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Stranded (Harry Potter AU) (Complete)

Discussion in 'Creative Writing' started by Starfox5, Jan 3, 2021.

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  1. Mastersgt

    Mastersgt Versed in the lewd.

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    I think, from the kids POV(which is what we have) they are. I mean, constantly harping on failures(even when they are not, or they had no control over them) and mostly ignoring everything their kids are saying to them(as regards how they feel and their opinion on things). Thats a busybody, and that gets annoying after a certain amount of time.
    That's not a problem, it is EXACTLY the feeling and behavior you would want to see in a story in this situation, because it is entirely believable.
     
  2. Cargo200

    Cargo200 Getting sticky.

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    Well, their reaction makes perfect sense. Given how things went and Harry/Hermione reaction it is annoying to them but even they would not describe it as being busybodies.

    Degradation of Hermione and her parents relationship was one of better subtle parts of HP canon, but so incredibly depressing so that I really like AUs.
     
  3. Beyogi

    Beyogi I trust you know where the happy button is?

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    What's actually Harry's issue with the floo? I don't think there was a single scene with pirates and a floo, so why is he freaking out everytime someone comes out of it?
     
    Starfox5 likes this.
  4. RedX

    RedX Not too sore, are you?

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    Probably because it's a person- and thus potential threat- appearing with no warning, at a decent clip of speed, in a flash of sudden fire.

    Probably has the same reaction if anyone enters the room by banging the door open suddenly.
     
  5. Threadmarks: Chapter 34: The Visit
    Starfox5

    Starfox5 Experienced.

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    Chapter 34: The Visit

    Kingston upon Thames, London, Britain, July 19th, 1996

    After getting out of the Knight Bus near the Grangers’ home, Lavender Brown took a deep breath. Hermione was back. Safe. And not in St Mungo’s getting treated for dark curses or worse. But she had suffered through a terrible ordeal. Lavender shuddered just thinking about how Hermione must have felt. Especially after reading the Daily Prophet.

    Of course you couldn’t trust everything you read in the Prophet - Lavender knew that very well, ever since that article about her aunt - but not even the Prophet would dare to make up too many things when Dumbledore himself was involved. And the Potters. And Mr Black. So, Hermione had been hunted by a wyvern! And pirates!

    Lavender had looked up wyverns before coming to visit her best friend. The beasts were almost as dangerous as dragons! Wizard-killers! And Hermione had been trapped on an island occupied by Barbary Coast pirates! Everyone knew about those pirates! If they had caught Hermione…

    Lavender shook her head. She didn’t want to think about what could’ve happened. This wasn’t some novel where the heroine would be saved at the last moment by the hero. Or where the pirate turned out to be a handsome exiled prince who fought for his birthright and had fallen in love with the main character. This was the real world, where witches who got kidnapped by pirates ended up enslaved in the Ottoman Empire.

    Hermione had been very lucky to escape such a fate. Especially with Potter. Lavender didn’t doubt a second that the whole ‘duelled for Hermione’ was one of the things the Prophet had made up; Potter was a good duellist - for a student. There was no way he could’ve duelled a pirate captain and won. Although… the Prophet hadn’t claimed he had won.

    She shook her head again and continued walking towards the Grangers’ home. Hermione needed her support now; that was all that counted.

    And she would tell Lavender what had happened anyway. Hermione once wrote her a two-foot letter about a trip to a muggle library, after all.

    “Excuse me? Are you a friend of the Grangers?”

    What? Lavender stopped on the path to the Granger’s front door and turned around. A middle-aged man was smiling at her. Even for a muggle, he was oddly dressed - he must be colour-blind to match that shirt with those pants. His hair was styled nicely, though. He could’ve stepped out of the latest Teen Witch Weekly article.

    “I was wondering if you knew their daughter,” the man went on.

    Wait! Lavender narrowed her eyes. Uncoordinated muggle clothes? Perfectly styled hair? She sniffed the air. And a whiff of ‘Eau de Dragon’ - Half of Gryfindor loved that horrible cologne; it had taken her two weeks to get Ron to stop using it. “I’m not talking to the press!” she snapped.

    His eyes widened. Then he smiled. “Oh, you do know her, then!” He took a step towards her. “I’ve got a few questions…”

    Lavender glared at him. “Go away, or I’ll tell Mr Potter you’re hounding Hermione! And Dumbledore!”

    He paled in response. “I’m not doing anything illegal!”

    “You can tell that to the Aurors!”

    She whirled and walked to the door. Really! What were they thinking?

    Mrs Granger opened the door after five seconds. “Lavender! Come in! Hermione! Lavender’s here!”

    Lavender glanced over her shoulder and winced - the wizard at the fence was taking notes. With a quill.

    “If I’m in the next article…”

    “What did you say, Lavender?”

    “The man out there is from the Prophet, I think,” she said.

    “Oh, no. He’s from Witch Weekly. He tried to get an interview earlier.”

    Oh.

    Lavender didn’t know if that was better or worse.

    “Lavender!” Hermione stood on the stairs.

    “Hermione!” Lavender rushed up and hugged her friend. “I was so worried!”

    “We all were,” Mrs Granger told them.

    “Come!” Hermione took her hand. “Let’s go to my room.”

    “I’ll bring you some tea and scones.”

    “Thanks, Mum!”

    Hermione didn’t quite drag her to her room but probably only because Lavender kept up. As soon as they were inside, Hermione sighed and sat down on her bed. “I’m so glad you came.”

    “Of course I came!” she replied, sitting down next to Hermione. Her friend looked good. A little tanned - less than she expected. Her hair was looking, well - as expected for a day when Hermione couldn’t use spells on it. And she was wearing a new sundress. And muggle makeup. “You’re looking good:”

    “Thank you.” Hermione smiled. “Did you read the article in the Prophet?” She held up the newspaper.

    “Yes, I did.”

    Her friend scowled. “It’s full of lies and speculation! I can’t believe they dared to print this!”

    “That’s the Prophet for you.” Lavender leaned forward.

    “Well, they were right about us being trapped on a pirate island. But we didn’t kill the wyvern with a dark curse! We trapped it with perfectly legal spells! And it took a lot more than just pointing our wands at it and aiming for the eyes!”

    “You killed the wyvern?” Lavender blurted out. Her friend had actually killed a wizard-killer creature?”

    “Harry and I did, yes.”

    “How?” Lavender boggled at Hermione. A wyvern’s hide, as the Prophet’s article had pointed out in a sidebar, was resistant to magic like a dragon’s.

    “We lured it into a trap,” Hermione told her. And explained. About the pit. The spikes. And the tree trunks. And the execution.

    Lavender gaped. That was… “...incredible!” she breathed. Hermione was a heroine for that!

    Hermione smiled. “Our solution combined magic and muggle physics to set up a pure muggle attack, bypassing the magical resistance of the wyvern,” Hermione said.

    Lavender nodded. ”And how did you lure it into your trap?”

    Hermione frowned. “Harry played bait. I didn’t want him to, but he pointed out that I was better at summoning him to safety and that his clothes were more sturdy and less prone to rip instead of dragging him along.”

    “Weren’t you wearing your robes?” Lavender asked. She remembered that both Hermione and Potter had been wearing robes the day they had disappeared.

    “We turned those into mattresses and sleeping bags. We used dried grass to make them more comfortable.” Hermione blushed a little. “It was too hot for robes, anyway.”

    “Ah.” Lavender nodded. “And you wore your muggle summer clothes.” She wouldn’t have trusted those clothes not to tear up when used to summon someone, either.

    “Yes.”

    “Wait! Did you want to play bait?”

    “Harry had already played bait - he distracted the wyvern - when it attacked us the first time,” Hermione told her.

    Lavender shook her head. “You’re crazy even for a Gryffindor.”

    “I felt bad for letting him risk his life again. We were supposed to share the dangers,” Hermione protested. “Anyway…”

    They were interrupted by Hermione’s mum bringing them a tray with tea and scones.

    While she was buttering up one half of a scone, Hermione went on: “Anyway, once the wyvern was stuck on the spikes, it was pretty much over. We did cast curses at it to speed the process up, but it would’ve died anyway.”

    Ew! Watching a beast slowly die, even a wyvern… Lavender shuddered. “And how big was it? The Prophet claimed it was as big as the Horntail from the Tournament.” And that had been the biggest dragons of them all. Lavender would have died if she had had to face such a monster.

    Hermione wrinkled her nose at that for a moment. “No, I don’t think so. It was smaller. The mouth could open this wide.” She spread her arms.

    Lavender gasped again. “It could’ve swallowed you whole!”

    “Probably not entirely,” Hermione replied. “We found the remains of a witch the wyvern had eaten - her arm and wand had been bitten off.”

    “And you wanted to play bait? And trusted Potter to summon you in time?” Lavender stared at her.

    “Harry wouldn’t have let me get killed.”

    Wait… Lavender narrowed her eyes. “What happened between you and… ‘Harry’?”

    Hermione blushed. “We, ah… We’re a couple now.”

    Lavender stared at her. “You and… Harry Potter?” The two of them had hated each other for years!

    Hermione shrugged - but it was forced; Lavender could tell. “We were alone on an island, we only had each other, we killed a wyvern, we talked…” She spread her hands. “It just happened.”

    “What happened? Did you kiss?” She leaned forward. This was… this was incredible!

    “Yes, we did,” Hermione said. “We kissed for the first time after we killed the wyvern. But we didn’t become a couple then; we needed a few more days.” She was still blushing.

    “Oh!” Lavender licked her lips. Should she ask? Well, Hermione had asked her the same when Lavender had started going out with Ron. “Did you… sleep together?”

    The blush grew stronger. “Yes, we did.”

    “Ohhh!” Now that was… straight out of a novel! A witch and a wizard, stranded on a desert island, falling in love… “How was it?” Lavender.

    “Ah, it wasn’t exactly a normal…” Hermione waved her hand. “I mean, we were stranded on an island, we were hunted by the wyvern, then the pirates… We were very stressed.”

    Lavender cocked her head at her best friend.

    “It was great,” Hermione said in a whisper, smiling widely.

    “Are you going to visit him before Hogwarts?” Lavender asked, then grimaced - what a stupid question! Of course Hermione would visit her boyfriend!

    “Later today,” Hermione confirmed. “I can also do magic at his place - it was very hard not to style my hair with my wand today.”

    Lavender nodded in sympathy. To spend the entire summer without being able to cast spells… muggleborns had it hard. “So that’s why you’re wearing the sundress?” It was light and short but didn’t look too muggle. And it showed off Hermione’s figure.

    Hermione nodded. “Mrs Potter is a muggleborn, so it should be OK. And they have seen me in shorts and a top, anyway.”

    “Ah. Are you going to cast hairstyling charms on the Knight Bus?” The bus moved so violently that casting any spell was a challenge. You wouldn’t want to arrive after a miscast spell ruined your hair.

    Hermione snorted. “Of course! Compared to being chased by pirates on brooms, that’ll be easy.”

    “Chased by pirates on brooms?” Lavender blinked again. “You mean that part of the article was true?”

    *****​

    Hermione Granger frowned at her best friend. “The only kernel of truth in that article was that we did fight pirates. And they were chasing us on brooms more often than not. But there was no duel over me!” she spat. “Really, as if we had been as stupid as to duel the pirates!”

    “Of course not!” Lavender said - a little too quickly.

    Hermione narrowed her eyes. “Harry’s a decent duellist, but this wasn’t some match or tournament. We carefully planned our attack on the pirate village and lured the majority of the pirates away.”

    “You attacked them?” her friend gasped.

    “They attacked us first!” Hermione defended herself. “We were just spying on them to determine their intentions when they attacked us in our hideout - and chased us through the jungle!”

    Lavender balled both hands into fists and pressed them against her mouth. “Merlin’s beard!”

    “We escaped them without getting hurt,” Hermione reassured her. “And when they found us again, we escaped again, and Harry even managed to take a broom from them.”

    “How did you escape without brooms? Did you learn how to apparate?”

    “No. I levitated a plank, and we rode it while Harry kept the pirates away. And it was at night, so we only had to flee a short distance before they lost us in the jungle,” Hermione explained. “They were mostly casting blindly and blowing up the jungle.”

    Lavender looked pale. “They were blowing up the jungle?”

    “Yes. But we escaped them.” Hermione pursed her lips. “And then we struck back. We attacked at night. Harry sank their ship and lured most of them away on a broom. Then he returned, and we sent giant rats and birds into the village to distract the remaining pirates while we broke into their prison, rescued Céline, a little girl they had kidnapped, stole one of their fishing boats which could pass through their wards and another broom and escaped the island.”

    Lavender was gaping at her for a second without saying anything. “That’s… that’s…” She shook her head. “That’s like in an adventure novel! The article is far more… the article makes it look less impressive!”

    “From a certain point of view, maybe,” Hermione said. “But really, we carefully planned and prepared everything.”

    “I thought Dumbledore and the Potters rescued you!”

    “Technically, they did - we were still on the ocean when they arrived. But we had already escaped the island’s wards and weathered the storm and were on our way to the coast of Africa.” Hermione shrugged. “The pirates were forced to stop their chase when we passed through the wards, so the odds of them finding us again were low, and we had two brooms to fly eastwards. I think we would’ve made it just fine.” Looking at Lavender’s expression, Hermione quickly added: “But we were still very relieved to be finally found, of course - and to finally eat something other than coconuts and fish. I can’t even see coconuts any more without wanting to throw up, I’m telling you!” That was a slight exaggeration, of course. But she was thoroughly sick of the taste. Just thinking of eating a Bounty made her shudder. ‘The taste of paradise’, hah!

    “Oh, no! You almost starved!”

    “No, no.” Hermione shook her head. “We had enough calories. And fish provided protein. But we would’ve had trouble with malnutrition in the long run.” She winced. “And I needed to cast charms against diarrhoea on the both of us.”

    “Ew.” Lavender made a face.

    Hermione chuckled. “That’s something you never read in a novel about getting stranded on an island.”

    “No. They always describe how you build a house out of palm trees with all sorts of charms to make it even better than your home,” Lavender agreed.

    Hermione snorted. “We had to hide from the wyvern, so we built an underground bunker. And we didn’t have many useful charms. We mostly used Cutting and Summoning Charms to create furniture. And the Engorgement Charm on food and some of our tools. And, of course, the Water-Making Charm.” She smiled. In hindsight, building a home with Harry had been nice.

    “And the Contraception Charm!” Lavender grinned at her.

    Hermione blushed at that memory. “I didn’t have to cast that charm very often,” she said, pouting a little. “It wasn’t as if we, ah, spent our time shagging.”

    “No, you spent your time fighting a wyvern and a gang of pirates,” Lavender retorted with a smile. Then she gasped. “Oh…”

    Hermione shook her head. “It’s alright to joke about it.” She frowned. “I can’t stand how everyone treats me as if I were about to have a nervous breakdown at the slightest provocation.” She was fine. Harry was fine. They hadn’t been captured, they hadn’t been seriously hurt, and they hadn’t killed anyone.

    Lavender nodded. “They’re just so worried about you.”

    “I know.” Hermione pressed her lips together. If she hadn’t gone into Knockturn Alley, her parents wouldn’t have had to worry about her for weeks. But it had all turned out well. Very well, actually, considering how her relationship with Harry had changed. If given a choice, she probably would do it again if that meant being with Harry… She suppressed the guilt she felt at that selfish thought. “It’s just… We were there, not them. And we made it through fine.”

    “I’d have nightmares for weeks after this!” Lavender said.

    Hermione winced.

    And her friend gasped once more. “You’re having nightmares?”

    “Not really bad ones,” Hermione said. “I’m sure they’ll pass.”

    Once she could see Harry again.

    *****​

    Godric’s Hollow, Devon, Britain, July 19th, 1996

    Harry Potter looked around, wand in hand, searching for anything he might have missed. Nothing behind the bed - nothing under the bed; he had checked. The desk was clear, as was the armoire. No surprises on the shelves, either - though he’d best double-check.

    But otherwise, his room was spotless. Flawless. Wait! There was a stain of sorts on the carpet - a part was a shade darker than the rest. He cast a cleaning charm at it, covering the spot in soapy bubbles, then followed up with a drying charm.

    And frowned - the spot was now lighter than the rest. Sighing, he started cleaning the whole carpet, using Levitation Charms to move his furniture around. Just as he was putting down his bed next to his armoire, the door opened.

    Harry whirled, dropping the bed in the process, and… Oh. It was Mum. “Hi, Mum!” He beamed at her while he quickly lowered his wand.

    “Hi, Harry. What are you doing?”

    “Uh… cleaning my room a little.”

    She raised her eyebrows at that. “‘A little’? You are shampooing the carpet!”

    “It was dirty,” he explained.

    Mum looked at him, then at the room. “How much time did you spend ‘cleaning up a little’?”

    “Uh…” He quickly checked his watch. “An hour?”

    She shook her head. “Harry… I doubt Hermione will check for dust under your bed.”

    “I just don’t want her to get a bad... a wrong impression when she visits,” he told her, subtly moving his wand to finish cleaning the carpet. Her parents were coming to dinner, too!

    Mum frowned some more. She drew her own wand and put the bed back where it belonged, then sat down on it, apparently not caring about the soap buds covering the carpet beneath her. “Harry… You’ve hexed Hermione how many times? And you are worried about a little dust in the carpet?”

    He felt his cheeks flush. “It’s not the same! We’ve talked about that - about the whole hexing thing, I mean. And the potions. And the muggle traps. That’s not a problem any more.”

    Mum tilted her head at him.

    “Really, we’ve talked that out,” he repeated himself. “Made our peace with each other.”

    “And it only took you getting stranded together on a pirate island with a man-eating wyvern hunting you. I’m impressed.”

    He glared at Mum, then pouted when he didn’t have a comeback to that, and she smiled. “Yes,” he said after a moment.

    Mum nodded. “And now you’re worried about her getting a bad impression of your room.”

    He firmly nodded. “Yes.” Who wouldn’t be worried in Harry’s place?

    She sighed. “Harry, she’s seen you at your worst - for years, mostly at Hogwarts, and I blame James and Sirius for that - and at your best on the island.”

    Harry blushed again. “You think I did well on the island?”

    “You survived a situation that would’ve killed many adult wizards and witches,” Mum said. Harry beamed. “You also took far more risks than most people would’ve taken,” she added.

    He pressed his lips together and hunched over a little, then straightened. “We had to. We couldn’t just hide. And we couldn’t leave Céline with the pirates.”

    “I blame James and Sirius for this as well,” Mum muttered. “Why couldn’t you look to Peter and Remus for role models?”

    “What? Dad also thinks we took too many risks,” Harry protested.

    “Because you’re our son. If you were his friend, he would be praising you, I bet.”

    “Oh.”

    Mum shook her head. “Anyway, do you really think Hermione would be put off if your carpet isn’t spotless?”

    He looked away. “It’s just… it was simpler when we were on the island. We, I didn’t have to worry about cleaning up and… everything else.”

    “Harry…” He looked up, and she nodded at him. “Are you two a couple?”

    He froze for a second, then nodded. “Yes, we are.” With a sigh, he added: “At least I hope we are. Now that we’re back home…” He shrugged.

    “You’re afraid that she’ll dump you?”

    He tensed. “I’m a little worried,” he admitted. “I mean, I’m sure it wasn’t just a reaction to stress and danger - we talked about that. Hermione agreed, too. But now that we’re no longer alone…” He sat down on the bed as well, next to her, then cast a Drying Charm on the carpet. “I just want to make a good impression.”

    “Harry…” She trailed off again, then wrapped her arm around his shoulders. “What exactly happened on the island? With you two, I mean. Not with the pirates.”

    Oh. “We used protection!” he blurted out, staring at her. Then he felt his stomach drop.

    “I guess that answers my question,” Mum replied in a dry tone.

    “Sorry,” he mumbled. This wasn’t going well. Not at all.

    “Don’t be sorry. I expected this. Well, not with Hermione, and I expected it to happen at Hogwarts, not on a pirate island. But you two are teenagers, and I know how teenagers are - I was one myself, after all. That’s why the Contraception Charm is taught at Hogwarts.” She squeezed his shoulder.

    Harry wasn’t about to ask about Mum and Dad and Hogwarts. But he felt a little better.

    “And it’s natural to feel insecure. You should’ve seen your father when we started dating.” Mum laughed.

    Harry really wasn’t going to ask about his parents and Hogwarts. He cleared his throat. “So… it’s OK?”

    “Yes, of course.” She smiled at him. “Just… relax, alright? If she loves you, she won’t be dumping you because you have dust on your shelves.”

    “What? I cleaned them!” He jumped up.

    Mum laughed again. After a moment, Harry did as well.

    *****​

    The Potters’ house looked perfectly normal from the outside, Hermione Granger found as she stepped out of the Knight Bus. Old and rustic - but it fit the rest of the village. She could tell as she looked around. Godric’s Hollow was an old village, lacking more modern buildings as far as she could see. And, unlike, say, Ottery St Catchpole, which only housed three magical families, it was an actual mixed muggle-magical village with a substantial percentage of witches and wizards amongst the residents. Pretty much the only one in Britain, according to the book she’d read in Muggle Studies.

    And she was stalling, she realised. She wasn’t here to sight-see. She was here to visit Harry. Her boyfriend. And to do some magic. Though that was a secondary concern. And her parents would visit for dinner, which was another concern. But she could handle this.

    She took a deep breath and bit her lower lip as she ran a hand through her hair - she hadn’t quite risked casting any charms during her ride, having held on to her seat with both hands. Contrary to her boasts to Lavender, it had been worse than getting chased on a broom. She probably looked like a mess with her fraying ponytail. At least her sundress had survived the trip without getting rumpled, though perhaps she should...

    She scoffed. She had faced a wyvern, pirates and a tropical storm and survived everything thrown at her. She could do this! She raised her chin and straightened, then stepped up to the gate at the edge of the Potters’ yard. It opened easily - well-oiled hinges, she noticed - and it was just a few yards to the door. Not a real drive, as far as she could tell. Didn’t the muggle neighbours wonder about the lack of a car?

    She was doing it again! She clenched her teeth and knocked on the door.

    “Coming!” she heard Harry yell inside. A moment later, the door was pulled open, and he was there, smiling at her. “Hermione! I mean, hi!”

    “Hi, Harry,” she replied, smiling as well. He was looking good. Robes, of course, but nicely cut - much more elegant than the school robes. And his hair was styled. Clean-shaved, too. “You look nice,” she said before she could help herself. How vapid!

    “Uh, thanks.” He nodded. “You too. You look nice, I mean. Nice dress. It suits you.”

    She felt herself blush a little. “Thank you.” She ran a hand down her dress. “It’s just a sundress.”

    “It looks nice on you,” he repeated himself. After a moment, he asked: “Did you have a nice trip?”

    “I took the Knight Bus.”

    He winced. “Ah, I should’ve known that - I knew it. Sorry. I didn’t think.”

    “Aren’t you going to invite your girlfriend inside, idiot?” Hermione heard a girl’s voice from inside the house.

    Harry scowled as he turned. “Shut up, Rose!”

    Right, his sister. Hermione didn’t know the girl well - due to Harry and her feud, she had kept her distance from his sibling.

    He turned back to her, flushing. “Anyway, ah, please come in!” He stepped to the side and gestured at her.

    She nodded as she entered the house and followed Harry to the living room. She had seen it already when she had arrived through the Floo Network yesterday, but she hadn’t really taken a good look at the rest of the house.

    “Hello, Hermione.” Harry’s sister nodded at her from where she was sitting at the table in the living room, apparently reading a wizarding magazine. She was smiling widely, too. “So, you’re Harry’s girlfriend now.”

    “Yes,” Hermione replied with a frown - then blinked when Rose looked surprised.

    “What, really?” Rose looked from her to Harry and back. “You’re serious?”

    She hadn’t known? Hermione looked at Harry and raised her eyebrows.

    “I told Mum,” Harry replied. He shrugged. “Didn’t see the need to tell her.” He nodded at his sister.

    “Ah.” Hermione nodded. Harry had told his mother, but not his sister. She didn’t have any experience with siblings, so she didn’t know if that meant anything.

    “Why didn’t you tell me?” Rose stood.

    “Why should I?” Harry shot back.

    “I’m your sister!”

    “So? It’s none of your business who I date!”

    “You hypocrite! What about Seamus?” Rose glared at him.

    “Seamus?” Hermione asked.

    “You didn’t hear?” Rose turned to Hermione. “He asked me out last year, and Harry flipped out.”

    “I didn’t flip out about him asking you out!” Harry protested. “I hexed him because he… talked nasty about you!”

    “What?” Rose looked confused. “He talked bad about me?”

    That made not much sense. Unless… “You mean he talked about Rose in sexist terms?” Hermione asked.

    Harry nodded. “Yes!”

    Probably like most boys, then, Hermione thought.

    “And he was the only one talking like that?” Rose asked, putting her hands on her hips.

    “He was the only one talking about you like that,” Harry told her.

    “Did he actually do that in your presence?” Hermione shook her head. She knew Seamus wasn’t the brightest of their year, but this…

    “I was, ah… He didn’t know I was there,” Harry explained.

    “Did you use Dad’s cloak?” Rose asked.

    “No!” Harry shook his head. “Anyway, I hexed him for that. Not because he asked you out.”

    “You’re still the reason he dropped me!”

    “You want to go out with him?” Harry scoffed. “Just go and ask him, then!”

    “I don’t want to go out with him! But whether or not I do is my decision!”

    “And whether or not I hex a guy for rude language about my family is my decision!” Harry shot back.

    Someone was coming - Hermione heard a door open nearby.

    She turned at the same time Harry did, wands in hand.

    *****​

    “Oh. Mum.” Harry Potter lowered his wand. “Hermione arrived!”

    “So I see.” Mum glanced at him, then at her. “Hello, Miss Granger.”

    “Hello, Mrs Potter. Thank you for inviting me.” Hermione stowed her wand.

    Mum smiled. “You’re welcome. I’m glad your parents agreed to let you come.”

    Why wouldn’t they agree? Harry wondered privately.

    Hermione frowned. “I generally don’t require parental permission to visit a friend.”

    Harry nodded emphatically.

    “But your current circumstances aren’t exactly normal, are they?” Mum asked.

    “Oh, yes!” Rose butted in. “We’ve never had a visit from Harry’s girlfriend before. Of course, he never had a girlfriend before, so...”

    Harry glared at her. “I’ve had a girlfriend before! Katie Bell!”

    “A single Hogsmeade weekend doesn’t count!” Rose shot back.

    “It was two weekends!” Harry corrected her. They’d even kissed. Once. On the mouth.

    “She dumped you on the second because you were an idiot!”

    What the…

    “Harry! Rose!” Mum shook her head. “We have a guest here. Please behave.”

    And Hermione was giggling! “Sorry, I don’t have a sibling,” she said. “I’m not used to this.”

    Harry nodded at her. “Be glad. Little sisters are the worst.”

    “No, older brothers are the worst.”

    Mum cleared her throat. “I said: Behave.” She turned to Hermione. “Would you like some tea?”

    “That would be lovely, thanks.”

    “Yeah, thanks, Mum,” Harry said. “Come!” He turned to Hermione. “I’ll show you the house!”

    “Don’t go into my room!” Rose snapped.

    “Of course not!” Harry snapped back. “I don’t want to kill Hermione!” He led her back into the hallway.

    “Kill me?” Hermoine asked,

    “Oh, nothing. Just getting back at Rose. Though she does keep Potions ingredients in her room, so it smells funny at times.”

    “Ah.”

    Harry opened the door on the left. “This is Dad’s office. He rarely works here, so Mum usually uses it for paperwork for her job, but, technically, it’s his.”

    “Oh? Tax reasons?” Hermione asked.

    “What?” Tax reasons? What did she mean? Harry shook his head. “No. It was grandfather’s office, and great-grandfather’s before him, so it’s Dad’s now. Even though he doesn’t need it, and Mum does.”

    “Ah.” Hermione pursed her lips for a moment.

    “It’s just tradition,” Harry said. “Eldest child inherits the house. So, this will be mine one day.” He glanced at her, trying to guess what she thought about that.

    “And what about Rose?” Hermione asked.

    “I’ll have to pay her out, according to Mum.” Harry shrugged. “Well, I could also leave it to her and get the money, I guess. We’ll both have our own places when that happens, anyway, so who knows?” He usually added ‘...and our own grandkids’, but he wasn’t sure how Hermione would react to that joke. Or not joke.

    “Yes. My grandparents on my mother’s side own a house in Stevenage - Hertfordshire. They joke about me inheriting it since my parents won’t leave London,” Hermione said.

    “Ah.” Harry nodded. “Well, you could live there and apparate anywhere.”

    “I know. But I’m not going to plan for my grandparents’ deaths.”

    Harry suppressed the little bout of jealousy. “All my grandparents died before I was born.”

    “I’m sorry to hear that,” Hermione said.

    “I never knew them, so…” He shrugged. “It hurt Mum and Dad, of course. And Auntie Petunia.”

    “Your muggle aunt.”

    “Yes.” She had remembered. “I need to visit Dudley, too. They were told about our return, already, but…” He shrugged again.

    “Yes,” she agreed.

    For a moment, they stood there in the office, Hermione looking at the books on the shelves. “Mum has her library in her laboratory, in the cellar,” Harry told her. “Those are just… well, basic stuff and tax and law books or something.”

    “Ah.” Hermione licked her lips. They shone a little in the sunlight. “Can we see that room as well?”

    “Of course!” Harry smiled. “It’s perfectly safe unless Mum’s testing a new spell! Anyway - here’s the kitchen.” He pointed to the back of the house. “And the dining room or salon, as Sirius calls it, is on the other side.” Neither was very interesting, in his opinion. But the stairs leading to the cellar were right next to the kitchen.

    “I’m almost done with the tea,” Mum told them as they walked past.

    “I’m showing Hermione your lab!” Harry called back.

    “Don’t touch anything!”

    “We won’t!” He scoffed as he opened the door to the stairs. “Really, as if we didn’t know any better.”

    Hermione nodded again.

    Harry touched the thick, runes-covered door below with his wand, and it swung open. “It’s keyed to our wands,” he explained. “So we can enter in an emergency.”

    “Smart,” Hermione commented - though she was looking at the tall, long shelves packed with books. “Extension Charms.” It wasn’t a question.

    “Of course. The lab is bigger than the house,” Harry said. “And it also has better protections.”

    “Oh.” Hermione bit her lower lip. “Did your Mum… ever need them?”

    “No.” There had been a few sticky situations, but the normal protections on the testing area had held. No need to mention that, though. “Anyway, that’s the lab. So, there’s only the first floor left. My room is there,” he said.

    “Ah.” She smiled. “I’m curious about your room.”

    Harry forced himself to smile and tried to remember if he had missed any spot when he had cleaned his room earlier. “I’ll show you. After you.” He gestured to the stairs.

    The dress showed off her legs, he noticed. Perhaps even better than the short shorts she had worn on the island. Maybe it was the sandals she wore? They had short but noticeable heels.

    He was still debating this when they reached the stairs to the first floor.

    *****​

    Standing in the hallway, letting Harry pass her on his way to the kitchen to fetch the tea and snacks his mother had promised, Hermione Granger clenched her teeth, then forced herself to slowly let her breath out. So many books - priceless tomes amongst them; she had recognised several tomes that she had seen in the Restricted Section of the Hogwarts library - and she couldn’t touch any of them!

    Well, she could’ve tried, but if a Spellcrafter told you not to touch anything in their workshop, you didn’t touch anything. Not if you didn’t want to risk triggering powerful protections. Or half-crafted curses St Mungo’s staff had no idea how to reverse. The stories Hermione had heard about such things from Professor McGonagall after her own attempt to modify a spell back in fourth year…

    Harry returned with a tray loaded with finger sandwiches, scones and a tea set, and she dropped the thought and followed him up the stairs. He cut a dashing figure in his robes, though Hermione preferred him in muggle clothes. Trousers just emphasised his bum better than robes.

    “We’re now in my room, Mum!” Harry yelled once they reached the hallway of the first floor. “Which is here,” he added in a lower voice and opened the door across the hallway. “Mum and Dad’s bedroom is there, Rose’s there, and the last door leads to the guest rooms.”

    ‘Guest rooms’? Extension Charms again, Hermione assumed.

    “So, that’s my room,” Harry said, smiling at her as he put the tray down on his desk. “What do you think?”

    She looked around. Fewer and smaller bookshelves than in her room, but more than in Lavender’s. The desk looked antique - it was a secretary desk. The bed looked more modern, though, Not Ikea, but it wasn’t a canopy bed. A broom was leaning against the wall in a corner, next to the window. There was a massive old armoire, and a snowy owl was… was the bird glaring at her? Apparently, it was since it flared its wings in a threat display next.

    “Hedwig! Hermione’s a guest!” Harry snapped. “Behave!” He turned to look at Hermione. “Sorry. I don’t know what her problem is.”

    Neither did Hermione. She hadn’t ever hexed the owl, and the only time she remembered the owl getting affected by their feud was when Harry sent her a spelt letter… Hermione frowned. “Is she blaming me for the blue paint?”

    “What? No, that was my mistake!” Harry protested. “Hedwig! You know that wasn’t her fault.”

    But the owl kept barking at her.

    “Hedwig! Hermione is a guest! My guest!” Harry blinked. “She won’t hurt you. Or me. I promise!”

    Now the owl glared at him, then turned away.

    Hermione snorted. “Is she trying to protect you from me?”

    “She would have attacked you in that case,” Harry said. “Or tried to. But she probably tried to threaten you. She is protective. Once, Rose tried to sneak into my room and pour some colouring potion on my hair, and Hedwig chased her back into her room. Rose spilt it all over herself!”

    Or the owl had a problem with colouring magic. Hermione smiled anyway and checked the books on the shelves, tilting her head to the side to read the titles on the spine.

    “Those are just my books,” Harry said. “Mostly school books.”

    She smirked at him and pulled out ‘101 Hexes to Brighten Your Day’. “That’s not in the curriculum.”

    He actually blushed. “Ah… that was a gift. From Sirius.”

    Hermione wished she had people gifting her magical books. Well, money worked as well, but the stores in Wizarding Britain didn’t accept muggle gift certificates. She pushed the book back. “It’s a nice selection. Even some muggle books.” Enid Blyton. And Dickens.

    “Those are from Mum or Auntie,” Harry said. “Rose has the rest. And all the Potions notes.”

    Ah. Sharing books with your sibling… Well, there were advantages to being an only child.

    “So… what do you think?” Harry smiled at her.

    “It looks nice.” She nodded at the signed Holyhead Harpies poster on the wall. “Fewer Quidditch Posters than I expected.”

    He blushed again. “Well, that was a gift as well.”

    “From Sirius?”

    “Yes. And please don’t ask him how he got it,” Harry told her.

    She blinked, then nodded. “I won’t.” She looked around, glancing at the trunk at the foot of the bed. It looked like a normal room. Not as large and lavish as she had expected.

    Harry cleared his throat. “So…”

    She nodded, then lowered her voice. “How are you doing?”

    “Fine!” he replied. She narrowed her eyes at him, and he added: “I had a small nightmare. Nothing serious.”

    Ah. She nodded. “I had a nightmare as well.” She pondered asking him about it but decided against it.

    For a moment, they stood in silence. Then Harry turned to his desk. “So, tea?”

    “Thank you,” Hermione told him.

    “Wait a sec.” Harry swished his wand, and the tray floated towards them.

    Right. They could do magic here without worrying about the Ministry. Hermione smiled and cast a hairstyling charm on herself before picking up a cup of tea.

    Then they sat both down on his bed. “So… you told your mother about us?” Hermione asked. “But not your sister?”

    “Yes,” Harry confirmed. “I, ah, told Ron as well.” He licked his lips and glanced at her.

    She nodded, which seemed to reassure him. “I told Lavender.”

    “Ah.” He suddenly chuckled. “I bet they’ll compare notes.”

    “Probably, yes.” Hermione hadn’t gone into details with Lavender. Not much. “I also told Mum.”

    “Ah.” He licked his lips again.

    “She’s fine with it.” Well, she had asked if Hermione had used protection, which she had, and that had been it - they had talked about sex long before this, after all; her parents weren’t naive or stupid.

    “So’s Mum.”

    “Good.” Hermione was relieved. She didn’t know what she would’ve done if Harry’s parents would have objected to their relationship. “So…” She wet her lips. How to ask about this? ‘Are we still a couple?’ sounded incredibly bad. Asking about their future would be presuming too much. Probably.

    “So…” Harry looked nervous as well. And damn cute.

    Hermione pressed her lips together, silently cursed herself, then leaned towards him until their lips met.

    His enthusiastic reaction answered her question.

    *****​

     
    bukay, Kildar, Brawlingbard and 27 others like this.
  6. Starfox5

    Starfox5 Experienced.

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    Oh, yeah, the kids are annoyed. But they're not exactly objective.

    Yeah.

    Indeed. They're more than a little jumpy and used to only trusting each other.
     
  7. Threadmarks: Chapter 35: The Problem
    Starfox5

    Starfox5 Experienced.

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    Chapter 35: The Problem

    Godric’s Hollow, Devon, Britain, July 19th, 1996

    “Hello, everyone!”

    Sirius Black smiled as he stepped into James and Lily’s living room. This was a great day! Harry was safe. Miss Granger was safe. The little Veela was safe. And an entire pirate crew was in prison awaiting their trial. And it was all - at least partially - thanks to him! Things couldn’t be better!

    “Hi, Rose!” he greeted Harry’s sister, who was sitting on the couch, reading a magazine. “How’s your experiment?”

    “How did you know I was working on an experiment?”

    “You’re always working on one,” he told her.

    She huffed. “It could be better. I’ve tried a new recipe, but it didn’t work as well as it should.”

    “You’ll get the hang of it,” he told her with a smile. Or she’d blow up the house. One or the other.

    “Thanks.” She returned the smile.

    “Where’s Harry?” he asked, looking around.

    And her smile turned into a scowl. “He’s in his room, with his girlfriend,” she spat.

    “His girlfriend?” Sirius blinked. He hadn’t known Harry had… “Miss Granger?”

    “Yes.” The scowl deepened. “We’re dying with worry, and Harry hooks up with his ‘mortal enemy’ on a tropical island! And now they are snogging in his room!”

    Oh. Harry and Miss Granger. Together. Even accounting for their rather extreme situation during the last two weeks, this was… “I wouldn’t have expected that,” Sirius said.

    She scoffed. “Who would have expected it? I thought he would sooner hex her than kiss her. And the same for her!”

    “Well, opposites attract, as the saying goes,” Sirius said, grinning widely. His godson was a hero! Fought a dragon - close enough, at least - sunk a pirate ship, saved a princess - or a Veela - and got the girl! Like in a novel! Or a muggle movie!

    “I don’t think this saying applies to Harry and Miss Granger.”

    Sirius turned around. “Lily! How are you doing? And, of course, it applies! They spent years hexing each other - that’s pretty much the perfect example for opposites!”

    “It’s about characters, not a feud,” Lily corrected him.

    “Well, I would have said that would fit,” Rose cut in. “She’s the smartest witch at Hogwarts, and he’s an idiot. But if she likes him, she’s obviously an idiot as well.”

    “Rose!”

    “What? It’s true!”

    Sirius laughed. “Don’t be jealous, Rose! I’m sure a pretty witch like you will find a boyfriend as well!”

    She scoffed again. “I don’t want a boyfriend who just wants to get into my robes!”

    Lily nodded in agreement. “And don’t let anyone pressure you into anything you’re not comfortable with, Rose.”

    “Yes, Mum. You told me so already, remember?” Rose rolled her eyes.

    “Speaking of that,” Sirius said with a smile. “I think I should have a talk with Harry about dating a witch and all that entails.” It wouldn’t do to have Harry disappoint his paramour, would it?

    “I think you’re a little late with regards to that,” Lily told him with a wry expression.

    Sirius blinked again. Was she saying that…?

    “They did it already?” Rose blurted out. “On a pirate island while hiding from a wyvern? Harry is an idiot!”

    “Rose!” Lily frowned at her. “It’s a perfectly normal thing for boys and girls his age.”

    “Not when you’re stranded on a pirate island!”

    “Yes. Especially if you’re in a stressful situation,” Lily said. “Don’t be mad at Harry for this.”

    Sirius nodded. “Exactly! You don’t want him to tease you once you have a boyfriend, do you?”

    She snorted. “He’ll do that anyway!”

    “I don’t think so,” Lily said with a firm expression. “And if he does, I’ll have a talk with him.” She turned to Sirius. “And, speaking of this: Don’t embarrass Harry or push him into anything, Sirius. This is his first relationship, and he’s already insecure about things.”

    Sirius didn’t think that sleeping with your enemy-turned-girlfriend on a tropical island was a sign of insecurity, but he nodded anyway. Teenagers were idiots - Sirius knew that from personal experience. “I won’t embarrass him, don’t worry!” He smiled at them. “But I think Harry might like talking to his godfather about things.” There were some things you didn’t want to talk about with your parents, after all.

    Lily looked at him for a moment, then slowly nodded. “They’re in Harry’s room. Knock.”

    “Of course!” Sirius shook his head. As if he’d burst into a teenager’s room - he had been a teenager himself! And Harry and Miss Granger were jumpy enough - Sirius didn’t fancy getting cursed by mistake.

    Nodding at Rose and Lily, he left the living room and went upstairs. He knocked on Harry’s door. “Harry?”

    “Sirius?”

    “Yes! Can I come in?” he asked.

    “Just a moment!”

    Sirius grinned. Ah, that brought back memories! Fond memories.

    After more than a moment, the door was opened, and Harry smiled at him. He didn’t look as if he had been snogging, and neither did the girl sitting on the chair. Both hairstyles and clothes were perfect - nothing out of place. But the bed looked rather rumpled. “Nice styling charms,” Sirius commented. Both of the kids blushed, and he grinned widely.

    “What do you want?” Harry asked.

    “I’m just checking up on my favourite godson.” Sirius grew more serious. “You - both of you - have been through a lot, and I thought I could offer some advice. I’ve been in similar situations, after all. And I’m not a parent of either of you, so my lips are sealed!”

    *****​

    Harry Potter liked Sirius. He really did. His godfather was the best - he was funny, always willing to help Harry with his problems, generous and much less strict than Mum and Dad.

    He was also very much interrupting Harry and Hermione’s snogging session. And teasing them about it. If only they had thought of making the bed before opening the door!

    But what was done was done. Harry sighed.

    “Hello, Mr Black,” Hermione said, still blushing.

    “Oh, call me Sirius! Any friend of Harry is a friend of mine. And Harry’s girlfriend certainly qualifies. As a friend, not a girlfriend, of course.” Sirius chuckled at his own joke.

    Hermione glanced at Harry.

    “Just call him Sirius, or he’ll never let up,” Harry told him. “You’ll get used to it.”

    “Alright.” She nodded, though a bit hesitantly. “Sirius it is, then.”

    “Great!” Sirius stepped in and closed the door. “Privacy Charms? I don’t think your sister will be listening at the door, but it’s good to get into the habit.”

    “We still have to learn the charms,” Hermione told him. “We actually discussed it today.”

    “And we came to the conclusion that we’d rather pick something that Mum hasn’t crafted herself and doesn’t know,” Harry added. Mum might know counterspells that left the charm in place but allowed her to listen in anyway.

    Sirius chuckled. “Do you really think Lily would listen in on you?”

    Harry frowned. “I don’t really think so. But she’s been acting… weird. As if she were afraid I’d break down or something.” She might think that she had to keep an eye on Harry all the time.

    “We weren’t captured or hurt. Not seriously,” Hermione added, pursing her lips. “And we didn’t kill anyone, either.”

    Sirius sighed and looked around, then waved his wand and conjured an armchair for himself. “I’m not going to say that you will have a breakdown or something, but… You did fight several battles against a man-eating monster and Barbary Coast pirates. Many adult wizards and witches would be shaken after that.”

    “Well, we’re not. Not seriously,” Harry said. He was fine.

    Sirius didn’t look at him but at the window and sighed deeply. “Back in the war, we’ve had people in the Order who didn’t kill anyone or get hurt, but they still… It was too much for them. They couldn’t handle the danger and the whole… war. They shifted to treating the wounded and helping in other ways. But others… They seemed fine, but they couldn’t handle it afterwards.” He snorted. “Merlin’s beard, I drank a bottle of Firewhisky per week in the first few months after the war!”

    Harry hadn’t known that. His parents and their friends didn’t like to talk about the war, but they had told him some stories. But never that.

    “Oh.” Hermione bit her lower lip. “But you fought for years, didn’t you?”

    “I did. But it wasn’t as if we had a battle every other day. Most of the time, we were waiting. Waiting for someone to find an enemy safehouse or base, waiting for the enemy to attack somewhere so we could attack them, waiting for our friends to get better… You’ve had, what, five pitched fights in a single week?”

    “More than a week,” Hermione corrected him. “And only if you count the fights with the wyvern as separate.”

    “Well, as long as you could sleep between them, they count,” Sirius told her. “Anyway - it’s been a day since you returned. Please don’t underestimate this. The shock can hit you any time, anywhere.” He leaned forward. “And you’re still twitchy.”

    “‘Twitchy’?” Harry tilted his head.

    “We’re just cautious,” Hermione retorted.

    “It means you’re not yet back from the island, so to speak. You still act as if you get attacked at any moment,” Sirius explained. “You act like Mad-Eye Moody.”

    “Isn’t Moody the best Auror in the Ministry?” Harry asked.

    “He’s the one best for dealing with the worst dark wizards,” Sirius replied. “But he’s got a lot of trouble just… living peacefully. You don’t want to be like him. He’s accidentally hexed quite a few people.”

    “We haven’t hexed anyone in England since we returned,” Hermione said. With another blush, she added: “And everything else was at Hogwarts.” She raised her chin in that cute manner of hers.

    Harry nodded. “We’ve got it under control.”

    “No nightmares, then?”

    Oh. Harry opened his mouth to deny it, then closed it again and glanced at Hermione.

    But Sirius was already shaking his head. “That’s not a good sign.”

    “You don’t need to be traumatised to have nightmares,” Hermione told him.

    “And we can handle that - we had nightmares on the island as well,” Harry added. Though they had been together, then.

    He looked at Hermione again. She was still biting her lower lip before she said: “We can’t exactly get therapy. Not without potentially causing a lot of trouble for our parents - and the Ministry - by making it appear that we were the victims of a kidnapping attempt that wasn’t reported. And even if we found a muggle therapist who would treat us, we couldn’t tell him the truth, so we’d have to make up a story, and that would defeat the therapy’s purpose. Unless there are wizarding therapists, but I’ve never heard of any.”

    Neither had Harry. “I think Mum and Dad would’ve mentioned them by now if they existed.”

    “I don’t know of any, in any case,” Sirius said. Harry wondered if Sirius knew what a therapist was. “But talking about things helps. And you can talk to me. I won’t judge you - Harry knows that.”

    “Yes.” Harry nodded. “Unless he thinks your prank wasn’t good enough.”

    Hermione frowned. “You helped Harry with his ‘pranks’ against me?”

    Harry winced.

    *****​

    Hermione Granger was livid. Harry’s godfather had helped him in his feud with her? “How many of the ‘pranks’ were your idea?”

    Mr Black leaned back a little. “I just gave him some tips, and I helped him learn from his mistakes!”

    “Really?” she spat, then glanced at Harry.

    Her boyfriend winced again. “More or less. He did suggest some ideas, but I rejected most of them.”

    “Ah.” That explained a few hexes. “And special lessons?”

    “Those were for duelling!” Harry protested.

    And she had regularly lost her duels with him. Sometimes in embarrassing ways. She clenched her teeth at the memories.

    “Of course, some duelling spells also make good pranking spells,” Mr Black said. “Well, not so good if people saw you use them in the ring, but it wasn’t as if anyone doubted that a prank on you would be Harry’s work, was it?”

    That… that… She clenched her teeth. An adult, helping a teenager against another teenager!

    “Sirius mostly helped me learn from my mistakes,” Harry said.

    Which was bad enough, in her opinion. Almost cheating!

    “And he did! For the entire last year, I didn’t help at all. Except for a few paltry tricks.” Mr Black smiled. “And it’s all moot now, anyway, since you’re together, right?”

    She glanced at Harry again. He was smiling at her - though rather weakly. “And you got me good as well,” he said.

    She huffed. That wasn’t the point. “I’ve had to search the library and book shops for spells and ideas! I didn’t have anyone to plan my revenge with!”

    “Sirius didn’t do the planning for me!” Harry protested. “He just pointed out mistakes after the fact.”

    She huffed again. That was still a substantial help.

    “Harry had to learn for himself, after all,” Mr Black explained. “You don’t get good if others do your work for you.”

    “And if I had used your ideas, everyone would’ve known it wasn’t my idea,” Harry commented.

    “That, and Lily warned me.” Mr Black grinned. Hermione decided that she had to thank Mrs Potter for that. “Anyway, it’s not important any more, is it? You’ve gotten past that feud and are a couple!” Mr Black went on.

    Harry nodded. After a moment, Hermione nodded as well. But it still remained another reminder of how muggleborns were disadvantaged. Like not being able to cast spells over the holidays.

    And this whole pranking affair wasn’t over. Far from it, she thought with a scowl at Mr Black.

    “So… how are you doing?” Mr Black asked. “Honestly.”

    “Uh…” Harry glanced at her. “I miss sleeping with you.” Hermione felt her cheeks heat up. “Just sleeping, I mean,” he hastily added. “Though I miss the other sort of sleeping too. I mean…” He took a deep breath. “It’s just… I like holding you when I fall asleep. It’s… Nice. Very nice. And safe.”

    She slowly nodded. Yes. Very nice. And being with Harry felt safe. Was safe. “Yes. It would certainly help with the nightmares. It did on the island,” she added before she could help herself, then blushed again.

    Mr Black chuckled. “Well, that’s a good excuse for sharing a bed with your girlfriend if I ever heard any!”

    “It’s not like that!” Harry protested. “It’s not as if we need an excuse for, you know, that.”

    Hermione nodded in agreement and moved to sit next to Harry. “It’s not as if our parents have tried to forbid us from having sex,” she said. “Nor would there be any reason to do so - we use protection and we are old enough. And mature enough.” And they had already done it, anyway.

    “Yes,” Harry said, nodding as he wrapped an arm around her shoulders.

    “Not disturbing you in your room in the afternoon isn’t quite the same as letting you sleep in the same bed,” Mr Black retorted.

    “It’s effectively the same,” Hermione objected. “I don’t know about Harry’s parents, but my parents won’t see any difference.” They better not, she added to herself.

    Harry, though, seemed a little unsure. “Well, it should be the same. But it’s also, like… I mean, we’d be practically living together.” He blushed.

    “Well, you make a good argument, though even if your parents agree, I doubt McGonagall will be convinced.”

    Right. Hogwarts. They would be at Hogwarts in a bit more than five weeks. Confined to dorm rooms. Hermione scowled again. Even though it was perfectly sensible, given their ordeal, she couldn’t disagree with Mr Black’s assessment. Professor McGonagall was rather overly strict when it came to such things.

    “Well, we can get around that, I’m sure,” Harry said. He grinned at Mr Black. “Provided you help us out a little.”

    Hermione frowned. “How so?”

    “Sirius and my dad were experts at evading Mr Filch and the teachers and prefects,” Harry explained with a grin.

    Mr Black cleared his throat. “I don’t like to brag…”

    “Sure you don’t,” Harry interrupted him.

    Mr Black continued unfazed: “...but in our days, we were the undisputed masters of pranking, spelunking and any other nightly, rule-breaking activities you could think of.”

    “And how exactly would you solve the practical problems of having to sleep in separate dorms while wishing to sleep together without alerting either the staff or our roommates to our presumably alternate sleeping arrangements?” Hermione asked.

    “I have a few ideas!” Mr Black replied with a wide grin.

    *****​

    “...and if you spell the curtains closed and leave a decoy or something, no one will be the wiser,” Sirius said. “If you snore, you can record it and play it back, fooling everyone.” He frowned. “But only do it if your roommates can cast a Silencing Charm, or they might do something to your bed to stop you with other means, which will get you discovered.”

    Sirius was speaking from experience, Harry Potter guessed. He nodded - this sounded workable.

    Hermione looked a little sceptical, though. “You think this will work for the whole term? Use an invisibility cloak or Disillusionment Charm to sneak into Harry’s bed while leaving a decoy in my bed?”

    “Why wouldn’t it?” Sirius shrugged.

    “I don’t snore,” Hermione said.

    Harry cleared his throat. “You don’t snore too, ah, loudly,” he told her.

    That earned him a glare. But it was the truth.

    “It’s a good thing,” Sirius said. “Also, didn’t you tell me that Hermione’s bed had so many spells on it, it would be insane to approach, much less disturb it, anyway, Harry?”

    “What?” Hermione pulled away a little and glared at him.

    Harry winced. “That was a year ago.”

    “You were planning to enter my dorm?” Hermione frowned.

    “I was inside your room,” Harry corrected her. “But I didn’t have enough time to get through your protections.”

    Hermione blinked. “But the stairs… and the windows… did you fly up the stairs?”

    Harry grinned. “Yes. I used Dad’s cloak and my broom.”

    “I knew I should’ve protected the door even better, but Lavender said it was getting to be a chore to enter, and the others agreed with her,” Hermione grumbled. “Wait! That’s how you got that potion into my shampoo!”

    Harry winced again. “But you got me back - and you were definitely in my room to hex my clothes!”

    “Girls are allowed to enter a boy’s rooms,” she countered. “Otherwise, the stairs would be enchanted to keep them out.”

    Harry wasn’t quite sure if it worked like that, but he wasn’t going to argue against the idea of Hermione visiting his room. Now that she wasn’t going to hex him or curse his stuff, at least.

    “See? It’s even allowed. Sort of,” Sirius said.

    “It’s still quite tricky,” Hermione objected. “Even using a Disillusionment Charm, I would need to avoid stumbling into someone for the entire term. And hope no prefect uses a Human-presence-revealing Charm.”

    “They do that?” Sirius wondered.

    Harry and Hemione nodded at the same time. “It’s sort of our fault,” Harry admitted. “Some of our pranks missed the target, so the prefects started to step up their game.”

    “Ah.” Sirius grinned. “Well done! But we have ways to avoid the prefects - or anyone else - easily!”

    “The map?” Harry blurted out. “You’re making a map for us?”

    Sirius nodded with a smile. “Oh, yes! Lily said we couldn’t make another one just to help you with pranks, but this isn’t a prank! It’s a necessary help for you to cope with your experiences.”

    “What map are you talking about?” Hermione wanted to know.

    “It’s the Marauder’s Map,” Sirius proudly explained. “An enchanted map of Hogwarts and environs that shows everyone in the area.”

    Hermione blinked. “Updated in real-time?”

    Sirius looked confused, so Harry answered: “Yes, exactly. And it was spelt against unauthorised users.”

    “We lost it in our seventh year.” Sirius sighed. “Never got it back from Filch - I think Dumbledore took it to use it - but I can make a new one, with a little help from James, Remus and Peter. If we can drag Peter off from wherever Dumbledore sent him.”

    “But if Dumbledore has the original map, he’ll see us moving around as well!” Hermione pointed out.

    “Did he ever attempt to stop your pranks?” Sirius chuckled. “As long as you don’t hurt anyone, Dumbledore doesn’t really care about what you do.”

    “His definition of ‘hurt’ must be quite strict,” Hermione muttered.

    Harry raised his eyebrows at her - which he had had to regrow once at least due to her hexes - and she had the grace to blush a little.

    “Well, he’s also a firm believer in letting people work things out,” Sirius added. “Something about not wanting to intervene in a fight if he can help it. But as I said - he won’t be bothered by you sleeping together.”

    “If he isn’t bothered by couples sleeping with each other, why do our prefects have to check broom closets on their patrol?” Hermione asked.

    “Oh, that’s mostly a throwback to the time before the Statute of Secrecy, when people - mostly girls - were supposed to marry as virgins,” Sirius explained. “The enchantments on the stairs of the girls’ dorms also date back to that time. No one really cares about that any more - not even my own parents did, though they didn’t have a daughter - but try changing the rules in the Hogwarts charter! Changing the laws in the Wizengamot is easy in comparison! Some people think whatever rules the Founders put down should be sacrosanct, and most of them you’ll find amongst the board of governors.”

    Hermione looked as if she didn’t believe him, so Harry nodded. “Mum complains a lot about this when she talks about Hogwarts.”

    “Yes. Don’t worry about Dumbledore,” Sirius added.

    “And does Professor McGonagall share this stance?” Hermione asked.

    Sirius winced.

    *****​

    “I thought so.” Hermione Granger nodded. Professor McGonagall was a great teacher. Firm but just, mostly - she had some biases against justified retribution, as Hermione had found out - and she was a master at her subject. But she was also very strict when it came to enforcing the rules. Especially in her House. Hermione couldn’t see the woman ignore two students sleeping together in the dorms. Or breaking curfew.

    “What she doesn’t know she can’t punish!” Mr Black said with a grin.

    “Do you expect us to be able to fool Professor McGonagall indefinitely?” Hermione raised her eyebrows. There was a saying about fooling some people all the time, but the professor certainly wasn’t amongst them.

    “Probably not,” Mr Black replied. “She’s a sharp one. But long enough so you don’t need to sleep together any more to deal with nightmares?” He cocked his head. “I taught Harry well enough for that, and you kept up with him in your feud, didn’t you?”

    She nodded. She’d kept up despite Harry getting help from Mr Black.

    “We should be able to do that,” Harry said.

    Hermione felt a stab in her heart. While it was logical that their nightmares would get better as time passed - which fit what she had read about such experiences - she liked sleeping with Harry. Waking up with him, feeling his warmth beneath her, seeing his chest rise and fall while he was still sleeping… She bit her lower lip. “Yes, I concur,” she said, nodding.

    “And I’m curious to find out how long you can fool her,” Mr Black added. “She had some uncanny talent to find us, but we managed to get her number in our last year.”

    Hermione didn’t want to treat this as an experiment or a competition. It was too vital for them. For a variety of reasons. She looked at Harry. “We need contingencies, though. Just in case.” They would have to ensure their roommates wouldn’t spoil things. Hermione trusted Lavender, and her other roommates knew better than to annoy her, but while Ron could be trusted, probably, she didn’t know about Harry’s other roommates. And even if they didn’t mean to betray Harry and her, sometimes, people made mistakes and revealed things they didn’t want to. Or trusted the wrong people.

    Her eyes widened. “Oh dear lord - the gossip!”

    Mr Black frowned. “The gossip?”

    “If people learn of our relationship, they’ll go crazy,” Hermione explained. The usual gossip about couples was bad enough. But Harry and she had achieved some fame, of sorts, at Hogwarts. Or infamy. And the two of them getting together… that would fuel the rumour mill for months. And produce the most exaggerated hearsay.

    “Oh, right,” Harry muttered. “They’ll make things up. Hell, they’ll assume we’re sleeping together no matter if we actually do!”

    Hermione nodded. That fit her own experiences. “If Professor McGonagall listens to gossip…”

    “But would she?” Mr Black asked. “She seems to be above such things.”

    “It’ll give her probable cause,” Hermione said. “She would be justified to check up on us, for example.”

    “Probable cause?” Mr Black frowned. “Why would she need an excuse or pretext to check on you? That’s what Heads of Houses do.”

    “It’s still unfair that a teacher can use fake rumours like that,” Harry protested.

    “It’s amusing, though,” Mr Black retorted. “In any case, it’s not an insurmountable problem. You could hide your relationship, for example.”

    She shook her head. “No. I already told Lavender - and I didn’t swear her to silence. And Rose knows.”

    “And Ron.” Harry sighed. “Damn. People will expect us to be sleeping together. That’s going to be a problem.”

    “Are you complaining that people are making up rumours about you two sleeping together while you are planning to do exactly that?” Mr Black asked with a chuckle.

    “It’s…” Harry trained off.

    “It’s not the same,” Hermione chimed in. She nodded firmly. “Making up lies in lieu of actual knowledge should never be tolerated, much less rewarded!” The Prophet was the best example of what happened if one tolerated such antics.

    “Unless it’s a Divination Test!” Harry grinned.

    Hermione narrowed her eyes at him. One didn’t joke about tests. To suggest that you could just make up visions, while Lavender worked so hard at Divination… She huffed.

    And Mr Black snorted. “What did I tell you, Harry? Never mock Divination; the witches love it.”

    “Can we concentrate on how to keep Professor McGonagall from discovering our planned sleeping arrangements?” Hermione asked with a frown. “She won’t be fooled by a decoy or a recording. And she can enter either of our dorms.”

    Harry looked at Mr Black, who shrugged. “We solved it by having one of us track her whenever we were out after curfew. When she left her quarters, we had ample time to avoid her - or return to our dorms.”

    “We can’t exactly sleep together if one of us has to stand guard at all times,” Harry pointed out.

    “And we can’t exactly expect others to do it for us,” Hermione added.

    “Oh, but I wouldn’t say that!” Sirius grinned. “You’ve got a few hundred potential employees at Hogwarts.”

    ‘A few hundred’? Hermione blinked. He couldn’t mean the other students, could he? They needed their sleep, and how many of them could be trusted? So… “The elves!” she blurted out.

    “Exactly!”

    *****​

    Harry Potter blinked. “You want to hire the House-Elves to cover for us?”

    “Yes,” Sirius confirmed.

    “All of them? That’ll cost a fortune!” Harry blurted out.

    Sirius shook his head. “No, no - not all of them. That would be pointless. Just one or two.”

    “That’ll still be expensive,” Harry pointed out. If they weren’t expensive, surely Mum and Dad would hire one - neither was fond of doing chores, after all.

    “No, no!” Sirius grinned. “House-Elves are actually quite cheap to hire - they love working.”

    “Really?” Harry narrowed his eyes. His godfather had to be pulling his leg! “Why doesn’t Mum and Dad hire one, then?” Harry wasn’t fond of doing chores, either.

    “Well, it’s not the gold - it’s the conditions that elves demand.” Sirius leaned forward. “You know Kreacher.”

    “Oh, yes.” Harry sighed.

    “Kreacher?” Hermione asked.

    “Sirius’s House-Elf,” Harry explained. “He’s… a piece of work.”

    “Not quite correct,” Sirius said, wagging his finger. “Kreacher is a piece of work, but he isn’t my elf - he’s the House-Elf of the Black family.”

    “And you’re the Head of the family, aren’t you?” Hermione asked. “You sit on the Blacks’ seat in the Wizengamot.”

    “And I have the gaudy signet ring I need to seal all my official correspondence, and mouldy old robes I have to put on should anyone ever call for a Great Coven again - which no one has since before the Statute of Secrecy.” Sirius nodded. “Yes, I am the Head of the family. As small as it is these days. However, Kreacher’s contract is about as old as those robes - and the contract grants him the exclusive right to be our House-Elf. I could fire him, but the penalties for breaking his contract without due cause… Well, let’s say the price would be too high, and I’m not just talking about gold.”

    “He calls you names every time he turns his back on you,” Harry pointed out.

    “Yes. And that’s covered by his contract,” Sirius said, sighing. “As long as I’m not married, nagging me about my ‘duty to the family’ falls amongst his duties. And the little bugger really wants a new generation of Blacks. Anyway, that’s just one of the clauses in his contract. There are a lot of others. Like he gets to pick most of my meals that he cooks.”

    Hermione looked puzzled. “Why would your ancestors have agreed to such a deal?”

    “Prestige,” Sirius said. “Few families have a House-Elf working for them. Most of the elves work at Hogwarts.”

    “Why?” Hermione shook her head. “If they could exhort such conditions from a family, surely they could find a family who’d take them on for the gain in prestige.”

    “Well, they love children, or so I was told,” Sirius explained. “Kreacher certainly likes to spoil them. And they supposedly love Hogwarts.” He shrugged. “When I asked Dumbledore, he merely said that the Founders knew what they were doing when they picked the location for Hogwarts and hired elves. It could be that the elves who work for families are the snobs of them - those too good to work at school. I’m no expert on elves.” He shrugged again.

    “You grew up with an elf,” Hermione pointed out.

    “Yes. And I took him for granted.” Sirius chuckled. “Anyway, elves like the students, and they like taking side-jobs. If the Headmaster hadn’t forbidden them from talking to the students about work unless talked to first, they would be pestering you for jobs and tasks all the time.” He grinned. “We found that out in our seventh year when we hired two of them to keep eyes on the teachers. We also had to supply them with muggle drinks every week, and they got to pick the undershirts we wore. And let me tell you: Nothing kills the mood faster than a green woollen undershirt with pink and brown dots. Especially in Summer.”

    Uh. Harry grimaced.

    “Why would they do that?” Hermione shook her head.

    “Beats me.” Sirius shrugged once again. “Maybe they made those shirts? Or it’s their way to prank us. All I know is that once you make a contract with a House-Elf, you don’t break it.”

    Harry nodded.

    “Duly noted,” Hermione added.

    “Anyway, by hiring two of them - I can tell you whom we hired if you don’t mind wearing ugly underwear - you should be able to outmanoeuvre McGonagall,” Sirius went on.

    “Wouldn’t they tell her about us if she asked?”

    “Oh, no! Unless explicitly ordered to obey a teacher, they only answer to the Headmaster. Dumbledore said that was one of the best tools to keep the teachers in line.” Sirius laughed.

    Harry chuckled, as did Hermione.

    “But that means we’ll have to be ready - well, I have to be ready - to return to my dorm at a moment’s notice,” she said after a moment. “Whenever McGonagall leaves her quarters and heads into the direction of our dorms.”

    That wouldn’t be a peaceful sleep.

    “Well, it’s not a perfect solution,” Sirius said. “But it’ll be good enough, I think. McGonagall won’t check every night.”

    Hermione didn’t look like she shared Sirius’s opinion. Harry wasn’t certain, either. “We’ll have to work on a better solution,” he said.

    “That’s the spirit!” Sirius beamed at them. “Tell me when you figure something out!”

    *****​

    A while later, they were back in the Potters’ living room, and Hermione Granger, seated on a couch, was still trying to come up with a better solution. She wasn’t looking forward to shuttling back and forth between her bed and Harry’s whenever a teacher came close to the Gryffindor dorms. That wouldn’t be conducive to a decent night’s sleep. Even though at least Harry’s owl would be in the owlery - it wasn’t easy to relax with the bird glaring at her as soon as Harry turned his back,

    But she couldn’t think of a good way to avoid that. Except for quite improbable possibilities, such as turning their beds into Vanishing Cabinets or using Portkeys. The former would take far too long, even if they had the skills or found someone with the needed experience, to pull it off. The latter… Well, travel by Portkey would interrupt her sleep anyway, even if they managed to find a Portkey.

    And after getting stranded by one on a desert island, Hermione was a little suspicious of Portkeys, anyway.

    Apparition didn’t work at Hogwarts and was a thoroughly uncomfortable experience as well - and wouldn’t prevent the need to return to her bed at all. The same went for using the House-Elftunnels. Shrinking yourself was a chancy business at the best of times.

    She clenched her teeth. This was a vexing situation.

    “Still pondering the problem?” Harry asked in a low voice next to her.

    “Yes.”

    He didn’t ask if she had made any progress. Her tone had left no doubt about that. Sighing, she added: “Sorry.” It wasn’t his fault.

    “What are you whispering about?” Rose asked from the dining table, where she was taking notes on Potions. Why Harry’s sister wasn’t working in her room, Hermione couldn’t fathom.

    “Nothing!” Harry told her.

    “Nothing, sure,” his sister snapped back.

    “Nothing that would concern you,” Hermione told her - quite correctly. “We’re just discussing a few private things.”

    “Ew!” Rose shook her head.

    “Not that!” Harry protested. “And if we did, it would be fine and none of your business, either!” he hastily added when Hermione gave him a look. Good.

    “I’m not interested in your ‘private things’ anyway.”

    “That’s why you’re down here, huh?”

    “Why are you here, and not snogging in your bed?”

    Hermione was tempted to tell the girl off, but she was a guest here. “We’re here because my parents will soon arrive for dinner,” she said instead.

    “Unless Dad’s working late,” Rose told her.

    “He’ll make time for this,” Harry said.

    “Of course he will!”

    Hermione couldn’t tell if Rose took more offence to the suggestion that Harry’s father would be late or that he wouldn’t be late. And she wasn’t sure she wanted to know - she was just glad she didn’t have a sibling if this was normal.

    But right then, Mr Potter arrived in the middle of the living room with the typical popping sound of Apparition, together with Hermione’s parents.

    “Hi, Mum, Dad!” she greeted them. “Hello, Mr Potter.”

    Mum blinked, shaking her head. “I’ll never get used to this,” she said.

    Dad nodded in apparent agreement. He also looked a little green.

    “Many wizards never get used to it, either,” Mr Potter said. “But it remains the most useful mode of magical transportation in most urgent situations.”

    “I can imagine,” Mum said.

    “And we’ll be learning it next year,” Hermione pointed out. She couldn’t wait. She was of half a mind to ask Mr Black to teach her - and Harry. He owed her for intervening in her past conflict with Harry, after all. But when she would be learning Apparition anyway in the next few months, it would be a waste of a favour.

    Dad mumbled something that sounded like ‘I’m not going to train that with you’ under his breath.

    Mum glared at him, then smiled at Hermione. “I hope you enjoyed your afternoon. Did you cast many spells?”

    Hermione felt her cheeks redden. They hadn’t really cast many spells. “A few,” she said, trying to keep her composure as she lied: “I didn’t want to rush things.”

    Harry nodded without saying anything.

    Judging by the glances Mum and Dad exchanged, they hadn’t been fooled. And looking at Mr Potter’s amused expression, neither had he.

    Hermione suppressed a sigh. This probably wouldn’t be a good time to mention their plans for dealing with their nightmares. ‘Mum, Dad, we can have sex at Hogwarts anyway, even without breaking any rules, it’s the sleeping together that’s the problem’ didn’t sound very convincing when your parents assumed - correctly - that you had just spent most of your afternoon in bed with your boyfriend.

    “Ah, young love!” Mr Black said into the sudden silence. “I remember how I was at this age! I’d have spent the whole day in bed with my love if I could!”

    “Sirius!” Harry hissed.

    Hermione drew a sharp breath and glared at the man. What was he thinking? Or not thinking, as she suspected.

    “What?” Mr Black shook his head. “Do you really think your parents weren’t aware of what you were doing? Heh, what do you think James and Lily were doing during their first holiday as a couple?”

    “I hope this is a rhetorical question, Sirius.” Mrs Potter stood in the doorway. Her frown made Mr Black obviously uncomfortable, but she turned to greet Hermione’s parents without further comment. “Hello, Ellen, Gabriel.”

    “Hello, Lily.”

    Hermione frowned. Since when were her parents on a first name basis with Mrs Potter? This wasn’t the case with Mr Potter.

    She must have missed something. That might complicate the upcoming dinner table conversation.

    *****​

     
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  8. Threadmarks: Chapter 36: The Solution
    Starfox5

    Starfox5 Experienced.

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    Chapter 36: The Solution

    Godric’s Hollow, Devon, Britain, July 19th, 1996

    “It must have been terrifying to not know what had happened to your daughter. I at least had the ability to do something about it, but you were forced to helplessly suffer while waiting.” Mr Black shook his head. “I don’t know if I would have held up as well as you did, in your place.”

    “Thank you, Mr Black.” Ellen Granger nodded with her best polite smile and took another bite from the roast.

    She didn’t like the man. Not at all. Mr Black was far too boisterous for her taste and yet had the same kind of attitude some of the aristocrats she had met during her time at the university had: an innate sense of superiority so ingrained, he didn’t even notice how patronising he sounded when he tried to be friendly.

    Of course, that wasn’t exactly a rare attitude amongst wizards and witches, Ellen had found since Hermione had entered Hogwarts. They probably had some poets talking about a ‘wizard’s burden’, too - she had never asked. But the attitude fit. She was half-expecting Mr Black to praise her as a ‘credit to her race’ like British colonialists tended to praise their faithful servants in those period pieces her mother had loved.

    That would certainly set off Hermione. It was a wonder her daughter hadn’t blown up at the man already - she had opinions about the British purebloods. Well, she was currently besotted with one particular pureblood. Or half-blood, at least technically, or so Ellen understood it. Though the boy had been raised in an old pureblood family and had all the connections expected from a pureblood, as Hermione had often mentioned in her rants about him. Father working in a high position at the ministry, godfather in the Wizengamot, Head of the Wizengamot a family friend…

    Ellen knew an aristocrat if she met one. And so did Hermione. Of course, Ellen’s daughter was probably not thinking straight. Or not thinking at all, if Ellen’s memories of her own puberty were to be trusted. Hormones at work, as Ellen’s mum used to say.

    She took another forkful of the excellent potatoes so she wouldn’t be expected to say anything, nodded to another slightly too loud comment from Mr Black, and glanced at Hermione.

    Her girl was sitting next to Harry - and quite close. If they weren’t playing footsie under the table, Ellen would eat her favourite houseplant. And she was well aware of what her daughter had been up to during the afternoon in Harry’s room. Not that she could begrudge her that, of course. It was a romance straight out of those cheap novels Ellen hoped no one knew she read at times. A dashing hero facing evil pirates and monsters with the heroine… Any girl would have fallen head over heels for the boy if she had been in Hermione’s place. That Hermione hadn’t had a boyfriend before Harry hadn’t helped matters, of course.

    At least it seemed that Harry was as besotted with Hermione as she was with him. Ellen had been afraid that Hermione’s first teenage romance would be with an unscrupulous boy exploiting her budding feelings; Ellen was familiar with the type. And while Hermione was the smartest girl Ellen knew, that didn’t mean she was well-prepared to deal with that particular danger.

    No, this relationship seemed to be a mutual amour fou. And between two people whom, two weeks ago, Ellen would have described as mortal enemies. A definition that Hermione would have likely agreed with.

    No, Hermione could handle this sort of relationship. But the whole ordeal she had been through? That wasn’t something Hermione could handle. And it wasn’t something Ellen and Gabriel could handle, either.

    “...and then I said: ‘Do you think that’ll stop me?’” Mr Black laughed at his own anecdote. To be fair, it had been mildly funny - at least the parts Ellen had followed.

    “Anyway, enough about old history,” Mr Black went on. “How are things at the Ministry?”

    “We’re still dealing with the pirates,” Mr Potter said. “The trial’s set up to start next week.”

    “What’s the holdup?”

    “The ICW is sending an observer, which means Fudge is hovering over Bones to ensure that everything will go perfectly.”

    “Fudge is…” Mr Black started to say.

    “The Minister for Magic, we know,” Gabriel cut him off with a smile. “Hermione keeps us up to date.”

    “Ah!” Mr Black didn’t lose his smile. Point for him. “I should’ve known that, of course!”

    Why? Ellen wanted to ask but glanced at Hermione instead. Her daughter was nodding. So, she probably had spoken to the man already. But then, why wasn’t she on his case some more? Hermione wasn’t the kind of girl who would accept being patronised by anyone, Ellen knew.

    But her daughter had also become sneakier and more cunning since she started at Hogwarts. More diplomatic, as Gabriel called it. So, what was she planning?

    “Anyway, now that we’ve been fed,” Mr Black said as Lily sent the empty plates to the kitchen with a swish of her wand, “let’s get serious. We have a number of subjects to discuss.”

    Ah. Now, they were finally getting to the heart of the matter. “That’s true,” she said. This was why they were here, after all - to help Hermione.

    “What exactly is there to discuss?” Hermione asked with a frown. She held up a hand when Ellen opened her mouth. “I admit we’re not perfectly fine, but we’ve found a solution to deal with our nightmares.”

    Harry nodded in agreement, Ellen noticed. She opened her mouth to ask what their solution was, but Rose was quicker: “You have nightmares?”

    “Yes.” Harry frowned at his sister.

    “Having nightmares is perfectly normal after what we experienced,” Hermione said.

    “But what you experienced wasn’t normal,” Gabriel told her. He leaned forward a little. “So, what’s your solution?”

    “Sleeping together,” Hermione told them. “It…”

    “What?” Rose blurted out, interrupting her.

    “It’s not about sex!” Harry protested. “We already know that. But sleeping together - sleeping, not sex - helps with the nightmares.”

    “Exactly.” Hermione nodded emphatically, though she was blushing a bit, Ellen saw. “It’s not about sex.” She took a deep breath. “We can sleep in our respective rooms, alternating every day. I think that would be most fair to everyone.”

    It wasn’t as simple, in Ellen’s opinion, but it would do. She also had no doubt that sex was part of it. Well, they were teenagers. But she still needed more answers. “How bad are your nightmares?” Just sleeping together wouldn’t be enough to deal with severe trauma.

    “No worse than on the island,” Harry said. He looked at Hermione, who nodded as well.

    “Yes.”

    “And how bad were they on the island?” Lily asked, tilting her head slightly.

    “Not too bad,” Harry quickly said.

    “We managed,” Hermione added.

    Ellen had her doubts about that. “You were under a lot of stress and in lethal danger,” she explained. “Often, the shock hits people when they’re safe. That has been observed with soldiers.” She didn’t want to use the word ‘trauma’. Hermione wouldn’t react well to that.

    Harry shrugged. “Well, we’re fine. Mostly.”

    “We can handle it - with a little bit of help,” Hermione amended. “We’re not traumatised. We beat the pirates.”

    “Yes.”

    Ellen refrained from sighing. If only her daughter wasn’t so stubborn and proud. It had seen Hermione through some bad times when she was younger and probably had been what allowed her to survive on that cursed island, but in this situation, it was no help at all.

    “It’s not a sign of weakness to ask for help. Or to accept help,” Gabriel said.

    “We do accept help,” Harry replied.

    “Yes,” Mr Black nodded. “Mine, for example.”

    The looks Lily and her husband sent at their friend in response to this were a bad sign, in Ellen’s opinion. “What exactly did you help them with?” Lily asked.

    “I told them how they can sleep together at Hogwarts,” Mr Black answered.

    “And what exactly did you tell them?” Mr Potter asked.

    “I told them to hire elves,” Mr Black replied with a grin. “Like we did.”

    “Ew! You slept together?” Rose looked shocked.

    “What? No!” Mr Black finally didn’t look so insufferably smug any more. “We just sneaked out after curfew for... various activities.”

    “Like sex,” Rose stated with a grimace.

    “Not always!” Mr Black shook his head. “We were pranking people!”

    “And having midnight ‘tête-à-têtes’,” Lily added in a flat tone.

    “That was mostly your thing,” Mr Black shot back.

    Ellen cleared her throat. “Could we please focus on the fact that our children have nightmares if they sleep alone?”

    “Yes,” Gabriel agreed.

    “Yes!” Rose nodded as well.

    “So?” Hermione frowned. “We have a problem - I’ll admit that - but we can deal with it.” And did she frown when she admitted a problem! That hadn’t changed since she had been in kindergarten.

    But codependency wasn’t exactly a good answer to a post-traumatic stress disorder, in Ellen’s opinion. “I’m not certain that that will be enough,” she said. “You might not realise it, but you have changed.”

    “Yes. You always carry your wand around nowadays,” Rose said, “as if you’re ready to hex people at the drop of a hat.”

    “Like Moody,” Lily added.

    “We haven’t hexed anyone!” Harry protested.

    “And we always carried our wands with us before - at Hogwarts, at least,” Hermione once again chimed in. They were closer than Ellen had expected.

    “Not like that,” Mr Potter objected. “At least, I hope you weren’t acting like that.”

    Judging by the glances Harry and Hermione exchanged, they weren’t too far off, though - Ellen must have underestimated just how bad Hermione’s feud had gotten. She looked at Gabriel. He winced as he nodded at her.

    What else had they missed?

    “Anyway, it’s not as if we can go to therapy,” Hermione spoke up. “We can’t tell muggles about magic - they would assume we’re crazy. And a therapist would see through any cover story.”

    “But you should talk about… your experiences,” Lily said. “With someone who has had similar experiences. Talking helps - I know.”

    Lily had been through war. Civil war against a group of genocidal magical fascists, Ellen reminded herself. Magical death squads roaming the country - and targeting families like hers. Children like Hermione.

    Mr Black nodded. “I’ve already offered to listen.”

    He had been in the war as well, Ellen knew. But she still didn’t like the thought of him serving as a confidant for Hermione. Even though her daughter seemed to be in favour of the idea. “Aren’t there any trained… Healers?” she asked. “People who have experience treating traumatised…” Don’t say victims, she reminded herself. “...people?”

    Hermione frowned at her anyway. “We’re not traumatised.”

    “I’m not sure if going to St Mungo’s is a good idea,” Lily said. “The Healers tend to deal with traumatic experiences by removing memories.”

    “Oh.” That sounded… “Does that work?” Ellen asked.

    “Most people I know don’t want to lose their memories,” Mr Potter said. “Unless you do it quickly after the trauma, it’s going to be a rough job. We’ve seen cases where a criminal tried to remove memories to remove evidence, but… they never manage to get everything, and that leaves traces. Good for Auror work, but not so good for the victims.”

    That sounded horrible! Ellen shuddered.

    *****​

    “We’re not victims,” Harry Potter hissed. “We won!” The pirates hadn’t beaten them - they had beaten the pirates! Why was everyone insisting that they were victims?

    Hermione nodded in agreement. “Even the Portkey was an accident, not a kidnapping attempt.”

    “James didn’t mean that you were the victims of the pirates,” Mum said, glaring at Dad. “But you did suffer a lot. Trust me - I know this. We won the war, remember? Yet we suffered as well. Especially after the war.”

    “But…” Harry pressed his lips together. That wasn’t how it worked! If you won, things worked out! “We weren’t even hurt. Not seriously.”

    “And we didn’t kill anyone,” Hermione added. “We have no reason to feel guilty.”

    Well, Harry did feel a little… conflicted… about the pirates. But it wasn’t his fault that they were captured, Or pirates.

    “It’s not about winning or losing, Harry,” Dad told him. “It’s about dealing with… everything. That takes… I’ve seen people break trying to deal with similar experiences.”

    “We won’t break,” Hermione said.

    Harry nodded. They had survived the island. They would get through this. Together.

    “Of course not,” Mrs Granger said. “But… you shouldn’t try to make it harder for you. Just… just talk to people. Please?”

    “There’s no shame in accepting help,” Mr Granger added. “Whether you need it or not.”

    That was true, but Harry couldn’t help feeling that their parents were convinced that he and Hermione were about to have a nervous breakdown as soon as they smelt coconut or something.

    “And leading psychologists agree that experiences such as those which you went through tend to cause trauma of various degrees,” Mrs Granger added. “Studies also show such effects on the psyche of both soldiers and other survivors of violence or catastrophes,”

    Hermione frowned at her mum. “But none of them posits that every survivor suffers from such effects, do they? It’s not as if every soldier who fought in the war suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder.”

    “No. But it is known that too many refuse to get help even though this would markedly improve their life. Just because you are functional doesn’t mean you’re fine,” Mrs Granger pointed out.

    “Indeed. I’m not saying you need help - but can you exclude the possibility that you might have been affected more seriously than you might think?” Mr Granger asked.

    “Are you telling me that I’m too biased to be objective?” Hermione was glaring now.

    But her parents remained cool. “It’s a common danger across many professions,” Mr Granger said. “Lawyers shouldn’t defend themselves, for example. I would say dentists shouldn’t diagnose and treat themselves either, but that’s already almost physically impossible.” He chuckled, as did his wife.

    After a moment, Hermione chuckled as well, though not for long. She pursed her lips, then frowned - and glanced at Harry.

    And he was at a loss of what to say. All the muggle talk was a little beyond him. He didn’t feel like he needed a shrink or whatever those therapists in the movies he had seen with Dudley were called. But they did have nightmares. And what harm could it do? More importantly, Hermione seemed to have second thoughts, too. “I guess talking to someone can’t hurt,” he said with a shrug.

    Hermione stared at him for another second, then sighed and nodded as well. “Probably not.” She turned to her parents, who, Harry saw, were smiling a little too politely - unlike his own, who were openly showing that they were relieved - and said: “Alright. Let’s schedule some regular talks with someone who has lived through a similar experience. That doesn’t mean that we need it; this is just a precaution.”

    “Of course.” Mrs Granger nodded, but her smile had something… well, if Harry was aware of how much Hermione hated to admit being wrong, her parents would certainly know this as well. And how prickly she was when pressed.

    “See? That was easy, wasn’t it?”

    Sirius, obviously, didn’t know that, though. Harry closed his eyes for a moment and sighed. He’d have glared at Sirius if he thought it would be of any use. And if Hermione wasn’t glaring at his godfather already.

    “What?”

    Mum sighed as well. As did Dad. The Grangers, though, just kept smiling. “And this is why you’re not a good listener, Sirius,” Mum said. She turned to Hermione and Harry. “You can talk to me if you want. I won’t judge you.”

    Talking to Mum? And what did that mean, she wouldn’t judge them? She was judging Harry all the time!

    “My offer still stands,” Sirius spoke up.

    “I think we should talk to a few people,” Hermione said after a glance at Harry. “Not just one. A wider range of experiences might help.”

    Harry nodded in agreement. He’d much prefer to talk to Sirius than to his parents.

    “Though if we’re to keep this up, then we’ll have to make arrangements with Dumbledore for visits to Hogwarts,” Dad said. “The Hogsmeade weekends are only once per month.”

    Once a month sounded good to Harry.

    “And I think your two lovebirds would prefer to use their Hogsmeade weekends for something else,” Sirius said.

    That was a good point, in Harry’s opinion.

    “It shouldn’t be too hard to arrange visits,” Lily said. “This is a special situation. I’m sure Albus will agree with us.”

    “And if he baulks, then you can always exaggerate the danger from reflexive hexing.” Sirius laughed. “Curse Malfoy a few times ‘on accident’, and dear Lucius will beg Albus to allow such visits.”

    Harry rolled his eyes. “Or he’ll demand our expulsion.”

    “Well, yeah, but that won’t happen.” Sirius shrugged.

    *****​

    Hermione Granger pressed her lips together. Mr Black was far too cavalier about such a danger. Certainly, Malfoy had caught a hex or jinx before, several, actually, and not always because he was in the wrong place at the wrong time, but deliberately cursing the git to convince Dumbledore that they needed special privileges? That was different.

    Even though if any student deserved to get cursed, it was probably Malfoy. The arrogant rich git was a bigot of the worst sort, after all. Even Harry at his worst had had some redeeming qualities. Like his skill on a broom, at duelling, the way he smiled when he thought she wasn’t looking...

    She shook her head. “I don’t think we should attempt to manipulate the Headmaster like that.”

    “I agree,” Mrs Potter said, frowning at Mr Black.

    “Really, Sirius? Trying to put one over Dumbledore?” Mr Potter shook his head.

    “It was a joke,” Mr Black defended himself.

    “I’m not laughing,” Mrs Potter retorted.

    Mr Black rolled his eyes in a very immature manner. “I’ll try to make a better joke next time. Anyway, I don’t think this will be a problem. But if it becomes a problem and you can’t get official permission, I can easily sneak into Hogwarts for a talk!”

    Hermione had no doubt about his claim. Mr Black tended to boast a little, but the stories he had told her this afternoon - which Harry had already known - certainly had shown detailed knowledge of Hogwarts’ grounds and defences. Better than her own, actually.

    Of course, the wizard had had two more years to explore the school. It still vexed her that Mr Black knew more about such an important subject than herself. Well, she could do something about that. Now that Harry and she weren’t feuding any more, they could focus on that instead.

    After all, you never knew when you might need such knowledge. And it would help them to keep their skills sharp as well. So… “We can also sneak out of Hogwarts,” she pointed out. “And once we learn Apparition, we can quickly travel to any suitable location as well.”

    Mr Black laughed. “That’s the spirit!”

    “You’d still have to deal with the trace,” Mr Potter retorted.

    Only until September, Hermione thought. But pointing out that she’d be an adult according to Wizarding Britain’s Law while he’d have to wait for almost another year wouldn’t be smart. And Mr Black would make a joke about older women, Hermione was certain.

    “Not if we pick our locations with care,” Harry told his father. “If we go for a stroll around the lake, we can easily leave and apparate home - or to Grimmauld Place.”

    “Exactly! I should teach you Apparition right now!” Mr Black smiled widely.

    “We’ll learn it soon enough at school,” Hermione countered. Where Madam Pomfrey was ready to deal with any mishaps.

    “Well, I wouldn’t mind learning it now,” Harry said. “It will make visiting easier.”

    Now, that was a good point. Hermione nodded. “Right. And it’ll also allow us to… flee from any danger.”

    That seemed to convince her parents. The Potters, though, didn’t look like they shared her views.

    “Dealing with splinching yourself can be hard,” Mrs Potter said.

    “I can handle it!” Mr Black waved his hand.

    It was obvious that this didn’t convince the Potters either.

    “What is ‘splinching’?” Dad asked.

    Hermione frowned - she had explained that to her parents before, back in first year. “It’s what happens when you disapparate but fail to focus properly and so leave part of yourself behind.”

    “Like an eyebrow, or a hand, or a leg. Olev Parkinson once left a buttock behind!” Mr Black laughed.

    Hermione’s parents didn’t. “That sounds dangerous,” Mum ventured.

    “It’s perfectly safe,” Hermione quickly told her. “We’d be learning it under supervision.”

    “Trust me, Mrs Granger, I can handle it!”

    “I think I’d prefer it if this were taught by a… specialised instructor,” Mum said, obviously trying to be diplomatic.

    “We all would,” Mrs Potter said. “But we’ll have to do with whoever the Ministry will spare for the lessons. But that’s not really the issue; the issue is that at Hogwarts, there’s a qualified Healer available - and usually present during Apparition lessons.”

    “And if Harry or Miss Granger arrive at St Mungo’s with a splinched body part, it’d be obvious that they were training Apparition without permission,” Mr Potter added.

    Perhaps they should, as Hermione had originally planned, learn Apparition at Hogwarts. “Once we have our first official lesson, we can train ourselves,” she said. After all, studying ahead was completely fine.

    Harry grinned. As did Mr Black.

    And Mr Potter sighed. “I guess this is the best we can expect.” His wife nodded with a similar expression.

    Hermione pursed her lips. What did they expect? This was a perfectly sound and quite obvious course of action. They had a problem - although the extent of it was still up to debate - and they found a solution.

    “So, you’re fine with students sneaking out of Hogwarts?” Harry’s sister spoke up.

    “Of course we are!” Mr Black said, at the same time Mrs Potter said: “No!”

    *****​

    Harry Potter glared at his brat of a sister. So typical - she always wanted what he had, no matter the fact that she was younger and had to wait until she was his age! “We don’t sneak out just because we can. We will do it because we have to. If we have to,” he said.

    “Really? You never sneaked out of Hogwarts before?” Rose sneered with a scoff.

    Of course he had, but that wasn’t important right now. “We’re talking about next year,” he told her.

    “You are. I’m asking if you never sneaked out before.”

    “That’s not relevant,” Hermione cut in. “The circumstances are now very different.”

    So, she must have sneaked out in the past as well. Harry grinned for a moment.

    Rose, of course, pouted. “So? It’s still sneaking out!”

    “The reasons for an action matter,” Hermione told her.

    “And we’re older,” Harry added.

    “Rose,” Mum said, “this isn’t about sneaking out, but about dealing with the consequences of their kidnapping. We don’t condone sneaking out of Hogwarts, but it might be the best solution or the least bad for them. And it’s hypothetical - I trust that Albus will allow us to arrange visits, given the special situation of Harry and Hermione.”

    It hadn’t been a kidnapping. Just an accident! Harry pressed his lips together - pointing this out wouldn’t help right now. They might think he would want to sneak out of Hogwarts and visit Knockturn Alley.

    “And they’ll sneak out anyway!” Rose claimed.

    Well, of course they would! But that wasn’t the point either.

    “Don’t worry, Rose. Once you’re Harry’s age, I’ll tell you how to sneak out as well,” Sirius said.

    “I already know how to sneak out!” Harry’s sister retorted.

    “Rose!” Dad shook his head. “This isn’t the time for a tantrum. We have serious matters to discuss. If you can’t act more mature, maybe you should head to your room.”

    Rose huffed. “Fine, I’ll stay quiet while you let Harry do anything he wants!”

    “Rose!” Mum shook her head. “It isn’t like that, and you know it.”

    Harry nodded, which earned him a glare from his sister. But she shut up, at least.

    Dad sighed. “So… we still have to discuss the press.”

    Great. Harry had almost forgotten about that. He wasn’t looking forward to talking to the Prophet.

    Hermione winced as well, and he reached out under the table to squeeze her thigh. She smiled back at him.

    “Yes.” Mum sighed as well. “The Prophet wants a story, and if we don’t give them one, they’ll make one up.”

    “They already made up a story!” Hermione hissed. “The things they wrote…” She shook her head, her ponytail whipping back and forth. “They made it look as if I was captured by pirates and sent to a harem!”

    “Not quite,” Sirius said. “They merely implied it.” He nodded with a sad expression. “As I’ve been informed by the Ministry on several occasions, that’s an important distinction.”

    Hermione frowned. “Did you try to sue the Prophet and lost?”

    “Sue? What for? No. I attempted to revoke their license after they ‘speculated’ about an affair between myself and Angelica Zabini.” Sirius snorted. “Alas, Amelia didn’t see things my way, and without her backing, I would never have managed to gather a majority in the Wizengamot.”

    “You wanted to… force the Daily Prophet out of business, abusing your position as a member of the Wizengamot?” Hermione looked flabbergasted

    “What abuse?” Sirius frowned. “It’s perfectly legal! The Wizengamot makes the laws, after all. And I had cause, at least. Unlike Madeline Lestrange, who keeps trying to pass legislation against the sale of ice cream in Diagon Alley because Fortescue banned her from his parlour for being a bigotted old biddy.”

    Harry nodded - he had heard that complaint before. Not that he was worried - even most of the bigots loved Fortescue’s.

    Hermione, though, shook her head in apparent denial, and her parents looked as if they had never heard of this before either.

    “Anyway,” Sirius went on, “since James wouldn’t let me simply curse the Prophet…”

    “There are laws against that, Sirius. Laws I am bound to enforce.”

    “...we have to play nice with those bottomfeeders.” Sirius sighed,

    “As we agreed upon on the ship,” Hermione reminded them.

    “Yes, yes.” Sirius grinned. “So, we need to work on your story! If it’s juicy enough, the Prophet won’t see any need to make up anything.”

    “‘Juicy’?” Hermione narrowed her eyes at Harry’s godfather.

    “Nothing amorous!” Sirius quickly clarified. “But the story of how you struggled to kill a man-eating wyvern? And battled pirates? Presented correctly, that would be a tale worthy of the Lockhart series!”

    “Yeah, right.” Harry scoffed. “In those novels, Hermione would’ve been in a harem. And I’d have tamed the wyvern, which would’ve been a dragon.”

    “Oh, you want to be Lockhart?” Rose sniggered. “Harry the Ladykiller!”

    “Rose! And Harry!” Mum snapped.

    Hermione pinched his thigh. “What do you mean by ‘presented correctly’?”

    “Told in a way that’s not trying to make the audience think it was not really dangerous,” Sirius told her.

    Harry winced, as did Hermione. They had downplayed the whole affair a little, after all.

    *****​

    Hermione Granger tried to keep from grimacing. They hadn’t exactly lied about their adventures. They had told their parents what had happened. What they had done. From the start to the end.

    But… They hadn’t gone into some of the more questionable details. How close some fights had been. How terrifying the chases had been. How desperate they had felt at times.

    She bit her lower lip. And now she was supposed to tell all that to the Prophet? To see it spread over the front page?

    “Hermione,” Mum said with a sad smile. “We know you. We know you were… holding back.”

    Dad nodded. “The difference between how you told your stories from Hogwarts and the way you told us about the island was quite obvious.”

    Mr Potter was nodding as well. “Yes. We’re aware that you skipped over some things.”

    “We told you everything!” Harry protested. “We just left out some details.”

    “Important details,” Mr Potter said. He smiled gently. “Harry, we’ve been in the war. We know how it is. And we met the pirates, remember? Their aim wasn’t as bad as you made it out to be, for example.”

    Hermione pressed her lips together. “We weren’t hit,” she muttered. “And it’s not as if we could tell how close a spell had come to hit us.”

    “Really?” Mr Black shook his head. “Harry at least should’ve known - I trained him myself for duelling!”

    “It was a little confusing most of the time,” Harry defended himself. “Not like in a duelling ring. And it was dark most of the time.”

    “Which doesn’t really make things safer, does it?” Mrs Potter asked.

    Harry let out a breath through clenched teeth.

    Hermione shook her head. “It wasn’t that bad.”

    Mr Black snorted. “I wonder what you would consider bad, then.”

    “Sirius!” Mrs Potter shook her head. “Telling the truth will help,” she told them.

    “To the Prophet?” Harry scoffed. “They’ll put it on the front page! Everyone will know!”

    “Know what? That you survived and won?” Mr Black grinned.

    Hermione glared at the man. Turning their own words back at them like this? How dare he!

    “You know how people will react,” Harry tried to reason with them. “They’ll ask for details, want to hear more, claim we were lying…” He shook his head.

    “They’ll do that anyway,” Mr Black countered. “The difference is that if you tell the Prophet the truth, you won’t have to correct your friends’ assumptions all the time.”

    Hermione had to nod at that. “I really don’t want anyone to think I was captured and placed into a harem,” she muttered. “Even though it might be too late for that.”

    “Technically, the Prophet didn’t claim that,” Mr Potter pointed out.

    Hermione scoffed. She knew her classmates. She knew how the rumour mill worked. “A few days from now, people will think Harry broke into the Sultan’s harem in Constantinople to save me.”

    “Well, then telling them the truth won’t make things any worse, at least?” Mr Black tilted his head.

    “But it would also let them know what we can do,” Harry protested. “You taught me that you shouldn’t show your cards to the press!”

    “I don’t think knowing how you killed a wyvern and fought pirates on your broom will help any future opponent in the duelling ring,” Mr Black said with a shrug.

    “It’s not about duelling,” Hermione snapped. “Not really,” she added with a glance at Harry. “But if people know what we can do, we’ll be more vulnerable. Anyone planning to attack us will know what to guard against.”

    Her parents and the Potters exchanged glances as if she hadn’t made a perfectly reasonable observation.

    “I don’t think you’ll have to worry about another attack by pirates,” Mrs Potter said after a moment.

    “There haven’t been any pirate attacks on British shores in decades,” Mr Potter said. “I looked it up,” he added when Mr Black stared at him. “And the last time a wyvern was spotted in England… Well, that dates back centuries.”

    “What we’re trying to say is that you don’t need to worry about such attacks. Certainly not at Hogwarts,” Mrs Potter said.

    “But there could be attacks by people trying to avenge the pirates,” Harry objected. “They were caught because of us and will be hung.”

    Hermione winced. She didn’t want to think about that. It was the pirates’ own fault for being pirates, but… And her parents looked a little pale.

    Mr Black laughed. “Oh, I’m sure you’ll find new tricks before anything like that could happen.”

    That was a good point. Hermione nodded in agreement.

    As did Harry. “Yes. You can teach us!” he told Mr Black.

    Or give them access to his family’s library, Hermione thought.

    “I’m actually more concerned about a possible overreaction that sends Malfoy’s brat to St Mungo’s,” Mr Potter said.

    “Oh, I wouldn’t teach them dark curses,” Mr Black said, waving his hand. “And Poppy can handle everything else.”

    “That’s not really any better,” Mrs Potter said.

    “Yes,” Mum agreed. “I would like one year without having to talk to Professor McGonagall about ‘hexing in the halls’.”

    “Or in the dorm,” Dad added. “Or on the school grounds.”

    Hermione felt her cheeks flush. “That won’t happen any more!” she protested.

    “Yes,” Harry added, wrapping an arm around her waist. “We’re not going to fight any more.”

    “At least not each other,” Mr Black said, chuckling.

    Mrs Potter said something under her breath about ‘Moody’ that Hermione didn’t quite catch.

    “More training will allow us to judge situations better,” Harry argued. “And it’ll allow us to have more options than just sending Stunners at someone.”

    “Stunners are perfectly fine spells to use to defend yourself, Harry.” Mr Potter narrowed his eyes.

    “That wasn’t what you said last year!” Harry shook his head. “You were mad at me for stunning Hermione.”

    Hermione frowned. She remembered that.

    “That was before I found out what you can do when you really try,” Mr Potter told them with a glance at Mr Black. “So, stick to Stunners.”

    Well, that was a sensible policy, in Hermione’s opinion. Though there were threats for which a Stunning Spell was not a good counter. They would have to be prepared for that as well.

    “We’ll have to send Poppy a bigger gift this Christmas,” Mr Potter added with a wry grin.

    “And McGonagall.” Mr Black’s grin was not wry at all. He obviously thought this was amusing.

    *****​

    Harry Potter sighed as they entered his room. That had been a tiring discussion. “I’m sorry about this,” he told Hermione.

    “It’s not your fault,” she replied as she closed the door.

    In a way, it was. He still felt responsible.

    She sat down on the bed and sighed as well. “At least they listened. Our parents, I mean,” she added.

    “Somewhat,” Harry said.

    “They think they know best,” Hermione agreed. “Even when they don’t.” She leaned back and looked at the ceiling. “Of course, everyone thinks that.”

    “Well, are we wrong?” Harry asked.

    “I don’t think so.” She frowned at him. “Do you?”

    He shrugged. “I don’t feel like I’m about to have a breakdown. But… I feel better being with you. And we weren’t in a war.” They hadn’t killed anyone.

    “No, we weren’t. And yet… it’s true that such violent experiences can be traumatising.” Hermione pursed her lips, as she usually did when she absolutely had to admit a mistake or a gap in her knowledge. “I don’t think we’re suffering from trauma. Not severe trauma, at least.”

    “But talking to Sirius helped.” Even though this afternoon, Harry’s godfather had mainly told them stories about his time at Hogwarts. Stories Harry already knew.

    “Yes.”

    “I’m not looking forward to talking to Mum, though,” Harry went on. Some things you didn’t want to share with your parents.

    “If only there were wizarding therapists!” Hermione scoffed. “It would still be a bother, but our parents wouldn’t worry as much if they knew we were in professional hands. So to speak. They worry so much.”

    Harry nodded in agreement. “They treat us like we’re about to have a crying fit.”

    “Or we’re about to send curses at everyone nearby.”

    “Yes,” Harry agreed. “As if we’d do that.” Well, they wouldn’t.

    “No, we won’t. But we need to train more. We need to be prepared to handle any situation,” Hermione said. “So we can avoid mistakes. Potentially… harmful mistakes.”

    “Yes.”

    “I’ve got a few thoughts about a training regime, but I need to go over them with you - you’ve got more training in duelling.” Hermione pulled a sheet of parchment out of her bag. Her notes from the discussion with Sirius, Harry realised.

    “Let me see,” he said, holding his hand out.

    She handed the sheet over, and he quickly skimmed it. “That’s a lot of spells.”

    “Yes. We have a lot of gaps in our repertoire,” she told him.

    That was true. “But we need a lot of time to train, too,” he pointed out. “Spells we can’t cast reliably in combat aren’t very useful.”

    “Yes.” She pursed her lips. “Arranging for a schedule that will allow us enough time for studying for school, and, well, other things, will be tricky,” she added, biting her lower lip.

    Other things… Harry felt himself blush a little. He cleared his throat. “Yes. But it’s entirely possible. We did it before, didn’t we? Training next to schoolwork, I mean.” And during the O.W.L.s year.

    “Yes. But we didn’t have a relationship in addition to the other demands on our time,” Hermione said. “We can’t just, say, stop socialising with our friends.”

    “Of course not. But we can double-date with Ron and Lavender,” Harry pointed out. “And hang out with them.”

    Hermione tilted her head and gave him a slightly exasperated look. “I do assume that we’ll want to spend time in private, though.” She blushed. “Outside the bed, I mean.”

    “Yes, of course,” Harry quickly agreed.

    “So, we’ll have to budget our time. She frowned. “‘Talking’ will also cut into our budget.”

    As would Quidditch, but Harry thought it best not to mention that. “Well, we’ll manage,” he said. He peered at the list again. “I think we can cover the most important spells quickly.”

    “Some of them are said to be very difficult to master,” Hermione retorted. “Such as the Patronus Charm. And others we will have to master enough to cast them under stress.”

    She was correct. Harry sighed. “It looks like sixth year won’t be a time to relax before the N.E.W.T.s.”

    Judging by Hermione’s unamused look, she hadn’t planned to relax much even before getting stranded on the pirate island.

    “Well, at least we can train together,” Harry pointed out.

    “Right.” Hermione nodded with a smile. “I hadn’t considered that. I should have, of course - it’s quite obvious.”

    Harry suppressed a chuckle - he also kept getting surprised by how their trip, and the results of it, would change their lives.

    He sat down next to her instead and hugged her. “So, it’s manageable.”

    “Yes.”

    “And I think our friends will have to struggle to adjust to us as much as we did,” he added with a grin.

    “Definitely. Lavender’s reaction was very…”

    “...Lavender?” Harry cocked his head.

    “Enthusiastic,” Hermione corrected him with a glare before she sighed. “I guess we’ll have to go on a double date soon. If only to, well, settle things with our respective best friends before we go to Hogwarts.”

    “Yes.”

    They remained sitting for a moment.

    “So… should we...” Harry trailed off. It still felt awkward to ask, but just assuming would be worse.

    She tilted her head, her lips twisting into a more coy smile. Then she blinked. “Did you secure the door?”

    He gasped. “Merlin’s beard! I forgot!”

    Both jumped up and quickly cast a few spells each at the door - the last thing Harry wanted to see was his parents, or, worse, Rose, barging in on them.

    “Whew!” he said, lowering his wand.

    “That could’ve been embarrassing,” Hermione agreed. She was licking her lips as she looked at him, Harry noticed. And she looked a little flushed.

    He took a deep breath and leaned in, tilting his head to the side. She met him halfway.

    Their clothes ended up on the floor before they reached the bed.

    *****​
     
    bukay, Kildar, space turtle and 20 others like this.
  9. Flaamwing

    Flaamwing Getting out there.

    Joined:
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    They really should point out their parents need therapy from their kids being "kidnapped".
     
  10. Beyogi

    Beyogi I trust you know where the happy button is?

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    They'd probably be a lot happier if Harry and/or Hermione actually had one. That'd be far easier to deal with than "we totes have no trauma, twitch at every noise".
    I'm sure that's not happening every time when anyone startles you?
    Probably to prevent them from overprotective, but honestly the parents seem to have it under control unlike their kids. At least Harry's sister seems to be fine.
     
    space turtle and Starfox5 like this.
  11. Threadmarks: Chapter 37: The Interview
    Starfox5

    Starfox5 Experienced.

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    Chapter 37: The Interview

    Godric’s Hollow, Devon, Britain, July 20th, 1996

    Desmonda Bartlemout checked her robes one more time before approaching the Potters’ residence. It wouldn’t do to arrive with, say, some stain on her chest from the stew in the Leaky Cauldron or some wrinkles that weren’t fashionable. This was her big break, after all - her chance to finally surpass Rita Skeeter as the most famous, and best paid, reporter of the Daily Prophet, Britain’s leading newspaper.

    The scoop of the year - or the decade, depending on what she would hear in a little while: The dirt on what exactly had happened to Harry Potter, the Child of Prophecy, on that pirate island! Everyone in Britain was talking about this. It had made international news. And she was the reporter who would interview the boy and find out the truth!

    As long as she could keep it together. She found no speck of dust on her robes - fresh from Madam Malkin’s - took a deep breath and approached the gate. Be professional, she reminded herself. She could do this. She would do this.

    Be polite, she reminded herself as she entered the yard. The Potters had a reputation. They had fought the Dark Lord himself four times and lived. They had lured him into an ambush in this very house and helped Dumbledore destroy him utterly. And they had a temper. Desmonda hadn’t gone to Hogwarts with them - she had entered the school a year after the Potters had finished - but she had heard the stories about Lily Potter née Evans and the current Head Auror. And their feud with Rita.

    Desmonda had no intention to enter a feud with the Potters. Or Dumbledore. Be polite. Be professional. She nodded at her own thoughts and knocked on the door.

    After a few seconds, it opened, and Lily Potter nodded at her. “Mrs Bartlemout.”

    “Yes.” The witch was holding her wand, Desmonda noticed. And moving it. She licked her lips. “I’m a little early, I fear.”

    “That’s OK,” Mrs Potter replied. “Come in.”

    Desmonda took another deep breath and entered the house. She could almost hear her first lines. ‘A cosy house with that aura of old magic you could almost touch, not as pretentious as some manors, but still, without a doubt, the home of an old pureblood family…’ Better scratch the ‘pretentious’; too many not quite so old families might feel slighted. And the pureblood remark might anger Mrs Potter if some rumours were correct. So, old wizarding family, then.

    “Harry! Hermione! The reporter’s here!” Mrs Potter’s voice carried through the house without shouting.

    It wasn’t an Amplifying Charm, either, Desmonda knew how those sounded. She cocked her head. Perhaps some enchantment covering the house?

    “A spell of my own invention,” Mrs Potter told her unasked. “The yelling started to hurt my ears.”

    “Oh.” That was nifty. And a subtle reminder that Mrs Potter was an accomplished spellcrafter of some renown. Desmonda made a mental note to mention that in her article - it never hurt to flatter your sources. “That seems quite handy.”

    “It is.”

    “Did you publish the spell?”

    “No. It’s just a little charm for convenience, hardly worth the effort.”

    Desmonda kept smiling despite the fake modesty the witch displayed. There were few enough spellcrafters as things were, and any new spell was an accomplishment. For a muggleborn, the witch certainly had adapted to the tendency of Old Families to hoard spells.

    “Please have a seat. Can I offer you some tea?”

    “Thank you.”

    Mrs Potter flicked her wand, and a tray with tea and sandwiches floated into the room. No house-elf, Desmonda made another mental note. That was to be expected - the Potters weren’t an Old Family, after all.

    She cocked her head when she heard steps on the stairs before her cup was full. A moment later, Harry Potter, followed by a girl who had to be Miss Granger entered the room.

    “Harry, Hermione - Mrs Bartlemout. Mrs Bartlemout - my son Harry and Hermione Granger.”

    Desmonda beamed at them. “Not that either of you need an introduction. Everyone in Britain knows your names.”

    “And our faces, I suppose,” Harry replied with a grin. A cheeky lad, just like she had been told.

    “It was to be expected - we were the indirect cause of an international incident, after all,” Granger added. Also as expected.

    They looked better than on the pictures Desmonda had seen, she noted while they took cups of their own. Both showed a slight tan and looked healthy. She couldn’t spot any sign of starvation. Her sources at St Mungo’s confirmed that they hadn’t been treated.

    “Thank you, Miss Potter,” Granger said when the witch filled her cup.

    “Call me Lily, Hermione.”

    “Lily, sorry.”

    Desmonda hid her interest. A recent development, then. Or a sign of something else? The two teenagers had been together upstairs, presumably in Harry’s room. And both looked quite comfortable with each other - which was very unlike the stories she had been told about how they acted towards each other at Hogwarts.

    She smiled as kindly as she could. Yes, this was already shaping up to be an extraordinary interview. Frontpage for sure.

    *****​

    “...and I kept its attention while Hermione swam to the cave we had discovered,” Harry said.

    “And as soon as I was inside the cave, I summoned Harry to me.”

    Desmonda stopped her notes and looked up. “You summoned him?” That was impossible. The Summoning Charm didn’t work on people! The first sign of a lie! Oh, the story she could weave around that!

    “Technically, I summoned his clothes,” Granger explained. “But it works out the same.”

    “Ah.” Really. It probably could work. But to summon another person? That was far beyond the charm as well. Desmonda remembered very well how hard it had been to master the charm until she could summon her luggage.

    “So, I was yanked out of the wyvern’s way and dragged into the cave, just before it took another dive at me,” Harry went on.

    “He crashed into me, which was a good thing since we were driven back to the end of the cave,” Granger, once again, cut in. “A moment later, the wyvern crashed into the cave, trying to get at us, but it got stuck in the entrance and couldn’t reach us at the back.”

    Desmonda suppressed a frown. Couldn’t the girl get a hint and let Harry tell the tale? No one needed her long-winded drivel.

    “It almost got Hermione’s leg,” Harry added. “We could smell its breath - and that was nasty, I’ll tell you.”

    “No more than any other predator of that size would smell,” Granger spoke up. “Some muggle animals even use the bacteria growing in their mouths to weaken prey.”

    Who cared about muggle animals? But the whole thing sounded too fantastical. “So, you managed to summon Harry across the pond?” Desmonda asked. If Granger doubled down on that, she would have a more solid cause to point out the fabrications.

    “Yes.” Granger frowned. “We actually summoned each other a couple of times.”

    “Well, mostly me.” Harry laughed. “My clothes were a little more durable.”

    “Your robes were more durable?” Desmonda blinked. Granger’s robes must have been ratty indeed. Was she a poor muggleborn, trying to net herself a rich pureblood? It was quite obvious from the way the two were seated and talking that they were a couple, after all. Granger would have had ample opportunities to seduce the boy while they were stranded.

    “My muggle clothes.” Granger blushed slightly. “I was dressed for the summer.”

    Oh. Desmonda’s eyes widened. She knew all about muggle clothes! Of course the boy had fallen for the girl. But still… “And you feared they would be ripped off instead of, ah, carrying you with them?”

    “It didn’t seem too unlikely, given the forces involved. That was why Harry got to play bait again.”

    “Yes.” Harry nodded with a grin. “And I knew she could summon me quickly enough to avoid a diving wyvern.”

    “Really.” As if anyone but a trained Auror could do that!

    “Are you doubting us?” Granger was frowning at her. “Do you need a demonstration?”

    “You’re still underage,” Mrs Potter spoke up.

    Was Granger about to break the law in front of her? ‘Delinquent seduces Pureblood Boy…’ No, that was too much like what Rita would write.

    “But Hermione’s right - you do sound as if you doubt this.”

    “The Summoning Charm is quite a complex spell which needs years of practice to master,” Desmonda replied with a polite smile.

    “We’ve been casting the spell for years,” Granger retorted.

    “It’s not on the syllabus until your fifth year,” Desmonda told her. You didn’t forget a spell you barely cast at your O.W.L.s, after all.

    “Who cares? It’s not a restricted spell and too useful to wait until fifth year to learn it,” Harry said, shrugging. “Once I saw Hermione do it, I had to learn it as well.

    Both chuckled as if that was some sort of a joke. Well, perhaps it was if the rumours about their feud were true. Which, frankly, made the sudden reversal look very suspicious. Surely, Mr Potter would have his son tested for love potions…

    “Anyway, yes, I did summon Harry, and I would be happy to demonstrate this to you, should you doubt me. We can travel outside Britain’s jurisdiction if you require a demonstration.” Granger glared at her.

    Desmonda wanted to dismiss the girl, but…

    “Or we can ask Dumbledore to show you the memories in his Pensieve,” Harry suggested. “If he isn’t too bothered by it.”

    Right. A reminder that Dumbledore was a family friend. The kid was more subtle than Desmonda had given a Gryffindor credit for. She was tempted to call Granger’s bluff… but what if it wasn’t a bluff? Would the girl really expect her to be too cowed to check? And what if it was true, and Desmonda cast doubts on them, and they got another reporter to check their memories? What if they offered that scoop to Rita? Rita wouldn’t hesitate to rip Desmonda’s reputation into shreds.

    If this was true, of course. But then… the kids didn’t look as if they were lying. Gryffindors, both of them. And Mrs Potter didn’t look as if she thought the kids were lying, either.

    Desmonda felt her stomach sink. If this was true… Mr Potter wouldn’t hesitate to bring the law down on her. And he would hesitate if the kids were lying - his rivals at the Ministry would jump on the chance to prove he was abusing his office.

    No, odds were the kids were telling the truth.

    Merlin’s beard!

    She smiled. Time to fix this. “No, no, I was merely surprised. This is an extraordinary feat, after all. Our readers will be astonished. How did you escape from the cave?”

    “Well, we stayed there for the night - we didn’t want to risk leaving and having the monster pounce on us,” Harry continued. “However…”

    *****​

    “...and then we saw the Patronus Messengers arrive. They led Mum, Dad and the others to us.”

    “They were too fast, of course, to be directly followed,” Hermione Granger explained, “but you could see the direction they took when they sped away and navigate like that.”

    “I see,” the reporter said.

    Hermione had her doubts - the witch hadn’t struck her as very smart or talented. At least not where magic was concerned. The Summoning Charm being a difficult spell? She refrained from scoffing.

    Of course, she was a little biased, and not merely because the reporter had doubted her. It was more the way the witch focused on Harry when taking notes. The reporter paid far less attention to Hermione’s detailed explanations, which, in her opinion, wasn’t a good sign for the veracity of the article.

    “In any case,” she went on, “we still had the two brooms we took from the pirates and flew back to the island with the others. Now that the pirates were no longer a concern, it didn’t matter that we were slower, with one broom carrying two people.”

    “Do you want to see the brooms? We’ve got them with us,” Harry said.

    “Pirate brooms? I would love that!” the reporter gushed.

    “Oh, they are not unique brooms, actually,” Harry told her as he pulled his own shrunken broom out.

    Hermione quickly followed his example.

    “You carry them with you? Shrunken?”

    Wasn’t it obvious? Hermione refrained from sneering as she showed the reporter her broom. “Yes.”

    “Wouldn’t an extended pocket or bag be more convenient?”

    “Shrinking an item isn’t really a bother,” Hermione said. Although an enchanted pocket would be easier since she wouldn’t have to cast a spell to store the broom or to unshrink it. Which she wasn’t allowed to, she remembered. “Well, it wasn’t a problem on the island.” Under her breath, she muttered: “I can’t wait to be seventeen.” Here she was, in a pureblood home where the trace wouldn’t work, and she couldn’t even cast the most simple spells to prove her claims to the reporter!

    “We shrunk ourselves as well, after all,” Harry added. “Though only because we didn’t have any choice any more.”

    “Oh, yes. To save the little Veela,” the reporter added after a glance at her notes.

    “Céline de Ciel,” Hermione corrected her. Really, didn’t the reporter care about having all the facts?

    “Yes, yes. A desperate measure - a gamble - which paid off. I must say, this is far more riveting than I had assumed. Almost straight out of a Lockhart novel.”

    “The offer to ask the Headmaster to use his Pensieve still stands,” Hermione reminded the woman. Compare their adventure to a piece of fiction?

    “Of course, of course.” The woman waved her hand rather dismissively. “Anyway, you fought and killed a wyvern - after three clashes, during which you barely escaped with your lives, often at the literal skin of your teeth - or the wyvern’s, in this case!” The woman laughed at her own joke.

    Hermione forced herself to smile. She wasn’t looking forward to Luna Lovegood and Professor Hagrid reading that part of their adventures. But they couldn’t really lie about that. Not with the skull they had taken.

    “Well, we always had a plan, and we could improvise when needed,” Harry said.

    “And you were lucky,” Mrs Potter - Lily, Hermione reminded herself - said. She had been rather quiet, Hermione had noticed, during the interview. But, as her expression showed, she must not be happy about the details they had revealed.

    Harry, either not reading the mood or trusting that his mum wouldn’t make a scene with a reporter present, shrugged. “We had both good and bad luck - it evens out.”

    “Yes,” Hermione agreed. It was true, at least statistically. “Personally, I found the pirates more dangerous. The wyvern, for all its might, was merely an animal. And a single animal, at that - we could plan for its actions. However, the pirates were an entire crew, dozens of them, and each of them was unpredictable. Of course, as a mob, they were supposed to be a bit more predictable, but that rule only goes so far. Even if most people would act the same in a given stressful situation, it only takes a single one to take charge to change the entire situation for good or ill.”

    The reporter blinked as if she had never heard about psychology. At least Mrs Potter nodded. And Harry was grinning for some reason.

    Hermione shook her head. “Of course, the biggest challenge was overcoming our complete lack of supplies.” And their lack of spells that would’ve come in very handy. But only a fool would advertise such a weakness in public. “We had to improvise a lot.”

    “But you proved the old adage that all a wizard or witch truly needs is a wand!” The reporter gushed. “That will impress so many people!”

    “We can but hope it’ll inspire them to learn more spells as well,” Hermione said.

    “In case they, too, end up stranded on a pirate island?” the reporter asked.

    The woman sounded condescending again. Hermione frowned, but before she could say anything, Harry spoke up: “Or any other emergency. We don’t carry our shrunken brooms around as a souvenir, but in case we need them.”

    The reporter blinked as if that had never occurred to her.

    Really, if the witch ever found herself stranded somewhere, Hermione doubted that she would survive on her own.

    *****​

    Harry Potter grinned. That had gone better than he had expected after his and his family’s experience with Skeeter. Well, Bartlemout could still stab them in the back by writing lies in the article, but at least she seemed to genuinely believe them now. And without them having to break the law and demonstrate their spells.

    And she was impressed by Hermione. Harry could tell. Which was good - without Hermione’s knowledge, they wouldn’t have made it off the island. It was only just that she’d get recognition for that.

    Though some of Hermione’s explanations might get cut, Harry expected. Especially if the reporter missed some details in her notes. At least she wasn’t using the kind of self-writing quill Skeeter used. Still, he was fairly content - the witch’s reaction to their story had been better than he had hoped. There would be no need to embellish things.

    He glanced at Mum, and his smile slipped. Her reaction to the unedited tale of their adventures wasn’t… She was smiling politely, but he saw how tense she was. No, this wouldn’t be good.

    “You think you’ll need your brooms in another emergency?” Bartlemout asked.

    “You never know what might happen,” Hermione told her. “You have to be prepared for anything.”

    “Yes,” Harry agreed. “I honestly doubt that we’ll end up on another deserted island, but what if some relatives of the pirates want to take revenge? Or someone thinks we found some pirate treasure.” He winced when he saw how the reporter’s eyes lit up. That had been a mistake.

    “There was no treasure,” Hermione said, glaring at him. “And if there were, the crew of the ship that Dumbledore hired would’ve taken it - they were the ones to take the village, after all.”

    “After you sank the pirate ship,” Bartlemout replied. “And you found the wyvern’s cave.”

    “Which was filled with bones, not coins,” Harry retorted.

    “There was no treasure,” Mum spoke up. “And there will be no speculation that might attract treasure hunters and worse people.” She glared at Bartlemout. “Imagine if someone attacked students because of some rumour created by the Daily Prophet. Albus would be so… disappointed.”

    Bartlemout actually paled. Skeeter would have smiled and nodded, in Harry’s opinion, and written what she wanted anyway. The more ‘controversial’, the better. It wasn’t as if Dumbledore would actually abuse his power - otherwise, Skeeter would probably have been cursed long ago to only say and write the truth or something.

    “Just stick to the truth,” Hermione said.

    Harry nodded. “And as I said - if you doubt us, we can ask the Headmaster to show you the memories.”

    “Of course. Although some of our readers might doubt the story’s veracity,” the reporter said.

    Harry shrugged. Some people were just stupid. On the other hand, it was the Prophet.

    “There are always sceptics,” Mum said. “As long as your article sticks to the facts, they shouldn’t be a concern.”

    Bartlemout nodded again. “Of course. So, in order to cover this incident extensively, would you mind shedding some light on how you found the island?”

    Mum’s smile didn’t change. “I am not privy to how Dumbledore acquired this information, but I can tell you how we sailed from Gibraltar.”

    “That would be lovely!”

    Lovely? Harry shook his head but leaned forward. He wanted to hear Mum’s side of their story. In detail.

    “Dumbledore informed us that he knew the island’s location, and we travelled together to Gibraltar, where we boarded a ship hired for the trip.”

    “According to some, ah, rumours, it was a pirate ship?”

    “Reformed pirates whose captain had abandoned his filthy trade to win the love of a Veela, or so I heard,” Mum said.

    The reporter’s eyes widened. Harry could almost see how she added another article. Or at least a sidebar. He only hoped that the captain wouldn’t take it personally. On the other hand, Abdul had seemed to love attention, as far as Harry could tell.

    “So, we boarded the ship and sailed on, down the African coast. It took us a few hours, and when we arrived, Harry and Hermione had already left the island, which we didn’t know. But we saw the capsized ship and the burning houses and knew that there must have been a battle, so…”

    *****​

    “Goodbye, Miss Bartlemout.”

    “Goodbye, Mrs Potter.”

    Hermione Granger sighed when the door closed behind the witch. “That could’ve gone better,” she said.

    “I thought it went fairly well,” Harry said.

    “We should consider ourselves lucky if she doesn’t speculate about pirate treasure we might or might not have taken. Or a wyvern’s hoard, even though there has been no report of wyverns showing hoarding behaviour.” She knew; she had read up on them after their return.

    “Well, it’s better if they speculate about treasure than harems, right?” Harry asked.

    Hermione pursed her lips. “Marginally, at most,” she admitted. “And someone might think we know the location of buried treasure.”

    “If anyone is so stupid as to believe that, they shouldn’t be a threat,” Harry retorted.

    “Or they are too stupid to refrain from obviously suicidal plans,” Hermione pointed out. “We can’t dismiss this risk.”

    “Speaking of suicidal plans…”

    Hermione turned and winced. Mrs Potter - definitely Mrs Potter, not Lily right now - was glaring at them.

    “I didn’t want to say anything in front of the reporter,” the witch went on. “But, really! What were you thinking?”

    “We already told you!” Harry blurted out. “We did what we had to!”

    “We made our decisions to the best of our knowledge,” Hermione added. Which was true. Who would knowingly make decisions they knew were bad, anyway?

    “And you almost died multiple times!” Mrs Potter retorted.

    “We didn’t die, though,” Harry objected.

    “And that makes it all better?”

    “Yes!”

    But the witch shook her head. “Do you even realise how close you came to dying?”

    “We’re aware,” Hermione told her. “But it wasn’t as if we had a choice.” They had explained that already, hadn’t they? Why didn’t the adults listen?

    “We couldn’t just hide and hope for rescue,” Harry said. “Not when we realised you couldn’t find us with magic.”

    “Yes.” Hermione nodded. “And we couldn’t just hide from the wyvern, either. Sooner or later, the pirates would have realised we were on the island.”

    “You didn’t know there were pirates.”

    “We did suspect after we found the destroyed hut of Amélie Besson. And her wand,” Harry said. “Really, Mum - we did what we had to. And it wasn’t nearly as dangerous as fighting a war against Voldemort!”

    Mrs Potter drew a sharp breath in response to that, and, for a moment, mother and son stared at each other.

    “Sorry,” Harry whispered. “But it’s true.”

    Hermione made a mental note not to ask about that until she was alone with him.

    Mrs Potter shook her head, then sighed. “You shouldn’t have gone through this. James and I didn’t join the war until we had finished Hogwarts.”

    “Well, we didn’t exactly have a choice,” Harry replied.

    “I know. But why didn’t you tell us the truth from the start? Why did you make us think things had been… less dangerous?”

    Ah. Hermione chewed her lower lip. That was probably the heart of the matter. “You were already overreacting,” she said.

    “Overreacting? We...” Mrs Potter took a deep breath. “And that’s a reason for lying to us?”

    “No!” Harry protested. “We just didn’t go into details. We didn’t lie!”

    Hermione nodded. “It was bad enough to be treated like we were helpless and about to collapse.”

    Mrs Potter shook her head. “We’re your parents.”

    “Yes. And?” Harry frowned.

    “That means we worry about you, and we care about you. And…” She shook her head again. “I’ll have to discuss this with James. And your parents.”

    Hermione winced. That wouldn’t be a nice discussion, either.

    “And why are you carrying around those stolen brooms?”

    “Looted,” Harry corrected her. “We didn’t steal them - they attacked us, and we took them from them.”

    “Whatever. You have a much better broom,” Mrs Potter pointed out. “Much more expensive as well.”

    “Well… the brooms made for a good prop for the interview,” Hermione said. “And I at least don’t have a better broom.” She didn’t have a broom at all before this - it was hard to justify the expense when she couldn’t fly regularly. Or wanted to. Something that would have to change, of course - you couldn’t outfly an aggressor if you were not used to flying.

    “Something we’ll fix soon,” Harry cut in. “And now that the readers of the Prophet will expect us to carry those old brooms, we can replace them!”

    Mrs Potter was still frowning. “Do you honestly think that someone will read the Prophet and then attack you based upon the article?”

    “We can’t dismiss the possibility that someone will use the information in the article against us,” Hermione told her.

    “And why would they do that?” Mrs Potter asked with a strangely pleading tone.

    “Revenge,” Harry replied. “We did cause an entire pirate village to get razed. And the pirates will likely be executed.”

    “Or someone thinks we acquired pirate treasure,” Hermione added. “It’s not too far-fetched, after all.”

    “And some might just feel that by taking us down, they’ll gain some reputation,” Harry took over again. “If Malfoy attempts something, I want to have a few aces up my sleeve.”

    Hermione nodded. “If they think that the spells and brooms in the article are all we have access to, then we have better chances of surprising and defeating them.” That’s why they would be studying hard to learn more spells, after all. And look into how to acquire a few choice potions as backup. They wouldn’t be caught empty-handed and unprepared again.

    “But…” Mrs Potter rubbed the bridge of her nose. “You can’t treat a spat at Hogwarts the same as an attack by pirates.”

    “We won’t,” Harry said. “But if we’re prepared for pirates, we can handle Malfoy easily.”

    Hermione nodded in agreement.

    “That’s not… You can’t act like Moody! You don’t have to expect an attack at any moment!”

    Harry frowned and glanced at her, shrugging. Hermione nodded and cleared her throat. “But we did,” she explained. “Only, before the island, we had to keep an eye out for an attack by the other. And now...” How to word it?

    “...now we watch out for each other,” Harry finished.

    Mrs Potter gaped for a moment. “This is worse than I thought.”

    “It’s fine,” Harry told her. “We won’t kill anyone.”

    Once more, Hermione agreed. Not if they could help it, anyway.

    *****​

    Harry Potter was quite happy to retreat to his room to wait until they would head to the Grangers’. Mum was so irrational! “Why can’t she understand that we only did what we had to? We didn’t just decide to risk our lives!” he vented after closing the door behind him. And casting a few privacy charms.

    “I don’t know,” Hermione replied. “I understand that our parents were very worried about us and that hearing the details of our… battles was stressful, but that’s over. We made it through.” She shook her head. “Yes, things could have gone wrong, but they didn’t. They act as if we’d do the same thing again...” She turned to look at him. “Oh my God! They think we’d do it again!”

    Harry’s eyes widened. “That’s it! Oh, that’s bad.” If Mum and Dad thought they wanted another such adventure… They were Gryffindors, but they weren’t stupid.

    “No! They can’t think we would get lost again. Or travel to a pirate island willingly. Or do anything similar,” Hermione objected to her own idea. “They know better.”

    “They should know better, but you saw how Mum acted when we told her about the brooms.”

    “We’re in Britain!” Hermione shook her head. “We’re not going to meet any pirates. Or dark wizards.” She frowned. “We won’t, will we?”

    “Not at Hogwarts,” Harry told her. “And there haven’t been any really dangerous dark wizards since… the war.” At least according to Dad.

    “That’s reassuring.” Hermione nodded. “Well, it depends on your father’s definition of a ‘really dangerous dark wizard’, but seeing how they worry so much about us, it’s probably not too strict.”

    “They haven’t lost an Auror since the last Death Eaters were arrested,” Harry told her. Dad was proud of that.

    “Good.” Hermione nodded again. “But that also means they aren’t used to such threats. After fifteen years, people will have grown complacent to at least some degree.”

    “They train hard,” Harry objected. “And Dad’s not gotten any slower, just meaner.” Sirius had told him so. And Sirius was the one who was training privately with Dad and an active duellist - if not as active any more as he had been - so he’d know. “And they easily defeated the pirates.”

    “They had Dumbledore and a crew of pirates with them,” Hermione pointed out.

    That was true, but… “That didn’t mean they were bad. Anyway, I don’t think they fear that we’ll be attacked by dark wizards.”

    “Or pirates.” Hermione shook her head. “They are more concerned about us overreacting.”

    “Yes.” Harry sighed and looked around. “I wish we could take the bus.”

    “The bus? Oh, you mean the Knight Bus. Yes.” Hermione sighed. “But we would risk getting bothered by reporters. Or just busybodies. Oh. I just had an idea. If we are in a bad situation, we could summon the bus.”

    “The Knight Bus isn’t exactly staffed by Aurors,” Harry objected.

    “But it would be a decent diversion - and a means to escape,” Hermione countered. Then she pursed her lips. “Although since that would expose the staff and any passengers to a magical battle, it should probably remain a last resort.”

    Harry nodded. “Oh, yes. I would prefer not to get banned from using it for life or so. Or sent to prison for endangering people.”

    “True,” Hermione agreed, pursing her lips. “But if we have no other choice…”

    Harry nodded and sat down on the bed. Hermione joined him. “I think they mostly fear that we’ll overreact and misread a situation,” he said.

    Hermione scoffed. “As if we’d cast spells recklessly! Unless we’re clearly under attack, of course.”

    “Of course.” If someone was trying to kill them, all bets were off. Or if someone was trying to kidnap them.

    “Although, in theory, someone could try to fake an attack on us,” Hermione went on.

    “Why would they do that?” Harry frowned. “Wait. Malfoy.” The git.

    “He might attempt to prove us wrong or something,” Hermione said.

    That would be like the idiot. “He never really accepted that he wasn’t my ‘main rival’ or something.”

    Hermione snorted. But she quickly grew serious again. “That means we’ll have to be extra-careful at Hogwarts.”

    “Yes.” If Malfoy actually tried to fake an attack on their homes… Well, the war might have been over for almost fifteen years, but anyone attacking a wizard or witch at home couldn’t expect the Aurors to care much if they got cursed or worse.

    “What a bother.”

    Harry sighed in agreement. “Better than accidentally killing or cursing anyone.”

    “We’ll stick to Stunners,” Hermione said. “At least until the first incident.”

    “Yes.” Harry leaned to the side and slipped an arm around her waist. Someone would try something, he was certain. They always did. “So, how do we convince our parents that we aren’t a danger for everyone else?”

    “By demonstrating that we’re prepared for anything,” Hermione replied. “If they know we can handle both actual attacks and some idiot trying to hex us from behind to sabotage our Quidditch team, they won’t need to worry about us any more.”

    “Right.” Harry snorted. “I almost forgot about Quidditch.”

    “You’ll be exposed during a match,” Hermione said.

    “Can you keep watch over me?” He grinned, turning it into a joke if she took offence.

    “Of course.” She smiled.

    They spent the rest of the time until Mum came to take them to the Grangers without talking much.

    *****​

    Kingston upon Thames, London, Britain, July 20th, 1996

    “...and then we were found by the others,” Hermione Granger, sitting on the couch in the living room, finished recounting their, well, ‘adventure’ didn’t quite cover it. Their experience? Ordeal? Certainly not ‘trip’. Mum and Dad were staring at her, she noticed, and she couldn’t help flinching in return.

    “It didn’t sound as bad the first time,” Mum said.

    “We didn’t want to go into details,” Harry cut in. Dad glared at him, and he winced.

    “And now we see why.” Dad shook his head and turned to look at Hermione. “I wish you would’ve been open with us.”

    “We…” Hermione licked her lips. “Everyone was asking questions. We were just back and still trying to adjust. We didn’t want to go over our experiences in detail.” She felt a little guilty when her parents looked struck. It wasn’t a lie. But it wasn’t the whole truth, either.

    “Oh, I’m so sorry, Hermione!” Mum said. “And Harry. We didn’t want to… we should have realised. But…”

    “Sorry, Mum,” Hermione replied, looking down at the table. “We should’ve told you.”

    “No, no!” Dad shook his head again. “We shouldn’t expect you to rip open such a wound…”

    But there weren’t really any wounds to be ripped open. Just some nightmares to deal with. Hermione glanced at Harry. He was still wincing. Well, the whole situation was awkward. Not as awkward as with the Potters, though. At least in her opinion. Her parents were much more understanding. “We know,” she said. “But we should’ve told you. We just… You were worrying already so much.” Even though they were fine, and it was over.

    “Yes,” Harry chimed in. “And it won’t happen again.”

    Her parents didn’t ask what he meant. Another deception of sorts. They wouldn’t be caught unprepared again. Which would avoid another situation where they would have to make do with inadequate resources, which would reduce the risks they would have to take… Hermione bit her lower lip. Her parents wouldn’t have to worry about them again. She would make certain of that.

    But it still felt as if she was betraying them.

    “Well, it’s good that this was settled,” Dad said. “I guess we’ll read the article tomorrow?”

    “Probably,” Hermione said. “The reporter didn’t say anything about delays, and I think they will hold the deadline for that.”

    “It’s not as if they take too much care with their articles, anyway,” Harry grumbled.

    Hermione nodded in agreement.

    Her parents looked worried again. “Will that cause more issues?”

    “We hope it won’t,” Hermione replied. “Mr Potter and the Headmaster have some influence, but…” She shrugged. “...sometimes, the newspaper is more like a tabloid.”

    “And Dad’s sure that Skeeter has something on the Ministry; she gets away with far too much,” Harry added.

    “But we didn’t talk to Skeeter,” Hermione was quick to point out. “Unless she used Polyjuice Potion, of course.”

    “It’s possible - Dad said that would explain some of the scoops of her,” Harry confirmed, “but we talked for longer than an hour, and she didn’t drink any potion to renew the effect.”

    “Right.” Hermione pursed her lips - she should’ve considered that herself. “Anyway, there shouldn’t be much trouble from the article itself. Though it’ll inform a lot of people about what happened to us. In detail.”

    “And that might cause some problems,” Harry took over.

    “What sort of problems?” Dad wanted to know.

    “Malfoy might try to prove he’s not a useless idiot riding the coattails of his father,” Hermione replied.

    “Don’t kill him,” Mum told her.

    “We won’t. Stunner’s only,” Hermione assured her.

    “Unless someone attacks us with dark curses and Stunners don’t cut it,” Harry added.

    Hermione nodded. “Exactly. But it shouldn’t be a problem at Hogwarts.”

    “Now that we have each neutralised the greatest threat to us at school,” Harry joked.

    Hermione giggled. Mum and Dad looked confused, so she explained: “Since we won’t go after each other any more.”

    “Ah.” Mum smiled, although it looked a little forced, but Dad managed a chuckle.

    “If that’s the main worry...” Dad smiled.

    “Well, next to the possibility that some relatives of the pirates who were captured would come after us for revenge, or that some idiots might think we found a pirate’s treasure,” Hermione pointed out.

    “Mum and Dad don’t think so, but better safe than sorry.”

    At least Mum and Dad agreed with that, judging by the glances they exchanged and how they nodded. “We’ll talk to them.”

    “Good. We need to go over our schedule, anyway,” Hermione said. “We need to plan training sessions for duelling, flying and homework. And more spells. I’ve drawn up a preliminary schedule.” The second, actually - Harry’s owl had wrecked the first. Harry claimed she wanted more letters to carry. Hermione wasn’t quite certain she agreed, but she never had to take care of an owl herself, so she deferred to him.

    “Ah. But… I think you shouldn’t overdo it, dear,” Mum said. “You just got back. You need to rest and relax.”

    They were doing plenty of resting and relaxing! Not that Hermione would go into any details regarding the exact method, of course.

    She was about to tell her parents that they knew what they were doing when Harry spoke up: “We won’t overdo it. What’s on the telly tonight? Or do you have a movie to watch on VHS?”

    Seeing her parents’ surprise, Hermione rolled her eyes. She had told them already that Harry had a muggle cousin he regularly visited! It was as if they weren’t listening.

    *****​
     
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  12. Starfox5

    Starfox5 Experienced.

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    That would likely be correct, but also very cheeky :p

    Yes, they need to talk to someone about their experiences.
     
  13. Beyogi

    Beyogi I trust you know where the happy button is?

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    Hm, I guess the double date will be next? Or something timeskippy?
     
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  14. silentorphan

    silentorphan I trust you know where the happy button is?

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    "VHS is so 1980s. LaserDisc is the wave of the future!"
    "Not in Europe, I hear."
    "...No, not in Europe."
     
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  15. Starfox5

    Starfox5 Experienced.

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    Double Date, yes.

    Ah, Laserdisc. I knew one guy who had a player and saw some LDs used at conventions, but it never caught on here - and having to flip the disc at halftime (at least for some movies) wasn't exactly customer-friendly either.
     
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  16. Threadmarks: Chapter 38: The Article
    Starfox5

    Starfox5 Experienced.

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    Chapter 38: The Article

    Godric’s Hollow, Devon, Britain, July 20th, 1996

    “It’s worse than we thought! It was worse than we thought - they almost died several times!”

    Lily was… well, she wasn’t furious. Sirius Black knew how she looked when she was angry. A little too well. And she wasn’t desperate. He knew that expression too, even though he had only seen it once on her face. The day she had been informed that Voldemort was after Harry.

    But she was certainly worked up as she paced through the living room, even throwing her hands up a few times.

    “Lily… we already knew they had been in lethal danger.” James was still wearing his Auror robes - Sirius doubted that Lily had literally dragged him out of his office, but it probably had come close.

    “We didn’t know how close it was!” Lily snarled. “James! More than once, they raced through the jungle at night while pirates blew up the trees around them! And they barely escaped the wyvern on their floating plank - it chased them into the jungle as well until it crashed into trees!”

    “I thought they were a little too cavalier when they said that the pirates were basically casting blindly,” Remus commented.

    “It’s technically true,” Sirius added, then suppressed a wince when Lily glared at him.

    “Don’t mince words! This is also your fault!”

    “My fault?” How could it be his fault?

    “You taught Harry duelling!”

    “That saved his life!” Sirius protested.

    “It also taught him that a miss by inches is as good as a miss by yards,” Lily retorted.

    “Except for Blasting Curses!” Sirius retorted. He had taught that to Harry as well, even if he hadn’t been allowed to teach Harry the curse itself.

    “And you taught him to lie by omission!”

    Well, that was a crucial skill for any wizard, in Sirius’s opinion. And it was true. Still… “That wasn’t me!” he said. “I blame James for that!”

    “Sirius!” James glared at him.

    “What? You never told us details about your cases so we wouldn’t worry too much, remember?” Sirius bared his teeth. “Harry must have noticed that.”

    “James!”

    “That’s… can we focus on how to help our child instead of trying to pass the blame around?” James replied. “As Lily found out, we missed that Harry already was acting like Moody at Hogwarts.”

    “What?” Sirius blinked.

    “Yes!” Lily once more threw her hands. “Harry - they both - said that they already were on their guard all the time at Hogwarts because they had to expect an attack from the other at any moment!”

    “Really?” Sirius blinked again. “Wow, they must have been worse than we were with Snape.” But how was that possible? Snape had been a Slytherin, hanging out with Death Eater recruits. Harry and Miss Granger both were Gryffindors, and… Oh. “I see.”

    “Do you?” Lily rounded on him. “You kept giving Harry ideas, which perpetuated this stupid feud! How did we miss this?”

    Well, we don’t exactly watch over them at Hogwarts, Sirius thought. And Harry had been fine at home.

    “To be fair, Lily,” James cut in, “that feud wasn’t really one-sided.”

    Sirius nodded. Just as their feud with Snape hadn’t been one-sided. The nasty little bigot had given as good as he had gotten. And some of his ‘pranks’ had been… more than questionable. “You don’t really stop such a feud by stopping…” He trailed off. That sounded stupid, now that he had said it.

    “You don’t stop by stopping? Really, Sirius?” Remus grinned.

    “You know what I mean! You don’t just stop and say you’re done. Not after so much has happened. You need a resolution,” Sirius replied. Or Dumbledore putting his foot down. Or a war that saw both sides on the same side. Or - and he couldn’t help grinning at the thought - a passionate love affair on a desert island.

    James winced, Sirius noticed. And Remus blinked. And Lily was… staring at him.

    “Any resolution,” Sirius quickly clarified. “You need to ensure that both sides stop.” Sirius certainly wouldn’t have stopped going after Snivellous. Not while a war was going on and he was doing who knew what with his Slytherin friends when no one was watching. Wait. That had been an unintended wordplay! “Anyway, they stopped, so that’s good.”

    “Good? They are used to watching out for an attack or trap! They think it’s normal!” Lily scoffed.

    “That probably saved their lives on the island,” Sirius retorted.

    “They aren’t on the island any more! They’re safe now!”

    “Mostly,” Remus said.

    Sirius stared at his friend. As did James and Lily. “Mostly?” Lily asked.

    “Dumbledore asked me to keep an eye on… certain circles.”

    “Werewolves?” Sirius didn’t know what werewolves would have to do with this.

    “Bounty hunters and their informants,” Remus clarified. “Some smugglers.”

    Ah. Part of what the work Remus did for Dumbledore when he wasn’t teaching. Sirius really needed to get his friend to settle down. He couldn’t spy on that kind of riff-raff forever. Sooner or later, he’d slip up - or one of the scum would get lucky.

    “Does Dumbledore think that there’ll be a price on Harry and Miss Granger’s heads?” James asked.

    “Not exactly - that would quickly spread. But they generally know if suspicious people arrive in England.” Remus shrugged. “He thinks, and I concur, that the risk is minimal, but as long as there’s nothing more urgent…”

    Lily shook her head. “There’s something more urgent: Keeping Harry and his friend from cursing their fellow students by accident. We can’t let them stay like this!”

    Sirius frowned. “Now… let’s not be hasty. It’s not as if they are casting dark curses.” He certainly hadn’t taught Harry any dark curse.

    “Not yet,” Lily spat.

    “And a Cutting Curse isn’t exactly harmless, either,” James chimed in. “In fact, we get more cases with that curse than with dark curses.”

    “I don’t think Harry will be casting a Cutting Curse at anyone, either,” Sirius retorted. “He didn’t kill any of the pirates, did he?”

    “He could have - some were severely hurt,” Lily shot back. “He didn’t even know if he had killed anyone!”

    “Well, he didn’t want to kill them.” Sirius shrugged. “So, I doubt that they’ll be any more dangerous at Hogwarts this year than they were last year.” The two hadn’t seriously hurt each other, anyway.

    “They didn’t have to fight for their lives last year.” Lily shook her head. “They aren’t the same.”

    “That doesn’t mean they are like Moody,” Sirius pointed out. “And even Moody hasn’t killed anyone by accident. And he knows lots of dark curses. And how to hit people.”

    “Harry’s a talented duellist. And Miss Granger didn’t strike me as inept at Defence, either,” James said.

    “So they’ll stun some idiots who should’ve known better.” Sirius shrugged. “I don’t see the harm.”

    “And what if those ‘idiots’ cast Shield Charms, and Harry casts another curse in response?” Lily asked. “We missed how paranoid they already were. We can’t underestimate them again.”

    That was… sort of true. They had missed how Harry felt at school. Although… it wasn’t too different from Sirius’s time at Hogwarts. Snape had been quite sneaky, as befitting a Slytherin, and you had to be on guard anyway. Well, Sirius also had had to worry about the rest of his family after the falling-out with his parents. Regulus, the little… He sighed. “Anyway, I’ll talk to them when I’m training them, and I’ll stress making sure you know your target.”

    LIly rubbed the bridge of her nose. “It’s not just about ensuring they aren’t a danger to the other students, Sirius.”

    “It isn’t? I thought that was what bothered you.”

    “It’s also about making sure my son and his girlfriend aren’t spending the rest of their lives like Moody: Always expecting an attack, always feeling in danger… How could anyone live like that and be happy?”

    “Well, Curse-Breakers are in constant danger,” Sirius pointed out before he could help himself. “And Bill and Fleur looked happy.”

    Lily glared at him again. “Curse-Breakers also have one of the shortest life-expectancy amongst wizards!”

    “A bit worse than Spellcrafters, yes.” Sirius nodded.

    And Lily’s expression shifted into an angry snarl. Well, if she didn’t like him pointing out when she was a hypocrite, then that was her problem. Although it could also become his problem, he reminded himself.

    “I only take calculated risks and with the strictest security precautions. But more importantly, I don’t worry about being attacked at any moment. And neither do Curse-Breakers!” she spat.

    “Harry and Miss Granger aren’t that bad,” Sirius retorted.

    “But they could be,” Remus spoke up again. “They don’t want to acknowledge that they need help. They think expecting an attack is normal.”

    “And we completely missed that!” Lily shook her head.

    “To be fair, Harry didn’t act like that at home,” James said.

    “We still should’ve known,” Lily said. “I’ll have to ask Rose if she noticed anything.”

    “Don’t blame her!” James quickly said.

    “Of course not! We’re the parents; this is our responsibility. And our mistake.”

    And he was the godfather. Still… “I don’t think it’s that bad.”

    “You already said that,” James pointed out.

    “It bears repeating. Look, let’s not assume the worst.” He gave Lily his best smile. “Let’s see how things work out for the next few weeks. It’s only been a few days; they still need to adjust.” After the war, Sirius had spent a few months drinking his way through a not too small part of Grimmauld Place’s wine cellar. Although it seemed Harry had found another way to forget whatever he wanted to forget and get over his nightmares.

    “Great. So they can curse the guests at his birthday party?” Lily arched her eyebrows.

    “Well, those will be his friends, so they won’t try anything stupid,” James said. “Although we might want to talk to the twins and explain things.”

    Right. Sirius nodded. Fred and George were very talented wizards, but not the most cautious ones. Molly should be glad that they had chosen to open a joke shop instead of picking a more dangerous career, actually. Although… “I think the twins stopped bothering Harry and Miss Granger at least two years ago.”

    “That doesn’t mean that they won’t attempt anything now,” Lily said.

    Sirius didn’t make a comment about how that was paranoid. “Anyway, let’s just wait and see and talk to them with some restraint.”

    Lily grumbled, but James nodded. And Remus didn’t object, which was as good as agreement.

    Good. “So, I’ll start working on what spells to teach them,” he said, getting up. “Tomorrow will be their first lesson.”

    “I’m sure Miss Granger already has the syllabus ready,” James commented in a dry voice.

    Everyone laughed, though Sirius wouldn’t put it past the girl. On the other hand, she didn’t know all the spells Sirius could teach them, so that should make it easier to get them to listen, in case she wanted to learn curses.

    Or if her selection was missing some key curses. After all, while having Harry accidentally curse someone wouldn’t be a good thing - unless it was Narcissa’s spawn - having Harry be killed because he lacked the spells to defend himself would be far worse.

    *****​

    Kingston upon Thames, London, Britain, July 20th, 1996

    Hermione’s room was just like Harry Potter had expected: Stuffed with shelves that were stuffed in turn with books. There was almost no room for any pictures on the walls; he could only see a few family photos in frames. Oh! He leaned closer. There was Hermione as a toddler. She already had her mane.

    “Oh, really!”

    He turned and saw that she was blushing.

    “Those are just some old pictures,” she said.

    “You look cute in them.” And she did. There were some of her time at Hogwarts, too - or, rather, showing her in her robes with her parents in the house. One for every year, it seemed. “Family tradition?” he asked as he pointed at them.

    “Yes. We take a picture every September First.”

    “Wish we had thought of that,” Harry told her. “It’s a nice tradition. On the other hand, I’d be in pictures with Rose, and we’d probably be squabbling.” They did in some, at least. All Rose’s fault, of course.

    Hermione sat down on her bed, causing her monster of a cat to shift and protest a little. “Probably. I think our old pictures would be squabbling as well. Unless pictures can learn.”

    “I doubt that,” Harry replied. “They’re not like portraits. More like… small movies.”

    “Yet they do react to stimuli, like portraits,” Hermione pointed out. “Ever set a Daily Prophet on fire? The people in the pictures try to escape.” She grimaced. “It’s not a nice sight.”

    Harry grimaced himself. “I can imagine. When did you set a Daily Prophet on fire?”

    “After the Quidditch World Cup,” she told him.

    “Why?” She didn’t hate Quidditch.

    “The article made fun of the muggle owner of the field where the cup was held. Someone had kept obliviating the poor man.” She frowned. “It wasn’t his fault, he was the victim of stupid procedures and inept handling of the situation, and they made fun of him stumbling around. I was so mad…” She shrugged.

    Harry nodded. That made sense. He didn’t remember reading about that part. But, he realised with some shame, he probably would’ve found it funny himself. Like some of the clips of people falling down that you could see on the telly. Which, in hindsight, probably weren’t that funny, either. Just painful for the people involved.

    He sat down on the bed as well, triggering another growl from the cat. “So, we survived your parents.”

    Hermione snorted, but she didn’t look amused. “They weren’t as bad as your mother.”

    “Lily,” he corrected her.

    “Lily,” she repeated. “It’ll probably take me some time to get used to that.”

    “Probably.” He sighed. “But your parents aren’t experts in spells or have combat experience. Mum knows more than they do.”

    “They still think - they feel - that we’ve lied to them all the same.”

    Which was true. Both that their parents thought it, and that they had lied, if only through omission. Harry nodded. “Nothing we can do about that, though. We’ll have to wait it out.”

    “And hope it doesn’t harm our efforts to learn more spells and get more training,” Hermione added, hunching her shoulders a little.

    “It won’t.” Harry grinned at her and wrapped an arm around her shoulders. “Sirius wouldn’t agree with that.”

    “He’s just your godfather,” she pointed out.

    “And he’s been helping me break the rules he thinks are stupid all my life,” Harry retorted. “He’ll do what he thinks is right.”

    “Even against the wishes of your - our - parents?”

    “Yes.” Harry firmly nodded. He knew his godfather. “Besides, Mum and Dad will see reason. As long as we don’t curse Malfoy too badly or something.” Even if the git probably deserved it.

    “Then we better don’t curse him at all,” Hermione said. “Nothing that would be seen as an attempt to seriously hurt him.”

    “I guess so.” Harry pressed his lips together. Malfoy had behaved himself for months now, but Harry doubted that the idiot could last much longer. Not after the article appeared in the Prophet. “Maybe he’ll stick to talking about us behind our backs.”

    “Do you think so?” Hermione raised her eyebrows.

    “I hope so.”

    “Better prepare for some half-brained attack, then.” Hermione slipped out of his arm. “We should have a response prepared. Something that won’t break too many school rules and can’t be seen as a serious attack against him, but will ensure that he won’t dare to bother us again.” She grinned. “I think we should be able to come up with something suitable.”

    Harry matched her grin. “Of course.” This was, after all, what they had been doing for years to each other. “But something new - we can’t repeat ourselves.”

    “That’s true.” Hermione nodded and reached into the drawer of her desk, retrieving a small notebook.

    “You keep your notes in your desk?” Harry blinked. That was far too… “Ah. You must have cast a few protections on it.”

    “False bottom in the drawer and the book itself is protected.” Hermione looked proud. “A combination of muggle and magical means.”

    “Ah." Harry nodded. It still seemed a bit reckless - his own notes were always in his enchanted pocket - but he could see how this would deter her parents from finding it. “We have to work on getting you an enchanted pocket or something.”

    “I’ve got a few ideas about that. But first, let’s plan how to humiliate Malfoy if he bothers us.”

    “Right!”

    *****​

    Kingston upon Thames, London, Britain, July 21st, 1996

    Hermione Granger was woken up by the sound of someone pecking against her window. Groaning, she rolled on her side - away from the warm arms of Harry, who was still asleep - and took a look. It was an owl. And not Lavender’s owl, but Harry’s psychotic snowy owl. Great.

    “Harry! Your pet’s here.”

    “What?”

    “Hedwig’s at the window,” Hermione explained.

    “Let her inside.”

    “So she can attack me?” The owl had some grudge against her. She wasn’t like Crookshanks, who was perfectly fine with Harry and even slept on his legs! And gave him a massage with his claws.

    Harry groaned again. “Hedwig won’t attack you.”

    “Tell that to her.” The owl hadn’t attacked her so far, but she did look quite angry. And here, in her room, Hermione couldn’t simply use a spell to teach the animal not to mess with her, should she attack Hermione. Not that this was likely when Harry was around.

    “Come on, Hedwig! I’m up. Do you have a letter for me?” Harry walked over to the window and opened it. He was only wearing shorts, so it was a nice sight.

    Hermione grabbed Crookshanks, who was sleeping at the foot of her bed. In a fight, she’d bet on her cat, of course, but she didn’t want to see her pet hurt either way.

    “Oh! It’s from Sirius!” Harry beamed. “You went and got his letter for us, right? Good girl!”

    The owl preened.

    “Now, let’s see if we have a treat for you…” Harry started going through her desk.

    “Those are cat treats,” Hermione told him when he pulled a small bag out of the drawer.

    “Good enough for owls; both eat mice.”

    “That’s not how it works,” Hermione started to explain. When she saw his grin, she sighed.

    And released Crookshanks, who was already struggling in her arms. Her cat pounced on Harry’s leg, making it clear that he wanted his treats.

    “Ow! Watch your claws, furball!”

    “Don’t be a baby,” Hermione retorted. “He just wants to defend his own treats.”

    “Well, sharing is caring!”

    Crookshanks’s protests showed he didn’t care. Harry still fed some treats to his owl, but at least he also fed Crookshanks.

    Then, as Hedwig settled on the backrest of Hermione’s chair, Harry opened the letter he had received. Or they - Hermione spotted her own name on the envelope as well. “So, what does it say?”

    “It’s a reminder that we have our first session with him today.”

    “He sent a letter for that? Did he fear we’d forget?” Hermione shook her head. As if she’d forget such an important thing!

    Harry handed her the letter. “He also sent a reminder to buy duelling robes and a few other things, like an enchanted wand holster. It’s like a Hogwarts letter, except it’s for Duelling training.”

    It wasn’t quite the same, in her opinion, but as she skimmed the letter, she had to admit that it came close enough. It seemed Mr Black took his lessons seriously. “But that means we’ll have to go to Diagon Alley,” she said. “And on the day the Daily Prophet will contain our interview.” She frowned. “Shouldn’t your godfather have the latest issue already?” Why hadn’t Mr Black sent a copy with Hedwig? She had a sinking feeling in her stomach.

    “You’re right.” Harry frowned as well. “Hedwig? Care to return to Sirius and ask if he’s got the Daily Prophet yet?”

    The owl barked in response, startling poor Crookshanks.

    “I’ll write a short note,” Harry said.

    “Stationery is in the drawer,” she told him.

    “I saw it, thanks.” He was already grabbing a sheet and a pen.

    Hermione stretched. “I’ll head to the bathroom, then.”

    With a bit of luck, Harry’s owl would be back by the time she was finished. The owl might be psychotic, but she was very fast.

    *****​

    Harry Potter glanced to the side and watched as Hermione dropped the nightshirt she had been wearing and put on her short bathrobe before leaving the room. He had seen it all - and more last night - but still...

    He shook his head and focused on finishing his letter. Well, technically, it was a letter, but it was more of a short note. A text message on paper, carried by an owl.

    Hedwig barked again, and he frowned at her. “Patience, Hedwig. I’m almost done.”

    Another bark.

    “And please don’t attack Hermione. I’ve already told you that we made up and that we’re now a couple,” he added.

    Hedwig turned her head away in response. Drat. She really carried grudges.

    The feeling of needles pricking the skin on his leg told him that another pet also carried grudges. Or wanted more treats. “No, Crookshanks, you’ve already got your treats.”

    This time, the cat voiced his complaints with a meow. Harry ignored him and finished the letter. “Alright, here you go, Hedwig!”

    She barked once again, let him tie the envelope to her leg, and took off. Now they just had to wait for a bit, and they’d know what the Prophet had done with their interview. It couldn’t be too bad, could it? They had stuck to the truth, and the journalist hadn’t been Skeeter.

    He stood and stretched, then looked around in the room. “Let’s see what books she has…” he mumbled, walking over to the closest shelf.

    There were a lot of books. Fiction and nonfiction. Nonfiction on this shelf. Mostly about magic, Harry saw - lots of older, slightly ragged tomes. Used books - Hermione had been looking for those in Knockturn Alley when this whole thing had started, he remembered. A few books on curses, but he didn’t see anything really questionable. Sirius’s library had worse. And Harry was quite sure Mum had books hidden from him and possibly even Dad.

    But it was quite the collection, especially for a muggleborn. Hermione must have spent a lot of money on this. Or time to find them for cheap.

    And compared to the Black Library, or even the Potters’, it was nothing.

    He frowned. The Hogwarts library dwarfed the Black library, but you only could use it as a student. Once Hermione was finished with Hogwarts, she wouldn’t be able to use it any more.

    “I guess this explains her attitude,” he mumbled. Muggleborns really were disadvantaged. If Mum hadn’t married Dad, could she have worked as a Spellcrafter? Harry didn’t know for sure, but he suspected the answer was ‘no’.

    Mum loved Dad, Harry knew that as well. But would she stay with him even if she didn’t love him, just to have access to the library? She had expanded it some, but replacing all the books belonging to Dad would still cost a fortune.

    Hermione wasn’t with him for his books, he knew. She hadn’t even known about the library when they had gotten together. But now she knew.

    He shook his head. He didn’t want to dwell on that. He had to trust her. And Hermione wasn’t the sort of girl to live a lie, so to speak. She was the sort of girl to hex you in the face if she was fed up with you - he knew from experience.

    Chuckling, he took a look at the next self. Mostly muggle books. Physics, Chemistry, History. Lots of History books. Well, he had expected that.

    He hadn’t expected the books next to that shelf, though. Fiction. Some of them were the classics he had read himself or that Mum had read to him. Her old books. Enid Blyton. Dickens. Austen of course. And others. But those in the lower row? He inclined his head. Those he didn’t know. He pulled one out - ‘The Dragon Wizard’. There was a man on the cover wielding an oversized wand with his robes so ragged, you could see his entire chest, facing a dragon, while a witch in even more ragged robes stood at his side, wand held tightly. Both were moving - this was a wizarding novel.

    He blinked. That was… He quickly opened the book to a random page and then started skimming.

    ...and Hephaestus drew his wand, easily dwarfing his enemy’s feeble counterpart, before waving it in a complex yet enticing manner while his rich voice filled the clearing with his melodic chanting. Before the ruffian could react, his clothes transformed into a steel snake, binding him in place before swallowing his wand.

    Hortensia felt her heart skip a beat at the display and had to swallow. Such skill! Such grace! Such rugged handsomeness! So different from the suitors at her father’s manor, which were mostly Ministry employees who had never faced anything more dangerous than a Flobberworm. The young witch realised at that point that she could never be satisfied with the life her parents had planned for her. And she realised something else, something primal...

    Harry blinked again and closed the book. This was a… Rose had called them robes rippers when she had wanted to visit the bookstore on their last trip together to Diagon Alley.

    Hermione read robes rippers!

    He shook his head. Who would have thought that? Well, her best friend was Lavender, but still…

    The door behind him opened, and Hermione entered, clad in her bathrobe and her hair only partially dried. “The bathroom’s…” she trailed off, staring at the book he was holding.

    “Oh. Uh, I was curious, and…” Harry told her.

    She blushed a little. “It was a gift from Lavender.”

    Harry looked at the two packed rows with similar books before he could help it.

    “I don’t like owning only one book of a series,” Hermione went on. She was blushing a little more now.

    Harry nodded and slid the book back into place - though he had to press the rest of the books to the side; the shelf was tightly packed. He didn’t comment on the fact that the books looked well-read; she might have bought them used, after all.

    He straightened and turned back to her, though what comment he had on his lips went forgotten when he saw that she had dropped her robe on the bed and he was looking at a pair of lacy, racy pants.

    “That was a gift from my aunt,” she told him with a smirk. “Though I’m not sure whether I should wear them if we’re going to buy duelling robes and have a training session today.”

    “We can easily mend them!” he blurted out.

    She frowned a little in return. “I wasn’t afraid of them getting damaged. But I don’t want to make the wrong impression.”

    She had worn rather plain underwear for the sleepover at his home, Harry remembered. “I, uh, don’t think Sirius will see your underwear,” he said. His godfather better not!

    “That means the Stripping Hex is banned?”

    That wasn’t the correct name - it was called the Disrobing Hex - but Harry nodded anyway.

    Things had changed, after all, compared to last year. Changed a lot.

    *****​

    Hermione Granger felt as if her face would burst into flames. Teasing Harry by dressing provocatively in front of him - and picking lingerie - had sounded far easier in her head than actually doing it. At least it was working - he was staring at her with rapt attention. And he wasn’t saying anything about the embarrassing books he had found.

    Of course, she had a feeling that he’d still tease her about them, albeit at a later date. Not that anything was wrong with reading those books. They offered important insight into the culture of Wizarding Britain. And they allowed her to connect with her fellow teenage witches. Like Lavender. That was what she had told her parents when they had wondered about this part of her library. Mum and Dad had liked that. Enough not to tease her about it.

    And, Hermione admitted, if only to herself as she put on her bra, the books might be written with prose so purple, you could dye a king’s entire wardrobe with it, and more holes in their plots than there were in a fisherman’s net, but they were fun to read. Although the ones dealing with pirates, harems and deserted islands she would skip for the foreseeable future.

    She stood. “Can you close it up for me?” she asked, turning her back to Harry.

    “Uh… sure,” he replied.

    She smiled when she felt his hands on her back. Her cheeks might be burning, but this was fun. She felt sexy like this. She knew she wasn’t as pretty as other witches, much less a model, but just now? She felt as if she was the most attractive girl in the world.

    “Thank you.” She turned. “So, you like the set?” She placed a hand on her chest. “The lingerie,” she added with a smile.

    “Uh, yes.” Harry nodded several times. “They’re very…”

    He was interrupted by more pecking on her window. Hedwig had returned. Once again, Hermione reminded herself that Post Owls were magical creatures - they flew much faster than their non-magical cousins.

    “Hedwig!” And Harry turned away, opening the window. “Good girl!”

    Hermione suppressed the small bout of jealousy.

    “Oh! Here’s Sirius’s letter - and the Prophet!” Harry handed her the newspaper before opening the letter. “He says sorry, he was planning to frame his copy, so he had to go and buy another one…”

    But Hermione wasn’t listening any more. She was staring at the front page of the Daily Prophet.

    Young Couple Conquers Pirate Island! The True Story of the Potter Kidnapping!

    There was a sketch of Harry and her, battling a wyvern. A drawing that could’ve graced the cover of one of the novels from which she had just distracted Harry. Both of them were wearing ‘artfully ripped’ robes, hers much more revealing than Harry’s. The amount of fabric left was larger than what her actual clothes would have covered, but most of it was flaring in the wind. And Harry apparently had taken a Vanishing Charm to the chest that had reduced his own robes to what was effectively a ragged loincloth. Facing them was a wyvern which was… actually the correct size. But the angle of the sketch made it appear even larger at first glance. Especially moving as it was - it dived at them, Harry sending a curse at it, before Hermione summoned him to her and the wyvern crashed into a pit full of spikes. All in all about ten seconds of a dramatic and tantalising performance that would have made any tabloid proud.

    “What the…?” Harry trailed off.

    Hermione didn’t care. She was skimming the article. She couldn’t spot anything clearly wrong, nor any blatant hyperbole, but the whole text was worded to make their experiences much more dramatic and hair-raising than they had actually been. And, she noticed with a growing blush, much more romantic as well. Again, there was nothing particularly explicit in the article, but it was certainly highly suggestive.

    “The average reader will think that all we did was fight and have sex on the beach,” she muttered.

    “Well… there are two lines about eating coconuts and fish,” Harry pointed out. “And one about constructing a shelter.”

    “It reads as if we drank coconut cocktails in a love shack on a tropical island,” Hermione corrected him. “There’s nothing about malnutrition, or tropical storms, or infections.”

    “Probably not dramatic enough,” Harry said. “Oh. Look at that!” He pointed at the next page.

    A dozen pirates chased the young couple through the jungle, turning a large part of the island into a cratered field devoid of life before they finally stopped and returned to their port.

    Which was technically correct, though, once again, the wording made it seem as if the chase had taken much longer than it had. Any of the chases. “Great,” Hermione hissed. “We’re the protagonists of a robes ripper novel. At least we’re not getting married by the dashing former pirate captain at the end.” She blinked, then checked. “They really called him a ‘dashing former pirate captain’.” She shook her head. “No one will believe this. Not written like this.”

    Harry, though, seemed to disagree with her assumption.

    *****​

    Harry Potter grimaced. No one would believe this? Hermione was wrong. But how to explain… “People will believe it.”

    “But it sounds like it was written for a novel!” she retorted, pursing her lips.

    “It’s printed in the Daily Prophet,” he pointed out. “People believe what they read in the newspaper.”

    “That’s…” Hermione shook her head.

    “I know it’s stupid. And a lot of people won’t believe it. But many will.” He sighed. “And some of them who won’t believe it will believe it was worse.”

    “‘Worse’?” She cocked her head to the side.

    “That we…” He couldn’t say ‘married’; that would send the wrong message. He couldn’t have her think that he was afraid of commitment. Girls didn’t like that. “...that you’re pregnant. That we took over the pirates and raided France. That this was all a hoax. That we were working for another pirate crew.” He shrugged. “Take your pick.”

    “You sound like The Quibbler!” Hermione protested.

    “People believe The Quibbler.”

    “What?”

    “Not everyone. And not everything. But…” He sighed. “They’ve been right before, after all. Like the Prophet.”

    She sat down on her bed. “This is... “ She shook her head.

    “...still better than the harem story?” He forced himself to smile.

    She snorted without humour. But she smiled a little as well, after a moment. “Marginally better. Instead of the helpless harem girl, I’m now the shameless seductress. And you’re the cocky Casanova.”

    Harry grimaced. “Me?”

    She pointed at the moving sketch. “Wanna bet they’re wondering how many girlfriends you had at Hogwarts? And how many you’ll have?”

    Ew. Harry winced. That was… “Everyone knows I didn’t have a girlfriend.” Not really, at least.

    “Really? And how many will now think you had one or more in secret?” Her eyes widened. “How many will think we were a couple at Hogwarts?”

    Ugh. That was… exactly what some people would think. And what some people wouldn’t think, but cheerfully spread as a rumour. “Damn,” He muttered under his breath. The interview had been supposed to help them control the rumours. Not make them worse!

    Her cat, which had been taking a nap on the desk, chose that moment to stretch and yawn - and jump off to occupy the bed. Which, apparently, included Harry’s lap.

    “Oh, Crookshanks likes you!” Hermione gushed while the little monster buried its claws in Harry’s thighs.

    “Nice,” Harry lied. “But I need to head to the bathroom, now.”

    “Ah, right. Come on, Crookshanks! Let Harry go take a shower!” Hermione reached over and grabbed her cat, then lifted it up. Or tried to - Harry hissed when it felt as if the cat tried to rip off his skin. “Let go, Crookshanks! Oh, did you get your claws entangled again? Silly cat!”

    By the time Harry reached the bathroom, he needed some disinfectant. Hermione’s pet, unlike Hedwig, who was perfectly fine with their relationship, obviously still carried a grudge.

    Fifteen minutes later, he was back in her room. The cat was gone - Harry didn’t see it around - and Hermione was wearing another sundress now, which showed off her legs and hid her lingerie. And she was watching while he dressed.

    He smiled at that. Harry knew he wasn’t the most muscular boy in their year, nor the tallest - Ron had him beat on both counts, and Neville was getting there as well. But Hermione liked his looks and enjoyed watching him.

    “So…” he asked when he finished buttoning his shirt, “what’s the plan for today, then? Do we brave Diagon Alley?”

    Hermione grimaced. “We might want to disguise ourselves a bit for that. But I would like some high-end duelling robes. I didn’t manage to get Mum and Dad to buy me a set, but after all that we went through, I think they’ll agree that I need them.”

    Harry blinked. Professional duelling robes weren’t cheap, but they weren’t too expensive, either. Certainly less expensive than Auror robes. And the Grangers didn’t look poor - they certainly had more money than the Weasleys, and Ron had been able to afford a set.

    She must have noticed his reaction since she added: “My parents don’t like spending money on frivolous things - and duelling robes meant for professional duellists…” She shrugged. “Mum said I would get them if I needed them, not for some school tournament.”

    “Ah.” Harry nodded. That made sense. And explained her attitude in the duelling ring. Although it wasn’t as if wearing regular robes was like flying a school broom in Quidditch. Of course, even a marginal advantage like the superior cut of tailored robes’ could decide a close match. And this was about staying alive in a real fight, not winning a match. “Maybe we should ask Sirius for a set of Auror robes instead,” he suggested.

    “Is that legal?”

    “As long as they don’t look like official robes, yes,” he replied. “Mum got a set left over from the war. Sirius as well.” And probably every other Order member left.

    “How expensive are those?” she asked.

    He shrugged. “Sirius can afford it.”

    She pressed her lips together and scowled in response but didn’t actually object. “Let’s head down and see whether Mum and Dad already made breakfast or we have to do it.”

    “Sounds good.” He smiled. “I think I heard them in the kitchen when I was out in the hallway.”

    When they entered the kitchen, they did indeed find the Grangers at the table there. Reading the Daily Prophet.

    “Hail the conquering heroes?” Mr Granger commented with a grin.

    “Dad!” Hermione protested. “And where did you get a copy? We had to send an owl to Harry’s godfather!”

    “The Potters sent us a copy. Each,” Mrs Granger replied.

    Oh. It seemed Mum and Dad had lost some trust in them, Harry thought.

    That wasn’t a good thing. Not at all.

    *****​

     
    bukay, Kildar, Beyogi and 22 others like this.
  17. Beyogi

    Beyogi I trust you know where the happy button is?

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    More like they're ganging up on their brats. Surprise surprise motivated parents can actually coordinate.
     
  18. Threadmarks: Chapter 39: The Training
    Starfox5

    Starfox5 Experienced.

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    Chapter 39: The Training

    Diagon Alley, Britain, July 21st, 1996

    “That wasn’t what I expected when you asked me to help you shopping for clothes,” Lavender Brown muttered when she opened the door to the Leaky Cauldron.

    “Shh!” Hermione hissed behind her. “We’re in disguise!”

    Lavender rolled her eyes. The stupid wig she wore itched. And she wasn’t entirely comfortable in the muggle clothes Hermione had loaned her. They didn’t fit quite right and lacked the comforts of properly enchanted robes. She should have resized her old muggle clothes. “No one is paying attention to us. They’re all reading the Prophet or talking about it,” she pointed out.

    “Which is why we’re in disguise,” Hermione, currently blonde, replied.

    “Four people will attract less attention than a couple,” Potter added. He wasn’t wearing his glasses and was wearing a wig as well, though at least Hermione hadn’t managed to get him ‘coloured contacts’. Lavender felt more than a little queasy about putting lenses directly into your eyes.

    She looked at Ron, who was bringing up the rear. This wasn’t what she had expected their first double-date to look like, either.

    He grimaced - his ugly black wig probably itched too. But there was nothing to it. When Hermione dug in her heels about something, it was best to give in. Especially if Potter supported her - the two… Lavender blinked. They weren’t feuding any more, so the old rule of thumb that if they agreed on something, it was probably the right thing to do might have become outdated, she realised.

    And as Lavender had told them, no one was paying attention to them. Though what she heard when they crossed the room to the back wasn’t exactly encouraging, either.

    “...like an adventure straight out of Lockhart’s books!”

    “Those are fiction!”

    “Exactly! You don’t honestly…”

    “... have been so romantic!”

    “Oh, yes! To be saved by your hero from pirates!”

    “And to save him from a wyvern! If I had been there, I would’ve…”

    Lavender blushed at the last suggestion. She had thought the same when she had heard the story.

    Hermione huffed when they entered the backyard. “Honestly!”

    “Shhh!” Ron hissed. “We’re in disguise!”

    Lavender suppressed a giggle when she saw Hermione’s glare. And she refrained from suggesting that they should talk about the Prophet’s article as well, to improve their disguise. That wouldn’t go over well. Not at all.

    “Alright, we can take a shortcut to Denzel’s Duelling Diorama,” Potter said. “We don’t need to go through the main alley.”

    “That might look suspicious,” Hermione objected.

    “Yes. But we would limit our exposure,” Potter retorted.

    “Is it worth it? If we catch the attention of Aurors, they might stop us,” Hermione pointed out.

    Lavender looked at Ron and rolled her eyes again. “Let’s just go like four normal friends on a shopping trip,” she said. “We’ll window shop until we reach the duelling shop.”

    “Yes,” Ron agreed. “Just act normal. Or, in your case, abnormal. Or the new normal.” He grinned.

    Both Potter and Hermione glared at him, but Ron remained unfazed. Lavender hooked her arm into his, and they started strolling down the alley.

    After some huffing, Hermione and Potter followed.

    Perhaps this would end up in a proper double-date, even though Lavender would still be wearing an itchy wig.

    “But we won’t enter Fortescue’s,” Hermione said in a low voice as if she had read Lavender’s thoughts. “He would likely recognise us.”

    “He’s like Ollivander, only for ice cream instead of wands,” Potter agreed. “Never forgets a favourite flavour.”

    Well, Fortescue was the best for a reason. Many reasons, actually.

    “We should get spare wands. Just in case,” Hermione whispered as they passed the parlour.

    “Good idea, but we might have to look for those elsewhere,” Potter said, sounding as if that was normal.

    “Spare wands?” Ron obviously shared Lavender’s reaction.

    “In case we get disarmed. Outside the duelling ring, I mean,” Potter explained. “It’s illegal to carry another wand in the ring, after all.”

    “Do you honestly expect an attack?” Ron asked, once more echoing Lavender’s thoughts. “Here?”

    “Not really,” Potter said. “But better safe than sorry.”

    “And even if an attack is unlikely, it’s better to be prepared. If you don’t need what you have, you aren’t any worse off, but if you don’t have what you need…” Hermione trailed off while Potter nodded in agreement.

    Lavender winced and looked at Ron again. She saw he was glancing around. Looking for an attacker? In Diagon Alley? But he had voiced his doubts, hadn’t he? So why…?

    Oh. He must be keeping an eye out for anyone who might be mistaken for an attacker.

    But who would be as stupid as to do anything that could get mistaken for an attack? Most students had learned their lesson years ago and wouldn’t get between Hermione and Potter. Even Malfoy, though he had taken a little longer.

    They weren’t at Hogwarts, though. If someone recognised them and wanted to talk to them, and got a little too enthusiastic… She winced and started looking around. So far, it seemed no one suspected anything.

    “Lavender!” Hermione whispered as they passed Madam Malkin’s. “Act normal! We’re not Aurors on patrol!”

    What? Lavender blinked and stared at her.

    Hermione nodded. “Don’t draw attention to us by acting as if you expect an attack.”

    That was… Lavender couldn’t believe it. Hermione was lecturing her for acting as if she were paranoid?

    “Just act natural,” Potter chimed in.

    “Well…” Ron started to comment.

    But Potter cut him off. “Let’s just go on. The shop’s just around the corner.”

    Lavender exchanged another glance with her boyfriend, who was shaking his head. “You’re impossible!” she muttered at Hermione and started walking a little faster to the duelling shop.

    “What?”

    Hermione didn’t seem to realise what she was doing. Lavender clenched her teeth. She needed to explain things, but she couldn’t do that here. This was… turning into the worst shopping trip since Binky’s death.

    She still kept an eye out for suspicious passers-by, but they reached the shop without anyone making a scene.

    “Welcome to Denzel’s Duelling Diorama!”

    Lavender looked around while Potter and Hermione made a beeline to the counter, Potter in the lead. It looked… well, like a mixture of a bookshop, wand supplies shop and a tailor’s. Robes in all sizes and colours were on display to her right, shelves lined the left wall, and on tables in the middle, all sorts of accessoires could be found. Mostly wand holsters, though.

    “We need a set of duelling robes,” Potter announced.

    “For me,” Hermione added.

    “The best you have!”

    “And in black.”

    Black? Lavender turned to stare at the pair. Who would want to buy black duelling robes? Those stood out and made you look like some wanna-be dark wizard, or… “You aren’t planning to try and wear them to school, are you?” she blurted out.

    Hermione frowned at her. “The school rules only state that the robes must be black. I checked.”

    “But everyone will know you’re wearing duelling robes instead of school robes!” Lavender objected. The cuts of each were totally different - duelling robes were more like coats; you had to be able to run and jump and dodge in them. They had slits on the sides longer than the most daring ballroom robes.

    “It’s just in case,” Hermione retorted. “Besides, I can recolour the robes.”

    “Ah… the robes are enchanted, so you won’t be able to dye them,” the clerk pointed out.

    Hermione sniffed. “We’ll see about that.”

    “It’s not as if they stop curses,” Potter added. “But we just need the best set.”

    “In my size.”

    “Alright. Let me show you the latest robes from One Ring,” the clerk said - though his smile looked a little strained.

    “That’s a new American line,” Potter explained.

    “I guess they never heard of Tolkien,” Hermione commented.

    Potter laughed. It must be a muggle joke, then.

    “I didn’t get it either,” Ron told her in a low voice while their friends started sifting through robes.

    Lavender nodded. “The poor sales clerk,” she whispered. At least, their friends weren’t bickering. Not at all, actually. “They really get along.”

    “Did you think they were lying?” Ron asked.

    “No. But… I didn’t think they were like that,” Lavender admitted. “I expected Hermione to try and get her way, as usual.” But her friend was listening to both the clerk and Potter.

    “Well, Harry’s the expert amongst us,” Ron said,

    “You’ve got as much experience,” she pointed out.

    “But I didn’t take special lessons with Sirius,” Ron replied. “And I don’t have as many books on duelling as Harry does.”

    “You wouldn’t have room for them next to your Quidditch books,” she told him.

    He laughed in response.

    Lavender shook her head. “I thought he would be focusing on Quidditch.” Potter was the youngest Seeker at Hogwarts in a century. Apparently, the league scouts had noticed him in second year.

    “He might try for both Quidditch and Duelling. But he’ll pick Quidditch.”

    For the money, at least. Duelling wasn’t as big as Quidditch.

    She looked at the holsters on the table next to her. “Why do you need a special holster? You start a match with your wand in hand.”

    “It’s for prestige - and the French still have some quick-drawing competitions going,” Ron explained. “Never took hold in sensible countries.”

    “Well, I’m sure Hermione will get one.” Or two - if she managed to get a second wand.

    “Yes. Bill said the Curse-Breakers like the holsters as well. Sometimes, they need to draw their wands in a damn hurry.”

    In a tomb? Lavender would keep her wand in hand at all times. She shuddered and looked at Hermione and Potter again. And blinked again. Those were good looking robes. But they did show off your legs all the way to the hip. Like the cheongsam Su Li had shown them once. On the other hand, if those robes were allowed at Hogwarts, as Hermione claimed, then that had possibilities. Not for the lessons, of course - who would want to expose their legs like that in Potions, or Care for Magical Creatures? - but they would look very nice if you wanted to meet your boyfriend.

    She glanced at Ron and grinned.

    *****​

    Hermione Granger looked at herself in the mirror. The robes fit, no doubt about it, and allowed her to move around freely. They reminded her of a Chinese dress. They also were a little drafty, though matching trousers would protect her legs. But Lavender had been correct - they wouldn’t pass as school robes. Not even as some of the slightly altered school robes the upper years generally wore. “Well, technically, they are allowed by the rules,” she reminded herself. She doubted that Professor McGonagall would agree, however.

    “But everyone will be aware we’re wearing duelling robes,” Harry pointed out.

    “It seems that that cannot be helped.” Though anyone planning to attack them would be unlikely to be fooled by such a ploy, anyway. And it wasn’t as if the duelling robes provided too much protection against spells - that would turn the matches into tailor competitions, and no one wanted that. Except, perhaps, for some tailors - Lavender had told her stories about the rivalries found between the best British and French tailors. She nodded at Harry. “I like those best.”

    “We’ll take them,” Harry told the clerk.

    “Very well. The alterations will be ready in a day. The charms and the materials used prevent us from using Resizing Charms, alas. To whom might I send them?” the clerk asked.

    Oh. Hermione sighed. They hadn’t considered that.

    “To Sirius Black,” Harry told the man.

    “Very well.” The clerk didn’t show any reaction. Either he had recognised them already - Harry had visited before, though not too frequently - or he hadn’t made the connection. Or he might not care.

    Either way, Hermione felt relieved. The last thing she wanted was a scene.

    “Now we need a holster,” Harry went on. “Quickdraw, with the usual protections.”

    Hermione nodded. She didn’t want to become disarmed by a simple Sticking Charm or Summoning Charm.

    “Of course. We have a design matching the robes here.” The clerk held up a holster. “The latest Parisian style. It can go into your sleeve or on your hip, using extension charms to make it almost invisible.”

    Hermione frowned. As long as the holster did what it was supposed to do, did it matter how it looked? It would be hidden anyway.

    “French? Good!” Harry said. “That means the holster was made to be used in an actual fight! In France, duels in the street might be nominally illegal, but that law’s not being enforced.”

    “Really?” Hermione looked at him. Had Fleur told him that?

    “Oh, yes,” the clerk nodded. “I saw a duel happen myself when I visited an exhibition match in Paris. The Gendarmes stood and watched the fight.”

    That was disturbing! And Hermione didn’t doubt that various thugs would abuse this ‘custom’ to assault someone and claim a duel. But it meant the holsters would be proven designs. “We’ll take it,” she said.

    “Very good. Might I suggest some dragonhide boots to round out the outfit?” The clerk gestured to the shelves containing rows of boots in all sizes and shapes.

    “Oh, boots!” Lavender joined them. “Let’s see… you need boots that are both fashionable and functional! And in a decent colour.”

    Her friend was hamming it up, Hermione knew. She just didn’t know why Lavender was acting like that - it wasn’t as if Hermione had done anything to her!

    *****​

    “Now that was fun!” Lavender grinned when they finally left the shop.

    Hermione Granger rolled her eyes at her. “I didn’t have to try on every pair of boots.”

    “Of course you had! That’s dragonhide - it won’t easily resize. You have to find the perfect fit. It’s a little like buying a wand - you don’t settle for the first vaguely compatible one; you want the perfect fit.

    “Wands aren’t shoes,” Hermione objected.

    “Well, Sirius likes to say that footwork is almost as important as wandwork,” Harry commented.

    She glared at him; there was no need to undercut her position.

    “See?” Lavender beamed. “It’s important.”

    Her boyfriend, of course, agreed as well.

    Hermione pursed her lips and slowly nodded. “So… let’s leave Diagon Alley before someone recognises us.”

    “I’m sure that the clerk recognised us,” Harry said. “But he’s discreet. Bound to be - you can’t run a shop like that if your customers think you’ll tell their competition what kind of supplies they bought.”

    Hemione nodded again. That made sense.

    “Are you going to visit Grimmauld Place?” Weasley asked.

    “What? But you’ve got the whole morning you said!” Lavender protested before Hermione could answer. “Let’s hang out a little more. But in muggle London!”

    Wizards and witches were unlikely to spot or find them there, Hermione knew. “We’ll have to change clothes, though,” she pointed out. And they wouldn’t be able to use magic without bringing the Ministry down on their heads. Still, it would be nice to relax a little.

    “That’s the idea. I want to get rid of this itchy wig!” Lavender announced.

    “Yes,” Weasley added. “Use the Floo and gather at Lavender’s place in, say… twenty minutes?”

    That was cutting it a little close - Hermione had to take the Knight Bus, after all. But it was far from impossible.

    “Alright,” she said.

    *****​

    London, Britain, July 21st, 1996

    There were so many people around them. Harry Potter couldn’t keep track of all of them. If there was an assassin or something following them, they could easily sneak up on them. They wouldn’t have to disguise themselves. Or use a Disillusionment Charm - even if Harry had been able to cast spells without alerting the Ministry, the sheer number of muggles around them would hide anyone.

    But the odds of anyone following them were very low. Almost impossibly low. Mum had taken them to London with Side-Along Apparition, and they had taken the tube from there. And anyone trying to track them with a spell would have to deal with the crowds as well.

    Still… Harry looked around as they crossed the street. Better safe than sorry.

    “Relax,” Ron told him. “We’re in muggle London.”

    “I know,” Harry shot back.

    Ron looked at him. “Do you honestly expect an attack here?”

    “No. But…” Harry shrugged.

    “You’re safe here, mate.” Ron chuckled. “Well, unless you ruin Granger’s book shopping.”

    Harry glared at him. He wouldn’t do that, and Hermione wasn’t like that!

    “I’m joking.”

    He huffed. It wasn’t really funny.

    “Come on, mate. Let’s not let the girls pull away.”

    Right. They should stay together.

    He walked a little faster until they caught up to Hermione and Lavender. “Too bad it’s Sunday,” he heard Hermione say.

    “I wouldn’t let you spend hours in the bookstore,” Lavender shot back. “You know the rule: half an hour at most!”

    Harry expected Hermione to be annoyed, but she laughed instead.

    He glanced around - no one seemed to be paying attention to them. Well, two boys were looking at the girls. Probably because both Hermione and Lavender were wearing short miniskirts and matching tops. Harry still kept an eye on the two until the group had turned around a corner and started towards the café Hermione and Lavender apparently liked to visit.

    Now it seemed that they were safe. Safe-ish. “So, half an hour?” he asked, cocking his head slightly to the side when Hermione turned to look at him.

    She blushed a little. “It’s a bit of a tradition.”

    “I insisted on it,” Lavender explained. “Otherwise, Hermione will spend the whole day in the store.”

    “I never stayed longer than an hour, an hour and a half at most,” Hermione retorted.

    “Two hours!”

    “That was an exception - there was a signing!” Hermione pouted.

    “Excuses, excuses!”

    “You’ve spent longer in Harrods,” Hermione pointed out.

    “That’s not the same - I was sightseeing. Exploring muggle culture.” Lavender grinned

    “That’s acceptable for the first visit. But the third?”

    “Muggle customs and fashion change every year. Didn’t you complain about muggle studies being outdated?” Lavender asked, then looked around.

    “Muggle culture includes novels. And movies,” Hermione replied. “And the café’s that way.”

    “I knew that.”

    Harry doubted it.

    “Get used to it, mate,” Ron said in a low voice as they followed the girls.

    “They weren’t like that before,” Harry told him.

    “That’s because you and Granger were waiting to hex each other.”

    Oh. Well, Harry couldn’t deny that.

    “Things changed,” he said.

    “Obviously.”

    They had reached the café. Harry checked for suspicious people before entering.

    “I know the staff,” Hermione said as they sat down on the terrace. “Unless someone used Polymorph to impersonate a waiter.”

    Ron rolled his eyes. “Really? What’s next, poison in the water?”

    Harry glanced at the bar. The bartender - or was that the barista? - didn’t look nervous or shady.

    “I was joking, mate.”

    “Besides, if anyone wanted to poison you, they could easily use a Switching Charm,” Lavender pointed out. Harry stared at her, and she huffed. “Really, that was a plot in Wizard of the Storm.”

    “I should’ve taken some bezoars,” Harry mumbled. There was one in his potion kit. Unless Rose had taken it in an emergency, of course, without telling him. Again.

    “Yes,” Hermione agreed. “We should also look into using poisons ourselves.”

    Ron and Lavender stared at her. “You want to assassinate people?”

    “No,” Hermione retorted. “But if we could find a way to aerosolize, say, a Sleeping Draught…”

    “Or a Draught of Living Death,” Harry suggested. “Though people will likely be casting Bubble-Head Charms before a battle.”

    Hermione nodded. “So we need to find a way so it gets absorbed through the skin.”

    “And consider bystanders,” Lavender remarked.

    Right.

    “Perhaps as a last resort,” Hermione amended. “It’s not a priority, anyway - we have more important things to do.”

    “And in a pinch, we can just ask Rose to brew Felix Felicis or something,” Harry suggested with a grin. That would probably result in a weapon of mass destruction.

    Ron chuckled, though Hermione shook her head. “That’s not very nice.”

    “But funny,” Lavender admitted. “But enough of talking about fighting. Or poisoning.”

    “Or duelling,” Ron added.

    “Or the Daily Prophet,” Hermione said.

    “Quidditch then,” Harry decided.

    Hermione rolled her eyes but didn’t protest.

    “Have you seen the lineup of the Cannons for this season? They’ve got a shot at the top!” Ron was, as usual, utterly delusional when it came to the League.

    “The Harpies will take the championship this time,” Lavender objected.

    “They couldn’t even beat Puddlemere last season.”

    “That was last season, and Puddlemere got lucky with the referee and the Snitch. They won’t be lucky forever.”

    “Was that when the Aurors were called in to investigate claims that the Seeker had been dosing himself with Felix Felicis?” Hermione asked.

    “Yes. And it was all swept under the carpet,” Lavender replied.

    “Well, someone should test the Cannons if someone’s been cursing them,” Harry said.

    “They get tested every season,” Ron replied with a glare.

    “Really?” Hermione leaned forward. “Always by the same person?”

    “No. They checked that, too,” Ron told her.

    “I heard that the Department of Mysteries is investigating the Cannons for their consistent streak of losses. It’s a mystery,” Harry said.

    Ron rolled his eyes, but he was smiling.

    Coming to this café had been a good idea, Harry had to admit.

    *****​

    Grimmauld Place, London, Britain, July 21st, 1996

    “And here’s the training room!” Mr Black announced as he opened the door with the kind of flourish Hermione Granger usually only saw in old Errol Flynn movies. She resisted the sudden and silly urge to curtsy as she stepped past the wizard, followed by Harry.

    The room was obviously enchanted with Extension Charms - it was far too large to fit on the floor. A duelling ring took up most of it, with training dummies and shelves lining the walls. A few seats and a couch were taking up space as well, looking oddly out of place.

    “Take a seat!” Mr Black told them, closing the door. “Kreacher!”

    “Yes, Master Black?” An old elf peered around the curtain in the corner. There must be a house-elf tunnel behind it, Hermione realised. She hadn’t seen them outside Hogwarts so far. If she hadn’t already known that the Blacks were an Old Family, this would’ve told her.

    “Serve the refreshments.”

    “As you wish, Master Black.” The elf inclined his head and disappeared.

    Harry frowned. “He’s acting differently than usual. He hasn’t insulted you.”

    Mr Black smiled in a rather wiry way. “I doubt it’ll last.”

    Hermione glanced at Harry, but her boyfriend didn’t seem to be inclined to pry further, even though it was clear as day that there was something more to this.

    “So, let’s sit down!” Mr Black went on. We’ve got a few things to discuss before we start with the practical lessons.”

    Hermione picked the couch, Harry joining her. “Is this conjured?” she asked.

    “Yes.” Mr Black smiled. “First lesson: Never put anything valuable in a duelling room - or salle, as we call it if we’re pompous. Stray spells will wreck things.”

    Hermione didn’t think she’d have to worry about that for a long time, seeing as her home had no duelling room, but she nodded. It was a sensible piece of advice, after all. And Harry flushed - there was a story there.

    “And second lesson: Conjuring is your friend. It lets you shape the battlefield. It’s currently not en vogue in the duelling scene, after the new rules limiting Blasting Curses, but in a real fight? A conjured wall will even block an unforgivable. Or hide you from a jealous boyfriend or girlfriend.” Mr Black chuckled at his own joke.

    Hermione smiled politely. If every lesson was accompanied by such jokes, this would be a long afternoon.

    “Are we training duelling here or defence?” Harry asked with a frown.

    “Both,” Mr Black replied. “But most importantly, we’ll teach you when to fight.”

    “That’s not going to be another ‘don’t hex Malfoy, call the prefects’ lesson, is it?” Harry asked with a pout.

    “I would never tell you not to hex Malfoy!” Mr Black said, putting a hand over his heart in obviously fake shock. “Getting hexed grows character, and Narcissa’s brat needs all the character growth he can get.”

    Hermione caught herself smiling at that. This description of Malfoy was on point.

    “But,” Mr Black went on, “you can’t curse him.” He looked at her, then at Harry.

    “Unless he tries to curse us,” Harry objected.

    “Well…” Mr Black tilted his head. “Even then, refrain from lethal or dark curses.”

    Hermione pressed her lips together to refrain from starting a discussion about the lethality of spells that rendered you helpless. “As long as it’s enough to stop him,” she said. She wouldn’t budge on that. Anyone who attacked her or Harry would be stopped, no matter what.

    Mr Black looked as if he were about to object, but the elf returned at that moment, carrying a tray full of sandwiches and various beverages. “I didn’t know if you had eaten already,” Mr Black explained. “So I had Kreacher prepare this.”

    “We went to a Chinese restaurant,” Harry told him.

    “Was the food good?”

    “Yes. They deliver if you want to try it for yourself,” Harry replied.

    Hermione noticed the elf sneered at that. She cleared her throat. “Anyway, we can handle Malfoy. Or any other student. We need more training to handle actual threats.”

    “Even Malfoy could be a threat if he learned dark curses,” Harry pointed out. “Shield Charms won’t help against the Unforgivables.”

    “That’s why we’re learning how to conjure walls!” Mr Black repeated himself. “The more obstacles you can put into your opponent’s way, the easier it is to escape.” He narrowed his eyes, Hermione noticed. “And if someone actually attacks you, escaping should be your priority. This isn’t a duel, where you are prepared for a fight - if someone attacks you, they are ready for a fight, and you are generally not ready. Trying to counterattack works in duels and novels, but in actual fights, you’re at a disadvantage as you are reacting and the enemy has the initiative. Escaping means you’ll be able to attack later on your terms.”

    Hermione slowly nodded, starting to take notes. This was good advice! And Mr Black hadn’t added some stupid jokes, either - he was obviously taking this seriously.

    And the sandwiches were excellent.

    *****​

    “...and that’s how you conjure a wall that won’t fall on you and crush you,” Sirius explained. “The trick is to add support. Or just conjure a wall with a corner.”

    Harry Potter rubbed his shoulder as he nodded. It didn’t hurt any more, but having a wall fall on you had been a rather memorable first lesson about conjuring obstacles. Hermione’s reaction had been memorable as well - she had been spitting mad at Sirius for letting Harry be hurt.

    Harry smiled at the memory. She cared so much for him. As he cared for her.

    Of course, Sirius might have to adjust his usual teaching style. Actually, he'd better adjust - Harry wasn’t going to let him hurt Hermione, either.

    “A quarter sphere would be useful, I think,” Hermione pointed out. “Or a wall supported by existing walls.”

    “It can work,” Sirius told her. “But best not to rely on that. If you’re used to conjuring walls that won’t fall over by themselves, you’ll be safer.”

    “I see.” Hermione nodded. “There’s still the problem of blocking your own line of sight.”

    “Unless you find a wall that is transparent for you but not for your enemy and as hard as stone or metal, you’ll have to live with it,” Sirius replied.

    “Maybe a composite wall, alternating layers of metal and stone, with slits for visibility? No, you’d need to be too close for that to provide any line of sight.” Hermione pursed her lips. “Armoured glass?”

    “That would allow the enemy to see you as well,” Harry reminded her.

    She sighed. “And adding a polarised layer on the side facing us might make the spell too complex to cast easily in the middle of a battle.”

    “Speed is essential,” Sirius cut in. “All other things being equal, the faster caster wins the match.”

    They knew that already - that was obvious, after all.

    “But all things are rarely equal. For example, casting faster might hamper your precision or aim,” Hermione objected.

    “Exactly. No matter how hard you train, you still have to make compromises. And judging when to cast as quickly as possible and when to take careful aim is what makes a successful duellist!”

    Harry had heard that before. Several times. “Yes,” he said anyway. “And we’ll be training that as well.”

    “But we need the basics first. There’s no point to focus on casting quickly if we cannot train with the spells we will cast in a fight,” Hermione said. “I’ve made a list of the spells we need to learn, but I might have missed a few.” She handed a sheet of parchment to Sirius.

    Harry’s godfather looked it over and blinked. “Merlin’s beard! That’s enough for a year!”

    “We don’t need all of them - the ones who take priority are at the top,” Hermione defended her list.

    “That’s still a dozen spells.”

    “Fourteen, actually,” she corrected him. “We should be able to finish that before we return to Hogwarts.”

    Harry nodded.

    Sirius stared at them. “You also need to be able to relax and enjoy your holiday!” he told them. “It’s not healthy to… to work like this.”

    “It also isn’t healthy to be captured or worse because you couldn’t defend yourself,” Harry said.

    “And it’s not as if this schedule is particularly demanding,” Hermione added. “I left enough time for, ah, rest and recreation.”

    She blushed slightly, Harry noticed. “And we spent the morning with Ron and Lavender,” he pointed out.

    “Also, learning new spells is fun.”

    Sirius narrowed his eyes slightly and looked from Harry to Hermione and back.

    “It’s like preparing a prank,” Harry explained. “You told me that you spent hours on some pranks, learning spells and brewing potions. Only, we won’t actually do what we’re planning, unlike you.” Unless, of course, someone attacked them. Or planned to attack them. Someone dangerous.

    Sirius snorted, slightly shaking his head. “I also taught you how to act as if you’re innocent.”

    “I’m not acting innocent!” Harry protested. And he never managed to fool Mum, anyway.

    “If you taught Harry to lie, shouldn’t you be able to tell if he’s lying?” Hermione asked.

    Sirius laughed at that. “Well, as long as you’re having fun and won’t hurt anyone, it’ll be fine.”

    Harry wasn’t sure if Mum and Dad would agree, but it was a sensible view, in his opinion. “Good.”

    “Now, I think we should learn the Disillusionment Charm first,” Hermione spoke up. “It’s a defensive spell, and while there are ways to defeat it, mainly the Human-presence-revealing Spell, it will allow us to escape more easily, especially if we use a broom.”

    Sirius laughed again. “That’s a good argument. But we all know that the Disillusionment Charm can also be used to attack someone by surprise.”

    “Only if they aren’t prepared,” Hermione objected.

    “And forget to take the range of the Human-presence-revealing Spell into account,” Harry added.

    Sirius frowned again. “Are you planning to keep casting that spell? At Hogwarts?”

    Hermione pursed her lips. “We did it before. Of course, I wasn’t aware that Harry didn’t know the Disillusionment Charm.”

    “Why would he, when he can use the cloak?” Sirius shrugged and ignored Harry’s wince.

    “Precisely. But we didn’t have an invisibility cloak with us when we were on the island.” Hermione scoffed. “There’s a lesson there.”

    A lesson Harry had already learned. He cleared his throat. “So, can we start learning the spell?”

    “Alright,” Sirius said.

    *****​

    Being disillusioned was a weird experience, Hermione Granger found. She couldn’t see her own body, which was more disorienting than she had expected. She hadn’t thought she relied so much on visual cues when it came to moving her limbs. Then again, she was in an unfamiliar environment. And she didn’t have much experience with this. Unlike, say, Harry, who apparently had been using invisibility cloaks since he was little, once causing a frantic search of the entire village when he had stolen his father’s cloak and fallen asleep under it. Mr Black might not be the best teacher, but he had a flair for telling stories.

    And, seeing as they had managed to learn the spell during the afternoon - albeit not to a level Hermione would call sufficient to use in a fight; she still tended to be slightly opaque on occasion, and Harry tended to flicker a little when he cast the spell too hastily - Harry’s godfather clearly was able enough as an instructor.

    She cancelled the spell - something that had taken some attempts as well until she managed to do it smoothly and without having to focus on it - and walked over to the small box with the remaining drinks. There was a bottle of mineral water - French - left. Overpriced, but it wasn’t her money.

    Harry’s marker floated over, and she saw a coke bottle suddenly float out of the box. As she watched, Harry opened the bottle and took a large swallow while still being disillusioned. The pop drink didn’t vanish upon entering his mouth, she noted - for a moment, she could see it outlined by brown liquid - but upon getting swallowed.

    She made a mental note to investigate the possibility of using coloured gas or liquid to detect and mark disillusioned people. It didn’t seem to be practical, but there might be potential.

    “So… I think we should call it a day,” Mr Black said as Harry faded into view and finished the bottle. “James, Lily and the others should be arriving for dinner soon.”

    Hermione nodded, forcing herself to keep smiling. ‘The others’ included her parents, and she wasn’t happy to hear them referred to like that. Then again, Mr Black didn’t know them as well as he did know Harry’s parents. Still…

    “And Rose,” Harry muttered. “Bet she wants to get into the library again.”

    “She won’t,” Mr Black said.

    “Oh?” Hermione cocked her head.

    “Rose thinks our potions recipes will help her,” Mr Black explained. “But… apart from the standard books, and some old editions of advanced Potions, it’s mostly books on exotic poisons. Great-Aunt Hyades was a poison aficionado, so to speak, and collected them on her travels.” He snorted. “People kept accusing her of poisoning her enemies, but she was cleared every single time.”

    Hermione frowned. The wording sounded like… “Was she actually poisoning people?”

    “Of course she was! She was responsible for ending our feud with the main branch of the Parkinsons - by removing them entirely. But since she was using unique and exotic poisons, nothing could be proven. On the other hand, when she accidentally poisoned herself, nothing could be proven, either.” Mr Black shrugged. “Apparently, Great-Uncle Taurus didn’t appreciate her attempt to take control of the family vault. Or the sudden death of his favourite mistress.”

    Hermione made a mental note to look into the Blacks a little more. What Mr Black had told them so far made it sound as if the rumours about the family had been understating things. Unless Mr Black was exaggerating a lot, though she didn’t think that this was the case. Harry seemed to take him at face value with regards to family history. “Charming witch,” she commented.

    “She was actually one of the nicer Blacks back in her day. She didn’t dabble in slavery, didn’t cast dark curses - no more so than the average Slytherin of her generation, at least - and she minded, ah… collateral damage, as the muggles call it. Now, old Orion Black - back in the seventeenth century, mind you, not my father - dealt with a rival family by sealing their home with a variety of curses and then used Fiendfyre to set the entire building aflame. The spells kept the poor sods from escaping, but didn’t contain the Fiendfyre.”

    Hermione winced at that. “I hope it wasn’t in a city.”

    “Oh, no. That was Thaddeus Black.” Mr Black must have noticed her reaction. “There’s a reason the Black family was feared - still is, in some circles.”

    Ah. She pursed her lips. “And did that serve as a deterrent to attacks?” she asked.

    Mr Black frowned at her. “Actually, no. The only ones who were deterred were no threat to begin with. But those who were up to challenging us actually escalated from the start, thinking they had nothing to lose. You didn’t think the Blacks supported the ban on legal feuding in Wizarding Britain out of the goodness of their black hearts, did you? No, they realised that things had become too costly.”

    That was a good point. They would have to consider this effect as well - trying to scare off potential enemies might cause more trouble than it was worth. It certainly hadn’t worked when Harry and herself had been feuding.

    Although she might want to rethink calling their rivalry a feud, after what she had heard today about the feuds of the Blacks. On the other hand… She smiled. “You said the Black Family was still feared in certain circles. Is it known that you are training us?”

    Mr Black narrowed his eyes at her, but Harry was smiling as well.

    *****​
     
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  19. Starfox5

    Starfox5 Experienced.

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    Definitely. Teenagers tend to underestimate their parents.
     
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  20. Threadmarks: Chapter 40: The Slavery Dilemma Part 1
    Starfox5

    Starfox5 Experienced.

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    Chapter 40: The Slavery Dilemma Part 1

    Grimmauld Place, London, Britain, July 21st, 1996

    “Thank you for having us over, Mr Black.”

    “Call me Sirius!”

    “Sorry, Sirius.”

    “Bye, Sirius!”

    Sirius Black wanted to shake his head as Harry and his girlfriend vanished in the fireplace. Miss Granger was a tough nut to crack, but he’d get her to call him Sirius and mean it.

    “Good evening, Sirius.” Lily nodded at him. “Don’t be too late, James,” she added, then stepped through the flames herself.

    Sirius refrained from sighing when the flames died down. James didn’t like it if he joked about Lily’s attitude. Instead, he turned, smiling at his best friend. “So, let’s retire to the study.”

    “Alright, Sirius.”

    “Kreacher!”

    “Yes, yes. Firewhisky,” the elf grumbled from behind the curtain.

    Sirius ignored the ‘drunkard’ he heard before the door to the elf passages closed. He wasn’t a drunkard. Not any more.

    James didn’t comment, either, as they walked to the study. With Peter and Remus gone on new assignments, it was just the two of them. As had been the norm since Hogwarts.

    Sirius sighed as he sat down in his favourite armchair - in this room. He had a favourite armchair in every room that contained armchairs. And he had a favourite armchair to conjure if a room lacked one.

    “So, how’s Harry doing?” James asked. “And Miss Granger?”

    Sirius raised his eyebrows slightly at the slip. “Well, I’m already thinking about what I’ll gift them for the wedding.”

    James, who had been about to pour some whisky into his glass - Kreacher had beaten them here, as expected - almost spilt it on the carpet. “What?”

    “I’m joking,” Sirius told him with a chuckle. He was - mostly.

    “You better be!” James retorted. “We raised Harry better than that!”

    “Don’t worry - I taught him all the necessary spells,” Sirius told him. “But they do remind me of you and Lily in sixth year.”

    “What?” James leaned forward.

    “Didn’t you realise how they talk? One of them says one thing, the other adds something, then the first one goes on…” Sirius spread his hands. “Happens often enough, and I don’t think they do it deliberately.”

    “That doesn’t mean anything.” James shook his head. “They’re teenagers. She’s Harry’s first girlfriend.”

    “First love,” Sirius said. “You should know the difference.”

    “It’s not the same. They were - they are - under a lot of stress. Much more than Lily and I were.”

    Sirius snorted. “We were in the middle of a war. Even as a student, Lily knew she was a target. For years.” Best student and a muggleborn? The Death Eaters hated her.

    “It’s…” James sighed. “I had girlfriends before her.”

    “You were going out with witches. You didn’t have girlfriends,” Sirius told him. “Trust me, I know the difference.” Too well, actually. Then again - Sirius was still young. He would find someone, one of those days. Once he started actually looking seriously. Probably abroad, though, where people didn’t know him or his wealth.

    James sighed. “Fine. They’re in love. Happy?” He filled his glass and took a swallow.

    “Harry is happy,” Sirius pointed out as he summoned the bottle to him.

    “Good. And I want him to stay happy.”

    “Well, I think they’ll stay happy, as far as I can tell.” Sirius filled his own glass and raised it. “Santé!” Ah! That burned nicely going down.

    “From one lesson?”

    “From watching them interact with each other,” Sirius replied. “They form a good team.”

    “He also is part of a good Quidditch team. That doesn’t mean that he’ll marry the keeper.”

    Sirius chuckled and refilled his glass before handing the bottle back to James. “What’s your problem, actually? Do you think Miss Granger is wrong for Harry?”

    “No,” James replied - a little too quickly. With another sigh, he added: “They spent years fighting each other. And now they’re a couple?”

    “Think positive: They already saw each other at their worst. And they’re basically living together now.”

    “Yes. Right after living together on the pirate island.” James took another swallow. “It’s all going so fast, Sirius. It took me months of dating Lily before we were even thinking of living together. They started living together before they got together.”

    “And it seems to be working. They aren’t you and Lily. Miss Granger isn’t ‘the most beautiful witch at Hogwarts’, for one,” Sirius quoted sixteen-year-old James with a laugh.

    James wasn’t laughing. “There are more beautiful witches at Hogwarts. I mean, Miss Granger isn’t ugly - she’s pretty - but...” He shrugged.

    Sirius blinked. “Do you think Harry will dump her for someone prettier?”

    James sighed once more. “They’re teenagers. Appearances count a lot.”

    “They’re not normal teenagers. I think you underestimate Harry.” Harry certainly seemed to think the world of her. Like James with Lily.

    “I hope you’re right,” James said. “If they have a nasty breakup… I already told Lily I would send Aurors to Hogwarts in that case, and I wasn’t entirely joking.”

    Sirius shook his head. “James… it’s not just Harry who was under a lot of stress. We all were.”

    “We were trained for this. Used to this,” his friend retorted.

    “Used to worry about Harry’s life?” Sirius shook his head. “No, we weren’t. Not any more. Also, would you have dumped Lily for, say, Mathilda Browtuckle?”

    “Of course not! But Lily’s much prettier than Mathilda.”

    Sirius shook his head. “James, Mathilda was the most beautiful girl at Hogwarts. Hell, Peter was convinced she was a Veela in disguise. But you loved Lily.” He made a mental note to look up how Mathilda was doing these days. Last he heard, she had moved to France after school.

    James grumbled and refilled his glass.

    “So, stop worrying so much about what might happen.” Sirius nodded at him, then summoned the bottle and vanished it. James had had enough, in his opinion - and Sirius knew too much about drinking to trust himself.

    “I can’t help worrying. Both of them, they’re so… tense. Paranoid.” James scoffed and put the empty glass down on the side table with a slight crack. “And I can’t do anything to help them.”

    “Well, I think they’re going to be OK,” Sirius said. “I’m teaching them how to react to surprises.”

    James, surprisingly, didn’t seem to feel reassured by that. “And what exactly did you teach them today?”

    “We’ve started on the Disillusionment Charm. And I’ve stressed how escaping should be their priority if they’re under attack,” Sirius told him. “And yes, I think they understood the lesson.”

    “Remains to be seen if they actually heed your advice. They bloody attacked a pirate ship and port!” James blurted out.

    “And they succeeded,” Sirius replied. He shrugged. “And they only stayed long enough to save the little Veela and get the hell out of the village.”

    “Harry sunk the ship.”

    “All part of their plan to lure them away.”

    “Which almost got Harry killed!” James hit the armrest of his chair with his fist.

    There was that. “I think he’s learned his lesson about that,” Sirius said.

    “And you think next time he won’t risk himself like that?” James scoffed.

    “I don’t think there’ll be a next time,” Sirius said. “This was a once-a-lifetime accident. Do you honestly think that he’ll end up stranded on an island again? On our watch?”

    “No, of course not,” his friend admitted.

    “And even if it happened again, they’ll be much better prepared for it. Once I’m through with them, they’ll be able to escape any pirate crew.”

    “But what if someone goes after him? And Miss Granger?” James looked around, presumably for the bottle. “Someone could read the stupid article and think that is a way to earn a reputation.”

    “Against one or even two students?” Sirius shook her head. “And do you think they would risk Dumbledore’s ire for this?”

    “Some criminals are that dumb,” James retorted.

    “Well, if they are, then I think Harry and Miss Granger can handle them.” Sirius shrugged again and leaned back. Idiots just weren’t too dangerous.

    “Unless they get lucky. Or do something so mindlessly stupid, Harry wouldn’t expect it.”

    “Never underestimate the Slytherins! Or, in this case, overestimate them!” Sirius joked.

    James gave him a decidedly unamused look. “It’s not funny.”

    Sirius disagreed - Slytherins being dumb was always funny - but he shrugged once more. “All I’m saying is that you should trust Harry and Miss Granger a bit more. They did survive - and succeed - where grown wizards would have died.” Had died, actually, as the wand they had found proved, but this wasn’t the time to remind James of that little tidbit. “They’ll be able to handle Hogwarts, dumb Slytherins and any idiot trying to get a name for themselves. Without killing anyone.”

    James clenched his teeth and took a deep breath. “It’s not that easy.”

    Of course it wasn’t. Sirius worried himself. Sometimes, you had all the skill in the world, and your enemy got lucky - Duelling proved that every season. But you couldn’t plan for that. “Trust Harry. He’s your son. You raised him. You and Lily.”

    “We didn’t raise him to spend years feuding with a classmate.”

    “Well… we did the same thing.”

    “That’s not a good thing, Sirius.”

    He spread his hand. “If you say so.” Snivellous certainly had deserved it. Bloody Death Eater. “Anyway,” he continued before James could elaborate on this, “Harry stopped that, didn’t he?”

    James gave him the unamused look again. “He didn’t exactly stop because he realised that what he was doing was wrong.”

    “Does it matter as long as he eventually realised that it was wrong?”

    James sighed. “So, you think everything’s fine?”

    “What?” Sirius cocked his head at James. “No, of course not. But Harry and Miss Granger should be fine.” Narcissa’s spawn, on the other hand… Sirius smiled.

    “I wish I could share the sentiment.”

    “It’s easy. Just trust your son. And his girlfriend. And don’t try to hold them back from learning new spells.” Sirius had the other points covered, anyway. A few Galleons for a new premium broom and other supplies wouldn’t even dent his money. And those could be used for Quidditch, so it was a sensible expense.

    James sighed again - that was, what, the fifth time now? Something like it - and stood. “Well, I’ll have to head home before Lily comes looking for me.”

    Sirius flashed him a wide grin as he got up as well. “You decided to get married, James.”

    “You would’ve done the same if you had found a witch like her.”

    “Maybe.” Sirius hadn’t been ready to marry anyone after Hogwarts. And he hadn’t been ready for anything after the war. Not that it mattered. He was still young. Not even forty. Even for a Black, that was not old.

    “Ah…” James hesitated, then took a step closer and put his hand on Sirius’s shoulder. “Thank you. For, you know…” He trailed off.

    Sirius nodded. “Anytime. Have a safe trip home. And send Harry and Miss Granger my regards.”

    “You just saw them.”

    “So?” Sirius grinned. And kept grinning until James had vanished in the fireplace.

    *****​

    Godric’s Hollow, Devon, Britain, July 22nd, 1996

    Harry Potter grinned when he approached his target. She was unaware of his presence, focused on her breakfast and the Daily Prophet. Not that it would’ve changed anything if she had been paying attention - he was invisible. And he was walking carefully - she wouldn’t hear his steps. He knew where the creaking floorboards were and avoided them until he was standing right behind her.

    Then he struck. “Surprise!” His fingers dug into her sides as he tickled her.

    Rose shrieked and jumped up, scattering cereal across the table. “Harry! You prat!”

    He laughed. “Oh, your reaction!”

    “Mum! Harry’s using Dad’s cloak again!” the nark yelled.

    “I’m not!” Harry protested. “This is a Disillusionment Charm!”

    “Mum! Harry’s breaking the underage magic law!”

    “That’s the ‘Decree for the Reasonable Restriction of Underage Sorcery’,” he corrected her.

    Rose rolled her eyes. “You sound like your girlfriend.”

    He did not! But just as he was about to correct his sister, Mum entered the kitchen. “What did you do, Harry?”

    He shrugged. “Just having a laugh. I snuck up on Rose and tickled her.” Harmless fun.

    “He made me spill my breakfast!” Rose protested.

    “You spilt it when you overreacted.”

    “I didn’t overreact! And you’re one to complain - if I had sneaked up on you, you’d have blown up the kitchen!” Rose shook her head.

    Mum vanished the mess before summoning another bowl and the cereal box.

    “I wouldn’t have blown up the kitchen!” Harry told her.

    “You would! Mum told me so!”

    “Mum!” He turned to his mother.

    “You were - and still are - jumpy, Harry,” she told him. “You yourself said that you are afraid of an attack.”

    “I’m not afraid of an attack!” Harry clenched his teeth. “I’m just cautious.”

    “You’re paranoid,” Rose muttered.

    “I’m not paranoid!” He glared at her. “I was attacked by pirates.”

    “Not in England,” she shot back. “Do you really think there’ll be a pirate ship sailing up the creek? Or a Viking raid?”

    “Rose!” Mum snapped. “Don’t make light of your brother’s… views.”

    Harry narrowed his eyes at her. ‘Views’? What had been her first choice? Fears? Delusions? He was just being cautious. Besides, Sirius was teaching him how not to overreact to pranks. “I wouldn’t blow up anything or anyone. Maybe stun an idiot who attacked me…” He bared his teeth at Rose.

    “You won’t stun your sister, Harry!” Mum snapped. “Or anyone else!”

    “Unless they attack me,” he insisted.

    Mum stared at him, then sighed.

    Harry grinned as Rose pouted. Point Harry!

    “Good morning.”

    “Hermione!” He turned and beamed at her.

    “Don’t act like you haven’t spent the night together,” Rose mumbled.

    “Rose!” Mum put her hands on her hips and glared at the brat.

    Harry frowned, then smiled and wrapped his arm around Hermione’s waist. “And?” His sister was just jealous. Or should that be envious? It wasn’t as if she wanted Hermione - she just wanted a boyfriend. At least he thought so.

    “What happened?” Hermione asked.

    “Rose spilt her cereal when I tickled her,” Harry explained.

    “You pranked me!”

    “I only tickled you.” Harry snorted.

    “From behind! While disillusioned!”

    “Oh! You could sneak up on her? That’s great!”

    “What?” Rose gaped at them.

    “We’ve just started learning the charm,” Hermione explained. “And we haven’t mastered it yet.” A moment later, she raised her wand and cast the spell herself.

    “Mum!” Rose protested again while Hermione faded from view.

    And his mother sighed again. “Please, don’t train casting spells at the table.”

    “Sorry, Mrs Potter,” Hermione said, cancelling the spell.

    “Call me Lily.”

    “Lily.” Hermione nodded.

    Harry smiled. She wasn’t too comfortable with using Mum’s first name, but he was sure she would get there.

    “Now, let’s eat breakfast,” Mum said. “And no more spells.”

    Harry pulled Hermione’s chair out before sitting down himself. Rose rolled her eyes, of course, but everyone ignored her. He was tempted to kick her under the table - that wouldn’t break Mum’s no spells rule. But it would cause more trouble.

    Mum put the basket with toast on the table, and Harry grabbed one. While he spread butter and jam over it, he peered at the Prophet.

    “You’re not on the front page,” Rose told him as she pulled the newspaper back and out of his reach.

    “Good,” Hermione said. “The first article was bad enough.”

    “You’re on pages two and three,” Rose added with a slight smirk.

    Harry groaned, and Hermione pursed her lips.

    “You’re mentioned in the article, but it’s mostly an in-depth report about piracy,” Mum told her. “They just used your names to draw attention.”

    That was… well, acceptable, in Harry’s opinion. “As long as they don’t have me storm a harem,” he muttered.

    Hermione nodded emphatically.

    “It’s mostly aimed at Dumbledore,” Rose told them without looking up from the article in question. “They’re questioning why he hasn’t done anything about the pirates.”

    “That might start a war with the Ottoman Empire,” Mum commented. “Attacking a hidden island nominally under no one’s control is one thing. Starting to attack all the pirates in the Barbary Coast? That would start a war.”

    “Dumbledore would win the war,” Rose objected.

    “At what cost? He can’t be everywhere, and while he is scouring the Barbary Coast, they’ll strike at our shores,” Mum countered.

    Harry frowned. This sounded… “But we should do something.”

    “Yes. But through diplomacy,” Mum retorted.

    “I bet the French disagree,” Hermione commented.

    Mum frowned at her.

    *****​

    Hermione Granger met Mrs Potter’s gaze - Lily’s, she reminded herself - without flinching. Much. “In a war, it wouldn’t be just Dumbledore. At least France, as well as Spain and Portugal, would join us. And some of the Italian enclaves. Probably the Balkans, too.”

    “The war would spread to half of Europe - the entire Mediterranean,” Mrs Potter replied.

    “If the Ottomans want to risk such a war,” Hermione pointed out. The threat of such a war, after all, had made the Ottomans back down and outlaw slave raids and piracy in the fifties. Nominally, at least - it wasn’t as if they had really gone after slavers and pirates.

    “If the Ottomans back down, the Sultan would lose face and possibly be replaced,” Mrs Potter retorted. “He might prefer a war to that. And how many would die in such a war?”

    Hermione pressed her lips together. You couldn’t just weigh lives against each other like that. Slavery was evil. And as long as no one did anything, it would continue. “And how many people will be kidnapped and enslaved every year if nothing is done?” She raised her chin.

    “That’s why Dumbledore is using diplomacy,” Mrs Potter said. “He doesn’t want to risk a war.”

    Though diplomacy wouldn’t stop the pirates. Not for a long while, Hermione was certain. But she was a guest here, and arguing too much would be rude.

    “That won’t help the pirates’ victims, Mum.” Harry, obviously, had no such qualms.

    “As it is, the Ottomans have at least to act as if they want to suppress piracy and slavers. If war breaks out, they will not only stop even pretending to care - they will set the pirates loose and support them,” Mrs Potter retorted. “And in war, we’d have to fight the Sultan’s Janissaries.”

    Hermione pressed her lips together. The Janissaries, like their defunct muggle counterparts, were slaves raised to be loyal soldiers of the Sultan. Fighting them… Well, it would be like fighting the victims of the Imperius Curse.

    Harry, judging by his scowl, was aware of that as well.

    “Harry…” Mrs Potter sighed and sat down at the table. “And Hermione. I, we are aware of the situation. And none of us likes it. But a war isn’t the solution. No matter what the French think.”

    “Not the best solution, maybe. But it would be a solution,” Harry said.

    “A bad one,” Mrs Potter said.

    Rose didn’t weigh in, Hermione noticed. Which was a little weird - the girl hadn’t struck her as holding back with her opinion on pretty much anything. “But everyone knows that the Ottomans not only tolerate but protect slavers,” she said.

    “Some ‘know’ that Britain protects dark wizards,” Mrs Potter said with a frown. “They point at the many ‘victims of the Imperius Curse’ that were let go after the war. Some claim that the fact that a war happened in the first place is proof that Britain’s riddled with dark wizards.”

    Well, Hermione wouldn’t completely disagree with that. “There are a lot of people who think that the Death Eaters were too radical, but not really wrong.”

    “Like Malfoy,” Harry added.

    Mrs Potter shook her head. “Things have improved a lot since I started at Hogwarts.”

    “That was in the middle of the war,” Harry protested.

    “And we won the war,” she replied. “At great cost. Which is why I don’t condone starting another war if we can avoid it.”

    Hermione pressed her lips together before she could mention Chamberlain. Which would’ve been unfair, anyway - the man had started Britain’s rearmament and must have been aware that war was nigh inevitable. But everyone knew what he stood for now. Still… “You can always avoid a war by surrendering,” she said. And struggled not to flinch at the glare she received in return.

    “I didn’t mean that. Of course you can’t just surrender. Or give in to the most atrocious demands. But to start a war over an issue you can solve with more peaceful means? That is wrong.”

    Hermione bit her lower lip, feeling her cheeks heat up. She had bungled that.

    “Mum!” Harry leaned forward and glared at her.

    Mrs Potter glared back.

    “Mum,” Rose piped up, “Would you go to war if they had taken Harry to Constantinople? Or me?”

    “I would’ve gone in with our friends and gotten you out,” Mrs Potter said after a moment.

    “And if that would’ve started a war?” Hermione asked before she could control herself.

    “We would’ve tried to minimise the danger of that. Peter knows how to be subtle. As long as the Sultan doesn’t lose too much face, things wouldn’t have escalated.”

    That sounded, well, not wrong, but a little… selective.

    “And we can’t do that for the other victims?” Harry asked, scowling still.

    “There are too many for that,” Mrs Potter replied. “I don’t like it, but that’s the reality of it. Unless you want to go to war. And trust me, you don’t want to go to war.”

    Well, Hermione didn’t want to go to war. But she didn’t want to leave anyone in slavery, either. “Then, perhaps, we should do something about this. Diplomatically,” she added.

    “What?” Harry asked.

    “We’re currently the focus of the press,” she explained. Harry more so than herself, but still. “We could give another interview. About piracy and slavery.”

    Harry nodded with a smile. “Oh, yes. Use this whole thing for a good purpose!”

    “I would suggest you ask Dumbledore for advice first.” Mrs Potter’s tone clearly told Hermione that this wasn’t a suggestion but an order.

    Well, it was a sensible order, at least.

    *****​

    “Sorry about Mum.” Harry Potter smiled at Hermione as they walked over to the shed in the backyard. “She’s… well, you saw.” He shrugged.

    “Yes. Understandable, actually, since she fought in the Blood War.” Hermione nodded.

    He clenched his teeth for a moment. He didn’t quite agree. “Well, it’s a little hypocritical, isn’t it? She’d be willing to go to war for Rose and me, but not for Céline.”

    Hermione bit her lower lip. “She said that she would’ve freed you without starting a war.”

    “She would come save us even if it would start a war.” Harry had no doubt about that. He sighed. “It just… doesn’t feel right.”

    Hermione bit her lower lip again. Was she holding back to not criticise Mum? “She had several convincing arguments against waging war.”

    “They’re only convincing if Dumbledore actually can stop the pirates. They haven’t been stopped yet, and it’s been decades,” Harry pointed out. “And how many people have been kidnapped since then? Not everyone can call on Dumbledore or Mum and Dad’s other friends to save someone.”

    “Yes,” Hermione agreed. “But how many would die in a war?”

    Well, that was an unfair question. “It’s still not fair.”

    “No, it isn’t. But leaving you in captivity or slavery just to be fair wouldn’t be right, either. Just because you can’t or won’t save everyone doesn’t mean you can’t save anyone.”

    “Yes. But let’s stop talking about Rose or I being enslaved, alright?” And Harry wasn’t even touching the question of whether or not Mum - or Dumbledore - would risk a war for Hermione. Though he was sure that Hermione was thinking about it. “Let’s fly!” he said with a smile that was almost genuine.

    “Yes.” Hermione sounded a little less enthusiastic than Harry had expected, but she nodded anyway. Well, she had selected flying as something they needed to train.

    “Come, we’ve got a few brooms in the shed.” Not as many as the Weasleys had, of course, but the Potters didn’t have a Quidditch pitch. “I learned how to fly on those brooms,” he told Hermione.

    “And how far can we fly here?” Hermione asked. “Half the village are muggles, as far as I know.”

    “Well… the backyard is covered with charms,” Harry said. “And the field beyond that.” Which was a little larger than a Quidditch pitch, but not by much. Then again, what more did you need?

    “So we’ll focus on manoeuvring instead of on speed, I guess.”

    “A bit of both,” Harry said. “Like Quidditch.”

    “Without Bludgers, I hope.”

    “Not until we’ve gotten the basics down.” Well, until she got the basics down. “But you already flew great on the island.”

    “I levitated a plank,” she corrected him.

    “And then you flew the broom. This will be easy.” He opened the door to the shed. “Ignore the garden tools. Now… this is a Cleansweep Six. Good broom, agile and decently fast. Good for Beaters.”

    “I’ve read up on them.” Hermione took it.

    Of course she had. “Sirius should buy you a Nimbus 2001, at the least,” he said.

    She pressed her lips together and didn’t comment on that. “Let’s fly.”

    Harry grabbed a Cleansweep Five - but one in good condition; Dad’s first broom - and followed her outside. A moment later, they were in the air.

    And he loved it. Out of habit, he pulled straight up, climbing a hundred yards in a few seconds, then levelled out.

    Hermione was following him, though a little more slowly. “Look at that!” Harry said, gesturing towards the village spread in front of them.

    “And they can’t see us?” Hermione asked.

    “No. I do this every time I fly,” he told her. “Just looking.” At the village, at the land around it.

    “It’s… impressive.”

    “It’s great!” He smiled. “Just you and your broom. And the sky.” Almost as great as playing Quidditch.

    Hermione laughed. “And no wyvern to hunt us.”

    “Right.” He glanced at her. She was sitting on her broom and looked more relaxed now. Her ponytail was unravelling, but the slight breeze kept the strands of hair that had already escaped from her face. She was wearing jeans and a t-shirt. Sensible muggle clothes for broom riding. Not quite as good as Quidditch robes, but… they looked better on her than robes. Much better.

    He wet his lips, then grinned and guided his broom next to her.

    “I’ll have to train how to fly backwards with a broom - and sideways,” she said. “This could be…”

    He interrupted her by leaning over and kissing her.

    This was perfect. Just perfect. Just him, her, and the sky. And a gentle breeze. And…

    ...claws on his shoulder, and something slapping the back of his head. Hedwig.

    He pulled back, wincing when the sudden movement made his own grip his shoulder more tightly, her claws pricking his skin. She barked into his ear, too.

    “Great,” he heard Hermione mutter. “The owl is back.”

    And she had a letter.

    He gently took it from her leg, fed her a treat from his pocket, then opened the envelope.

    “It’s from Ron, asking if we’re busy this afternoon. Or if we want to hang out.”

    “We’ve got duelling practice,” Hermione reminded him.

    That was true. They could go over to Ron to fly on the pitch. On the other hand… He smiled at Hermione. “We’re good here.”

    She nodded.

    They could go hang with Ron and Lavender tomorrow.

    Today, it was just the two of them. Almost like back on the island.

    *****​

    Kingston upon Thames, London, Britain, July 22nd, 1996

    “Mum! Dad! We’re back!” Hermione Granger announced as they entered the house. Both her parents should be around at this time of the evening - it was time for dinner, almost a little late, actually.

    “Hermione! Harry! Did you have a nice day?” Mum appeared in the doorway to the living room.

    “Yes, Mum,” Hermione replied. “We stayed a little longer than planned at Grimmauld Place, sorry.”

    “Welcome back!” Dad hollered from the kitchen.

    “Sirius made us run late,” Harry said as they followed Mum back into the living room.

    Hermione frowned at him. “It was our fault for not watching the time,” she told him.

    “He should’ve kept the time in mind,” Harry retorted with a grin. “Besides, he told me himself that part of a godfather’s duty was taking the blame for my mistakes.”

    She snorted at that. It certainly fit the man. And if he had actually said it, then blaming him would be alright.

    “Dinner will be served in fifteen minutes!” Dad yelled.

    Which probably meant twenty to thirty. Dad wasn’t the most experienced cook. “OK, Dad,” she yelled back.

    Mum frowned at that - she didn’t like yelling in the house. “So, what did you do today?” she asked as she sat down on the couch, putting away the magazine she must have been reading.

    “We went flying in the morning,” Harry said, smiling widely.

    Hermione smiled as well. After the slightly daunting start, it had been a wonderful experience. Even when they had been training to weave around obstacles. Flying, on a proper broom, and without people casting curses at you, was incredible. The freedom in the sky… She understood Harry’s enthusiasm now.

    Quidditch was still a little overhyped, though. Not that she’d tell him that, of course. “It was great, Mum. Much better than the lessons at school.”

    “And it’ll be even better once Sirius gets you a top-of-the-line broom,” Harry added. “We only had a Cleansweep Five and Six. With a Nimbus 2001 or a Sturmwind Blitz, it’ll be incredible!”

    Hermione winced. That was a little delicate. Perhaps...

    “Sturmwind Blitz?” Mum asked, frowning a little.

    “The main racing model from Sturmwind,” Harry explained. “With it and the Tornado II, they’re the main competitor for the Firebolt in the Quidditch leagues. They’re Prussians, so they’re usually focusing on the European markets, but the Firebolt outclassed everything when it came out three years ago, and they have rushed to upgrade their Tornado Model and then released the Blitz and are now pushing into Britain as well.”

    “Well, I can think of more tasteful names than ‘Blitz’,” Mum said.

    Hermione nodded. It seemed Mum hadn’t caught the insinuation about Harry’s godfather.

    But then her mother went on: “But why would Mr Black buy Hermione a broom? Especially a very expensive one, as this sounds like.” Mum narrowed her eyes slightly at Hermione. “I remember the prices in the broom shop window last year.”

    She suppressed the urge to cringe and sat straighter. “Mr Black wants me to be as safe as possible, so Harry won’t ‘do anything stupid’ to save me.”

    “If you need anything, we can certainly supply you with it,” Mum said.

    “That’s just an excuse Sirius uses,” Harry told her. “He likes giving people gifts. You should’ve seen the portable Potions lab Rose got for her eleventh birthday. It was meant for Potioneers on expeditions for new material and recipes - it had everything in it.”

    “For an eleven-year-old girl?” Mum asked.

    “Yes. She had a lot of fun until she managed to blow it up.” Harry chuckled. “Mum was furious about the clean-up. And forbid Sirius to give her anything like that until she gets her N.E.W.T.s.”

    “I see.”

    “No, you don’t,” Hermione blurted out. “Brooms are different. The faster and more manoeuvrable a broom is, the better we can escape from attackers. But they’re not any more dangerous just for being faster.” Mum looked doubtful, so Hermione added: “And we’re training flying evasively.”

    Mum was still frowning. “Just how expensive is such a broom?”

    “We haven’t yet decided on a specific model,” Hermione said.

    “How expensive is a Nimbus 2001 or a Blitz?”

    Hermione clenched her teeth and glanced at Harry. Lying wouldn’t help. She told her mother.

    Mum didn’t quite gasp, but drawing a surprised breath through clenched teeth wasn’t much better. “You could buy a car for that sum. A nice car.”

    “Well, it’s like a car for wizards and witches,” Harry said. “And brooms last. We were riding Dad’s first broom today and also his second broom. They’re still working like a charm.”

    Hermione rolled her eyes at the weak joke.

    He chuckled in return. “Anyway, Sirius can afford it, trust me.”

    “I have no doubt that Mr Black can afford it. But I don’t like anyone buying Hermione such an expensive gift,” Mum replied. “If you need such a broom, we can cover that.”

    They could afford it, Hermione knew, but… it would eat into their funds. They wouldn’t have to cut back on anything, but… it was quite the sum. Almost like buying her a Ferrari as her first car. Not that she needed a car.

    “But you don’t have to. Sirius will probably consider it a birthday gift. If you pay for the broom, he’ll find something else,” Harry said.

    Hermione pressed her lips together when she had a brief vision of a portable library stocked with the rarest books available. No, she wouldn’t sink as low as trying to milk Harry’s godfather. On the other hand, he still owed her for helping Harry in their feud…

    “I’ll have to discuss this with Gabriel,” Mum said.

    “And us,” Hermione reminded her.

    Mum pursed her lips. Drat.

    *****​

    Well, I messed up, Harry Potter thought. He hadn’t realised Sirius being, well, Sirius would be a problem. On the other hand, Hermione hadn’t mentioned it either. Still, it seemed odd. Once Mrs Granger had left the living room, he leaned over to Hermione and whispered: “Why doesn’t she like it if Sirius gives you a broom?”

    “Mum and Dad don’t like feeling as if they need charity,” Hermione replied in a low voice. “Or as if they owe someone. They would rather take a loan than let uncle Alfred pay the mortgage for them.”

    “Oh.” Harry swallowed his first retort. He could kind of understand the attitude, but… “This is about your safety. And you shouldn’t have to feel as if you’re robbing your parents.”

    “I know,” she hissed back. “But they don’t see it like that.”

    Before Harry could reply, Mrs Granger returned. “Dinner will be ready soon.”

    “OK!” He forced himself to smile again. “Anyway, as I said, Sirius will give Hermione an expensive gift for her birthday. So, if it’s not a broom, it’ll be something else. You can’t really stop him - trust me, my parents tried.” Not for too long, of course - they’d known Sirius for a long time by then.

    Mrs Granger didn’t seem to be any happier about this than she had been a minute or two ago.

    “And don’t try to tell me I should refuse a gift,” Hermione said. “I don’t want to insult Mr Black.”

    Harry opened his mouth to explain that Sirius wouldn’t feel insulted, but she stepped on his foot before he could say anything. Ah!

    Her mother had narrowed her eyes. “That seems rather convenient.”

    Hermione met her eyes without flinching. “Old pureblood families have some customs that would seem strange to us.”

    “Oh, yes. Usually small stuff,” Harry said. “But you can easily make a faux-pas if you don’t know about them.” Mostly by being friendly with the wrong person - feuds ran deep and long amongst the Old Families - but that was neither here nor there.

    “Ah.” Mrs Granger sighed. “I don’t like it.”

    “I don’t like it either, Mum,” Hermione said. “But Harry’s right. And I would be safer with a better broom.”

    Harry nodded.

    “Dinner’s ready! À table!” Mr Granger called out.

    Dinner, as it turned out, was parmesan chicken with pasta. Apparently a speciality of Mr Granger. It was good, though, of course, it didn’t compare to Molly’s cooking. Not that Harry said so - as a little kid, he had learned from his mum’s reaction that this was rude and stupid.

    But while they ate, the conversation was limited to lighter topics. Or what passed as lighter topics at the Granger’s. Mostly the news, it seemed, and books of all kinds. He had a little trouble following some of the stuff, not having read nearly as many books, but he could easily keep up with the politics thanks to his visits to Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon. Although their stances were quite different from the Grangers’.

    “So,” Mr Granger said while they were clearing the table - Harry had to remind himself that they couldn’t just charm the silverware and pots to clean themselves, “I’ve heard there’s some issue about a racing broom that Hermione wants.”

    “Needs,” Harry corrected him. The man frowned a little at him, but Harry wouldn’t budge on that.

    “It will make escaping enemies safer and easier,” Hermione said. “And it’ll also keep for years.”

    “Unless you crash it.”

    “Brooms are made to last,” Harry said. “I’ve crashed half a dozen times during Quidditch, and my Firebolt is still fine!”

    “You’ve crashed half a dozen times?” Mrs Granger’s eyebrows rose. As did Mr Granger’s. And they glanced at Hermione.

    “I had nothing to do with that!” she protested. “Besides, you’d have to be suicidal to mess with Quidditch!”

    “That wasn’t what we were thinking,” her mum said. “But if Harry crashed six times, and he’s one of the best Quidditch players in England…”

    Harry smiled, straightening a little. He was the youngest Seeker in a very long time, after all. And he had played a crucial role in securing the Quidditch Cup for Gryffindor every year since he started playing.

    “He is. He is also absolutely reckless when he’s playing,” Hermione told her parents. “Once he sees the Snitch, he won’t stop until he catches it.”

    “‘Catch the Snitch or die trying’, as my first captain told me,” Harry said with his best cocky grin - almost like Bill’s.

    The Grangers, though, didn’t seem to be impressed. Not at all.

    He smiled at them. “How about we take you flying, so you can see it for yourself?”

    “Ah…” Mrs Granger started to say.

    “That’s an excellent idea!” Hermione positively gushed. “Just as you always say: Don’t knock it if you haven’t tried it!”

    “We were talking about vegetables, dear,” Mr Granger told her.

    “The principle remains the same,” she retorted with her chin slightly raised.

    Harry nodded. This should be good!

    *****​
     
    bukay, Kildar, space turtle and 20 others like this.
  21. Threadmarks: Chapter 41: The Slavery Dilemma Part 2
    Starfox5

    Starfox5 Experienced.

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    Chapter 41: The Slavery Dilemma Part 2

    Godric’s Hollow, Devon, Britain, July 23rd, 1996

    “And this is a Cleansweep Five. Old, but reliable. It has been working perfectly for decades by now!”

    Ellen Granger had to struggle to keep smiling. Harry was obviously convinced that telling her that the broom had been in operation for over twenty years was a good sign. But she couldn’t help feeling that this just meant that it was about to break down.

    “I hope it was regularly maintained,” Gabriel commented. He chuckled as if he were joking, but he wasn’t joking at all - Ellen could easily tell.

    Unfortunately, so could Hermione. “Dad! It’s perfectly safe! Spells don’t run out like that.”

    “But what about them ‘getting quirky’, as you called it?” Gabriel asked. So, he also remembered that tidbit about magic their daughter had shared.

    “And the school brooms were, according to you, for the most part in a deplorable state,” she reminded Hermione.

    “Those are bad because they were cheap and used hard in Quidditch,” Harry said. “Dad only used this broom for a few years and only one season in Quidditch. And we polish and check the bristles and spells every year.”

    Hermione nodded. “I’ve flown both - they’re in excellent shape.”

    “Compared to the flying deathtraps at school?” Gabriel asked.

    Hermione actually blushed a little. “They’re not that bad,” she protested. “And I didn’t know too much about brooms when I said that.”

    “Hermione, admitting ignorance?” Gabriel chuckled again. “You must be honest, then.”

    “Yes, I am honest.” Hermione glared at him.

    Harry was hiding a grin himself, Ellen noticed. So, he wasn’t blind to her daughter’s faults. Good. Teenage relationships were fragile enough without that.

    “Now step up! It’s time for you to fly!” Hermione put both hands on her hips. Like Ellen’s mother when she was stubborn.

    Ellen sighed and walked next to the Cleansweep Six on the ground. “That’s the newer one, right?”

    “Yes. But it was used more often in Quidditch, so it’s a little… well, it’s still faster and more agile,” Harry explained.

    “They’re basically the same,” Hermione chimed in.

    Gabriel gave Ellen a look, then stepped to the older one.

    Ellen refrained from grimacing in return and sighed.

    “No, hold your hand above the broom, as if you’re about to catch it when it jumps up since that’s what you’re about to do, and say ‘Up!’ in a firm voice,” Harry instructed her.

    “You have to mean it,” Hermione added.

    Ellen took a deep breath and held out her hand. She didn’t really want to fly, but… she wanted to appear as a hypocrite to Hermione even less. Even if Hermione knew that and was exploiting it rather ruthlessly. But witch or not, her daughter was still a teenager, and Ellen wouldn’t cave so easily. And, a small part of her whispered, she would like to fly. She just didn’t want to crash. So… “Up!”

    The broom jumped up, and she gasped, barely managing to catch it - it actually hurt her a little as it smacked into her palm. But she held it. Felt it… pulling and pushing against her grip. This was magic. A flying broom.

    She was smiling, she realised. And so was Gabriel.

    “Great!” Harry said. “Now straddle it. Like this.” He demonstrated it on his own broom. As did Hermione.

    “And don’t worry - we’ll levitate your clothes, should you fall. I’m covering you, Mum. And Harry’s covering Dad.”

    That was… actually reassuring. And Ellen, sitting on a magic broom, could use the assurance.

    “Now, gently, slowly guide the broom up and ahead. At a low angle.” Harry didn’t tell her how, though.

    “Just nudge it - and keep control of the angle of ascent or descent by moving the shaft.” Hermione, at least, gave more practical advice. Probably from her own experience.

    Ellen held her breath and pulled the shaft’s tip up a little. Then she gasped as the broom started to move and her feet left the ground.

    She was flying. She was flying. On a broom. This was… this was… Incredible!

    “Steady, Mum! Watch the tree!”

    Tree? She gasped and pulled on the shaft to avoid the tree in front of her. The broom veered to the left, and she started… rolling?

    “Clench your legs!”

    “Watch out!”

    Too late - she slipped off the broom, dangling from her hands for a moment - checked the height: about two yards - and let go.

    She landed in the grass of the Potters’ backyard, crouching, while her broom went flying into the woods.

    “Accio broom!”

    Or not - there it returned to Hermione’s hand. “You need to have a firmer grip on the shaft,” she told her.

    “And you need to use a softer touch,” Harry added.

    That sounded a little contradictory. She glanced at Gabriel, who was barely a yard high - and floating sideways.

    Well, it looked as if this would take a bit more time than they had thought. Still, that moment when she had first flown…

    Yes, Ellen knew she wanted to experience that feeling again.

    Hermione probably had been counting on that - her daughter could be quite manipulative if she deemed it necessary. But Ellen didn’t really mind. Not now, when she was about to fly.

    “Up!”

    Once more, the broom leapt into her hand. This time, though, she was prepared and caught it easily. And then she was straddling it and pushing off again. And she was flying. Soaring high in the sky… No. Not too high. Gently rising. Gently. Gently…

    She clenched her teeth and held on to the shaft, pushing it down. The broom stopped ascending - and started diving.

    Fast.

    “Watch out, Mum!”

    She pulled on the shaft as the ground grew closer and closer, and the broom finally followed suit - but she ended up pulling to the side, and she rolled again.

    This time, she didn’t manage to stick the landing. But she didn’t break or hurt anything other than her pride as she rolled through the grass.

    Gabriel was still floating about a foot from the ground, flying backwards now.

    Hermione sighed. “Well, Dad needs to be more… forceful. And you need to be less.”

    “I noticed,” Ellen retorted in the driest tone she could manage while brushing grass clumps off her clothes.

    “Let me!” Hermione said. A moment later, all the grass and dirt fell off. “There!” She moved her wand, and the broom flew towards them.

    Ellen got up again.

    *****​

    “This is…” Ellen Granger shook her head, almost gaping at the sight.

    “Great, isn’t it?” Hermione asked next to her.

    “Yes.” And it was. She must be about five hundred feet high - and the view was spectacular. The village below her, the small patches of forests, the rolling hills in the distance… “And the people below won’t see us?”

    “Not above this area,” Hermione told her. “It’s covered with spells, like Hogwarts.”

    “Ah.” That was slightly disturbing. “So, if I leave the airspace above the house and the yard, I can’t find it any more?”

    “Ah…”

    Ellen turned her head - and only her head; she kept the broom steady. “You don’t know?”

    “We didn’t test that. I should’ve considered it.” Hermione pursed her lips. “Sorry, Mum.”

    Well, Ellen knew Wizarding Britain wasn’t very accommodating to muggles. But to think how they messed with your mind… She hated that. But it wasn’t Hermione’s fault. So she smiled. “Well, I’d rather not test it up in the air.”

    “Yes.” Hermione grimaced.

    “But it’s still incredible,” Ellen admitted. “The freedom…”

    “And Dad got the hang of it as well,” her daughter commented, pointing down.

    Gabriel was flying about two hundred feet below them, doing lazy eights was the name of the figures, Ellen thought.

    “Harry’s teaching him a Quidditch search pattern.”

    “Ah?”

    “Yes. The Seeker uses that while looking for the Snitch.”

    Ellen nodded. She didn’t get the rules - they were, Hermione had agreed, asinine. But she could see the appeal of the game, now that she was flying a broom herself. Still… “I hope you aren’t planning to make us play the game.”

    Hermione laughed. “Oh, no! That would be… I’m not going to dodge Bludgers myself, after all.”

    “Good.”

    “Although it would be good training for evasive flying...”

    She knew that tone. “Hermione, there are safer ways to train that.”

    “Yes, Mum. Although there’ll be a Quidditch game on Harry’s birthday.”

    “Here?” Ellen looked down. Perhaps a temporary field or something?

    “No, they’ll be playing at the Weasleys’. They have a pitch.”

    So it was called a pitch. Good to know. “That’s generous of the Weasleys,” Ellen commented. She realised that she and Gabriel would have to buy a birthday gift for Harry as well. And not a cheap one - not after his godfather’s planned gift to Hermione.

    “It’s been Ron’s birthday gift for Harry for years,” Hermione explained. “The Weasleys are not rich, but they’re an old pureblood family, and they have a private Quidditch pitch.”

    “Ah.” They sounded like impoverished gentry. Probably a touchy subject.

    “So, what do you think of brooms now?” Hermione asked. She was smiling innocently, but Ellen knew her daughter.

    “It’s great. Though I also remember you telling us that wizards and witches would be flying much faster on the same brooms.” And they wanted to buy even faster brooms.

    “Yes, but we also have more training and experience - flying is a subject at school,” Hermione replied.

    Ellen looked at her until she squirmed a little. Then Ellen nodded. “Yes, I can understand the appeal. We might even look into buying some used brooms for ourselves,” she said with a smile.

    Hermione blinked, apparently not sure whether or not Ellen was joking.

    To be fair, Ellen wasn’t sure either. “Would that even be legal?”

    “Ah… I’m not sure.” Hermine would be berating herself for not knowing this, Ellen knew. “I don’t remember a law against it, but… the Statute of Secrecy might be threatened - or so the wizarding authorities might presume - if muggles fly around on brooms. They’re very concerned about keeping magic a secret.”

    “We’re aware of that.” Every time they travelled to Wizarding Britain, in fact. But Ellen was also aware just how great this world that her daughter had entered years ago was - if you were a witch or wizard. She and Gabriel would have to adapt if they didn’t want to lose their daughter.

    Because whether with Harry or someone else, Hermione would be living in this world.

    *****​

    Hogwarts, July 23rd, 1996

    “It feels weird, entering Hogwarts in the summer,” Hermione Granger commented as they walked up to the gate. She looked around - there were no disillusioned people hiding nearby, but they could easily stay outside the range of her spell.

    “Yes,” Harry agreed. He was looking around as well.

    They should be safe - no one should know they would visit the school, after all. But if someone had spotted them in Hogsmeade and deduced that they were heading to Hogwarts...

    “It’s Hogwarts.” Mrs Potter tapped the gate with her wand. “Whether it’s summer or not.”

    “Mum! You’re not a student any more. It’s not the same,” Harry told her. “You should be used to this. But for us? An empty school?”

    Hermione nodded. Hogwarts without students milling around wasn’t really Hogwarts.

    “Lily! Harry! Miss Granger!”

    And there came Professor Hagrid.

    “Hagrid!” Mrs Potter smiled at the huge man.

    “Here ta see Dumbledore, right?”

    “He’s expecting us, yes.”

    “Come in!” He pulled the massive gate open as easily as Hermione would open a door. “And the heroes of the hour!”

    She felt herself blush. Heroes?

    “We just did what we had to,” Harry told the man.

    “Yes,” Mrs Potter sounded slightly annoyed.

    “Nonsense! You are heroes!” Professor Hagrid insisted. “I don’t know anyone who coulda done the same at your age.” Then he frowned. “But did you have to kill the poor Wyvern? They didn’t know any better!”

    Ugh. Hermione grimaced. Of course the professor would focus on that.

    “We had no choice,” Harry told him. “It was trying to eat us. Several times. It just didn’t let go.”

    “That’s a wyvern fer ya. Stubborn to a fault - like dragons, but worse. But that’s not their fault!”

    That would be a poor comfort for anyone eaten by the monster. But Hermione held her tongue as they walked to the castle proper. She didn’t want to start an argument. They were here to see Dumbledore, after all. To talk about another interview. Or an article.

    Fortunately, Hagrid was more interested in talking to Mrs Potter than to them as they walked through empty hallways. Although that might be because he might resent them at least a little for killing the Wyvern.

    “I hope Luna won’t hold this against us,” Harry whispered next to her, echoing her thoughts.

    She nodded. It was creepy how different the school looked - and sounded - with no one around. In broad daylight, at least - she had sneaked around the school past curfew often enough to know, but it still felt different.

    And then the gargoyle let them through - the password was ‘Milky Way’ - and Mrs Potter led them up to the Headmaster’s office while Professor Hagrid returned to his hut or office - presumably to care for his animals.

    “Ah, Lily, Harry, Miss Granger. Please have a seat.” Dumbledore waved his wand as soon as they stepped into his office, and three chairs appeared.

    Hermione eyed them. They looked different as well. More comfortable, for once. So…

    “You are not here because you broke a rule,” the Headmaster explained with a smile. “So, you can enjoy more comfortable chairs.”

    “Ah, right.” Harry nodded, then blushed when Mrs Potter glared at him.

    Hermione fought a blush of her own. “That shouldn’t happen any more.”

    “Once Mr Malfoy accepts that you have changed, you mean,” Dumbledore said,

    “Yes.” The blush won the struggle.

    Mrs Potter sighed. “You don’t have to hex Malfoy and break school rules.”

    “Defending ourselves isn’t breaking any rules,” Hermione told her. “I looked it up.” Years ago, actually.

    “Provided you are defending yourself,” the Headmaster said, his smile not wavering, “and not retaliating. Or launching a preemptive strike. It is only self-defence if an attack is ongoing or imminent.”

    “I won’t let Malfoy hex me to make a point,” Harry blurted out. “He points his wand at me, he gets a hex to the face.”

    Or to another part of his body. Hermione firmly nodded.

    “Harry! Hermione!” Mrs Potter all but hissed.

    “Oh, I doubt we can ask more of you,” the Headmaster said. “Actions have consequences, and Mr Malfoy’s actions over the years have resulted in him acquiring a slightly unfortunate reputation.”

    Hermione didn’t smile in satisfaction at the comment, but she certainly felt like it. The git should’ve stopped bothering them long ago.

    “As did your actions.” Mrs Potter’s comment made Hermione frown.

    “That’s different!” Harry protested, turning to frown at his mother.

    “How is it different?”

    “Malfoy kept bothering us even though he never got us. Almost never, at least,” Harry explained. “That’s just stupid.”

    Hermione was forced to agree again, even though Mrs Potter certainly disagreed.

    The Headmaster, though, chuckled. “Lily, I am sure you remember another band of, shall we say, rambunctious students who often visited my office.”

    “Yes.”

    Oh. Mr Potter and his friends. Hermione wasn’t certain if she should feel flattered by the comparison or not.

    “However, I think we have a different topic to discuss than the next school year. A more serious topic,” the Headmaster went on.

    “Yes.” Hermione nodded. “We’d like to use our fifteen minutes of fame to oppose piracy and slavery. Effectively oppose them.”

    “Well, I would say you already opposed them quite effectively by dealing with a band of pirates, but I know what you mean.” The Headmaster leaned back. “And you’ve already prepared the ground, so to speak, with your interview.”

    *****​

    “We hope so. We want to help you gather public support,” Hermione told the Headmaster.

    Harry Potter nodded. “Against pirates and slavers.” Which were one and the same most often.

    “To increase the pressure on the Ottomans, I suppose.” Dumbledore nodded. “A noble goal. However, when trying to influence the public, there is always the risk of succeeding a little too well.”

    Harry frowned. What was he… Oh. “You mean starting a war?”

    The Headmaster smiled at him. “Precisely! I would award you points if we were in class.”

    “But would Wizarding Britain actually go to war over this?” Hermione leaned forward. “Everyone we talked to was adamant in wanting to avoid a war.”

    Well, they hadn’t talked to too many other people, but that didn’t mean Hermione was wrong.

    “It is not very likely - people remember the last war, and some remember Grindelwald’s War - but neither should we dismiss the possibility,” Dumbledore said. “It has been almost fifteen years since the Blood War ended; almost an entire generation has grown up with only faint memories of it - and no personal experience. Further, the Blood War pitched British wizards and witches against each other. A war against the Ottomans would lack that particular horror. Not to mention that I am quite certain that many of our compatriots might not be entirely objective when comparing themselves to the Ottomans.”

    “You mean they overestimate themselves and underestimate the Ottomans,” Hermione blurted out.

    “Indeed. Hearing how two students fought and defeated an entire band of pirates will not have helped matters, I’m afraid.”

    Oh. Harry winced.

    “Yes. I’m sure some of James’s Aurors would jump at the chance, thinking they can walk all over Janissaries and experienced pirates,” Mum said with a scowl.

    “That matches what I have heard myself,” Dumbledore said, “when I visited the Ministry yesterday. Even a few members of the Wizengamot, who really should know better, proclaimed their opinion that a war with the Barbary Coast, or even the entire Ottoman Empire, would be a walk in the park.” He smiled. “I am afraid that you might have given our fellow British wizards and witches a somewhat misleading impression of the Barbary Coast pirates’ competency.”

    “But…” Hermione shook her head. “It was you who conquered the pirate port - and with the help of another crew of Barbary Coast sailors!”

    “And your friends,” Harry added. This was stupid. Or insane.

    “That is the truth - but then, it is also true that you successfully sank their ship, killed their wyvern - and I can guarantee that almost everyone in the Ministry has, by now, seen the trophy you brought back - and broke a captive out of their prison before escaping the island.” Dumbledore spread his hands. “And, unfortunately and rather unfairly, some prominent members of the Wizengamot prefer to assume that your outstanding deeds are not an indication of your skill and bravery, but rather proof of the lack of either amongst the pirates.”

    Harry winced. He hadn’t expected that. Not at all.

    “So, does that mean that we don’t need to give another interview to drum up support for a more forceful stance against piracy and slavery?” Hermione asked.

    “I would not say that, my dear,” Dumbledore replied with a slight sigh. “While many examples of prominent British wizards and witches are currently comparing themselves in rather flattering and sometimes almost delusional ways to you two, that does not mean they are overly concerned about the pirates since they have not been a threat to British shores in decades.”

    “And if we do show just how vile the pirates and their trade are, all the fools will push straight for war.” Mum looked grim.

    “I do think cooler heads would prevail since most members of the Wizengamot recall the Blood War’s horrors, but I’ve been wrong before. And I fear that Cornelius, while certainly not a warmonger, is a little too concerned with what he thinks the people want. I can very well see him trying to set his mark in history, so to speak, with a short victorious war. Especially if urged on by some of his more foolish friends as well as the French and Spaniards.”

    Hermione grimaced at that. As did Mum.

    “Then what can we do?” Harry asked. ”We can’t just do nothing and wait until everyone has forgotten about this.” That would mean more victims like Céline.

    “That is a good question. How much are we willing to risk? Should war break out, I am reasonably sure that we will ultimately prevail, but we will suffer losses in war, even in victory. And it will not be a short war. Not when the Ottomans’ control over the Barbary Coast is tenuous at best, and anything that can be seen as a surrender would lose them the province for sure - which might cost the Sultan his position and life. And the pirates will move to prey upon our shores, and all the other shores within reach, once they think that they have nothing left to lose and that the main part of our forces are attacking their homes.”

    The Headmaster was looking at them, his eyebrows slightly raised. He couldn’t expect them to actually make that decision, could he? They were students, not politicians. They couldn’t just risk the entire country like that! No, this was just a hypothetical question.

    Harry shook his head. “We can’t… we can’t start a war. Not like this.” Not when the people who would be fighting in it had no idea what they were doing.

    *****​

    “But we can’t let fear of a war keep us from doing something about piracy and slavery,” Hermione Granger protested. They couldn’t just let this go on. More poor children captured, like Céline, while they stayed safe in Britain? They had to do something. “You can talk to the Minister, can’t you?”

    Dumbledore inclined his head. “I can and do so. But Cornelius is… not the most stubborn man. He can somewhat easily be swayed by those who know him and his weaknesses.”

    “‘Weaknesses’?” Hermione cocked her head.

    “Bribes and flattery,” Mrs Potter replied with a scowl.

    “Oh.”

    “Cornelius is no Amelia Bones, but he is hardly the worst Minister I’ve known. However, as I said before, he almost certainly would overestimate our power and underestimate the enemy.” Dumbledore sighed.

    “But you can rectify it, can’t you?” Hermione insisted.

    “I shall most certainly try my best.”

    That should be enough then - he was Dumbledore, after all. Hermione nodded. “So, the risk of a war breaking out wouldn’t be too great.”

    “That depends on your view of what would be too great. Is it certain? No. Likely? I think not. But it cannot be dismissed as impossible.” The Headmaster leaned back, folding his hands on his belly. “I do think that this will require a most careful approach. And even so, things might get out of hand through no fault of our own.”

    “Skeeter,” Harry hissed.

    “Correct. Or people like her riling up the population for their own goals.” The Headmaster sighed. “And France would certainly do what they could to fan the flames - the French have dreamt of finishing the Barbary Coast once and for all for decades. Unlike our compatriots, they are, however, quite aware of the price they would have to pay in a war, and that knowledge has stayed their wand. However, if Britain would join them, or lead the charge…” He tilted his head.

    Hermione clenched her teeth. They had to do something! “What do you suggest?” she asked.

    “What we need is a way to impress upon our fellow British wizards and witches how serious the situation is. They need less riling up, so to speak, than information.”

    “But…” She bit her lower lip. “The truth about piracy and slavery could rile them up.” It should, at least - how could any decent man or woman tolerate such a crime against humanity?

    “Which is why it needs to be tempered with the truth about war.” The Headmaster nodded. “The horror of it, the pain and suffering, lasting years and decades past the war’s end…” he shook his head. “I would not wish this upon anyone.”

    “It’s still not certain that there would be a war,” Hermione protested. “How great would the risk be, anyway?”

    “I must confess that I lack the talent at Divination to calculate the exact odds - if that’s even possible. However, the threat of war certainly isn’t negligible. And there’s the danger that the Barbary Coast leaders, such as the Bey of Algiers, and even the Ottomans might call us out - calling out our bluff, so to speak.”

    But is it a bluff? Hermione wondered. “And if war is the only way to end the pirate raids?” Hermione asked. “What if we either have to fight a bloody war or accept that every year, pirates will raid the coasts? How many people end up kidnapped, traumatised, every year? How many won’t be ransomed because they’re too poor - or are muggleborns no one would miss? How many will we sacrifice?”

    “Too many by far,” Harry chimed in.

    “But is it worth a war?” The Headmaster spread his hands again. “The French would say yes. But then, their coasts are the ones getting raided while ours remain secure.”

    “That’s not a fair comparison,” Mrs Potter objected. “The only reason that our shores are safe is that they fear you, Albus.”

    Shouldn’t that be enough to make the Ottomans cave in? If they feared Dumbledore and knew that France and Britain, and likely Spain, would back him in a war…

    “And yet, while fear is holding them back from our shores, desperation would drive them to attack us if only to spite me. It is a fine line that we have to walk.”

    And a single misstep might result in a war. “But we can’t just do nothing and let this go on.” She bit her lower lip in frustration.

    “And we will not,” the Headmaster replied. “But we need to be aware of the risk we will take.”

    He meant them - Harry and her - of course. Dumbledore was certainly aware of the risks. Of course, as the Supreme Mugwump of the International Confederation of Wizards, he had decades of experience in these matters.

    “So, this will require a delicate touch - and fine control. Which is, since we are talking about the press as well as public opinion, quite the challenge.” He smiled. “It is fortunate that it happened during the summer; I would dread having to do this in the autumn.”

    When the school year would have started.

    Mrs Potter sighed. “You’ll be handling this, then.”

    “I shall try my best.”

    Hermione was both relieved and disappointed. But mostly relieved.

    *****​

    Grimmauld Place, London, Britain, July 23rd, 1996

    “...and that was it, basically.” Harry Potter shrugged as he finished telling Sirius about their visit to Hogwarts.

    “The Headmaster made a very compelling argument about the risks inherent in any attempt to push for a more forceful stance against the Barbary Coast,” Hermione added from her part of the couch in the ‘salon’ of Sirius’s home.

    “So… we won’t be leading a charge up the beaches of Algiers any time soon?” Sirius asked with a grin. “And I was so looking forward to it after hearing about your infiltration of the pirate port.”

    Harry glared at him. This wasn’t a joking matter. Not that that would stop Sirius.

    “We’re not going to give up. We’re just… proceeding with more caution. And under the Headmaster’s direction,” Hermione said with a frown.

    “And you’re only giving interviews,” Sirius told her. “You’re not going to head off to fight pirates.”

    “Of course not!” Harry said. Sirius couldn’t be thinking that they would be so foolish, could he? Then again, Sirius had grown up during the Blood War and joined the Order of the Phoenix at the first opportunity.

    “Why does everyone think we want to fight pirates again?” Hermione asked.

    “We don’t,” Sirius told her. “But it doesn’t hurt checking, does it? You’re not the kind of idiots who will do something just because they are told not to do it.”

    “Of course not!” Hermione firmly nodded.

    Harry nodded as well, though he remembered a few embarrassing incidents that might fit Sirius’s comment. But those had been years ago. He had learned his lesson.

    “You were told not to attack each other several times,” Sirius said.

    “That’s different!” Harry protested. “We didn’t attack each other because we were told not to - we did it for revenge.”

    “Yes,” Hermione agreed. “A perfectly understandable reason.”

    Sirius laughed, even though it wasn’t funny.

    “That’s over, anyway,” Harry said. “We just want to be safe when we return to Hogwarts. And afterwards.”

    “And for that, we need training and some supplies.” Hermione pulled out a sheet - her list. “Defensive supplies.”

    “Some say the best defence is a strong offence,” Sirius commented.

    “Well, few devices or spells are completely defensive in nature,” Hermione admitted.

    “Some are also plain fun,” Sirius cut in with a grin.

    Hermione frowned. “We’ve convinced my parents that brooms aren’t a frivolity. They like flying.”

    They liked it eventually, in Harry’s opinion. Mrs Granger had taken to it quite quickly and stubbornly, very much like Hermione herself, but Mr Granger had flown so close to the ground most of the time, he could have stood on the grass just by putting his feet down. Well, he had been flying higher at the end, at least.

    “Ah! So, we should shop for three brooms!” Sirius beamed.

    “They’ll buy their own brooms,” Hermione said and pursed her lips. “They don’t need a high-performance broom. In fact, I doubt they could handle it.”

    “Why? They’re muggles. The brooms will fly slower and more sluggish anyway for them.”

    “They aren’t used to flying at all,” Hermione replied. “Best to start them with a decent, ah, family broom. And they can buy one at a later date.”

    Sirius frowned in return. “Might as well buy a used broom at that.”

    “That is the plan, yes.”

    “Well, if you insist…” Sirius shrugged. “Anyway, so, we’ll only get you a decent broom, then.”

    “A good broom,” Harry said. “Not just a decent one.”

    “That’s what I mean.” Sirius grinned again. “But with that settled, and your plans to lead a crusade against the Barbary Coast temporarily on hold, that leaves us with nothing to do than training!”

    Harry rolled his eyes at the weak joke - Sirius really didn’t know when to let it go - but stood up at once. “Yes.”

    “To the duelling salle!”

    *****​

    Godric’s Hollow, Devon, Britain, July 23rd, 1996

    “So, we’ve mastered the Disillusionment Charm,” Harry said, looking at the ceiling above his bed. They should be sleeping - it was late, and they would be meeting their friends tomorrow - but he still felt a little...keyed up. Or something.

    “Yes. And worked on dodging.” Hermione replied next to him as she shifted a little, her mane of hair brushing over his side as she turned to look at him.

    He turned his head to face her - the light from the sky outside was just bright enough to make out her face. “Which needs more work.”

    She snorted, and he saw she was frowning.

    “And you’re doing well,” he told her.

    “I didn’t get duelling lessons for years.”

    “Yes.” There wasn’t anything to add there. Hermione knew the theory, and she had practised hard at Hogwarts - she had held her own during the fights with the pirates - but she hadn’t had Harry's training, and he knew that it was a sore spot for her. “But things are going well.”

    “According to plan, mostly,” she agreed. “But…” She sighed. “I understand the Headmaster’s arguments.”

    “But you don’t like it.” Harry didn’t like it, either.

    “No, I don’t. I wish we could do more.”

    “Me too.” But they couldn’t. The stories notwithstanding, they were two students who had just taken their O.W.L.s. They had been quite lucky on that island.

    But they hadn’t been just lucky. Harry knew that, as did Hermione.

    And they could do more than just repeating what the Headmaster wanted them to say when asked by a reporter. They just needed to find out what exactly they could do. Eventually.

    But not right now.

    He wrapped his arm around her shoulders, and she leaned into his side.

    And he watched her fall asleep.

    *****​

    The Burrow, Ottery St Catchpole, Devon, Britain, July 24th, 1996

    “Hail the conquering hero!”

    “The conquering heroes, brother! We wouldn’t want anyone feeling left out!”

    “Indeed, brother! We wouldn’t want to anger people who crushed entire pirate ships under their heels!”

    Hermione Granger rolled her eyes. After five years in the same House as Fred and George Weasley, she was familiar with their antics. That didn’t mean she liked them, of course. They were annoying even if she discounted the fact that they had interfered in her and Harry’s… rivalry until they had learned better.

    “Very funny,” Harry told them in a tone dripping with sarcasm.

    “It seems they are annoyed,” probably-Fred said.

    “You’re correct about that,” she told them.

    “Oh, no! We have failed!”

    “Please do not crush us!”

    She pressed her lips together as Harry sighed. Where were the rest of the Weasleys? And Lavender? Ron had sent them a letter, asking to meet at his home. Had the twins done that? For some prank? If they had, they would regret it. Hermione wasn’t in any mood to tolerate their antics. People could get killed through such stupidity.

    “Fred! George! Don’t bother our guests!”

    Ah, here came Mrs Weasley. Hermione smiled at the witch entering the living room from the garden.

    “We weren’t, Mum!”

    “Just being friendly!”

    “Please excuse them; it’s my fault,” Mrs Weasley told them. “I should have known they wouldn’t visit on a whim. Not after they barely visited for weeks since they moved out.”

    “Mum! We’re working hard to start our business!”

    “Your joke shop. Which you stocked with products you developed and made while you were at Hogwarts.” Mrs Weasley scoffed. “You should’ve ample time to visit your family.”

    “Harry! Hermione!”

    “Hermione! Harry!”

    Ron and Lavender waved from the door. Harry and Hermione joined them, and they stepped outside.

    “Sorry, we didn’t realise it was already so late,” Ron said. “We’ve been dealing with particularly stubborn gnomes who kept returning to the garden.” He pointed at the patch of vegetables in the corner.

    “Possibly a new species of gnomes. Or a new species masquerading as gnomes. Or the result of a curse on the yard. Oh. Hi, Harry. Hi, Hermione.”

    Luna. Hermione winced. She should’ve expected that the girl would be present - Luna had a gift to surprise people with her presence. And she also shared Hagrid’s view of dangerous animals. Namely, that there weren’t any dangerous animals, only misunderstood ones. “Hi, Luna.”

    “Hi.” Harry looked a little apprehensive as well. “How have you been doing?”

    “Well…” Luna cocked her head sideways. “I haven’t been whisked away to a dragon sanctuary masquerading as a pirate island, which is kind of a bother for an aspiring reporter such as myself, but otherwise, I am doing well.”

    “‘A dragon sanctuary’?” Harry asked.

    “Yes, of course. You realised this, right? The way the ‘pirates’ only stuck to a small part of the island and left the rest to the wyvern is a dead giveaway. Or was a dead giveaway. Now it’s only dead. The wyvern, that is. Or was.”

    Hermione grimaced. Yes, Luna wasn’t happy about the dead wyvern. Not at all.

    “How so?” Harry obviously hadn’t realised that yet.

    “If they had been actual pirates, they would have forced the wyvern into a cave protecting their treasure. They certainly wouldn’t have let it freely roam the island - pirates aren’t like that, as you should know.”

    “They acted like pirates,” Hermione pointed out. “We saved one of their prisoners and found the remains of another:”

    “The villagers probably depended on actual pirates to receive supplies since no one else knew about the sanctuary. Which also explains why there was only one wyvern and not more dragons. Or they were in the process of setting up the sanctuary, and the wyvern was the first creature to arrive.”

    “It was there for a long time - for decades, at least,” Harry objected.

    “Such delays are normal for a government project.” Luna leaned in and lowered her voice. “It’s because of all the corruption, you know. It’s far easier to skim gold off the budget while a project is still in the process of being built, so the longer it takes to finish a project, the more money can be ferreted away - not that actual ferrets would steal money; that’s pure propaganda, possibly started by foxes.

    “‘Foxes’?” Hermione asked before she could help herself.

    “Shapeshifting foxes. The Japanese call them kitsune and think they are spirits, but that’s just another ruse. Foxes are very cunning, you know. Slytherin earned their eternal enmity for not picking them as his House’s animal.”

    “Ah.” Hermione nodded.

    “Very interesting,” Harry said.

    “Not as interesting as your adventures, of course.” Luna smiled at them. “And that you finally realised all your aggression was just suppressed desire! I should have made that bet with Marietta, after all.”

    “What?” Hermione blinked. A bet? Suppressed desire?

    “I told Marietta two years ago that you didn’t actually hate each other but that you were just too immature to express your feelings in any other way when you were younger and then got stuck in a rut.” Once more, Luna leaned in. “That happens when you focus too much on something, to the exclusion of everything else. Some people never manage getting out of that, and they end up Ministry bureaucrats.”

    Immature? Stuck in a rut? Hermione frowned. That was absolutely wrong! She opened her mouth to tell Luna just how wrong she was but noticed how Ron and Lavender were nodding in agreement with the girl.

    “We weren’t immature,” Harry protested.

    “Mate,” Ron told him. “We were first years. Everyone’s immature in their first year.”

    She couldn’t exactly object to that without sounding immature now. But she so wanted to.

    “It’s good that you finally grew up,” Luna told them with a beaming smile. “We were getting worried.”

    Hermione couldn’t, for the life of her, tell if this was Luna’s revenge on them for killing a wyvern or if the girl was genuinely concerned. Of course, with Luna, it could easily be both.

    Great.

    *****​
     
    Last edited: Jun 26, 2022
    space turtle, Beyogi, Atropa and 18 others like this.
  22. Robert Stadler

    Robert Stadler Getting sticky.

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    Typo - this should be "piracy," not "privacy."
     
    space turtle and Starfox5 like this.
  23. Beyogi

    Beyogi I trust you know where the happy button is?

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    If that's revenge it's pretty tame. I'm pretty sure Luna also knows that when you get hunted by a predator and can't get away it's either kill or get killed. She just doesn't want to admit that.
     
  24. Threadmarks: Chapter 42: The Day Out
    Starfox5

    Starfox5 Experienced.

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    Chapter 42: The Day Out

    The Burrow, Ottery St Catchpole, Devon, Britain, July 24th, 1996

    Ron Weasley struggled not to grin widely at Harry and Granger. He didn’t know if Luna was pulling their legs for killing that wyvern or just being honest as usual, but she was certainly right to call those two out on their feud.

    Harry blinked, opened his mouth, hesitated for a deep breath, and finally said: “We weren’t immature. We were just… we didn’t do anything Dad and his friends hadn’t done at Hogwarts in their time.”

    Ron could resist. “Really? I thought you didn’t want to repeat their pranks.”

    Harry frowned at him. “I didn’t mean literally the same.”

    “And we didn’t grow up only two weeks ago,” Granger cut in. “That’s…”

    “Well, pranking is sort of childish,” Lavender said with the sort of smile that told Ron she was teasing. And the way Granger glared at her, she was probably quoting something Granger had once said.

    “Yes!” Luna nodded. “It’s generally accepted that you don’t prank people as an adult, with certain exceptions depending on your culture, such as the Muggle Fool’s Day.”

    “You mean April Fool’s Day,” Granger corrected her.

    “Not just Aprils - lots of muggles honour the day.”

    “That’s not…” Granger shook her head. “Anyway, we weren’t immature. We just had different… interests and priorities than, say, you.”

    “And those interests and priorities were what allowed us to survive on that island,” Harry added. “Part of the reason, at least.” He crossed his arms and nodded - together with Granger.

    “And your love for each other, so long suppressed by pride and prejudice, was finally allowed to bloom once you were no longer forced to keep up appearances.” Lavender nodded as well.

    Granger glared at her again. “I introduced you to Jane Austen.”

    “And it was a good thing you did, or I would lack the context for this situation.” Lavender had to be quoting Granger verbatim here - she never talked like that.

    But it was fun. Ron chuckled. “She got you there, mate.”

    “You never said anything about that!” Harry protested. “And you would have, had you thought so.”

    “Well, I lacked the context,” Ron told him. “But in hindsight, it makes sense.”

    “Exactly! It’s a great example of unresolved sexual tension that finally was resolved,” Luna said. “At least I think that’s what the muggles call it - I need to do more research if I want to properly cover this in an article.”

    “You can’t cover that in an article!” Granger protested.

    “Why not?” Luna cocked her head, apparently surprised.

    “Because...” Granger closed her mouth. “It’s a private matter. You shouldn’t write articles about relationships,” she added after a moment.

    Harry nodded. “Yes. That’s like… gossip.”

    “Tabloids do a lot of harm by speculating about relationships,” Granger went on.

    “Oh.” Luna pouted. “I thought it was a beautiful love story. Except for killing the poor wyvern and wrecking a nascent dragon sanctuary.”

    She looked so sad, Ron felt terrible, and he hadn’t been the one to tell her that she couldn’t write the article.

    Harry and Granger? They grimaced. “Well, it’s not that you can’t write the article,” Harry started. “It’s just… it’s a delicate matter.”

    “And people will try to use it to harm us,” Granger added. “You know how bad gossip can be.”

    Luna slowly nodded. “I guess so. So, if I change the names, it’s alright? An article about unresolved sexual tension might help others avoid getting stuck in the same rut you were. We can’t expect every other feuding couple to have the chance to stumble onto a Portkey to solve their issues.”

    “Well, that’s…”

    “...an excellent idea,” Granger cut Harry off. “It might help Malfoy realise that his infatuation is entirely one-sided.”

    Ron blinked. Had she just claimed that…?

    “Oh, yes! How did miss it? Malfoy’s constant attempts to attack and belittle you are also the result of unresolved sexual tension!” Luna beamed at them. “And with both of you as well! Which is a little surprising, but he is a Malfoy, after all. I guess letting him down gently won’t work?”

    “It might work once he has the context for it - which your article would provide, I think,” Harry said. Ron’s mate could barely hide his amusement, Ron could tell.

    Lavender was already giggling into her fist. “Oh, yes. You can let him down gently once the article is out.”

    “Great! I’ll get to it after this trip. I’ll fetch Ginny.”

    Ron blinked as she turned towards the pond, where Ginny was trying to threaten the gnomes with drowning to make them leave. Had Luna just invited herself and his little sister to their trip to London?

    “The more, the merrier, right?” Harry must have thought the same.

    “Yes.” Granger nodded.

    “I hoped for a double-date,” Lavender said with a slight frown. “An outing of six isn’t the same.”

    Two in the group would feel out, at last, if they flirted too much. But Ron wasn’t about to tell Luna they didn’t want them with her. Ginny, on the other hand, wouldn’t be a problem - he’d tell her to get lost in a heartbeat.

    “Well,” Harry said, “it’s not as we have planned a trip to a love hotel.”

    “A love hotel?” Lavender asked.

    “A hotel where couples go to, to, ah…” Harry coughed. “To spend the night. It’s a thing in Japan. At least according to my cousin.”

    “Your cousin has been to Japan?” Granger asked.

    “No. But one of his friends, Piers, likes Japanese cartoons,” Harry replied. He shrugged. “Don’t ask me why this came up, but Dudley mentioned it at dinner time once. Uncle Vernon wasn’t amused,” he added with a grin.

    “Whatever,” Ron said. “Let’s just enjoy the day.”

    *****​

    Diagon Alley, London, Britain, July 24th, 1996

    “It started here, you know.”

    Ron Weasley winced a little at Harry’s words. His friend was correct - the whole thing had started here, in Florean Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlour. It felt so long ago, but it hadn’t even been a month since that day.

    “Your first double date,” Ginny said with a grin.

    Ron rolled his eyes. His little sister wasn’t half as funny as she thought. Even though Lavender giggled.

    Luna nodded. “Oh, yes. This could’ve been a sign of sorts.”

    Lavender frowned. “I didn’t think of that.”

    “Can’t you check?” Ginny asked.

    “No,” Granger cut in. “Hindsight is the enemy of the inner sight. Your own biases blind you to the truth.”

    Lavender frowned at her. “I was about to explain that!”

    “And now we’re even for you using Jane Austen against me.” Granger flashed a toothy smile at her. So, she hadn’t changed too much, Ron realised. She still wanted to get even with everyone, except, probably, Harry.

    Lavender pouted for a moment, then smiled. “In any case, yes - it was probably a sign that we all met up.”

    “Really?” Luna asked.

    “I just explained that you cannot verify that,” Granger protested at the same as Lavender nodded.

    Harry chuckled. “Anyway, let’s order. My treat!”

    Ginny and Luna shamelessly ordered a huge bowl each. Ron wanted to restrict himself - he had his pride - but Lavender ordered the ‘Lover’s Surprise’. Twice.

    Which turned out to be a chocolate-vanilla-stracciatella mix covered in whipped cream and then topped with hot… caramel sauce? Nutty caramel, Ron found out with the first spoonful.

    A loud moan made him blink. Had that been…? Yes, Granger was blushing. And the other girls were giggling.

    “It is excellent,” Harry said, earning him a smile from his girlfriend.

    Whipped, Ron thought.

    “We should ask for a parlour to be opened in Hogsmeade,” Luna said. She had finished half her bowl already, Ron realised. Which he should’ve expected - he knew how fast she went through pudding at the Weasley’s.

    “I heard that Fortescue makes all his ice cream himself, so I don’t know if he can supply two parlours,” Lavender said as she held a spoon full of chocolate and caramel in front of Ron’s face. “Open wide!”

    Ron did and let her feed him, then returned the favour. That was what ‘Lover’s Surprise’ was about, after all.

    “He could move this parlour, then. More business with all the Hogsmeade weekends,” Luna said.

    “I think he makes more money here than in Hogsmeade,” Granger said before licking a speck of cream from her lips. “This is the main shopping mile of Wizarding Britain, after all, and his customers aren’t restricted to students.”

    “It’s not actually a mile,” Luna said.

    “It’s an expression.”

    “Ah.” Luna nodded and leaned back. “That was nice.” Then she eyed Ginny’s bowl.

    And Ginny smiled and pushed her own bowl into the middle of the table, between her and Luna.

    Ron shook his head. He had no idea where Luna was putting all that. Well, he knew where the sugar was going. This would be an interesting day.

    “So… what now?” Lavender asked a little later after they had finished their own bowl.

    “Do we need anything from Wizarding Wheezes?” Harry asked Granger.

    She shook her head. “Nothing I can think of.”

    “Who are you planning to prank?” Lavender asked. “Malfoy?”

    “No. Well, yes, but we don’t plan to use any items on him,” Harry said.

    “Or on anyone else,” Granger added. “But some items might have useful applications for self-defence.”

    Oh. Ron managed not to grimace, but Lavender winced. They were still preparing for a pirate attack in England. Great. Better change the topic. “Well, what about a movie?”

    “Hm. It’s too nice to be stuck inside for hours,” Luna said. “What about the muggle zoo?” She beamed at them.

    Ginny nodded. “That sounds nice. It’s been a while since we were there.”

    Ron couldn’t actually remember their last visit.

    “It’s educational,” Luna added, smiling at Granger. “We can learn about animals and muggles!”

    Ginny nodded again. “And we’ll be safer there than in Diagon Alley.”

    Ron blinked. Were Ginny and Luna taking over their outing? Had they planned that? His little sister was cunning, he knew that, but…

    Yet, Harry and Granger were nodding. “That’s a good point,” Granger said. “And we can get something to eat on the way. And the British Museum is close, so we can visit that as well.”

    “Relatively close,” Harry said. But he was smiling.

    Ah, well - it was still a day with their friends, Ron thought as he exchanged a glance with Lavender. And Harry and Granger really needed to relax, which meant they would have to go to muggle London anyway. “Sounds good,” he said. “Do we take the tube?”

    “The tube? Oh, the underground train,” Luna said. “Did you know that it was planned by Dumbledore? He laid down the lines according to the scar on his knee!”

    Ron blinked. How did Luna come up with these things? A scar on the Headmaster’s knee? Who except for Luna’s father would believe that?

    *****​

    London Zoo, London, Britain, July 24th, 1996

    “Oh! Look at the monkeys!”

    “Cute!”

    Well, Luna and Ginny certainly were enjoying the trip, Harry Potter thought as the two watched the monkey eat. To be honest, he enjoyed the trip as well, though he wasn’t as enthusiastic as those two.

    Then again, he doubted that many could be as enthusiastic - Luna had actually squealed more than once so far.

    “I still don’t understand why we can’t feed them. They’re probably bored of always eating muggle fruits,” Luna said. “They might like some wizarding produce. Or some of Fred and George’s sweets - I think they would love being able to fly for a bit.”

    Harry winced. That was a potential break of the Statute of Secrecy right there.

    “If people were allowed to feed the monkeys, they would feed them things that make them sick,” Hermione told Luna with a slightly forced smile. “Not everyone knows what kind of food animals need and what they can’t eat. Or shouldn’t eat,” she added before Luna could comment on that.

    Luna pouted, but Ginny nodded.

    “Cheer up,” Ron said. “They’re happy enough.”

    “And if they suddenly grew wings, they would probably be scared,” Lavender added. “Remember that first year trying out one of those Canary Creams?”

    Right. Harry doubted anyone would ever forget that. A panicked boy-sized bird had quite the lungs, and the Great Hall had great acoustics.

    “Oh, right. The poor dears probably wouldn’t like that. But if we could get them used to it slowly?” Luna wrinkled her nose and tilted her head to the side. “Perhaps start with a demonstration using a human? Make them curious? They are quite smart, so if they see what certain sweets do, they might try them themselves as an informed decision?”

    “And what if they escape?” Hermione pointed out. “Or what if they are flying when the effect ends, and they end up falling from a great altitude?”

    “And what about the Statute of secrecy?” Harry asked.

    “We could claim those are spontaneous mutations. Muggles know about those.” Luna smiled.

    Harry clenched his teeth. He should have never shown Luna those movies.

    “I don’t think that’s a good idea,” Ron said. “The Aurors won’t like it.”

    “Harry’s dad can tell them to ignore it.”

    That was technically true, but… “Dad would never do that,” Harry pointed out. “That would be breaking or bending the law.”

    “But if the law’s not just, breaking it becomes everyone’s duty!”

    “I don’t think that this was meant to cover flying monkeys,” Hermione said.

    “But what about judging the law by how it treats the weakest? You can’t get much weaker than monkeys - they can’t even wield wands!”

    Luna had to be pulling their legs, Harry was now certain. Mostly - she did look earnest, nodding with wide eyes. But Ginny was doing a lousy job of hiding her snickering.

    “Also, we don’t know if Canary Creams are safe for monkeys,” Ron said. “They were tested on humans, not on monkeys. And you know that chocolate hurts some animals.”

    Luna frowned at him but nodded.

    “So, let’s check out the big cats,” Lavender said.

    “Oh, yes!” Hermione enthusiastically agreed. Well, she had to be very fond of cats to like her monster of a half-Kneazle.

    Everyone agreed though Ginny had to grab Luna’s hand to pull her away from the monkeys, and they went towards the cat habitats.

    On the way, Hermione hooked her arm through his, and they fell back a little - Luna had quickly taken the lead again, apparently not willing to ‘waste time walking’ instead of watching.

    “I admit, this was a good idea,” Hermione said. “I haven’t been to the zoo in years; I forgot how much fun it was.”

    “I’ve been here once with Dudley,” Harry said. And the less said about that visit, the better. Accidental magic and reptile habitats didn’t mix. Auntie Petunia hadn’t been happy. Dad hadn’t been happy. The two alligators probably hadn’t been happy to find half their pond drained, either. “But it’s nice, yes,” he said.

    Hermione snorted. “And after the Wyvern, even the big animals here don’t really look dangerous any more.”

    Harry chuckled. “Hagrid’s lessons did that for me.”

    “Right.” She leaned against him - he could feel her hair brushing against his cheek when she briefly laid her head on his shoulder. “Still, it puts things into perspective. Not that we have much to fear from muggle animals.”

    “Right.” They were safe here. He blinked and quickly looked around. Hermione made a surprised noise when she was half-dislodged by the quick movement.

    “What’s the matter?”

    “Just… I didn’t keep an eye out.” He hadn’t even paid attention to their surroundings.

    “Oh.” She was biting her lower lip. “Neither did I. But the odds of anyone attacking us here are almost zero. Someone would have had to overhear us in Diagon Alley.”

    “Right.” Harry sighed. That wasn’t too likely, but still… Better safe than sorry.

    On the other hand, they hadn’t been attacked. And it had been an hour since they had arrived at the zoo. They were safe.

    He wrapped his arm around Hermione’s waist, and they continued walking, following their friends to the big cat habitats.

    *****​

    They wouldn’t have time for the British Museum, Hermione Granger knew. It was already late in the afternoon. Well, she should have expected that. Luna and animals… “We’ll probably have to drag Luna out when we need to leave,” she said in a low voice.

    “We could try luring her out with sweets,” Harry suggested.

    Hermione giggled at that. “That might work,” she agreed, leaning a little more on Harry. Into him. “You know, this is nice,” she said as they slowly walked towards the next habitat, where Luna was already all but climbing over the railing to watch the penguins.

    “The zoo?”

    “Just… relaxing,” she said. She liked animals, but she wasn’t nearly as enthusiastic as Luna. And she already knew pretty much everything the zoo could teach them about their animals. That meant she didn’t need to read all the placards or listen to the explanations.

    “Ah.” Harry nodded - she felt him move without looking at him. “I guess it is. Relaxing, that is.”

    They were safe here. Mostly. “Nothing suspicious.”

    “No.” Harry sighed. “As far as we can tell, at least.”

    She nodded, looking around as they reached the enclosure. No one seemed to be paying them any attention.

    “Look at them swimming!” Luna cheered, leaning forward so much, Ginny put her hand on her shoulder. “But aren’t they hot? They’re used to a colder climate! We could add some cooling spells.”

    And break the Statute of Secrecy. “They’re fine,” Hermione said.

    “But they could be happier, I think.”

    Luna was probably right about that.

    “But that doesn’t mean you should just cast spells,” Ron pointed out.

    “Not without a proper plan, at least,” Ginny said.

    “Oh, right!”

    “Muggles can add cooling as well,” Hermione pointed out. “You don’t need magic for that.” It was usually just not worth the expense and too inefficient for such a habitat, of course.

    “They can?”

    “Yes. The penguins are fine,” Hermione assured her. That was the third time Luna had wanted to ‘help’ the animals with magic. The girl was a little too enthusiastic about animals. If she ever met PETA…

    “Well, they should add some ice floats, then. That would be a more appropriate environment. And it should be bigger.”

    Hermione bit her lower lip before mentioning that muggles couldn’t use Extension Charms, and space was at a premium in London.

    “Did your daddy ever visit Antarctica, Luna?” Ginny asked.

    “I don’t think so. He visited Chile, looking for Huallepen, but never Antarctica. At least not knowingly - he might have mistakenly visited once, when he had to apparate while drunk to escape angry caiman men, and ended up either on a mountain peak in the Andes or a hill in Antarctica. He didn’t have time to look around since it was so cold, he had to disapparate right away, and his foggy breath hindered his sight.”

    Hermione winced at the thought of misapparating - was that a word? - like that. If Harry and she had appeared in the Arctic instead of a tropical island… Harry looked a little queasy too.

    “That must have been an adventure,” Ginny said.

    “Oh, yes. Daddy still plans to go back one day to explain that he didn’t know that the stone table he had sat down at to eat his breakfast was actually their holy shrine to the river goddess.” Luna nodded sagely. “But between investigating the Rotfang Conspiracy and the search for the elusive Black-Furred Bigfoot, he hasn’t found the time.”

    Hermione knew better than to ask after the Rotfang conspiracy. Luna was still convinced that her parents were secret agents fighting the conspiracy.

    “So, polar bears now?” Ginny asked.

    “Yes! We need to check if they have mistakenly placed an albino Kodiak bear in the habitat. I’ve heard it happened in a zoo, but not which zoo.”

    And they were off again.

    “Do albino Kodiak bears exist?” Harry asked.

    “It’s a subspecies of the brown bear,” Hermione explained. “Albinos probably exist or are possible, but I’ve never heard of one.” Not that she had been searching for one, anyway.

    “Well, let’s go before Luna climbs into the habitat,” Lavender said.

    “Ginny would prevent it,” Ron replied. “But yes, let’s go.”

    They started towards the polar bear habitat. Hermione looked around. Families were milling around. Mostly children and mothers. Or grandparents - it was Tuesday, after all. Many parents would be working. And a wizard would probably not be aware of that.

    “Nothing suspicious,” Harry said, echoing her thoughts.

    “Yes.” She sighed. “We should do this more often.”

    “OK.”

    “As long as we can fit it in between training,” she added.

    “Of course.”

    She started thinking of possible dates for such… dates. “But next time, just the two of us,” she whispered with a grin.

    Harry nodded. “The museum then?”

    “Maybe. Let’s decide when we see what the weather’s like.” A stroll through a park sounded very appealing.

    She leaned into his side again as they approached the polar bear habitat. And stopped to kiss before joining the others.

    Which delayed them a little longer than expected, but Hermione wasn’t complaining.

    *****​

    Kingston upon Thames, London, Britain, July 24th, 1996

    “And here’s yours!”

    “Thank you!” Harry Potter smiled at the waitress as she put his order down in front of him. Lamb Curry, Malaysian style - according to Hermione, this was one of the best dishes in the restaurant and one of her favourites, though that had been obvious by the way the staff had greeted her.

    “Oh, that’s hot!” Ginny commented, leaving her mouth open and breathing heavily.

    “I told you so,” Hermione said, pursing her lips before taking a bite out of her own curry.

    “Should’ve listened, Gin,” Ron added.

    “I made the same mistake when Hermione took me here for the first time,” Lavender added. “It’s spicier than we’re used to but great. Once you’re used to it.”

    “But that can take a while,” Hermione said.

    “It’s worse than an acid pop,” Ginny complained, swallowing half her water.

    “It’s actually quite mild,” Luna said. “Compared to Peking Fire Duck. Daddy brought home a sample once. Did you know it’s served afire? To simulate how it looked alive. But they have a really spicy sauce for it that makes your mouth feel as if it’s burning.”

    “My mouth already feels as if it’s burning,” Ginny said, almost panting now.

    “Eat some yoghurt then. Water won’t help.”

    “Now you say that!” Ginny probably would have glared at Hermione if she hadn’t focused on shovelling yoghurt onto her plate.

    “You shouldn’t have picked the spiciest dish,” Ron said. He looked at Harry. “You don’t seem to have any trouble, though.”

    Harry chuckled. “A few years ago, Dudley and his friends liked to challenge each other to eat the spiciest food they could find. Compared to Piers’s ‘Tabasco Surprise’, this is mild.”

    Hermione groaned. “No wonder you were unfazed when I used a switching spell to dump a load of chilli powder into your food.”

    He laughed in return. “I remember that.” It had been quite hard not to show any reaction at all, but the expression on her face had been worth it.

    “Oh! Do you think that would be something Fred and George would be interested in?” Luna asked.

    “No!” Ron and Ginny said in one voice. Then Ginny blinked. “On second thought, they’re not living with us any more. So, they won’t test that on us.”

    “They’re still visiting,” Ron pointed out.

    “Not very often. And Mum would hex them if they messed with her meals.” Ginny grinned. “Besides, they usually test their inventions on you, not me.”

    “They should’ve tested them on Harry,” Luna said. “He’d have blamed Hermione.”

    “They actually tried that,” Harry said. “But they didn’t realise that we never hid what we had done to each other.”

    “At least not when no professor or snitch was present,” Hermione added. “So, when he came to promise me swift and brutal vengeance for putting boiling paste into his socks, I told him that I wouldn’t do such a stupid prank, and he believed me.”

    “And then we struck back at the twins,” Harry said. “Using the plans I had made for my vengeance.”

    “Oh! The first time you united against a common enemy!” Luna beamed at them, then pouted. “So, if the twins hadn’t surrendered but kept it up, you would’ve become a couple in your second year?”

    Harry laughed. “I don’t think so.”

    “We wouldn’t have become a couple,” Hermione said.

    “Of course not - you were too immature back then.” Luna nodded with an overly honest expression.

    He blinked. Had Luna… taken another dig at them? He glanced at Hermione, who was all but pouting at their friend. So, probably yes.

    But you never knew with Luna.

    He watched her for a moment as she and Ginny swapped food around - Ron’s sister apparently hadn’t learned her lesson since she needed more yoghurt afterwards - but still couldn’t tell.

    But they had the right idea. He grinned and used his fork to steal a bite from Hermione’s dish.

    She looked both annoyed and surprised. “We’ve got the same dish!”

    “It’s the principle of the thing,” he replied, chuckling.

    She frowned some more, then narrowed her eyes. “Alright!”

    And her chopsticks darted towards his own plate. He blocked them with his fork and retaliated. Which prompted another attack.

    “They’ve gone mad,” Ron commented.

    “It was just a question of time,” Lavender agreed.

    “And they were doing so well,” Luna said with a sigh.

    Harry froze for a moment, then looked at Hermione. She nodded with a toothy grin.

    And Harry stuck his fork into Ron’s bowl while Hermione snapped up a shrimp from Lavender’s plate.

    “Hey!”

    “Mate!”

    “Ron, didn’t you learn your lesson?” Ginny shook her head with a fake sigh. “You never get between those two.”

    While Ron glared at his sister, Harry stole another piece of beef from his rice bowl. Teach his friend not to mock him.

    Dessert they took in Hermione’s favourite gelateria, which, unfortunately, wasn’t nearly as good as Fortescue’s, to Luna’s great disappointment. Though her mood brightened when Hermione agreed that the gelateria logically could only be her second-most-favourite gelateria.

    All in all, it had been a great day.

    *****​

    Harrod’s, Knightsbridge, London, Britain, July 25th, 1996

    Hermione Granger scowled at the rack in front of her. “This was a mistake.”

    “Why?” Mum asked. “You said you had Harry’s measurements. And that he needs a suit.”

    “I do.” Hermione pointed at the suits. “But that’s not a suitable birthday present. If Harry needs a suit for a muggle occasion, Sirius will hire a tailor to make him one.” Probably the best tailor he could get. Or the most expensive. If he heard about haute couture… Well, it would be fun to see Harry in some of the more extravagant creations of Parisian fashion designers. But that didn’t solve the problem of what to buy him for his birthday.

    “I see.” Mum shook her head with a frown. “So, we’re back to square one.”

    “Yes,” Hermione said. “Clothes are out. Unless we hire a tailor.”

    “A coupon for a paid visit to a tailor?” Mum suggested. “You did choose a paid trip to a spa for Lavender last year.”

    She had done that. But… “I need something a little more meaningful,” she said with a sigh. “I don’t want to just spend money.”

    “Not like Mr Black.”

    “He doesn’t just spend money,” Hermione protested. “It’s just… He’s rich, so he doesn’t really care about money.” But Harry’s godfather was thoughtful and even insightful. Not too often, though.

    “We’re aware of that.” Mum pursed her lips.

    Hermione bit her lower lip for a moment. Her parents still disliked that Mr Black would be buying Hermione an expensive broom. But it couldn’t be helped. And that was why Mum was with her, shopping in London, instead of working.

    “What about a book?” Mum suggested.

    “I’ve already picked out a few books for him,” Hermione replied. “But they’re not… expensive enough.” And Harry wasn’t so fond of books that buying an antique edition would be a good gift.

    Mum shook her head again in apparent disapproval.

    “Both his parents and Sirius have great libraries,” Hermione defended her boyfriend. “Lots of old books.”

    “Magic books.”

    “Yes.” She nodded. So many interesting books…

    “Maybe we should buy him something magical.”

    Hermione frowned. It was a logical choice, but… “I would prefer something muggle. Most of his friends will give him magical presents.” And between his parents and his godfather, she doubted that there were many things that he might want and didn’t have which still fit their budget.

    “Well, as long as it’s thoughtful…” Mum smiled.

    Hermione narrowed her eyes. Was that a slight dig at her relationship? Her parents hadn’t said anything about her boyfriend, or their sleeping arrangements, but if this was a hint that they thought Harry and she were just together because of circumstances and didn’t really know each other… “I don’t doubt that I’ll find something suitably priced and insightful.” At least she hoped so.

    “That shouldn’t be too hard,” Mum said.

    But it was. Harry loved Quidditch, but everyone knew that. Odds were, all his friends would give him something Quidditch related. Or broom related. Duelling was the next obvious interest. And his godfather had the expensive parts covered while their classmates would likely buy duelling books or wand cleaning kits or something.

    And she was his girlfriend, so she needed something more… personal. Insightful. If she went for the obvious, she might as well buy him a tie and cuff buttons. This was worse than shopping for your parents and grandparents, once you were past the age when you could craft something as a gift… She blinked. “Oh, yes!”

    “Oh?”

    “I know the perfect gift! Well, almost.” She smiled. “And it’ll be expensive enough for your pride, Mum.” She smiled at her mother. And a little more when she saw that Mum was frowning for a moment at her own little dig.

    “And what will it be?” Mum asked.

    “I’m working on the details,” Hermione told her. “But I know what we need to buy.”

    She had done this before, after all. But this time, it would be to help Harry.

    Mum looked a little doubtful still. But Hermione ignored that as she started making a list. Once she had everything, she’d need to work on it, probably in Grimmauld Place. And without Harry being aware of it, or it would ruin the surprise.

    Well, that shouldn’t be a problem. His godfather would probably help her if she explained things.

    “We’ll need a number of high-quality ingredients. And tools,” she told Mum. “Both muggle and magical.” And it was already a little late, so they had to hurry a little to get everything before dinner at the Potters.

    “Are you planning to do this at home?” Mum asked.

    “No, no. That would trigger the Trace. I’ll do the magical part at Grimmauld Place. Probably. Alternatively, I can ask Lavender.” Hermione nodded. “But I’ll have to use the tools at home.” She smiled at Mum. “And I will need your help for the sewing. And Dad’s.”

    Mum smiled at that, and Hermione felt a little guilty. She had been spending less time than usual with her parents this holiday. But that couldn’t be helped.

    She needed to be with Harry.

    *****​

    Godric’s Hollow, Devon, Britain, July 25th, 1996

    “Wow, you actually remembered that you have a family?”

    Harry Potter rolled his eyes. “Shut up, Rose!” His little sister was so immature! “I’ve been here every day.”

    “For a few hours at most. With your girlfriend.”

    Harry put the Daily Prophet - with another article about the Barbary Coast pirates and their attacks on France in the past - down on the table. “Jealous?”

    “Of course not!”

    “You sure sound like it.”

    “You wish! I’m just remarking that you spend more time at the Grangers’ than here.”

    “That’s not true,” Harry retorted. They were as often at Sirius’s, after all, for training. “Besides, why do you care? You always complain when I’m here.”

    “Only when you’re bothering me. Which you’re always doing. But Mum and Dad miss you, and it’s not fun seeing them sigh and be all concerned about you!”

    Ah, there it was. “Really?” He scoffed. “We’re here every second day.”

    “In your room, doing… whatever.”

    “So you are jealous.” Harry shook his head.

    “I’m not jealous.”

    “Jealous that I’m in a relationship and jealous that Mum and Dad care enough about me to worry,” Harry said.

    “We care about both of you!”

    Harry winced. He hadn’t noticed that Mum had left her lab in the basement. “Morning Mum.”

    Their mother rolled her eyes. “It’s almost noon.”

    “Technically, that’s still morning,” he replied.

    “And we were all together for breakfast,” Rose piped up. “Did you forget that already?”

    Harry scoffed at her. “Of course I didn’t forget! I was just witty.”

    “Half-witty, you mean.”

    Oh, you…!

    “Enough!” Mum snapped. “You’re behaving like little children.”

    Harry swallowed his protest. It would make him look childish. Even though he was only defending himself against Rose’s jealous barbs.

    ”Mum!” Rose pouted. “Harry started it!”

    Harry grinned. His little sister just made a mistake.

    “And I’m ending it!” Mum glared at Rose. “Harry went through a traumatic experience, Rose. It’s natural that we’re worried about him.”

    Harry nodded, then caught himself. They didn’t have to worry about him!

    Rose snorted. “He looks so traumatised when he’s off to spend the day with his girlfriend!”

    “Leave Hermione out of this!” Harry snapped. “And I’m not traumatised!” He’d just learned a lesson about being cautious and prepared.

    Mum sighed and sat down at the table. “Enough, both of you. Rose, don’t rile up Harry. He did suffer through a traumatic experience and is still coping with it.”

    “Mum!”

    “Yes, you are, Harry. Denial doesn’t suit you. And don’t lord the fact that you’re in a relationship over Rose.”

    “I’m not jealous!”

    Harry narrowed his eyes. Why wasn’t Mum telling Rose that she was jealous?

    “Really, you two. If you don’t stop this stupid quarrel right now, I’ll have words with Sirius about your birthday presents. And your Christmas presents.”

    That was unfair! Harry glared at Rose, who was scowling at him as if this wasn’t her fault.

    Mum sighed once more. “Now, we’ll have lunch soon. James is coming at noon unless there’s an emergency at the Ministry. Since you don’t have anything better to do than quarrelling, you can help me prepare the meal.”

    Damn. This was all Rose’s fault.

    *****​

    Grimmauld Place, London, Britain, July 25th, 1996

    “What’s Hermione doing?” Harry Potter asked Sirius as soon as they were alone in the salon.

    “It’s a surprise,” his godfather replied with a grin. “She told you that, didn’t she?”

    “Yes, she did,” Harry admitted. After she had talked in private to Sirius.

    “So, you don’t expect me to betray her confidence, do you?”

    Harry sighed. Sirius was his godfather, but that might be going a little too far. And Hermione wouldn’t be happy if Sirius spilt her secret. “It’s for my birthday, isn’t it?”

    Sirius’s grin widened. “I’m not telling you anything.”

    “She’s using your library and your lab,” Harry pointed out. “And if it were for anything other than my birthday gift, she would have me help.”

    Sirius made a humming noise.

    Harry sighed and leaned back in his armchair. “I’ll find out in a few days.”

    “Yes, you will.”

    “So… what are we doing while Hermione is working on her surprise?” Harry asked after a few seconds.

    “Well, we could go and ‘work’ on her birthday gift,” Sirius suggested. “But I shouldn’t leave her alone in the house.”

    Harry nodded. Kreacher had gotten better, or so Mum and Dad claimed, but he still didn’t like muggleborns. Harry didn’t think the elf would try to hurt Hermione, but he also didn’t think he wouldn’t try. “Probably not,” he said.

    “So, I thought we just had a nice relaxing afternoon.” Sirius smiled widely at him. Too widely.

    Harry closed his eyes. “Mum complained, didn’t she?”

    “Well, James told me, but I think Lily asked him to.” Sirius shrugged. “A quarrel between siblings is nothing to be worried about unless curses are cast, but I think relaxing will do you good.”

    “I’m relaxed,” Harry pointed out. Sirius should know that.

    His godfather grinned and pulled out a set of Omnioculars. “So, you don’t want to watch my new collection of the best scenes from last season?”

    “They already arrived?” Harry leaned forward. “Usually, they arrive in August.”

    “That’s because Leopold Travers had an accident early in the season and missed most of it. He always held out for more galleons before donating his memories, so that delayed the whole project.”

    “Great!” Harry reached to grab one of the Omnioculars. Being at Hogwarts, he missed most of the season, and this was the best way to watch the matches. “Oh! The guests will love that, too!”

    “You want to spend your birthday party rewatching the season?” Sirius raised his eyebrows.

    Harry blinked. “Right. Forget that. I can loan it to Ron and Neville. But let’s start now!”

    *****​

    Bethnal Green, London, Britain, July 26th, 1996

    Hermione Granger wasn’t quite certain whether the fact that Miss Vance lived in an obviously muggle apartment building was a promising sign or not. On the one hand, anyone so at ease with muggles as to live in such a building would likely be familiar with modern psychology, which would make talking to her easier. On the other hand, living in such a building precluded the use of wards - they would block all electronics in the house - so the witch, despite her experience in the Blood War, wasn’t properly cautious. Without Anti-Apparition Jinxes, anyone could instantly enter her apartment.

    “Is something wrong?” Mum asked.

    “No, no,” Hermione quickly told her. “I just didn’t expect such an… apartment.”

    “Yes,” Harry chimed in. “I thought it would be like Grimmauld Place - a free-standing building with wards.”

    “The Vances aren’t an old pureblood family,” Mrs Potter said. “And Emmeline lived as a muggle during the war as well. She said it kept her safer than living in Wizarding Britain would have been.”

    “Because she kept her address secret, right?” Harry looked at his mother.

    Hermione agreed. Anonymity would have been a powerful defence. “But now people know where she lives.”

    “Only her friends are privy to that. And now you. And the war’s over,” Mrs Potter said. “Now, let’s go in. We don’t want to be late.”

    “No, we don’t,” Mum agreed, and they entered the building.

    Hermione put her hand close to her holster - just in case - and glanced at Harry. He nodded back, then covered the right side while she kept an eye on the left side. Good.

    They took the stairs, not the lift - Miss Vance lived on the first floor. And the lift would have been a perfect location for an ambush - or a trap.

    But nothing happened.

    “Ah, you’ve arrived! Come in!” Miss Vance was a statuesque woman with a friendly smile. Short, fashionable muggle hairstyle, Hermione noticed. Not quite in fashion in Wizarding Britain. On the other hand, she was wearing robes - but robes that could pass as a muggle dress.

    And she had a television and a computer in her flat. Well, she’d be a fool if she didn’t take advantage of the lack of wards.

    Hermione looked around while Mrs Potter, her Mum and Miss Vance made some chitchat. The windows looked normal, not reinforced. No bars on them either - possible escape routes. And… Ah. There was a perch with a sleeping owl in the kitchen, near an open window.

    Not the safest setup - if someone followed the owl to the apartment…

    “So, we’ll come back in an hour?” Mrs Potter asked.

    Hermione berated herself for missing that they finished talking. She couldn’t afford to be so sloppy.

    “So… let’s sit down in the living room,” Miss Vance said once Mum and Mrs Potter had left. “It’s more comfortable than my office.”

    Hermione nodded. That made sense. Miss Vance wasn’t an actual psychiatrist, so she wouldn’t need an office for their talk.

    The couch was very comfortable, at least. And Harry sat down next to her - close enough for their legs to touch.

    Miss Vance didn’t comment. She leaned forward in her armchair and smiled. “So, you’ve had a rough time over summer, and now everyone’s walking on eggshells around you, or so I hear. And you don’t like it.”

    Hermione blinked. That pretty much summed up the problem. Maybe this wouldn’t be as bad as they had feared.

    “Yes, exactly!” Harry nodded.

    “And you think they’re overprotective and don’t understand that you’re fine.”

    “Mum told you that,” Harry said with a pout.

    “Of course she did.” Miss Vance kept smiling. “That’s her view. Now, what’s your view of things?”

    Hermione glanced at Harry again. “We’re fine,” he said.

    “And that’s why you cased my apartment for possible ambushes and escape routes while I talked to Lily and Mrs Granger?” Miss Vance raised her eyebrows, but her smile didn’t budge.

    Hermione frowned. It looked like this would be worse than what they had feared.

    *****​
     
  25. Starfox5

    Starfox5 Experienced.

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    Thanks! Fixed! (I blame autocorrect.)

    Indeed. And Luna's too nice for nastier revenge.
     
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  26. RedX

    RedX Not too sore, are you?

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    The adventure and escape was good, the relationship discussions are nice, but the place this 'fic really shines is how Harry and Hermione and everyone around them are dealing with the two's trauma and PTSD.

    Especially including the delicate art of getting across to someone that they do, indeed, have PTSD.
     
  27. Puchacz

    Puchacz Getting out there.

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    Though it is open question whether all behaviors are maladaptive - some may be a good idea after all.
     
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  28. Threadmarks: Chapter 43: The Birthday Party
    Starfox5

    Starfox5 Experienced.

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    Chapter 43: The Birthday Party

    Godric’s Hollow, Devon, Britain, July 31st, 1996

    If Rose Potter had to pick a day as the worst of any year, it would probably be the 31st of July. She’d suffered worse days in her life - the day she wrecked her first potions lab came to mind - but counting all the years she could remember, the 31st of July was most consistently a bad day.

    Harry’s birthday. And Neville’s. Which would be celebrated here. Where Rose lived. An entire day, dedicated to her stupid brother. His friends - and some of Neville’s, though mostly Harry’s - hanging around, being stupid. Mostly boys, too. Except for Ginny, and since two years ago, Luna. And Ginny was only present because they always moved to the Weasleys later in the afternoon to use their pitch for Quidditch (and eat Mrs Weasley’s delicious cake - which was also unfair. Harry got two birthday cakes here and a third at the Weasleys’!), and Luna was only around since she was Ginny’s best friend. At least that was how she had met Harry and become his friend.

    And why would anyone want to be Harry’s friend? He was annoying, brash, and obsessed with Granger. Now more than ever. If he weren’t good at Quidditch, no one would really care about him. Luna was smart - she was a Ravenclaw - she should know better. Or have better taste. At least neither of the girls had a crush on Harry - talking to his stupid fangirls was the worst. It was all ‘oh, your brother is so great!’ ‘oh, he’s the best Seeker ever!’ ‘you’re so lucky to have him!’.

    She retched. They wouldn’t be talking like that if Harry were their brother.

    “Rose? Did you move your books from the couch?”

    She rolled her eyes. “Yes, Mum!” As if she would leave her best books out shortly before the guests started arriving.

    As if the fireplace had read her mind, it flared up, and a figure stepped through it. Two figures. Granger and Brown.

    “Hello, Rose.” Granger nodded at her.

    “Hello!” Brown flashed her an overly sweet smile.

    “You’re early,” Rose told them.

    “We wanted to check if we could lend a hand,” Granger said.

    Brown coughed.

    Rose shook her head. “Harry is where you left him this morning - in his room.” Mum had everything in hand, anyway. At least Dad hadn’t taken the day off but had gone to work as usual. Though he’d be back for lunch.

    “Thank you!” Granger turned and headed to the stairs as if this was her home.

    “I’ll wait here,” Brown said, sitting down in an armchair. “If that’s OK,” she added rather belatedly.

    Rose shrugged. “Make yourself at home.” Granger had already done so.

    “Don’t mind her,” Brown said. “She’s in love.”

    Rose snorted. “Really? I hadn’t noticed.”

    Brown giggled at that. “They’re a bit much, yes.”

    And coming from the girl who had probably spent more time on Weasley’s lap since they had become a couple than in her own chair, that was saying something. “Yes,” Rose said, frowning.

    “It’s the honeymoon,” Brown said. “After a while, they’ll be back to normal. Well, not like they were before, of course. But Harry will spend more time with you again, don’t worry!”

    Rose tilted her head. “You don’t have a brother, do you?”

    “Ah… no?”

    “Right. You wouldn’t say that if you had a brother like Harry.” Rose scoffed.

    “Ah.” Brown nodded. “Ginny said something similar.”

    “She would know.” The poor girl had six older brothers.

    Brown couldn’t take a hint, though. She leaned towards Rose and smiled. “You’ll get a boyfriend of your own, don’t worry!”

    “I know,” Rose said. Seamus had asked her out, hadn’t he? And while the boy was a pig - and, apparently, had talked badly about her according to Harry - she was quite confident that she’d get a boyfriend if she wanted one. Pretty confident, at least. Not that she wanted one. She didn’t. “Not that I’m looking for one.”

    “Ah.”

    Rose didn’t like the smile on Brown’s face. It was like Romilda’s when she told the witch last year that she wasn’t sad about Seamus dumping her. “Not everyone thinks having a boyfriend is the best thing ever,” she said. “Just look at Granger.”

    “What’s with Hermione?”

    “She went from a witch who stood up to Harry and could match him hex for hex to his girlfriend,” Rose explained.

    “Well, and he became her boyfriend. I think that’s a good thing,” Brown retorted.

    Not when now there was no one left to take down her brother’s ego. Rose shrugged. “Too lovey-dovey for me.”

    “‘Lovey-dovey’?”

    “They spend every minute together. Might as well have a Sticking Charm on their hips.”

    Brown giggled again. She was… well, not as bad as Romilda, but it came close. And she was two years older than Rose! At least Granger didn’t giggle like that. “That’s also normal.”

    “And sleeping together every night?” Rose asked. And with Mum and Dad’s blessings, even!

    “Well… there are special circumstances,” Brown replied, probably quoting Granger. “But…” She grinned. “...it’s certainly nice for them, isn’t it?”

    Rose rolled her eyes.

    “Whatever.” It was unfair that Harry got all the special permissions and favours. Hell, if he asked for a Phoenix, Mum and Dad would probably at least try to get him one. Though it would be funny if he did - Hedwig would peck his head all day! She grinned at the thought.

    “So, what can we do to help?” Brown asked.

    Rose stared at her. She actually wanted to help? If someone expected Rose to help prepare Harry’s party...

    “Hermione wanted to see Harry, but I didn’t come along to just wait until the party starts,” Brown said.

    “Best ask Mum,” Rose said, pointing towards the garden. “She’s setting up the table and stuff.” Since the weather was nice, they’d eat in the garden - in the back. There were spells to hide the magic, but it was still better to have a wizarding party in the back. And they had more room there.

    “Ah, good.” Brown stood up and walked towards the door to the garden.

    Rose shook her head. Working voluntarily for Harry? Feh! She sighed and grabbed the Daily Prophet from the side table. There had been something about a new potion in the back, or so she thought. But before she could find the page, she heard steps on the stairs. Harry. And his girlfriend.

    She leaned back, craning her neck to look through the open door at the stairs. It was upside down, but she saw them come down. “Brown’s in the garden,” she told them, “helping Mum set up the party.”

    “Ah, good!” Granger smiled at her and headed towards the door herself, Harry trailing behind her with a slight frown. Trouble in paradise? Or… “Are you going to help as well?” Rose asked as she sat up and turned to face them with a smile.

    “Exactly!” Granger nodded again. “We can’t just let Mrs Potter do everything, can we?”

    That was how it usually went, Rose thought. Granger probably wanted to make a good impression on Mum. On the other hand, she was muggleborn, and muggle parents couldn’t just use spells to prepare a party. Auntie Petunia had to do everything by hand, Rose knew. Though she wouldn’t let a guest help her, of course.

    She grinned and stood, following the two. This should be fun.

    “Mrs Potter? What can we do to help?” she heard Granger ask when she reached the door.

    “Ah… as I told Lavender, I’ve got things in hand,” Mum replied.

    Rose saw Harry straighten a little behind Granger.

    But then, Mum went on: “But you can start moving the food to the buffet here.”

    Hah! Rose stepped inside, her grin widening.

    “Thank you, Mrs Potter.”

    “Call me Lily, Hermione.”

    “Sorry, Lily.”

    Rose smiled at Harry when the two passed her. Harry glared back, and she saw his wand twitch, but he knew better than to hex her - Mum would know it was him.

    “Oh, Rose! Could you fetch the pops from the cellar?”

    “What?”

    “They’re in the corner.”

    Rose heard Harry snicker behind her and clenched her teeth as she stomped towards the stairs.

    This was all Granger’s fault! Now she had to help prepare Harry’s stupid birthday party.

    She went down into the cellar and grabbed the basket with the shrunken bottles in it. At least she didn’t have to lug around too many drinks.

    When she entered the garden again, Neville had arrived with his gran. He was standing around looking uncomfortable while Mum and Mrs Longbottom talked.

    Rose shook her head. “Neville! Can you help me with this?”

    He turned. “Oh, sure, Rose!” He flashed her a smile, and she ignored the frown from his gran.

    “Thanks,” he told her as he took the basket and placed it on the table for the buffet.

    “You could’ve just walked away, you know,” she told him.

    “That would’ve been rude.”

    She rolled her eyes. “We’re not in the Wizengamot.”

    “Tell that to Gran.”

    “Maybe I will,” she shot back.

    “You won’t,” he said with a grin.

    She scoffed. Of course she wouldn’t. That would be rude, and Mum would be mad at her. And Mrs Longbottom would be angry as well, though that wasn’t much of a concern for Rose.

    But the conversation about that was over. Which meant they needed something else to talk about. “So, how’s Trevor doing?” Rose asked. Neville winced, and she shook her head. “He ran away again?”

    “He always shows up before we head to Hogwarts…”

    “And then he runs away on the train. And at Hogwarts.”

    “He’s a lively toad?” Neville grinned and tilted his head.

    “Probably cursed,” she said.

    “No, we had that checked.” Neville shrugged. “It was a little weird that he just wouldn’t settle down.”

    “Ah.” Rose didn’t know what else to say - she couldn’t ask him about Potions - and busied herself with rearranging the bottles in the basket. “We’ll have to unshrink the bottles.”

    “Do you mean us?” Neville asked, looking over his shoulder at his grandmother.

    “Afraid you’ll get a notice from the Ministry?”

    “No. But Gran doesn’t like it if I ‘flout the law’.”

    “Everyone’s doing it.”

    “Just because everyone is doing something doesn’t mean the Longbottoms are doing it.” He grinned again, a little ruefully.

    Rose rolled her eyes again. “I bet you hear that every day.”

    He grimaced, and she suppressed a wince. Neville was a little sensitive about his gran, even though she was an old bat, as Auntie Petunia would say. Then again, she had raised him. She shrugged. “I can unshrink them, then.” Probably. It couldn’t be too hard, could it? Harry had done it all the time on the island.

    “I’ll help,” he said. “They’d have to punish both of us then.”

    She smiled again.

    And then Harry and Granger appeared from wherever they had been, and Neville smiled at them.

    Typical.

    *****​

    “Hello, Neville. Happy birthday.” Hermione Granger smiled at the other birthday boy.

    “Hermione. Harry. Happy birthday, Harry!”

    “Happy birthday, Neville,” Harry said with a chuckle.

    Neville looked a little nervous, or so Hermione thought. And Rose looked a little annoyed. Had they had a spat? Rose had seemed to be annoyed all morning. Then again, that seemed to be her normal mood, as far as Hermione could tell. Which, from what Lavender had told her about the Weasleys, was par for the course for siblings.

    “We were just about to unshrink the bottles,” Neville said.

    “Oh, let us!” Hermione smiled at him, then waved her wand at the basket full of shrunken pops. This was a good way to test silent casting. And the Levitation Charm, she added as she had to catch several bottles spilling out of the suddenly too small basket before they crashed to the ground. She floated them to the back of the table - if anyone opened them right now, there would be a mess.

    “Oops,” Harry said, stashing his own wand. “Guess we overdid it a little.”

    “Idiot,” Rose mumbled. Yes, still annoyed.

    “No harm done,” Hermione said. Neville was looking weirdly at them, she noticed. “Did we break a bottle?”

    “What? No, no.” He shook his head. “It’s just… I didn’t really believe the Prophet, you know.”

    “The Prophet?” Harry asked.

    “Well, they printed a lot of things that you shouldn’t believe,” Hermione pointed out.

    “About you two, ah…” Neville smiled, flushing a little.

    Oh. Hermione felt as if she was blushing a little herself. “Yes, we are together,” she told him. “And yes, it happened on the island.”

    “Oh, boy, are they together!” Rose muttered. “All the time.”

    “Shut up!” Harry snapped.

    “Make me!”

    “Oh, I will!”

    “Harry.” Hermione laid her hand on his arm. This was his party. His and Neville’s. Hexing his sister wasn’t a good idea. Even though Rose seemed to be asking for it.

    “Sorry,” he said, smiling at her.

    She smiled back.

    “That will take some time getting used to,” Neville said, shaking his head in a rather bemused manner.

    Hermione frowned at him. “It’s really nothing extraordinary,” she pointed out. They worked out their differences and realised they were attracted to each other. Simple. Relatively simple - the exact circumstances were quite extraordinary, of course.

    “Of course,” Neville said, nodding quickly. He didn’t sound very sincere, though.

    And Rose was rolling her eyes again. “Really? You spent years hexing and jinxing and cursing each other…”

    “We never used curses,” Hermione said automatically.

    Harry nodded in agreement. “At least not according to the accepted definition by the law.”

    “Exactly.” And that was all that counted, at least legally.

    Rose scoffed again. “...and suddenly, you’re in love! Totally in love. You make Brown and Weasley look as if they were shy!”

    Hermione frowned. That wasn’t true! Lavender and her boyfriend were very affectionate.

    “Really?” Neville boggled. Actually boggled. “That’s…”

    “...not true,” Hermione told him, showing her teeth.

    “You shag like rabbits!” Rose said.

    “Rose!” Harry snapped.

    “What? It’s true!” she protested.

    “Ah…” Neville looked more shocked than the time Slughorn had made him demonstrate the boiling potion in front of the class.

    “They spend every night together!” Rose told him. “Can you imagine that? And they’re going to do the same at Hogwarts!”

    Well, that was true, but they had good reasons for either. Extenuating circumstances - not that there was anything wrong with spending time with your partner. Or having sex.

    “Really?” Neville stared at them with his mouth half-open. No, fully open. Wide enough for Trevor to jump through.

    “Mum! Rose is spreading rumours!” Harry yelled.

    “It’s not a rumour; it’s the truth!” Rose yelled.

    “It’s private!” Harry added.

    And there came Mrs Potter - Lily, Hermione reminded herself. The woman looked annoyed - the resemblance to Rose was obvious now. “What’s going on? Are you quarrelling again?”

    “Rose was telling Neville that we ‘shag like rabbits’,” Harry said.

    “It’s the truth!”

    “It’s none of anyone else’s business than our own,” Harry pointed out.

    Hermione nodded. She refused to blush - there was nothing of which she should be ashamed.

    “Rose!” Lily glared at her daughter. “That was out of line! Would you like it if Harry talked about your private life?”

    “He does! He told everyone about my potions accident!”

    “That was a necessary warning so they wouldn’t be near you when you were brewing!”

    “You arse!”

    “Harry! Rose! Behave yourself! I taught you better than that!”

    “Sorry, Mum.”

    “Sorry.”

    “Now apologise to each other. And I don’t want to hear anything like that, or you can watch from your room while everyone else has fun at your party.”

    “Sorry.”

    “Sorry.”

    They weren’t - Hermione could tell. She had received too many of Harry’s fake apologies in Professor McGonagall’s or the Headmaster’s office to be deceived. She doubted that either Rose or Lily was fooled either.

    But appearances had been upheld.

    Lily nodded, then left again.

    And Neville was still staring. Honestly, their relationship really was nothing special.

    Fortunately, Lavender came out into the garden, with her boyfriend in tow.

    It seemed the guests had started to arrive.

    *****​

    “Ron!” Harry Potter smiled at his best friend. “Glad you could make it.”

    “As if you could keep me away,” Ron replied, one arm slung around Lavender’s waist. The rest of us are not here yet. Ginny went to fetch Luna, but I didn’t want to wait. Hi, Neville. Happy birthday to both of you.”

    “Ah, thank you.” Neville nodded automatically.

    “Is something wrong?” Ron asked.

    “Neville has trouble adjusting to Harry and my relationship,” Hermione told him. She wasn’t rolling her eyes, but Harry knew she wanted to.

    “To the details of their relationship,” Rose muttered. Harry shot her a glare. It was her fault that such details had even come up.

    Ron’s eyes widened. “Oh. You told him already?”

    “Already?” Hermione asked, frowning.

    “Well, it’s not as if you can keep it a secret, can you?”

    Harry didn’t know if Ron was talking about their relationship or the fact they were sleeping together every night, and he wasn’t about to ask. “We’re not about to blurt it out, either.”

    “No, you only told the Prophet,” Rose commented.

    For some reason, Ron and Lavender found that funny. It wasn’t. Not really.

    “I’m just… surprised. Very surprised,” Neville said, nodding several times.

    “It takes a bit to get used to it,” Ron told him. “Trust me, we know.”

    Harry glanced at Hermione. She was pressing her lips together. Probably to keep from making a few pointed remarks.

    He cleared his throat. “Anyway! We’re here for a double birthday party. Not to gossip.”

    “But that’s what we do at parties,” Lavender objected with a grin.

    “Then let’s gossip about someone else for a change,” Hermione cut in. “If we absolutely have to.”

    For a moment, no one said anything. Then Ron coughed. “So, how about the new Quidditch season?”

    It wasn’t the most original topic, but it would do. At least until the rest of the guests arrived.

    *****​

    “...and that’s why I think the Cannons have a shot at the cup this season.”

    Harry Potter wondered, not for the first time, if Ron actually believed that or if his apparent faith in the Chudley Cannons’ eventual triumph was just the longest-running prank in Hogwart’s history. He doubted that Ron could keep up such a convincing act, but then - he was Fred and George’s brother.

    Hermione sighed. “So, you think that a team that has been constantly losing their games - once even against a team that was absent…”

    “That was only because they got disqualified after the manager misremembered the rules governing forfeit matches and didn’t line them up for the match!” Ron interjected.

    Hermione continued on without blinking. “...and with a management that is clearly as inept as the players, will suddenly become successful just because they replaced their brooms?”

    “Those are great brooms. Puddlemere United won the cup with them,” Ron protested.

    “In 1973,” Harry cut in. He knew his favourite team’s history, after all. And Ron had told him all about that already. “And the Cannons got the same brooms that were flown in that season.”

    “See? Those are winning brooms!” Ron retorted. “It’s all about morale, anyway. If the Cannons believe they’ll win, they will win!”

    “They haven’t won the league in a hundred years,” Rose said.

    “That means they are due a victory.”

    “That’s not how it works,” Hermione said.

    “That’s exactly how it works.” Ron nodded. “One day, the Cannons will return to their winning streak.”

    “But that day is not today,” Rose told him. “Or this season.”

    “That will be decided on the field. And we’ll see that… Oh, hi, Luna.”

    “See what?” Luna asked, cocking her head to the side as she joined them with Ginny.

    “That this season, the Cannons will surprise everyone and win the league,” Ron said. “I know it.”

    “I’m afraid that you’re wrong,” Luna told him, shaking her head with a sad expression.

    “We’ll see about that,” Ron repeated himself.

    “We don't have to wait. You are demonstrably wrong. Since you know that the Cannons will win, you won’t be surprised, so they cannot surprise everyone. So, your claim cannot be true.” She nodded. “That’s simple logic.”

    Ron blinked at her while everyone else chuckled. “That’s not…” He sighed. “Whatever.”

    “Now that Ron’s delusions have been revealed…Happy Birthday, Harry. Happy Birthday, Neville,” Ginny said, smiling at them and handing a present over to Neville. “It’s from Luna and me.”

    “And here’s yours,” Luna said, holding out a small box for Harry.

    “Thank you!” Harry smiled at them. The box didn’t weigh much, but that didn’t mean anything.

    “Uh… this isn’t something alive?” Neville asked. “So, it won’t, ah, wander off? Or need air?”

    “What? No!” Luna shook her head, sending her long air flying. “As if we’d abuse animals like that. A pet has to choose you; it can’t be gifted!”

    Well, she wasn’t entirely wrong, in Harry’s experience. Though...

    “Trevor was a gift,” Neville told them.

    “And if he didn’t choose you, he’d never return to you.” Luna nodded. “Again, simple logic.”

    Well, you couldn’t argue with that. Harry cleared his throat. “So, how’s your summer been so far?”

    *****​

    “I can’t believe it! You two, a couple!”

    Hermione Granger couldn’t believe that Harry had invited Dean and Seamus. Well, they were his dorm mates, but still!

    “I know, right? We read it in the Prophet, but, well, it’s the Prophet!” Seamus nodded.

    Hermione pursed her lips. “I fail to see what’s so unbelievable. We simply worked out our differences.”

    The two boys exchanged glances with raised eyebrows. Hermione looked at Lavender, but her best friend was shaking her head as well. At her!

    “You have to admit that it was rather unlikely, given your past,” she said.

    “Unlikely? More like impossible!” Seamus exclaimed.

    “I’d ask if you were tested for love potions, but I’m sure you were,” Bell added.

    What? Hermione glared at the girl. “Don’t joke about that!” she spat.

    “I’m not joking,” the girl replied. “If I were suddenly going out with, say, Malfoy, I would hope someone checks for love potions.”

    Going out with that bigot? Hermione shuddered.

    “See?” Bell nodded with a satisfied smirk.

    “You can’t compare either of us to Malfoy!” Harry protested

    “True,” Bell admitted. “You two fought with each other much more than you ever fought with him.”

    That was because Malfoy wasn’t a challenge. Hermione frowned. “It’s not the same.”

    “I sure hope it isn’t,” Seamus said, looking at Harry. “If you were suddenly in love with Malfoy…”

    “Well, I have the theory that their aggression was unresolved sexual tension,” Luna piped up. “Since as soon as they ended their feud, they fell in love. And this could be the same with Malfoy.”

    “Malfoy and Granger?” Dean blinked.

    Well, the opportunity was just perfect. “He was more obsessed with Harry,” Hermione pointed out.

    Harry’s groan sounded a little forced to her, but she doubted most of the others not already aware of Luna’s theory - and their plans based on it - noticed as they chuckled.

    “He is obsessed with both of you,” Lavender said, right on cue. “But if this is ‘unresolved sexual tension’, can you imagine how he has to be feeling right now, with you two a couple.”

    “Oh!” Seamus laughed. “You think he’s jealous of both of you?”

    Malfoy certainly was envious of Hermione’s grades; she knew that. And of Harry’s popularity and talent for Quidditch and duelling. Which was understandable, of course - he really was great at both.

    “Well, if he is, he’ll be tearing his hair out,” Ron said. “Or telling himself that it isn’t true.”

    Hermione nodded. “He certainly has shown a tendency for delusions in the past.” Such as being a wizard skilled enough to challenge either her or Harry. “But, to be fair, I wouldn’t really trust the Prophet, either, not without verifying the claims independently.”

    “Like Witch Weekly?” Bell asked.

    Hermione rolled her eyes at that even as everyone else snickered. That magazine didn’t know what investigative journalism was. Except for its columns about fashion and cosmetics, of course, those were usually on the nose. She had used a hairstyling charm from the latest issue today, putting her hair into a fishtail braid that went - in her and Harry’s - opinion well with her duelling robes.

    “Well, let’s not talk about Malfoy and his potential lust for Hermione or me,” Harry said. “We don’t want to lose our appetite.”

    “Speak for yourself,” Bell said, laughing. It wasn’t really funny, though.

    *****​

    “So... how did this happen? You and Harry?” Bell leaned forward and lowered her voice to a whisper at the buffet. “You were worse than cats and dogs a month ago.”

    Hermione Granger forced herself to smile. Bell was a friend of Harry’s - a fellow member of the Quidditch team, which was why she was invited to his and Neville’s birthday party in the first place. And unlike Angelina, Alicia and the Weasley twins, who had finished Hogwarts and were now working, she had accepted the invitation. So, even though Bell certainly wasn’t a friend of hers, she couldn’t exactly tell the girl that this was none of her business. “As we told the Prophet, faced with a Wyvern and pirates, we got over our feud pretty quickly and then discovered that there was a mutual attraction.”

    Bell groaned. “You make it sound like it wasn’t anything special - and about as romantic as a Potions quiz.”

    “Oh, Potions quizzes can be very romantic,” Luna chimed in. “Although only for Nargles, since the confusion a difficult quiz causes amongst many students puts the Nargles in the mood to mate. At least that’s our theory on why so many Nargles gather in school.”

    The last thing Hermione wanted to discuss was the mating habits of cryptids. “You don’t expect purple prose about our passionate lovemaking in the surf, do you?”

    Judging by the way Bell’s eyes lit up, she expected exactly that.

    Lavender giggled. “Oh, yes! Tell us how the handsome duelist ravished you!”

    Rose made retching noises.

    “I think Hermione was the one doing the ravishing,” Ginny said.

    “No, no,” Luna chimed in. “She wouldn’t ravish Harry - she would have a cunning plan that would make him think he was the one doing the ravishing:”

    “Can we stop using the word ‘ravish’?” Hermione asked with a frown. “It sounds like it was taken straight out of a robes ripper.”

    “Shagging, then?” Rose asked with an innocent expression.

    “We enjoy a healthy intimate relationship,” Hermione corrected the little brat. “But I’m not going to share any details, so I’ll have to disappoint you.”

    “I don’t want to hear anything about that, anyway!” Rose protested. “And certainly not when it involves Harry!”

    “You were interested enough to comment,” Hemione pointed out.

    “Yes, you did,” Lavender agreed with a laugh. “But we don’t want those details. When did you realise you loved him?”

    Hermione looked over her shoulder. Harry was talking with Neville and the others, still seated at the table. They had already gotten their second servings and would probably pick thirds soon. Quite the coincidence, really. On the other hand, telling others about this had a certain appeal - none of the witches, except, possibly, for Rose, seemed to mean her ill with their questions. “Well, if you insist,” she said. “I had some notion before, but we kissed the first time after we killed the Wyvern. We were caught up in the moment, so to speak, and...”

    *****​

    “And now... presents!” Luna announced with a wide smile. She looked as enthusiastic as if she were the one to receive the presents, in Harry Potter’s opinion.

    Then again, she had eaten a big part of the two cakes by herself. More than anyone else, as far as Harry could tell. Where she put it, he didn’t know.

    But she was right - it was time to open the presents before they would move to the Weasleys for the traditional Birthday Quidditch match. Harry stood and looked at Neville. “Let’s do it.”

    His friend nodded, and they walked over to the pile of presents on a smaller table. It was almost like Christmas, just missing the tree. Luna was already there, looking at the gifts. “Ours first!” She grabbed two boxes and handed them over to Neville and Harry.

    Neville’s present was a muggle toad habitat. “We’ve had it shrunk so it would fit the box and you couldn’t tell from the size what it was. And we enchanted it so Trevor can open the door whenever he wants to - muggles lock their toads up in those, can you imagine that?” Luna explained.

    “Ah, thanks.” Neville smiled. “He’ll love it.”

    Harry wondered where Neville would put the habitat while he opened his own box. It was a… what was it? It looked like a toy for babies to hang over their cribs.

    “It’s a Dream-Catcher,” Luna told him. “To help you sleep without nightmares. Daddy got it from a tribe in the New World, as thanks for dealing with a Skin-Changer.”

    Oh. That was… as thoughtful as Harry should have expected. “Thank you,” he said, smiling.

    “And since you currently sleep together, it’s also a gift for Hermione,” Ginny added with a smirk. “It can handle two.”

    “Thank you.” Hermione’s smile looked a little too wide, but Luna either didn’t notice or ignored it since she beamed at her. Ginny, though, smirked.

    Seamus wolf-whistled but stopped when Harry and Hermione glared at him. That didn’t stop the snickering, though.

    Well, they had expected that - they knew their friends, after all. But Harry had still hoped for… well, less teasing.

    “Now ours!” Lavender said. A Quidditch calendar, no surprise there… Wait!

    Harry stared. “You used pictures of us?”

    Lavender nodded. “Hermione told us that muggles do that often - use family pictures for a calendar. So, we thought a calendar with pictures of our Quidditch team would be nice.”

    Proper wizarding pictures - Harry could see himself pulling off a Wronski Feint and how Malfoy, falling for it, crashed into the ground before the picture reset. “Thank you!”

    Neville got a similar calendar but with pictures of various magical plants that Luna’s dad had taken on his expeditions, and short descriptions.

    Then Hermione handed him a small box. Harry grinned - finally, he’d find out what she’d been working on for the past few days. He unwrapped a small box and opened it. “A mokeskin pouch?” A very small one.

    “With a few additional enchantments,” Hermione said. “I wrote a manual. It’s inside.”

    “You wrote a manual?” Dean boggled. Seamus snickered again.

    Harry ignored them - if Hermione referred him to a manual instead of explaining everything in person then she probably wanted to keep what the pouch did a secret. He stuck his hand into it and pulled a folded piece of parchment out.

    A quick glance had his eyes widen. Colour-changing, sticking charm, always flat - it could stick to his calf and would be hard to spot even with a pat-down. And protections that would keep it safe from most environmental hazards, as Hermione’s manual described them. The perfect way to store an emergency kit that would let them survive another trip to a desert island. Anywhere, actually, as the inventory list showed.

    “Thank you!” He smiled at her, then kissed her. And ignored the snickers and cheering.

    But they couldn’t really enjoy it - Neville was waiting for his gift. Which was a book about muggle plants, no surprise there - half of Neville’s gifts were related to herbology or plants. But he seemed happy enough.

    The rest of the presents were similar - small stuff related to Quidditch or duelling for Harry and Herbology for Neville. Other than Seamus’s gift ‘for both of you’, which consisted of a vial full of a potion ‘to enhance your relationship’.

    Harry didn’t quite glare, but he was more baring his teeth than smiling. “Thank you.”

    “Yes, thank you.” Hermione glared, but Seamus didn’t seem impressed. Well, thanks to Rose, he was aware since last year that Harry wasn’t allowed to hex his guests. Although, technically, that wouldn’t cover Hermione since she was a guest as well…

    No, better not risk making Mum mad. Rose would tell her at once. And he’d get blamed.

    Besides, compared to getting chased by a Wyvern and Barbary Coast pirates, a little teasing from a friend was nothing to be bothered by.

    He checked his watch. It was almost three in the afternoon. “Alright, let’s stash the loot, then get ready to go - Quidditch is waiting!”

    Katie cheered, and Luna rushed back to the dessert buffet to “save the last pudding”.

    “Mum will have a cake ready,” Ron told her.

    “I know!” Luna replied before she started scarfing down some ice cream.

    Well, as long as she was happy…

    Harry smiled and wrapped an arm around Hermione’s waist as they walked towards the fireplace.

    *****​

    The Burrow, Ottery St Catchpole, Devon, Britain, July 31st, 1996

    “Pass! Pass! Pass it!” Lavender was all but screeching.

    Hermione Granger clenched her teeth and guided her broom downwards. She couldn’t pass! Not with Bell covering her. And she wasn’t allowed to ram the other witch.

    Snarling, she flew along the ground, the tips of her shoes touching the grass on the pitch, then pulled up.

    “Pass!”

    Hermione scoffed and threw the Quaffle.

    Bell intercepted it, deflecting it to the side. Hermione turned, but Ginny was already on it - what had she been doing out there? Waiting for this? - and snatched it before it fell to the ground.

    And then she was off, shooting past Hermione while she was still turning around. Lavender headed towards her, but Ginny passed to Bell, who passed to Rose, who was in the perfect position to score, with Harry blocking Bell.

    Ron parried her shot, though, and Harry picked up the Quaffle. And suddenly, Hermione wasn’t lagging behind the rest any more but was in the best position to catch the Quaffle!

    And here it came. Hermione reached out with her free hand, about to grasp the ball…

    ...and was knocked off course and almost off her broom by a damned bludger. What was Neville doing? He was their Beater! She snarled at him while she rubbed her side, but Neville didn’t seem to notice as he was already moving to fly next to Ginny.

    She snarled again, diving for the Quaffle, but once more, Bell was there and grabbed it.

    This time, she took the shot after a quick pass to Rose and back while Harry was busy blocking Ginny. Ron twisted, almost throwing himself off his broom, but the Quaffle went through the hoop.

    Damn.

    “And the Avengers take the lead!” Luna cheered. “Thirty to twenty! Will the Lovebirds recover from that?”

    Luna really shouldn’t do double-duty as referee and commentator, in Hermione’s opinion. But before she could find the words to tactfully express her opinion, the Quaffle was flying towards her again. She caught it and darted towards the other set of hoops. Bell went after her again, though this time, Hermione was ready.

    Or, rather, Harry was ready and already in place above her. Hermione hurled the Quaffle up while Bell was still rushing towards her, and Harry grabbed it with a roll that took him past Bell before she noticed him.

    Hermione grinned as she continued flying towards the hoops, moving into a shooting position on the side. Dean ignored her, though, focusing on Harry. At least he was ignoring Lavender as well.

    Ginny and Rose both went for Harry, and he passed to Lavender. Who passed to Hermione instead of taking the shot as Bell flew straight at her.

    That left Hermione with a clear shot at the hoop while Dean turned around. She took it - but the Quaffle hit the edge and bounced off.

    Harry tried to recover it, but Rose all but rammed him, and Ginny got the Quaffle.

    Bell was already tearing off towards Ron.

    A pass and a shot later, it was forty to twenty.

    “I told you we should have been playing with Snitches,” Harry complained.

    “Just because you suck as a Chaser and can’t lose,” Rose retorted.

    “I’m still better than you!”

    Hermione pressed her lips together. While she had agreed that having Seekers would cut the game short - and all but ensure that Harry’s team would win, with no one else coming close to his talent and experience for hunting down the Snitch - it still was vexing to lose. The teams weren’t as even as the others had claimed. The score proved that.

    But there was no changing the rules in the middle of the game. She had just grit her teeth and bear it.

    And there came the next push as Harry made a mad dash straight towards Dean.

    Hermione scoffed through clenched teeth and flew to the right side again, narrowly avoiding the bludger this time.

    What was Neville doing?

    *****​

    Godric’s Hollow, Devon, Britain, July 31st, 1996

    “Can you pass me the bruise remover?” Hermione Granger asked on Harry’s bed. “I don’t know what position Neville has been playing, but it wasn’t Beater.”

    “Well, he’s not used to playing Beater. He usually plays Keeper. But Ron’s the best Keeper we have, so…” Harry shrugged as he handed her the small can.

    Hermione snorted. “Well, I blame him for our defeat.” She rubbed a dab of the ointment onto her thigh and sighed with relief.

    “The reason we lost was that we were facing two experienced Chasers,” Harry objected. “Ron’s great, but he can’t stop them by himself.”

    And neither Lavender nor Hermione was good enough to make the team at Hogwarts while Harry was a Seeker, not a Chaser. She sighed. “It was rigged from the start.”

    “Yes. I blame Rose.”

    “Rose wanted witches versus wizards,” Hermione pointed out.

    “Exactly. And when we didn’t agree, she ensured that her team would win by refusing to play with a Snitch.” Harry nodded.

    Hermione snorted. “The game would’ve been over in a minute or two.”

    “Only if I would have been lucky,” Harry said. “It could have taken me longer.”

    “Well, playing for a set amount of time is fairer.”

    “Not when we lose.”

    She chuckled at that. “Next time, we pick a better team.”

    “Or we invite enough for a full lineup.”

    “Or that. But only if I can play with two competent Beaters.” She tried to reach the bruise on her back and winced - her muscles also ached from exertion; they had played for two hours.

    “Let me!” Harry grabbed the can and sat down next to her. “Turn around.”

    She did and felt his hands rub the ointment into the bruise on her shoulder. Once more, she sighed with relief. “There’s another in the small of my back.”

    “I noticed.” His hands wandered down her back. “Thank you for your gift.”

    “It’s nothing. I wanted more and better enchantments, but I didn’t have the time,” she said. Or the experience. This had been her first attempt at this, after all.

    “It’s great,” he insisted as he reached the second bruise on her back.

    “It was a nice party,” she replied as he got more ointment. “I had a lot of fun.”

    “Well, we’ve been holding those parties for years,” Harry said.

    She shivered as the last pain left her back. “Thank you.” After another deep breath - her ribs didn’t hurt any more! - she added: “It was nice to relax amongst friends.”

    “Yes.” He froze for a moment, his fingers trailing over her back. “And we didn’t have to hex anyone.”

    She snorted, then closed her eyes as she felt his hands on her shoulders, gently squeezing. “I just hope Hogwarts will be as nice.”

    “Only if Malfoy decides that he’s too embarrassed to return and transfers to Durmstrang.”

    “Well, we can handle him.” She turned to face him, then slid into his lap.

    “Yes.”

    She started to undo his shirt, then simply pulled it over his head. No need to discuss Hogwarts now.

    They had about an hour until dinner, after all. And a month until Hogwarts.

    *****​
     
  29. Starfox5

    Starfox5 Experienced.

    Joined:
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    Teenagers tend to think they know best, alas. Although I don't want to overly focus on dealing with trauma.

    Yeah, though this Wizarding Britain's much safer than canon.
     
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  30. Beyogi

    Beyogi I trust you know where the happy button is?

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    Honestly I'm kinda hoping Luna's theory on Malfoy is true. Actually he wants to bone both Harry and Hermione :D
     
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