Disclaimer: The characters and canon situations in the following story belong solely to JK Rowling, Scholastic and WB. I am not making any money from the publishing or writing of this story.
AN: This is an AU look at OotP. As I have been reading other fics in the Harry Potter fandom, I have noticed that not many have muggle attributes added to the detailing in the stories. Considering that Harry and Hermione both were brought up in the Muggle world, it made no sense that their knowledge was not utilized in some aspects of the story. This story is mainly exorcising plot bunnies that have been running around my head for months and I finally decided to write them down.
Now, on with the show…
Chapter One: The Plan
"A human being is part of a whole, called by us the Universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separated from the rest a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circles of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty."
The fog caressing the dirty windows of Number Twelve, Grimmauld Place eliminated any visibility to the outside world. Smokey black tendrils crawled down the panes manifesting the isolation those residing inside felt towards the outside world. Breath collided with the fog smearing grey into the dark grime. A finger itched to create a masterpiece out of the muck. To create some semblance of beauty among the bleak. But no. That would appear childish to the others occupying the silence that permeated the room. The book weighed heavily in her lap; a physical representation of the knowledge that she could not seem to concentrate on at the moment.
Hermione released another sigh and gave into her creative proclivities. She slid her finger lazily across the window with no clear direction for her artistic vision. She lost herself in her doodle as she remembered the latest shouting match between Mrs. Weasley and Sirius.
The fight was another meaningless controversy that echoed all those before it. Mrs. Weasley's affirmation that the twins and the trio were too young to participate in Order business continued to spark Sirius' ire. He and a few others agreed that the children had a right to know about the war that they were in the middle of, but Mrs. Weasley was deaf to any debate Sirius attempted. If Professor Lupin and Mr. Wesley did not continually mediate their brawls, Hermione had a feeling hexes would be thrown.
Fred and George were constantly taking bets on how long Sirius would last before he snapped and turned their mother into a turtle. The only turtle that came to mind when Hermione pictured the transfiguration was one that snapped. She wasn't in the mood to be bit, so she prayed neither twin would be cashing in any time soon.
Hermione's finger continued to stroll across the glass as she imagined Sirius' face during his confrontations with Mrs. Weasley. He always exuded a detached aura around him when Mrs. Weasley attacked his parenting techniques, but his eyes always revealed his true emotions. The small amount of fire the fight produced in his eyes dimmed when Mrs. Weasley harped about Sirius' inability to see the wisdom behind her words as she scoffed at his attempt to broker his right to parent Harry his way.
Hermione's finger glided to a stop when she feels a presence behind her.
"Some say that art reveals what the mind conceals."
"Who says that?" Hermione asked without removing her eyes from her chilled canvas.
"People who spend too much time looking at ink blots on paper I suppose."
"Where did you learn about Rorschach?" Hermione finally turned towards the voice behind her.
"Muggles have always fascinated me. Plus, it pissed off my mum when I diagnosed her hatred of muggles as her secretly repressed desire to live free in the land of no magic."
"I bet she didn't take too well to that."
"Let's not get into the disparity that was my youth and return to your art." Sirius tilted his head slightly as he viewed her piece. "Is it me?"
Hermione finally looked at what she had unconsciously been drawing. On the window pane set a dog looking longingly toward the outside. Hermione swiped her hand across the picture. "It was just a doodle."
She turned from her position on the window seat to look fully at Sirius. "Is the meeting over already?"
Sirius shrugged. "What's the point in participating in a meeting that is simply a redundancy of the meeting before it?" He looked pensive for a moment as he surveyed the room. "Where has Harry gone off to?"
It was Hermione's turn to shrug. "He and Ron turned in already. The twins were in here a minute ago," Hermione looked behind Sirius, "but have apparently left too."
"So," Sirius inquired, "what are you reading? School books?"
Hermione shook her head, "No, I've already finished reading them, so they're packed away. This," Hermione slightly lifted the book in her heavy tome in her lap, "was just recreational. I was wondering if there was a way to tamper an external influence upon dreams, but I'm not having much luck. All I have been able to uncover revolves around dream theory and interpretation. My search is leading me into Divination territory and giving me a headache over its complete and utter insistence on supposition and speculation."
"There is always Occlumency, but..."
"Occlumency? Why haven't I thought of that? I can't believe I over looked that." Hermione jumped off of the window seat and began heading for the door. "It is a preventionary measure for external interference. If the images are actually an external construct like I believe instead of an unconscious rationalization of desires and fears…," Hermione mumbled to herself as she exited the room.
Sirius watched in bemusement as Hermione turned in the direction of the library without a backward glance. That girl, he thought with a fond smile and a shake of his head, is truly one of a kind.
In the early morning hours, the house settled into a peaceful lull. The occupants of Number Twelve, Grimmauld Place had long since drifted to their respective rooms for a night of well deserved relaxation and sleep. Somewhere a clock chimed the hour.
Yet, hidden among the piles of books and notepads, Hermione Granger continued her quest into the realm of dream suppression.
The increased frequency with which Harry rubbed his scar did not go unnoticed by her shrewd chocolate eyes. Harry always seemed to forget that Hermione was exceptionally perceptive, and she refused to accept his blasé response to her constant inquires like Ron and the others.
She knew he was dream of Voldemort again. She knew it.
She could see something different behind Harry's eyes and in his countenance when he had flown into a rage upon his arrive at headquarters. Yes, Harry had a right to be upset that once again things were being kept from him. It was understandable that Dumbledore's discretion and apparent distance would invoke resentment and anger from Harry. Yes, his privacy had been invaded with the Order's tail. But to retaliate to the discretion with secret-keeping of his own, well…that was counterproductive and unfair. She could help, but he had to trust her.
He expects Dumbledore to help, a small voice whispered to her, and he seems to be both emotionally and physically unavailable most of the time.
He's just busy with Order business, Hermione reasoned. Harry can't expect Dumbledore to solve all his problems.
And neither can you, that tiny voice added.
I just have to find a way to help the only way I know how, she concluded to herself. With a satisfied nod, Hermione returned to the heavy, leather tome in her lap.
The Mind's Defenses by Augustus Merrythought described the fundamental aspects of defense for the mind against external intrusions and influences.
Hermione remembered reading a reference to the novel in her fourth-year when Professor Moody, or the fake-Professor Moody, her mind corrected, attempted to teach the class how to throw off the Imperius Curse.
Now that situation dictated it, Hermione delved into her research mode to uncover the secrets behind Occlumency and Legilimency. Though Legilimency was not an illegal piece of magic, it like Occlumency was not part of Ordinary Wizard Learning.
Well, if it will help Harry…
Hermione's thoughts were interrupted by scratching at the library door. Frowning, Hermione rose to investigate.
Outside the door stood Snuffles with a tilted head. Want some company, he seemed to ask.
Hermione opened the door wider to let the large, black dog through.
Snuffles nosed at some of the books littering the floor attempting to make a larger path to Hermione's research nest.
"What are you doing her," Hermione questioned as she closed the door back to.
Snuffles simply tilted his head to the left and wagged his tail slightly.
"Well if you want to stay, I'm not going to kick you out." Hermione made her way back over to her seat against the far wall of shelves. She pushed the books beside her over to give Snuffles enough room to lay down as she returned to her reading.
The human capacity to invade the mind of another has been a source of fascination and derision since its discovery in the Hellenistic age. Both the Muggle and Wizard communities have spent millenniums attempting to unlock the keys to the mind. The Muggle world groups mind intrusion in the field of parapsychology and fiction. Those claiming to possess the knowledge of the future or the ability to interpret dreams are rendered in the category of soothsayers and charlatans.
The Wizarding world however lends credence to the area of Divination. Diviners receive respect and adoration from the community. The Ministry of Magic has developed an entire hall in the Department of Mysteries dedicated to the recording and housing of each prediction and prophesy channeled through a medium.
Hermione scoffed. "Why would anyone waste space with a room full of fluff?"
In addition to the cultivation of Divination, the Wizarding world also developed two distinct variations of mind invasion: Legilimency and the Imperius Curse.
Hermione began to absentmindedly pet Snuffles as she focused on the print.
Legilimency, the ability to extract emotions and memories from another person's mind, is not an illegal practice like the Imperius Curse (see Unforgivable Curses in chapter 4 for more information). Legilimency operates on the same basic level as Veritaserum. Both are active measures the Ministry uses to force information and truth from suspects of heinous acts and crimes. While Veritaserum focuses on the functional facts, Legilimency concentrates on the emotional connection to relevant associated memories.
Veritaserum (see chapter 7 for more information) though has strict Ministry guidelines for the manufacturing and ingestion of the dubbed "Truth Serum" as well as the need for an antidote.
Legilimency on the other hand does not have the same amount of legal restrictions or potion constraints as Veritaserum. Though it is Ministry restricted, Legilimency requires an exorbitant amount of mental fortitude lacking in most of those in the magical community to accomplish mastery.
Legilimency like any other type of magic has its own amount of disadvantages and limitations. Legilimency requires the spell-caster to be in close physical contact to the target of the mind intrusion. The easiest way to implement the spell is when the target is mentally vulnerable (i.e. unconscious, relaxed, off-guard, or in an amount of emotional turbulence). The essential need for eye contact also limits the Legilimens ability to access the human memory.
"This is it," Hermione whispered excitedly as she set up straighter. "This has to be it."
The major opposition to Legilimency is Occlumency, the art of magically defending the mind against external penetration. The essence of elementary Occlumency, like resisting the Imperius Curse, is to render the mind vacant of all thought and emotion, so that the Legilimens can find no emotional ties to memories that the target wishes to conceal. Occlumency acts as a barrier or secure wall surrounding the targets memories and emotions. More advanced forms of Occlumency enable the practitioner to distinguish when mind penetration occurs and to create and project false memories.
"This is great. Concentration and suppression are the keys." Hermione looked down at Snuffles to realize he had fallen asleep with his head tucked against her thigh. "I wish I could solve your problems too," Hermione sighed as she scratched Snuffles behind the ears. "You deserve freedom after twelve years of imprisonment instead of another prison. I wonder if…," Hermione drifted off. Absentmindedly looking at the wall in front of her, she whispered, "I wonder…"
Hermione spent the remainder of the night concocting a plan to liberate Sirius for at least one night of freedom and fun. After the initial brainstorming, Hermione realized that she needed help. She needed help in the form of two identical troublemakers that just Apparated into the kitchen with a loud crack.
"Fred! George," Mrs. Weasley exclaimed. "Why must you insist on doing that every morning?!"
"It takes too much energy to walk down here," Fred stated.
"Plus, you wouldn't want us to trip—" said George
"—and fall down the stairs—" said Fred
"—to our death—" said George
"—would you," asked both twin together.
"What kind of mother are you, honestly?" The doppelgangers shook their heads disappointedly.
Hermione ducked her head to hide her smile. Though she didn't support their need to subvert authority, Hermione had always marveled at the intrinsic and iatrical aspects the twins' pranks and produces. She also appreciated their ability to bring laughter to any situation and break the thick tension that seemed to permeate the atmosphere of Grimmauld Place.
Plus, their ability to make Mrs. Weasley turn that shade of red was always fun to watch.
With her face averted, Hermione missed the twins switch their attention to her until they plopped down on either side of her.
"You're up early," Fred commented.
"Or you never went to sleep," George added as he traced the dark smudge under her right eye.
"What has that pretty little head of yours been up to now," Fred inquired.
"Finally decided to take us upon our offer," George asked.
"You know you want to," Fred stated.
Since Harry had forced the twins to accept the money he received from winning the Triwizard Tournament, they had been trying to convince Hermione to help them with a few choice items they still had in the preliminary phase. She had thus far rejected their entreaties saying that she did not want her name connected with anything that distracted students away from their studies.
"I might be willing to negotiate a possible collaboration if the two of you can successfully assist me with a little project of my own," Hermione replied with an air of nonchalance knowing the twins would not rest until they knew the entire plan backwards and forwards.
The twins shared a look that spoke of the silent communication they always seem to have. Before they were able to answer however, Mrs. Weasley arrived with the first few plates of her famous homemade breakfast.
"Now Hermione dear, I want you to eat something more than just a piece of toast this morning. You need energy for our outing to Diagon Alley today."
She turned to Mrs. Weasley in surprise. Diagon Alley? That was today? Then she smiled. Perfect. The plan would be complete that much sooner. She would just have to pull the twins aside later to get their acquiescence.
"Thank you, Mrs. Weasley. I had forgotten."
"Well that's not a surprise," the voice still husky with sleep stated behind her, "what with staying up all night last night."
"Morning Sirius," Hermione replied as she ignored his statement and began buttering her toast. "Have you seen Harry and Ron this morning?"
"I heard shuffling from their room earlier," Remus informed her as he walked over to the cabinet for a mug. "They'll be down soon."
"Thanks Professor Lupin," Hermione said with a smile.
"Hermione," Remus started with a shake of his head, "how many times do I have to tell you to call me Remus. I'm not your professor anymore."
"One more time it seems," was the reply Remus received as Hermione grabbed her toast and left the room.
Remus shook his head again as he pored himself some coffee. Tea never seemed to stimulate the brain enough in the morning.
The twins shared another silent yet heavy look and scrambled to their feet. With an echoing shout of "Hermione," the three adult were left alone in the kitchen staring at each other in confusion.
"Hermione, wait up," Fred called.
The twins stopped in front of her. In their urgency to follow, they forgot to Disarappate for the first time since passing their test.
"What did you want to discuss?"
"How can we help?"
"Is it mischievous?"
"Will it cause a stir?"
"Who are you after?"
"What did they do?"
"Is it Ron? Let it be Ron."
"We haven't pranked his in so long."
Both of the twins' eyes twinkled with mischief as they imagined all the things they could do to their little Ronnikins with Hermione's help.
Hermione shook her head. "No, I need assistance in creating a major distraction."
"How major," questioned George.
"The whole house," Hermione answered.
"What for," asked Fred.
"I'm going to give Sirius a night of freedom."
Hermione response was met with silence. She flushed at the twins' identical gaping expressions.
"I think I just fell in love with you," Fred stated with wide eyes.
Hermione shoved Fred's shoulder. "I'm not sure Angelina would be happy if she heard that," she said with a laugh.
"If we agree to this," George announced with a shrewd look upon his face, redirecting the conversation back on the negotiations, "we want the Privacy Pads."
"And the connection charm you invented for secret note passing during class," Fred added with a nod.
"If I agree, do we have an accord," Hermione pushed hoping for an affirmative.
The twins' faces lit up with mischief clear in their eyes again. "We get to assist the Hermione Granger—" Fred said.
"—authority pleaser—" George continued.
"—bringer of reason—" Fred added.
"—and rule abider—" George quipped.
"—with her mission to once again spring the broody one—" Fred whispered.
"—and slip away undetected—" George pointed out.
"—you really had to ask," they questioned together.
"Good," Hermione replied with a grateful smile and a shake of her head. If they only knew how many rules she broke over the years, they wouldn't place her completely on the straight-and-narrow. "This is what I have in mind…"
The twins listened to Hermione's astonishingly brilliant plan to sneak Sirius out of Grimmauld Place while everyone was distracted and give him a little space to run free. They never would have thought Hermione had a devious streak, but they were just proved wrong. There was hope for her yet. If they could only get her to relinquish her need to please, they would have a discovered a troublemaker-in-the-making.
"What about Harry and Ron," George questioned.
"Yeah, those two will want to go as well if…"
"If I planned on telling them," Hermione interrupted, "which I'm not. I love those two more than just about anyone, but I can't risk too many people knowing and they will both talk. I know they won't mean to, but they will. Harry or Ron will tell Ginny at the very least and neither know how to be discrete or keep secrets very well. I can't risk this getting back to Moody or Dumbledore or, Merlin forbid, your mother."
Fred and George had to concede Hermione's point. Ron was never very good at keeping secrets. Not that he blabbed or anything, but one piercing glare from their mother, and Ron would spill. Hermione was also right that if the two boys knew Ginny would also find out. She was better at keeping things hush-hush, but even she had a breaking point.
"Alright when do you need the distraction," Fred asked.
"So we have an estimated time limit," George pointed out.
"I have a few things I need to acquire first and a conversation with Sirius to plan, but ideally? How does a week sound? Two days before school starts back?"
The look passed between the twins spoke volumes of their ever-working minds. They turned back towards her with identical grins. "We can do that."
"Excellent. Oh, I might need your opinion on one other thing though…"
"Why would you need their help Hermione," questioned Harry as he made his way down the stairs to join them running a hand through his already disheveled black hair.
"Yeah, I thought the twins were nothing but troublemakers in your books," said the youngest of the Weasley males from behind Harry. "What could they possibly help you with?"
"What are you inferring," George asked as he threw an arm around Hermione's shoulder.
"Are you saying that we are not intellectual enough to converse with 'the smartest witch of our generation'," added Fred as his arm went around Hermione's waist and squeezed her cheek, "and aid her if so asked?"
"Of course not," Harry denied.
"Why do need their help," Ron asked Hermione ignoring the twins' quip.
"Well, we have decided," George looked at Fred over Hermione's head, "that we are stealing her from you."
"Yes," Fred nodded, "and making her work for us."
"So we can create much more ingenious—" said George.
"—and destructive products—" said Fred.
"—for Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes," They concluded together.
Hermione simply shook her head and mumbled, "Agree to one thing and now they think they own me." Shrugging out of the twins' hold, Hermione turned back to her best friends. "You two should hurry or all the food will be gone before you get there. Mrs. Weasley made blueberry pancakes and …"
"Blueberry pancakes," Ron asked practically salivating at the thought of the fluffy goodness. Grabbing Harry's arm, Ron rushed towards the kitchen, "Let's go. I can't miss pancake day."
Harry shook his head in mock aggravation and allowed Ron to pull him from the room.
"Seems that becoming an honorary member of the esteemed Weasley family results in your favorite breakfast being served," sneered Fred.
"Well we wouldn't know what that would be like would we," exclaimed George in derision. "What with all of the Weasley boys being Prefects and all."
Hermione turned back toward the twins with her hands on her hips, "Look, I know that the Prefect badge bugs you two but could you lay off the hostility please…for me?"
The twins shared a look.
"It will cost you," Fred announced.
"We want the secret to the Marauder Map's insult defense," concluded George.
"Why would I know the map's defense mechanism," Hermione questioned.
"Because, you've the capability of figuring it out—" said Fred.
"—or asking one of the creators of said map—" George continued.
"—and actually receiving an answer for your troubles," Fred concluded.
Hermione signed. It was true. She had unraveled the secrets behind the map back in third-year when Harry let her borrow it for a night so she could sneak into the restricted section of the library after hours. What she wasn't expecting was for the twins to negotiate for such a simple charm. Couldn't they simply ask one of the remaining Marauders for the key?
"We have asked," said Fred answering her unasked question.
"Sirius didn't help with that part of the map," George informed her.
"And Lupin won't share," finished Fred.
"So do you agree to our terms," inquired George.
"One simple spell for Ron's peace of mind," questioned Fred.
Scrunching her pert nose in thought, Hermione finally relented. "Fine, but you have to help me with one more thing first."