"So are you definitely a vampire?" The girl asked. According to books, vampire transformations took almost four days, depending on the victim's size and the amount of venom injected into the bloodstream, but apparently Harry had been out for around a week. Clearly something was wrong.
"Yep" he answered with a grin.
Hermione had already figured that much out, but still she hadn't expected for hearing him say it so… happily.
It was almost as if Harry did not know the dangers being a vampire would bring, so she decided to instruct him.
"But, Harry!" her friends had always been a bit slow, but this was dangerously approaching Ron's level of slowness, "How can you sound so excited about this?" she asked heatedly.
"Well…" the newborn vampire was interrupted before he could say any more than that.
"Vampires are feared by people, you are a hero to the country but how do you think people will react once this gets out?" Hermione wasn't always the most supportive person, preferring the more logical path; but this was an all time new. To actually remind him of his original fears… at least she wasn't cowering behind the couch clutching a crucifix.
"And how are you going to continue to fight you-know-who when you have got so many weaknesses?"
Something caught his attention at that. "When did you stop using his name?" he asked shocked, "We had made such great progress! Now we are going to have to start all over again." He said in fake disappointment, trying to to lighten the mood.
But making Hermione shut up once she was trying to reach full lecture mode was nearly impossible to accomplish.
"This isn't a time for jokes!" she reprimanded "How are you supposed to return to school?"
Not planning to. Hermione was being irritating.
"You will be kicked out of Gryffindor's team and what if someone tries to kill you?" what was up with Hermione that day? She did not seem to be in a good mood. "A Death Eater posing as anybody can just make a flash of sunlight and that would be it!" she snapped her fingers on the last word as if to emphasize her point.
And how am I supposed to answer a single question when you just won't keep your mouth closed for three seconds?
"And what about…" screw it.
"Hermione!" Harry interrupted the girl. "Finally." He murmured.
"First of: thank you very much for reminding me of every concern or fear I've had in the past week, really considerate of you." He said sarcastically.
"You've been awake an entire week?" more questions, yay…
Before she had another chance to start drilling at him for not going to see her before, he spoke up.
"Yes I have been," his voice was louder than necessary but he wanted to make sure he was not interrupted this time. "I woke up and I would have loved to go and make sure everyone who went to the ministry with me was alright and ask what the hell happened after we left, I don't remember much of it after Dumbledore arrived at the atrium. But Dumbledore ordered me to stay locked up in this very room until very recently, with almost no information whatsoever."
Hermione's annoyance had been slowly fading since some point around the middle of his small speech, she still looked somewhat pissed, since it had been a really short one but at least she had apparently understood that Harry would not let her enter lecture mode.
"Well there is not much to tell." She stated after a moment of silence, her face was deliberately turned away from him. "I woke up somewhere in the department of mysteries for a moment with Tonks and Mad-eye." Thank god! Hermione had finally started to make herself helpful. "They said something about Dumbledore before they noticed I was waking up. There was this awful ache in my chest, and they said that I had been hit with some darker variation of the fire-whip but that I would be ok in no time."
"You really had us worried for a minute." Harry said as he remembered the green flash he had thought for a moment had ended his friend's life.
"But thankfully there were no side effects, but they said I should not move too much and as I was trying to get away to check on the rest of us, the stunned me!" She exclaimed indignantly. "No warning, not even tried to talk to me, just stupefied me!"
Harry chose to remain silent at that, deciding to change the subject with another question.
"How are the others?" he asked.
His friend was brought out of her offended self "Everybody's fine, worrying about you of course, but otherwise fine." She said, "Ron was a bit shaken up from the brain-like thing attack, but he is ok now."
There was a moment of silence during which none of them looked at the other; both lost in thought about different matters, for Harry the matter was whether Hermione had told anyone else about him.
He could just ask her, but he was worried that she would get angry at him for not trusting her or doubting their friendship or something, maybe if he acted like he really didn't care about it, she would think it wasn't such a big deal.
"Hey" he said in "While we are on the Ron subject; how did he take the news?"
Hermione looked away, that's never a good sign, and quietly replied.
"He doesn't know" her voice not exactly above a whisper, "None of them know."
Having obtained what he wanted, he pressed to change the subject before there was an awkward silence.
"Where did you wake up after being stunned? Harry asked.
"Huh…" she replied distractedly, no doubt deep in thought, "Oh, in the Hospital Wing, back at Hogwarts."
Strange, he didn't remember seeing her there.
"Wasn't I there when you arrived?" he asked her.
She made an impatient noise. "I was unconscious, Harry, how am I supposed to know? But anyway you were there when I woke up again, just lying there, looking completely relaxed, and I couldn't figure out what had happened to you but I guessed, based on most of your prior 'visits' there, you were ok now and just needed some sleep."
"But then how come when I woke up the only one there was Dumbledore?" Harry asked the girl.
She looked a sheepishly at her shoes as she mumbled an answer. "I really wanted to go to the bathroom…"
Harry fell silent for a moment, before letting out a roaring laughter. Here was the so mature Hermione Granger, her plans trumped because she really had to go.
Harry had a hard time controlling his laughter. "And then I got hungry and I assumed you wouldn't wake up in the next few minutes so I… stop laughing at me!"
Harry had finally succumbed before the humor of the situation, he never expected an excuse like that from Hermione; she always seemed to be far too adult for those kinds of things.
Eventually the laughter died down, partly because of the growing murderous expression on his friend's face.
"Sorry" he said not looking sorry in the slightest, "It is just hard to believe something like that coming from you." Come to think of it, I can't use that excuse anymore
Hermione's expression did not change during the short moment it took Harry to ponder the realization he had lost that particular human ability. Not that he would ever complain about it, not having to eat or go to the bathroom would give him a lot of extra free time.
The grin left his face slowly before the girl's enraged eyes and he considered that further apologies were required, "I'm sorry, please proceed with your story."
Harry knew from past experiences that it would probably take a while for Hermione to drop her death-glare, so he let his mind wander while he waited.
One of his more pondered topics was the fact that she, being a frail human, should be afraid of him, a newborn vampire, not the other way around; also, he had noticed a few minutes before that he had grown again, he was slightly taller than Fleur now, that had been easy to notice, but he was surprised to see he looked even more muscular than before.
He was not completely sure of this, he had been wearing sweaters or any kind of long-sleeved shirts he could get his hands on ever since his first meeting with the old headmaster, today had been no exception and there was just a sweater protecting him from the cold, Harry had just chalked up the fact that he barely felt any of it even after getting himself soaked in the rain outside to 'vampire awesomeness'. But he had felt his arms through his clothes and they had felt slightly bigger, harder at least.
Harry was tempted to remove the sweater he was wearing to check his theory, but Hermione was still glaring at him and he was supposed to be sorry for interrupting her and frightfully waiting for her irritation to pass.
Then again, perhaps his physical changes were now considerable enough to make Hermione curious. One of the best ways to control Hermione was to make her curious about something, a hard thing to do since she seemed to know just about anything from everything; she would get a need for answers to her questions and whoever had them would have the girl eating out of his or her hand.
At least it's worth a shot. He thought, not very convinced.
He waited for about half a minute, so as to give her some more time to calm down, before he stood from the bed he had been sitting on throughout the conversation and walked over to his trunk, which was at the base of the other bed, the one with the girl sitting on it. He opened it and dug for a moment though the mass of clothes, books, school supplies, and anything else Harry had stashed there before pulling out a huge white t-shirt, one of Dudley's hand-me-downs, and removed his sweater and not too quickly donned on the severely oversized sleeping shirt.
Vampire awesomeness indeed.
He was distracted by the fact that there was almost no trace of malnourishment left on his upper body; he looked good, perhaps slightly more athletic than most of the guys in his year back at Hogwarts, his ribs were not even nearly as visible through his skin as they had been before, when he looked like one solid hit would be enough to break him in half.
But he was not distracted enough as to not notice the look on Hermione's face as the glare disappeared.
Harry watched in amusement as the girl's eyes shot open and mouth opened slightly, all thoughts of reprimand forgotten. His amusement grew even more as he saw a faint blush appeared on her cheeks but her gaze was not averted.
When he returned to his original sitting place, he pulled down the covers and sprawled himself face up over the mattress, his face turned so he could still look at Hermione and her shocked expression.
They just stared at each other for a couple of seconds until Harry decided to break the silence.
"What?" he asked innocently.
That snapped Hermione out of her trance, she shook her head and dropped her gaze to the floor, "You look…" the girl struggled for a word to describe his appearance, "… different."
Harry made a show of looking himself over before turning back to Hermione with an innocent expression, "I do, don't I?"
And before Hermione could say anything else, he added "But as much as I would like to sit here and play twenty questions with you, I have to get up early tomorrow morning, so I need to get some sleep now."
This placed Hermione in one of her dilemmas which were so very entertaining to watch. There were two, completely unrelated, yet highly interesting things she did not know, and there was only a short amount of time for questions left.
Harry smiled inwardly at his cleverness; he knew Hermione hated being rushed before she was done with something, and waste whatever time she had left demanding not to be rushed. She could be so predictable at times.
"What reason could you possibly have for getting up early tomorrow?" she demanded impatiently, hands on her hips and glare on her face.
Perhaps not so predictable after all.
He took a moment to think, he could just tell her the truth, but that would cause more concern and questions from her, he could lie and say it was a vampire thing, but she was probably too smart to be fooled by that. There had to be more options than that, but Hermione would notice if he took the sufficient amount of time to think of something.
Could he tell Hermione about his mission?
He knew she was trustworthy, but yet again, he had forgotten to ask whether he could tell people about it or not.
You really didn't think this through before, did you?
He was having a bit of trouble thinking what exactly to say. If it hadn't been for his mental superiority, he was sure Hermione would now be onto something, the girl was hard to fool. A mind with such a logical, reasonable thinking process was always hard to trick, but it was also easy to distract, taking his shirt off again would be too obvious, and he felt kind of dirty thinking about it. But there were still more ways to completely pull the figurative rug from under one's figurative feet.
An idea hit him and he immediately regretted what he was about to do.
As fast as he could move, which was seriously fast, he jumped up to his feet and pointed at the window, a look of complete shock on his eyes.
It took a moment for Hermione to react, but when she did, she threw herself behind the side of the bed, sliding her body through the space between the wall and the mattress. By the time she came out again, wand clutched tightly in both hands and aiming everywhere, she was completely alone in the room.
"Harry?" she called uncertainly, not spotting him anywhere in the room.
It was then that she noticed the door was open, as was Harry's school trunk. On the floor between them was a single black shoe.
It took Hermione about a minute to figure out what had happened, and with a sigh, she stood up, straightened her clothes, and walked out of the room.
Harry entered the bathroom and immediately closed the door behind him, pressing his ear to it in order to hear what Hermione would do next. He knew it had been a bad idea to flee from the conversation; but what else could he have done? Telling her the truth would be disobeying orders, at least that's what he thought, and he couldn't tell her that he was not supposed to tell her, it would make her suspicious and he rather let Dumbledore come up with an excuse for his approaching absence.
What to do? What to do?
Sitting in toilet, he began planning out his night at the bathroom and following morning.
Step one: Do not leave your room.
Well that would have been useful a minute ago, but now he had to forget about it and think of something to do in the bathroom since his room was being stalked by a very inquisitive menace.
Or was it?
He stood up and once again pressed the side of his head against the cool wooden surface of the door. A few days ago he had noticed that the walls and doors to some rooms in the house seemed to be soundproof, so he had to press himself against walls, doors, or sometimes windows to listen what was going on.
He heard nothing for a few moments, but then he heard footsteps.
They were loud and clear, but they sounded like they were coming from just outside the door, the magic must be messing with the sounds outside. So he had to strain his ears in an attempt to get a better idea of where the sounds were coming from.
Yet it still sounded as if someone was walking right on the other side of the door, getting closer.
The thought that someone might actually be going to the bathroom did not occur to him until it was too late, his eyes widening in surprise as he rushed into motion. That is why when Albus Dumbledore turned the door knob and opened it, he found Harry sitting in on the toilet, lid raised and newspaper at hand, with his pants still on.
"Have you ever heard of knocking?" he asked indignantly as he covered as much of his figure as possible with the newspaper in his hands. Had he paid more attention, or maybe had had more time to come up with a good scenario, he could have noticed the fact that the The Prophet issue he was holding was upside-down.
Dumbledore stood there, undisturbed for a moment, then stepped back out and before closing the door, said "Whenever you are done, Harry, we have an issue to discuss."
He just stared at the door.
What the hell?
The Headmaster could be found disturbing if you didn't really know him that well.
Harry shrugged, threw the newspaper away and joined Dumbledore outside. The old man was playing with the end of his beard, twirling and curling the silvery hair.
He looked like the kind grandfather every kid wished he had. It was so different than the Dumbledore he had seen back in the Ministry Atrium that the thought made Harry chuckle.
Dumbledore turned away and began walking, motioning for him to follow.
As Harry walked behind him, past the door to his room and through the stairs, h wondered what Dumbledore could want from him at such a time, and how had he found him while he was hiding, again. Maybe he had some way to know exactly what was going on at any given place and time around the house. But how would that explain for him to have found him a few hours ago, he had been outside the house. And how did he know everything that happened around Harry back at Hogwarts? A house was one thing; but the entire castle? Not likely.
Maybe it was a more personal system, some magic on his person that kept him informed of his comings and goings? A tracking device? But electronics were supposed to go crazy around magic.
He would have to give the matter some serious thought later on.
Dumbledore walked across the wide first floor, and Harry followed into the kitchen.
It felt like he had gone a few hours back in time.
The scene was the same minus the old cup. There were more red jelly-things on the table than last time though.
The aged wizard was standing next to it, a conflicted look on his usually twinkling eyes.
Harry walked forward and sat down on a chair, giving his Headmaster time to think, maybe he had underestimated the seriousness of whatever it was that Dumbledore wanted to tell him.
Finally, Dumbledore sat down and looked into his eyes, closed his for a second, then began talking.
"Harry" he said "I am not sure if you know this, but Sirius left a will stored with the goblins at Gringotts a few months ago."
An unexpected heaviness descended upon his chest as he hurried to push the emotions out of his mind, sadness and grief and longing, and a chilling numbness, were somehow replaced by that pressure in his chest, squeezing his lungs and making it hard for him to breathe. But at least it was easier to ignore and enabled him to pay attention.
Dumbledore gave him a moment to collect himself before continuing.
"Now, the reading will not happen for another couple of weeks, but your Godfather did inform me about the one item that concerned all of us." A moment of silence. "Mr. Black left Number 12 to you, Harry."
"I…" Probably not the smartest thing Harry had ever said, but that time provoking vampires into fistfights had been even worse.
Harry became the silent one for a moment, wrapping his head around the idea that he now owned a house; the same house in which Sirius had been imprisoned in, slowly losing his mind and causing him to burst into action and get himself killed.
On the other hand, if he wasn't going back to the Dursleys every summer, he could use a place to stay of his own. Not that the Burrow was bad in any way, but he could never bring himself to impose on Mrs. and Mr. Weasley like that. Besides, there really weren't that many shadowy places for him to hide in without drawing suspicion during the daytime.
Unless I tell them about me…
There was still a lot for him to think about. He knew they would find out eventually, but the how and the when were still bothering him. It would hurt them if they found out before he told them; it would look like he didn't trust them. But he really had no idea how they would react if he told them. They were all raised wizards, taught to fear and look down on anyone or anything but wizards.
Point for completely freaked out family.
But they had always been kind and caring with him. They had treated him almost like family, maybe even like family, he couldn't know for sure, never having had one. But still, they had been great to him.
Point for comprehensive happy family.
Great… a tie. For now.
How long had he been staring at the wall in silence?
Harry shook his head clear and turned back at Dumbledore. The man didn't look impatient or otherwise annoyed in any way. What had they been talking about?
Dumbledore was looking at him in a peculiar way.
"What?" Harry asked, trying to continue with whatever they had been talking about.
"This house is now yours, Harry." He continued. He must have thought I went into some kind of shock.
"I don't want it. The Order can keep using it as Headquarters."
He would probably be haunted by the ghost of his bored godfather, lurking the dust-filled halls of the ancient home.
"Well then," Dumbledore stopped him before he got too far away on that thought. "There is only a small test we have to realize to ensure that you are the rightful owner of our Headquarters."
That caught him unawares. "But, you just said…" was all he managed say, confusion sealing his lips.
"There is a small chance that enchantments were cast on the Ancestral Home of Black so that it could only be passed down inside the family." The old man replied, placing a certain emphasis on 'small'. "In which case it would go to the oldest living descendant of the Black Family…" he seemed almost reluctant to say the remainder of that sentence. And with good reason, if the fury that filled Harry as he muttered Bellatrix Lestrange was anything to go by.
"NO!" the young vampire exclaimed.
"Absolutely not!" he practically yelled "No way his home will go to the bitch who killed him!" probably the first time Harry ever cursed in that particular fashion, but acceptable given recent happenings.
Dumbledore placed a hand on his shoulder in an attempt to placate him before he got up and started throwing chairs around the kitchen, "Believe me, I do not wish for that to happen any more than you do, Harry; so there is just this simple thing you must do in order to find out whether it indeed belongs to you."
Harry could see it was not just a lie to keep him calm, so he decided to shut up and listen.
Confident that Harry would not jump to his feet and wreck the place, Dumbledore removed his hand from Harry's shoulder and continued, "If not, we shall take legal action and make sure it ends up in your possession."
"What do I have to do?" Harry asked immediately, always a man of action.
"If you are now the owner of Grimmauld Place, then you inherit everything in it." Dumbledore responded, "Not just silverware and some fine additions to your art collection but also…"
"Kreacher" Harry almost growled before Dumbledore finished.
In his eyes, the house elf was just as guilty as Snape for the death of Sirius. The wrinkled little pest was practically in league with the Death Eaters, and should be treated as one if anyone asked him.
"Precisely" was all his Headmaster managed to say before a loud crack filled the air and the object of their discussion materialized before them.