Taking Care of their Own
A/N – The standard disclaimers apply. All of the recognizable concepts, characters, situations and settings are the property of JK Rowling and her various and sundry corporate partners. This story ventures into a similar, but not exactly duplicate AU setting as "On the Ninth Day …" and some of my other stories. It's similar but not exactly the same. So if the concept of Lady Potter and Lady Black not being the same witch in that story was troubling, you might want to think twice before reading. (Don't ask about Lady Gaunt)
That wasn't the plan when the story started, but as is often the case with my stories, they take on a life of their own and end up where they will. That doesn't mean I don't have a plan when I start, but I simply surrender to the inevitable when the characters show up with decent changes that make sense. At least the changes make sense to them.
Chapter One – With A Little Help From Your Friends
Saturday 4 September, 1993 – Quidditch Pitch – Hogwarts School
Looking at two of her Lions, or Lionesses to be precise, Professor Minerva McGonagall waited until both witches nodded in agreement. Smiling faintly, which was a huge expression of emotion for their Head of House who usually tried to keep from allowing her inner feelings to show, she asked the pair a question.
"Do you think it's doable, ladies?"
Looking briefly at her teammate, Angelina Johnson took the smirk on Katie's face as an affirmative and turned back to her Head of House.
"Not a problem, Professor. We can accomplish both parts of this easily."
"Miss Johnson, I merely asked you to enlist Mr. Potter's help in arranging a small acknowledgement of Miss Granger's upcoming birthday." Pausing for a second as the grin on both witch's faces got wider, she arched an eyebrow slightly and continued.
"I was merely observing that one of your housemates was a bit down last year when her birthday passed mostly unnoticed, and I was trying to ensure that didn't happen this year."
"True, and since Gryffindor witches always take care of their own, we'll be more than happy to set Harry on the path to providing Hermione a happy birthday," Katie quipped. Turning to her temporary partner in crime, she smirked.
"Though it would have been much easier to simply put the bug in Miss Brown's ear, the witch has never met a party she couldn't overdo; we'll set up her mumble-shy best friend to organize it for her."
"The fact that Hermione's been mooning over Mr. Potter since Halloween her first year and Harry's been mooning over Miss Granger since she got out of the Hospital wing last spring has nothing to do with it," Angelina added not missing a beat after Katie finished.
"The two of you have been spending entirely too much time in the company of the Weasley twins," was Professor McGonagall's only observation, neatly sidestepping any discussion of ulterior motives, theoretical or otherwise.
"Don't pressure the boy too hard, but it wouldn't hurt to emphasize the fact that if he doesn't put something together, she might be disappointed again this year."
"Understood, Professor," was Angelina's reply. Looking towards the corner of the stadium where the wizard's locker rooms were, she could see light glinting off a pair of glasses beneath an unruly head of raven hair.
"Katie, our target is approaching. You go high, I'll go low," were her instructions as they left their Head of House.
Cutting across the open walkway leading back to the path to the castle, Katie and Angelina reached Harry when he was just coming to the gate that separated the pitch from the rest of the grounds.
Seeing him slow down since the two were obviously bearing down on him, they both smirked at the surprised look on Harry's face when Angelina bent over and grabbed his legs just above the ankles as Katie pulled him towards her by his shoulders. Lifted off the ground between the two witches, Harry was too stunned to put up much of a fight.
That is until they carried him through the door to the witches' locker room.
"I don't care what George or Fred said, I don't need to peek into the showers," was the first thing out of Harry's mouth as the two witches carried him through the door. Looking down at him in shock, Katie glanced up and exchanged a look with Angelina that promised a very in-depth and painful discussion with their red-headed teammates the next time they saw them.
"Harry, we need to talk, and Gred and Forge's perving over the showers isn't on the agenda," Katie replied. Seeing the smirk on Angelina's face as they deposited their prisoner onto a bench in front of their lockers, she added, "Well, at least not in the beginning."
Blushing furiously, Harry was staring at his trainers, trying not to look around. "This really isn't very funny. Why did you two feel compelled to drag me in here?"
Straddling the bench on one side of him, Angelina placed her hand on Harry's arm to calm him down. "Harry, we brought you here because this was the closest place we could think of that would be private for the next little bit." Seeing the suspicious look on his face, she chuckled.
"Slytherin has the pitch booked next. You don't honestly think that any of the Slytherin witches would voluntarily put themselves into a position where they'd be in close contact with any of that lot?" Seeing the look on Harry's face, she grinned. "Even Parkinson isn't going to put herself somewhere that crew could be within groping distance while she was changing if she could help it."
"True," was Katie's contribution. "Most of the fouls that Slytherin commits are of a 'personal' nature." Seeing the angry look on Harry's face, she patted his other hand reassuringly. "Calm down there, Tiger. You just worry about catching the snitch. We three can take care of ourselves, but there've been a couple of honor duels come out of quidditch matches with Slytherin House over the years."
"That still doesn't tell me why you two dragged me in here for a chat," Harry countered. Finally looking around and seeing that scantily clad witches weren't hiding behind every locker, he relaxed a bit.
"What would you do to keep Hermione from getting hurt," was Angelina's reply. Seeing the alarmed look on Harry's face and the smirk on Katie's at her direct approach, she nodded seriously to their younger teammate. "What would you be willing to do for her?"
Looking a bit panicked, Harry started to stand. Both witches placed a hand on his shoulders and pushed back down onto the bench. "Hey, if she's in trouble, why are we just sitting here?"
"Harry, it's not that kind of trouble," Katie countered trying not to smile at Harry's immediate response to go run to the rescue. Deciding that the stories that were swirling around about the pair were correct, she tried a different approach.
"When's Hermione's birthday?"
"Is that when it's going to happen? Someone's planning to hurt her on her birthday?" Looking between the two witches, Harry was starting to sound a bit stressed. 'Who is it, and how can I stop them?"
"Steady there, Tiger," Angelina admonished with a smile. "Actually it's someone's lack of planning that's going to hurt her." Seeing the confused look on his face, she asked, "What happened on Hermione's birthday last year?"
Thinking back, Harry closed his eyes. "The nineteenth was on a Saturday," he began. "She got a package and card from her folks that morning at breakfast, I'd loaned her Hedwig a couple of days before to send a letter to them." Opening his eye, he grimaced.
"Along with the cards, they sent some biscuits. Ron hated them and mocked her because they were sugar-free." Seeing the look on their faces, Harry quickly added, "Her parents are dentists, that's just part of who they are."
"So no one planned anything, and Ronald managed to spoil the only attention she did get for her birthday last year?" Seeing the annoyed look on Angelina's face as she asked him, Harry could only manage a slight nod.
"Well, mister, you're going to have to do much better than that if you want to keep her from being disappointed or hurt this year," Katie added. Seeing the surprised look on his face, she smiled reassuringly at him.
"Harry, face it, Hermione spends the majority of her time, with the exception of a couple of electives, with you and Ronald. And even when Ronald's not going out of his way to annoy her or start a row with her, do you honestly think he'd actually do anything to plan a birthday for her?"
Seeing that Harry was tempted to try to stick up for the red-haired member of the trio, Angelina shook her head.
"I'm not saying he's a bad person, Harry, but can you think of one time he's actually thought about her, other than as someone to cadge notes off or to help with his assignments?" Seeing that Harry swallowed the retort he was going to make, she smiled. "We'll help, but if something's going to be done for Hermione's birthday, you're the wizard who's going to have to do it."
Nodding thoughtfully, Harry sighed. "The trouble is, I'm not certain I'd be good at planning a surprise for her." Seeing the skeptical looks, Harry blushed. "I've never really had a birthday party of my own, and the one's for my cousin were always just an excuse for Dudley to get more things to destroy, so I'm not certain what I should do."
Pausing for a second, Harry blushed again. "And that doesn't even take into account the fact she's a witch, and I'm totally hopeless with trying to figure that out."
"Harry, we're not going to give you 'The Talk' …" Seeing his blush amp up to a new degree, Katie smirked. "As I said, we're not going to give you 'The Talk', but if you're worried about the difference between a party for a witch and a wizard, I think we can help you there."
Seeing his relieved nod, Angelina started ticking off points for him.
"The first thing we need is a place to hold the party," she began. Seeing the look on his face, she sighed. "And no, the Gryffindor Common Room wouldn't be our first choice."
"We've had parties there before," Harry began. Seeing 'the look' coming from both of them, Harry blushed and started to think. "All right, those were parties for the entire house, usually quidditch or exam related. Not really appropriate."
"Very good," Katie cooed. Looking over at Angelina, who was trying not to laugh, she winked. "I do believe that he's trainable."
"And it's a good thing, since we only have two weeks to turn our sow's ear into a silk purse suitable for a birthday present for a fourteen year-old witch." Seeing the suspicious look on Harry's face, Angelina gently patted his hand.
"Don't worry, Harry. We're Gryffindor witches; we always take care of our own."
Sunday, 19 September 1993 – 4th floor corridor
Huffing while trying to keep up with Harry as they passed the Library, Hermione Granger was a witch that was having a very bad day. The fact that he housemates seemed to be oblivious, once again, to the fact that it was her birthday was bearable, but the breakfast mail had passed without anything other than a very modest card delivered by Hedwig from her parents in Oxford.
Trying to discern exactly how much trouble her best friend had gotten himself into, Hermione finally got to the place where she could grab him by the arm. Grabbing hold and swinging him around.
"Harry, exactly what am I trying to rescue you from," she began. Seeing the blush on his cheeks, Hermione immediately went into a mental overdrive. "Exactly what did Professor Lupin have you working on?"
"Well," Harry temporized while reviewing the cover story that Angelina and Katie helped him with. Deciding that his chances of elaborating enough to quell Hermione's insatiable curiosity were slim without counting the fact that his ability to keep anything from her was almost nonexistent, he decided to go to his 'Plan B'.
"Actually, it's going to be much easier if I just show you," he began. Seeing the arched eyebrow on her face, he blushed again. "I really don't want to explain this in an open corridor."
"Harry James Potter." Standing in the middle of the corridor with her hands on her hips, Hermione felt that she was coming to the end of her rope. "How much trouble have you gotten yourself into?"
Avoiding eye contact, Harry stepped forward and put his hand on her arm. "Just come with me. You're the only one who can make this right." Finally looking up, Harry dialed up the 'puppy dog eyes' that, according to Angelina and Katie, he seemed to do well.
Huffing in resignation, Hermione nodded slowly. "Fine. But I'm telling you this, if this is something that Ronald's gotten you into, I'm going to be having words with him." Seeing the relieved look in Harry's eyes, Hermione wondered, and not for the first time, exactly what this was all about.
Heading down the corridor to where several empty classrooms were located, Harry finally stopped suddenly in front of a door. Almost running into him, Hermione reached out to open the door, only to be surprised when Harry grabbed her wrist. A blush came over her cheeks at the unexpected contact.
"Hermione, I've got everything set out in there, but you need to see all of it before you make up your mind."
Looking at him expectantly, Hermione was totally perplexed by the continued blush. "Harry, I'll reserve judgment until you explain this entire mess you've gotten yourself into."
Stepping close to him, she wrapped her arms around him and hugged him to her. Surprised that not only did Harry not flinch quite as much as he usually did, but he returned the hug, Hermione whispered in his ear, "Harry, no matter what I'm with you. We'll figure this out, I promise."
Admonishing Hermione to close her eyes, Harry waited until she complied with a sheepish smile on her face before opening the door. Taking her hand, Harry almost stopped in surprise as Hermione interlaced her fingers with his as he led her into the room.
Hoping that the charms were in place, Harry could see most of the members of their year in Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, and Ravenclaw along with students from other years that had come to know the bookish Gryffindor as he led her into the room. A bit shocked at the appearance of a pair of Slytherin witches that were in her Runes and Arithmancy classes, Harry nodded to both Daphne Greengrass and Tracy Davis as he centered Hermione in the room.
Seeing that she was fidgeting, Harry held up his hand and counted down with his fingers from five. As he got to 'two', he told her, "Promise not to freak on me."
As Hermione opened her eyes and rounded on Harry for an explanation, the quieting charms disappeared and the twenty four people in the classroom all yelled, "Happy Birthday!"
Hermione's eyes popped open, and everyone would later agree that her initial reaction was humorous. At least it was if you weren't one Harry James Potter.
Her body tensed up, and she stared at Harry in horrified disbelief. The amount of shock running through Hermione's system was immediately evident by Harry's reaction to her reaction.
Dropping to his knees with a look of pain on his face, it was immediately apparent that Hermione's grip was crushing Harry's hand. As she looked around the room, apparently not processing what was happening, the shocked look on everyone else's face did nothing to snap her out of it until one of the two Slytherin witches stepped forward and snapped her fingers in Hermione's face.
With a look of amusement on her face and her ice-blue eyes twinkling, Daphne Greengrass dropped her 'Ice Princess' persona and drawled, "Granger, you're going to break the boy's hand. If you didn't want a party, just tell him. Maiming him for planning a surprise party just isn't proper."
Eyes growing even wider, Hermione's expression went from disbelief to panic.
"Oh God! Harry!"
Dropping to her knees, Hermione released Harry's hand and gathered him to her. Repeating over and over, "Thank you. I'm so sorry," she was babbling totally unaware that the stunned rest of her assembled friends started laughing at her reaction to the surprise.
Clutching his hand, Harry swallowed a couple of times as Hermione kept repeating her thanks and apology over and over. Looking over at Angelina and Katie, who were laughing so hard they were holding each other up, Harry clumsily moved his arms to return the hug.
Whispering "Happy Birthday, Hermione," in her ear, Harry paused for a second before continuing.
"There are about twenty people who want to tell you 'Happy Birthday'. I'm just going to go over and see if Professor Lupin can repair my hand while you do that, ok?"
Pulling back a bit, Harry was surprised by the tears in his best friend's eyes. Leaning forward to whisper in her ear again, he was surprised when she leaned forward herself and instead of placing his lips by her ear, they grazed her cheek.
A spark seemed to pass between them and both teens stared at each other for a few seconds before Hermione impulsively leaned forward and quickly kissed Harry on the lips. Extremely brief and very chaste, but the kiss was enough to start the crowd clapping and calling out encouragement to the pair of them.
Quickly standing up, Hermione was surrounded by the witches who Harry had invited while Harry wandered in a daze over to where Professor Lupin was standing. As he passed Ron, he totally ignored the irate look on his face or Ron's attempt to ask him a question as he finally made his way over to Professor Lupin.
Holding his hand out, which was starting to swell slightly, Harry didn't even flinch when Professor Lupin tapped it twice with his wand and a cool blue light surrounded it. As the pain went away, Harry blinked twice and looked up at the older wizard. Seeing the smile on his face, Harry simply asked, "Do you think she liked it?"
"The party or the kiss, Mr. Potter," was Professor Lupin's response. Looking over to the group of witches standing around Hermione, who was blushing and casting glances over at Harry while trying to talk to her friends, Professor Lupin smiled as he remembered a day almost sixteen years ago when James Potter had kissed Lily Evans for the first time.
Turning his attention back to Harry, Professor Lupin put his hand on Harry's shoulder and simply said, "Yes she did."
The pair were interrupted by the arrival of the two Slytherin witches, Daphne Greengrass and Tracy Davis. Both witches greeted their DADA professor before turning their attention to Harry.
Looking from one to the other, a pair of raised eyebrows resulted in Tracy taking the lead.
"Potter, there's a very select group of witches that are taking both Arithmancy and Ancient Runes together," she began. Seeing the questioning look on his face, she smiled at him.
"While we all keep up the pretences about House and other distinctions because it's expected, the six of us really don't care about that." Picking up the narrative, Daphne took over.
"Here's the deal. Granger's fancied you for quite some time if the stories are to be believed. Obviously you care about her as well, and the rest of the swots find you almost good enough for her." Hearing Professor Lupin cough trying to cover his laugh, she nodded to him before turning her attention back to Harry.
"Unless you want the five smartest, most cunning, and most dangerous witches in your year after you, don't hurt her." Holding up her hand to keep Harry from speaking, she smiled wryly.
"You two can argue over little things, but if you seriously hurt her, we'll hunt you down." Looking over to where Ron Weasley was talking to Seamus and Lavender, she growled and continued.
"Also, you'll need to decide which one."
"Which one?" Looking totally perplexed, Harry followed Daphne's gaze over to where some of his Gryffindor yearmates were standing. Thinking back to the conversation he had with Katie and Angelina about Ron and his problems with Hermione after they discussed the party, he took a deep breath.
"I don't know what to do about that, but I do know who's always right," was Harry's response.
"I've talked to Padma and Susan, you're going to start studying with us," was Tracy's response. Seeing the shocked look on Harry's face, she smirked.
"Trust me, spending time in the library with six of the brightest witches in the school will not only do wonders for your studies, but we can also help you and Granger with all the little things they don't tell the muggleborn or raised about the wizarding world. If you're there, Granger will listen if you're listening."
Before Harry could say anything else, Hermione broke free of the people surrounding her and made a beeline for Harry. Taking his arm, and blushing madly, she leaned up and shyly kissed him on the cheek.
"Thank you, Harry. The girls were telling me how you put all of this together." Seeing his eyes cut over to where Angelina and Katie were toasting him with their butterbeers, she smiled.
"They told me that they gave you a push in the right direction, but that it was a gentle nudge and you did all of the arrangements and invitations yourself."
Hugging his arm to her, she smiled at Daphne and quirked an eyebrow. Seeing the almost imperceptible nod from the blonde Slytherin, she beamed. "I'll make certain you know when the study group meets; maybe we can get you caught up enough with Runes and Arithmancy by the break that you can join the class next term."
Dragging Harry off to the table setup on the side of the room where people were congregating for food and waiting for Hermione to start opening presents, both of the Slytherin witches were preparing to follow when Professor Lupin spoke.
"Ladies, a word?"
Stopping and looking at him, they could both see the question in his eyes. Smirking, Tracy shrugged and sighed.
"Granger's brilliant, almost scarily so, but she's way too tightly wound. She's been fixated on Harry since first year, but couldn't puzzle out how to let him know."
"Add to that," Daphne continued, "the fact that Potter's almost totally in the dark about witches and you have a recipe for disaster, especially considering who their other friend is."
Coughing to cover a chuckle, Remus Lupin raised an eyebrow as he wondered exactly how things had gone so wrong with Lily and James' son if he was as clueless around witches as these two claimed. Looking over at the group by the table where the cake sat, he could see that Hermione had taken Harry in hand and was keeping him close to her as they mingled with their fellow students.
Turning his attention back to the two students who were watching him expectantly, he smiled to reassure them.
"Actually I was just curious about your conversation with Mr. Potter."
Both witches looked at each other before Daphne turned her attention to their Professor while Tracy kept an eye on Harry and Hermione.
"Professor Lupin, I haven't had a chance to mention this, but my mother remembers you fondly from her time at Hogwarts." Seeing the questioning look in her eye, she blushed.
"My younger sister looks more like my mother, but I can assure you that I am Sophia Chambers' daughter." Seeing her professor's eyes light up in recognition, she smiled.
"With the exception of the Runes and Arithmancy professors, most of the staff members have been blissfully unaware of the existence of a witches study group that has existed for almost the past thirty years." Pausing for a second while her DADA professor's eyebrows threatened to tangle with his hairline, she smirked. "Each year, third through seventh, there's a group that forms in third year and moves along until the witches graduate."
"Ah, the witches that are taking Arithmancy and Ancient Runes in third year," Professor Lupin nodded as he thought back to the circle of friends Lily had had during their school years. "Lily Evans, Sophia Chambers, Alice Churchill, Aranrhod Jones, and Perri Lewin correct?"
"Very good, and before you ask the group crosses house and blood lines. In fact, the year my and Harry's mothers were third years, all of the witches were muggleborn since none of the pureblood witches wanted to be bothered with classes they'd actually have to study for," Daphne commented dryly. Tipping her head towards her best friend, she chuckled.
"Tracy's mum was a year ahead; her group was much less cordial since they had a couple of winners who thought blood status should be the criteria for taking those classes."
"But since neither one of those bints passed their OWLS, it really didn't matter," Tracy commented as she watched the rest of the room. "Someone needs to warn Brown off before Granger hexes her bald." Pausing for a moment, she added with a chuckle "And knowing Granger's usual level of thoroughness, it'll be at both ends.'
The coughing fit from Professor Lupin amused both of the Slytherin witches and they waited until he was back under control before Daphne raised an eyebrow and smiled.
"And to answer the question you haven't asked, the primary reason we talked to Harry is simple." Looking her professor dead in the eye, she smiled predatorily reminding him that while she was the daughter of his old friend from Ravenclaw, she had been sorted into Slytherin for a reason.
"We're the Swots, and we take care of our own."
And with that, both witches turned around and moved over to rejoin the group, leaving a slightly bewildered professor thinking about his days at school and seeing some of his old friends in a new light.
Friday, 1 September 2017 – Platform 9¾ King's Cross London
Scanning the platform, Assistant Headmistress Daphne Greengrass-Black spotted the students she was looking for. Laughing and smiling in their Ravenclaw and Slytherin trimmed robes, the pair of witches seemed to know she was looking at them and looked in her direction.
At Daphne's nod, both broke away from their friends and made their way through the crowded platform and stopped a couple of steps away. As Daphne was dressed in her formal staff robes, both resisted the urge to be cheeky and simply nodded.
"You wanted to see us 'Professor'," the taller of the two, Jane Potter asked, emerald eyes twinkling. Since it was technically the start of term and their other mother was dressed in her staff robes, they were in school mode. "Did we forget something or someone at the house," was her sister Lily's question.
"No ladies. The annual Weasley 'five till stampede' isn't for another fifteen minutes, so as far as I know, everyone's where they're supposed to be." Seeing both of the witches roll their eyes at her mention of the extended Weasley family's inability to get to King's Cross any sooner than five minutes before the departure of the train that had been a tradition since well before her own years at Hogwarts, Daphne chuckled. "Other than young Victoire of course."
Smirking, fourteen year old Jane Potter looked at her young sister and giggled. "Well, I think we can chalk that up to either the fact that Teddy is horribly punctual or genetics since thanks to her mum, she's not really a Weasley, she's French."
Trying not to smile, Daphne simply acknowledged the remark while thinking that the Veela heritage of the young witch in question probably had something to do with it since she wasn't going to leave her chosen wizard standing around waiting for her if she had anything to say about it. Leaving that as a mystery to solve later, Daphne sighed.
"Actually, I was wondering if I could impose upon you two." Seeing the wary looks on both their faces, she smiled reassuringly. "I already spoke to Sophia and Helen, so that covers Hufflepuff and Gryffindor, but I would like to see if you could keep an eye on your cousin Frankie once term starts." Seeing the upraised eyebrows on both witches, Daphne nodded.
While not strictly a 'cousin', Francine Longbottom was the youngest daughter of Neville and Hannah and painfully shy. While being the youngest of five might have something to do with that, she also reminded the adults who knew her parents in school of them before they both came out of their shells.
However, this was compounded by inheriting the legendary Longbottom stubbornness and independence from Augusta, her great-grandmother, which led the young witch to be a bit isolated from her older siblings. Francine loved them and they all doted on her, but she was fiercely independent and resisted running to her older brothers and sister with problems. Her 'cousins' were a different matter, though.
As the Longbottoms were one of the families that had firmly gravitated into the loose grouping that surrounded the Potter family, and the lines were destined to get blurred even further as the older children in the various families tended to pair off, a sense of family that crossed traditional family groupings. Especially among the next generation.
"Afraid Frankie's going to get lost in the shuffle," Lily asked in surprise with just a hint of being offended in her voice. Looking guarded for a moment, she huffed in annoyance sounding for all the world like Hermione Potter had back in the day when someone questioned her about looking out for Harry.
"I'm surprised at you, 'Professor'," Jane added, her eyes twinkling at her younger sister's scandalized look.
"You know very well that Frankie's family and we're all Potter witches," Lily added very seriously. "We always take care of our own."
A/N – And a very happy birthday to Hermione.