A/N: Wow! This has been way too long in coming hasn't it? The last 1 1/2 - 2 years have been crazy as real life has done all it could to rob me of any time to write. Add in an untimely writer's block when I did find time to write and maybe you can understand why this took so long. I would like to be able to promise more regular updates going forward but, given how things have been going, I obviously can't do that but I will do my best. Either way, I have not nor will I ever abandon any of my stories. I did manage to re-write and re-post chapter 5 in the interim and you will need to read it first or this chapter won't really make since.
I appreciate all the reviews and PMs wanting me to continue this story. As you can see, I have and I will continue to do so. Keep checking my profile for story updates which I hope to keep up better than I did last year. Also, as 'All's Fair' only has a few chapters left I've begun to consider what story to focus on next besides this one. I have several other stories in the works and am thinking of creating a story file containing the first chapter of several of my, as yet, unseen stories along the lines of Broomstick Flyer's "All Sort's" file. I'm thinking of calling it "Coming Attractions". The reason for that is that I'm thinking of putting up a poll and letting you, my readers, decide which one of my future stories you'd like to see me focus on first. Again, watch my profile for the new file and poll along with story updates. Now, I've made you wait long enough so on with the show.
*** In Case you skipped my A/N, you need to read Chapter 5 before reading this as the original chapter has been taken down and replaced with a new version and this won't make sense otherwise.***
Amelia Bones sat in an unused classroom at Hogwarts fighting a strong urge to vomit. She was there to inform Harry Potter about his godfather's upcoming trial but it wasn't the thought of meeting him that caused her current condition. It was having to interact with Albus Dumbledore. It only took one look at the teenage victim for her to know who had killed the ambassador and his family. She had immediately recognized the girl she'd placed the old man's tracking charm on. It was only her experience at schooling her features from her days working undercover that allowed her to hide the shock and guilt she felt for her part, however small and innocent it may have been, in the death of that family.
She had expected him to be annoyed or perhaps even angry when he found out she had sent him on a wild goose chase but never would have believed him capable of what was done in that house. In her mind, he was now on par with Voldemort or perhaps even worse. She wasn't sure if he did it himself or sent someone but suspected the latter. Albus Dumbledore wasn't one to get his hands dirty if he didn't have to. The question was who could he have sent? Her money was on his pet death eater Severus Snape. She only wished she had some proof so she could bury the both of them. As it was, she felt like she needed another shower just being in the same room with the old man.
She tried to push those thoughts out of her mind as that had no bearing on why she had come to Hogwarts. She had been waiting for about fifteen minutes. She'd tried to use that time to prepare herself but couldn't get the image of the girl out of her head. Amelia had thought it was harmless misdirection when she placed the tracking charm onto the teenager. She never dreamed that that one action would lead to not only the girl's death but the murder of her whole family. She expected Voldemort to be ruthless like that but couldn't believe that Albus Dumbledore, a man she once admired above all others, could be a party to such a heinous act of violence.
She was pulled from her thoughts when the door opened. Dumbledore entered followed by an eleven year old James Potter. At least that's who he looked like to her except for the eyes of course. Those were all his mother Lily. Sirius had told her as much from his memories of Harry as a baby but his description didn't come close to the real thing. He seemed nervous but there was no noticeable fear as he followed the headmaster toward her. Once the introductions were taken care of, she got right down to business wanting to get away from the old man as soon as possible. She only hoped she could avoid running into the potion master because she wasn't entirely sure she could control herself if she saw the man she was now sure was a cold blooded murderer. She had only been speaking to Harry for a few minutes when she was interrupted by a knock on the door.
Albus went to the door and opened it to reveal Minerva McGonagall on the other side. They had a short whispered conversation before he turned back to her. He seemed to be having an internal debate for a few moments before meeting her eyes. Whatever decision he had come to it was clear he wasn't very happy about it.
"My apologies Amelia," he started in an apologetic tone. "It would seem that our caretaker, Argus Filtch and his pet cat, have become victims of a prank." A slight mischievous smile graced his features as he continued. "Apparently he is convinced that the Weasley twins are responsible and is demanding that I handle this personally. Therefore, I'm afraid that I must, for the moment, take my leave. However, I will try to take care of this matter as quickly as I can and, if possible, rejoin you. Otherwise I'm sure Harry here can pass on any pertinent information to me."
"Certainly Professor," Harry agreed enthusiastically.
Amelia paused for a moment as if in thought. It was only for show as she wanted nothing more, at that moment, than for him to leave. She wanted a chance to talk to Harry alone and, at this point, the farther away she was from Albus Dumbledore the better.
"That would be fine Headmaster," she answered finally. "But I can save you both the trouble. The trial has been set for Nine A.M. two weeks from today. I trust it won't be a problem excusing him from classes that day?"
Now it was the old man's turn to pause in thought. She wouldn't be surprised if he was doing it for show as well if only to delay his leaving.
"Well then perhaps we can just conclude this meeting and let young Harry here get on with his day," he responded and she couldn't help notice that he had turned on that damned twinkle of his hoping to charm her into agreeing but her newfound dislike and the utter revulsion she felt toward the man rendered her immune to his influence.
"I'm afraid not," She replied. "There are some other things I need to discuss with Harry but the date and time of the trial is all you really needed to know so there is really no need for you to stay considering you apparently have other matters you need to attend to."
She was, once again, grateful for her training. Otherwise, she would have missed the headmaster's anger at being dismissed. She didn't care if he was happy about it. She just wanted him to leave. He stood there for a few more moments, probably just to save face, and then left.
Amelia was then surprised to see Harry visibly relax once Dumbledore was gone. She wasn't sure what to make of that but filed it away for future reflection. She also reasoned that it might not mean anything. Albus Dumbledore was an intimidating figure, after all, especially to a first year. Of course, to a first year, every authority figure is intimidating but, if that was the case, why wasn't he nervous with her? She didn't know but that wasn't the time or place to dwell on such things so she turned her attention back to the boy in question.
She hadn't lied to the Headmaster. There were a lot of things she would have liked to talk to Harry about like Sirius' innocence but knew she couldn't risk it. She didn't know how close to Dumbledore he was and was too close to getting Sirius his freedom and the boy in front of her out of the old man's control to take the chance. So instead she spent the next twenty minutes doing exactly what she said she would. Going over details of the trial and what he should expect hoping she would have another opportunity in the near future to talk with him more freely hopefully with Sirius there as his guardian.
She decided to just take what she could get and spent a few minutes asking him about his classes and his overall Hogwarts experience so far once her official business was taken care of. He talked freely about his life in school including that he had made some friends in the short time he'd been there. Amelia happily had lots of good information she would be able to pass on to Sirius at Dinner later. Including that his godson was a very pleasant young man to talk to. Thanking him for his time, she finally bade him goodbye before making her way out of the castle.
Albus Dumbledore was beyond angry at being dismissed like an errant first year by that Bones woman. He was further annoyed by his caretaker's petty vendetta against the Weasley twins. It took him far longer than it should have to resolve the situation. So much so that the classroom was empty by the time he made it back there. He was now forced to hurry through secret passageways and other less traveled paths that most of the student body didn't know about in order to hopefully 'accidently' bump into the boy so he could find out what was said after he left.
Amelia Bones had been almost openly hostile toward him the whole time she was in the castle. He knew that she probably suspected he was behind the murder of the French ambassador and his family but all she really had was suspicions. It didn't matter to him that those suspicions happened to be correct. She had no proof so, in his mind, she should have treated him with the respect he believed was due him. She was just lucky that the boy was in the room or he would have gladly shown her just what her place in this world was. His thoughts then turned to the cause of all this.
He was very angry when Snape told him what happened. So much so that he very nearly took a page out of Voldemort's playbook and used the torture curse on his potion master. It was bad enough that Black wasn't there but then he had gone and cast a Fiendfyre on the situation by killing the family that lived there. He had to admit, however, that Severus' decision to cast the dark mark to cover their tracks was a stroke of genius that had paid dividends Albus could never have anticipated.
The dark side had taken a huge hit. Lucius Malfoy and his fellow death eaters that had manipulated and bribed their way out of prison by way of claiming they were under the imperious curse were, at least for the time being, no longer obstacles for him to overcome in the Wizengamot. A welcome opportunity he intended to take full advantage of starting with pushing for the removal of the utterly corrupt minister of magic.
He had allowed Cornelius Fudge to win the position thinking he would be the perfect figure head; indecisive and easy to control. He was well aware of Fudge's penchant for using his various positions to line his pockets and wasn't particularly concerned about it. Being corrupt wasn't a problem for the headmaster as long as it was for the benefit of Albus Dumbledore. Cornelius, unfortunately, sold out to Lucius Malfoy thus making himself a liability. One Dumbledore was now determined to eliminate.
Severus' actions helped that endeavor far beyond the removal of the death eaters from the Wizengamot. The ambassador and his family were unprotected that night largely as a result of Fudge's policies. Albus had learned that they had arrived a few days ahead of the scheduled arrival of their protection detail under the mistaken assumption that the British Ministry would be providing security for them in the interim.
With all the cutbacks in the DMLE, specifically in the auror department, the Ministry simply didn't have the means to provide that security. That alone should be more than enough to call for a vote of no confidence. Albus had no doubt that most of those cuts were at Lucius Malfoy's urging. After all, there was no better way to take over a country than by having someone on the inside minimizing its ability to defend itself.
Despite the positives there was still one huge negative; Sirius Black. That wasn't Severus' fault however. No, the blame for that fell squarely on the shoulders of Amelia Bones. There was almost no one he wanted dead more at that moment than that infernal woman! There was really no way to stop Sirius from getting a trial now. He'd tried to coerce Black's location out of her then attempted to track her to his location. Both attempts had backfired horribly. It was obvious now that another tracking charm was useless and, if her attitude towards him earlier was any indication, it would be a very cold day in hell before she would ever willingly give him the time of day much less tell him anything about Sirius Black.
No, he had no choice now but to hope he could somehow gain enough influence over Sirius once he was free to still maintain some control over the boy. He pushed those thoughts to the back of his mind for further consideration later as he spied his target.
"Mr. Potter?" he called out to the first year smiling inwardly as the boy jumped in surprise.
He'd noticed the boy's nervousness earlier and didn't think he would have any problem getting any pertinent information from him about what happened in the classroom after he was all but kicked out. Harry looked around nervously until he spotted the Headmaster then shuffled over to him.
"Yes sir?" Harry responded respectfully with only a touch of nerves when he got close.
Albus reveled in the respect the boy was giving him in that moment. It was proof that most of his goals concerning the boy were going exactly as he had expected them to. He wanted the boy to look to him above all others for guidance. He needed Harry Potter to have an unshakable faith in his headmaster. All of his plans depended on it. His friends should help that along greatly.
He hadn't wanted the boy to have any close friends beyond Ron Weasley who was spying on Harry for him. However, the other two should prove useful as well with the additional compulsion charms he put on them after they became friends. The charms were purely for insurance purposes as it was likely they would have done what he wanted without them.
Neville Longbottom was, from the short time the headmaster had been able to observe him, practically scared of his own shadow. Therefore it was highly unlikely he would ever dare to do anything but exactly what he was told to do. Albus had no idea how he was sorted into Gryffindor.
Hermione Granger, on the other hand, Rivaled Harry in courage except when it came to rule breaking. She had an almost pathological need to please authority. As a result, her first response to any crises would always be to ask a staff member for help or encourage her friends to do so. Any such requests would rapidly make their way to the headmaster thus keeping him in the loop on the life of his most important student.
The compulsion charms were to make sure that continued to be the case. He put on his best grandfatherly smile to put Harry at ease. A feeling of satisfaction went through him upon seeing the boy visibly relax in response.
"I just wanted to apologize for having to leave you alone with Madame Bones Harry," he said keeping his tone friendly. "And to see if you had any questions or concerns about anything you discussed after I left?"
"Not really Professor," he answered simply. "She tried to tell me what the trial and The Ministry would be like but, seeing as how I've never been there, I probably won't really understand everything she told me until I'm actually at the trial."
"That is probably true," he replied smiling inwardly at how easy it was to get the boy talking to him. "But I wouldn't concern yourself with that too much Harry. Most witches and wizards spend little if any time in the ministry and therefore wouldn't understand what Madam Bones said any more than you did. Did you talk about anything else?"
"She asked how school was," Harry responded a smile appearing on his face. "I told her it was great and that I liked being here. I told her all about my friendship with Ron. How we met on the train and became best mates. Oh, and I told her about Neville and Hermione too."
"I'm glad you are enjoying your time here Harry," Again he smiled inwardly.
The compulsion charms were working perfectly making Ron the most important person in his life at the moment. That was exactly how he wanted it for the time being. When he was older, adjustments would obviously have to be made but, for now, it was fine the way it was.
"Was that all?" he continued putting on his best concerned look wanting to be sure he learned all he could from the boy.
"Yes professor," he answered. "Except for the goodbyes of course,"
"Very well," Albus replied returning to the grandfatherly smile and turning his twinkle on full force satisfied he had gotten all the pertinent information. "Feel free to come to me should you have any questions or concerns later on Harry. I won't hold you any longer as I suspect your friends are anxious to hear all about your meeting."
The boy gave him a smile in return and nodded his head then turned and hurried away quickly. Albus turned and headed the other way confident things would go just the way he wanted them to once he had Sirius Black under control.
Harry hurried around the corner before slowing down to a normal pace happy to be away from the headmaster. He had enjoyed talking to Amelia Bones and was looking forward to the trial and hopefully his godfather's freedom. He knew Sirius was innocent from the book and he couldn't wait to be free of his relatives but that was still two weeks away. Right now, he had another problem he needed to figure out.
A few weeks had gone by since Halloween and he still hadn't told Hermione about the book. It wasn't from lack of trying but simply a lack of opportunity. Ron, it seemed, was determined to never let Harry out of his sight. It didn't help that suddenly Hermione and Neville as well seemed to want him around all the time. It was very different from how they acted toward him before they had all become friends and Harry knew why; at some point, compulsion charms had been placed on them probably by Dumbledore.
He hadn't been able to get Hermione alone but had managed to find an opening to check them both for charms. After two weeks of frustration he had finally come up with a plan that he hoped would work but that would be for later. Right now his friends were waiting in the Gryffindor common room and he had just reached the fat lady's portrait. He gave the password and slipped inside as soon as it was open.
He was immediately surrounded by his three friends wanting to know what happened. He spent the next hour telling them all about the meeting as well as his talk with Dumbledore afterwards then they talked about the upcoming trial and how he felt about it. Obviously he didn't tell them the truth but instead said he was happy to see his parents' betrayer face justice. He even put an angry expression on his face to make them think he truly hated Sirius.
After that, they talked about school and other meaningless subjects until it was time for dinner. After dinner they played a few games of exploding snap then Hermione read a book while Harry and Neville switched off playing chess with Ron. It was Ron that yawned first then everyone else followed suit and before long they all headed to bed. Harry didn't go to sleep though. Instead he lay awake waiting for Ron and Neville to fall asleep. When he heard their distinctive snores, he knew he was clear to put his plan to tell Hermione in action. He also hoped to be able to take care of something else the book wanted him to do while he was at it.
He got out of bed slowly, grabbed his backpack then quietly tip toed out of the dorm. He headed back down to the common room hoping Hermione would be there. It wasn't the first time he had snuck out of bed late at night. He'd done it several times; at first because he was still getting used to sleeping in the castle and later because of what was happening the next day. He had trouble sleeping the whole week before Halloween for obvious reasons. In almost all those instances, he found Hermione sitting in the common room reading a book usually by herself as it was normally empty after ten.
He didn't know why she was always up so late but hoped to find out someday. Right now, he just wanted her to be there tonight. He wanted to tell her. He was tired of keeping all of this to himself. Plus, he wanted to give her the necklace so she would be safe from the compulsion charms and anything else they tried to use on her. When he got to the common room, he was relieved to see her sitting in her usual chair by the fire a book open in her lap. He made his way over to her purposely making some noise to avoid startling her. She didn't look up or otherwise show any indication she had heard him approach until he was only a few feet away. Then she spoke but never moved her eyes off the page she was reading.
"What are you doing up Harry?" she asked finally looking up to meet his eyes at the end of the question.
"Couldn't sleep, you?" he responded simply while throwing the question back to her.
He suddenly felt extremely nervous about how she would react to what he wanted to tell her but was still determined to go through with it. He just decided to start with some small talk and work his way to it as quickly as he could rather than just blurting it out to start with. Plus, he had no intention of bringing it up in the common room. No, he decided he would get her to follow him on his other mission first then give her the necklace and once they were at the safe house, drop the rest of it on her there. He only hoped she would still be his friend when it was all said and done.
"Lavender and Parvati were having one of their gossip fests when I went up there," she responded with a bit of annoyance in her voice. "They were talking so loudly I wouldn't be able to concentrate on my book much less be able to sleep. This isn't the first time it's happened either. Honestly! You would think they would have the decency to show their dorm mates a little courtesy and have their chats down here where they won't impose on anyone!" She seemed to realize all at once that she had gone on a bit of a tirade and looked up at him sheepishly. "Sorry Harry. I guess I'm just a bit fed up so why can't you sleep?"
"I've just got a lot on my mind I guess," he answered edging closer to the topic he really wanted to talk about.
She nodded her head a look of sympathy coming over her face.
"Let me guess," she replied after a few seconds. "You've been thinking about your parents haven't you? Oh, Harry I'm so sorry. I know this must be difficult for you. You must think badly of us. I mean, we just kept pushing you for more information and never considered how you might be feeling about all of it except what you thought of Sirius Black of course."
"It's ok Hermione," he responded. "Of course I've been thinking about my parents but I have been doing that constantly since I found out the truth about them when I learned I was a wizard. Truth is I've always wondered about them for as long as I can remember and never believed the lies I was told."
He trailed off and turned away as he felt an unexpected swell of emotion at the direction this conversation had turned to. He quickly shook it off and turned back to her as he had far more important things to tell her and didn't have time to dwell on those feelings at the moment. She spoke up though before he could try to get the conversation back on track.
"Who lied to you about your parents Harry?" she asked hesitantly clearly worried she might be prying.
"My relatives," he answered simply.
He was through worrying about what his relatives said or did now that he had a real chance of never having to see them again. Hermione, on the other hand, looked horrified by his answer.
"Why would they do something like that," she asked once she found her voice again.
"It doesn't matter Hermione," he replied shaking his head. "I know the truth now and that's all that matters. Anyway, that's not why I can't sleep. You see, there is something else that I have been keeping from everyone for a while now but I don't want to keep it to myself any more. I need to share it with someone I can trust."
He watched her face to see how she would react worried she might get scared and refuse to listen but she only looked thoughtful as she considered what he said. Silence fell for a few minutes until he began to get worried she might not be thinking at all but simply ignoring him hoping he would take the hint and go away. Finally she met his eyes again a smile on her face letting him know his fears were for naught.
"I'm glad you want to talk to someone Harry," she said finally. "But wouldn't you rather be telling Ron this instead of me? I mean, he is your best mate after all or, if it's something really important perhaps you should tell Dumbledore. I could go get Ron for you and Neville too if you wish?"
He wanted to scream 'No!' when she mentioned Dumbledore's name but managed to control the urge. He had to remind himself that she didn't know the truth yet not to mention the charms that were controlling her. He knew he needed to get her necklace on her as soon as possible but, for now, he just needed to convince her to go with him.
"Thank you Hermione but no," he answered her quickly as she had made to get up obviously expecting a different answer from him. He held up his hand to stop her and she sat back down as he continued. "Right now, I only want to tell you but, when I'm done, I will gladly tell anyone you think should know alright?"
She nodded her head another smile gracing her face obviously happy that he had chosen to trust her with his secret first. She sat back in her chair as if to get comfortable then started patting the chair next to her invitingly.
"Ok Harry," she said warmly. "You've got my undivided attention."
He shook his head in response and her smile was quickly replaced by a look of confusion.
"Not here," he said trying to explain his negative response. "I can't take the chance of someone walking in and overhearing."
She nodded her head indicating she understood as she replied.
"But where can we go?" she asked looking worried. "Your dorm room is full of sleeping boys and you can't come to mine. Even if you could, the gossip mongers are probably still at it. If they were to overhear us talking, the whole school would likely know your secret by breakfast tomorrow."
She looked thoroughly disappointed and he was quite sure she believed there was no solution to their problem which meant she wouldn't get to hear what he wanted to tell her at least not tonight.
"I know a place where we can talk where no one will be able to listen in," he said quickly causing her to immediately perk up. "Follow me."
She closed her book and set it aside as she happily stood up and did just that until she realized they were approaching the Gryffindor house portal. She then grabbed his arm to stop him and began speaking in hysterical whispers.
"Harry! We can't!" she said looking terrified. "It's after curfew! If we get caught we could be in a lot of trouble! I can't risk it after the troll! It might be enough to get me expelled! Please Harry we just can't-"
He'd put his hand over her mouth to stop her rant. Her eyes were still wide with fear but she made no attempt to remove his hand so she could continue. Instead she seemed content to wait and see what he had to say.
"It's ok Hermione," he said when she was calm. "We aren't going very far and I promise you we won't get caught."
The book had given him the exact time the prefects rounds would end which had already passed as well as exactly where the roaming professors would be at this hour. He didn't know how his future self knew that information but he didn't doubt it. He then removed his hand and was relieved when the rant didn't start up again. She still looked fearful but she was also clearly considering what he had said.
"How do you know that?" she asked still looking a bit unsure.
"I can't tell you that here," he responded. "But I will if you come with me."
He watched as her curiosity battled with her fear until there was a clear winner. He only hoped it was the curiosity that won otherwise his plan would have failed before it had even begun. When she nodded her head he knew it had. He then led her out of the portal and on to the next phaze of the plan.
He pushed open the Fat Lady's portrait and quickly made his way down the corridor ignoring the Fat Lady when she asked where they were going. He kept up a steady pace until he reached the stairs and climbed until he reached the seventh floor. He continued his pace on the seventh floor until he reached a dead end. There were no doors or windows, only a tapestry of a wizard teaching a group of trolls to dance. He signaled for Hermione to stop then began walking up and down the corridor while thinking 'I need a place to hide something" over and over like the book had told him to. As he walked, Hermione stood there silently a look of confusion on her face. That changed to shock when a door appeared across from the tapestry after his third pass. He quickly moved to the door, opened it and beckoned her inside.
He followed her through the door and was amazed at what he saw. There was stuff as far as the eye could see stacked floor to ceiling in some places. Trunks, cauldrons, furniture and lots of things he didn't recognize seemed to go on without end. He was suddenly worried he might not be able to find what he came here for. Hermione was just standing there, eyes wide, just taking it all in. he decided to try to break the spell the room had on her so they could get a move on and get to the most important thing he needed to do tonight; tell Hermione everything.
"Pretty impressive isn't it?" he asked her.
She glanced at him quickly before returning her gaze to the piles of things all around them.
"I don't know how a room this large could fit inside the castle?" she replied a look of awe still plastered on her face. "It must be at least ten times larger than the great hall perhaps more."
"Magic," he answered her playfully.
She rolled her eyes at him but the corners of her mouth moving up in a slight smile belied any real annoyance at his cheeky remark.
"Do you know what this place is?" she asked her curiosity once again showing through.
"It's called the Room of Requirement." He answered matter-of-factly.
"How did you find out about it?" she asked her curiosity clearly split between exploring the contents of the room and getting an answer to her question.
"From this," he answered simply while showing her the book for the first time having pulled it out of his backpack.
Her eyes were now locked on it all thoughts of the room they were in forgotten as she was now far more interested in seeing what else there was to learn in its pages.
"Could I borrow it sometime?" she asked timidly though her desire to get her hands on the book was clearly etched in her face.
He shook his head no and her expression turned from hope to disappointment. Worried he was upsetting her which was the last thing he wanted to do; he quickly spoke up so she wouldn't think he intended to keep it from her.
"Don't get me wrong Hermione," he said hastily. "I'm going to let you see it but I have to keep it with me at all times so I can't let you borrow it but you will always be welcome to read it as long as no one else is around."
The disappointment left her face as he spoke to be replaced first with relief and then another smile.
"Could I look at it now?" she asked taking a small step towards him.
"Not yet, but soon," he answered while opening the book to a page he had bookmarked. "I need it to find something first. This book is one of the things I wanted to talk to you about. The main thing really but I need to find a diadem that's supposed to be hidden somewhere in here first, what ever that is."
"A diadem is a crown," she replied like she was reading it right out of a book. "It's also called a tiara."
"Oh, good," he responded relieved." Then I know what I'm looking for. Do you want to come with me or wait here while I get it?"
"I'll go with you of course," she answered as if it was obvious what she would choose before a look of concern appeared on her face. "But how are we going to find it in here? I mean this place is huge Harry. It could take ages to find it and that's assuming there is only one diadem in here. If Neville and Ron were here it would lessen the odds a bit. Perhaps we should wait until they can come here with us or-"
"Hermione!" he interrupted causing her to stop speaking in mid sentence but the concern never left her face. Once again he held up the book causing her eyes to immediately lock onto it. "We don't have to search the whole room because this has directions to the one we are after."
He indicated the book as he spoke and was glad to see her calm down as she listened to him.
"Well, what are we waiting for then," she said smiling enthusiastically while moving to his side. "Let's go find us a tiara."
He returned her smile with one of his own then opened the book to the page with the directions. He then went where the book told him to go Hermione following close behind. They made several turns in what seemed like every direction passing by piles upon piles of stuff left here by those that had found this room before them. When they reached the end of the directions they found themselves standing in front of a cabinet that looked like it had been burned with acid. There was an empty space beside it. Just beyond it was yet another pile of stuff that contained a little bit of everything including a bust of a warlock, a dusty old wig and, nearby, a tarnished tiara sitting lopsidedly like someone had dropped it there quickly. Knowing he had found what he was looking for, Harry pulled a bag out of his backpack and carefully put the tiara inside it before putting the now full bag back in the backpack. Hermione had stood there quietly as he collected the tiara but spoke up as he closed the zipper on the backpack.
"Can I read the book now Harry?" Hermione asked expectantly.
"First I want to give you something Hermione," he answered her while fishing her necklace out of his pocket. He then let it dangle out of his hand while holding it up so she could see it.
"Harry, you don't need to give me anything," she replied while tentatively reaching out to touch it another smile on her face.
"I want to Hermione," he said letting her take the necklace from him to get a closer look at it. "I know you worry that, at some point, we won't want to be your friend anymore but that's not going to happen."
Her eyes quickly left the key pendant that she had been examining while he spoke and met his eyes a look of shock on her face that he knew what she'd been worrying about and dreading since the troll incident.
"How-?" she was only able to get the one word out before choking up but he knew exactly what she was asking.
"You're about to find out," he answered smiling. "But first I'd like to put that on you if you will let me?"
She nodded her head and he moved behind her while grabbing the necklace from her hand. She then held her hair up and out of the way while he gently put it around her neck and fastened the clasp. He then stepped back around her while pulling a slip of paper out of his pocket.
"You are not simply a friend Hermione, you are my best friend" he continued when he was back in front of her. Her eyes once again went wide with shock at what he was telling her. "I wouldn't be telling you all my secrets if you weren't. I understand if my words aren't enough for you to believe me. I know what it's like being bullied and, with your brains, I imagine there were many times when someone said all the right things only to find out they only befriended you for help with their schoolwork. If nothing else, you can hold on to yours as physical proof that our friendship is real until I've managed to convince you."
She smiled when he said she was his best friend but that quickly changed to another look of shock as he continued. By the end she looked almost catatonic and he was afraid he might have broken her and was worried he might have gone too far using what the book had told him about her childhood. She seemed to snap out of it a few moments later and once again met his eyes.
Harry-?" she started to question him but he cut her off knowing what she was going to ask.
"I already told you," he interrupted her gently. "You are about to find out but right now I need you to read this out loud for me please."
She took the paper from his hand looking confused and looked at it.
"I don't understand Harry," she asked with a puzzled look on her face.
"You will, I promise," he answered her. "Please, just do it."
She hesitated a moment and he was afraid she might refuse. She was a smart girl after all but he needed to get her to the safe house so he could tell her everything so he tried one more time to get her to do it.
"For me?" he implored hoping he could convince her by playing on her emotions.
He waited a few more seconds afraid to even breathe while she once again had an internal battle with herself until, like earlier, she looked at him and nodded her head. He smiled his gratitude as she lifted the paper back up so she could read it still holding on to the pendant with her other hand.
"Sanctuary," she said out loud finally then turned to him. "Now whaaaaaaaah-"
Right as she started speaking the portkey activated and whisked her away. The abrupt pull of the portkey caused her to scream out but it was quickly cut off from Harry's ears once she was gone. He quickly stuffed his necklace back inside his shirt, put his own wand away so he would look the least threatening when he got there and picked up his backpack then activated his own portkey. He only hoped Hermione would give him a chance to explain before hexing him.
He arrived to find himself facing the glowing tip of Hermione's wand. She had backed herself up against the wall a look of fear mixed with anger on her face. He had no doubt she was prepared to fight to protect herself from whatever he might have planned for her. He quickly dropped the backpack and slowly raised his empty hands palms out in a non-threatening manner. She didn't give him a chance to speak as she immediately laid into him.
"Harry James Potter!" she spoke slowly through gritted teeth and he quickly realized he never wanted to hear her say his name like that again.
She wasn't quite yelling per se but her voice was raised and there was no missing the malice currently permeating her tone at the moment. He mentally kicked himself for tricking her thinking she was now going to hex him until he told her how to get back and then never speak to him again. He also knew he had this coming so he gave her his full attention hoping she would give him a chance to explain before sending the first curse his way.
"If you thought tricking me into portkeying myself out of Hogwarts to-," She glanced around quickly her wand never wavering before meeting his eyes again and continuing. "To wherever this is, would turn me into a terrified little girl you are sadly mistaken. I don't know how you managed it anyway. I read in 'Hogwarts A History' that only the headmaster can make portkeys that can pass through the wards of the school. Not even You Know Who was able to do that. How is it possible that you, a first year, were able to do something only one adult wizard in the entire world can do? I guess I never really knew you did I? Well that's about to change because, one way or another, I am going to learn all there is to know about Harry Potter before this night is over. Now start talking and I'd better like what I hear or I will hex you clear into next week!"
He decided to start by answering the questions she asked during her long statement hoping that would satisfy her enough to keep her from releasing the curse already in her wand.
"This is my safe house," he answered quickly. "Well, actually, it's our safe house now, I don't know how the necklaces work because I didn't make them and the reason I brought you here is to tell you everything. So no hexing is required unless you think I have it coming for tricking you in which case I totally understand and will accept any punishment you think I deserve. However, that will mean it will be even longer before you get your answers. It's your choice Hermione so, what's it going to be?"
"Why do you have a safe house?" she asked seeming to ignore his question.
Harry did note that the tip of her wand stopped glowing which he took as a good sign he was making progress and decided to let the conversation go where she wanted to take it.
"We have a safe house Hermione," he corrected gently hoping to make her feel more at home there. "And just like the necklaces, it was set up to keep us safe."
"Safe from what?" she asked her wand was now at her side pointing toward the ground her curiosity apparently overwhelming her anger.
While he wanted to tell her everything, Harry definitely didn't expect to be on this subject so quickly. As a result, he felt like they were getting way ahead of themselves. Harry wanted to start from the beginning thinking starting in the middle would only confuse her more plus he still needed to take care of the diadem. He decided to answer her but try to steer the conversation towards the diadem as quickly as possible.
"The wizarding world," he answered simply. "It's not the wondrous, happy place it looked like the first time we entered Diagon Alley. It's filled with people that will either try to control us or kill us. According to the book, there are only a few people that are truly who they say they are."
"The book told you all that?" she asked her face a combination of shock and envy that he had read it and she hadn't yet.
He nodded his head in response.
"And much more," he added causing her eyes to open even wider in amazement.
"Harry," she said after a few moments concern clearly coming through in her tone. "How do you know you can trust what the book says? It could be a cursed book or someone's idea of a joke or worse; it could've come from a supporter of V- you know who!" she flinched slightly before chickening out when it came to saying Voldemort's name then said the common phrase that everyone else used to avoid saying it. "You should show it to Dumbledore-"
"No!" Harry yelled no longer needing to hide the truth from her. "Dumbledore is the worst of the lot. If he got a hold of the book it would be a disaster for both of us and anyone else it intended for us to help. This is no fairytale Hermione. I know it's hard to believe. I found it hard to believe myself at first until I was given undeniable proof. But we're getting a bit ahead of ourselves. I want to start from the beginning and tell you everything then you can decide for yourself."
She had jumped a little at his outburst but had calmed as he explained himself. She then for the third time seemed to have an internal battle with herself but this didn't last nearly as long as others had before she met his eyes and nodded her head again.
"Okay," she said looking a little nervous. She turned and gestured toward the couch as she continued. "Shall we sit so you can finally tell me what this is all about?"
"Not yet," he replied. "There is one more thing I need to do then I'm all yours."
"Harry!" She responded sounding frustrated. "You keep saying you want to tell me something but then you keep putting me off. I'm tired of these games! Either tell me what it is you want me to know or tell me how to get back to school!"
He winced at her tone and once again knew he had it coming but he needed to put the diadem away before he could give her his complete attention. He only hoped he could convince her to wait one more time.
"You're right Hermione," he said conceding her point. "I have put you off several times. But this is the last time I promise. I just want to put the Diadem in a safe place. According to the book, Voldemort placed some sort of curse on it because it belonged to one of the founders."
She visibly flinched when he said Voldemort's name. Harry had learned from the book that there was no reason to fear the bastard's name so he had been saying the name since he first heard it. He hoped, in time, she would get over her fear of it too. Her eyes got wide again as he finished speaking.
"Are you saying that tiara is Rowena Ravenclaw's lost Diadem?" she asked her eyes locking onto the backpack that still sat on the floor where Harry had dropped it. "Are you planning to use it for your classes?"
"Yes it is and of course not," he answered. "Didn't you hear what I said? Voldemort cursed it. It's far too dangerous to use or leave in a school full of children for that matter. Even if it wasn't, I still wouldn't use it. That would be cheating and I don't need the help. I'm doing just fine in my classes all on my own. Anyway, the book says there is a place here where we can lock it up so it can't harm anyone. So, do you want to come with me to put it away or do you want to go back to school?"
Her eyes were still locked onto the backpack and he knew she wanted a closer look at the priceless artifact inside it that was thought lost but, for them at least, was now found. After seeing it so many times over the last hour, he wasn't surprised to witness yet another internal struggle as she made up her mind. When she looked at him and smiled he knew he had cleared the final hurdle and would now be able to accomplish everything he had set out to do that night.
"Lead the way Harry," she said letting him know he read her expression correctly. Not that he had any doubts but it was always nice to get confirmation.
He nodded his head and led her out of the sitting room towards the kitchen after picking the backpack up. He glanced back every so often and noticed she was looking all around as she followed him as she was getting her first real look at the house. She actually slowed way down as they passed the Library. The door was open so she could plainly see what the room was. He was still getting to know her but wasn't the least bit surprised at her actions. He had already known that she spent a lot of time in the school library not to mention always having a book in her hands and, of course, the late night reading so he expected the safe house library would draw her attention. Thankfully, she managed to control the urge to check it out right then and continued to follow him.
He stopped at a door just short of the entrance to the kitchen and opened it to reveal stairs going down to the basement. He started down them the sounds of another pair of shoes on the stairs behind him letting him know Hermione was still following him. At the bottom was a corridor that extended in both directions from the stairs but farther to the right than the left. There were four doors visible as he looked back and forth but both ends of the corridor were dead ends. Across from the stairs was also a blank wall meaning they could only go left or right or, of course, back up the stairs. He once again consulted the book then headed left until he came to the end of the hallway. The walls looked to be painted a pale green color in the light of the candles that lit the corridor. He reached out and briefly touched the wall the book guided him to and would swear that it felt like a normal wall even though the book said it wasn't and noticed Hermione doing the same probably following his lead.
He then looked at the book again before signaling her to step back. She complied and he took out his wand and began to run it up one corner as high as he could reach then across to the other corner and back down to the floor then back to the original corner. Hermione gasped as he was going up the first side and he quickly realized why. There was a red glowing line forming as he moved his wand along the wall. When he was finished, the wall had a large red glowing rectangle on it. Soon the entire wall glowed red for a few seconds before the 'finished' wall disappeared revealing a brick wall. Then Harry began touching particular bricks with the tip of his wand according to the instructions in the book never noticing Hermione reading over his shoulder. When he touched the last brick the book told him to, the bricks began moving apart much like the entrance to Diagon Alley until a door was revealed.
"Wow," she said right at his ear causing him to jump a little in surprise. She quickly put a little space between them looking apologetic. "Sorry, didn't mean to startle you. I couldn't help reading over your shoulder."
"That's okay," he responded smiling. "I just didn't realize you were so close is all. You're welcome to look at it. You'll be reading the whole thing soon enough after all. What were you saying wow about?"
She returned his smile as he spoke and moved closer until she was next to him again.
"Oh, I was reading about the security for this room," she answered him. "Whoever set it up made it very hard if not impossible for anyone else to get to this door. Did I read correctly that only your wand can reveal the door?"
"Well our wands actually," he answered her. "And only if we are the ones using them. The protections can sense if it's our magical signatures or not."
"What if our wands get lost or broken?" she asked worriedly.
By way of an answer, he pulled out his other wand that looked exactly like the one he had been using and held it up in full view. He couldn't believe how good it felt to finally be able to be completely open with someone about all this. He hadn't realized how hard it had been keeping everything to himself until now. Her eyes locked onto the older looking and far more beat up wand then glanced at the one he had been using. She went back and forth a few more times before her eyes went wide as she met his again.
"How do you have a spare wand that looks exactly like your main wand only more used?" she asked once again looking shocked.
"It came with everything else," he replied nonchalantly. "There is one for you upstairs as well but, even without the spares, I think as long it's a wand that belongs to us it will still work. Hopefully we won't ever need to put that to a test. You ready to see what's on the other side of this door?"
He indicated the recently revealed door as he spoke with his original wand while putting his spare away. She nodded her head in answer an excited smile on her face. He smiled back then reached for the door knob. The door was, surprisingly, unlocked but Harry figured it was probably unneeded with the wall protections. It opened into the room. He stepped through with Hermione hot on his heels. As soon as they were inside, the door closed all on its own. Harry quickly checked the door and found it was still unlocked so he turned his attention to the room they had just entered.
The door was in the corner of one wall. Room looked to be a perfect square with each wall about ten feet long and was completely empty. On the center of the wall with the door was a large Badger surrounded by dozens of smaller Badgers scattered all across it. The wall itself was yellow in color. The wall on the other side of the door was green in color with a large snake in the middle of it and, like the first wall, had dozens of small snakes across the length and breadth of it. Across from the door was a blue wall with a large Golden Eagle in the middle of it that followed the same pattern as the others with dozens of small Eagles filling up the rest of it. The last was the same as the others except the wall was red in color and the animal used was a Lion.
They quickly recognized the animals and colors as symbols of the four houses of Hogwarts so neither was surprised when the book instructed them to approach the blue wall with the eagles on it; the Ravenclaw wall. Harry again read the instructions then began touching the small eagles with the tip of his wand in what any onlooker would think was a completely random pattern. When he touched the last one the book told him to, the large eagle was surrounded by a glowing red line in the shape of a square. Within a few seconds, there was a loud metallic click as the light disappeared revealing a crack where the glowing line had been. A few seconds later the eagle swung forward revealing the inside of an empty safe.
Harry knew what to do next. He set the backpack down on the floor, took out the bag holding the diadem and put it inside the safe. He noticed Hermione looking at the bag longingly and understood she just wanted to look at the famous relic. She didn't need or want its help with her classes any more than he did. She didn't say word though as he pushed the eagle back into place and watched as it resealed itself. He then turned to her and gave her a relieved smile.
"Okay, now we can talk," he said happily.
She returned his smile while nodding her head in response. He picked up the backpack, moved to the door and opened it. They both got to watch first the brick wall open back up then the finished wall glow red before disappearing and allowing them back into the corridor. It also let them know that the protections went back up while they were in there so they knew they would be safe in the room should their enemies ever gain access to the safe house. The journey back to the sitting room seemed to go faster than the trip the basement had and, before he knew it, they were back there.
Harry had her sit on the couch while he walked to a cabinet and pulled out the box he had received that day in the leaky cauldron and set on the coffee table in front of the couch then took the book out of the backpack and set it on the table next to the box. The book was glowing but he ignored it for the moment and instead grabbed the letter out of the box and sat down next to her. However, Hermione noticed it too and spoke up before he had the chance.
"Why is the book glowing Harry," she asked curiously her eyes never leaving the book.
"It does that every time there are new pages to read." He answered simply.
It was a normal thing to him now so he wasn't in awe like Hermione obviously was. He did wonder if he'd had a similar expression on his face the first time he saw it but, since he was alone at the time, he would never know for sure.
"Pages are added to the book?" she asked her eyes going wide but still staying focused on the book.
"Pages are revealed actually," he responded. "Hermione, most of the pages in the book are blank. I've only read a small part of it so far but, again, we are getting ahead of ourselves. I promise you will get to read everything in the book both the old pages and the new but I want to start from the beginning because I'm worried it might be too confusing otherwise."
Her eyes remained locked on the book for a few more moment then she sat back and met his eyes while nodding her head.
"Okay Harry," she said flashing an excited smile. "I'm listening."
He returned her smile as he sat back while turning slightly so he was facing her as he finally began telling her everything.
"When Hagrid took me to the Leaky Cauldron," he started feeling an immense weight lift off his shoulders at being able to talk about this with someone. "The guy that runs the place, I think Hagrid called him Tom, sussed out who I was and loudly announced it as he practically ran over to shake my hand. Well that started a mad dash as everyone in there queued up to shake my hand and thank me after that. I don't mind telling you it was a bit overwhelming. I mean, at that point, I had no idea what they were thanking me for."
He paused for a moment to take a breath and adjust his position as the one he was in had become slightly uncomfortable then picked up where he left off.
"I hadn't been told anything about the magical world or my place in it. I had only learned of its existence a few hours before. Anyway, at one point, the crowd parted to allow an old man through. He was hunched over and walked with a cane. Everything about him seemed ancient. I expected him to shake my hand like everyone else but he handed me this package instead." He indicated the box on the table as he spoke. "He told me not to open it until I got home but that I would find it very useful. I did what he said but, to be honest, at first it looked like it was filled with useless junk. There was a book that was blank inside, another book that was clearly from the muggle world rather than the magical world, what I thought at the time was two candles wrapped in paper, two silver necklaces and several odd trinkets."
At this point he reached into the box and took out the other wand.
"Here is your other wand by the way," he said as he handed it to her. "It should be the same as yours like mine is."
Nothing happened while he held it but sparks flew from it as soon her hand touched it. She quickly took out her wand and compared the two. To Harry, they looked exactly alike but he was certainly no expert at such things so couldn't know for sure. When she was done checking them out, she put them both away and gave Harry her attention once again.
"Anyway, after seeing what was in the box," Harry continued. "I was ready to chalk it up to a prank or the work of a senile old man. I even started putting everything back in the box with the intention of throwing it away until I went to put the book in the box. When I picked it up, this letter fell out."
At this point he held up the letter for her to see then handed it to her. She took the pages out of the envelope and carefully unfolded them before she started reading. He watched her silently as she read. Her eyes went wide and she glanced his way more than once as she read it. He couldn't be sure what part she was reading during those times but figured that he'd probably had similar reactions the first time he read it as well. When she was finished she put the pages back in order and slid them back into the envelope before handing it back to him.
"You did all this?" she exclaimed while handing it to him then quickly corrected herself. "Er, that is your future self?"
"Apparently," He answered shrugging.
He hadn't really put that much thought into it. He'd been too busy enjoying the safe house and everything that came with it. He hadn't had very much to be happy about before this came along and hadn't really cared too much about where it came from he just grabbed onto it with both hands. He wasn't surprised that she did though. He was still getting to know her but had learned quickly that she always thought everything through not wanting to leave anything to chance if she could help it.
"So," she spoke up pulling him out of his thoughts. "I'm guessing the extra pages the letter refers to were the proof you told me about?"
He nodded his head as he pulled them out of a pocket in his robes. He offered them to her but she held her hands up to stop him.
"I-I don't need to read them Harry," she said nervously. "Those are private and I have no right to see what's in them. If, someday, you ever feel like talking about that part of your life, I'll be there for you as your friend but it's not right for me to invade your privacy like this."
His hand never wavered as he continued to hold them out to her.
"It's ok Hermione," he responded kindly. "This is the proof I promised to show you and I don't mind you reading them."
She just shook her head and continued to refuse to take them.
"No Harry!" she replied a bit forcefully but there was no real anger in her tone. "I told you I don't need to see them. If you say what's contained in them is accurate; that's good enough for me."
He nodded his head letting her know that they did.
"Very well," she said in an almost matter-of-fact tone. "I believe you now you can put those away."
He continued to hold his hand out while shaking his head in response.
"Harry-" she started to argue but he quickly cut her off.
"Hermione," he interrupted gently but firmly. "I told you I wanted to share everything with you and that includes these pages. I won't lie to you and tell you I'm not nervous or embarrassed for you to read them. In fact, if I hadn't come into all this," he waved his hand around in a circular motion to indicate the house and everything in it as he spoke. "I probably would have kept my life with my relatives a secret for as long as possible but hopefully I won't have to see them ever again because I'll be living with my godfather. I'm glad you believe me but I still want you to read them. Now will you please take the pages my arm is getting tired holding them up."
She looked like she was going to continue arguing with him for a moment but then nodded her head and finally took the pages. As she read them, a look of horror came over her face and by the end she was openly crying. She carefully folded the pages back up, put them back in the envelope and set it on the table before pulling him into a hug.
"Oh Harry," she said still crying. "I don't know how anyone could treat a member of their family like that. Your relatives are horrible people! I'm really glad you don't have to go back there."
Harry didn't answer right away. He was too dumbstruck to be able to speak at the moment. He was experiencing what it was like to be on the receiving end of a hug for the first time. At least the first time he could remember. His parents had probably hugged him but he was a baby at the time so he had no recollection of it. He wasn't sure how to describe how it felt. There was a feeling of comfort, warmth and something he had never felt before; acceptance. He also felt a little embarrassed because it was Hermione hugging him. All in all, he rather enjoyed the experience and hoped to get more of them in the future.
"Me too Hermione," he responded as he returned her hug feeling awkward since he wasn't sure if he was doing it right. "But it's alright now. I have this place."
He looked around the room and, for the first time in a long time, once again marveled at the thought that someone had set all this up for him. He wasn't sure why he was feeling that way at the moment but figured it was probably because he was showing it to someone for the first time changing it from a place where he was safe but alone to one where he had a friend to share it with making it somehow feel new to him again. He turned back to Hermione and saw that she was wiping away her shed tears and dabbing her eyes with a handkerchief that she had probably gotten from her ever present book bag.
"Friends I can trust," he continued giving her a smile which she returned while giving his hand a reassuring squeeze. "And a godfather that is hopefully going to be free soon so I can live with him and never have to see the Dursleys again."
Hermione nodded her head in agreement with his statement clearly feeling better now. She let go of his hand and sat back her eyes immediately focusing back on the book. Harry took the hint and finally grabbed the book off the table not noticing her scooting closer to get a better look until he turned back to her.
"This is what I read that first night-," he said as he started to open the book intent on starting with the first page. Apparently the book had other ideas as it wouldn't open where he wanted it to. In fact, Harry wasn't able to turn to any of the pages he had already read or any of the unrevealed pages either. It would only open to what was now a single glowing page since he picked the book up. After several attempts to get to the page he wanted, Harry finally gave up and returned his gaze to the girl next to him.
"Well," he started again as he opened the book to the only page he could at that moment. "I guess that page will have to wait as the book apparently has other ideas."
He then looked down at the new page as Hermione moved even closer to the point that their heads were almost touching in her eagerness to read it along with him.
Hello Hermione. I'm Harry Potter. Not the boy who is no doubt sitting beside you as you both read this but his future self. You probably already know this but I thought I should introduce myself just in case.
Harry, you need to go to the pantry and get another potion marked 'block' for Hermione along with one of the ones marked 'Sponsorship'.
Hermione, you need to take them both immediately. Like Harry, a block has been placed on your magical core. The other potion is to remove what I like to call the muggleborn curse. I'm not referring to you being a muggleborn as some sort of curse but a horrible spell that was cast on you the moment you entered the magical world that the ministry calls sponsorships. I'm not talking about the trace either Hermione. I'll bet that was one of the first things that popped into your brilliant mind as you were reading this.
Harry glanced at his friend after reading that and noticed she was blushing indicating the book had gotten very close to the mark if not nailing it right on the head. He couldn't help but smile at how well his future self knew the girl sitting next to him as he turned his attention back to the page.
It's a good guess but an incorrect one. I will explain more about the sponsorships after you recover from the potions. I say recover because removing the block, as Harry can tell you, is bloody painful.
Harry glanced at his friend again and saw that she was staring at him her eyes raised questioningly. He simply nodded his head already knowing what she was asking without her having to say a word then, once again returned to the page.
I apologize for my language Hermione but you'll understand soon enough. Neither I nor the boy next to you were ever subjected to the sponsorship but, from what I was told, the pain of its removal is nearly as bad as the cruciatis, a torture curse the death eaters loved to use and is now considered unforgivable. You should start reading this book from the beginning while Harry gets the potions as you have a bit of catching up to do.
Harry, you should probably put together a small snack to bring back with you as Hermione might need it as well as a pepper up potion as I have a feeling this is going to take a lot out of her. We will talk again when Hermione is sufficiently recovered.
Harry finished reading then shared a brief look with her before getting up to go to the kitchen. As he left the sitting room, he noticed that Hermione was following the book's instructions as well as she had turned back to the first page and had already begun reading before he could even get out of the room. He quickly put together a mixture of muggle and magical snacks and drinks then grabbed the potions out of the pantry. He was about to head back to the sitting room when his eye fell on the tea kettle sitting on the stove.
He quickly fired up the stove, filled the kettle and left it to boil thinking a spot of tea might be just what his friend would need in the very near future while he took what he had already put together out to Hermione. She was reading intently when he entered and he wasn't altogether sure she even noticed him place the tray on the coffee table and leave again. The kettle had just started whistling when he returned to the kitchen. He quickly put together a haphazard tea service including cream and sugar as he wasn't at all sure how she liked her tea and hurried back to the sitting room.
She was in the same position she was in when he left but he could see that she had made it through a few more pages while he was gone. He put the tea down next to the other tray then sat back down next to her while she continued to read giving no indication she knew he was there. He watched her for a while marveling at her ability to shut everything else out and concentrate on what she needed to do a slight smile on his face. Finally, he nudged her gently to get her attention because it was late and they needed to return to Hogwarts soon.
Hermione glance at him briefly then turned her attention to the table and what Harry had brought out quickly focusing in on the potions a nervous expression on her face. He placed his hand on her shoulder in what he hoped was a comforting gesture. Thanks to his relatives, he couldn't be sure as they never even once tried to comfort him but he was determined to be the best friend he could be to her so he was giving it his best shot.
"I won't lie to you Hermione," he said while picking up the first potion, the one he'd had to take as well, and handing it to her. "It hurts but only for a short while but you will feel better than you do now afterwards, at least I did."
"Feel better how?" she asked a curious expression coming over her face.
"After I took it," he answered her. "Everything was clearer and brighter like I'd been in a dark room all this time and suddenly the light had been turned on. Then I felt a surge of something akin to electricity running through my body that I think might have been all the magic that was released when the block was removed. I can still feel it but I've gotten used to it over time. All in all, I think the pain was a fair trade for how good I feel now."
He watched her as she considered his words certain he was rubbish at the whole comforting thing and hadn't helped at all when she didn't respond right away. Then she smiled at him and gave his hand a squeeze as she took the potion from him letting him know he was better at it than he thought. She still looked a bit nervous and sat there a few moments more before removing the lid and drinking it down.
Almost immediately she grimaced in pain and doubled over one hand covering her chest while the other covered her stomach. Harry also noticed a glow where her hands were. When the glow moved to her limbs, she exhaled in slight relief until the glow moved to her head. She threw herself back onto the couch as her hands moved from her body to her head and cried out.
Thankfully, it lasted only a few moments before she once again let out a breath of relief. She just lay there unmoving as Harry made her a fresh cup of tea before moving to her side with one of the pepper up potions. He got her to drink the potion and within a few seconds she was sitting up looking far more alert. She had a look of gratitude on her face as he handed her the steaming cup of tea. She took a sip then focused on the other potion that Harry held in his hand.
He could see the fear in her eyes as she looked at it and understood why. The Book said it would be far worse than the one to remove the block on their magical cores. He knew from experience how painful it was and was grateful that he didn't have to worry about the second one.
"You don't have to take this one tonight if you don't want to," he said trying to make her feel better. "You can wait until you feel more up to it." he paused momentarily unsure what to say then an idea came to him and he continued. "You like going to the library Hermione, maybe we should do some research to see if there is another way to remove the curse that isn't so painful."
She seemed to consider his words for a moment then shook her head and shakily held out her hand and took the potion from him.
"The book said I needed to do it now," she responded then gave him a grateful smile. "I appreciate the concern Harry but I'd rather get it over and done with. I doubt we can find any information on it anyway from the sounds of it except in the Book but I have to take this," She held up the potion as she spoke, "before it will let us read it."
Harry nodded his head but was still worried about her. His expression apparently showed his worry because she gave him another grateful smile as she reached over and squeezed his hand then popped the lid off the potion.
"I'll be fine Harry, "she said trying to reassure him but her smile didn't quite reach her eyes. "This sponsorship thing doesn't sound very good and it will be worth it to get rid of it no matter how much it hurts. Just have the other pepper up potion ready as I'm quite sure I'm going to need it."
With that she downed the second potion then lay back on the couch. The first hint he had of the potion beginning to work was Hermione screaming at the top of her lungs as her entire body began to glow. She soon began to thrash about in the throes of agony. Harry quickly moved back to the couch and pulled her upper body onto his lap and cradled her head to keep her from throwing herself off the couch where she might hit the table or fall to the floor and hurt herself.
He felt a surge of guilt go through him thinking she was suffering because of him and that blasted book. He also felt angry at the Book for putting his friend through this as her screams continued to assault his ears. His rational side knew it was whoever put that curse on her that was really to blame but his emotions were in control at the moment. After what seemed like forever but was probably just a few minutes, the glow faded and her screams died down. She was barely conscious as he tried to coax the other pepper up down her.
The potion woke her up but she was still very weak. He held her tea to her lips as she took a sip then helped her sit up. Once he had her propped up with the throw pillows from the couch he reached over to the table and grabbed some of the snacks and tried to get her to eat something as the Book said it would help her recover. He noticed the Book was glowing but ignored it for the time being. She resisted at first but then started to eat small bites. Little by little she started to regain her strength but it was clear to him that it had taken a lot out of her.
When she pointed out the book was glowing he tried to tell her it could wait until she felt better but she was insistent. She told him she suffered through the potion so she could see what the Book said and didn't want to wait anymore. Reluctantly, he picked up the book and sat back down beside her on the couch. He opened the book to the right page and held it up so they both could read it.
First off, I'm sorry you had to go through that but it was necessary. Like Harry, you are very powerful. The block not only limited your access to your own magic but limited your magical core's ability to grow as you got older. The sponsorship would have given others the ability to completely cut off your access to your magic basically rendering you a squib.
The term 'sponsorship', has a positive ring to it like the Wizarding World is trying help muggleborns and, in their perverted minds, they believe they are. They believe they are giving their lives purpose by bringing them into the magical world and using them for the betterment of pureblood society. Muggleborns and to a lesser extent half bloods are treated as servant classes in Magical Britain. The sponsorship is used to control them by giving the ruling class the ability to control their magic.
A pureblood family registers at the ministry and pays a small fee for the rights to a muggleborn about to be of age to attend Hogwarts. The ministry then records the sponsorship which details the family's preferences and okays a muggleborn that meets the requirements being offered a spot in the next year group. Only sponsored muggleborns actually make it to Hogwarts. Those that aren't sponsored get their magic bound and obliviated if necessary.
A muggleborn isn't actually matched to a family until after graduation unless the family needs them sooner. It's usually the Headmaster that decides which muggleborn goes to which family but the families can request and usually get a particular muggleborn if they desire it. Once they are designated for a particular family, the muggelborne becomes theirs to do with as they see fit. The sponsorship curse then becomes attuned to that family's magic giving them control over their new 'Sponsoree's' magic.
I don't want you to get the wrong idea. Some Muggleborns are treated fairly well by the families they're given to and have a decent life even if they aren't given a choice about it. The rare few get the life they would have chosen for themselves by getting selected by the family of the boy or girl they are in love with. Our mother was one of those lucky few Harry but that's a story for another time. You, Hermione, were not so lucky.
Unfortunately, you were given to a horrible family and suffered unspeakable horrors. I won't give you the details or the name of the family just yet. I don't think either of you are old enough to handle it. I fear you wouldn't be able to control yourselves around them and would alert them to something being wrong and that could lead to them finding out all your secrets. I will tell you when the time is right. For now, don't worry about it. We aren't going to let them get their hands on you this time.
It's because of you, Hermione, that I did all this. That I came back in time and created the safe house and this book. I couldn't let it happen again. My hope was to save my Hermione from her cruel fate but that wasn't to be. Instead I believe I have created an alternate reality instead of changing my own. I can live with that as long as it works and you both get to have the life that you want. The life me and my Hermione deserved.
Well, I think that's enough for now. If I know my younger self as well as I think I do, it's late at night as you read this probably way after curfew. You should head back to school. The portraits, including the fat lady, all report to Dumbledore so I would suggest you return the way you came. I would imagine Hermione is still weak and more than a little tired from her ordeal. I would suggest that you be seen by the fat lady helping Hermione back into the Gryffindor house while grumbling about the Cerberus in the third floor corridor.
Don't worry Hermione, you will read all about it in the book. Now go get some rest. Harry, have her start from the beginning like you did. I have a feeling she will catch up fast. We'll talk again soon.
Harry closed the book and set it back on the table then looked at his friend. Hermione was visibly upset at what they had just read but was fairly calm or perhaps still too weak from the potions to have any stronger reaction. He reached out and squeezed her hand in what he hoped was a comforting gesture. She squeezed his hand in return while giving him a grateful but obviously tired smile letting him know he was successful.
He quickly put the remaining food and drinks away then put The Book in his backpack along with the other books Hermione would need to start reading. He then turned to Hermione who still hadn't moved.
"Ready?" he asked her.
She nodded and he helped her up. He threw the back pack over one shoulder and pulled her close to his other side wrapping his arm around her waist to keep her from falling while he portkeyed them back to school. He took them back to the Room of Requirement then helped her back to the Gryffindor tower remembering to mumble about a three headed dog as he passed the portal. He walked her to the stairs to the girls dorms and watched her climb after she told him she could make it on her own then headed to his own bed happy that he had accomplished what he set out to do.
A/N: Thanks for reading. I will now move on to the next chapter of "All's Fair".