Disclaimer: If you recognize the character, it isn't mine. Just playing in Rowling's sandbox.

Not dead, not writers' blocked, not giving up. Just infernally busy with a job where I was promoted and other interfering things that life brings. As always, I assure you that the story is not abandoned and I thank every single reader who has been waiting patiently and who has taken the time to fave/follow, recommend, and review.

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1 November 1991

Harry burst into the toilet, skidding to a halt as he took in the repulsive grey giant between him and Hermione. He seemed to be moving in slow motion as it brought its club down to smash Hermione's protective glowing bubble and raised its arm for the blow that would kill her—

"Wake up! Shh, it's all right, wake up!"

Hands took her shoulders, shaking gently. "Come on, it's all right, it's just a dream."

Viola Granger shot up and gasped, looking around wildly. Robert was beside her, still holding her.

"Vi, wake up!"

"I'm awake." She covered her face with her hands, trembling as she remembered her dream. "I'm awake." She drew in a ragged breath, trying to slow her racing heart. "Oh, Rob, we almost lost her!"

As she sank into his embrace, shuddering, she gasped out, "We have to take her home, put her back in her school—"

"No, Vi."

His simple but firm answer stopped her short. "But look what almost happened! That school is too dangerous!"

"First of all, in the middle of the night after terrible dreams is no time to make any kind of decision. Second, there's danger anywhere. It's just different danger there."

"Rubbish!"

"Hungerford."

Viola had opened her mouth to continue, but was brought up short. Robert had family from Hungerford and two of his cousins had witnessed the violence on Hungerford Common when Michael Ryan had gone on his killing spree. She remembered that Ryan had broken into a school to hold off police before killing himself. What if it had been just days later, with term started and the school full of children instead of empty?

"Also, if we remove Hermione from Hogwarts, we either have to enrol her in another magical school or submit to having everything we know of magic taken from our minds. We're back to where we were last year, with a daughter causing inexplicable things around her."

"But she can control it now!"

"Yes, she's got better about it, but who knows what could happen when puberty hits and her body changes radically? Or if she becomes ill with something that sends her into a delirium? And if they remove the knowledge of magic from her, she won't know that she has something that needs control. And Vi, there's the biggest reason of all."

"Which is?"

"How can we possibly take her away from the two best friends she's ever had in her life?"

Viola wanted to keep arguing, to answer the need to have Hermione home and safe where no monsters would suddenly appear. But she remembered the long, lonely days of summer, of afternoons where Hermione retreated to her room and her books instead of playing with other children. The stark contrast to her interactions with Harry and Dean, with the other children in their group, was quite clear.

"But…"

"But you're frightened. So am I. I don't think the answer is to run away. We learn what the dangers are and we guide Hermione to learn how to deal with them. We don't take her from where she belongs right now."

Her arguments exhausted for now, Viola allowed her husband to draw her back down on the bed and hold her. But she stayed awake for a long time, considering the possibilities.

Harry was at loose ends. The three of them had spent nearly two hours in a session with Dr Aymler and Healer Myrist about the troll and the aftermath, working their way through the situation. Now Hermione was off with her parents and Dean had agreed to go home with his parents for one night and see his siblings. It felt like ages until tea. Pippa had brought up some books and games, but nothing there caught Harry's interest at first. He smiled at the box that held the first game he had ever played with Pippa, remembering the numerous rematches during his first years at Esperança House.

A sound in the next room reminded him he wasn't alone, after all. Sirius Black was also up here, had been staying here to recover his health after his wrongful imprisonment in Azkaban. Black had been his father's best friend since the two of them met on the Hogwarts Express their first year…

Not stopping to think about the sudden impulse, Harry grabbed the game and went through the en suite that connected the two rooms. He knocked on the open door.

The man, his dark hair drawn back in a neat ponytail, looked up from a sheaf of parchment papers. "Hello there, Harry. How are you feeling today?"

"Good, thanks. Am I interrupting you?"

He gathered the parchment and tossed it to one side of the table. "Family finances and such. The goblins would like the Black estate to be active and earning a profit again. It's just been sitting there since my mother died, with a caretaker who only did just enough so that money wasn't being lost. You'll see when you come of age and they expect you to deal with the Potter estate."

"I was wondering if you'd like to play a game, Mr Black."

"That sounds infinitely more interesting than this stuff. You're on. And call me Sirius."

Harry laid the box on the table. "This one's one of my favourites."

Sirius looked at the brightly-coloured box. "I've never seen that game before in my life."

"I can teach you, it's not hard. First you pick your colour…"

"…and he had roses coming out of his ears for three days before Moony worked out a counter-curse! That was the last time he tried to give flowers to your mum until the first anniversary of them becoming a couple."

Harry was sprawled on the bed in Sirius' room, having fallen over with laughter yet again. After playing a best-of-three with the game, Harry had felt comfortable enough to ask a question or two about his parents. Sirius had responded happily, telling Harry several stories that jumped around from the early years at Hogwarts to when they began dating, to their life as parents.

They both stayed firmly on the side of happy and funny memories. Harry sensed that talking about his parents' deaths might be difficult for Sirius, and he had to admit that he might not be ready to hear it.

"So has Mr Lupin come by to visit yet?"

Sirius' face fell a little and Harry sat up. "I'm sorry! I shouldn't've asked."

"No, it's all right. It just reminded me of Moony's situation. He had to go abroad in order to find work after everything happened. I've been in touch and he's working to save up enough so he can come back, but he won't take any money from me or let me set up an international portkey. He's off in Western Canada doing Merlin only knows what."

Harry pursed his lips, thinking. "Would he take money from me if I begged for 'Unca Moony' to come?"

Sirius chuckled. "Perhaps. It'll still take a while to contact him."

"Why? Wouldn't he have a phone?"

"A phone?"

"Yeah, a telephone. You know, pick it up, dial the number, ring ring?"

"Oh, one of those things! Lily mentioned those from time to time, usually after a long Floo call. I suppose it depends on whether Moony is working in the wizarding world or the muggle one. I do know he's got an account at a Canadian branch of Gringotts, because when I tried to deposit some galleons for him he rejected them immediately."

Harry sat up. "Well, there's your answer, then. Deliver a message through Gringotts!"

Sirius stared at his godson for a moment. "Harry, the goblins…aren't messengers."

"Have you asked politely? Or offered a fee for their services?"

"Um…no?"

"So ask. Or I can ask. The goblins seemed to like us when we went there this summer."

"Wait a minute, the goblins liked you?"

"Sure. Hermione started it by being super-polite and asking nicely for information since we were all from the non-magical world. They were all business, sure, but really helpful."

"Well, I'll be cursed…" Sirius trailed off and looked out the window for a moment, considering. "All right, nothing to lose by trying." He shuffled through the parchments on the table for a blank piece and picked up a quill. "Let's do it."

9 November 1991

Hermione huddled close to Harry as the wind picked up. She could think of so many things that would be more enjoyable than sitting outside on a cold and cloudy winter's day, in stands that were elevated where they would catch the worst of the icy currents.

But today was Quidditch. And the school had seemed to talk of nothing else for a week straight other than the match between Gryffindor and Slytherin.

Harry absent-mindedly opened his cloak so she could wrap part of it around her. He and Dean continued arguing with Seamus and Ron about whether Quidditch or football was the better sport.

"But who's the better athlete, then? Someone who can run and kick and dribble and head the ball or someone flying around and catching things, eh? We've all flown around, it's only a matter of sitting and steering on a broom!"

"Dean's got a point there. Could you or me run flat out for more'n five minutes?"

"Seamus, you're not helping! The point is flying in a match takes real skills! You're not just steering in a line, you've got to be able to stop, change direction all at once, dive and pull up! Beaters need to be strong as well, in order to knock the Bludgers about."

"The beaters are the ones with the sticks like cricket bats, right?"

Ron looked at Seamus, who had turned his attention to winking at Lavender Brown. Finding no more help from that quarter, he asked, "Er, Harry, how can a cricket hold a bat?"

Hermione snorted at that, which earned a glare from Ron, and shifted a little closer to Harry as a student's voice sounded out, booming around the pitch like an announcer on a speaker. On her other side, Parvati Patil scooted a bit closer to her and the bench creaked under them. While Hermione was not nearly as friendly to her housemates as she was to Sally-Anne, Parvati was pleasant enough and a welcome addition to trying to keep warm. Hermione knew she could warm the air around her, but nothing in her first-year spell index listed anything that would do something similar. There were a few spells for conjuring fire, but that would hardly do for a crowd in a set of wooden stands.

Harry leaned back to her as a whistle sounded and the teams took off on their brooms, eager to watch the flyers. Harry had been to nearly every practice that Madam Hooch offered on flying—the instructor had even let Harry chase after a spare Snitch one day and told him he ought to try out for Quidditch next year. As he leaned forward, the wood creaked under them again and Hermione thought she felt the bench shift.

She wrapped both her arms around Harry's arm. "I wonder how old these stands are."

"It's all right, Hermione. Surely they do some kind of maintenance on them, just like real stands in a regular pitch."

She was prevented from replying as one of the Gryffindors, Angelina Johnson, scored a goal. Harry jumped to his feet with most of their housemates, shouting approval as the announcer betrayed his loyalties by cheering just as loudly. She glanced over where the announcer was seated near the professors and recognized Lee Jordan, a boy from their house who was great friends with the Weasley twins. Some of the professors appeared as enthusiastic as she did about being at the match. Snape looked like a raven among peacocks in his black robes with arms crossed and Quirrell with his ridiculous turban appeared to be staring through the action on the pitch rather than at it.

Harry sat back down and Hermione definitely heard the wood pop and creak as he did. "Harry, I don't think these stands are safe!"

Ron turned around to glare at her. "They're perfectly safe, Granger! Just because you're afraid of heights doesn't mean you can ruin it for the rest of us!"

"Leave her alone, Weasley!" Dean snapped and rose to his feet again, with Harry beside him.

Whatever retort Ron might have had was lost as the wood under Harry and Dean's feet gave way with a crack that echoed loudly enough to distract the players nearby. The wood parted and both boys began to slip through the hole. Hermione seized Harry's nearest arm, holding on as tightly as she could as his weight pulled her to the floorboards. Neville and Seamus were grabbing for Dean on the other side while Parvati's screams alerted the others that something was wrong.

Her gloves made it difficult to get a firm grasp. Harry was using his free hand to try and get purchase on the broken beam. Hermione vaguely heard a shrill whistle in the distance, but focused solely on not letting him go, even as her arms and shoulders began to flare with pain.

"Hermione, they've got them. Hermione!" Parvati's voice jolted her out of her concentration and she realized that the players had come flying under the stands to help. Madam Hooch and one of the Weasley twins were supporting Dean while the keeper, Wood, had got under Harry.

Harry nodded to her and Hermione let him go to drop onto the broom in front of Wood. Everyone began sinking gently to the ground and she breathed a sigh of relief. Parvati helped her slide away from the jagged hole and get to her feet. Hermione saw that some of the professors had made it to the ground and were running across the pitch.

Yells from below made her heart lurch again and she dropped to her knees just in time to see Harry and Wood thrown from the suddenly jerking broom. As the two boys fell she flung a hand out, thinking SAFE! with all her will.

Minerva had her wand in her hand but slowed slightly, as Rolanda and two of the Gryffindor Quidditch team had got the boys and were beginning to descend. Her relief was short-lived, as she watched Wood's broom heave unexpectedly and fling both of her lion cubs off. She cast a desperate Cushioning Charm, even though she was still too far away to aim it properly.

Wood's cry turned into a surprised grunt as both he and Harry seemed to bounce from the ground before they actually touched it. Harry landed on his feet while Wood instinctively rolled as he reached the grass again.

Filius had caught up to her and was leaning forward to catch his breath. "Oh, well done, Minerva!" he panted out. "Marvellous distance!"

She hesitated briefly, and simply nodded her acknowledgement. "We need Poppy to make sure no one is injured."

22 November 1991

Patrick and Emily filed out of the conference room with the rest of the audience and slipped out of the stream of humanity headed for lifts and stairs. They paused to tuck programs and notebooks back into the canvas carryalls supplied by the conference hosts. As they waited for the crowd to disperse, they heard a voice call to them.

"Chandra!" Emily recognized Dean Thomas' first doctor and moved forward to greet her. "It's good to see you again. How are you?"

"Fine, fine. Is everything well with you?"

"We're doing very well, thanks." Patrick stepped forward to shake hands. "What brings you to the conference this year?"

Dr Misra waved a hand. "I have family here, so I don't have to pay for a hotel room. And you?"

Patrick shrugged. "Well, we're only over in Coventry, so it's easy to drive in to Birmingham each day. No reason not to attend with it that close."

"Would you be free for dinner? My family owns a restaurant not far away. It's the best korma in town."

"That sounds perfect. Pat?"

Patrick was about to agree when a large blond fellow barrelled toward them and seized Dr Misra's hand. "Doctor, it is good to see you again! Did you ever find any answers with your patient? Did you do the MRI?"

Taken aback, she stammered, "I found others who were able to help him. These doctors run a residence clinic for children with various problems and took him in."

The newcomer seized Emily's hand and began pumping it enthusiastically. "Yes, I remember you were in the audience as well! Tomas Ericsson. It is a pleasure."

Emily blinked as he gave a wide grin. "Well, your memory is frightening. Emily Greene. And this is my colleague Patrick Aymler."

"Greene…Aymler…yes! You run Sprinza House!"

"ES-pe-RAN-sa House," Emily corrected him.

"And what was it that brought you to my presentation last year?"

Patrick stepped in. "Mainly curiosity. Always good to keep tabs on various subjects outside the mainstream. Never know what will be useful."

Ericsson peered at him, as if trying to decide whether he was being insulted. Before he could respond, a young woman with the same blond hair and Nordic accent rushed up. "Doctor, you wanted to speak to the professors from Kings College. They're waiting now."

"Ah, good, yes. Thank you, must hurry. Thank you!" Ericsson allowed the assistant to lead him away.

Emily and Patrick both relaxed slightly. Dr Misra shook her head and muttered under her breath, "Idiot." She smiled and turned back to them. "Now, I want to know how Dean is doing. The last I heard his parents had moved up north somewhere because the father landed a terrific job. Is Dean still with you?"

They shook their heads and Emily responded with the cover story they had prepared weeks ago. "He recovered very well, has his issues under control now. He was offered a scholarship to a school up in Scotland."

"For art, I would bet. He's brilliant with a paintbrush. I pushed his mother to try someone experienced in art therapy, but they couldn't afford the fees."

Emily smiled, happy to let the other doctor fill in blanks for herself. "Yes, indeed. We may see his work hanging in the Tate twenty years from now."

As the two women led the way to the car park, Patrick followed them, trying to shake off a sudden sense of foreboding that had begun with the intrusion by Ericsson. That crackpot with his ESP ideas had nothing to do with their work and was simply looking for new ways to spread his theories.

Surely it was nothing.

Author's Note: Thank you as always for reading!