-old boy she'd met four years ago. To think that he grew up with people who shut him up in a cupboard. No child deserved that and certainly not Harry who'd done nothing to deserve it.
A loud bang made Hermione jump and she opened her eyes. Sirius's fist had collided hard with the table and he was looking even more frightening than when she had thought him to be a murderer.
"Sirius," she began timidly but was cut off.
"I wasn't there," Sirius said quietly, his anger very apparent.
"No one was," Ron said simply.
"But we're here now," Hermione insisted, as if this could make up for what the Dursleys had done. "Harry has us now. He has you now. And that matters."
Sirius looked up at her, his expression drained of anger but looking more hardened. "I made a mistake," Sirius said, looking at the two teenagers in front of him. "And not only did it get James and Lily killed, it left Harry with those bastards."
Hermione stared at Sirius for a moment, having the feeling that he was talking more to himself than to her and Ron. "But you're here now," she said quietly.
"You can't change what happened," Ron put in. "I'm sure Harry doesn't blame you. And no one else does either."
But Hermione could see the guilt and anger in Sirius's face. "Sirius, please don't say anything to Harry about this," she said suddenly. "I'm not sure he'd like that we told you."
Hermione knew that Harry would feel terrible if he could see how much this was affecting his godfather. And to her surprise, Sirius nodded. She watched in surprise as the older man suddenly stood to leave.
"Thanks for telling me," he said as he walked abruptly towards the door. "One more thing I can't do anything about."
And with that he left the gloomy kitchen. Hermione listened to Sirius's footsteps climb the stairs until they faded away. Then she turned to Ron, who she found watching her.
"Did we do the right thing?" she asked.
"There's no reason he shouldn't know that Harry's relatives are terrible to him."
Hermione nodded but she had a sinking feeling that feeding Sirius this sort of bad news was a bad idea.
"It's just that he's so depressed already," she said uncertainly. "What if he thinks Harry only wants to live with him because anything is better than his relatives?"
"But that's not true," Ron said, sighing and leaning back in his chair. "Harry really does want to live with Sirius."
"I know that," Hermione said defensively. "I just hope that Sirius knows that."
There was a slightly awkward silence as Hermione looked down at her pajama-clad lap and Ron stared at the floor.
"You do think Harry will be all right," Hermione asked. She wasn't sure which even she was referring to, the dementor attack or Harry's horrifying childhood.
"He's Harry," Ron replied, answering for both cases. "He'll be all right."
"And he's got us," she said, more confident this time. "And Sirius."
"He does," Ron agreed. "He's always got us."
Hermione smiled. "Always."
AN- Please review and let me know what you think!!
Though it's unlikely this ever occurred in canon, I called it a missing moment because it's at least plausible. And perhaps it explains why Sirius was reluctant to give Harry an answer when Harry asked to live him in the event that he got expelled. Maybe Sirius's insecurities were actually what got the better or him.