If there's anyone to be thanking for this chapter, it would be That Crazy Hippie Girl, who got it back to me BEFORE Thanksgiving Break. Here we go!
Anti-Litigation Charm: I do not own.
There was an Order meeting on Friday that enough members managed to find time to attend, or were at least in a position to relay the outcome to the other members, that they were able to convene it. The kitchen of Grimmauld Place was crowded as everyone budged aside or scooted forward, trying to find a seat at the table, or at least a good place to listen. Mundungus fell asleep on the floor, smelling of dirty rags and smoke before they had even begun. The door was warded against possible eavesdropping, and then they all settled down to start. The expected things were gotten out of the way first—Dumbledore confirmed that he was no longer at Hogwarts, but that he would still be around, albeit quite busy. As far as Hermione could see, he wasn't even slightly disappointed at being temporarily ousted. On the contrary, he seemed to consider this a great opportunity, though she couldn't for the life of her imagine why.
In the middle of all of this, the parchment tacked to the cupboard caught Molly's sharp eye, and she tore it down for closer inspection. There was a tiny shriek of barely-concealed rage half-way through Dumbledore's story, and Hermione found herself slowly sinking down in her chair as Molly wheeled around to face them.
"Dumbledore's Army? They named themselves—good heavens—and my children are on this list!"
Hermione sank down even lower.
"I told them not to join! They could have been expelled!" Mrs. Weasley cried, slapping the offending manifesto onto the table. "Harry almost was!"
"Molly," Sirius said, in what was supposed to be a placating tone, but one that Hermione suspected would have the opposite effect, "what's done is done. No one was expelled, and the group's been disbanded, so there's no—"
"What I want to know is whose idea this was, exactly?" Molly asked, giving Sirius a very pointed glare. "I thought I explicitly told you not to encourage them, yet clearly—"
"No," Hermione interrupted, straightening. "It wasn't his fault, Molly. It was mine."
"I—what?" That seemed to knock some of the wind out of her sails. All eyes turned upon Hermione.
"The group was my idea in the first place," Hermione admitted, not wanting Sirius to be on the receiving end of Mrs. Weasley's ire. She could understand why Molly was upset, sympathized even, but would rather she direct it at the person responsible. "I'm the one who suggested we come up with a name, to make a list, and put a jinx on the parchment."
"This was your idea?" Molly repeated faintly, as though she couldn't quite believe it.
Hermione thought she heard Kingsley let out a deep chuckle at this, and Moody muttered something in the darker man's ear that sounded rather approving.
"Twenty years ago, it was," Sirius interjected. "There's no point berating her about it now." This seemed to cause Molly to deflate a bit, having built up all that steam, and with nothing else to do with it but let it subside. The meeting continued largely uninterrupted after that, as they moved onto the current conflicts taking place in the school.
"Umbridge attempted to bring in some Aurors to take care of the fireworks that Fred and George set off—they were quite impressive, by the way," Kingsley said, with a wink at Molly, who didn't seem to quite know whether to be upset or flattered. "I took a look at them myself, and told her that they weren't within my purview. To hear it, she's had right difficult first day as Headmistress."
"I approve," Sirius said, crossing his arms. Hermione nodded in agreement with him, grinning.
"Professor Snape also managed to tell me that Umbridge tried to interrogate Harry in her office," Kingsley continued. "She requested some Veritaserum from him, but he slipped her water instead. He wagered she wouldn't test it out on herself, and given it's highly regulated by the Ministry, she couldn't test it on someone else without raising suspicion. Fudge's leeway with her only goes so far to cover what doesn't get out to the papers."
"What did she ask him about?" Hermione interjected quickly.
"I'm not quite sure, but I suspect she probably tried to find Dumbledore's whereabouts through him," Kingsley responded easily. "And quite likely Sirius Black's, given she almost caught you just a few months ago," he added, his eyes flickering to Sirius, not in warning, but calm reprimand. "But I know she also asked about you, Hermione—you haven't shown up to any of your classes, and none of the teachers seem to know where you are. I know Granger locked horns with her a few times over the last couple of months, so she's naturally suspicious about your absence. She asked me to do a search through the castle, before I left."
"How are Harry and Ron taking it?" Hermione asked, bringing her knuckle to her lips. "Did you get to speak to them?"
"Don't take this the wrong way, Hermione, but I don't think they realize you're gone yet," Kingsley said slowly. "The fireworks have been going on all day, and it's been a bit hectic. They saw me today, but I think if they were worried about you missing, they would have approached me."
"They probably think I'm in the library," Hermione said, not at all offended by the implication of the Auror's words. "It's not unusual. Of course, I've never deliberately skived off a class, but they might think I've found something important—they might not notice until tomorrow."
"Some good friends they are," Moody muttered. "No matter how many times I tell them—"
"Constant vigilance, yes, we know, Mad-Eye," Tonks interrupted, with a long-suffering sigh. "But they've got a lot going on right now, especially with trying to keep one step ahead of that toad. I honestly don't blame them."
"Now that we've got that sorted out, there's one last item to address," Hermione said, with a glance at Dumbledore. She straightened a little, and beside her, she could tell Sirius was bracing himself for what was to come. "Now that—now that I'm no longer restricted by the possible risks that come with changing my timeline, I've decided to reveal myself to Harry."
"Say what?" Tonks exclaimed, eyes wide.
"Are you sure about that?" Moody asked, his electric-blue eye whizzing around in its socket. "You don't do things without a good reason, Snape. What's yours?"
"Albus, did you know about this?" Molly asked worriedly, leaning forward in her seat. "I don't deny that Harry's got a right to know his godmother, and I think it might be good for him, but he can't possibly sneak out of the school to see her—"
"And we don't want to give him reason to," Moody growled, before Dumbledore could answer. "He's hardly got anything keeping him there now."
"Enough!" Sirius barked. Every face in the room turned to him, stiff with surprise, and he added tightly, "Just listen, you lot. Hermione's got her reasons, but she can't tell you unless you shut up long enough to listen."
"Right," Hermione said, chewing on her knuckle, visibly nervous now that all eyes had shifted to her. She glanced at Dumbledore, who inclined his head, indicating that she should take the floor. "Yes, I brought this up with Albus first. And Molly—Moody—while I share your concerns, I don't think it'll be a problem. Harry won't be sneaking out to see me."
Understanding dawned in Arthur's eyes first. "You're going to sneak in to see him."
"I've been sneaking around Hogwarts for years," Hermione said, laying both hands flat on the table. "I know the school inside and out, and I've never been caught by a student—the teachers only know I'm there because they've learned to discern the faint shimmer of my Disillusionment Charm when I move, and Merlin knows how long it took them to do that. I'm not worried about being caught."
"I'm not worried about that," Kingsley contended calmly. "Your disguise is first-rate. What I am worried about is how this will affect Harry's Occlumency."
Tonks frowned. "What d'you mean by that? Snape's teaching him, isn't he?"
"Harry… isn't doing very well at Occlumency," Hermione hedged, but it was Dumbledore who gave them the complete answer.
"Voldemort may be able to read our movements through Harry's mind, if he gains enough access to it," he said simply. "This means that revealing Hermione could potentially jeopardize our position in the war."
"It's a risk," Hermione said slowly, calculatingly, "but I've decided that I'm going to try and help him learn Occlumency. He's got the potential, and Severus knows what he's doing, but it's just—they're not working well together."
Sirius let out a loud snort that conveyed exactly what he thought of this.
"It's a personality conflict," Hermione said, pursing her lips together into a thin line. "But I think I can get through to him—and if nothing else, I can motivate him, give him something to fight for."
"What else does he need to fight for?" Moody growled. "Keeping You-Know-Who out of his head should be an easy priority!"
"But it's not," Hermione returned calmly. "He saw Arthur get attacked by Nagini, he thinks he can use it to see things that are important, that might save peoples' lives. He doesn't fully understand the depth of danger he's put himself in."
"Bloody idiot," Tonks breathed.
"That's why I need to reveal myself to him," Hermione said, circling back to the issue at hand. "It's a risk, but I think I can make progress with him."
"And what, exactly, do you plan to motivate him with?" Molly asked.
There was a painful pause. Sirius looked away, not quite meeting Hermione's eyes. Her gaze switched to Dumbledore, as though in silent plea for him to release her from the obligation of answering, but he simply shook his head.
"Harry… doesn't know what the Weapon is," she began carefully.
She wasn't disappointed by their reaction. She'd expected protest and she got it, if the sudden uproar was anything to go by.
"Whoa, wait just a minute!" Tonks said, standing up. "You can't possibly suggest giving him that information, not when you've just said You-Know-Who's got access to his mind!"
"He's too young, he's not in the Order—"
"What possible reason could he need to know—"
"Quiet!" Hermione didn't rise to her feet, but the imperious tone garnered her a moment of obedience, and she continued quickly, before she could be interrupted again, "The Weapon will be his motivation. It'll be something that he will absolutely not want the Dark Lord to know about—and the better he becomes at Occlumency, the more he'll find out."
Hermione slammed her fist down on the table, making all but Dumbledore and Sirius jump.
"We have got to stop treating him like a child!" She said, with an edge of cold fury to her words. "He's practically an adult—and if nothing else, he's already burdened with adult responsibilities. We do him a disservice by trying to protect him from important knowledge that he needs to know."
"He doesn't need to know this," Moody countered.
Dumbledore interrupted, "I disagree."
For a moment, everyone's attention snapped away from Hermione, now focused on the Headmaster with a kind of fierce intensity. The tension in the room could have been cut with a knife, but for a moment, Hermione was able to breathe easily as Dumbledore responded for her.
"Hermione's right," he said simply, "in saying that we have all treated him as a child—I myself am guilty of doing so, I'm afraid."
"But Albus—he is a child!" Molly said.
"Not is," Albus corrected. "Was. Last year saw to that, Molly. And with Voldemort's return, we can no longer afford to protect him the same way we have when Voldemort was not an immediate threat. We often underestimate him, only to have him face challenges far greater than most grown wizards face in a lifetime, and overcome them."
Hermione swallowed. "Treating him like a child—trying to protect him—it just doesn't work, Molly. Harry isn't like that." She glanced down at the table, and realized her knuckles had turned white. She quickly balled up her hands. "It just makes him moody and depressed. He wants to help, and feels he has a right to help—which, I'm sure you'll all agree, he does—and when he feels useless, or like he doesn't have a purpose… he gets erratic and reckless. It makes him defiant and distrusting, and overall, nothing is gained by it."
Molly placed a hand over her mouth, unable to speak. Hermione looked away.
"I'm—I was Harry's best friend for five years," she muttered. "I know him well. I know how to help him."
There was a moment of silence, and then Moody finally spoke.
"That's all very touching, Snape," he said darkly, leaning forward, "but like I said, you always do things for a reason."
Hermione closed her eyes. A wan smile twitched at her lips as she replied, "You know me that well."
"Well?" Moody growled.
Hermione sighed, and forced her eyes open to look at him.
"We're going to use him to get the Weapon," she said.
That evening found Hermione slumped in an armchair, situated in front of the fireplace in their quarters at Hogwarts. When Severus finally stormed in that evening, she barely lifted up her head to look at him—her eyes were already half-shut.
"How was your day?" she asked dully.
"Almost as bad as yours," Severus sniped, removing his boots. "Why don't you tell me first?"
Hermione sighed and leaned back, eyes closed. "Bring me some of mulled mead first, won't you? I don't think I can do this without it."
There was a clink as Severus retrieved a glass, and a bottle of Rosmerta's mead that Hermione kept stocked for such occasions. "It was the Order meeting, wasn't it?"
"Right in one," Hermione mumbled drowsily, as the glass was pressed firmly into her hand. She lifted it to her lips, and took a tiny sip. "No one liked my propositions, for some reason."
"Of course they didn't. There couldn't possibly be any logical, sound reason for why they might disagree with you."
"Oh, do shut it," Hermione snapped tiredly, slowly sitting up in her chair as the mead revived her. She took another sip, licking her lips for a moment before she added, "But they conceded in the end. Is Harry going to see you for lessons over the Easter break?"
At this, Severus shifted uneasily, before his expression twisted into a scowl. "There won't be any. Or ever, for that matter."
Hermione jerked up in her chair so fast that she very nearly slopped the mead on herself. "What?"
"Potter," Severus spat, "took the opportunity to go through my memories—the ones I had set aside in the Pensieve—while I went to deal with Montague."
"One of your Slytherins? What happened to him?"
"That's not the bloody point!"
Hermione squeezed her eyes shut. "I can hear you just fine," she bit out. "There's no need to yell. What did Harry see?"
"Two of them," Severus said viciously, now pouring himself a much-needed glass. "The first was the night you went after me in the tunnel leading to the Shrieking Shack." His fingers were shaky as he recalled the memory, and the bottle of mead trembled as he set it back down. "Where Black tricked me into going."
Hermione inhaled sharply. "And the other?"
"The one where I called Lily a Mudblood." He took a large draught from the glass, and then added, "The one where Potter and Black humiliated me by levitating me upside down, and removed my—it doesn't matter." The glass was set down on the mantle with a dull thunk. "The point is, I threw him out, and told him never to come back."
Hermione sighed, and sunk back down in the armchair. "I'll take care of it."
"I—what?" Severus's head snapped around to look at her, as though he hadn't quite heard her properly.
"I said I'll take care of it," Hermione snapped, rubbing her temple. "When are you free over Easter?"
"What do you mean, 'you'll take care of it'?" Severus asked suspiciously, coming to stand by her chair.
"Harry needs those Occlumency lessons," Hermione said, exhaustion weighing in her words. "You threw him out, so now he won't seek you out for lessons—I'll fetch him and bring him back so that you can continue."
"I will not—"
"Oh yes you will!" Hermione snarled, far too tired to deal with this. "That is an order, Severus! I won't do you the indignity of forcing you to hunt him down, but you will continue those lessons! Or rather," she said, slowly getting to her feet, "you'll continue to be there, and help me teach him."
"Teach him how?" her husband challenged. "He doesn't want to learn!"
"I've got a plan," Hermione muttered, in no mood to once again defend her decision. "I just need you to go along with it."
She watched Severus grind his teeth in frustration, and then wheel around and stalk toward the bedroom. The door slammed shut, though not with the force she would have expected—it was a rather controlled, muted slam, for which she was grateful. She lifted the glass of mead, and took a long, trembling sip before setting it back down with a tired sigh.
She didn't blame him for being in terrible temper. She was actually surprised he hadn't done more than just throw Harry out, after he had seen those memories. After he had been nosy and curious enough to stick his head in a bowl of memories that he obviously wasn't supposed to see. But Severus was going to have to continue to give him lessons anyway.
Maybe she should sleep on the armchair tonight. Or better yet, patrol the halls for a bit. Going to bed with an angry Severus Snape was—
The bedroom door suddenly opened. Severus, still noticeably sour but with a much calmer, perhaps even resigned expression, stepped out; He leaned against the door-frame, looking at her rather expectantly.
"Well? Aren't you coming?"
Hermione gave him a tired smile, sensing that the storm had passed. "Is that an invitation, love?"
"Always is," he muttered, as she crossed the room to join him. "Don't think I'll pretend to like this, though. I still think I should have thrown Potter out months ago and be done with it."
Hermione took his hand in hers, pressed her cheek against his chest, and breathed in deeply. "But I'm the ever hopeful, optimistic one," she said, a slight tease masking her weariness. "Otherwise, I wouldn't have put up with you after that first, botched detention we shared."
He laughed then, a low, rich chuckle. "Then how do you explain why I put up with you?"
"I don't," Hermione said with a smile, as she shut the bedroom door, much more quietly than he had minutes ago. "You just do."
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