Harry Potter & The Runic Affinity
Author's Note: This idea's been floating around my head for a while. I should be doing other, more productive stuff, but whatever. I am writing cause it allows me to distract myself from my real life which currently sucks massively. I've just changed my Pen name from Matimac to this one, by the way. Feel free to drop a review if you want to, if you don't that's cool too. I don't mind. Like any other story I will publish in the future, this one comes from a simple case of "What if." I like to swear quite a bit so if that's not your cup of tea, you can see yourself out. I change a few of the things from the way they happened, so everything after OOTP is sort of Alternate Univere-ish. I may have changed some minor things that happened at the DoM, you'll see. This is gonna be a long-ass story by the looks of it and if that isn't your slice of cake you can take that cup of tea I mentioned and also GTFO.
Also, this is not beta'd. I don't have a beta – not sure if I even need one. Do let me know.
PSA: I highly recommend that you read this story in ¾ or ½ width (there should be an option at the top of the page under the summary) as I format and paragraph it in a way to make it pleasant to read using those settings.
Disclaimer: I own nothing. It's J.K. Rowling's sandbox and I'm just playing around in it.
Chapter 1: Complications.
A figure sat curled on the thin sheets of a bed in the cold of the night at Number 4, Privet Drive. Harry Potter was officially depressed. He had sat there for hours now, unmoving. His tears had stopped running what seemed like days ago, resulting in him staring blankly ahead across his room. The cold wall supported his now numb back and his knees were pulled as close to his chin as possible. To his chest he clutched the mirror Sirius had given him… The mirror he wished he had thought of using before rushing off to the ministry like the fool that he was. 'Why… Oh God why didn't I just listen to Hermione… I'm such a fucking idiot… Why… I'm sorry… So sorry, Sirius…' Just as Harry thought he had no more tears to cry a single tear made its way down from his right eye past his cheekbone, down his cheek to his chin where it dropped onto his hand. The tormented teenager slowly blinked and looked downwards; at the mirror he'd been holding his chest for Merlin knows how long. He had lost all track of time ever since he had reached Privet Drive and couldn't remember the last time had eaten any food. His dull and lifeless green eyes picked up on the tray his aunt must've pushed through the cat door some time ago. Feeling his stomach rumbling and almost hearing a stern Hermione reprimanding him in the back of his mind for not taking care of himself, he slowly stretched his legs out and groaned at the pain that his stiff joints and muscles caused him given that he had hardly used them in recent memory.
As he stood to his full height and cracked his back, he froze. 'Hermione.' The thought of her caused him almost collapse under another wave of self-induced loathing and depression. It didn't take long for the events at the ministry to flash before his closed eyes. Caught up in his own grief his mind forced himself to live through the events in excruciating slow motion, his guilt forcing his inner eye to stay open as he saw Dolohov hit Hermione right in the chest with whatever dark, vile, spell he had thought of in the heat of the moment. He could clearly see the impact cause her to momentarily stiffen before her upper body reacted and twisted to the side and he could already see some blood stain her shirt from the point of impact. 'That was my fault as well... What… What if Dolohov had used a different spell, what if Hermione hadn't made it out… Why can I ever get anything right? Why is it that all I'm good at is causing others pain?' These thoughts plagued the young man as he awkwardly moved towards the door of his small bedroom to retrieve the plate of stale toast and cheese that had seen fresher days.
It had been hard enough at the end of the school year to keep it together and not sit around moping. No, he couldn't do that to his friends. So instead Harry had put on his bravest face and had done his best to cope with his fate. Most people had bought his façade – a rather pathetic charade now that he thought about it. He knew Dumbledore hadn't. Another pang of guilt shot through Harry as he remembered that he had absolutely thrashed the Headmaster's office. But Dumbledore understood. He saw it in the elderly wizard's eyes, and understanding for the grief and pain that Harry was going through. If it hadn't been bad enough that Sirius had died, he had seen Hermione suffer from grievous injury, had casted an Unforgivable Curse on Sirius' murderer Bellatrix on top of learning that he carried the world's fate on his shoulder, '"for neither can live while the other survives." Great, so it's either kill or be killed. Murder or be murdered. Just what I needed. How… how will I tell them? How will I tell Hermione? "Yeah Hermione, how're your holidays so far? Ah yeah, you just recovered from a severe injury that I'm responsible for? Ah bugger, well at least you're fine now. Mhm yeah I'm doing just fine, just found out I gotta face the strongest Dark Wizard since Dumbledore's prime years sooner or later and must succeed in fighting him otherwise I die, it's been determined to be this way by higher powers. Yeah, no, everything's fucking peachy aside from that. Have you heard from Ron?..." Yeah that'll go down real well.'
He could already predict her reaction. First, disbelief. She would not simply accept that it'd have to be him to finish Voldemort off. Second, denial. She'd start talking about how there are dozens of undefined and open factors and argue that Divination and prophecies are all rubbish anyway. Third, fear and sadness. 'When I point out that Voldemort marked me with this hideous scar as a child she'll tear up and fear for me.' Fourth… rejection. 'She'll probably freak out and then distance herself from me. After all, who would want to be friends with someone destined to most likely die?' Or, would she? Harry reminded himself that this wasn't just any witch he was talking about. This was Hermione Jane Granger, his best friend and smartest witch of their generation – fiercely loyal with an intellect to rival that of Dumbledore himself and magical ability that left him sometimes wondering if she'd taken her N.E.W.T exams already in secret.
Harry ate quietly but quickly at his desk. The bread and cheese had no taste as far as he was concerned and neither did the glass of water as his thoughts were far away from Privet Drive. Wishing he wasn't here his thoughts drifted to last year when he had spent the majority of his summer at Grimmauld Place. Sirius had been there as well as the Weasleys, Remus, Tonks, Hermione… it had been a lot of fun despite the circumstances. With the Daily Prophet slandering him and Dumbledore the start of school had been terrible but his time at the Black Family home had been joyous nonetheless. For the first time in his life he had felt… at home. Wiping another stray tear from his eye Harry tried to not think about how he felt secure when Sirius had hugged him in greeting – for the first time in his life he had felt at home somewhere, somewhere that wasn't Hogwarts.
As Harry thought those thoughts and wished he was at Grimmauld place even if it was just to feel closer to Sirius, he could feel something happen. Bespectacled green eyes shot around the room trying to identify what had changed but he could make out no visible difference in the room. Yet there had been a definite feeling of magic in the air for a short moment. Shrugging it off Harry contemplated going to sleep yet he knew he would find no peace in the land of dreams, no, instead he was more likely to torment himself into nightmares of things he wished to forget. Looking around his small bedroom his eyes landed on his trunk. 'Well, I guess it's something to do. Better than nothing.' And so he got up with a resolute grunt and began to unpack his books to do some homework. 'Nothing like a bit of Potions to get my mind off things…'
Meanwhile at Hogwarts…
Albus Dumbledore sat in his comfortable leather cushioned chair, one leg crossed over the other. It had been a few days since the students had returned home and he had spent the better part of the day fixing the rest of the destruction his most problematic student had caused in his office which he couldn't find the time for to repair earlier. He had tried to unwind in the past few days and relax as much as he could. It had been a very strenuous year full of drama and developments and he most certainly did not foresee this summer vacation to be any calmer, so the elderly Headmaster tried to relax whenever he could. With the ministry finally acknowledging Voldemort's return he could start being more active with the Order in moving against his old time student Tom Riddle who would surely start making his move now that he was under more time pressure. The more time Tom wasted, the better. The longer Dumbledore had to prepare Harry for what was his most unfortunate destiny and the more time the Ministry had to stabilize and prepare forces against the Dark Lord, the better.
In hindsight, Dumbledore had been quite cross with himself. His attempts to "protect" Harry from Tom had greatly fired backwards. The attempts at distancing himself from Harry had achieved the exact opposite of what he had aimed for and his reluctance to at least inform Harry of the existence of the prophecy, not necessarily what it contained, had directly contributed to the death of Sirius Black, the only real remaining part of whatever family Harry could relate to. Harry's rage had been quite understandable. In fact, Albus considered himself quite lucky that Harry hadn't raised his wand against him in his grief-induced rampage through his office. In addition to that, Dumbledore was quite proud of Harry for doing his best to cope with his feelings and trying his best to not drag his friends and people around him into his own depression. To Albus it was quite obvious that Harry hadn't sincerely put Sirius' death behind him but that was understandable. He could see the pain in the tormented boy's eyes, a torment he himself had suffered several times in his odd 150 years or so. It would take time for Harry to get over it and he needed to grieve properly to do so.
'I owe him a lot,' Dumbledore thought, 'without him I wouldn't have an idea about the Horcruxes. Without him all hope would be lost. I should see to it that he can at least enjoy this Summer somewhat and help him get over the loss of his Godfather… I'm going to have to look into scheduling a memorial… and I'm going to have to talk to that buffoon that dares call himself our Minister of Magic. I must speak to Minerva as well about the upcoming year… It is imperative that I begin preparing Harry.'
As Dumbledore wielded his Elder Wand and flicked it at a blackboard off to the side to make a note of his thoughts on his to-do list, a shrill sound pierced the otherwise silent office and caused him to freeze as he reached for his cup of tea.
With dexterity rarely seen in men of his age, the Headmaster quickly crossed his office to one of the shelves off to the side which held a few silver instruments. There were three that pertained to Harry – one that monitored his vital signs, one that monitored the wards around Privet Drive and one was linked into the wards to detect any foreign magic cast.
The small silver instrument that monitored the wards around Privet Drive was a small silver pendulum swinging from one side to the other encased in a triangular glass case. As Dumbledore reached the device the swinging stopped but the sound it emitted did not. After a moment the sounds stopped too. As Dumbledore feared the worse, the device emitted a low humming sound and the pendulum started swinging again but this time not from side to side, but instead it began swinging in a circular pattern. This continued for a minute before the pendulum smoothly transitioned into swinging from left to right again as if nothing had ever happened. The sound faded and the Headmaster was left in his office in near silence with only the only occasional cracking heard from the fireplace in the background.
Dumbledore slowly made his way back to his chair and sat down. 'Well that was unexpected… but I guess it was something that could not have been avoided given the nature of Harry's… caretakers and his current mental state. It would appear that this night is far from over, old chap.'
And so he got up again, wandlessly summoned his cloak and hat and prepared to apparate. It would appear that he needed to pay Grimmauld Place a visit before making his way to Harry.
Things at Grimmauld Place were tense at best. There were only two people living in the rather large house currently. Said people currently sat in the kitchen opposite each other, unable to look another in the eyes. Remus and Tonks had somewhat awkwardly made it through dinner. Earlier in the day Remus had made it clear to her that he couldn't be with her. Despite what she said, he'd been adamant and it had hurt her. Bad. She couldn't understand how he could be so hard on himself.
"I'm not right for you, Tonks. I'm not good enough for you. I'm old, I'm piss poor and to top it off I'm a dangerous, Class 5 restricted murderous beast that could rip you in half if provoked. I can't put you through that Tonks, I couldn't live with the knowledge that I put you into such danger…" He had said to her. She had yelled at him to stop being daft, to stop pushing her away. Yet, he had not given in. And now, suffice to say, things were so awkward that they hadn't spoken a single word to each other since she had stormed out of the room in tears.
'So close yet so far away…' She thought as she watched Remus flick his wand a few times to command the plates to clean themselves and stack themselves back into the shelves. 'I should say something, I'm sure he's feeling terrible about earlier… maybe I should-' Unfortunately for her, her train of thought was interrupted as a pop sounded through the kitchen and Albus Dumbledore himself manifested in the middle of the room. Neither Remus nor Tonks said a word but stared at him in disbelief – they had been under the impression that one could not simply apparate into Grimmauld Place and that one could only access it via the Floo if given the secret to its location or travel to the outside and enter through the front door after having been granted entry by the secret keeper.
Dumbledore's gaze fell upon the two sitting across from each other at the kitchen table and he frowned for a moment. The tension in the room was palpable and neither of the two appeared to be in an uplifting mood, which was exactly the opposite of what he had expected when he had made his way here. He knew both of them were still grieving for Sirius but had an easier time accepting his passing than Harry would.
"Good evening Remus, Nymphadora." He stated with a small wave before conjuring himself a chair comfortable enough for his tall frame and sat down at the head of the table, close to the two. Seeing that all he was going to get from the two was a nod in return, he continued, "We have a… situation."
Remus immediately had a panicked look on his face. "What is it? Is it Harry? Is he alright? Did something happen?" He had just lost his only remaining Marauder brother, he prayed that he wouldn't lose Harry as well.
Albus of course shook his head slowly. "No, nothing's happened to Harry. Well, nothing terrible. And whether he's fine is something I find myself being only able to answer in relative – physically he's fine and well but I fear his mental and emotional state may not be quite that what he had attempted to portray at the end of the school year."
"He seemed fine when we saw him at the platform…" Tonks added, not sure where Albus was going with this. 'I hope he's got something for me to do… any distraction from this would be much appreciated.'
Remus nodded his agreement.
"Yes, he seemed fine. Alas, I am afraid he is not. It is quite blatant to me that he is far more caught up in his pain than he let on. Harry blames himself and only himself. With the weight of the prophecy weighing upon his shoulders as well now, I am quite amazed that he has managed to portray himself as calm and composed and hasn't snapped yet."
Tonks nodded slowly – this she could understand. Guilt had been a constant companion for her as well since the debacle at the ministry. If only she had managed to subdue or distract Bellatrix for longer then maybe Sirius would still be with them.
"If nothing's happened to Harry then what brings you here tonight Albus? Surely there hasn't been an attack yet? I recall you saying that Voldemort will be spending a good time licking his wounds and preparing himself now that his return has been recognized nationally." Remus asked, having calmed down from the initial wave of panic.
"Quite indeed Remus, I doubt Voldemort will be making his next move for a while. As it turns out, something has happened to Harry. Young Mister Potter has, quite amazingly, managed to break the protections around Privet Drive, something which I assume happened due to his sadness over Sirius. The wards will only manifest themselves around whichever place Harry considers to be his home – aside from Hogwarts that is. As it seems, Harry has considered this place his home after last year… quite understandable really, given that he had spent a very entertaining summer here last here with Sirius and his friends." The elderly wizard explained after popping a lemon drop into his mouth and leaning back in his chair.
It took Remus and Tonks a moment to absorb the new information and process it. "So you're saying the protections around Privet Drive are now… here? At Grimmauld Place?" Tonks asked for clarification. As Dumbledore nodded she continued, "so that means that Harry is currently unprotected! We have to retrieve him immediately then, let me get my cloak and broom-" Albus cut her off with a calming hand gesture and a small smile at her immediately getting worked up over Harry's safety.
"Do not worry Miss Tonks, for he is not entirely unprotected. The wards are still in the process of moving and even if they were to be torn down entirely right at this very moment it is not as if dozens of Death Eaters would suddenly swarm to Surrey. No, I have ensured that there is no public record of Mister Potter's whereabouts and the only references to any places of residence of his are very vague and would certainly not lead to his capture, at least no immediately." The Headmaster reassured as he poured himself a cup of tea that he had seemingly grabbed out of nowhere as he explained the situation. He slowly drank from his cup as he observed the two Order members take in the information he had given them, yet he could still see that the two of them were incapable of looking at each other at all. This caused him to frown once more – he honestly thought they'd make a great couple. After all, love was one of the most amazing things to flourish in hard times like these. 'They are not children Albus, let them sort it out by themselves.' He chided himself. 'They are adults and will be capable of living with the consequences of their actions.' This time he chuckled to himself. Despite the way things looked to him at the moment he was sure that love would prevail and the two would end up together ultimately. Having spent well over dozens of years around younger adults he had a good hunch for these kinds of things.
Finishing his cup of tea he spoke again. "I will now go and retrieve Harry and bring him here. I merely came here to inform you two of the incoming visitor. If you could be so kind and prepare a room for Harry that would be much appreciated." The tea kettle and chair vanished with a wave of his hand as the powerful wizard stood and donned his cloak. Before apparating he turned to the two one last time. "I do not know what has happened or changed between the two of you in the past day, but I sense that it has nothing to do with Sirius," catching their downcast and somewhat guilty looks he continued, "but please do me the favour of not letting it burden Harry. He has far more to deal with at the moment than any of us could possibly imagine and I would not want him to think that he had managed to somehow displease you two as well. I shall return shortly."
And with that the kind Headmaster left the room with a pop, leaving the two alone.
It was Tonks who first spoke. "I'm gonna go prepare his room, okay?" Seeing him nod she stood and walked towards the door, her former Headmaster's words still fresh in her mind. "Look Remus, let's just try and pretend that nothing happened today, alright? At least for tonight, just for Harry's sake. Please?"
For the first time since the incident Remus looked up and straight into her eyes. After a moment's hesitation he sighed and nodded. "Alright, let's try that. Prepare the room opposite the ones the girls shared last summer on the first floor, okay? Since we're on the third floor we can give him a bit of space without being too far away from him and the first floor is close enough to the kitchen if he can't sleep.
Tonks left with a nod and made her way up the stairs to the specified room. The room wasn't too unkempt, just a bit dusty. It had its own little bathroom and walk-in closet, a decently large bed which she estimated to be queen size. The large window overlooked Grimmauld Place and was covered by think black curtains. Pulling a face at the decorations, Tonks cast the charm to turn on the room's lights and looked around her properly before starting her work. After a few flicks of her wand all the dust was gone, the ugly curtains replaced with pleasantly brown ones. She did a bit of work to the bed as well, changing the sheets from Slytherin green to navy blue. After a few more handy charms the wallpaper depicting House Elves being whipped by slavers were gone and replaced with a majestic golden dragon over a deep red background. Satisfied with her work she left the room after turning off the lights to go her own and change into more comfortable clothing.
Since Harry was depressed according to Dumbledore she was going to have to think of a few things to distract him with over the summer since she was staying here for the majority of it as well, at least she planned to be here whenever she wasn't on duty. With another long sigh she shed her sweater and jeans, hoping she could somehow turn the entire situation with Remus around and that maybe in the near future she'd have someone to take these damned tight pants off for her.
Albus Dumbledore arrived outside 4 Privet Drive with a silent pop. It was approaching 10pm and the street seemed deserted. A few lights were on in the adjacent houses but nothing seemed to be out of the ordinary. A glance to his right revealed the shimmering outline of Alastor "Mad-Eye" Moody approaching under a disillusionment charm.
"Good evening old friend," Albus greeted, "has anything changed since your shift has started?"
"Don't play coy with me, Albus, of course something's bloody changed and that's why you're here. Something happened to the wards two hours ago but I can't for the life of me identify what and I do not like it one bit." The retired Auror growled before rummaging through his jacket's inner pocket to retrieve his flask.
"Well observed Alastor, well observed indeed. Of course you are right, something has changed. The wards are a lot more sensitive than I first believed and it seems that young Mister Potter has managed to subconsciously force them to relocate themselves to the place he considers to be his home, which turns out to be Headquarters." Dumbledore explained as he approached the front door with Moody at his side.
"Place he considers his home? I thought these wards were blood based and would be on this house as long has Aunt lives here." Moody remarked as he wiped his mouth with the back of his hand.
"Originally that was the way I interpreted the wards too, yes. It seems that Lily's sacrifice and Petunia's location here were only a foundation though and that with the protections I added myself these wards have become somewhat mutated and evolved into a stronger form of intent-based wards. They seem intent on protecting Harry at which ever place he considers his home and that is, for now, the Order's Headquarters.
Alastor nodded at the explanation. Being very intimately familiar with these kinds of defensive wards himself that certainly made sense. Ward mutation wasn't overly common but very much possible and was one of the reasons many rookie Curse Breakers and Ward Crafters bit the dust. Being unable to adapt to the changes that a ward had undergone when attempting to break it normally had fatal consequences, ranging from draining ones magic to the very core or causing enormous magical explosions or even implosions. The real nasty ones could make the breaker implode on themselves as their own core would be overloaded and literally pulled inside out by the ward itself… Very dangerous career path - almost as bad as being an Auror in this war.
Albus rang the doorbell and took a step back. The door opened after a few moments to reveal Petunia Dursely. Her eyes widened in shock as she recognized the Headmaster of Hogwarts. "Y-y-you! What are you doing here! You promised you'd never come back!" She screeched as quietly as she could so no one on the street would become suspicious and notice these two… figures outside her door.
Dumbledore's eyes grew considerably darker and his face hardened. "I promised I would not return unless Harry's in dire need and it appears that your pathetic treatment of him has finally reached a breaking point. I will now retrieve him and take him away from your vile home to the place he considers his home. Our deal is now broken Petunia, for I am no longer able to protect this property without Harry living here since he does not consider it to be his home anymore. Congratulations Petunia, I am sure you're making your sister proud," Dumbledore spat in contempt, "by shunning her son so much that he does not consider this house his home anymore. You have now most likely signed your family's death warrant. The second the Wizarding World finds out that Harry Potter does not live among the Muggles anymore, Voldemort will search for this place. And if he finds it I pray that you aren't here anymore for he will take great pleasure in tormenting you slowly."
With that, Albus Dumbledore pushed past her and swiftly made his way up the stairs. He gestured for Alastor to wait downstairs for him and Harry.
Harry was currently in the process of writing an essay on human Transfiguration. After reading a chapter of his potions he had realized that he had not received his O.W.L scores yet and would possibly not even take potions in his 6th year, so he had switched to Transfiguration instead as he felt confident that he had passed that class with high enough marks to get into McGonagall's N.E.W.T class.
A soft knock on his bedroom door made him pause mid-sentence. The quill in his hand was quickly put into the ink glass and Harry stood with his wand clutched tightly in his hand. He hadn't heard anyone climb up the stairs so he'd rather not be caught off guard in the unlikely case that he was about to face a Death Eater who had managed to find this house and had already killed his relatives without him noticing. 'A simple silencing charm before killing them and I'd be a sitting duck up here…'
Before Harry could think any further the door opened itself and into his room stepped a person he most definitely had not expected – his Headmaster Albus Dumbledore. Lowering his wand, that he hadn't realized he was pointing at the door, he stared at his Headmaster with wide eyes. "Headmaster?"
"Good evening Harry. I've come with some news that I am sure will most definitely please you." Dumbledore greeted him with a merry twinkle dancing in his eyes.
"Good news?" Harry asked in confusion, "Unless you're here to tell me that you've duelled and beaten Voldemort in the past couple of days I doubt anything would warrant you making a house call, sir."
Albus laughed in delight at Harry's disbelief that he was even in his room. "Well the news that I bring aren't quite that good, but I believe will cheer you up anyway. You're being moved to Headquarters, tonight. Permanently, unless you decide otherwise."
This statement caused Harry to look at him with even wider eyes. "Tonight? You told me I had to stay here for a month sir, what has changed?"
"All shall be explained once we get to Grimmauld Place." A quick glance around the room told the Headmaster all he needed to know. "I see that you haven't unpacked yet. Well that makes things a bit easier. Since you're leaving permanently please gather all your personal effects and we shall be off. I will await you downstairs with Alastor."
Harry's mood had improved considerably. Well, relatively, given the circumstances. Half an hour ago he had been doing homework in the hell that had been Privet Drive and now he was standing outside Headquarters. Dumbledore had just explained to him why he was being moved and how he had subconsciously triggered the wards to relocate themselves. Harry had confessed his thoughts of wishing to be here to at least be closer to the memory of Sirius when he had beaten himself up with his guilt. Yet, standing here, didn't really make him feel better. He was about to enter the place he had only good memories of Sirius in… and now Sirius was dead.
Unwilling to show weakness, much less cry, in front of his Headmaster, he touched the door and watched it swing open magically at his touch. Dumbledore lead the way to the kitchen through the otherwise silent house. Harry moved extra carefully in order to not wake up the portrait of Sirius' mother. They entered the kitchen to find Remus sitting at the table reading a book. He looked up as they entered the kitchen and immediately rose from his chair when he lay his eyes upon Harry.
Harry froze up when he saw Remus. Dumbledore had not mentioned that anyone would be at Grimmauld Place. He saw the concern on his face. 'Remus… I'm responsible for that too. I took away his only remaining friend... He only had Sirius left. I'm the reason my parents died, Wormtail betrayed him too and now I'm responsible for Sirius' death. I took him away, the only remaining family Remus had. How… how can he stand to be in the room as me? How can he look at me? How… I don't… How…'
As Harry berated himself in his mind he did not realize that he had sunk to his knees as tears started streaming down his face and he started shaking uncontrollably. Remus moved so fast Dumbledore would have sworn he apparated to Harry's side to envelop the emotional teenager in a tight hug. Harry first stiffened at the contact but then clutched to the older man's shirt and started to cry his heart out again.
"I'm so… s-s-so sorry Remus, I didn't want him to… I didn't want him to die… It's all my fault… I'm so sorry…" Harry managed to stammer out between sobs.
"Shhhh Harry, it's okay. You are not at fault, nothing that happened is your fault, you hear me? Listen to me Harry," Remus said in a soothing voice as he took Harry's shoulders into each hand and forced him to lean upright and look at him. He failed to notice Tonks observing from the entrance to the kitchen with watery eyes herself, "you are not to blame for what happened to Sirius."
"B-B-But the prophecy… all because of the prophecy… and Sirius only came because of me, because I didn't listen to Hermione and rushed to the ministry… it's my fault he's dead Remus, it's all my fault!" Harry forcefully choked out as he wiped his eyes with back of his hands.
Dumbledore approached the two kneeling on the floor and gently placed a hand on Harry's head, causing him to look up to the powerful Wizard with wet eyes. "I know it's hard to believe and understand Harry, but as Remus said, you are not at fault! Yes, the prophecy concerns you and places a heavy burden on your shoulders but you have not chosen this fate. Many people twice your age would have given up far earlier in your life yet you are still going strong. Do not blame yourself, Harry, place the blame where it belongs – with Bellatrix and Tom Riddle. They are the ones who tricked you into coming to the ministry, they were the ones who injured your friends and ultimately were responsible for the death of many, not just your Godfather. Now I think you've had an emotionally taxing day, how about you go take a bath and sleep in tomorrow? You deserve to take a bit of a break my boy and I think Miss Tonks here has set up a nice room for you."
Harry nodded slowly and shakily got up with the help of Remus. Tonks crossed the room and gently took his hand and led him up the stairs to the first floor after a quick smile and nod to Remus and Dumbledore. Remus tiredly got up and sank into one of the chairs at the table with an audible sigh.
"As always, you were right Albus. He seems to be far worse off emotionally than I had imagined when you mentioned it."
"I concur; it would appear that I underestimated the extent of his grief. Given his probable attachment to Sirius as the first father figure in his life, this should've been expected though. I must be off now old friend, given this development I have many a thing to arrange. Expect me tomorrow around lunch time, prepare enough food for at least one more person if you could. This situation calls for reinforcements and I know just the expert to call in."
Leaving a puzzled Remus behind, Albus approached the Floo and travelled back to his office. Walking to his private quarters he changed into a modern grey Muggle suit, tailored to his tall frame. A classy hat and light cloak completed his look of an elderly man who had not lost his good taste in fashion and most definitely had not lost his style.
Fawkes looked up from his perch with what Albus could have sword was mirth in the creature's eyes. "Oh stop it you. One must be adequately prepared for such an important visit to the Muggle world. After all, one does not meet the Queen of England every night." A soft pop later and the phoenix was left alone in the office. Feeling quite bored Fawkes flashed away in a blaze on his quest to find some frozen fruit to eat. The mundane world had always fascinated him and a bit of magic in the right places went a long way in his quest to acquire his favourite treat.
Hermione was having an average night. Dinner with her parents had been pleasant and she had done her best to look interested at the stories they told of family gatherings she had missed and funny patients they had treated at their dentistry over the year. Hermione had told them stories of her year at Hogwarts and her adventures with Harry and Ron. She had missed her parents dearly and had been glad to see them, like every other holiday, but this time her mind was not at home, no, it was preoccupied with the events at the Department of Mysteries in the Ministry of Magic and the days that had followed. A pang of guilt shot through her when she explained to her parents that she had been injured in one of their adventures and had given them a much censored version of what had happened at the Ministry. She desperately hoped that her parents wouldn't pry – she could already tell that they'd contemplate pulling her out of Hogwarts if they felt it'd be the best for her safety. It had been a wonder that they hadn't insisted on her not attending Hogwarts after the debacle in her first year with the troll – but then again, hearing from a 12 year old girl that an 8 foot beast had cornered her in a toilet and she'd been rescued by two boys she hardly knew would have sound incredible and exaggerated.
Hermione sighed and looked out the window. She desperately wanted to come clean with her parents and tell them everything but the risk was too high. Harry needed her now more than ever and that was her priority. With the death of his Godfather he had lost another connection to his late parents – now only Remus remained. Sirius had held Harry's adoration as a father-like figure and never had a hard time to get Harry to listen to him.
Her parents, Emma and Daniel Granger, sat on the couch adjacent to hers and were watching TV. The book in her lap lay forgotten as the brunette witch looked out at her reflection in the window wondering what she was going to do all summer. Normally her parents would go on a vacation and take her with them but she did not want to leave England this time. Despite her parents not knowing it, she was now in the middle of a war. She had seen Voldemort along with everyone else – he was truly fearsome with his appearance alone. Even though she had been injured by Dolohov she had seen Harry struggle against the invasion into his mind by the Dark Lord. It had been horrifying to see Harry writhing on the ground in pain as he fought him with everything he had. The tides had turned when Harry had arched his back and his green eyes had fallen upon his friends. The renewed determination in his eyes had been obvious as his eyes hardened with his resolution. Chills had ran down her spine at his words, saying that he felt sorry for Voldemort as he'd never be able to experience love or friendship.
A small smile graced her pink lips as that thought ran through her had. 'Love and friendship indeed.'
Knock knock – the loud sound startled her as she whipped her head around to the main door. It was getting late, the time was approaching midnight. A look passed between her parents, she highly doubted they were expecting anyone. Before they could get up she stood brandishing her wand that she now carried literally wherever she went.
"I'll get it." She spoke with a voice that her parents had never heard before – a tone that left no room for argument.
Hermione cautiously approached the door, her wand hidden behind her back in her right hand. Reaching out slowly her left hand grasped the door handle and slowly pushed it down. With one swift movement she opened the door, her body tense to react at a moment's notice.
The person standing in her doorway was most definitely the least person she had expected to find standing there just before midnight in the first week of the holidays. Albus Dumbledore himself stood there, looking nothing like she had remembered him from her last day at school a few days ago. Instead of wearing his silvery robe he was wearing a grey Muggle suit. The ever persistent twinkle in his eyes shone brightly as he examined her stance.
"Good evening Miss Granger. I see you have not let your guard down, well done. I would award 10 points to Gryffindor House but alas we are not at school." The spoke cheerfully, not looking out of his comfort zone at all wearing Muggle clothing.
"Err, hello to you too sir. Would you like to come in?" Hermione offered somewhat taken aback.
"Yes I believe I should – I have, after all, come to discuss things of utmost importance with you and your parents."
The female Gryffindor led her Headmaster to her parents in the living room which was a short walk down a corridor. The living room was attached to an open kitchen and was usually her mother's domain. Emma and Dan looked up in surprise as Hermione came in followed by a tall man in a suit.
"Mum, dad, this is Albus Dumbledore, my Headmaster at Hogwarts and a figurehead of the magical government." She explained.
"A pleasure to finally make your acquaintance Missus and Mister Granger." Dumbledore greeted as he inclined his head.
"The pleasure is all ours," Hermione's father's replied as he shook his hand, "to what do we owe the pleasure of having you visit us?"
Dumbledore smiled gently as he replied. "I apologize if I am intruding at such a late hour, but I would not have knocked if I had not seen the lights on from the outside. As I am sure your daughter has already figured out, I do not ordinarily visit my students at random, much less in the middle of the night."
Before he could speak any further, Emma offered to get a kettle of tea going. Dumbledore graciously accepted and was offered a seat in the dining room.
"Mister Granger, would it be possible for me to have a private word with your daughter for a moment? I promise I will explain everything when your lovely wife has prepared the tea."
Daniel looked at his daughter and saw her nod in assurance. With a nod and a smile he left for the kitchen to assist his wife in preparing the tea.
"Miss Granger, as I am sure you have guessed I am here because something has happened that involves you." He began, crossing his legs and leaning back in his chair.
"Involves me? Has something happened to Harry?" She asked, immediately worried.
"Yes, in a way it has. Nothing negative, I assure you. There have been a few developments regarding young Mister Potter earlier tonight and while I wish that I did not need it, I have come here tonight to ask you for your help."
"My help? What can I do?"
"I shall explain when your parents return. For now let me only say that you have certain experience in a field and we very much require your help in regard to Mister Potter."
"Anything Headmaster, ask me anything and I will help to the best of my ability if it's for Harry." She answered immediately, straightening slightly in her chair. 'He needs my help? My help with Harry? What is going on?'
"I was hoping you'd say something like that. Now, before your parents return, I have asked for a private word with you so you could tell me what you have told your parents of the current state of magical world. Am I correct in my assumption that you have not told them all of the things that you have experienced in your time at Hogwarts over the past five years?" The Headmaster asked with a slight grin at her uncomfortable look.
"You assume correctly, Headmaster…" She said quietly and continued in what almost a whisper, "I was afraid they'd take me out of Hogwarts or take measures to prevent me from seeing Harry if they found out some of the things I've come face to face with over the years as his friend… as his companion."
"I understand completely, Miss Granger. So they know of Voldemort and his minions but only in a general sense?" Seeing her nod he continued, "And they do not know of the events at the Ministry or your injury?"
Again, Hermione only nodded.
"If I may inquire, but how is your injury? Madame Pomphrey said no lasting damage had been dealt to you, much to everyone's relief of course."
"I stopped taking my potion last night. I'm pretty much fully healed, only a faint scar remains." She explained and gestured to the general area of her scar.
Dumbledore nodded pensively. "Ah, your parents are about to enter. For now, say nothing and let me handle the situation, understood?"
Seeing her nod he smiled and surely enough, Emma and Daniel entered the dining room carrying a tray filled with cups of tea and a plate of biscuits.
As everyone settled down, Dumbledore smiled at the Grangers and began by telling them the true extents of Hermione's academic brilliance and achievement, a level he had not seen in well over a decade causing her to cheeks to heat up.
Meanwhile at 12 Grimmauld Place…
Harry sat in the bathtub of his new room at Grimmauld Place, soaking in the exquisitely hot water. This was his first proper bath since he had stepped off the Hogwarts Express. His sore and tense muscles relaxed, aided by the magical bath salts Tonks had pointed out to him when she had shown him his room. Baths like this weren't things he had grown up with so he found the bubbles and foam to be an adequate distraction from everything. He had calmed down from his breakdown earlier and now enjoyed the silence in his bathroom. After an hour he got ready to go to sleep… except that there were no towels anywhere in sight. This, of course, was a problem. Looking around he saw that both the bathroom and his bedroom door were open. Lowering himself back into the bathtub and covering himself adequately in foam he cleared his throat and called out.
"Err… Tonks?" Praying he'd been loud enough he strained his ears to listen for any footsteps. Sure enough he could hear the sound of footsteps entering his room. He swore he heard a quiet "damn!" and then sound of something falling over. A moment later Tonks walked into his bedroom. Not seeing him anywhere she entered his bathroom and raised an eyebrow at seeing him sitting in the large bathtub covered up to his collarbone in foam.
"Well don't you look downright cosy in there?" She asked with a smile.
"It's quite nice, yes." He replied neutrally.
"I think I'm gonna take a bath too before I go sleep," Tonks said more to herself than him, "but what I can do for you?"
"Erm, you wouldn't happen to know where I can find a towel around here? I wanted to get out but there's nothing I can dry myself with, at least nothing I could see and the bathtub doesn't look like it has some sort of inbuilt dying charm, at least not as far as I can tell."
Tonks looked puzzled for a moment until she facepalmed and her hair turned a bright canary yellow. "Right, I gotcha, no one's told you that you can perform magic in here."
"I can use magic? But won't that get me in trouble, being underage and all?"
"It won't, at least not here. The Fidelius Charm hides magic as well. It'd be pretty useless if it's supposed to hide a location but let's magic still be detected, aye? That would make it far too easy to locate whatever's hidden. Not to mention that Sirius' father was, how should I say, bat-shit-crazy and may or may not have placed every defensive ward on this house that money can buy." Tonks explained patiently, her hair changing to a colour akin to Harry's own.
"Oh, that makes sense I guess. If that's the case could you, erm, get my wand?"
"Which wand are we talking about here, mister?" Tonks said suggestively placing a hand on her hip and letting her eyes wander to where she assumed his crotch was hidden beneath the foam, causing Harry's cheeks to burn. "Aww, little Harry's getting all blushy mushy with me! Lighten up cowboy, I'll be right back."
Harry let out a sigh of relief as Tonks went to his room to retrieve his wand, glad her teasing was over. 'Somehow I don't think that'll be the last of that for this summer…'
Seeing Tonks stand in the bathroom doorway with his wand in her hands he raised his arm to reach out for it. Being the mature Auror that Tonks was she stuck her tongue out at him before raising his wand and suggestively running it up her cheek, causing him to roll his eyes. She used her other hand to give it a suggestive "tug" causing Harry to once more blush, before tossing it to him and wishing him a good night while laughing to herself.
Making sure to wait for the sound of Tonks walking up the stairs to her floor, Harry flicked his wand to shut the door and started casting drying charms on himself. Walking into his bedroom naked he retrieved a pair of loose boxers before putting on one of the baggiest shirts he had, one that he liked to sleep in as it was quite comfortable.
With his mind successfully distracted, Harry made himself comfortable under the sheets and promptly fell asleep.
The next day…
Hermione still couldn't quite believe what was happening. It was 10am and she stood in the International Departures terminal at Heathrow Airport next to Albus Dumbledore. Her parents were carrying one carry-on bag each and had just checked-in their one trunk which Albus had provided as well. Each piece of luggage they had with them was enchanted to hold many times more than was mundanely possible.
Last night had been a rollercoaster of emotion and information for herself and her parents. Albus hard started with talking to them about Hermione's academic achievement. He had then launched into a history lesson, explaining the First Blood War, how Voldemort had reigned with terror and had been defeated by Harry Potter at the tender age of one. He had then explained Harry's life to her parents, from the death of his parents to his unwanted fame in the Wizarding World all the way to making friends with her and Ron. Dumbledore had then gone and told them of some of the adventures he had gone on and had told them, and explained to them, many events Hermione had either played down or not mentioned at all. At first her parents had been shocked and very much disappointed in her, but Dumbledore was relentless. Nothing was left out, he had defended Hermione and her actions with her fear of being taken away from the magical a world, a world where she finally felt accepted in and actually felt like she was going somewhere with her life.
He had highlighted the reasoning, impact and consequences of her actions and adventures with Harry Potter, how they had singlehandedly already potentially saved thousands of lives in their first two years at Hogwarts and how they had developed into magnificent young adults through all the things they had been through. Dumbeldore eventually reached the point where he explained the events of the last term, including the trip to the Department of Mysteries and the death of Sirius as well as Harry's struggle against Voldemort. The entire Granger family had been in tears at this point, having been painted the very dreary image that resembled Harry's life, growing up without parents and having to live with the Durselys. Much of this was new to Hermione as well, who vowed to herself to never neglect Harry again.
Eventually, Dumbledore reached the crux of the matter. A simplified explanation of wards was required as he told them that Harry had subconsciously made them move to the house of his late Godfather. Looking at Hermione specifically he had explained Harry's breakdown and the reasons behind it. She had been right when she had thought towards the end of the year that something was wrong with Harry. His eyes had been duller, he'd spoken less, his smile never made his eyes sparkle anymore. Dumbledore also hinted at Harry carrying another heavy burden since the excursion to the Ministry through ambiguous words, once more confirming her thought that Harry had been hiding something.
Then he had told her parents that removing Hermione from the magical world was impossible as it was impossible to just make her lose or forget magic. He conceded that Hermione, and thus her parents, were at high risk of being targeted by Voldemort and his followers, not only for Hermione being close to Harry but also for her being a muggle-born so it really made little sense for her to not be friends with Harry. Sensing the need for it, Dumbledore referenced the events in the past to show Harry's dependency on her, his best friend, to overcome any adversary and challenge that life could throw at him. That without her, he would have died many times over. Here Hermione jumped in and said the same applied to Harry – he had saved her life more than she could care to count but also gave her something she had not had a lot of in her childhood – unconditional friendship and support, no matter what. He stood up for her when she would not, he'd jump in front of any curse for her if he felt she was in danger. This point hit both parents very hard, knowing that all Hermione ever wanted was to be accepted by her peers and have some friends, yet she was shunned for her intelligence and studious nature.
Dumbledore revealed his need for Hermione in this summer as being the anchor Harry needed to remain focused and sane. The headmaster explained that Hermione had the most experience out of anyone when it came to dealing with Harry and he needed her more than any time before. Albus needed her to help him overcome his grief and see the sense of his own words – that he had something worth fighting for and that Sirius would not have wanted him to sit around all summer moping in grief and guilt. Here he mentioned that Harry would have to be trained and prepared and as he saw the determined look on Hermione's face he mentioned that Hermione would of course be part of it and learn how to keep herself safe under any circumstances.
This led to Dumbledore growing sombre as he explained that he and Hermione were in the midst of a war now, and right now as the calm before the storm. While he did say that he could protect Hermione's parents, he could not do so continuously. Of course, he could ward their home against the strongest of Voldemort's followers, but that would only protect them at home. They'd be vulnerable anywhere else outside the house, including at their work, anytime they visited someone or even went shopping.
Saying he had "called in some favours with some old friends here and there" he could offer them the once in a lifetime opportunity of taking a tour of the world for the duration of one year with most of the expenses covered. The Grangers weren't poor by and standard, both very accomplished doctors in their respective fields of dentistry, but such a trip had been out of reach. Dumbledore had said he had organised for flights and accommodation to be paid so all they really paid for was food and whatever they wished to purchase in their travels. The Grangers had discussed it amongst them for almost an hour, peppering Dumbledore with questions that he was more than willing to answer. They had eventually agreed when Hermione had mentioned that she'd feel a lot more comfortable at school knowing that her parents were overseas and out of danger so she could concentrate on keeping herself safe.
Dumbledore had summoned a trunk and had enchanted it properly before being enlisted to enchant their smaller bags as well. He happily obliged and said he'd finish preparations and would return at 8am. Hermione had gone to sleep while her parents stayed up and packed, not even worrying about their dental praxis as Dumbledore had promised he had that one covered as well. Dumbledore popped into the living room at 8am sharp, startling Hermione's parents. With him he was carrying a think envelope which he opened in front of them.
He first handed the Grangers two cards, one for each of them. "Since the trunks can now be considered magical you could raise some magical flags when arriving in some countries. So if you're being questioned by wizards or being asked to give up your bags for a 'random inspection' show them these cards. They are issued by myself through the power of the ICW and classify you as VIPs under my protection and also certify that you know of the magical world and are not to be obliviated in any fashion. I've added some charms to your bags that will make them look perfectly normal and acceptable when passed through muggle scanners and will prevent any muggle aside from yourself from wanting to open them or check them. Remember that with this card you'll be safe from any wizards working for any sort of ministry in any country so keep it on you at all times. No one in their right mind will dare harm you with the knowledge that you are protected by the ICW and myself." He finished with a chuckle.
"Here are your funds," he said as he pulled out two muggle credit cards, each with a Bank of England symbol on them, "use these cards to pay for any sort of travel or accommodation expense. And here," this time he pulled out two tickets from the envelope, "are the tickets to your first destination. California is your first stop and from there you may decide on your own. Maybe you'll wish to stay there for a while, maybe you'll want to go somewhere else. But above all, remember to enjoy yourself at all times! Take this as the longest holiday you'll ever have, and make sure to take many pictures and bring back many souvenirs for Hermione to enjoy." Naturally his eyes were twinkling as he said this.
And now they stood at the gate to the part of the airport where you needed boarding passes to get to. Hermione fiercely hugged both her parents with tears in her eyes. They hugged her just as tightly but eventually let go. Her mother gave her a kiss on the cheek and told her to always stay careful. Daniel shook Dumbledore's hand and thanked him for everything. Dumbledore merely smiled and promised to watch out for his star student at all times.
"I do have one more thing for you," The Headmaster said as he reached into his suit jacket and pulled out a small bundle. He opened it and it revealed two small pocket mirrors, commonly used by women in the mundane world to check or adjust their make-up on the go, "these are communication mirrors. One is for Hermione and the other one for you Emma. With this you will be able to communicate with Hermione, no matter where in the world you find yourself. You merely open the cover and speak Hermione's full name and her counterpart will alert her. If you ever feel the need to speak to Hermione, use it. Do keep in mind that she'll be the easiest to reach in the evening."
Hermione's parents once more thanked Albus and then waved a final time before walking towards the gates.
"Well Miss Granger," Albus spoke after her parents had passed through the sliding doors and were no longer visible, "we have some time to spare before we are expected at Grimmauld Place. How about we return to your home to pack your things and make sure that your house will be secure in the time your parents are gone?"
"Sounds like a plan, Headmaster."
Leading her to a secluded corner of the airport he motioned her to grab his forearm as the two disappeared in a very quiet pop of apparition.
After he dropped Hermione off in her house, Dumbledore told her to take her time packing and that he'd return in an hour as he had a few errands to run. She asked him to quickly enchant her trunk so she could pack all the things she needed since she'd stay with Harry for the foreseeable future. After doing so Dumbledore apparated to the Ministry. He checked his 12-hand watch quickly. It was a Monday, July was just around the corner. There was a lot to get done in the next two months and he was going to need some assistance in what was unarguably the most vital project.
With quick strides Dumbledore made his way through the Ministry towards the Magical Law Enforcement Department. He was on the lookout for Alastor "Mad-Eye" Moody. The retired Auror legend often gave seminars and practical training sessions on Monday mornings; this was normally around the time they finished. Dumbledore walked into one of the large training rooms which were frequently used to teach younger Aurors new spells or give demonstrations.
"Arhhh, just the man I was tellin' you all about, The Grand Sorcerer himself! C'mere Albus, tell these young lads and lasses all about the uses the simplest of all spells have, they find it hard to believe that a well-placed Stunner or Petrificus Totalus can be far more valuable than the most fancy fire lance or conjuration you can think of!" Moody gruffly said as his all-seeing eye saw Albus enter the room.
Walking up next to Alastor, Albus let his inner academic out as he observed the crowd. There were at least 70 people in the room, just over half of them looked to be trainees in their early stages of Auror training while the rest looked like younger Aurors. He even saw some of the older and experienced faces in the back.
"Ah yes, of course. As Alastor has possibly told you, the first capture of Bellatrix LeStrange about 20 years ago…" and so Albus quickly captivated the crowd with the story of how Moody had lost his leg but fought to the very last second and eventually came out to be victorious with a combination of the simplest spells. "It's not a matter of what spell it is, how powerful it or deadly it is, no, it all comes down to how you use it. I am willing to bet you that Alastor could defeat anyone in this room using only Rictumsempra and Scourgify…"
About half an hour later session was over and the Aurors started clearing out, each one thanking Moody for the lecture on the way out. When only Albus and Alastor were left, Alastor spoke first.
"All wet behind the ears still, I tell you. I'm assumin' you're not here to catch up on old times, aye Albus?"
Dumbledore chuckled before answering. "No, of course not. I've come to see you personally because I am not sure of when the next Order meeting will take place. You see Alastor, I'm going to need your help…"
Harry awoke to the sensation of someone hitting him over the head with a pillow. Not once, not twice, but repeatedly. "Get up!" The voice of Tonks commanded. All she got in response was a groan and him pulling his blanket over his head.
"I know Dumbles told you to sleep in but it's almost lunch time! Get up!"
Groggily attempting to dodge her next hit with the pillow, Harry Potter sat up and looked around, the events of the previous night coming back to him.
"Lunch'll be ready in a few minutes, brush your teeth and get your bum downstairs or we'll start without you!"
Making his way to the bathroom, Harry brushed his teeth and relieved himself. Deciding to get changed properly after eating, he haphazardly threw on a bair of baggy sweatpants and made his way downstairs, following the delicious smell of pasta. Smiling slightly when he saw Remus in an apron standing at the stove shovelling food onto plates Harry took a seat opposite Tonks who was currently holding up a small mirror as she cycled through hair colours.
"I didn't know you could cook, Remus." Harry said in greeting.
"Well you pick up a few things when… you live on your own." Remus said with a flash of discomfort in his eyes.
An uncomfortable silence settled on the three of them and Harry mentally kicked himself for commenting on something stupid like that. He was sure that if someone commented on his own cooking abilities that he'd probably have a similar look in his eyes as he'd remember the times he'd been punished by the Durselys for the meal he had been forced to cook for them not being perfect.
Trying to lighten the mood he looked at Tonks and asked, "What are you doing, Tonks?"
"Hmm? Oh, I'm just trying to decide what colour to wear today. I can't quite choose between this," Her hair turned into a light brown with blonde highlights, "and this." This time her hair changed into a dark red tone which made her look quite intimidating if she'd asked Harry for his opinion.
Remus let out a sound which sounded like a laugh poorly disguised as a cough and mumbled something along the lines of, "Not like she can stay on one colour for very long."
Remus finished placing the pasta onto the plates from the big pot he'd been cooking them in and flicked his wand to levitate them onto the table. For the first time since entering the kitchen, Harry noted that the table was made for five people yet only three were present. Shooting Remus a questioning look he asked, "Are we expecting anyone?"
Remus nodded. "Yes, Dumbledore said he'd be here any minute now and he's brining someone along with him. No clue who but they better hurry up cause I am starving."
Right as Remus said that, footsteps could be heard on the path to the kitchen. Dumbledore was leading a smiling Hermione whose trunk was levitating behind her. Leaving her trunk at the stairs she quickly descended, barely being able to contain her excitement of seeing Harry in a few seconds.
Harry had no idea what on earth was going on. One second he was sitting there impatiently, waiting for Dumbledore so he could finally sate his rumbling stomach, and the next thing he knew was a cry of "Harry!" coming from somewhere near the door, leading to his current predicament of a very familiar figure sitting in his lap crushing him against her chest in one of those tight hugs he'd come to appreciate over the years. Her arms around his neck caused his face to be pressed into her collarbone as his arms went around her waist automatically to keep her from falling off his lap. Harry could very much smell her – she smelled intoxicating and so unique that he couldn't quite describe it – at least not yet. He could smell her perfume as well and it too smelled familiar. A content sigh when through him.
"Hello Hermione." He mumbled into her shoulder, oblivious to the world. 'Merlin this is comfortable. I could stay like this for a while.' Was the most prevalent thought as he pulled her a bit closer than she'd already been.
A bit surprised at Harry's readiness to respond to her physical greeting she smiled into his hair and mumbled back. "Hi Harry." 'I believe this is the first time he's responded so actively to one of my hugs.'
The two teens became aware of their surroundings again as Tonks unnecessarily cleared her throat. "Save it for the bedroom loverboy and lovergirl, I'm starving!"
The meal was pleasant and Dumbledore mentally patted himself on the back. Bringing Miss Granger to Headquarters had been definitely worth the effort as he could see Harry interact far more with those around him than he had the night before. She sat right next to him and they were constantly interacting – to Albus it looked like she was forcing Harry to not think about Sirius and the prophecy and retreat into himself by sheer presence. The change seemed to be obvious to anyone but Harry himself, he looked like he hadn't been beating himself up with guilt over the past week, nor did he look like he had broken down last night blaming himself for something that wasn't his fault.
He chuckled to himself as he recalled the jab from Nymphadora at the start of the meal, insinuating that Harry and Hermione were lovers. It had been a delight to see the two blush fiercely as Hermione gingerly separated herself from her best friend and take the seat next to him with as much dignity as she could manage.
Conversation for lunch mainly stuck to lighter topics, Remus complaining that his favourite Qudditch team was underperforming, Tonks rambling about Moody being a hellish instructor and being an Auror was the worst thing ever, Dumbledore touching on the topic of having to inform the muggle-born first years about their new status as Wizards and Witches, Hermione mentioning her anxiety over her O.W.L results much to the amusement of everyone and Harry moaning about a certain clumsy Auror being mean and teasing him at every chance she found.
They had bowls of ice cream for dessert which Dumbledore quite enjoyed. Checking his watch he noticed the time approach one and he still had many things to do and prepare. After thanking Remus for the excellent meal he stood and looked at Harry and Hermione sitting side by side.
"Well, I must be off now. Remus, Tonks, it is from now on your duty to ensure Harry and Hermione are protected wherever they do." Remus and Tonks nodded respectively. "Harry and Hermione, I will leave you two to do whatever you please until Thursday afternoon when I will return as I have planned some things for you. Also I will send two house elves tomorrow morning – I am sure that you'd all agree with me when I say that this place could use a little makeover. I wish you all a joyous day. And don't you be too productive Miss Granger, at least not until Thursday – like your parents I recommend that you, for now, enjoy yourself."
Seeing Hermione roll her eyes was all Dumbledore needed as he put on his hat and disappeared in a soft pop.
Remus spoke to the two after Dumbledore's departure. "Why don't you let Tonks and I clean up the mess while you go and sort out a room for Hermione? I assume you'll be staying here from now on, yes Hermione?" Seeing her nod he continued, "Harry help her get set up in the room across from yours will you?"
Nodding enthusiastically Harry stacked Hermione's plate and bowl onto his own and passed them to Remus before taking her hand without thinking about it and started pulling her towards the stairs. He didn't notice Tonks snicker or Hermione look rather surprised as he led the way up the stairs. Grabbing her trunk with his free hand without hesitation or pause he kept walking up the stairs to the first floor.
He absently pointed at the door to his room. "That's my room. Door's always open to you if you need anything…"
Letting go of her hand he hauled her trunk into the room opposite his and flicked the light switch. Looking at the dust disapprovingly he cast Scourgify a few times, making Hermione gasp.
"What are you doing?"
"Eh… Cleaning your about-to-be room?" Harry replied, clearly confused.
"You used magic! We're still underage, what if you get expelled, oh my god we need to tell Dumble-" Hermione's rant was quickly interrupted as Harry turned to her and crossed the distance between the two of them with a quick step. He now stood very close, so close their chests were almost touching. Placing a long index finger under her chin he applied pressure until she closed her still open mouth.
'Oh lord… He's so close to me… I can smell him… what… what on earth is he doing!'
Now that her mouth was closed Harry placed his index finger on now sealed lips before speaking. "Sheesh 'Mione, you need to calm down. We can perform magic here, don't worry, I double-checked with Tonks. The Fidelius Charm hiding this place also hides magic and Tonks said that Sirius' father was crazy and paranoid and had the world's best defensive wards placed upon this house. Okay?"
Harry too was acutely aware of the close proximity to Hermione that he found himself in. He too could smell her scent and found himself liking it more and more. Muttering a quick "sorry" he removed his finger from her lips, 'God they're soft…' and took a step back. Composing himself quickly he turned back to the room which was a mirror image to his own, except still dusty and dark.
Seeing that Harry had turned to face the room again Hermione raised her hand to her lips where his finger hand lingered and caught herself wondering what his lips would feel like. Trying to derail that train of thought as quickly as she could she retrieved her wand with the knowledge that she could actually use it. It would much later in the day dawn upon her that Harry had for the first now called her by her full name but had used a shorter version, almost like a pet name.
"Well then, how'd you like your room?" Harry asked, trying not to sound awkward at all. 'It's only awkward if I make it awkward!' Was his motto as he was unsure what had just passed between him and his only real female friend.
"Err… how about we go with how your room looks and then I'll modify it to my tastes?" Hermione offered.
Harry nodded and started transfiguring things left and right.
Half an hour later her room looked almost identical to the one Harry currently occupied. She had sat down on the bed, watching him intently as he moved around with the room like a man on a mission. 'He's so intense when he has a purpose.' She thought, admiring his magical ability.
"If you transfigured this well during your Transfiguration O.W.L you'll definitely get an Outstanding, Harry!" she said as he almost collapsed on the bed next to her.
"Really? Thanks. I don't know but it felt really natural to me just now. Like all I needed was the imagination and the magic would just flow through me to suit my needs." Harry said lying on his back, staring at the ceiling.
Hermione kicked off her shoes and leaned back as well, taking the same position as Harry next to her. She pushed herself up a bit so that her head was on the same level as Harry's.
The two lay there lost in their individual thoughts for a while. Unknown to the other, they were thinking about each other, wishing they could read the other's mind.
Deciding to be the first to break the silence Harry slightly inclined his head to his right so that his ear was almost touching his shoulder, without taking his eyes off the ceiling.
"I'm really glad that you're here."
Instead of answering with what she had planned Hermione paused for a second, the events from earlier fresh in her mind. The way he had responded to her hug, the way he had oh so boldly silenced her earlier.
"Why's that?" She replied.
Harry had definitely not anticipated that question. He had to give it to her though, it was a valid question. Not sure how else to respond he decided to be as honest as he could.
"Well you're fun to be around. You're my best friend and I can rely on you for anything. You know me better than I know myself and know how to… how to make me happy and distract me from everything bad going on around me." Harry managed to get out, hoping he didn't sound like an absolute idiot.
Harry didn't know it then, but his answer had made Hermione smile brightly. Deciding to play his game she also inclined her head to the left – their heads were touching now. She could feel him tense through the mattress but relax quickly. Deciding to be the bolder one this time around her left hand slowly slid across the now navy blue sheets, until her pinkie bumped into his. His breathing stopped for a moment but continued as normal, as if she'd been given permission to do as she pleased. Her fingers slowly made their way over the back of his hand, feeling the faint scars he had on it.
A shiver ran through Harry as he could feel Hermione lightly caress the back of his hand with tips of her fingers. Her touch was light and soft and if he was being completely honest with himself he found that he was craving more. But, this was Hermione, his best friend. Should he be craving more?
"Give me your hand." She whispered through the silence of the room. The curtains were closed, the light was dim and if Harry's mind did not fail him the door was closed since he had been cleaning behind it as well. Hesitating for only a short moment he slowly extended his arm from his body and turned his palm upwards. Hermione continued her ministrations of his hand, running her own fingertips along his, feeling his callouses and small scars that he had acquired throughout all their adventures, dozens of hours of Quidditch and a Triwizard tournament.
Her fingers came to a rest and she slowly intertwined their hands as hers closed around his. Not hesitating any longer, Harry's fingers closed around hers as well.
It was a sweet, innocent and very intimate moment for the two of them as they lay motionless upon the recently cleaned bed, side by side with their hands joined and heads touching lightly.
In what was barely more than a whisper Hermione spoke.
"I'm really glad to be here too, Harry."
Author's Note #2: Well that was the first chapter. Hope you enjoyed it as much as I did writing it. Kinda long, ~13k words. Next chapter will start right where this one stops and will be out in the next few days. Peace!