Chapter 16- Some Chords
AN: Well here we are again, it's always such a pleasure…. As always don't own it, don't make any money at all off of it, love to hear from you as to how you likin' it. The title of this chapter is based on the Deadmau5 song of the same name. On with the story!
Hermione's morning went as well as could be expected. Christmas was so thickly in the air and on the minds of the inhabitants of the castle that it made her feel vaguely ill, but at least Flitwick seemed to have forgiven her in the light of the new day, and they had spent a very productive breakfast munching on toast and debating the finer details of her search spell.
For all of his sweetness he was a very clever man, and had immediately grasped the fact that not only would this spell be incredibly useful for researchers in every field, but that she must have had a particular reason for coming up with it.
"What exactly is it that you're looking for, Miss Granger? Is it something you've already asked Minerva and I about, or is it something more?" he'd finally asked outright when she had steadfastly ignored his pointed hints for the better of a quarter hour.
"I'd rather not say until I have more data. It's—kind of a pet project." Hermione said firmly, hoping that would end the conversation.
"Well, we might have access to resources you don't have, we could maybe arrange for people for you to talk to, that kind of thing." He pressed, looking at her very seriously.
"I'm sure you can for a large manner of things, but this involves so much research into even the kind of research I need to do that I'm not sure what questions to ask. If I get to the point where I'm experimenting with anything or need more clarification on something, I will be sure to come to you first, but right now I'm really not sure what you can do."
"Matters of finding the right question…" Flitwick looked thoughtful. "Well, it might not harm you to run some arithmancy questions if that's what is troubling you. Now on to the actual reference spell!"
They practiced potential wand movements and broke down the structure and nature of the spell on diagrams before he let her out early at 11 with a fond "Happy Christmas!" and a promise to see each other at the Ministry Ball as she wouldn't be staying in the castle for Christmas. Hermione left feeling of good spirit and a little bit guilty about how nice he was in the face of her errors the evening prior.
Harry had woken up suddenly at five am and knew instantly that going back to sleep would be impossible. It wasn't like him to be so excited about everything, but Christmas was shaping up to be at the very least incredibly interesting, and he was going to spend a day with his best friend properly. Last night sitting up and talking with Hermione had felt like coming home in a way that reminded him fondly of he and Ron and Hermione sitting around the Common Room fire, and that if nothing else had him resolved to make amends properly with the Weasleys over the holidays.
He fussed around in the kitchen, making himself a breakfast he knew he wouldn't even properly eat, noting what he was low on and using a trick he'd borrowed from Hermione, spelled a list into existence while his hands were otherwise occupied with ladles and flour. Harry hadn't had an appetite properly since the Final Battle, and often found himself missing meals. But ever since the potion dosing he had found his already nonexistent appetite diminishing even more. He simply woke up and felt energized, like he had no need for nutrients. It would feel weird, wrong even to stop eating completely though so he made sure he did at least eat a bit every day, but he knew this breakfast was largely going to be packed up and given to someone who really needed it.
When Harry had discovered that he found cooking soothing last year, he had sought out the nearest shelter to Grimmuald. He remembered acutely what it felt like to be starving after living with the Dursleys and decided that he would never waste food. So when he found he needed to use up food to soothe his nerves instead of just to keep his own body running, he would often walk the area and give a hot meal or two to the needy.
He ate a couple of pieces of cinnamon toast absentmindedly before he packed up the perfectly poached half dozen eggs, half a rasher of bacon, a pan of bangers and mash, and, after some consideration two large thermoses of coffee and one of hot tea. He decided to walk instead of apparating today, even though the sun was barely up.
Walking quietly and quickly through the abandoned and derelict muggle streets, it didn't take him long to find Tom. When he had first met the boy back in October, Harry had been taken aback. The small boy was bright, scrappy, and sassy. When he'd asked him why he was on the streets, Tom had looked at him with dark old eyes and replied, "here I make my own rules." Harry figured the boy could not be older than eight. He always took the food Harry offered with a snarky comment and sometimes, on a really bad day, a tired smile. Harry lived in fear of the day that he stopped seeing him on his visits.
"Tom." He greeted the boy calmly, who had startled awake and into instant alertness when Harry was still a fair few feet away. One of the side effects of living on the street, he supposed.
"Oh, it's you." The distain in the child's voice contrasted directly with the quick hungry glance toward the satchel Harry had slung across his shoulder. Harry felt a pang of guilt at the sight of him. He was skinnier than ever and probably hadn't been eating by the look of him and it had been a very cold winter.
"How're you getting on?" he asked quietly as he opened his satchel and without hesitation handed over the largest package in his bag and the thermos of tea. The boy inhaled the scent greedily and began to dig in with his fingers directly, inhaling the bacon with a speed that Harry was sure he'd regret later.
"A'ight. There's gonna be a big thing at the Church on Christmas day, where they'll feed us all, and after Christmas everyone gets extra generous with the handouts on the streets, so as long as I avoid the cops and don't get myself sent to a shelter again" he scowled here "I'll be good til the middle of January at least."
Harry nodded quietly, wanting again to help the boy more concretely, but when he'd offered money before Tom had snapped at him and vanished from his regular haunt for almost two weeks. He didn't want to insult him again.
"Well, I might not be around for a bit, so you take care of yourself okay?"
"If I hadn't been I wouldn't have made it this far, mister. You're weird." Tom had turned away dismissively, gulping down the tea greedily.
Harry walked away and continued on his rounds, feeding two other regulars and one new woman who was camped out by the river and didn't have the hardened look most of the homeless did. He made a mental note to check up on her in a few days. By the time he returned home he felt both more devastated by the state of the world and more hopeful about humanity, the way he normally did after a morning or late evening out on this kind of errand. It really was quite chilly out, and Harry made a note to ask Hermione about getting some blankets and winter clothing for the next time. He re-entered the house and tried to decide what he was going to do with six more hours before he was scheduled to meet with McGonagall and then Hermione.
He wandered the house for a bit, listlessly walking from room to room, floor to floor, noting the actual shift in energy when he moved from the renovated to unrenovated sections of the manor. He hardly even remembered that he was in Sirius' house when he was on the main floor, but as he ascended the gloom settled on him fairly quickly. He made a note to resume renos soon, to keep working on making the space friendly and habitable, even if it was just to sell the ancient house in the future. Though with its remaining secret-kept status it was difficult to fathom how he might do that. He made yet another mental note to his ever-growing list of things to ask Hermione about, right as he turned into the library on his way back down the stairs. He actually smiled when he crossed the bright threshold of the room, which provided an absolutely dazzling view of the sunrise through the large windows that lined the far wall. The best decision they'd made in the whole house was this room in many ways, he thought, as he looked at the stacks and stacks of books lining the shelves, the hardwood spotted here and there with thick rugs, the soft warm and accommodating furniture. This had been one of his rooms, until Hermione took it over when he'd asked for help sorting out the dark and unsafe books from the more benign ones. But it didn't scream Hermione overtly. She'd kept things muted and tasteful and vaguely masculine, with rich colours and neutral paint, it didn't have the lightness that her own flat had. He was glad of a room that didn't overtly scream to him of his past life, he realized, and summoned his paperwork from his study, settling into one of the leather loveseats next to the currently empty fireplace to work for the remainder of the morning.
Harry was already sitting on her couch when Hermione got back to her rooms, looking like he lived there, taking tea comfortably with Professor McGonagall. If not for the notable lack of tartan Hermione might have believed for a moment that she had simply walked into the Headmistresses' quarters and not her own, and stumbled quite ungracefully upon seeing them both.
"Oh." She managed, closing her mouth, straightening her legs, and continuing to her bedroom without any more of a greeting, dropping her book bag off there before exiting and joining her best friend and mentor, taking a moment in her own space to school her features into a polite facsimile of puzzlement.
"Hello, Hermione. Everything went well with Filius, I trust?" McGonagall asked politely, ignoring entirely Hermione's rude lack of niceties.
"Yes, it did." She answered calmly, keeping herself from looking accusingly askance at the both of them only through sheer willpower. She felt paranoid, like this was some sort of intervention. She didn't have to wait long, however, for Harry was already answering her implicit question.
"We moved here for tea because we weren't sure when you'd be done and you and I have an appointment to wait. It was my idea. I'm sorry if I've made you uncomfortable?" he trailed it off questioningly, clearly looking vaguely regret-filled and very uncertain.
"It's fine, Harry. I was just lost in thoughts of my work and then it threw me off to have people unexpectedly in my rooms. I'm used to a quiet empty space when I come home. It was unexpected, not unpleasant." She smiled reassuringly at both of them and was glad to see Harry physically relax as she did. "What did you two get to talking about?"
"Quidditch, mostly." McGonagall replied crisply, bestowing Harry with one of her rare fond smiles as she did so. "I'm glad he's pursuing it. It would be a shame to waste the talent he has. I picked you for a reason all those years ago, and it wasn't just to get up the nose of your former potions professor." Her smile lapsed a little as they all remembered the rivalry she and Snape had shared before everything went to shit, and then she was standing, shaking Harry's hand crisply, smoothing her robes and moving to the Floo determinedly.
"Harry was quite eager to take you out, dear, and here I am taking up your time. We'll see the both of you later!" and with that she was gone, leaving Harry and Hermione standing side-by-side staring after her.
"Did you just talk about Quidditch all this time?" Hermione asked, turning to smile at Harry while he bounded up from the couch, putting back on his coat and shrinking his cloak to stuff in his pocket. It was clear that he really was in quite a hurry to go.
"Nah, we also talked about you. But come on now, lunch time! Anywhere you want to go in London!"
"Are we apparating?"
"Yes ma'am! Thankfully Minerva— it'll never be normal to call her that, you know?— was telling me she got one of those damned apparition stars put permanently at the gate. Go get your coat and your favourite pair of shoes. Those strappy ones you wore to Gin and my engagement party. But don't wear them, just bring them with."
"I'm beginning to really worry." Hermione called as she hurried back to her bedroom, donning her favourite peacoat that had been a gift from her mother before she'd left for the summer and sliding into some soft leather boots. After some serious digging in her closet she found the shoes in question. They were black and had much much too heel for her, but they had wrapped so lovely around her ankles and made her feel feminine in a way that she sometimes didn't after the fallout from the war. She hadn't shone like Ginny or Luna or Pavarti or even Lavender did up on the podium at the awards ceremonies, but in these shoes she felt powerful. In these shoes, she felt like she could take on the world. Harry was right, she didn't wear them enough. Dangling them off her right fingertips, she double-checked that her wands were still in place in their sheaths, and winding her hair up on top of her head and sticking a charmed quill through it to hold it in place, she rejoined Harry who was bouncing on his heels waiting for her, looking so excited to take her for her surprise that she couldn't help but smile at him.
"Alright, any other requests?"
"No, but you might wanna shrink those down unless you plan on carrying them all throughout London."
"What would I do if I weren't a witch?" she joked, waving her hand over the shoes and placing their now miniaturized versions in her pocket carefully. Harry looked at her strangely as she did it, but moved in to take her arm and begin walking her out of the castle the instant it was done. She wrestled her earmuffs on with one hand as they walked, effortlessly meandering through the quiet halls, waving and saying hello to a professor or two along the way. Hermione didn't fail to notice the nostalgic and slightly sad look that passed over Harry's face as they made their way to the doors, and knew he was remembering the battle that took place, the bodies that had littered the ground, the same way she did. She tightened her grip on him a little bit and smiled when he looked at her askance. She wondered if they'd ever grow out of it.
Once they were on the grounds, Harry spoke up about the look he'd given her in her quarters almost immediately, as if a secrecy spell had been lifted.
"When did you start doing wandless magic?" he asked, looking at her pointedly.
"Well, I've always dabbled in it a little." Hermione began, a bit taken a back and a bet on the defensive, "but lately it's seemed more instinctive. I use it quite often now." To her surprise, he looked grim at that. "Why?"
"Because your magic is growing stronger too. Mine's been better than it's ever been since well, since Voldemort came back at the Triwizard Tournament. You remember how Dumbledore figured I was linked to him not only through blood but through magic? Well, the aurors confirmed it. I lost a lot of power when he died, Hermione. Then I'm doused with a dark poison and I'm stronger than ever. You heal me and suddenly we're both doing things that even you with your extraordinary skills struggled with before. I'm worried, is all."
"Well, I'll run some tests when we get back, before we go to the Weasley gathering tomorrow. And if they come back at all problematic, I'll consult with a healer. Okay?"
"Alright, Mione." They had reached the gates now, smiling at the new house Hagrid had built fondly along the way as they slogged through the thick snow. Hermione shot drying charms at their ankles and was glad she was going into muggle London and so hadn't had to drag her robes through all of the thickly piled snow. She loved the Wizarding World, and her ablity to cast warming charms at will, but cold robes were cold robes, and unpleasant even if one had to endure them for only a second. Re-securing her wand in its sheath, she offered her arm to Harry with a smile.
"Well, take me on an adventure then."