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The Forgotten Duo

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Chapter 1

Kings Cross Station

Harry walked through the barrier at platform 9 & ¾ for his first year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. He had been waiting for this day for as he could remember.

His parents, and this twin brother Andrew, who was also known as the famous ‘Boy Who Lived,’ were walking ahead of him, while he lagged behind. He had no intention of being seen so close to them, not with how they’d treated him his whole life.

On the Halloween of 1981, Harry at the time had been with his Mum and Dad visiting his Godfather, Sirius, while his brother had been left home with his Godmother, who had hoped to have some time to bond with him.

Unfortunately, that night, Lord Voldemort came to Godric Hollow. The Dark Lord killed Andrew’s Godmother and moved to kill Andrew, but something went wrong, and Lord Voldemort disappeared off the face of the earth.

No one knows exactly what happened that Halloween night, only that the Dark Lord's wand was found in the room, with no sign of his body.

Andrew was found safe and healthy, with only a lightning-shaped scar to prove he was there, with Wizarding Britain claiming Andrew as the ‘Boy Who Lived’ and the saviour of Wizarding Britain.

And to Harry’s point of view, this was the reason why his parents had focused most of their attention on his brother, and whether intentionally or not, neglected him in the process. As every action, they seemed to make showed off their blatant favouritism towards Andrew.

On the twin’s birthday, on July 31, a party was held at the Manor for their shared birthday. All of Andrew’s friends came over, and as Harry had no friends, no one came over for ‘his’ party. His parents had given his brother two notable presents, the first of which was a brand-new Nimbus 2000 broomstick, which was said to be the best broom on the market.

Andrew was also given his father’s family heirloom, the Potter invisibility cloak. When Harry saw this his mind was in a fury, he knew that for as long as he could remember the family heirloom had always been passed down from the father to the eldest son. So, based on that Harry should’ve been given the cloak as he was born an hour before Andrew, but alas it seemed traditions didn’t apply to the Potter’s ‘favourite’ son.

For some reason, Harry had a very difficult time making friends, which is why he had none at all. Whenever he talked to someone he had to constantly grab their attention, or else they just seemed to ‘zone out.’ This resulted in Harry thinking that he was simply a boring person, and not deemed worthy of anyone’s time. And other children only ever talked to him because they mistook him for his brother, and once he had communicated this, they promptly became a lot less friendly towards him. But most of the time people just walked past him, almost as if they didn’t even see him.

Harry and Andrew looked very similar, as they were near-identical twins and near carbon copies of their father, James. The only differences being Andrew's famous scar and their different eye colours. Where Andrew had inherited his father's hazel eyes, Harry had gained his mother's green eyes.

Harry found that over time he actually felt somewhat comfortable with the daily loneliness in his life. He had never experienced friendship before, and because of that didn’t know what he was missing out on.

And since he was so ignored and unnoticed he spent a lot of his time going through the various books in the Potter library, Who knew the Potter’s had such an extensive and broad collection of books ranging from all different kinds of magic?

To avoid looking identical to his brother, Harry kept his fringe long enough so it could cover one of his eyes. This way he was less likely to be mistaken as his brother, and maybe if his parents noticed him properly one day, they wouldn’t get confused.

And the neglect towards Harry was not only from his parents, as both his two uncles Sirius and Remus ignored him as well, and as a result, he resented them all for it.

So, as Harry walked behind his family he decided, right then and there, that he was going to leave a mark on the world and be remembered as someone. His first footprint was set to begin in the 1991 Hogwarts Sorting.

-o-o-o-o-o-

As they walked Harry listened in on the conversation his parents were having with his brother.

“Andrew, remember to not just chase girl all day,” said James.

Andrew rolled his eyes and said, “Dad why would I worry about chasing girls when I can watch Quidditch?”

James let out a chuckle, “Yes I suppose you’re right, Quidditch is more important than girls,” replied his father with a smirk.

This resulted in him being lightly hit on the arm by Lily who was not so amused and glared briefly at her husband.

“Quidditch is not the most important thing in the world,” said Lily.

“Yes, mum." And the two Potter males fell into laughter.

Harry had to admit he was slightly jealous of their exchange, Seriously one would think that they only have one son. He sighed and began to make his way over to them hoping to elicit some sort of reaction, however, just as he was about to reach them a clan of redheads blocked his path.

Great the Weasley, thought Harry sarcastically.

The Weasleys were… a strange bunch to be sure. The Mother of the clan, Molly Weasley was perhaps the most overbearing mother, Harry had ever seen, although he hadn't seen that many to begin with. Molly constantly nagged her kids and was often seen telling the Weasley twins off. If it was out of love, or a need to be in control Harry couldn't tell. He had never experienced anything like that to understand.

Arthur Weasley was also there, the father and the Head of the Misuse of Muggle Artefacts Office, which one can only wonder how he still has the job, as Harry had overheard the twins talking about a flying car. A flying car! How can someone who is the head of the misuse of muggle artefacts be doing exactly that?

Harry had only seen Bill and Charlie Weasley a few times when they had visited the Manor, and since they were too old for Hogwarts they weren’t present at the platform.

Percy was standing there looking completely full of himself, in his Gryffindor robes and a badge proudly on his chest representing him as a Prefect.

The twins were supposedly a fun bunch, however, Harry wouldn’t agree with this statement. He had seen them commit pranks on guests and in Harry’s opinion they weren’t wonderful pranksters, but instead bullies.

The youngest son of the Weasley's, Ron was also there. He was best friends with his annoying brother and a first-class git. The few interactions he had with Ron were some of the worst. He ignored what Harry said and proceeded to talk about Quidditch and the Chudley Cannons, all the while making off-hand and rude comments to his ‘bookish' habits. Why Ron was Andrew's best friend would always be a mystery to the eldest Potter boy.

The youngest of all the Weasleys and the biggest fan of Andrew ever was Ginny. It seemed like she couldn’t even say a single word in front of Andrew and blushed furiously whenever Andrew addressed her. Harry wondered if this was the result of Molly’s influence.

While the Weasleys caught up with his family, Harry looked up and down the platform, before locking his eyes onto a familiar looking group. It was the infamous Malfoy family, who easily contrasted the Weasley’s red hair with their blond. They stood there straight a powerful, looking as though they owned the place. He knew that they were the second richest wizarding family in Britain, the only one richer being the Black estate which was almost entirely controlled by his godfather.

His parents had told him and Andrew all about the Malfoys, and how they used to be followers of the Dark Lord. They had advised their kids to be very careful and even antagonistic towards the followers of the dark and their children. Harry, however, thought otherwise, Why should I judge someone based on their parents’ actions? I certainly don’t want people to judge and presume me to be just like my father. If Malfoy is indifferent to me, I see no reason what I can’t return the favour.

Harry turned his gaze back to the Potters and realised that they were saying goodbye to their child, less they forget he was also theirs.

“Goodbye Andrew, you’re all so grown up now. Going to your first year at Hogwarts, I’ll miss you,” said Lily before bringing Andrew into a big hug.

“Mum, you’re embarrassing me,” said a blushing and embarrassed Andrew.

James laughed and joked, “That’s why parents exist Andrew, solely to embarrass their children.”

Andrew smiled awkwardly in response.

“Now make sure you end up in Gryffindor, not as if that’ll hard as Potter’s are always in Gryffindor.”

“Of course, Dad, where else would I be, Slytherin?” joked Andrew.

The trio all laughed at that.

They waved their goodbyes and Andrew made his way onto the Hogwarts Express.

His parents were still looking at Andrew seemingly oblivious to Harry's presence.

Harry cleared his throat.

The two turned their attention to the noise and seemed a bit startled.

“Oh, Harry I almost forgot you were here,” said Lily a bit awkwardly, blinking a few times while looking at Harry.

More like you did forget mused, Harry.

He looked into her eyes and noticed that he saw the usual lines and wiggles associated with his eye condition.

“Well bye Harry, hope you enjoy your year.”

“Bye son,” said James and patted his son hard on the back.

Harry mentally sighed before saying “Bye,” and without taking another look at them he headed off to board the Hogwarts Express.

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 2

The Hogwarts Express & Sorting

Harry made his way onto the express taking his luggage, and his owl Ivo with him.

She was a pure black owl, with bright orange eyes. When Harry went shopping in Diagon Alley earlier in the year he insisted on getting her. When he looked at the black bird, he felt some sort of connection, and compulsion to own it. The owl also looked straight into him as if judging whether or not he was worthy and gave an imperceptible nod at him after some deliberation.

His parents eventually gave in and bought it for him while his brother claimed a pure, and snowy owl for himself. He named this owl Hedwig, and from the stares and looks the two owls were making at the other, it was obvious they did not like each other.

Carrying his trunk and owl cage Harry made his way down the corridor on the express. Looking into the various compartments on his way down Harry saw many recognisable faces, as well as people doing distasteful acts.

The first compartment on his left seemed to have two sixth or seventh years snogging each other like they were trying to meld together. Why in Merlin are they enjoying that?

Harry quickly made his way past the compartment and continued his walk to the end of the train. Near the end of it, Harry saw his brother, and seemingly nine other people all squashed into one compartment, each one of the passengers looking at Andrew in utter awe.

Harry carried his trunk and owl to the end of the train and looked into the last compartment. He had hoped that it would be empty, but it had a bushy-haired passenger sitting in it, with her face in a book. Harry had a short mental debate with himself and decided that he didn’t want to go back and look for an empty compartment. So, Harry knocked on the door, opened the door carefully and asked, “Excuse me, do you mind if we share this compartment?”

The occupant continued to dart her eyes over the page she was reading and slowly looked up at the interruption. She looked carefully at Harry as if assessing what to do about him. After what seemed like an hour she replied, “I suppose.” And brought the book back to her face and continued to read.

Harry made his way into the compartment quietly, being mindful of the other occupant in the compartment and stowed his trunk away. He set the birdcage with Ivo inside next to him on the seat as he sat opposite of the girl. Harry glanced at the book she was reading and read the cover, Hogwarts a History. Deciding that the bushy-haired girl had the right idea Harry went to his trunk and took out, The Dark Forces: A Guide to Self-Protection.

Harry had always had an affinity for reading about the defence against the dark arts, as it greatly intrigued him. He decided that he'd better re-read the first-year textbook as the other occupant seemingly had no intention of talking, which worked perfectly for him.

Hours passed on the train, with the only sounds being heard that of the occasional page turn. Harry also thought he kept seeing the girl look at him in the corner of his eye. As he finished the chapter, he was reading he turned to the next page, but he wasn’t reading. In reality, he looked the traveller sitting opposite of him. He noticed she was already wearing her school robes, however, she didn’t seem very comfortable in them and seemed quite nervous. He mused that she was a Muggleborn, hence why she was reading Hogwarts a History.

She also seemed quite tense and guarded, maybe she too struggles to make friends, would explain her response and behaviour. Suddenly her eyes flicked up to his and they stared at each other, looking straight into each other's eyes. He could see her eyes now, a creamy dark chocolate shade, but they also seemed so lost and so lifeless.

Once again Harry noticed the lines common with his unusually pronounced ‘Eye Floater’ condition. When he was younger his parents had taken him to see a muggle doctor, seeing that Wizards were behind in terms of curing eye problems Is fixing myopy really harder than regrowing an entire bone? about his problem after he complained to them one afternoon. Unfortunately, the Optometrist could not determine the problem, and since his appointment his parents seemed to have completely forgotten about his condition.

Their stare off was interrupted when their compartment door was swung wide open. Harry quickly tore his eyes off to the interruption. Standing in the door was none other than Andrew Potter and Ron Weasley.

“There you are Harry, we’ve been looking for you. Is this your girlfriend?” Andrew said while pointing at the brunette.

Harry ignored Andrew’s question, “Why are you looking for me brother? And I doubt that ‘we’ve been looking for you,’” said Harry while looking at Ron.

“Well I thought that since we ought to both be in Gryffindor, we should get to know the other students together,” said Andrew.

“Who put you up to this?” questioned Harry.

Andrew looked quite taken aback but said, "well Mum thought you needed to be a bit more social and actually talk to people, and that we should spend more time together as we'll be dormmates for seven years.”

Harry snorted and stated, “That’s only if I’m in Gryffindor.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?!” accused Andrew a bit angrily. When Harry made no response, Andrew sighed in frustration, “well at least Mum can’t say I didn’t try,” and left the compartment with Ron in tow.

“So, you’re Harry,” said the brown-haired girl cautiously, “Harry Potter I mean,” continued the girl.

Harry looked at her and said one word blankly, “Yes.”

“And I take it that was your brother, Andrew the famous ‘Boy Who Lived?’” She asked while making quotation marks for the last part of the sentence.

Harry looked at her a bit surprised, intrigued and raised his eyebrows. Wow, I've met someone who isn’t a fangirl of my brother, thought Harry.

“He’s a bit of a git, I must say,” said the girl a bit downcast.

Harry smirked and replied, “Yes he is, isn't he? The fame has gone to his head, I can tell you that much."

The girl seemed a bit uncomfortable before she said, “I’m Hermione Granger by the way.”

“Oh, the lady has a name, does she?” said Harry sarcastically.

“Yes well, I don’t exactly have the best track record when making friends,” replied Hermione a bit seriously.

“I don’t either,” said Harry.

“No?” questioned Hermione, “I would’ve thought that someone like you would have heaps of friends.”

“No, it’s normal to think that I would though,” replied Harry, “Most wizarding families bring their children along when catching up with my parents, but the kids tend to mostly ignore me,” said Harry bitterly.

Harry continued, “Most of the time it’s either the Weasleys or Longbottoms that come over to visit.”

Hermione seemed interested and asked, “I know the Potters come from a long line of wizards and are extremely influential, are the Weasleys and Longbottoms the same?”

“As far as I know the three families have always been natural friends with each other,” informed Harry, “The Longbottom’s are said to be one of the oldest Pureblood families with their son, Neville Longbottom attending this year. I’ve seen him quite a lot around the manor, and my brother, however, Andrew seems to ignore him most of the time. From what I gather Neville is quite intelligent but obviously a Gryffindor at heart,” concluded Harry.

“And the Weasleys?” asked the brunette, looking much more attentive than before.

"The Weasleys are notorious redheads with a whole clan of children. They used to be quite poor, but with some help from my family and the Longbottom's, the Weasley's financial situation is stable.  They have four sons attending Hogwarts this year, Percy who I've hardly ever seen, the twins who I believe are third years and their sixth and youngest son, Ron Weasley, the git redhead following Andrew around like a dog. Who is, unfortunately, in the first year this year," continued Harry.

“Git, why is that? Did he do something to offend you?” asked Hermione carefully.

Harry smirked in response and said, "You sure do ask a lot of questions, Miss Granger."

“Yes well,” replied Hermione a little flustered, “I believe knowledge is very important, and the more I can learn of this world the better.”

“Yes, I agree knowledge is most definitely important,” said Harry, “Anyway, he’s a bit of a git since all he does is talk about the Chudley Cannons, who are a terrible quidditch team.”

Hermione looked a bit confused, but Harry waved her off.

He also makes terrible jokes, which are mostly based and targeted towards me and my ‘bookish habits,’” continued Harry.

“Something like ‘I wonder if Harry can even fly a broom.’ And Ron would joke and say something like, ‘Yeah probably, so long as there was a step by step book on how to go about it.’” Said Harry, trying to imitate a higher pitch voice for Ron’s part.

“Anyway, that’s enough of me talking, what about you? Tell me something about yourself,” asked Harry.

“Well this is my first year at Hogwarts, and as you probably figured out, I’m Muggleborn,” said Hermione.

She then became silent for a few moments, when Harry eventually let out a small chuckle and said, "Is that all? I would've thought you'd tell me a bit more than what I'd already implied."

“Sorry, I apologise,” said Hermione, sounding anything but sorry, “But I don’t have any friends, so forgive me if I’m not very good at conversing,” continued Hermione a little crossly.

Harry looked at her in understanding and said, “Yeah, I know what’s that like.” They then fell into an awkward silence and began reading their respective books once more. Harry then gathered some courage and said, “We could be friends.”

Hermione looked into his piercing green eyes as if he was mad and said, “What!?”

Harry shrugged her gaze off and confidently said, "Why not? We share some things in common if you didn't notice. We both love reading and knowledge, and we both seem to be friendless. And we seem to despise the same type of people."

“From what I’ve gathered I believe we’ll be friends and in the same house, so being friends seem much more preferable than being acquaintances,” concluded Harry, and he put out his hand for Hermione to shake.

Hermione seemed to have a short mental debate with herself and assessed her eyes over Harry carefully to see if he was sincere. Eventually, she carefully reached out her hand, connected it with his and shook it.

“Hello, I’m Harry Potter.” Said Harry nicely.

“I’m Hermione Granger,” replied Hermione and gave an awkward smile.

Harry smiled and went back to reading his book, before being interrupted by Hermione a few minutes later.

“So, what house do you think you’ll be in?” questioned Hermione.

"Looking at her, Harry saw that she seemed a lot more comfortable. "Well, I'm definitely no Gryffindor as I'm not that brave. I've never had any friends so Hufflepuff and loyalty are out of the question. My mum mentioned that I'm quite intelligent, so perhaps I'll be in Ravenclaw, but I really what to make a big impression on my sorting. So, I think I’ll probably be sorted into Slytherin, which also has the added bonus of pissing off my family and about everyone else I know,” said Harry, “I have goals after Hogwarts and my plan begins by becoming a Slytherin.”

Hermione looked a bit thoughtful before she said, "I've read a lot about the four houses. The brave goes to Gryffindor, the loyal to Hufflepuff, the intelligent to Ravenclaw and the cunning and ambitious to Slytherin."

“Correct,” clarified Harry.

“Well my muggle parents and teachers have always said I’m essentially a genius, so I think I’ll be in either Slytherin or Ravenclaw,” said Hermione.

Harry looked a bit triumphant that his assessment was correct and gave himself a mental fist pump.

“But Muggleborns are never sorted into Slytherin are they? From what I’ve read many Slytherin’s are purebloods, and all for blood purity said Hermione a bit sceptically.

Harry looked thoughtful for a moment and replied, “I believe there have been a few instances in which Muggleborns have been sorted into Slytherin, but it’s extremely rare, and unusual. I think the criteria to be sorted into Slytherin is more about your personal traits, rather than your blood purity.”

"Why ambitious and cunning are you?" asked Harry while raising his eyebrows.

“Wouldn’t be very cunning if I told you, now would I?” stated Hermione.

“No, no I suppose not,” said Harry thoughtfully.

Suddenly there was a knock on the compartment door, and it slid open to reveal a sleek, and handsome blonde hair boy around Harry’s age. Behind him were two overgrown children, who seemed to be extremely overweight and looked like stereotypical bullies.

“Potter,” said the boy politely, addressing and looking at Harry.

"Malfoy," said Harry returning the courtesy.

“I’ve just met your dear old brother, and I must say I do hope you aren’t like him,” informed Malfoy. “Hopefully, you’ll be able to restore some of the Potter’s respect and avoid being sorted into the idiotic lions.”

“Well I guess you’re in luck, I’m not like my brother and have no intention of being a Gryffindor,” said Harry.

Malfoy looked at Harry a bit surprised, then at Hermione. He then hesitated a bit before putting out his hand in a sign of friendship.

“Potter, you should go about making sure you are friends with the correct bunch,” said Malfoy while looking towards Hermione with a sneer.

Harry looked at Malfoy's hand, then to his eyes and then to Hermione. After a second of deliberation, he turned back to Malfoy and said, "Don't you think you should wait to meet someone before judging them Malfoy?" questioned Harry while glancing at Hermione.

“Mudbloods don’t deserve such courtesy, they’re a disgusting stain to all of wizarding kind,” replied Malfoy a bit annoyed. Hermione raised an eyebrow at that.

“And what would it take for you to put aside your prejudices towards her? She’s my friend, so if you want the chance to be the same you should at least judge her unbiasedly,” said Harry with a twinge of hostility.

Malfoy looked a bit thoughtful but before he could come to a decision Harry asked, “If she was sorted into Slytherin would you give her a chance?”

Malfoy was snapped out of his thoughts and looked at Harry as if he was mad, then blinked a few more times to verify he wasn’t going insane. He then started laughing furiously and his two bodyguards laughed along with him. “If…f she somehow becomes a Slytherin I’ll ignore her blood status to the best of my ability,” said Malfoy while struggling to talk due to his fit of laughter.

“I’ll take you up on said offer later then,” pitched in Hermione.

Malfoy looked at her with a look that said, ‘are you serious?', looked back at Harry, turned around and left the compartment with his two goons in tow. In the distance, Harry heard Malfoy say, "A Mudblood in Slytherin, Potter is barking mad."

Hermione looked into Harry’s eyes and said, “Blood purist I take it?”

“Yes, that’s Draco Malfoy, their family is some of the richest and most influential in all of wizarding Britain, his father is even on the board of governors. My family seems to have as much prejudice towards the Malfoys as do the Malfoys to Muggleborns. Supposedly, their family were staunch supporters of Voldemort in the Blood War," informed Harry.

“Voldemort? Who’s that? He’s not in any books I’ve read.” questioned Hermione.

"Oh right, yeah, you wouldn't know about him would you," replied Harry looked a bit thoughtful before he continued and said, "You won't find his name written in any books. Most wizards are so scared of him and his name that they call him ‘He Who Must Not Be Named' or ‘You Know Who'. Frankly, I think it's ridiculous to be scared of a name. If you say the name in front of a wizard or witch, they'll probably look at you in shock and either gasp or flinch," informed Harry, "It's also very fun to use the name to my advantage on my brother whenever he’s annoying me,” continued Harry.

“This Voldemort was a very dark wizard was he not?” asked Hermione not looking the least bit scared.

“Yes, him and his followers, the Death Eaters, fought a blood war, here in Britain. Voldemort’s side nearly won, but after he vanished on the Halloween of 1981 his supporters quickly bailed and the war ended,” said Harry, he continued and told Hermione, “Like the books, I don't know what happened to Voldemort after he entered Godric Hollow on that Halloween, only that our babysitter was murdered and that Voldemort's wand was found in Andrew's bedroom with a crying baby in the crib, and a lightning-shaped scar on his forehead. But honestly, I don't think Voldemort is dead."

“No? Why’s that?,” asked Hermione.

"Don’t you think it would take more than a one-year-old baby to defeat one of the greatest dark lords in history?" said Harry.

Hermione seemed to listen and process what Harry had said and replied, “Yes that does seem like a valid assessment.”

Hermione thought for a few seconds before she said, “So Voldemort fought to set up a regime with purebloods on top and himself in charge of wizarding Britain?”

“Well, ironically, purebloods basically hold all the sway of political power in this country anyway. But yes, from what I've read and been told Voldemort did want to assume absolute power over Britain and eventually take over neighbouring countries. Of course, he never got that far, because he was stopped by a ‘baby.’

 Hermione then asked cautiously, “Does blood purity determine how powerful a person’s magical core is?” asked Hermione sceptically.

“No.” stated Harry, “My mum is Muggleborn, but she’s a very powerful witch. Additionally, you saw those two goons following Malfoy, they’re Crabbe and Goyle and are so inbred I doubt they would ever become above average wizards. As far as I can tell there doesn’t seem to be any link between a person’s blood and their magical ability. It seems mostly random and sporadic,” continued Harry while scratching his chin.

“Personally, I think one’s magical ability is much more important than their blood status,” informed Harry.

Hermione gave a nod of appreciation to Harry for answering her questions and went back to reading Hogwarts a History.

For the rest of the trip, the duo sat mostly in silence with the occasional question here or there.

 

A few hours later and the express came to a stop. Harry and Hermione left their compartment, leaving their luggage and Ivo inside as apparently it would all be sent up to the castle.

They departed the Hogwarts Express and Harry noticed that the sky was nearly pitch black, except for the few stars here and there.

The duo heard the sound of a loud booming voice, calling first years over to them.

Harry and Hermione turned to the sound of the voice and saw a massive man at least 10 feet tall. He was wearing a massive brown coat and ringing a large bell to draw attention. He also had an extremely overgrown beard and long messy brown hair.

Harry walked close to Hermione and steered her towards the man and whispered to Hermione, “That’s Rubeus Hagrid, he’s the games keeper of Hogwarts. He’s been at this position since before my parents attended Hogwarts.”

“How do you know that?” asked Hermione.

"He sometimes goes out with my dad drinking," replied Harry simply. "Apparently he once let slip that he's a half-giant with giant blood on his mother's side," continued Harry.

“Well that’s obvious isn’t it, Harry, no normal human would be that tall,” said Hermione.

They came up to a small lit up area in front of a massive, dark lake with a dozen or so small boats close in the shore.

Hagrid told all the first years to get into the boats, with no more than four in one and proceeded to sit in one himself, taking up the entire space. Harry and Hermione shared a look and made their way down to the boat farthest away from the crowd, hoping to avoid other people and made their way into the boat. Unfortunately, they were followed by Andrew and Ron.

"Hey guys, wait up!" shouted Andrew.

Harry and Hermione let out an exasperated sigh as the two boys approached and swiftly got in the boat. Much to the disappointment of Andrew’s fans who were attempting to follow him.

All the first years got into the boats and no sooner, all of the boats began to magically move across the sea.

Harry sighed once again and asked in a harsh tone, “Andrew, what are you doing in this boat?”

Andrew seemed a bit annoyed with Harry’s tone and replied, “Well you see too many people wanted to share a boat with me, so I just grabbed Ron and joined a boat which had two people in it already.”

“Bored of your fans already?” asked Harry.

“Never,” replied Andrew simply.

Harry gave a small nod of acknowledgement and looked towards the front of the boat. The boats slowly turned to the right and there, on a hill was Hogwarts castle. It looked spectacular from Harry’s point of view, the way the lights and structure blended into the night sky. I guess that’s why first year’s travel over the lake mused Harry.

Hermione was in much of the same state of mind, and in utter awe, however, the two were torn away from their thoughts when the redhead rudely demanded, “Who’s the girl?”

Harry was about to answer when Hermione made a motion to respond. She scowled at Weasley then said, “Granger.”

“Granger?! What bloody parent names their child ‘Granger’? asked Ron stupidly.

Andrew gave a nod as well, expecting a response.

Harry responded and said, “Granger is her last name you doofus,” said Harry while glaring at Ron.

Ron seemed oblivious to the look Harry was giving him, put his hand out towards Hermione and said, “Ron Weasley.”

Hermione glared at him, looked at his hand, raised her eyebrows and looked back towards the castle completely ignoring him.

Ron turned a bit red-faced and muttered, "You're both quite rude."

And you’re not!? thought Harry.

Hermione made an irritable noise in response and Andrew began to chat to Ron about Quidditch.

They departed at the opposite end of the lake unto a small stone dock area.

Ever the gentleman Harry quickly got out of the boat to help Hermione out.

“Oh, so chivalry isn’t dead?” said Hermione looking impressed.

“Oh no, it’s most definitely gone, but I couldn’t resist helping out a lady,” said Harry while smiling at her.

“Oh god, get a room,” said Andrew looking disgusted.

“Shut up Andrew, I mean nothing by it, it’s just being polite,” said Harry slightly annoyed.

Ron snickered in the background and Hermione walked ahead and mumbled something resembling, “boys.”

Andrew and Ron departed from the Harry and Hermione, much to the pleasure of the duo.

The first years followed Hagrid up the path to the castle and chatted amongst themselves. Harry listened in on a few conversations.

“It’s sooo big.”

“I can’t wait to learn magic.”

"Did you hear how we're supposed to be sorted? Apparently, we'll have to fight a troll!"

“A troll!? Don’t be ridiculous… They wouldn’t make us do that would they?”

 

Hermione was a bit sceptical of the last conversation and decided to verify it with Harry. "Harry, how are we sorted?"

Harry towards Hermione, while making sure he was still walking forwards and replied in a hushed tone as to not be overheard, “We put on a magical artefact called the sorting hat which apparently talks to us and sorts us into our house.”

“Don’t worry we won’t have to fight a troll or anything like that,” added Harry.

“I didn’t think we would,” said Hermione confidently.

The first years made their way into the castle where they met an elderly lady in emerald green robes.

“Welcome, everyone to Hogwarts school of witchcraft and wizardry, I’m professor McGonagall, deputy headmistress of the school. Now before we move into the great hall, I’ll explain what will happen,” said the Professor.

"You'll be sorted into one of our four houses, either Slytherin, Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff or Gryffindor," stated the Professor, with emphasis on the last. McGonagall continued and said, "Your house will be like your family. Doing well in class will earn your house, house points, alternatively, misbehaving will result in point losses and potential detentions. Now everyone please stay here while I go make sure everything is ready."

The Professor then went inside the great hall, and chatter exploded within the first years.

“What house do you think you’ll be in?”

“Definitely Ravenclaw.”

“I think I’m more of a Hufflepuff.”

All of a sudden, a dozen or so ghosts appeared through the wall creating some shrieks and squeals in the crowd, while other students looked at them in awe.

The doors to the great hall then open wide opened and Professor McGonagall said, "Follow me in a single file line."

The students got themselves into a straight line, with Harry directly behind Hermione. The first years then followed McGonagall into the great hall.

Walking in Harry looked around and saw four long tables set up full of students, with two to either side of him.

The Professor then made a motion for them to stop and moved to the end of the hall where a chair was set up with an old, floppy hat on it.

The hat then began to sing, about each of the four houses, startling a few of the first years.

“Oh, thank Merlin, we only have to put that on us, to think I believed the twins,” said a familiar voice.

McGonagall then began to read out the students name one by one

“Abbott, Hannah!”

Hannah quickly ran to the chair and put on the hat, shortly followed by a loud yell of “HUFFLEPUFF!” from the hat.

Students kept on being sorted when McGonagall reached,

“Granger, Hermione!”

Hermione sought a quick glance at Harry before moving towards the chair at a leisurely pace. She then put on the hat confidently.

Hmm, interesting indeed, another Muggleborn I see, with lots of intelligence. But what's this I see, cunning and ambition, ‘Minister for Magic' eh?” said the hat, “yes, yes, you’re definitely a Slytherin, but I don’t usually put Muggleborns into there, what about Ravenclaw?” questioned the hat.

Hermione thought in her head, just put me in Slytherin, I can handle it.

If that’s your wish,” said the hat and yelled, “SLYTHERIN!”

The Professor seemed a bit put out by the latest sorting, but quickly regained herself and continued to call out students.

Hermione took off the hat and made her way to the Slytherin table. While she walked there, she glanced at Harry, Malfoy, Andrew and Ron.

Harry seemed happy and smiled at her glance.

Malfoy was flabbergasted and looked a bit nervous when Hermione smirked at him.

The last two had a look of utter disbelief of their face, followed by an expression of immense revulsion.

Hermione sat at the end of the table and continued to watch the sorting.

When Malfoy’s name was called, he put on the hat, but as soon as it touched his head it yelled “SLYTHERIN!”

Satisfied Malfoy made his way to the Slytherin table and after noticing that Hermione was indeed in his house, his face of disbelief came back. He eventually decided to sit far away from Hermione.

The Professor took a deep breath and steadied herself before she said, “Potter, Andrew!”

Immediately the hall fell into conversations, as Andrew made his way to the chair.

“No way! It’s the ‘Boy Who Lived.’”

“Our saviour!”

“Oh Merlin, look how cute he is.”

Andrew sat on the chair and carefully basically jammed the hat upon his head. After a second or so the hat yelled out, “GRYFFINDOR!” Followed by overwhelming cheers and applause from the Gryffindor table, as well as some whistles.

The Professor looked at the next name on the list hesitated a bit, looked to the first years and locked eyes with Harry. She then said,

“Potter, Harry!”

Once again chatter began to fill the hall.

“Isn’t that his weird brother.”

“I didn’t even know he existed, maybe they thought he was a squib.”

“Why is his hair so much longer than Andrew’s?”

Harry walked up the chair with as much courage as he could muster and put on the hat.

Mm I see, yes ambitious plans indeed, you’ll do great things in Slytherin, great things indeed,” said the hat cryptically before yelling, “SLYTHERIN!”

The hall fell into complete silence, it was so quiet that you could hear a pin drop. Harry got off the chair and made his way to sit at the Slytherin table.

Most of the Professors were all in complete shock, the headmaster looked as though he had choked on a lemon drop, while McGonagall was gaping wide open. Snape merely raised his eyebrows in surprise while Quirrell was seemed to twitch more than usual.

As soon as Harry began to make his way to Slytherin table the hall exploded into chaos. As he walked to Hermione, Harry heard some students yelling,

“TRAITOR!”

“SNAKE!”

As well as other hushed conversation in more quiet and cautious tones,

“A Potter in Slytherin, what in Merlin?”

"Well, that's certainly interesting.”

Harry sat down next to Hermione, who made a faint, but genuine smile to him.

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 3

First Day of School

While the sorting continued Harry whispered to Hermione a bit happily, “So I guess we’re housemates.”

Hermione gave a small nod of acknowledgment but seemed to be transfixed to the sorting and the professors.

Harry got lost in his own thoughts for a while before he turned his attention back to the sorting, just as Ronald Weasley was called up by Professor McGonagall. As the redhead put on the Sorting Hat, Harry studied his face. He initially seemed nervous, but after a few seconds, his face turned into a broad grin, followed by the hat yelling Gryffindor. Ron, to the best of his ability, tried to stride to the Gryffindor table and plunked down opposite of Andrew, much to the amusement of the Weasley twins.

The sorting eventually concluded with Blaise Zabini being sorted into Slytherin.

Dumbledore then took to a podium and made his welcome speech. Most notably, the Headmaster told students that if they did not want to die a ‘most painful death’ they should avoid the third-floor corridor. Which is certainly interesting, mused Harry while making a mental note to follow it up later. He also noticed out of the corner of his eye that while Dumbledore said this, Quirrell while looking utterly terrified also gave a nearly unnoticeable smirk, Interesting indeed.

Dumbledore concluded his speech and said, “Begin the feast!” and sat back down to converse with the other Professors.

As Dumbledore’s speech ended, food appeared seemingly out of nowhere all along the house tables.

Harry looked at all the dishes and filled his plate with some of his favourites. Wow, there’s more choice here than at the Manor, thought Harry.

Hermione too seemed surprised and proceeded to fill her own plate.

“Pass the roast potatoes would you Harry?” asked Hermione absentmindedly.

Harry grabbed the plate full of potatoes and held it near Hermione so she could grab a couple before he placed it back.

“So, Potter, joined the snake pit, have you?” asked a girl.

Harry looked towards the girl asking the question. She was a pretty blonde girl with dull blue eyes and seemed to be looking at him in a questioning gaze.

“So, it would seem,” said Harry cryptically.

 “Greengrass right?” added Harry after a moment of thought.

“Yes, Daphne Greengrass,” said the blond, “And you, you’re Granger, right? Any relation to Hector Dagworth-Granger?” asked Daphne while shifting her eyes to Hermione.

“No, not that I know of,” said Hermione while seeming slightly peeved off by the way she was addressed.

Daphne waited for Hermione to elaborate on her answer, but Hermione remained silent. She gazed at Harry, but he seemed to be too busy eating. Slightly annoyed Daphne huffed and went back to her own plate.

Looking up from his meal, Harry glanced up and down the Slytherin table. He saw many familiar faces on the first years, as well as many angry gazes from other housemates.

Sitting on his left was, Blaise Zabini. Harry knew he was an extremely wealthy pureblood heir but other than that, he knew little to nothing about him, however, since he sat next to Harry, he mused Well at least he isn’t hostile.

Opposite him sat Daphne, along with Tracey Davis and Lily Moon on either side of her. Tracey was discussing the various classes to Daphne, while Lily listened in, and pitched in every now and then.

Further down the table was Malfoy sitting with his two goons, Crabbe and Goyle. Sitting on the other side of the table was Theodore Nott who was attempting to talk to Malfoy, but Draco wasn’t really paying attention as he was picking at his food slowly and looked extremely pale. Every now and then his eyes would dart to Hermione only to quickly focus back to his food.

A couple seats next to Malfoy was a tall male prefect who was watching Harry with an aggressive expression.

The other two Slytherin first years, Pansy Parkinson and Millicent Bulstrode were talking to each other in hushed tones. He also noticed Pansy take a discreet peek at Draco.

Finishing up his food Harry put his utensils down, Hermione followed swiftly after.

A couple minutes later and all the food vanished, and the 5th year prefects called the first years towards them.

Harry and Hermione followed the two prefects to the Slytherin Dungeons. Upon arriving at the door the female prefect turned around to the first years and stepped forward to address them.

“This is the entrance to the Slytherin Dungeon,” explained the prefect, “You’ll sleep, work and relax in your dorm room and the common room. To access the Dungeons just say the correct password, this week’s password is, ‘Purity’.”

Purity?! Seriously you would’ve thought a more creative password would be appropriate, thought Harry.

Also, why make it ‘Purity’? Are they trying to add evidence to other people’s prejudices?

“Make sure you keep up to date on the password, it’s changed every month,” continued the Prefect.

The female then turned back towards the door, walked towards it and said, “Purity.”

The door opened and the first years filtered in behind the prefects.

Upon entering the common room Harry quickly took notice of his surroundings. The common room was a lot more spacious and open than one might think for a dungeon. The room had a very ‘green’ look as well since nearly every piece of furniture was green.

“Now everyone please go stand over at that wall,” said the Male prefect, “Once the other students arrive and leave to their dormitories Professor Snape would like to have a word to you all.”

The students did as they were told, and no sooner did the masse of Slytherin students enter the common room and made their way to their respective dormitories. On their way there, many students took a glance at Harry, some with curious looks, others with sneers.

As the last non-first years left the common room Professor Snape strode in, the two 5th year prefects quickly stood away and left as the Professor began his speech.

“My name is Professor Snape, and I am the head of Slytherin house. You have all been sorted into Slytherin and I expect you’ll show the utmost respect to me, your professors and fellow peers. Slytherin is a great and prideful house, I won’t have anyone tarnishing its record. If anyone is found doing something inappropriate or otherwise embarrassing while representing the house, you’ll face consequences just the same as everyone else.” said Snape seriously, however, he seemed to linger on the word ‘found.’

“If you have problems with any other Slytherins I expect you to deal with them in the privacy of the Dungeons or put out of ears reach, outside we will produce a united front. Most of the school think us all dark wizards, and it’s your job to make sure no Slytherins are singled out, Slytherins will and do protect their own, no matter their status,” said Snape while briefly glancing at Hermione.

“Now leave to your dormitories prepare to sleep, your rooms will be labelled ‘first years,’ boys on the left, girls on the right. I won’t have any of my students tired on their first day of school.”

With that, the first years left, however, Snape then quickly added, “Potter and Granger, a word.” and made a motion to the corner of the room.

Harry and Hermione shared a short look with each other before following the Professor.

Upon reaching the corner Snape turned around and addressed Harry, “Potter, since you’ve somehow managed to be sorted into my house I expect extra appropriate behaviour from you. I’ll not tolerate any Gryffindor antics, and for your sake, I hope you aren’t like your father. Is that understood?”

“Yes sir,” replied Harry politely and immediately. Snape seemed partly surprised by his response but hid his reaction well.

“And Miss Granger, since you’re a Muggleborn student and now in my house, I fully recommend you to be wary of other housemates, many of them share very anti-muggle attitudes. Please report to me, if you have any problems.”

“Yes Professor, I will,” replied Hermione.

“Potter, since you don’t share those same views on Muggles, you’ll make Hermione feel welcome here at Hogwarts, just don’t go teaching her any foolhardy Gryffindor ideas.”

“I’ll see you two in Potions class, please do not disappoint me,” added Snape, lingering on the ‘e’ of ‘please.’

Harry and Hermione gave an acknowledging gesture, and with that Snape turned around with a flick of his robes and strode out of the common room.

Walking into his dormitory Harry noticed that most of the boys were already in their nightclothes and preparing for bed. Harry looked to the only vacant bed, at the end of the room, with his trunk and Ivo atop.

He walked over to the bed and realised it was situated next to Blaise Zabini, who asked, “Nice owl Potter, what’s his name?”

“She’s a girl, and her name is Ivo,” replied Harry with a slight tinge of annoyance.

Harry then took some clothes out of his trunk and changed in the bathroom. Upon returning he opened Ivo’s cage, who promptly flew to the window. Harry proceeded to get in bed and swiftly fell asleep.

-o-o-o-o-o-

The following morning Harry woke up bright and early, at the crack of dawn. He looked around the dorm and noticed that Ivo was nowhere to be seen.

She must be out getting mail thought Harry.

He did his morning routine and headed down to the common room. Unsurprisingly the common room was almost completely deserted, but over on an armchair, Harry saw a bush of brown hair.

Hermione.

Harry walked over to the armchair and moved in front of it, into Hermione’s peripheral vision. She was reading her transfiguration textbook and quickly snapped it shut and looked up to address Harry.

“Morning Harry, want to leave for breakfast in an hour or so?” asked Hermione who was unusually cheerful.

Harry smiled and said, “Yep, sounds good to me.” He then grabbed his own transfiguration book and began to revise.

An hour passed and two left the common room and made their way to the Great Hall. Upon arrival, the duo noticed that the hall was mostly empty except for a dozen or so scattered students in each House and the Headmaster.

They made their way to the Slytherin table and sat next to each other. They grabbed some food and proceeded to talk about insignificant things.

It reached around eight o’clock and the hall was packed full of students. Suddenly hundreds of owls flew into the hall carrying various letters and packages.

Fastest to their destination was a pure black owl with orange eyes who promptly sat in front of Harry and held her leg out for him which had two envelopes and a long rolled up piece of paper.

Harry smiled gracefully at Ivo and untied the letters. Hermione who had her eyesight transfixed to the black owl asked, “Harry, I never asked, what’s her name?”

“Ivo.”

“She’s so beautiful,” said Hermione slightly in awe.

“Yes, she is isn’t she. It’s one of the reasons I chose her.” Ivo tilted her head and narrowed at her eyes at Harry at that. “Okay, it’s more like she chose me,” added Harry who fed the owl some food. Once finished, Ivo left.

Harry opened the roll of paper and Hermione looked at said paper and asked, “What’s that?”

“The Daily Prophet, I have a subscription,” replied Harry and began to read the front cover which had a photo of Andrew posing for a camera.

THE BOY WHO LIVED ATTENDS HOGWARTS & A SHOCKING SORTING

Yesterday The Boy Who Lived, Andrew Potter attended Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry for his first year and was sorted into Gryffindor last evening. Many wizards and witches were afraid that he would attend abroad, luckily their fears were unfounded as he is getting his education here in Britain. Now the question is, how will our saviour cope with school life?

HOWEVER, in a shocking revelation Andrew’s brother, Harry Potter was sorted into Slytherin. Yes, you read that right reader, Harry Potter, brother of The Boy Who Lived is now in Slytherin. Does this mean we have another dark lord growing in our mist? If that’s indeed true we can only hope Andrew can put the people first before his very own brother.

Read more on Page 6

Harry snorted, and passed the Prophet to Hermione, who was struggling and failing to read over his shoulder.

He then picked up the first envelope and read it.

Harry,

I’ve just read the Prophet and Andrew’s letter, you, a Potter sorted into Slytherin! Do you know the trouble you’ll cause me? This is unacceptable. I want you to demand to be resorted into Gryffindor immediately. I was extremely close to sending a Howler at you, I only stopped myself to save the embarrassment it would cause Andrew. But DO NOT expect any presents this year at Yule if you remain in Slytherin.

James Potter

Harry wondered if this was the first draft of his father’s letter, or if he had to rewrite it to remove bigger threats such as disownment once Lily had read it for herself.

Picking up the second envelope Harry saw it was addressed to him in messy writing, which was most definitely his godfather’s, Sirius.

Hey Pup,

I know I don’t talk to you much, but why did you not tell me about this amazing prank! I mean c’mon even I didn’t dream that you, the bookworm would pull such a big and hilarious prank. A Potter in Slytherin, James is furiously mad, but I can’t stop laughing, you’ll make a Marauder one day yet.

Padfoot

Harry put down the two letters ignoring his father’s threat and turned to Hermione who had finished reading the article.

“I’m friends with a rising dark lord, am I?” asked Hermione sarcastically, although she couldn’t stop the smirk from appearing on her face.

She then continued and questioned, “What did those say?” pointing to the letters.

“Bit private don’t you think?” said Harry while raising an eyebrow but quickly added, “Just a threat from my father and my Godfather congratulating me on an amazing prank. He seems to think that me being sorted into Slytherin is all a part of an elaborate prank.”

“Your father threatened you just for being sorted into Slytherin?” asked Hermione carefully.

“Yes, like many wizards my father believes only evil people are sorted into Slytherin.”

Harry then noticed Malfoy get up from his seat and leave with Crabbe and Goyle. The three then proceeded to walk over to the Gryffindor table and talked loudly to Andrew.

“That’s not very Slytherin is it?” said Hermione to Harry.

“No, very Gryffindorish if I say so myself.”

Malfoy then walked back to his seat swiftly, slightly peeved off and Harry noticed that Ron looked quite red in the face and Andrew grinning.

Professor Snape then began to hand out class timetables. He passed Harry and Hermione’s schedules to them and added, “Do try to arrive on time,” while looking at Potter.

Seriously what does he have against me? wondered Harry.

Harry looked at his timetable and sighed, “Oh Merlin, most of our classes are with the Gryffindors,” told Harry to Hermione.

“Yes, but we have History of Magic with Ravenclaws and Herbology with the Hufflepuffs,” informed Hermione.

“Seems we have Transfiguration first, let’s go get our stuff from the Dungeons and make our way to the classroom, I have no intention of being late.”

Hermione nodded in agreement and the two left the Great Hall.

-o-o-o-o-o-

Upon gathering their school supplies the two made their way to the Transfiguration classroom and stood outside the door. They were both early so no one else was there.

Eventually, students started to filter to the corridor, Gryffindors and Slytherins alike, but Harry noticed that Andrew and the redhead were nowhere to be seen.

The doors then flung open and the students filtered in. Upon entering the room Harry was surprised that Professor McGonagall was nowhere to be seen, only a tabby cat atop the teacher’s desk with the usual lines blocking his vision.

By unspoken agreement, Harry and Hermione chose to sit at the back most desk.

Once everyone was seated the cat suddenly turned into the Professor, eliciting many gasps and surprised noises from the students.

“Welcome everyone to first-year Transfiguration, I am your teacher for this course, and what you just saw was my animagus form. But be warned it is very dangerous magic trying to become animagus, and you’ll only attempt it after Hogwarts with strict tutoring.”

After Hogwarts, thought Harry, how complicated could it be to turn into an animal? It seems like an extremely useful skill.

The Professor then proceeded to introduce the class to the course, and thoroughly warned students of the danger in which transfiguration can present. The students began to take notes on how to turn a matchstick into a pin, and the Professor changed back into her Tabby cat form.

The doors then widely opened admitting two very familiar faces.

“Thank Merlin, Andrew, could you imagine if McGonagall found out we were late to class?”

“Yeah, she would be so mad, my dad’s told me that she’s very stri-” Andrew couldn’t complete his sentence as his face was filled with shock by the stern glare McGonagall was giving her two cubs.

“Mr Potter and Mr Weasley, why are you late?”

The two mumbled some on the spot excuse.

“That will be two points from Gryffindor, now please sit down and write notes on the theory of turning a matchstick into a pin.”

Andrew and Ron looked slightly relieved by the Professor’s punishment.

Two points?! That seems a bit lenient unless points are only given in low single digits? thought Harry

Andrew and Ron quickly made their way to the only available desk next to Neville, at the front of the room, but Andrew affixed his gaze upon Harry with a look that said, ‘we’ll talk later.’

Another lecture on being sorted into Slytherin? I guess I should’ve expected that.

Harry shared a look with Hermione who had a slightly sympathetic expression on her face.

The Professor then sent matchsticks to each student with the use of her wand and said, “Now we will be implementing the theory and turning a matchstick into a pin. Please do not be deterred if you cannot manage it by the end of the lesson.”

Harry took out his wand, red oak, unicorn tail hair, 10 and a half inches long. Powerful and loyal, best for someone with unusually quick reactions and perfect for duelling.

When he got his wand, his parents seemed slightly surprised, a wand made from red oak with a unicorn hair core was extremely uncommon, but it was deemed a perfect fit for him. His parents were only slightly surprised because they were much more interested in Andrew’s wand, Holly and Phoenix Feather, 11 inches. However, what was so interesting about said wand was the Phoenix core. It wasn’t unique and as a result had one brother wand, which was sold back in the 1930s to a boy who would become Lord Voldemort. And they say I’ll be the next Dark Lord.

He then tried to turn his matchstick into a pin by following the theory but to no avail. Andrew, however, managed it on his first attempt.

He’s probably been practising it for ages at home, with those tutors and all, thought Harry

“Well done Mr Potter 15 points to Gryffindor for completing the task first,” said McGonagall while levitating Andrew’s pin for the class to see.

Definitely lenient. mused Harry

After a few more attempts Harry heard on his right a hushed, “Yes.”

Harry looked over at a smiling Hermione who had successfully turned her matchstick into a pin.

“Wow, nice. How’d you manage that, I’ve been following the theory but mine won’t turn,” asked Harry a bit sadly.

Hermione looked thoughtful for a moment before she replied, “Try to visualise the change. It worked for me at least,” and shrugged.

Harry gave her thanks and attempted to do what she said.

He closed his eyes and imagined the brown matchstick, then a pin next to it.  He then swished his wand and saw the former turn to the latter with a barely noticeable silver hue. Counting it as a success, Harry smiled at Hermione as the Professor told everyone to stop.

Professor McGonagall looked around the classroom and noticed only two other students had managed the transfiguration.

Looking at them she said, “Two points to Slytherin for a successful transfiguration.”

Two points, okay I’m sensing some favouritism, thought Harry and gave himself a mental sigh. Let’s hope my own Head of House isn’t biased.

“Now class, as I said before don’t feel bad if you were unable to turn your matchstick into a pin, most wizards and witches fail to do this on their first class,” said the Professor, who then dismissed the class.

Harry and Hermione quickly grabbed their belongings and moved to the corridor.

Hermione asked cautiously, “Harry, we don’t have History of Magic till after lunch, want to visit the library? I’ve heard it’s one of the largest in Britain.”

Harry smiled and replied, “Yes, I’ve been meaning to visit it, and we can get some studying in before class.”

As the two were about to leave they were interrupted by Andrew and Ron.

Andrew straight-up walked to Harry and loudly said, “Harry! How could you? Why the hell are you in Slytherin?! That’s mad you know they’re all evil.”

Zabini and Malfoy moved to intervene as per Snape’s orders, but Harry waved them off.

“Well brother, I was sorted into Slytherin because I share the traits of a Slytherin. Just because someone is in Slytherin doesn’t mean they’re evil.”

He waited a second before asking, “I mean do you consider Merlin to be evil?”

Andrew seemed a bit taken aback by his response and stammered, “well… no… of course not.”

“Then I fail to see the problem,” replied Harry who turned away and walked off with Hermione before Andrew could reply.

The two walked into the Hogwarts library and Hermione said, “Wow,” in awe.

She was immediately silenced by the Librarian who had a finger to her mouth and pierced her eyes at Hermione.

Hermione glared back in response, turned to Harry and said in a soft tone, “C’mon let’s go find a spot to read.”

Harry nodded and the two once again by unspoken agreement chose the table furthest out of sight.

The duo then left to grab some books to read.

Harry came back a couple minutes later with an advanced defence book and sat down to study.

Hermione returned to Harry a few minutes later with five massive books and dumped them on the table with a loud ‘thump.’

She took the top one off the pile which was about 2000 pages long and began to read.

Harry asked, “Got enough books there Hermione?”

“It’s just some light reading.”

“‘Some light reading?’” asked Harry who had an eyebrow raised.

Hermione ignored his look at went back go reading.

“Hermione, that’s at least 2000 pages long. I love to read, but honestly how is that ‘light reading?’”

The brunette shrugged without taking her eyes off the page, so Harry did the same and went back to reading.

Around lunch, the two decided to leave for the Great Hall. Hermione struggled to collect her books for them to be taken out, so Harry helped her out.

“Hermione, do you really need this many books right now? I mean we can come back later,” asked Harry.

“I’d rather get them out now than later,” replied Hermione simply.

The two checked out their books and left for the Slytherin Dungeons to drop off their books, before heading off to the Great Hall.

-o-o-o-o-o-

Following lunch, the two left to their History of Magic class which they had with the Ravenclaws.

Upon entering the classroom Harry immediately noticed that the teacher wasn’t even alive, he was a ghost.

Class began and within 10 minutes Harry was bored out of his mind. Professor Binns was perhaps the most boring teacher ever. Harry usually enjoyed learning about History, but he was struggling to stay awake and take notes in the afternoon.

Hermione, however, was taking immense amounts of notes, although she too seemed extremely bored with Binns’ lecture.

“Hermione, I don’t think it’s really worth paying attention. We’ll be better off just studying the textbook thoroughly rather than hear the Professor go on about the 5th Goblin War.”

Hermione glared at Harry, but then she nodded sadly at him and said, “Yes, I think you’re right, most of this stuff seems irrelevant. I’m seriously wondering why Dumbledore has Binns’ teaching at all.”

Harry nodded and the two of them studied their textbook for the rest of the period.

For the rest of the day Harry and Hermione studied in the library when Draco Malfoy came along to talk to them, and surprisingly alone.

“Malfoy,” said Harry, slightly coldly.

“Potter, so it seems you may be able to reclaim some Potter prestige,” claimed Malfoy, calmly.

“So it would seem,” said Harry cryptically.

Hermione then piped and asked with a stern look, “So Malfoy, going to go along with your word and put aside your prejudices?”

Malfoy seemed partly afraid and replied, “Yes, I’m a man of my word so I’d like to apologise for my behaviour earlier on the express and hope we can put it aside in the future.” Although judging from the sour look on his face, it would take a while before he could act civil towards her in private.

Hermione gave a small acknowledgment.

Malfoy continued and said, “But seriously, how did you manage it, Granger, get sorted into Slytherin I mean?”

Hermione slowly looked up from her book and said, “I have the traits of a Slytherin, is that not enough?”

Malfoy looked as though he was going to retort her comment but thought about it for a second. He then gave a small goodbye to them and walked away.

“So it would seem even blood purists are able to look at you indifferently in the right circumstances,” commented Harry while looking at Hermione.

Hermione looked into Harry’s eyes and said, “Thanks for that by the way. I mean making that proposition to him on the train.”

Harry smiled and said, “That’s what friends are supposed to do, aren’t they? Help each other out.”

Hermione returned the smile and the two packed up to leave for dinner.

-o-o-o-o-o-

When the duo arrived at the Great Hall that room was packed with students. It was hard to hear anything as all the students seemed to be attempting to talk over each other so their conversation could be heard.

Harry and Hermione took their usual seat at the Slytherin table, for which they had sat at for the last two meals. It appeared the rest of housemates had dignified it ‘their’ seats.

The two began to fill their plates with dishes when Tracy Davis asked them a question.

“Where were you two for most of the day? Daphne and I barely saw you after classes.”

The two in question both raised an eyebrow and Hermione responded in a slightly cold and harsh tone, “Is that really any of your business Davis?”

“Jeez Granger, don’t get all pissy at me I just asked a question,” replied Tracey, slightly taken aback.

She then continued and said, “Since you aren’t related to Dagworth-Granger I suppose the rumour is true that you are indeed a Muggleborn.”

“Yes. Is there anything wrong with that?” replied Hermione slowly.

“Not to me at least, I’m not one of the blood purists in this house. I may be a pureblood but even we know that breeding too close to your family causes undesirable children.”

“You mean like Crabbe and Goyle?” questioned Harry.

Tracey turned to Harry and said, “Yes exactly, they’re a prime example of what inbreeding does.”

Crabbe and Goyle looked slightly annoyed and confused at this, but Malfoy prevented them from doing anything.

After finishing dinner, the duo headed back to the Slytherin common room where they read for leisure. Harry also attempted to perfect his ‘matchstick to pin’ transfiguration and was now able to do it with ease and without actively imagining it.

Around 10 o’clock they decided to head to bed, Hermione said to Harry, “Goodbye Harry, see you in the morning.” She began to walk off, but then looked around the common room, saw it was empty and practically pounced on Harry wrapping him up in a crushing hug.

Harry was extremely surprised by this gesture, not only by Hermione’s spontaneous hug but the fact that it felt so, right. He had never remembered being hugged but he realised how comforting it felt.

I could get used to this, thought Harry idly.

The two separated awkwardly and Hermione looked around nervously before looking up and showing brighter eyes than he had seen on the train and saying,

“Thank you for being my friend Harry.”

Harry smiled and said, “No, thank you.”

The two then left to their rooms slightly flustered and red in the face.

Chapter Text

Chapter 4

The Lessons

Harry woke with a massive and stupid grin on his face. This was because he actually had something to forward today. Well every day, but Harry was happy, nonetheless. This ‘something’ wasn’t an event or anything, it was in fact Hermione. The truth was before meeting Hermione, Harry thought he could never have any friends, never socialise, never have ‘fun.’ He believed that every human being on the planet was a waste of space and that nothing could ever change his depressing mindset. But then he met Hermione, a girl who too had was friendless, and sad, so very sad. When he looked into those eyes on the Hogwarts Express, he understood her right then and there. Her eyes, so lifeless, so lost of hope and happiness, as if she had lived through trying times. But then last night, when Hermione hugged him and he looked into her eyes, Harry saw a little spark of life, her eyes were slightly brighter, and she had a look of happiness. It somehow had the effect of making Harry deliriously happy, so when he smiled at her, his smile reached his eyes, letting her know he was completely genuine. As far as Harry could remember, it was the first time his smile had truly reached his eyes, as most of his smiles were forced, from which he had learned to master since he was five.

He was so ecstatic to meet Hermione, his first genuine friend, that he practically jumped out of bed eliciting a loud ‘thump’ in the dorm. This woke up some of the boys much to their annoyance, as they didn’t get up before seven.

“Potter! What the hell are you doing up? Some of us need sleep,” growled Zabini angrily while rubbing his eyes.

Harry ignored Blaise and started his morning routine. Malfoy who was woken up by Zabini growling sat up and looked at Harry.

“Why in Merlin are you smiling like a man who just conquered the world Potter?” demanded Malfoy while plunking back down to sleep some more.

This killed the mood for Harry and his smile faltered, replaced by a scowl.

“Piss of Malfoy. It’s none of your business,” stated Harry coldly, and left the dorm. As he left Harry heard something resembling, “Moody bastard.”

 -o-o-o-o-o-

Hermione was in a similar mindset to Harry. While she was never ignored by her parents, her home life wasn’t all that great. Her parents were practically nameless to her and were hardly ever home as they were too busy tending to people’s teeth most of the day. When home they loved her as any parent should, but most of the time they were too exhausted and simply went to sleep after a brief hug with their daughter. So, her parents hired a Nanny called Mrs Thomas, she was extremely strict and made Hermione’s life hell. Often bringing people she didn’t know to gamble away money and threatening Hermione to give her some so she could stay in the game, odd noises were also heard in the guest bedroom which she didn’t want to think about. Hermione never told her parents this because while strict, the nanny brought her books to read, thinking it would be no ‘fun’ for Hermione. She was wrong. Books became her escape and she revelled in every moment she got alone to read. However, while home life was bearable school life was worse.

At first, Hermione loved school as it was a place to learn and engage. But as the years passed, she began to be the target of bullies. They would ridicule her, push her and laugh at her just because she preferred to read rather than play with other children. They were always hoping she would react, which she did at first. She used to cry on the spot and would run away at the first sign of trouble. Teachers saw what was happening to her, but no one seemed to have the courage to stop it. This forever broke Hermione’s blind trust to authority figures. Then one year, after a terrible summer Hermione tried another approach, to simply ignore the bullies and to make herself as unnoticeable as possible. You couldn’t win an argument if the other person ignored you, granted you couldn’t lose either. The same, however, applied to Hermione’s predicament. The bullies eventually figured it out and left her alone to go and find another victim. Hermione stopped participating in class except when called upon and made no attempts at friends.

So, when Hermione received her Hogwarts letter, she was hopeful and extremely sceptical. Hopeful because she could be extremely special and may actually be respected. Moreover, it would be a fresh start to escape everything wrong with her life. Sceptical because there was apparently an entire magical world hidden to the common eye. However, when Professor McGonagall came over and demonstrated magic, her doubts were shredded as she was dealt with undeniable proof.

But like her doubts of the magical world were shredded, so was the hope. Once she visited Diagon Alley and bought some books, Hermione found that the wizarding world was still essentially in the Victorian age. Meaning being a female would make life harder as there was a gender gap. She discovered that she was what wizards and witches called a ‘Muggleborn’ someone born to two ‘Muggle’ parents, Muggle seemingly being a derogatory term for non-magical people. Apparently, many wizards saw themselves superior to ‘Muggleborns,’ similar to racism in the non-magic world.

But then Hermione met Harry on the train, who instantly made a great first impression. When she heard the knock on the compartment door, she was dreading whoever was on the other side. However, the intruder, instead of barging in, politely asked to enter for which she was severely surprised. Someone had actually shown her some respect, granted at the time Harry could not see her face behind the book she was reading. Looking at his face she almost mistook him for the ‘Famous Boy Who Lived’ as she had seen pictures of Andrew in the Daily Prophet. However, his hair was unnaturally long at the front, which covered his left eye and left his right bare, showing an entrancing forest green. He patiently waited for a response, that coupled with his polite attitude before was enough for Hermione and she allowed him to enter the compartment.

After a few hours of near silence, Hermione was utterly confused. This boy, whoever he was, was not like anyone she had met before. He didn’t ask questions, didn’t try to begin a conversation he just sat there and read his defence textbook. Strangest of all, he didn’t seem the slightest bit annoyed by his present state.

Then Hermione got lost into those green eyes once more. She couldn’t think of anything except what was in front of her. After the interruption by Harry’s brother, in which he completely ignored Andrew’s ‘girlfriend’ comment, Harry proposed that the two of them could be friends. Hermione judged him carefully and determined that he was genuine and even a little bit hopeful. She hadn’t had a lot of friendships before and those she did have were short-lived. Those ‘friends,' however, used her more as a tool than anything, using her to get good marks in Maths and English. Once she realised this, she dropped friendships altogether, but Harry seemed different. He seemed intelligent, reserved and kind, but also had a fierce exterior. So, based on this evidence she took a chance on him and accepted his proposal. She was not disappointed, as shortly after they became ‘friends’ he essentially tricked a blood purist to put his prejudice towards her aside, he then proceeded to answer question after question and Hermione found herself being unusually comfortable around him. And after only a day of school, she knew she had made the right choice. They both shared similar attitudes towards others and were able to let down their masks and converse with their ‘real’ identities when alone.

The hug Hermione gave Harry last night was not something she had thought she would ever do, but it seemed to right to do at that moment. When she thanked Harry for being her friend, Hermione realised right then and there she was happy. Happiness was not something Hermione was accustomed to, but she found she loved the feeling.

Hermione was thinking about all of this on a couch in the common room. She couldn’t really sleep last night and came down to the common room around four. Hermione was waiting for Harry, she thought it necessary to see him as soon as he was up and as a result wasn’t even reading a book.

Harry came down into the common room, spotted Hermione and the two smiled nervously but genuinely at each other before beginning their day.

-o-o-o-o-o-

Later in the afternoon, Harry and Hermione had their first Defence Against the Dark Arts class.

Internally Harry was very excited for this class, although he didn’t show it to others. He had always enjoyed reading about, defence, duelling and the occasional dark arts book. Harry hoped that in this class he would be able to learn useful techniques to help defend himself, which he had deemed to extend to Hermione. However, the first-year textbook didn’t have that much information on defence spells, and from what Harry had gathered, what and how you were taught in class depended completely on the teacher. Some, for example, would take a much more practical course, practising the various spells required for the class, while other teachers would prefer a more theoretical approach. Harry was hoping Quirrell was the former as he wanted to use his wand in more practical ways, especially since it was built for duelling.

While walking to the classroom Harry thought of something significantly different but important, nonetheless. He stopped walking and asked, “Hey Hermione, could I ask you a question?”

“Didn’t you already?” replied Hermione who had also stopped and turned to him smirking and raising an eyebrow, she then smiled and added, “Of course.”

“Yes well, I was wondering when your birthday was.”

Hermione seemed mildly surprised, but before she could answer Harry added,

“I know we only just became friends, but it’d be nice to know for future reference.”

“September 19,” replied Hermione simply.

Harry suddenly stopped walking with a slightly shocked look on his face.

“That’s like,” he paused, “Two weeks away,” Harry told Hermione in a hushed and nervous tone.

“Yes, and if you are going to do something for it, do not hold a surprise party with a bunch of strangers, I’d prefer if it was just the two of us,” said Hermione, although it seemed more like a demand.

“Of course,” replied Harry and added, “But why would I even do that?”

Hermione shrugged and began to walk off to class, Harry who was in deep in his thoughts didn’t notice this immediately and had to jog to catch back up to her.

Entering the classroom with the Slytherins and Gryffindors the two took seats at the back of the room. Quirrell then began his class introduction and Harry realised two things of note, much to his disappointment.

The first was that Quirrell was what Harry would call a stuttering fool. He seemed to be genuinely afraid of anything to do with defence and could not stop stuttering every word. This made Harry wonder,

Why on earth does Dumbledore have two incompetent teachers? First Binns and now Quirrell. It’s unfortunate that the fifth and seventh years are at a severe disadvantage with this teacher. But he did smirk arrogantly at the sorting before, does he have multiple personalities? Perhaps one loves danger, the other is utterly terrified of it.

Harry made a mental note to discuss this with Hermione at a later date and get her input.

The second disappointment to Harry was that Quirrell took the class in a very theoretical approach. All they did was take notes (although the Gryffindors seemed to be messing around and avoiding note-taking, Andrew included) on different dark creatures and what to do in the event of you meeting one, which usually conceded to you running as far away as possible, as fast as possible.

Hermione took note that when Quirrell talked about the darker and more dangerous creatures his stuttering became less pronounced.

It seemed like any hope of Harry having the chance to duel this year was out of the question by the end of the period. He thought maybe he should discuss this further with Hermione, and they could potentially tutor themselves in practical defence and in the privacy of an abandoned classroom.

-o-o-o-o-o-

On Friday the duo had their first potions class. Hermione was quite ecstatic for this class and kept pestering Harry with questions, much to his amusement. Harry himself had seen his fair share of potions brewed before since his Mother was essentially an expert at it in school and he tried to answer her questions to the best of his ability.

Even though the duo had attended a full week at Hogwarts they had by an unspoken agreement made no other friends nor made any attempt to. Harry and Hermione either outright ignored or acted coldly to anyone who tried to approach them to become their friends (Although most wanted to be ‘friends' with Harry and not Hermione). This was because they deemed it too unnecessary to have any other friends, especially when they had been disappointed so many times before and agreed that one friend who genuinely cared for you and was great company was most definitely enough. Additionally, most of the people who approached them didn’t do it because they wanted to know Harry, but because they wanted connections to his family. Zabini, Nott and Smith were clear examples of this.

This gave them a lot of time to bond with each other. They learnt a lot bit about one another, their likes, dislikes and hobbies. But most of the time the two talked about school, classes and the Magical and Muggle world.

These talks gave Harry a pretty good idea on what he wanted to get Hermione for her birthday, and he intended to send Ivo over the weekend to collect her presents.

Reaching the potions classroom Harry realised he had yet another class with his brother.

You would think they would construct the timetables in a way which would have fewer interactions between Gryffindors and Slytherins as there’s obviously a massive house rivalry, dating back even before the Blood War, mused Harry.

But alas, every class but two (Herbology and History of Magic) had the Slytherins paired with the Gryffindors, much to the annoyance of both houses.

Recently his brother had been deemed the ‘know it all.’ Harry thought if anyone would be the ‘know it all' it would be Hermione or a Ravenclaw but it seemed like all those tutors had added to Andrew’s ego and he was acting like a cocky prat by answering every question in classes flawlessly, while adding humour, much to the amusement of the Professors. However, from what Harry had heard Professor Snape was not one to take kindly to this attitude, as he was apparently extremely biased to his own house. Harry sincerely hoped this wasn’t the case, he didn’t want another McGonagall, regardless that if his house was favoured.

Why give more reason for the school to think us Slytherins as evil wizards and witches? thought Harry.

The doors to the classroom opened, but this time Professor Snape was standing in the doorway.

“Upon entering my classroom, you will be lining up against the right-hand wall while I take the attendance. Once that is complete, I will be assigning you to your potions partner for the year,” said Snape, emphasising the ‘I.’

This caused many of the Gryffindors to groan in annoyance, and a muttered “The twins warned me about this,” from a redhead behind Hermione.

“That’ll be 10 points from Gryffindor for unjustified groans.”

Excuse me, what?! I’m not a Gryffindor, but that’s plain ridiculous.

Harry looked at Hermione in a questioning glance, but she didn’t seem too surprised.

Hermione was not surprised of this due to her loss of respect to authority figures, she figured Snape’s biasness was just an extent of this. After being given only two points in Transfiguration Hermione was at first annoyed but then conceded to it. McGonagall favoured Gryffindors, Snape favoured Slytherins, but Hermione didn’t really care. She just wanted to get in and learn how to brew potions, hopefully with Harry as her partner.

The students entered the potions classroom and lined up on the wall as per the Professor’s instructions.

Snape then began the attendance roll, when he reached Andrew’s name he commented to the class, “Ahh, Andrew Potter, our local celebrity.” Which elicited some chuckles from the Slytherins and Harry.

Andrew, however, seemed to take this comment well and simply smiled at Snape. This caused Snape to narrow his eyes and begin selecting partners.

The notable pairs were Weasley and Seamus, Andrew and Neville and much to their relief Harry and Hermione. Harry assumed this choice was influenced by Snape's talk to them on the duo's first night.

Professor Snape then began the introductory course for potions, midway through his speech he suddenly snapped his sight to Andrew and said,

"Potter! What would I get if I added powdered root of asphodel to an infusion of wormwood?"

Andrew grinned before he replied, “Adding asphodel to an infusion of wormwood would create a sleeping potion called the Draught of Living Death.”

Snape’s face turned from slightly triumphant to annoyance and loathing before immediately questioning Andrew again, "What is the difference, Potter, between monkshood and wolfsbane?"

“Trick question. They are the same plant and can also go by the name of aconite.”

The Professor looked as though he was going to punish Andrew but then quickly followed up with another question, “Where would you look if I told you to find me a bezoar?"

“You would find a bezoar in the stomach of a goat, a bezoar being a stone which will save you from most poisons,” replied Andrew, who then smirked, “Though it can also be located in that cupboard,” added Andrew while pointing at the cupboard in question. This caused a few Gryffindors to laugh.

That was apparently all Snape needed, “That’ll be seven points for your cheek, Potter.” stated the Professor who used a venomous tone on the word ‘Potter.’

Oh no. Professor, you really aren’t helping our already tainted reputation, concluded Harry.

Ron seemed annoyed by Snape’s point deductions, stood up and like any brave or stupid Gryffindor, and decided to speak up for his housemate and best friend.

“You can’t do that! He answered all of the questions correctly! He should be given points!” proclaimed Ron loudly.

“Weasley! Sit down. That will be another 15 points from Gryffindor,” said Snape in a raised voice. Ron muttered something under his breath and sat down.

 The Professor then looked around the classroom and said, “Well why aren’t you all writing this down?”

Harry quickly did as he was told, but briefly glanced at Hermione, who seemed to have done it in advance.

Harry and Hermione then proceeded to make their potions. Harry found that it was much harder to do, rather than watch and by the end of the lesson his potion was a shade off the desired result. Hermione, however, seemed to have a perfect potion. Harry looked strangely at Hermione who just shrugged and said, “I followed the instructions.” Harry rolled his eyes at her as Snape came over to grade them. Snape gave Hermione an ‘O’ for Outstanding and surprisingly, Harry was granted an ‘EE’ for Exceeds Expectations, It probably had a literal meaning in this case. Andrew, however, was graded an ‘A’ for Acceptable even though his potion looked slightly better than Harry’s.

-o-o-o-o-o-

For the next two weeks, Hermione and Harry kept mostly to themselves. They studied in the library with most of their free time and barely talked to anyone except each other at meals.

In classes, they avoided participating in answering questions, except when called upon. Although, it seemed Andrew was enjoying his new title and the attention that came with it.

Really? Do you need any more attention, thought Harry.

Hermione seemed to pick up every subject extremely fast and was frequently the first or second to learn a new spell (the first often being Andrew) and then would help Harry master the spell after class. Her practical work was also top-notch, scoring O's in all her subjects.

Harry too, was doing well in classes. He wasn’t as talented as Hermione in his spell work but was often near the top end of the students in the class. He was also particularly talented in charms, and in the few practical sessions they had in Defence Against the Dark Arts, Harry was able to master the spell quickly.

The day before Hermione’s birthday at lunch, Hermione asked Harry, “Harry, could I please send Ivo to my parents this afternoon? It’s my birthday tomorrow, but they have no way to send anything. I’d prefer to use her over a school owl.”

“Of course, although you’ll have to check with her. She’s basically her own person.”

“Thanks.”

On September 19 Harry woke up, got changed and made his way to the common room. There he met Hermione and told her, “I’ll give your presents to you in the evening, where we’ll spend the night on top of the astronomy tower.”

The brunette raised her eyebrows in surprise “And break curfew? Didn’t we agree that not attracting attention was for the best?”

Harry raised his hands in surrender “We don’t have to be there the entire night! We can stay there for an hour or two and leave just before curfew. How about it?”

Hermione smiled and said, “That sounds wonderful.”

The two then headed off to breakfast where they took their usual seats at their house table.

“So how old are you today? asked Harry while turning to look at Hermione.

“12, I was born in 1979.”

Harry raised his eyebrows, “So you’re 10 months older than me then. No wonder you’re so much smarter.”

“Oi, are you calling me old?” said a slightly alarmed Hermione.

"No, of course not," replied Harry slightly taken aback.

Hermione smiled mischievously and was about to say something when the owls came in to deliver the mail. Ivo swooped in first and dropped the daily prophet in front of Harry and sat down to deliver the girl’s letter and a book.

Hermione opened the letter and read.

Dear Hermione,

Hey honey, we’re sorry that we haven’t sent any letters to you before now. We’ve been very busy with our jobs as you well know, and we haven’t had the time.

Hermione sighed to herself before continuing to read. Harry gave her a questioning glance, but she waved him off.

Happy twelfth birthday! We know we aren’t the best parents, but we do love you dearly. Your birthday present, the book we sent along was apparently a great book to read as an accompaniment to your favourite book (The one about Hogwarts).

Hermione looked at the book in front of her which was called, A General Overview on the History of Magic.

So how are you doing at Hogwarts? Are you enjoying classes? Did you make any friends?

The letter continued with these types of questions, then read,

On another note, we’ve ensured that we’ll take the entire Christmas holidays off! So, we’ll be able to spend some time as a family without any interruptions.

We're looking forward to your letter home.

Love Mum and Dad

Xoxo

P.S. The owl which came to deliver your letter is very beautiful. What’s her name?

Hermione smiled and looked at Harry who had a slightly questioning gaze.

“Something good then I suppose?” said Harry.

“Yes, they bought me a book,” said Hermione and let Harry read the cover. She then continued and said, “They also got the entire holidays off, so they'll be able to spend time with me.”

Harry grinned and replied, “That’s great Hermione.”

That evening, the two made their way up to the top of the astronomy tower and sat down to look at the night sky.

“It’s so much more beautiful up here without astronomy class, and our classmates,” commented Hermione while in awe of the sky.

“It really is,” said Harry in agreement.

Hermione looked to Harry who was grinning happily. He then took out some wrapped up books and handed them to Hermione.

“Here’s your birthday present,” he paused before saying, “I’ve never chosen a present to someone before, hope you like it.”

Hermione smiled at him and unwrapped the books, her eyes locked upon the two books one called, ‘An introduction to the Dark Arts and another called The History of Necromancers’. Hermione looked at Harry, with piercing eyes, an eyebrow raised and questioned, “The dark arts, and a history on necromancers?”

Harry seemed undeterred by her gaze and replied, “Yes, I had Ivo get them out of the Potter library. She’s a very intelligent owl.”

Hermione who still had her eyebrows raised asked, “Are you sure you aren’t a rising dark lord? Because these books seem very dark.”

“Well maybe I am,” joked Harry, and then walked up to Hermione and put his hands over the books, “Guess I’ll have to take these books back home then,” said Harry while smirking.

“NO!” said Hermione a bit loudly. She looked around nervously to see if anyone heard but saw no one. “I mean, please don’t, I want to keep your presents. I’m just wondering why you got me these two books.”

Harry cautiously replied, “Well you love to learn and read, and I think it’s important to know about all the different kinds of magic. Even the darker branches. You said you love knowledge; well those books contain a lot of it.”

Hermione nodded, accepting his response. Harry then added,

“The dark arts are much more interesting to read than other books. And don’t worry, no one will miss these from the home library, no one ever goes near the dark arts section.”

“I look forward to reading them then,” said Hermione happily.

“Just don’t go leaving those for others to see. It’d be very hard to explain how you got your hands on those.”

“Well obviously Harry, what did you think I’d do? Read them in the library?”

“No well, ergh, just be careful okay,” said a slightly frustrated Harry.

Hermione replied, “I will.”

Harry nodded in acceptance and went to move back but then Hermione said, “Thank you,” wrapped him up in a big hug and produced a large smile at him. This hug, however, was not like the one on their second night, as Hermione did not have a death-grip on Harry, but Harry found he still found it very comforting.

The two separated and Hermione instantly picked up the dark arts book and began to read. She asked Harry to sit next to her, so he did, and he began to read over her shoulder. Although, he found this very hard as Hermione seemed to read at a seemingly inhuman rate.

He briefly got up and draped a blanket over them (which he kept inside his backpack), as it was getting quite chilly. Without noticing the two leaned their heads on each other while they read.

It reached around 10 when Harry said, “Hermione, we need to get to our dorms before we’re caught after curfew.”

“Could we stay out another hour?” asked Hermione slowly in a quiet voice, her eyes glowing at his.

Harry smiled and said, “Anything for the birthday girl.”

Hermione smiled back.

A couple of minutes later she commented, “You’re definitely right these are very interesting to read.”

“Well obviously because you’ve hardly said a word for the last three hours.”

Hermione glared at him for a short second before grinning and Harry grinned back.

At eleven, they packed the books into Harry's bag and made their way down the astronomy tower and towards the Slytherin Dungeons. Luckily, they were able to avoid Filch and Mrs Norris on the way.

Upon entering the common room there were some 5th years and 7th years looking at the interruption slightly surprised, but they quickly ignored them and went back to their homework. Harry and Hermione weren’t worried as they were in Slytherin and it was unlikely that anyone would rat them out.

The two-bid goodbye at the stairs to their dorms where Hermione said softly,

 “Harry, truly, thank you again. That was the best birthday I’ve ever had.”

Harry gave a smile which reached his eyes. “You’re welcome. I’d do anything for my best friend,” replied Harry confidently.

Hermione smiled broadly and replied, “As would I,” and the two left for their dorms, where Hermione had the best sleep she could ever remember.

Chapter Text

Chapter 5

Flying Lessons & Halloween

Following September 19 and the evening on the astronomy tower, Harry and Hermione were practically inseparable. Where you saw one, you would see the other.

To an outside observer, their close relationship seemed very unusual, as their faces were in a constant state of neutrality and they barely talked to each other in public. Slytherins knew better, however. This constant state of neutrality was simply their masks, and they only let them down in the privacy of the dungeons, where they were clearly best friends and would talk in hushed voices to never be overheard. But this did not stop them from ignoring or acting coldly to their housemates.

Many Slytherins were afraid of what would happen once the two learnt some hexes, such as the stinging hex and some such as Tracy, Daphne and Lily avoided interacting with the two and the interactions they did have, were neutral at best. The duo also seemed to blend in. They were hard to find unless you were looking specifically for them, or more specifically Harry. Harry noticed this too, so long as no one looked in his general direction for extended periods, or addressed him, he would see the usual lines form his condition, and people would walk right past him like he wasn’t even there.

The two now also considered each other their ‘best friend,’ even though they had no other friends, this was a significant advancement in their relationship. They practically spent school days attached to each other’s hip.

Within a few days of receiving the books, Hermione told Harry, “I’ve finished both of those books you got me for my birthday.”

Harry looked at her a bit funnily, “Already?! When did you get the time to do that? I’m with you most of the day.”

Hermione looked a bit guilty before replying, “I learnt the Lumos charm and I’ve been reading under my covers until it’s very late every night.”

Harry rolled his eyes at her, “Seriously Hermione, it wasn’t like the books were going to disappear.”

Hermione grinned sheepishly.

“Anywayyy… Why did you tell me this?

“Uh-h, I was wondering if you could get me some more,” asked Hermione nervously.

Harry stepped close to her and whispered in her ear, “You mean dark arts books?”

Hermione nodded, so Harry raised an eyebrow and said, “Is that really wise Hermione? I know we got away with it for your presents but sending Ivo to gather those books would raise questions if they were caught on either us or Ivo. They are about a very questionable area of magic, one which is often not used for good purposes.”

Hermione nodded in defeat, but Harry took some pity on her and added, “Don’t worry I’ll be sure to send you a few more over Yule.” Which brought a smile to Hermione’s face.

-o-o-o-o-o-

On the first week of October, the duo was set to have flying lessons with the Slytherins and Gryffindors.

While walking to the quidditch pitch, Harry noticed that Hermione seemed really nervous, even if her usual façade didn’t show it. Over the past month, he had become adept at reading Hermione like a book.

He whispered, “Hermione are you all right?”

Hermione glanced at him out of the corner of her eye and replied, “Yes, yes of course.”

“Not scared of heights are you,” joked Harry.

Hermione suddenly stopped walking and her face went very pale. Harry saw this and said in a comforting voice, “Hey, it’s okay. Everyone is scared of something. There’s nothing wrong with having acrophobia.”

Hermione looked uncomfortable before she replied, “But it’s so illogical for me to be fearful of it.”

“Just because it’s illogical doesn’t mean you can’t be afraid.”

Hermione still looked very pale, so Harry reassured her once again,

“It’ll be fine, I promise. Come on we need to go.”

The two arrived at the quidditch pitch, where they spotted the Gryffindor and Slytherin students. Their lesson began soon after.

“Welcome everyone. My name is Madam Hooch and I am the flying instructor for Hogwarts. Today we’ll be learning how to fly a broom. I warn you though, no goofing off is allowed when you’re on one of them. You or someone else could get very seriously hurt operating one of these things.”

Hooch continued and said, “Now everyone, go and stand next to one.”

The students did as they were told, the Professor then said, “Everyone hold out your hand and say ‘UP!’”

There were echoes of the word ‘up’ around the pitch. Andrew and Draco’s broom snapped straight into their open hands. However, everyone else in the class was unable to get it on their first try.

Students attempted again and again. On his third try, Harry said in a strong and confident voice, “UP!” The broom hit his palm hard as he closed his hand around it.

To his right, Harry heard a very nervous Hermione, stuttering in a hushed voice, “U-up.” The broom that she was trying to have snap into her hands, simply rolled on the grass.

Hermione looked at Harry in a questioning gaze and spotted his broom in his right hand.

“Harry, I can’t do it,” said Hermione in a quiet voice.

Harry looked shocked, then smirked and said, “Giving up, are you?”

“W-what? No of course not. I just can’t manage to do it.”

“Do you want to fly?”

She hesitated before saying, “Of course I do, that’s what we’re here for.”

Harry raised an eyebrow in question, “Really Hermione? Are you one hundred percent sure you want to fly?”

“Uh-h well… no.”

“Hermione, you know that magic is all about intent, yes?”

She nodded and he continued, “So if you don’t want to fly, the broom has no reason to move to you.”

“So, all I need to do is gather some courage and fully intend to get the broom?”

“Essentially yes,” replied Harry and made a motion for Hermione to try.

“UP!” The broom snapped straight into Hermione’s hand, she smiled, but then began to look nervous.

“We won’t have to fly high. Will we?”

He was about to reply when Madam Hooch said, “I see everyone has managed it. Now, class, everyone get on your broom.”

-o-o-o-o-o-

Andrew was quite happy that he managed to get his broom on the first try. He had ridden brooms at home a lot, but his Mum often berated his dad for letting him do such reckless things at a young age.

Next to him, he heard Ron struggle to get his broom, but he was distracted and was looking at his brother and Hermione. They seemed to be in a hushed conversation, they then stopped talking as Harry made a motion to tell her something. She then yelled ‘up,’ and the broom came to her hand and she smiled at Harry.

Andrew mentally sighed and thought, I wish someone would smile at me like that.

Andrew admitted he was a bit jealous of Harry. Harry seemed to have a genuine friend, just like most people at Hogwarts. Yes, that’s right the anti-social, bookworm had a real friend while he had fanboy and girls, and Ron. Ron Weasley, his best friend, was the only person Andrew could call his true friend. But even he wasn’t entirely genuine, he knew that Ron loved the attention that came with being the ‘Boy Who Lived’ best friend. However, he treated him like a real person, and not some celebrity, which made Andrew consider him, his friend.

Andrew had always tried to make friends with his brother, but Harry seemed impervious to his attempts. He knew that Harry resented him for being the ‘Boy Who Lived,’ but why this prevented them from being friends always confused Andrew. Then his brother got sorted into Slytherin. He had always thought that only evil wizards and witches were sorted into Slytherin, but his brother had joined them, and he couldn’t be evil, could he? At least that’s what he wanted to think. Even though he and Harry were estranged, he still grew up his whole life with his brother. Losing something so connected to him felt wrong in every way possible. So, Andrew decided to look at this logically like how his tutors showed him. Andrew was actually quite intelligent. He looked at the evidence and found that many prominent wizards were Slytherins and weren’t evil. This made him realise that maybe he was prejudiced against Slytherins, as he thought them evil without looking at the facts.

Though there’s still a whole lot of them coming from Slytherin he thought while sneaking a glance at Malfoy. But Harry is different. I know he is.

After that, he began to question why exactly Harry resented him so much and concluded that it wasn’t just because he was ‘The Boy Who Lived.’ Harry resented him because he took all of his parents’ attention. Come to think about it, Harry always seemed to be left out of events and activities. He was even rejected his birthright in favour of himself. Andrew knew that the Potter invisibility cloak held great significance for the bearer and was surprised when he gained it over his elder brother. Being the ‘Boy Who Lived’ had granted him privileges that his brother didn’t have, so looking at it now, it was no surprise that Harry practically hated him.

Snapping out his thoughts, he heard Madam Hooch tell students to get on their brooms. He did as instructed and laughed with Ron when she told Malfoy off for sitting on his broom wrong.

They were about to start flying when Neville kicked off the ground. Neville became panicked and as his broom took him further and higher into the air, his breathing became more and more erratic. Suddenly, he fell off his broom and landed hard on the ground. This caused Andrew to flinch, and he found that he felt sorry for the Longbottom heir. Which he thought was interesting as he and Ron had always made fun of his nervousness and love of plants. He decided to go and help the poor guy but Madam Hooch beat him to the punch and took Neville to the hospital wing, Andrew noticed that he had dropped his Remembrall which he got the other day from his grandmother. He went to pick it up, but Malfoy got to it first.

Andrew growled, “Give it here Malfoy.”

Malfoy replied, “Why would I give this to you? So, you can return it to the fat oaf of blood traitors?”

As Malfoy said this Harry whispered something to Hermione, who promptly smirked and nodded in agreement.

“It’s not your property. It’s Neville’s, so give it back here.”

Malfoy hesitated for a second before smirking and replying, “I think not,” and kicked off the ground flying high in the air.

Andrew knew that Madam Hooch had threatened that anyone who flew their broom would be expelled, but he needed to defend his housemate, regardless of who it was. Especially since, he was a beacon for the light, and taking a stand against Malfoy could be worthwhile.

Andrew kicked off the ground steering his broom into the air. He found that he loved the feeling of the wind on his face and flew straight towards Malfoy and growled, “I said. Give it back.”

Malfoy looked afraid that Andrew had flown up as well, but this was replaced with an evil grin as he said, “Go and get it,” and threw the Remembrall as far as he could.

Andrew instantly turned his broom and sped off towards the ball. Just before it hit the castle, where it would likely smash, Andrew grabbed the ball with his right hand and stopped barely an inch from the castle. McGonagall who had been watching this from her office gasped, and then yelled through her office window “Mr Potter! Get down immediately! And come to my office!”

Andrew gulped and got off his broom and made his way to McGonagall’s office. Walking past Harry, he noticed that his brother seemed unusually happy. He sighed to himself and mused Probably thinks I’ll be expelled. Andrew knew better, however, the trouble it would cause Hogwarts if he was expelled would forever tarnish its reputation. But he knew he was likely to face some sort of punishment.

So, he was extremely confused and relieved when McGonagall instead made him Seeker of Gryffindor, something which he instantly told Ron and sent a letter with Hedwig to his father.

At dinner Andrew was sitting at the Gryffindor table, telling all his friends/followers about becoming a Seeker.

“So that’s when McGonagall screamed at me through the window and ordered me to go to her office.”

“She looked so ballistic, I thought for sure she would expel you,” pitched in Ron.

“She wouldn’t do that. You know he’s her favourite student,” said Lavender.

“Yeah well anyway,” said Andrew ignoring their comments, “She then took me to Oliver Wood, you know? The captain of the Quidditch team. And straight up said that she had found a Seeker.”

“You’re a Seeker?!”

“Yep,” replied Andrew smugly. “Apparently McGonagall will be able to bend the rules so I can join the team.”

“Gryffindor is definitely going to win the house cup this year.”

“Yeah well, I have to head off guys, I’ve got quidditch practice.”

“Wait, Andrew!”

Andrew turned in and said, “Yes?”

“Don’t you need a broom. I mean the school ones are terrible.”

“Don’t worry I got Hedwig to grab my Nimbus from home earlier.”

“A Nimbus 2000?” questioned someone in awe.

“Yep,” replied Andrew with a smug grin who then left for practice.

-o-o-o-o-o-

As Halloween approached, Andrew started to become more civil to Neville, nothing major, he just toned down the mockery he gave the guy this was because like Ron, he seemed mostly genuine. However, Ron pushed away all his attempts. Constantly complained about how useless Neville was and how he was practically a Squib. This made Andrew angry, although he didn’t show it. Ron it seemed was having very narrow views on Neville, and ever since his revelation that he was somewhat prejudiced towards Slytherin he couldn’t help but take notice of similar situations.

Finally, October 31 came where Andrew had charms with the Slytherins. In class, he was partnered with Dean, while Neville was put with Ron.

This lesson they were attempting the Wingardium Leviosa spell, Andrew had already practised most of the first-year course with tutors, so he performed it with ease.

Ron who was sitting behind Andrew asked, “Andrew! How did you do it?”

“Just say the spell, and swish and flick, like so,” Andrew swished and flicked his wand at his feather and said, “Wingardium Leviosa.”

This caused his feather to levitate in the air.

Ron tried to follow the instructions given by Andrew, but due to poor pronunciation of the incantation, his feather stayed still.

Neville, however, seemed to be holding on to every word of Andrew and attempted the spell for himself.

Surprising himself, and shocking Ron, Neville’s feather slowly began to levitate, which resulted in Flitwick awarding points.

“Well done Mr Potter and Longbottom four points to Gryffindor.” He then looked around and locked his eyes on Harry and Hermione, who had also performed the spell.

“And four points to Slytherin.”

Ron scowled at that.

As Andrew left into the hallway with Ron in tow, the redhead commented, “I can’t believe I was bested by a bloody squib.” He then snickered and smugly said, "Well at least I actually have friends.”

Andrew lost in his own thoughts absentmindedly made a noise of agreement.

This caused a small commotion behind them as Neville forced his way past the two, nearly causing Ron to fall over and made his way out of the corridor as fast as he could.

Ron looked at Andrew who seemed a bit shocked and shrugged.

-o-o-o-o-o-

Ron and Andrew were eating in the great hall for the Halloween feast. It seemed like the whole hall had been redecorated for Halloween, and there were more choices in food than usual, which Ron took full advantage of.

They were talking about Quidditch and the different techniques used by professional players. The technique mostly in question was the ‘Krum Kamikaze’ being developed by a rising star in Bulgaria called Viktor Krum.

Suddenly the doors to the Great Hall burst wide open admitting a terrified and trembling Quirrell, who yelled, “TROLL IN THE DUNGEON!” Quirrell looked loopy before adding, “Thought you ought to know,” and promptly fainted.

After a second of delay, the hall suddenly fell into chaos. Students practically yelling and shouting each other.

Dumbledore stepped the podium and yelled, “Attention!” this seemed to attract little attention, so he put his wand to his throat and used a Sonorus charm. Once again, he yelled, “ATTENTION!” This brought the hall into silence, though the occasional sob could be heard.

“Prefects, please take your house to their common room.” McGonagall paled a bit and whispered something to Dumbledore.

The prefects began to prepare their students but were interrupted by the headmaster.

“Sorry, everyone. Change of plans,” said Dumbledore, his eyes twinkling, “Everyone will stay in the Great Hall and the doors will be locked. The professors and I will leave to deal with the troll. The Head Boy and Girl will be in charge until we return.”

The professors then quickly made their way out of the hall and headed towards the dungeons.

Andrew turned to Ron and whispered, “What about Neville? He doesn’t know about the troll.”

Ron looked at him like he was mad, “B-but there’s a troll on the loose.”

“Exactly. So, let’s go. What if Neville is killed then? How would you feel?”

Ron relented and after slipping away from the Gryffindor table the two got under Andrew’s invisibility cloak and left the hall.

-o-o-o-o-o-

Neville was sitting down in the Herbology greenhouse, crying despite the location. He chose the greenhouse to calm down, as it felt like home. His love of plants and knowledge in them made him feel welcome as he was surrounded by them. However, at this moment, he had trouble being in this relaxed state of mind.

Ron’s right. I have no friends… I’m useless. Mum would be so disappointed in me, just like dad and granny are, thought Neville, and let out a loud sob.

Neville and his family had not come out of the war unscathed. During the Blood War, the Longbottoms had been staunch supporters of Dumbledore and the light. His parents were both Aurors and members of Dumbledore’s Order of the Phoenix. However, when a prophecy was made the Potter’s and Longbottom’s went into hiding, with the former utilising the use of the Fidelius charm.

But everything went wrong on the Halloween of 1981. Neville’s mum, Alice Longbottom was killed supposedly protecting Andrew while babysitting him. Baby Andrew defeated the Dark Lord that night, but it was not a time for celebration in the Longbottom family. His dad, Frank Longbottom fell into depression. Every day, till the end of the year, his father would drink as much of Ogden’s old Firewhiskey as humanly possible. He sometimes delved into Muggle alcohol for something stronger. This alcohol addiction, which carried through Neville’s early childhood resulted in Neville having no father figure. His father was hardly around, and his grandmother, Augusta Longbottom essentially took guardianship over him.

Without his father in his life, Neville’s life was more or less miserable. His grandmother tried to shape him into what his father was once, but this only pushed Neville into shame and self-loathing. As Neville grew up, he became, introverted and clumsy, who would be easily upset.

If only Mother didn’t die that night, thought Neville Why did she have to risk her life for him when she knew I needed her?

However, his godparents, James and Lily Potter often took care of him. They loved him to the best of their ability, with James becoming the ‘fun’ uncle figure. This also meant he spent a lot of time with Andrew. Neville’s opinion of Andrew was somewhat conflicted. He always tried to look past what happened that night and try to make friends with Andrew. After all, he didn’t have the luxury to be picky and sometimes, Andrew could be a really cool and interesting guy, other times his arrogance and cockiness would result in Neville loathing him. But, even with the help of the Potter’s, Andrew never developed their relationship past mere acquaintances. This was in a large part to Ronald Weasley, who seemed to see Neville as some sort of threat. So, to counteract this so-called ‘threat,' Ron would often joke about Neville and his poor magical ability and would call him a squib, which at times Neville was inclined to believe in.

Ron’s last comment hit him hard though. When Ron first said that he was ‘bested by a bloody squib’ Neville felt quite proud of himself and even a bit smug, but then Ron went and picked on his insecurities, and stated that he had no friends.

Neville had thought that over the past few weeks he might have been possible to become friends with Andrew, but Ron kept this from happening. And after charms lesson, Neville wasn't really sure if he wanted to be friends with Andrew, as he clearly agreed with Ron in the corridor.

Neville’s crying slowly subsided, he gathered some courage and made ready to leave for the Gryffindor tower.  But as he stood up, he noticed that the ground began to shake. There was also echoing footsteps in the distance. Neville paled and thought, What in Merlin could be causing this?

The footsteps became more pronounced and came closer and closer. The ground began to shake more violently, and as Neville turned around, he saw the cause. Standing outside the greenhouse, was a massive, ugly troll, slightly taller than Hagrid. In its right hand was a club and it was wearing ragged clothes.

The troll spotted Neville through the glass and walked right up to the greenhouse. The troll then swung his massive club into the greenhouse, which shattered the glass, and knocked plants all over the place.

Neville was watching the scene completely transfixed to where he was standing. He was in utter shock.

I’m going to die. I’m really going to die, is all Neville could think of at the moment.

The troll walked into the newly created hole in the wall and began to move towards Neville.

In the background, Neville heard someone yell his name, but he was too distracted by the troll to even acknowledge their presence.

-o-o-o-o-

 “NEVILLE!” shouted Andrew, but Neville seemed unable to hear him.

Ron and Andrew watched in shock as the troll began to move closer to Neville, readying to swing down it’s club on him.

Andrew snapped out of his thoughts and said, “Ron do something!”

“Do what?”

“I don’t know! Distract it somehow.”

Ron looked around frantically and picked up a garden hoe and charged at the troll, like a Gryffindor. He then stabbed the back of the beast's left leg and tried to pull it out, but to no avail.

The troll registering the pain, stopped its pursuit of Neville, grunted and turned around slowly.

“Neville come on, MOVE!” shouted Andrew, but still Neville seemed impervious to Andrew’s shouts.

The troll having now turned around spotted the redhead and swung down his club at the shocked Ron. Luckily, Ron had been pushed out of the way by a diving Andrew, causing them both to fall to the ground and dodge the horizontal swing.

They quickly got up, as the troll made another attempt to squash them, this time with a vertical one. Andrew dodged the swing, which went straight into the ground, causing a large puncture to be made in the floor.

Andrew and Ron both ran back to the greenhouse wall, where they were given some time to talk while the troll smashed everything in its path trying to get to them.

“What do we do?” asked Ron

“I-I don’t know,” stammered Andrew, “Trolls are resistant to all the spells I know.”

Ron seeing the logical idea said, “Andrew! The troll is using the club as a weapon. Let’s get rid of it.”

Andrew seemed to have a blank moment before realising what Ron meant. He pointed his wand at the troll’s club and yelled the incantation, “WINGARDIUM LEVIOSA!”

The troll’s club levitated out of the beast’s hand, eliciting a dumb look from the troll.

“Try to release it over his head,” suggested Ron in a panic.

Andrew tried to do as suggested, but the club seemed heavier than Andrew had thought, and even with his naturally strong magical core, he was unable to manoeuvre the club over the troll’s head.

The troll, having lost its club decided to bull charge Ron and Andrew. The two panicked, screamed and jumped to the side, which caused the troll's club to come crashing to the ground. Due to the troll's poor reactions, it didn’t notice that the two had moved and as a result, smashed its whole body into the greenhouse wall, and fell outside face down.

Neville then finally snapped out of his shock, whether it was because of the troll smashing into the wall, or the troll’s club hitting the ground. He ran over to Ron and Andrew and helped them get up. Ron seemed to have hit his head when he had jumped out of the way and looked like he was a bit dizzy.

Concussion? Now is so not the time thought Andrew.

“Is it down?” asked Ron.

“I think so, but let’s get out of he-,” but Andrew never finished his sentence as the troll got up and faced them with an extremely annoyed look in its face.

“Anyone got any ideas?” asked Andrew in a panicked and needing voice.

The troll made its way back into the greenhouse, forcing the trio to the other side. It picked up its club once more and began swinging furiously smashing pots and killing the plants in them.

As the trio was backing out of the troll’s range, their backs suddenly hit the wall. However, it was at this moment that Neville came up with a plan.

“Guys! I have an idea,” stated Neville.

“Well bloody hell don’t keep us waiting!” yelled Ron as he dodged another swing.

“Mandrakes, we can use the mandrakes. They’ll knock out the troll!” said Neville.

“Brilliant Neville!” commented Andrew, “Ron! Can you get to the earmuffs?”

Ron looked slightly confused before understanding came to his mind. He grabbed three earmuffs and threw two to Andrew and Neville.

“Where are the mandrake pots?” screamed Ron frantically looking around.

“I don’t know! Were they all destroyed when that thing charged around?” responded Andrew.

Neville, having spent most of his time in here knew the answer, “The Mandrakes are by the door on the other side of the room, if someone could get past that troll and plop one out, it should kill it, or at least knock it out.”

Andrew put on a brave face “I can try to distract it with spells. Ron, you help me. Neville is the one who knows what he's doing, we'll let him handle it."

Neville paled at that.

Me, go past that monster?! But he quickly gained back his composure I’m a Gryffindor, I was put in this house for a reason. Now is the time to prove I can do it.

So, with a deep breath, he charged at the troll. He vaguely heard some shouts and spells were soon whizzing past his ears. The troll looked confused as if thinking why this little bug came straight at him, but it was immediately distracted by all the pretty lights thrown at it.

Neville quickly crawled underneath it and sprinted towards the intact Mandrake pots. He turned around to look at the monstrosity and noticed that it was now completely focused on Andrew and Ron who had no place to run.

 “Put them on!” yelled Neville as he made his way to the Mandrakes and put his own on.

The others put on their earmuffs and screamed at him to take one out.

Please, please let this work, begged Neville inside his head.

He pulled out a mandrake which instantly initialised a high pitch scream. This scream momentarily stopped the troll in its pursuit of them, only for its eyes to go blank and body to promptly fall backwards causing it to come crashing to the ground.

Neville put the mandrake back, and the trio took off their earmuffs.

“Is it dead?” rasped Ron, his voice hoarse from screaming.

Andrew replied, “No I don’t think so. Remember Professor Sprout said that they weren’t fully mature and would only knock someone out, not kill them.”

Andrew then continued, “Come on, we need to get back to the great hall.”

Ron and Neville agreed, and they went to move from the greenhouse. But then suddenly Dumbledore, McGonagall, Snape and Flitwick came crashing through the greenhouse door, wands raised.

Dumbledore looked from the trio, then to the troll and back to the three.

“Filius, please go get Hagrid to deal with the troll.”

Flitwick nodded in agreement and left the greenhouse.

Turning his gaze to the trio he asked, “Now do you three want to tell me what happened here?”

“It’s a bit of a long story Headmaster,” replied Andrew.

“You don’t really think they did that,” said Snape while pointing at the troll, “Themselves, do you, Albus?"

The headmaster seemed unaffected by Snape’s declaration and asked, “Why were you three here anyway? I thought I told everyone to stay in the Great Hall.”

Andrew spoke again and said, “We went looking for Neville,” motioning himself and Ron, “We saw that he wasn’t at the feast and wanted to make sure he knew about the troll.”

“Is this true Mr Longbottom?”

“Y-yes,” stammered Neville, “I was upset after class and was calming myself down in here. But if it wasn’t for Ron and Andrew I think for sure, that I would be dead.”

Dumbledore looked mildly surprised and said, “Well then I think this deserves some points.”

“To Mr Weasley and Mr Potter, 20 points each to Gryffindor for looking out for a fellow student. However, I’ll have to take away five each, for disobeying a direct command from me. And 10 points from Andrew and Ron for not telling a teacher and instead run into danger.”

The two in question nodded their acceptance and looked slightly embarrassed to have forgotten such an easy solution.

“Now you three will come to my office, where we’ll discuss what happened in depth.”

The three nodded and made their way out of the greenhouse, passing by an unimpressed McGonagall and an annoyed Snape who sneered at them.

However, for once Neville didn’t care. People had cared enough to come and try to save him. Most of all, Andrew and Ron of all people were the ones to do it. His reason to hate the Boy Who Lived seemed insignificant to him at this very moment, and he hoped that this time it was the start of a beautiful friendship.

From that moment on Neville, Ron and Andrew all became best friends with each other and were forever known as the ‘Golden Trio.’ It seemed like partaking in a death-defying situation together could really cause the strongest of friendships.

Chapter Text

Chapter 6

Questions & a Quidditch Match

“Pardon me, everyone. Change of plans,” said Dumbledore, his eyes twinkling, “Everyone will stay in the Great Hall and the doors will be locked. The professors and I will leave to deal with the troll while the Head Boy and Girl will be in charge until we return.”

Thank Merlin. Seems like McGonagall developed some sense rather than have us all wandering the corridors with such a dangerous beast on the loose, thought Harry.

“Good thing we don’t have to travel to the dungeons,” commented Harry to Hermione.

Hermione raised an eyebrow and replied, “Indeed. I thought Dumbledore was the greatest wizard of our age, yet he overlooks the fact that us Slytherins have our common room in the dungeons. That’s a massive breach in student safety.”

“Yes, at least McGonagall seemed to have pointed out the obvious, or else we could be fighting for our lives right now.”

Hermione nodded in agreement and looked from the Gryffindor table to the main entrance doors.

“Uhm, Harry, do you see your brother anywhere? Or Professor Quirrell for that matter?” whispered Hermione to Harry.

Harry, slightly surprised by this question began to look around the room, although it was quite hard due to the mass of students being in a panicked mood, in which the Head students were failing to calm them down.

“I can’t spot Andrew anywhere, but if he is here, it would be impossible to find him amidst the chaos. Although I can’t find the redheaded git either.”

“And Professor Quirrell?”

Harry looked towards the main hall doors and replied, “He’s definitely gone,” and after a moment of pause added, “I assume you noticed how fake that feint was?”

“Yeah, I did. What do you think was up with that?”

“I don’t know. But have you realised that Quirrell acts extremely unusual?”

“Yeah,” replied Hermione and added, “I’ve overheard some older students talking about how Quirrell never used to stutter when he was the Muggle Studies teacher.”

This brought Harry to a thoughtful expression, “So his stutter is only recent?”

“Yeah, I think I heard that he travelled to Albania over the Summer last year.”

“Albania, that seems to ring a bell.”

Hermione looked at him in a questioning glance to continue.

“I can’t remember off the top of my head, but I think over Yule I’ll be able to remember that train of thought.”

The two then remained mostly silent for the next hour, picking at their food, when suddenly, Dumbledore came through the main doors, scaring some of the more nervous students.

However, Dumbledore was not alone, accompanied by him was, Snape, McGonagall and strangely Andrew, Ron and, Neville Longbottom?? What the hell? thought Harry. He turned to Hermione who too was surprised and looked back at the new arrivals. 

Even more surprising was that the Trio walked to the Gryffindor table and sat together. This thoroughly confused Harry, as Neville never seemed to be friends with Andrew and Ron, at either school or the Manor.

Dumbledore then spoke from the doors using a Sonorus charm to amplify his voice, “The threat has now been dealt with. However, avoid the Greenhouses as they are currently out of bounds. Herbology is also cancelled until further notice,” said Dumbledore in his comforting voice, then added, “Students please return to your dormitories. All other classes will run as per normal.”

The prefects of each house ensured that their students left in an orderly fashion as many kids still looked fidgety.

As the duo walked back to the Slytherin Dungeons Harry asked, “Hermione, do you think Andrew, Longbottom and Weasley encountered the troll?”

Hermione had a thoughtful look on her face as she walked, and replied, “Possibly. And I think Neville may have had something to do with it, he ran off after charms.”

“He did? Why was that?” questioned Harry.

“Weasley made some comment about him having no friends.”

“Really?” said Harry with eyebrows raised, “Well that seemed to have changed now. Considering they all sat next to each other when they returned.”

“So, you think your brother and Weasley went off to find him?”

“With a troll on the loose? That seems like something a Gryffindor would do, plus it’s Andrew, ‘The Boy Who Lived,’” saying the last part sarcastically. “I think if he did do that, it would be more for finding the troll and defeating it, to add to his already massive ego.”

“That does seem like something he would do,” agreed Hermione.

-o-o-o-o-o-

A few days passed leading to early November, the first Quidditch game of the year, between Gryffindor and Slytherin, was set to begin in the afternoon.

“What is going on with all our housemates?” asked a bewildered Hermione.

“They’re all in the house spirit,” said Harry enthusiastically, “for the upcoming Quidditch match this afternoon. They seem to think it’s one of the most important events of the year.”

“Quidditch? That’s the wizard sport where you throw balls while riding brooms, right?” said Hermione.

“Yeah, that's the one. For some reason, it's one of the only sports in our world, and most of the population really love to watch it,” said Harry.

He then added, “And Quidditch at Hogwarts is said to be extremely competitive. I believe it’s one of the reasons house rivalry exists in the first place. But alternatively, it seems to give Slytherins and Gryffindors a way ‘steam off,’ without resorting to confrontations in the corridors.”

“That doesn’t really feel like something I’d want to watch then,” stated Hermione.

Harry looked at her and said in a grin, “But don’t you want to at least watch one game before making up your mind?” He then smirked and added, “Also, we’ll probably see Andrew lose.”

Hermione mentally debated with herself for a bit before relenting to Harry, “Oh all right. But just this one time. If I don’t like it, we are never doing it again.”

Harry just rolled his eyes in response and shook his head. Although Hermione couldn’t help but notice the small grin of excitement that Harry was sporting. If it was for Andrew’s upcoming loss or a love for Quidditch, she couldn’t tell.

After lunch, the duo headed out to the Slytherin stands and sat together in the topmost corner, away from their excited housemates.

The match began, and instantly the fliers sped off and began to play.

“So how does this game work? I never got any books on wizarding sport,” said Hermione.

"Well, basically it's kind of similar to a Muggle game called,” he hesitated before saying, “feetball? I think that’s what my Mum said it was called.”

Hermione looked at him weirdly, “Do you mean football?”

Harry looked as though realisation had hit him, “Oh, yep that’s it. That’s the one where you kick a ball at goals?”

Hermione nodded in clarification.

“Well, anyway in Qui-,” but he was cut off by the commentator yelling,

“10 POINTS TO SLYTHERIN!”

Which was followed by loud noises from around the duo.

"Sorry, what was that?" questioned Hermione as the Slytherins quieted down.

“Quidditch has seven players on each team. Three chasers, two beaters, one goalkeeper and a seeker. The beaters are the ones with the bats, and they hit those hard-solid balls, called bludgers at the opposing team,” explained Harry.

Hermione looked at him with a shocked face, “That sounds barbaric. What if someone is hit with one.”

“Well I haven’t watched that much Quidditch, but I’m pretty sure they usually end up seriously bruised with broken bones.” Hermione looked even more shocked, so Harry added in a haste, “Don’t worry. Wizard healers are amazing at their work. Bones can be fixed with ease.”

“Why would anyone enjoy such a violent sport?” questioned Hermione, sufficiently confused.

“Well it’s fun to watch. I don’t have a team I follow, but I still enjoy watching the sport. And don’t you Muggles have a sport where you punch each other? Seems more barbaric to me.”

Hermione frowned and said in a disapproving voice, “Point taken, but you can’t seriously like Quidditch.”

“Well there isn’t really anything else to watch in our world, so I make do. Also, you have to admit that these close-calls collisions really get your blood pumping!”

Hermione said in a definitive and serious voice, “Now Potter. If you think you’ll ever be playing this game, you are sorely mistaken. I don’t think I could bear watching you get injured.”

Harry teasingly pouted and sarcastically replied, “I’ve always wanted to be a seeker and do death-defying stunts, but you’re the boss, mum.”

She shot him a mock glare.

“Although, we are definitely going flying.”

Hermione’s face instantly went shocked and pale, “W-what?!” she practically yelled.

This turned a few heads of their housemates. Some were thoroughly confused to why Hermione yelled, while others were sneering at disgust towards her.

As their housemates slowly turned their attention back to the game Harry smirked and said, “I said. You are learning how to fly. We didn’t get a chance because of Longbottom last time, so I’ll teach you.”

“We will be doing no such thing,” stated Hermione her eyes piercing his.

“Oh yes we will, or else…” he paused before moving his face right next to her ear and whispering, “You won’t be getting those books.”

Once Harry moved his face back, he observed that Hermione looked slightly sad and replied, “Fine by me. I’d rather that than go flying where the chances of dying are significantly higher than being on the ground.”

Harry, however, would not relent his pursuit and tried a different approach. He pouted at her, his eyes shining and showing more colour than usual. He said in a hushed voice, "Hermione, please? I promise that you'll be fine. It will help you overcome your fear of heights, which you deem so illogical. Besides, I’ll be next to you the whole time.”

Hermione rolled her eyes “Why do you even want me to learn? I like my feet planted on the ground; you should accept that.”

He gave her a small smile full of innocence “Because while Quidditch might not be my ultimate bread and butter, flying itself has no equal in terms of freedom and I want my best friend to notice that.”

Hermione’s features softened after looking at Harry’s face. She found that she couldn’t deny that look, besides she thought, He hasn’t let me down yet. I guess I’ll give him one chance. She exaggerated a sigh and replied, “Fine, fine. But, if I die, I’ll be haunting you for the rest of your life.”

Harry chuckled at that before replying, “Hermione you won’t die. I promise you that.”

She raised an eyebrow and said, “I’ll hold you to that.”

“But, Hermione. How would you, if you are, you know… dead?”

“I’ll find ways,” replied Hermione simply.

Harry simply rolled his eyes and turned his attention back to the game.

Half an hour passed, and the game was going heavily in Slytherin’s favour. Although every time someone was hit by a bludger Hermione seemed to cringe, much to Harry's amusement.

Suddenly everyone in the stands began to chat about ‘Potter.’ Confused Harry looked up. There, high above the rest of the players, was Andrew Potter chasing a glint of gold. He seemed to be within arm’s reach of the snitch when suddenly, a knockback jinx hit him in his rear, causing him to come tumbling forward off his broom.

Merlin! Where did that jinx come from? questioned Harry to himself. He looked around frantically, but he couldn’t find the attacker anywhere.

As Harry turned his attention back to his brother he looked on in shock. He didn’t like his brother very much, but still, he was family. He heard to his left Hermione gasp. His brother was falling, at an increasing rate. Near him, he heard Malfoy say, "Looks like the golden boy is going to be the red and bloody boy.” Which caused some Slytherins to laugh.

Merlin, do they really want him dead? No wonder everyone thinks us evil, thought Harry perturbed.

Suddenly, a loud yell was heard from the Headmaster, “Arresto Momentum!” as the slowing charm hit Andrew, his descent immediately began to falter.

He breathed a sigh of relief, Malfoy who heard this, turned to him confused and said, “Potter? Why are you relieved the idiot isn’t dead? I thought you would love him splattered across the field.”

Harry turned to him and replied calmly, “Malfoy, I do not,” emphasising the ‘not’, “like my brother, but why the hell would I want him dead. It’s not like my family would change their opinion of me much. They’d just be grieving the whole time.”

Malfoy still looked confused but shot a disgusted look at Hermione before turning back to the slowly falling seeker.

Harry observed Andrew slowly land on the ground where he suddenly held up his right hand to reveal the golden snitch.

Bullshit!

“POTTER HAS CAUGHT THE SNITCH, 150 POINTS TO GRYFFINDOR. GRYFFINDOR WINS 170-90!”

Marcus Flint came down and started arguing at Madam Hooch, probably about Andrew’s unorthodox catch.

“What? I thought the score was 20-90. How did Gryffindor win?” questioned Hermione whose brows were furrowed in confusion.

“If a seeker catches the snitch their team gets 150 points and the game ends.”

“Did you say 150 points?”

Harry seemingly confused replied, “Uh, yeah. Why?”

“And chasers score 10 points at a time?”

Harry nodded, though still looking extremely bewildered.

“That is the most stupid scoring system ever. If you have a great seeker you can win with a terrible team. This game is just plain stupid.”

“It-s,” he paused and thought about it. "Well, maybe when you put it like that…”

He threw a sheepish look at her “But the violence though…”

Hermione raised an eyebrow and left her seat, leaving the stands. Harry had to jog to catch up to her.

-o-o-o-o-o-

The following day the duo was in the library studying for Transfiguration. Harry thought it was a good time as any to bring up their ‘flying lesson.'

“So, Hermione…” said Harry slowly and lingering on her name.

“Mm?” said Hermione absentmindedly, not taking her eyes off her parchment.

“Yesterday, you said we could go flying.”

Hermione instantly stopped writing on her parchment and dropped her quill. She looked into his green eyes, her own piercing his with intensity and said, “That was before your brother nearly died.”

"Yeah, but he was hit by a hex, so that’s not a good enough reason.”

Hermione seemed a bit shocked and asked, “He was hit by a hex?”

“Didn’t you notice?”

She looked at him questioningly, “No. I only saw him once he began to fall. What spell hit him?”

“I can’t be sure, but I think it might’ve been a knockback jinx as he was pushed rapidly forward and off his broom.”

“So, you think someone wants to kill him?”

“Judging by some of our housemate’s reactions to him falling, I’d bet my life on it. Besides he is the ‘Boy Who Lived’. Although, I doubt it was a student.”

“A Professor? What's your hunch based on exactly?”

“Male intuition”

She snorted, “Please. Surely not. I know they aren’t exactly the best teachers but that seems farfetched.”

“Maybe, but based on the teachers Dumbledore has hired, I wouldn’t be surprised.”

Hermione nodded. However, she didn’t go back to her work as she was deep in thought.

A few minutes later she sighed and said, “Most of our house still hate me and show no respect. If it wasn’t for you being close to me all the time, I’m sure I’d be in the hospital wing.”

Harry looked thoughtful before replying, “Hermione, most of them are blood purists, you know this. They’ll probably never respect you unless you did something impossible like join the Death Eaters or become Minister for Magic. Many had or still have family members sympathetic to Voldemort’s cause.”

“I know, but you’d think they would judge me based on my merits other than who my parents were.”

“Blood purists are all about tradition, they fear that Muggleborns will want to change old wizarding customs. It’s kind of true, many wizards now celebrate Christmas instead of Yule, even though hardly any are Christian.”

“Change is certain. Progress is not,” mumbled Hermione.

Harry raised an eyebrow, “Where’s that from?”

Hermione looked confused before realisation came to her and she replied, “Oh. It’s a quote from a Muggle historian named Edward Carr. It basically states that change is certain, but whether progress comes with this change is not.”

“Why did you say it?”

She shrugged and replied, “I was just thinking if Voldemort had taken over, whether there would be any progress or not. Change certainly.”

“Probably best not to think on ‘what ifs.’ I’ve done lots of thinking on ‘what ifs’ myself, and it’s usually not very comforting.” said Harry.

“You’re probably right,” said Hermione, who went back to her homework.

"But we seem to have gone off-topic."

“What do you mean?”

“You promised you’d let me take you on a flying lesson.”

Hermione looked a bit pale before replying, "Well I didn't promise. Besides, you know we aren’t allowed to fly without supervision. I don’t fancy losing points and having our housemates hate me even more.”

Harry seemed defiant and said, “Come on Hermione. We’re Slytherins, we won’t get caught,” and pouted at her.

“Fine. We’ll go first thing tomorrow. But we are finishing our Transfiguration homework first.” Harry nodded. “And we won’t be going higher than five feet off the ground.”

"Yes, Hermione. You’re the boss,” said Harry a bit sarcastically.

Hermione just shook her head in response, but she didn’t seem convinced that Harry would only go lower than five feet.

-o-o-o-o-o-

The brunette woke up in her dorms somewhat nervously, as Harry was to take her flying at dawn. She was utterly terrified of heights, but the raven-haired boy seemed convinced to help her overcome her fear, and she thought that everything would go fine, so long as Harry was there with her.

Looking around she saw her roommates; in the bed next to hers was Tracey Davis. It seemed that on the first night of Hogwarts, through general agreement Hermione was given the furthest most bed. And next to her would be Tracey, as she was the least prejudiced of the girls.

The other beds were occupied by Daphne Greengrass, Lily Moon, Pansy Parkinson and Millicent Bulstrode. Out of the lot, Hermione liked Daphne, Tracey and Lily the best, even though she was never friendly towards them. It seemed as though the three girls weren’t die-hard blood purists like Malfoy and Nott, so they acted mostly indifferent and avoided her, which suited her perfectly fine.

Pansy and Millicent, however, were another story. Like Malfoy and Nott, they hated everything Muggle, and evidently her, being a Muggleborn and all. They would often refer to her as ‘Mudblood’ while in the confines of the Dungeons, but they had never physically attacked her or Harry yet. Although, she believed it was only a matter of time before they had a confrontation inside their own house.

Hermione thought maybe in time she could be friends with Daphne, Tracey and Lily, but not until her trust in people had been restored. Harry was enough for now.

She really enjoyed having Harry as her best and only friend. Once you were past his walls, he was a nice and kind guy, who felt just as lonely as her. He was relatively intelligent, not to her degree, but she was able to hold a conversation with him understanding most things. He had the same dark and dry sense of humour as her and was someone she believed she could trust. She didn’t trust him with her life, but she did hold him in very high regard.

And now, Harry was going to take her flying, admittedly she was scared, but with Harry there she believed that it was possible to overcome her fears, though doubts were aplenty. 

She got dressed and made her way down to the common room and waited for Harry. She put on her mask, hoping to hide how scared she felt, but she knew that Harry could see through it, just the same as she could see through his. She learnt quickly that if you were with someone enough you could tell when they were being truthful through subtle hints, though looking at his eyes seemed to be the most effective way.

Five minutes passed and Harry came into view, with a broad and evil grin on her face, which caused her to gulp.

“Ready to go?”

She looked at him deadpanned, “What do you think?”

He saw that she was slightly uncomfortable, came closer to her and said in a gentle voice, “Hey, it will be fine.”

He continued and stated, “By the end of our session you’ll love flying. I know it.”

She snorted and said, “Whatever. Let’s just get this over and done with.”

They walked out to the Quidditch pitch and grabbed two school brooms on their way.

“Alright put your brooms on the ground and call it up, just like we did in class. Remember to be confident and intend for it to happen.”

She made an irritable noise, “I know Harry.”

She said ‘up’ and the broom came to her hand.

“Now get on top of your broom and sit in a comfortable position.”

She did as she was told, looked at him and asked, “Aren’t you getting on yours?”

“I’ll be on the ground and walk next to you while you get used to moving, okay?”

She didn’t look convinced but agreed anyway.

“Now give yourself a small kick off the ground.”

She did as she was told, and her broom lifted her a few feet in the air. Her breathing began to speed up and her mask disappeared was replaced by panic. She then felt a hand on hers and looked at the owner. Harry was standing there looking at her.

“Hey, it’s okay. You’re only a few feet up in the air.”

Harry released his hand and she looked down at the ground and saw that he was right. She calmed down and pushed slowly forward while Harry walked beside her. They moved around for a few minutes before she was comfortable.

“I think I’m all good now.”

He grinned and said, “Great cause now we are going to go higher.”

She looked at him as if he was mad, and quickly forced herself off the broom, managing to land on her feet.

“We are not,” she said definitively.

“I’ll be next to you the whole time,” said Harry, motioning towards the other broom.

“And what if I fall?”

He looked between the brooms, seemed to come to a decision and replied, “We’ll share one then. I’ll steer and you can enjoy the ride. How does that sound?”

“Is there no other way to get over my fear?”

“I’m sure there are other ways but trust me you’ll really enjoy it once you get over it.”

He then chuckled and added, “You can always hold onto me in a death grip if you want.”

Hermione debated with herself for a bit. Eventually, I'll have to get over this fear anyway. I'm just procrastinating and avoiding it. Besides, I do trust Harry a great deal. She gathered some courage she didn’t know she had and reluctantly agreed.

She was awarded with a big smile. Harry compared the two brooms and deemed the one she used as the most stable. He got on it and motioned her to sit behind him.

She nervously walked up behind him and sat on the edge of the broom, and slowly scooted forward till she was an inch from colliding with his body.

He whipped his head around and said, “You might want to grab on to me. But please don’t squeeze the life out of me, or we might actually fall and die.”

She rolled her eyes, “My hugs do not crush the life out of people.”

He smiled and said, "Whatever you say." Then without warning, he kicked off the ground instantly taking them high in the air.

Hermione instantly screamed, closed her eyes and held onto Harry for dear life.

“Harry!” she scolded.

“Sorry, just don’t look down while I get us high enough.”

She gulped and said quietly, “You want to go higher?”

“Yes, the view will be better.”

“Alright, but please slow down.”

“As you wish.”

Harry drastically slowed down their ascent and slowly made their broom level to the height of the Quidditch goals. The duo slowly glided their way around the pitch for a few minutes. Hermione kept her eyes closed and gripped hard as Harry did this. Eventually, she opened her eyes and looked around. She saw how high they were and instantly made her grip on Harry even tighter.

“Her-mio-ne, coul-d you loosen your hol-d a bit?” stammered Harry.

Hermione momentarily snapped out of her fear.

“Oh! I’m sorry Harry,” and loosened her grip.

“It’s alright.”

She looked around at the Quidditch pitch and saw that they were high above the pitch. She was initially uncomfortable, but quickly adjusted to their altitude. Hermione found she was starting to understand why people like Harry loved to fly in the air. Everything below seemed so insignificant and you almost felt as though you were the king of the world.

“How about we fly over the Forbidden Forest,” asked Harry.

She raised an eyebrow, even though Harry couldn’t see and said, “Potter, it’s called the forbidden forest for a reason.”

“Ouch, you used my last name.” He paused before adding, “Well, Granger if you’d rather go higher, I’m all for it.”

"No-o… Fine, we can fly over the forbidden forest."

He briefly turned his head and smiled at her; he then slowly turned the broom to the direction of the forbidden forest. It was still quite dark, with only a small amount of sunshine to shine through onto Hogwarts grounds.

“Hermione, I’m going to speed up, so we aren’t going at a snail’s pace. Is that okay?” asked Harry.

She thought about it for a moment. Things weren’t as scary as she thought they would be up in the sky. But she didn’t particularly want to go fast. However, she wanted to overcome her acrophobia and it seemed that going fast would be the most direct route to do this. So, she agreed with Harry, and the duo sped off towards the forest.

Until her last breath, she would never admit that she screamed.

It wasn’t an overly fast pace or anything, but fast enough that you wouldn’t be able to sprint at the same speed.

They made it over the forest where Harry slowed down their broom and stopped in the middle.

Looking down, Hermione could only see vast amounts of green trees covering the forest. She tightened her scarf along her neck and moved her body fully into contact with Harry, which cause him to briefly tense.

“You okay?” she asked in a concerned voice.

He turned and smiled at her before responding, “Yeah, you just surprised me. That’s all.”

She smiled back and said, “You’re right. The view is amazing from up here.”

“I usually am,” said Harry cockily.

“Oh, shut up,” said Hermione teasingly.

“Why don’t we watch the rest of the sunrise?”

“Sure. Sounds wonderful.”

Together they watched the rest of the sunrise from above the forbidden forest. It was mesmerizing. It was the kind of view you could only get when you were at the top of a large tower. Knowing that she could get this by just picking up a flimsy broom stunned and enchanted her. She gave Harry a comforting squeeze this time, silently thanking him for allowing her to see this gorgeous sunset. She was not over her fear of heights, not by a long shot but she felt that a big step was taken that day.

“Come on we need to get to breakfast before anyone notices we are out here,” said Hermione

Harry slowly descended their broom, and got off the broom quickly, and proceeded to help Hermione off, who simply rolled her eyes at him.

“So, next time you’ll be flying?”

Hermione paled, though it was only slightly noticeable. "Maybe. But thanks, Harry. I'm definitely more comfortable with heights and I see why you enjoy it. Though-”

She was cut off by Harry who said, “Though you’re still a little scared of heights. Don’t worry Hermione, it will go away in time.”

“Anyway, we better go have breakfast,” he continued.

Hermione smiled one more time before they put on their emotionless masks and made their way to the Great Hall.

Chapter Text

Chapter 7

A Duel & Detention

Harry and Hermione walked into the Great Hall wearing their usual masks. They promptly sat down in ‘their’ spot and began to fill their plates. As they were doing this a feminine voice asked,

“Why did you two only get here now?”

Looking in the direction of the voice Harry spotted his fellow housemate, Lily Moon.

He raised an eyebrow and asked, “Moon. Is that really your business?”

She looked slightly affected by his question and replied, “Well, no. Not really.” And mumbled something about him before continuing and saying, “But you two are usually one of the firsts to arrive for breakfast.”

It was true. Harry and Hermione often left for breakfast as soon as they met in the common room. Evidently, them being morning risers resulted in entering a deserted hall, with only a handful of students. But their ‘flying lesson,’ while unnoticed by the teachers, was not completely by their housemates. It seemed their movements were being monitored by their Slytherin friends. Unintentionally or not, it didn’t really matter so long as they told none of the Professors. However, Harry deemed it unlikely that this would happen. Slytherins were snakes after all, not rats.

Hermione replied this time and stated, “We just went out for a walk around the castle.”

Lily seemed unconvinced and showed it by raising an eyebrow but accepted her response before returning to her own food.

Since they had arrived later than usual, it was only a couple of minutes before the owls arrived with the post.

Unsurprisingly, the first to their owner was Ivo. She continually seemed to be the quickest owl, much to the annoyance of a certain snowy owl and its owner. She landed in front of Harry and offered her leg to him which had the Daily Prophet attached, before instantly moving to Hermione and waiting excitedly for some food.

“Traitor,” muttered Harry under his breath so no one but Hermione could hear.

“Just because she’d rather have me feed her over you, does not make her a ‘traitor,’ Harry,” said Hermione, manner-of-factly.

“Yeah I know, but she is my bird, in case you forgot.”

Ivo tilted her head at Harry and pierced him with her eyes.

Harry hastily added “But she’s her own person, so feel free to use her whenever you want. You know you’ll be guaranteed a fast response.”

Ivo made a little hoot of acceptance in response before swiftly leaving the hall.

“What’s on the Daily Prophet today?” questioned Hermione.

Harry quickly glanced over the front cover. He then checked the sub-headings but nothing note-worthy appeared to him.

“Nothing special,” said Harry, “Though feel welcome to read it.” And he passed it over to the brunette, who instantly became engrossed in it.

Looking at the main doors, Harry let out a loud groan of annoyance.

Hermione looked up from the Prophet and asked, “What?”

Three Gryffindors came strolling through the doors, Ron Weasley, Neville Longbottom and Harry’s brother, Andrew Potter.

“Just the bloody Golden Trio has arrived.”

“I have no idea how they got that name,” commented Hermione.

“Yes, a trio perhaps but ‘golden,’ my arse.”

Hermione snorted at that.

“You’re such an idiot.”

Harry just responded with a short and hardly noticeable grin.

Harry noticed that out of the corner of his eye Draco Malfoy suddenly sat up a little straighter upon spotting the Golden Trio.

Harry looked towards Draco as he breathed in slowly, tightened his knuckles, and looked as though he was gathering some courage. He then got up and left the Slytherin table with Crabbe and Goyle in tow, heading in the direction of the Gryffindor table.

Harry looked at Hermione with a knowing look.

“Do you think Malfoy being sorted into Slytherin was the right idea? I mean he’s definitely a Gryffindor since he keeps confronting Andrew in front of the whole school."

“Yeah, he’s not acting very Slytherin. But you saw the hat, it barely touched him before he was sorted. Maybe it’s all just an elaborate act, and he’s actually up to something very cunning.”

“That’s certainly a valid theory,” said Harry.

The duo observed Malfoy, Crabbe and Goyle walk to Andrew, Ron and Neville and watched them begin to talk. Within seconds of the two trios conversing, Harry looked on as Weasley was getting extremely red in the face before loudly saying, “We accept!”

After a bit more talking, Malfoy turned looking quite proud of himself and walked back to the Slytherin table. The raven-haired boy also noticed Neville giving Ron a ‘you’re an idiot’ look.

Harry looked at Malfoy as he sat back down on his seat and asked, “So, what did you discuss with my dear brother this time?”

He seemed a bit surprised that he was being addressed by Harry Potter. After quickly recovering, he smugly said, “Challenged the golden boy to a wizard duel.”

Harry rose an eyebrow, as did Hermione.

“And why would you do that?” questioned Hermione.

Malfoy seemed a bit disgusted that the ‘Mudblood’ was talking to him but answered her question anyway.

“Because I’ll beat the idiot and bring honour to my family and bring dishonour to the Potters.”

He then glanced towards Harry and added in a serious voice, “It’s nothing personal against you, Potter.”

Harry raised his eyebrows and said, “Whatever, I don’t really care.” He paused before adding, “And how will you beat him? You know he’s miraculously one of the top students in our year. Also, we don’t know any proper duelling spells.”

Malfoy smirked and said, “I have a plan.”

Harry looked at him questioningly, but the blond ignored him. So, all the Slytherins simply went back to their food and continued to eat.

“He’s an idiot,” said Hermione, though her eyes were still transfixed to the Prophet.

“Who?” questioned Harry, “Malfoy or Andrew?”

“Both,” replied Hermione simply.

-o-o-o-o-o-

That night, Harry walked into his dormitories, to hear Malfoy bragging about something to the other boys.

As soon as they saw him, Malfoy stopped talking instantly.

Harry furrowed his brows a bit and said, “I wouldn’t snitch on you guys. I’m not a bloody rat. So please continue with whatever you were saying.”

Draco studied Harry for a few seconds before saying, “I was just telling everyone on how I plan to beat your idiotic brother.”

Harry looked a bit surprised and replied, “Oh? Do tell.”

“It’s quite ingenious,” commented Zabini.

"Well, I won't beat the golden boy in a duel per se.”

“No?” questioned Harry, who looked confused.

“No, I’m planning to do the Slytherin thing, and tell Filch about our little ‘duel.’”

“So, you aren’t going to show up for the duel?” questioned Harry.

“Nope.”

I gave you less credit than you deserved Malfoy Harry thought.

But the raven-haired started to ponder to himself for a few moments. On the one hand, if he didn’t interfere it was likely Andrew would end up with a detention. However, if he could somehow convince Malfoy to go through with the duel, he and Hermione could probably watch it play out. It would be interesting to spectate, and maybe if he played his cards right, both Malfoy and Andrew could get detention.

The blonde ponce certainly deserves it after how he treats Hermione.

 So, having made up his mind Harry said,

“But Malfoy, do you really think it’s wise to abandon the duel?”

Malfoy who previously seemed full of himself seemed a bit less confident now and asked, “What do you mean?”

“Well imagine what Andrew would say when you don’t show up. Regardless of them being caught or not.”

Malfoy gulped and Harry continued, "A duel is an honourable and sacred tradition amongst purebloods, yet you're willing to break it so easily? And you dare praise your blood status. I see that you're no better than the average Muggleborn." Harry mentally winced at that and offered a silent apology to Hermione for saying such drivel.

“Ergh, as much as I hate to say it Draco. Potter is correct. You don’t show, and you’ll be an embarrassment to your family, and blood status,” said Nott.

These words seem to hit Malfoy hard, in fact, he even flinched. He glared at Harry before saying, "Fine I'll beat the little git, in a duel. We’re having it tomorrow night in the trophy room.”

“Mind if me and Granger join?”

Malfoy made an irritated sound before replying, “Fine by me. But your Mud-Muggleborn better not interfere. And don’t cry if your brother loses.”

Harry rolled his eyes and said, “Malfoy I don’t care what happens to my brother so long as he’s not killed.” He then added, “But please do humiliate the git, it would be a wonderful image to have ingrained in my memory.”

Draco just chuckled and said, “As if I could lose to a Gryffindor, much less a half-blood.”

All the other boys of the dorm agreed with Malfoy’s statement, being purebloods and all.

-o-o-o-o-o-

On the evening of the next day, on the duo's way to dinner, Harry said,

“So, Draco is duelling Andrew tonight in the trophy room.”

“I already knew that Harry,” said Hermione who was giving him a questioning look.

“Yeah, but Malfoy was actually going to skip the duel altogether.”

“What do you mean?” asked a suddenly intrigued bookworm.

“He was going to simply back out of the duel and hint Filch in the right direction, so Andrew and his second, who I assume is Weasley, would be caught after curfew.”

"That sounds pretty Slytherin, so why isn't he pursuing that idea?"

“I convinced him otherwise.”

Hermione suddenly stopped walking. “You did what?!” she said in a slightly raised voice.

Harry looked around briefly but saw no one in the general vicinity. “I told him all about the shame and dishonour he would not only bring to his family, but to pureblood traditions as well.”

“And why the hell would you do this if I may ask.”

“So, we could watch," said Harry, like it was completely obvious.

Hermione raised an eyebrow and said, “Watch? We?”

“Yeah, I thought you might want to watch one. Besides, we'll get to see one of the idiots lose, so it’s a win-win.”

Hermione snorted, “More like you want to watch it. You know I’m not a fan of seeing people getting injured.”

Harry thought for a few moments before replying, “But you’ll see a wizard duel in action.”

Hermione still looked sceptical.

The raven-haired boy chuckled before adding, “Neither of them will get seriously injured or anything. Besides none of us know any proper duelling spells. Most of those are taught in older years.”

Hermione still looked unsure and debated with herself for a few seconds. After she had made up her mind she glared at Harry and said in an aggressive voice, “IF we get caught after curfew, I will be blaming you. I am only coming for educational purposes.”

Harry rolled his eyes and replied, “Sure you are. Besides we haven’t been caught yet, what are the chances we will this time.”

“You’re an idiot. You know that?”

He just grinned sheepishly at her and said, "But I'm still your best friend anyway."

The brunette simply shook her head and smiled, as the two walked into the Great Hall for dinner.

-o-o-o-o-o-

Following dinner, the duo met up with Malfoy and his second, Goyle in the Slytherin Common Room.

Malfoy and Goyle nodded at Harry and gave Hermione a disgusted look.

“Honestly, will you guys lay off Hermione?” said an annoyed Harry.

Malfoy let out a little chuckle and replied, “She is of lower blood, so why should it matter?”

Hermione raised an eyebrow and said, “Well you did say you’d be indifferent to me on the Hogwarts Express.”

“Yeah, well it’s a lot harder than it looks, besides consider yourself lucky I don’t call you a ‘Mudblood.’”

“And what about me? I’m a half-blood am I not?” questioned Harry.

“Well as much as I hate that it’s the truth, the Potters are an ancient pureblood family, so you get preferential treatment compared to other half-bloods. Besides everyone knows your godfather is Sirius Black, and he has control of my Mother’s family vault. So, I'd rather avoid creating any more tension between their already rocky relationship following the Blood War. Anyway, enough talk, I need to wipe your brother all over the ground.”

“Lead the way then,” said Harry and making a motion for Malfoy to move along.

The duo followed Malfoy and Goyle in the direction of the trophy room, with them lagging behind.

“We are so going to get caught,” stated Hermione.

“And what do you base that on?”

“The fact that we’ll be lingering longer in the corridors than any other time after curfew. Meaning the chances of us being caught will be exponentially increased.”

“Well if you really want to go back, we can and get some extra studying done.”

Hermione seemed to briefly think about it but decided otherwise. “No, we’ll stay, besides I really do want to watch a duel.”

“What in Merlin are you two doing back there?” growled Malfoy, “Do you want us to get caught?”

“Sorry,” said Harry, although he didn’t sound very sincere.

The duo quickly caught up with Malfoy, who was mumbling something offensive about them.

What a surprise…

Before going into the room, Hermione held Harry back.

“Let’s not have Andrew and Ron see our faces. Slytherins might not snitch but I don’t trust the Gryffindors to stop themselves. Let’s stay clear and watch from afar”

Harry nodded while giving her a small smile.

The four walked into the trophy room, where Harry quickly spotted Andrew and Ron conversing together. Thankfully they didn’t appear to notice them yet, so the duo took the opportunity to hide behind a large trophy case where an old painting of a small elderly woman sleeping resided on the wall next to them. Malfoy glanced at them quickly but seemed too preoccupied with his nemesis to bother thinking about it.

Finally, both Gryffindors turned around seeming extremely determined, confident and even a little bit relieved.

“About time!” loudly said Ron, “Thought you snakes would never show.”

“And you’re just as loud as a lion,” mumbled Hermione so only Harry could hear.

Harry let out a small laugh at that.

“Wouldn’t miss it for the world,” said Malfoy sarcastically.

 “Rules for this duel?” asked Goyle. Harry could see Malfoy shaking his head at that, As stupid as a Gorilla that one.

“Wands only, no physical contact. First to concede loses,” said Malfoy.

“Agreed,” commented Andrew.

The two duellers moved to the centre of the room and stood opposite of each other.

Both coming from ancient pureblood families, they already knew the general formalities of wizard duels, so there was no need for anyone to explain.

They looked at each other in the eyes, drew their wands and bowed to one another in a polite matter.

“Ready?” asked Draco confidently.

“Ready,” replied Andrew as equally confident.

Andrew suddenly flicked up his holly and phoenix wand at Draco and shouted, “Vermillious!” Red sparks instantly left his wand, travelling directly at Malfoy.

Malfoy simply responded with a similar spell, which resulted in green sparks colliding with red. Once the two sparks touched, they simply dissipated.

“Well that was anti-climactic,” commented Hermione.

Both duellers seemed a bit surprised by the result of their firsts spell, but Malfoy quickly followed up with a bogie curse at Andrew.

Not knowing the counter curse or any shield spells, Andrew quickly dodged out of the way and responded with another Vermillious charm.

Malfoy, not expecting such a quick response was unable to react to the spell and was hit by the red sparks, which stung his body all over.

Andrew attempted to follow up with green, and red sparks but Malfoy pointed his wand at the ground and yelled, “Fumos!”

The ground around Malfoy suddenly exploded into smoke, rendering Andrew’s spells useless.

The smoke prevented Andrew and the four spectators from seeing where Draco was.

At first, Andrew tried to use the Lumos spell in hopes of spotting Malfoy’s shadow with his light but seeing no result, he decided to up the ante.

Andrew simply smirked, walked into towards the smoke, aimed his wand into the air, swished it in a circular motion and yelled, “Verdimillious!”

An orb of green energy was thrown suddenly from Andrew’s wand and exploded inside the smokescreen. The blinding green expanse caused everyone in the room to cover their eyes, and the smoke to disappear.  

Out of nowhere Malfoy came running out and unleashed a knockback jinx on Andrew.

Had enough forethought to plan that my brother would use this, so he pre-emptively shielded his eyes. Good job Draco, though you running to him was probably unnecessary. thought Harry.

The Gryffindor, utterly surprised, was unable to dodge out of the way and was hit square in the chest and knocked straight into some trophies. This elicited a few noises from Hermione and caused trophies to come crashing all over the ground, creating excessive amounts of noise.

Then, at the same time, the two duellers released bogie curses on one another, with both meeting their target.

Malfoy and Andrew now had extremely runny noses and were sneezing constantly.

Both Harry and Hermione could no longer hold in their laughs to how ridiculously stupid the duel was and began laughing trying desperately to cover their mouths. Ron and Goyle, however, looked a bit shocked but said nothing as their respective leaders were still duelling.

“Ready to con-achoo! concede Malfoy?” said Andrew, to the best of his ability.

“In your dre-achoo! dreams Potter.”

Crash

The doors unexpectantly flung open to admit Caretaker Filch and his cat, Mrs Norris.

“Who’s been making all this ruckus then?” Filch then spotted the four first years, all looking extremely pale and shocked. Harry and Hermione were no better.

“Ahh, what do we have here hmm? Come on you little brats, all of you to Professor McGonagall’s office now,” said Filch, while forcing the four out of the trophy room and towards McGonagall’s office with Malfoy and Andrew sneezing the entire way.

“You know, I’m really glad I listened to you on that one Hermione” spoke Harry after a minute of silence.

She blinked before responding “Tell me about it, now let’s please move before we get caught like the rest.”

He was just about to agree when a sudden cough rang into the night, turning the duo’s blood into ice.

“I assume you want to join the rest of the group before they get too far ahead Mr Potter, Miss Granger.” Spoke the small lady hanging in front of them, “All that ruckus was bound to wake us up, or did you think us too stupid to notice? Professor McGonagall has been informed; you should go now before you get into even more trouble.”

Hermione turned to Harry with a ferocious glare while he was busy kicking himself for the trouble he brought them.

-o-o-o-o-o-

Upon arriving at her office, Filch knocked on the door. Moments later, McGonagall opened the door, and her neutral face became one of disappointment as soon as she spotted the six students, including two of her own lions.

“Argus, what are these students doing outside of their dormitories?” questioned the Professor.

Filch grunted and replied with a sneer, “I found these four troublemakers in the trophy room making a mess. When I walked in trophies were lying everywhere and these two,” pointing to Andrew and Malfoy. “Were sneezing and spreading their gunk everywhere. Although I don’t know where this pair came from,” now showing Harry and Hermione “They just joined us.”

The Deputy Headmaster responded “Elizabeth informed me of their whereabouts. Apparently, they were spectating the duel.”

She huffed before continuing and addressing the students, “You’ll all be serving detentions for being outside of your house area, after curfew. Three with your Head of House, and one with caretaker Filch of his time and choosing. It’ll also be 20 points from Slytherin and 10 from Gryffindor.”

Harry and Hermione responded with, “Yes Professor.” While the others simply nodded in acknowledgment.

Professor McGonagall then quickly incanted the counter curse at Andrew and Draco making the effects of the bogie curse subside. She continued and said, “Argus please escort the Slytherins back to the Dungeons, I’ll take care of the Gryffindors.”

Once back in the safety of the Slytherin common room, Hermione said, “I knew it, I knew this would happen, but did I listen to myself? No, of course not I decided to watch an illegal wizard duel for kicks because my best friend said it was safe! Now I have detention with Filch of all people! Do you know he whipped students for fun back in the day? What kind of man does that?! If only you hadn't said a thing, Harry!"

Harry looked down at the ground in shame, extremely disappointed and embarrassed at himself.

Malfoy sighed and said, “I can’t believe I’m saying this but I’m agreeing with Granger. This is all your fault Potter, if it weren’t for you, the Golden Boy and Weasley would be serving detention alone, but no you had to go and persuade me otherwise.”

Goyle grunted in agreement and the two stormed off with Malfoy muttering, “Bloody Potter.”

Harry turned to Hermione who looked extremely mad at him.

She glared at him and said in an unfriendly tone, “I’ll see you in the morning. Though I will not be forgetting this.” And she stormed off as well.

Harry sighed to himself and slowly made his way to his dorms.

Nice one Potter, you idiot. Now Hermione is furious at you, he berated to himself.

-o-o-o-o-o-

For the next few nights, the four Slytherins served their detentions with Professor Snape.

Harry, Hermione and Goyle all had to clean cauldrons, organise potion ingredients and clean the floor.

Malfoy, however, was seemingly given preferential treatment by his Godfather and was taken into another room by Snape during their detentions. Where Harry assumed, he was being given private potions lessons.

Blatant favouritism. Talk about abusing his position of authority.

During the week following the duel, and their subsequent punishment, Hermione was constantly annoyed at Harry.

They still walked in public, sat together and studied together, but their non-school related topics weren’t talked about. This didn’t sit well with Harry, he wanted his best friend back, but whenever, he asked something not related to classes she would simply glare at him.

He knew that Hermione was mad at him over being caught, and he knew it was his fault.

Malfoy even sided with her. Never thought I’d see that.

He tried to apologise to Hermione a few times, but she seemed impervious to his attempts. He mused that he would have to wait a couple weeks for her to cool down before she would even consider his apology. He knew her trust in people was limited and vowed that he would never again attempt something so reckless without Hermione being one hundred per cent aboard.

But her stance on him was fast-tracked when they attended their detention with Filch the following week.

-o-o-o-o-o-

Harry and Hermione made their way to the entrance of the Great Hall for their detention with Caretaker Filch. It seemed as though they were the first ones there and 10 minutes later, Andrew, Ron, Draco and Gregory had all arrived.

Filch then appeared and said, “You little brats will be serving detention with Groundskeeper Hagrid.”

The Slytherins gave a nervous look, while Andrew and Ron sighed in relief which was soon accompanied by a strangled gasp when Filch added,

“Yes, yes you’ll be with Hagrid. In the Forbidden Forest.” And grinned at the students like he was the happiest man alive.

Everyone in the room suddenly became shocked and pale.

Malfoy blurted out, “We-we’ll be in the Forbidden Forest?”

Filch smirked before replying, “Yes, now let’s go. I need to take care of a few things.”

The students slowly made their way down to Hagrid’s hut and waited outside while Filch knocked on Hagrid’s door.

The door swung open to reveal the 11-foot man.

“I’ve got the students here Rubeus.”

“Thanks, Argus.”

Filch then turned to look at the students and happily exclaimed, “Have fun kids.” He quickly made his way back to Hogwarts Castle.

Hagrid turned to address the students. “Andrew, Ron nice to see you two again. And who else do we have? Four Slytherins, I see. Wonder what trouble you kids made. Anyway, I’ll be right back and grab my crossbow. Innit a nice night to wander the forest?”

“Did he say he’d grab a crossbow?” asked a pale Malfoy.

Andrew chuckled and said, “Scared are you Malfoy? Scared of friendly old Hagrid.”

“No. I’m not scared of that big oaf. The forest is filled with dangerous creatures you know. Like Werewolves, centaurs and trolls.”

Andrew, Ron and Goyle all seemed a little bit more scared now.

Hermione smirked at Harry and said to the group, “There’s also rumoured to be acromantulas. You know? Big giant spiders.”

Harry smiled to himself, it seemed as though Hermione was a bit more comfortable around him again.

“Spi-spiders?! Are you sure?” asked Weasley, who seemed as though he had stopped breathing.

No response came, however, as Hagrid came out of his hut with a crossbow and his dog in tow.

“Righ’ everyone. This dog is named Fang, he’s a vicious one but a bit of a coward.”

“Hagrid, there aren’t spiders in the forest are there?”

“Wha’ do you mean Ron? Of course, there are. I’m big friends with the colony’s leader, been like that since the 1940s.”

Ron now looked too shocked to move or respond.

“Alrigh’ everyone, let’s go into the forest.”

Harry and Hermione followed the rest of the group into the forest. It was nearly pitch black, making it very hard to see anything in the forest. Truth be told Harry was a little bit scared. He thought about grabbing Hermione's hand but thought better of it.

“So, what are we doing in the forest Hagrid?” questioned Andrew.

“We’re looking for whatever killed this unicorn,” said Hagrid while pointing to a dead unicorn in a small clearing.

“And why are we doing that?”

“Whatever killed it, drank the unicorn’s blood as well. It makes one hold onto life, but the consequences are much worse. Whatever did this, we need to find it before it kills again.”

Harry gulped at that.

As they continued walking Harry heard Malfoy say to Goyle, “What in Merlin do the teachers think they are doing? Serving detentions with the bloody half-human oaf in the Forbidden Forest. Just wait till my father hears about this.”

Harry raised an eyebrow at Hermione, but she simply glanced at back at him before promptly ignoring him.

I guess that was a one-time thing then. Seems like she’s back to hating me, thought Harry miserably to himself.

The group walked along a path before stopping as it split into three different directions.

“Alrigh’ let’s split up into three groups. Tha’ way it’ll be quicker to find the culprit.”

The six students all looked uneasy. Hermione asked, “Can we choose our groups?”

“Sure.”

“Harry.” It was a demand.

Unsurprisingly Andrew paired with Ron and Malfoy with Goyle.

“I’ll go with Andrew and Ron, Malfoy why don’t you take Fang with you.

This seemed to improve Malfoy’s emotional state.

“Thou’ I must warn you, he’s a coward.

Malfoy once again looked uneasy.

“’Arry, you and Granger take the left, I’ll take the centre with the Gryffs and Malfoy you and Goyle take the right. All right?”

No one was really ‘all right’ but they all nodded in acceptance.

“If you find the creature or are in trouble send red sparks into the sky. Incantation is ‘Vermillious.’

Andrew chuckled a bit, having used the spell multiple times in his duel against Malfoy.

Harry and Hermione cautiously began walking down the left path, and within seconds the others were out of view.

“You know, I really am sorry Hermione.”

Hermione glared at him while walking and said, “Harry this really isn’t the time for this. I’d rather deal with this once we’re safe inside the confines of the castle.”

Harry suppressed a sigh and said, “But Hermione, will there ever be a good time? You’ve been ignoring me for days, and I really want my best friend back. Not just some study partner who seemingly hates my presence.

“I don’t hate your presence,” said Hermione seriously.

“Then wh-,” Harry didn’t finish his sentence as he suddenly heard some ruffling to his right.

He looked at Hermione a bit shocked and said in a hushed tone, “Did you hear that?”

Hermione could only nod mutely.

Harry got out his wand, as did Hermione and the two slowly kept walking forwards. Suddenly Harry put his hand out to stop Hermione. He looked at her in the eyes,

“Harry wh-” but stopped when Harry put his left index finger to his mouth.

He mouthed to her footsteps and her eyes widened in response. He motioned them over to the side of the path, and the two quietly made their way over to a large tree. They crouched down against it, side by side, doing their best to stay obscured from view.

The duo observed on the path a somewhat ghostly figure slowly walking down it. Its face was hidden by a dark cloak, making it impossible to discern the face’s identity. It looked humanoid enough, but there was something off about it, almost as if it was radiating dark magic off itself.

Harry felt strong pressure on his left hand and let out a short gasp.

The figure instantly stopped moving and raked its face up and down the path and along the treelines, one of which had Harry and Hermione. They both held their breaths.

He could feel his heartbeat, getting louder and louder as the figure moved closer to their position. His body began to sweat, and his eyes stopped all movement.

Luckily it seemed as though the hooded figure could not see in the dark and continued its way up the path.

Once the figure was a safe distance away Harry let out a breath and began to breathe hard. He looked at his left hand and found that it was Hermione who had applied pressure to it. He gave her a reassuring smile, even though it was nearly pitch black.

“Let’s go back the way we came, I think that may have been the ‘thing’ that killed the unicorn.”

Hermione merely nodded in agreement, seemingly too shocked to talk.

Within seconds of walking the opposite way from the figure, red sparks appeared in the distance, in the direction they were heading.

Shit.

Behind them, they heard an unintelligible scream and looked back to see a cloaked figure charging right at them, at full pace.

Harry yelled, “RUN!” and immediately fired a Verdimillious charm to hopefully blind the aggressor. A small noise of complaint was heard but they didn’t take note of it.

The duo quickly sprinted full speed away from said figure. Hermione, however, was a bit slower than Harry, but the raven-haired boy had no intention of using his best friend as bait. He slowed down to keep up with her, and the two diverted off the path hoping to outsmart the figure.

They didn’t care that they were making a lot of noise. They didn’t care how vulnerable they were. They only had one thing on their mind, run.

Harry took a short glance back but saw nothing.

“Her-mione I thin-k it’s gone,” said Harry while breathing hard.

Having heard this, Hermione stopped and the two stood together in a clearing.

“Alright, let’s stop here and call for Hagrid.”

“Vermillious!” shouted Hermione as she pointed her wand into the sky. Red sparks left her wand, illuminating the night sky.

Harry then heard movement behind him. He quickly turned himself and grabbed Hermione’s hand, and pulled her behind him.

Looking at the disturbance Harry saw what he could only describe as a wild elf. It seemed about 3 feet tall, had a pointed face with orange eyes and a maniacal smile, its body essentially bare allowing him to see its skeletal figure. In its hand was some sort of blow dart that looked primed to be used.

“Oh my god. That’s an Erkling,” said Hermione

“A what?” asked a courageous Harry who still stood in front of Hermione.

“It’s a – Merlin Harry!” She never finished her sentence as the Erkling lifted his tool and shot a dart at them, Harry took it purposefully to shield the girl and immediately began to feel weary. He lifted his wand and tried to use a Knockback jinx, but it barely pushed the grass in front of him. The beast was already reloading and seemed ready to fire again.

Hermione finally came out of her shock, pointed her wand at the Erkling and yelled, “FLIPENDO!”

Surprising both of them, the little disgusting creature was not only knocked back but practically ‘hit out of the park.’ The Erkling went flying and landed somewhere beyond their field of view.

“Harry! Harry! Are you okay!?” asked a frightened and worried Hermione.

“I thi-think it was po-po-poison,” said Harry though he struggled to get the sentence out.

“Oh Harry, I’m so sorry I never should’ve been ma-“ But he was struggling to hear what she was saying. His body felt like it was shifting, it was unlike anything he ever felt.

It suddenly felt like such a good idea to sleep.

Yes, that would get rid of the pain. Sleep…

Thus, Harry closed his eyes, and everything faded to black.

Chapter Text

Chapter 8

The Hospital Wing

Harry slowly came back from unconsciousness. He felt immensely weak, bloated and exhausted. He hadn’t opened his eyes yet; he wasn’t sure if he even had the strength to.

He tried moving his legs, but they were completely numb, he tried his arms with the same result. However, he could feel something holding onto his right hand, which seemed to ignore the rest of his body’s state.

His hearing slowly returned, sounds began to pour in, voices, yelling, and a lone sob, very close to him. This sob was completely unfamiliar to Harry.

But they’re probably sobbing for me. It must be someone I know, thought Harry.

Summoning all of his willpower, Harry again attempted to open his eyes. He only succeeded in getting them very partly open, but it was enough so that he could see what was in front of him. However, his glasses lying elsewhere and being severely short-sighted meant that he was hardly able to see anything further than a few metres away from him.

Looking to his right, he saw that his hand was completely covered by brown bushy hair,

Hermione,

He tried to smile but was largely unsuccessful.

He then tried to call out her name, to notify her that he was conscious,

“Her-mio-ne.” The brown bush of hair suddenly jerked up and looked into his eyes. Her eyes were red and weary from crying. She looked defeated and sad, so sad as if someone had killed her puppy. Tears covered her face, but as she saw those green eyes, hope erupted on her face and she cried,

“Oh, Harry! You’re alright. I was so worried about you.” And suddenly let go of his hand and brought him into a bone-crushing hug.

Harry tried to let out a chuckle, but that simply started a coughing fit.

Hermione suddenly let go of him and yelled, “Madam Pomfrey!”

“Hermione, could you put my glasses on me?”

She gave a small smile and did as asked.

Once his glasses were put on, he noticed two things. The first was that Hermione was not the only person in the room, which he knew now to be the hospital wing. There was Lily, James, Andrew, Hagrid and Dumbledore.

His family being there, significantly shocked Harry. He understood that parents would probably be called to the school because of his injury, but still, his parents had never really cared about him that much before. Especially his father's last letter, which left little to the imagination of his attitude towards him.

The second and more unusual change he found was that the usual lines and symptoms from his eye condition were completely gone. It seemed as though either the poison from the Erkling dart or whatever the healer had treated him to, had cured him of his condition.

Something that’s supposed to be impossible since the eye is too complex for Wizards. This warrants a lot of questions. thought Harry

He made a mental note to research this further with Hermione. He had no intention of telling his parents about this, lest they even remember.

Hermione once again grabbed his right hand and applied pressure, this time Harry was able to return it, eliciting a broad grin from a red-eyed brunette.

Harry then heard fast footsteps approaching the bed, turning to face the sound he saw an elderly witch, presumably the school’s healer.

“Out of the way, Miss Granger. I need to treat my patient.”

Hermione, however, did not move from her spot, glared at the Matron and held Harry’s hand even tighter. Harry gave a small smile which only Hermione would be able to see.

Madam Pomfrey sighed, “Fine child, if you don’t want to move, please let go of his hand while I use diagnostic spells on him.”

Hermione simply pierced her eyes at the Matron.

“I promise I won’t hurt him.”

The brunette’s features softened, and she relented, letting go of his hand, but didn’t move away from her spot.

The mediwitch then performed diagnostic spells on him. After a few minutes, she said, "Everything looks fine Mr Potter. Though you will probably be weak for a few days. You were put under stasis and given a flushing potion, so while the effects of the poison may be out of your system your body still needs to recover."

“Thank you, Matron,” replied Harry sincerely.

Madam Pomfrey gave a nod, and looked to Hermione and said, “Don’t you let him out of your sight. If I can’t get rid of you, you can make sure he doesn’t leave. No exceptions.”

“Yes Matron,” replied Hermione.

The healer then turned and left the room, leaving Harry with the six other occupants.

“How long was I out?” asked Harry.

“Two days,” replied a teary Lily.

She’s crying? For me? Since when has she shown any affection, or care for me, thought a bewildered Harry.

“I’ve been out for two days?”

“Yes, and this young lady here hasn’t left your side the whole time,” replied his father.

Harry gave another smile to Hermione, before his father let out a chuckle and said, “She’s a keeper Harry. Don’t let her get away.”

The raven-haired boy was even more confused now. His father was now talking to him with ease. Though he hid his shock well behind his mask.

“James!” scolded Lily.

“What? I knew you were the one for me in first-year, why can’t he be the same?”

Hermione as my future partner?! thought Harry. That could be a possibility down the road, but I’m way too young.

He looked at Hermione who seemed a bit shocked before turning back to his father and saying, “Dad, I’m eleven.”

James just looked grinned at him, which made Harry feel uneasy.

Looking to the other occupants of the room he saw Lily, trying to hold in a laugh. Andrew looking disgusted. And Hagrid and Dumbledore with amused expressions on their faces.

“Now Harry, I’m sorry I must do this. But could you please tell me what happened in the forest? Miss Granger insisted on saying nothing until you could talk to us.”

Harry shared a look with Hermione that said, ‘should we do it’ and she nodded.

Harry then began his story, enthralling all the other people in the room.

“So, as a group of seven, we walked along the path, before it split into three directions. Hagrid said that we should split up into three groups and each take a path, hoping to find out what attacked the unicorn. Hagrid, Andrew and Weasley were a group. Malfoy, Goyle and Fang were one, and Hermione and I were the last. Hagrid said that if we found something, we should send red sparks into the air, to alert the other groups.”

Hagrid made a noise of agreement backing Harry’s story, but Lily seemed shocked, “So let me get this straight. A unicorn was attacked by an unknown creature, and you think having six students comb the woods for said creature is an appropriate detention? Two of those students were my sons!”

Hagrid responded, “I’m sorry, Lily. But I didn’t really think we would be in any danger.” He looked down before adding, “I shoulda brought some mor’ help.”

Lily huffed in response, and James grimaced.

Dumbledore let out a small cough and said, “Please continue Harry.”

“Hermione and I walked down our path for a while before I heard footsteps from behind us. I told Hermione this and we both hid down beside the path, under a tree.”

The Headmaster looked towards Hermione who continued the story.

“We crouched down and took out our wands as the owner of the footsteps came into view. I don’t really know how to describe the assailant. It was dark and hooded, and looked pretty humanoid.”

“It almost seemed as though it was releasing dark magic,” pitched in Harry.

Dumbledore suddenly leant in closer and asked, “Do you think that was the ‘thing’ that killed the unicorn?”

The two shared a look and answered as one, “Yes.”

Dumbledore seemed satisfied and motioned for them to continue their story.

“Harry and I waited for the figure to move away before we started to make our way back down the path. Unfortunately, red sparks in the direction we were going were sent into the air.”

“Yeah, that was Malfoy, got scared of somethin’ and sent them into the air,” said Hagrid.

“They seemed to have attracted the attention of the hooded figure and I believe it let out a scream. Harry told me to get away, and as we ran Harry casted a Verdimillious charm behind us, hoping to blind the attacker.”

The Headmaster rose his brows in surprise at this.

“We ran, took off into the forest, away from the path and came to a clearing,” said Harry. “It seemed as though the figure had lost us, and Hermione sent a Vermillious charm into the air, to call for Hagrid. But that’s when I heard movement behind us and turned to see an elf-like creature. I believe Hermione called it an ‘Erkling.'

Lily gasped, but James seemed confused.

“Lily, what is an Erkling exactly?” asked James.

“An Erkling is an elf like creature, about three feet tall that loves to feast on children. They also carry a blow dart to hunt their prey,” informed Lily.

Lily then turned to Dumbledore and said, “But I thought Erklings were native to Germany. So how did one end up in the Forbidden Forest?

“Be assured, Lily I will be investigating this matter seriously, once we get the whole story,” replied Dumbledore in a calm voice.

Harry decided to continue, “As Hermione was about to tell me about Erklings, the creature shot a dart at me, which immediately began to make me weak. It wasn’t long before I passed out, but I saw Hermione shoot a knockback jinx at the creature.”

Hermione sniffed before continuing the story,

-o-o-o-o-o-

Hermione looked on in shock as the aggressive Erkling was practically flown back from her overpowering knockback jinx.

What the hell? Since when could I cast such a powerful knockback hex?

Quickly snapping out of her shock she turned her attention to the silly idiot who took a dart for her.

“Harry! Harry! Are you okay!?” asked Hermione, seriously frightened and worried.

“I thi-think it was po-po-poison,” said Harry though he struggled to get the sentence out.

Her features instantly tensed even more, and any anger she once had towards him was overshadowed by anxiety. She looked into his green eyes, usually pronounced and piercing, were now slowly losing their colour and life.

“Oh Harry, I’m so sorry I never should’ve been mad at you.”

But it seemed as though Harry was no longer listening, he seemed so exhausted and suddenly fell to the side. Hermione, however, grabbed on to him, with strength she didn't know she had and set him down carefully. 

“You’re a silly idiot you know that?” said Hermione, but Harry made no response.

“Shielding me, and taking a dart, maybe you’re the one who should be in Gryffindor.” But the raven-haired boy made no move of acknowledgment.

Hermione not being able to hold it in anymore began to cry.

“Harry! Come back your stupid idiot, you can’t die on me because of some stupid poison,” yelled Hermione to Harry.

Hearing voices of creatures around her, Hermione quickly stood up and tried to guard Harry. Looking around she saw what must’ve been at least seven Erklings, it seemed as though the first had called for reinforcements.

Hermione knew that at the moment that she had little hope at taking them all down and protecting Harry. She also knew Erklings fed on children and prayed that she and Harry would not fall to that fate.

The one closest to her decided to lunge at her to get a bite of her flesh its mouth wide open. If it was out of impatience or over-confidence, she didn’t have time to ponder it. Reacting on instinct she stuttered “F-Flipendo!”

While the incantation wasn’t perfect, it did its job. The beast was sent flying a good two meters before hitting the ground with a meaty thud. However, it only seemed dazed instead of knocked out.
Its companions seeing that the direct approach wasn't risk-free, raised their trusty blow darts to finish her off.

She didn’t waste any time and incanted “Verdimillious!” blinding every one of them while she covered her eyes.

She immediately followed with a Smokescreen spell, so she was harder to find and ran for it taking Harry with her. Contrary to what she thought, Harry was extremely heavy with his skinny frame although that might just have been the dead weight, he was putting on her. She was slow, far too slow, especially against creatures that were unencumbered and used to the wild. She was rapidly getting exhausted and sent the trademark red sparks in the air.

Please Hagrid, where are you? We need you right now…

She heard rustling around her and stopped as to regain her breath and get ready to curse the foulsome little creatures. However, it seemed that they were more cunning than she thought.

The brunette heard a branch crack and instantly turned her head and jumped back from the noise. This was her saving grace as a dart coming from her side landed on the very spot she was standing on. She was now surrounded again with the Erklings having already raised their weapons. With no hope of unleashing a spell before them, she held Harry tight and protected him from further damage.

But it seemed as though luck was on her side because as the Erklings all fired their darts at her, Hagrid came running through the bushes and cried, “Protego!” while pointing an umbrella in front of Hermione. This newly erected shield stopped the darts dead in their tracks, allowing Hermione the time to fire a couple knockback hexes at the Erklings. Malfoy and Andrew who had also appeared, did the same as Hermione, while Hagrid began to fire stunners.

Within 20 seconds, all of the Erklings were either stunned or knocked unconscious.

“Granger, are you and ‘Arry alright?”

Hermione simply looked down at the limp body of Harry and said, “He’s been poisoned by one of the darts.”

Hagrid acted instantly and cast a stasis charm on Harry before lifting him into his arms. “Com’ un. We need to get back to Hogwarts and get him treated.”

As they were walking Andrew asked her, “Is my brother okay?”

“I-I don’t know. The poison acted very fast, he passed out within seconds.”

Andrew nodded grimly and moved back over to Ron.

“Hagrid were those Erklings?” asked Hermione in a hushed tone.

Hagrid grunted and nodded.

“Yes, though, I have no idea what they were doing there. I’ve been visiting the forests for years, and never seen them there befor’. They’re meant to be native to ‘Ermany.”

Hermione nodded to herself. She already knew this, Erklings were supposedly native to Germany. She shuddered as she thought about them and how they could have torn her apart.

Hermione moved over to Malfoy and said, “Thanks for helping Malfoy.”

Malfoy grimaced before responding, “It’s no problem, I’m sure Potter would’ve done the same for me. Besides, us snakes need to stick together.”

The group made their way out of the Forbidden Forest and to the hospital wing.

“Poppy, I have a poisoned student ‘ere. He needs immediate attention.”

The Matron rushed to attention and told Hagrid to lie Harry onto a bed.

Hermione instantly grabbed a seat and sat next to Harry as the Matron began performing diagnostic spells on him. She quickly made her way to her office and grabbed a flushing potion and poured it down Harry’s throat.

After a few seconds, Pomfrey removed the stasis spell from Harry, and Hermione saw that his breathing was louder and much calmer than when he was initially poisoned.

The Matron sighed in relief before informing, “He should wake up in a couple of days. Hagrid please take the students back to their common rooms.”

The students made to leave for the door, with Andrew lingering his gaze on Harry for a bit. But Hermione did not move an inch, and instead grabbed Harry’s right hand.

“That includes you, miss?”

Hermione glared at the matron and coldly said, “Granger.”

“Well, Miss Granger my patient needs his rest, so you’ll need to leave.”

“I won’t leave. I’m staying right here,” stated Hermione defiantly.

“I said leave!” cried the Matron.

“No.”

This went on for a minute, before the Matron finally relented and said, “Fine, fine stay. Hagrid please take the others out. No one else will be staying here.” And glared at Hermione before leaving to her office.

Hagrid took the five other students out of the hospital wing. Once everyone left, Hermione began to cry once again. She told Harry, in a whispered tone, “I know you probably can’t hear me, but I’m sorry Harry. I really am. I shouldn’t have been mad at you for the detentions. There are more important things, and I missed my best friend.”

She sniffed before continuing, “I’m going to stay here every night until you wake up. I’ll never leave your side again.” She smiled to herself before adding, “Goodnight Harry.”

20 minutes later, the Matron returned to see her patient resting, and Hermione asleep on the chair, still holding Harry’s hand.

-o-o-o-o-o-

“There was more than one Erkling!?” practically yelled Lily once Hermione had finished her story.

Hermione just nodded mutely.

“Thank you, Mr Potter and Miss Granger for your co-operation. Hagrid and I will leave, so you can catch up with your family.”

Once the two had left, Lily said, “Oh Harry. I’m so sorry honey. And thank you, Miss Granger, for looking after my son."

“I’d do anything for my best friend.”

Lily smiled and said, “You’re welcome to come over after Christmas if you’d like, anything to repay what you did for this family. Isn’t that right James?” and turned to her Husband.

James seemed a bit surprised by this invitation and locked eyes with Hermione. He must’ve spotted Hermione’s Slytherin robes because his face turned distasteful, but he nodded anyway.

“Thank you, Mrs Potter,” said Hermione sincerely and looked to Harry who was smiling at her.

Lily shared a look with James who nodded.

“Harry we’re really sorry about how we’ve treated you your whole life. We’re hoping to make it up to you over Yule,” said Lily softly.

Harry nodded in response, though very he was very sceptical.

Now they want to make up? 11 years too late I say, thought Harry.

James then said, “Well we’ll give you two lovebirds your privacy now.”

Hermione and Harry glared at James for this comment who just chuckled and left with Lily

Andrew looked uncomfortable and watched his feet before saying “I’m glad you’re alright Harry, get well soon”. He suddenly lifted his head and shot him an arrogant smile “Maybe next time you won’t need a girl to do the protecting for you”

Harry shot the boy a glare while Andrew went away with a mocking smile.

Still a bloody git…

Hermione turned to Harry and looked sadly into her eyes, “I’m sorry Harry I shouldn’t have been so furious at you for a small mistake.”

Harry just chuckled and said, “I kind of deserved it. Didn’t I? It was my fault.”

Hermione gave a faint smile and said, “Yes you did. But I really want my best friend back, so Harry I forgive you. But please next time can we not do something so reckless?”

Harry grinned and replied, “Yes, no more illegal duels.”

Harry’s body now felt stronger than before and he was able to move his arms, so he said, “Hermione, could I have another signature hug from you?”

Hermione just grinned and practically jumped on Harry bringing him into a tight hug, to which he returned.

“Thank you for staying with me Hermione, here and in the Forest,” said Harry, although it was muffled in Hermione’s bushy hair.

“You don’t need to thank me, we’re friends and protect one another.” She separated from him, pierced him with her eyes and pointed a finger at him.

“But Mr Potter no acting like a Gryffindor okay. Covering me like a shield and slowing down for me,” and shook her head, before adding, “Slytherin’s are meant to be all about self-preservation.”

Harry just attempted to shrug and said, “You come first.”

She simply smiled at that.

-o-o-o-o-o-

A few days later Harry was released from the hospital wing in the morning. The duo made their way to breakfast and sat down at ‘their’ spot. Their housemates gave them weird looks and seemed to linger on Harry for some unknown reason.

“So, you two have returned for the dead? Haven’t seen either of you for days,” said a curious Daphne.

Harry was about to respond, but Hermione did it for him, “Yes Harry was in the hospital wing, and naturally I’ve been keeping him company.”

Daphne looked weirdly at Harry before asking, “So it’s true then? You were all attacked by Erklings.”

“Why wouldn’t it be true?”

Daphne shrugged and said, “The blond ponce boasted about this ridiculous story where he came in and shot spells at multiple Erklings who were trying to attack you.”

Harry rose his eyebrows and said, “Well it’s true. Hermione said that Malfoy did indeed help us.”

Daphne gave a face of disbelief, but their attention was drawn away when Ivo came with the daily mail.

She looked unusually at Harry and Hermione, probably wondering where they had been the past few days and held out her leg for Harry. Harry untied the Daily Prophet and a letter from someone with messy writing. The black owl then moved over to Hermione, for her snack.

Harry shared a glance with Hermione, who also seemed interested in the letter before opening it.

Harry and Hermione,

I’m sorry for the incident in the forest, so I’d like to invite you both over for tea at my hut this afternoon as an apology.

Hagrid

Harry passed the letter to Hermione who quickly read it.

“Might as well, besides it’d be a good opportunity for him to explain why Erklings were in the forest anyway.

Harry nodded in agreement and the duo left to attend their classes.

-o-o-o-o-o-

That afternoon the two left Hogwarts grounds and made their way to Hagrid’s hut.

Throughout the day Harry noticed that many students were giving him curious looks, which was unusual. As most of them didn’t even notice him before.

He decided to ask his best friend about it, “Hermione.”

“Mm?”

“Is there something different about me?”

Hermione stopped walking at looked at him, “I don’t know, but you're a lot easier to spot now if that makes any sense." Harry gave her a weird look, so she explained, "Over the past week I was having a hard time finding you, only to see you next to me. I don't know how else to explain it. But I no longer have that problem since you came out of the Hospital.”

So, this could be linked to my eye condition thought Harry and made a note to research more about it over Yule.

“Why do you ask?” questioned Hermione as she began walking again.

“I don’t know, just everyone is giving me weird looks”

Hermione furrowed her brows and said, “Yeah I noticed that too.”

The duo made their way to Hagrid’s hut and Harry knocked on the door. This immediately caused barking to start from inside the hut.

“Fang! Calm down, it’s prolly ‘Arry and ‘Ermione.”

The door swung open to a grinning 11-foot man.

"Ahh, there you two are. Come in." And motioned them inside.

Once inside the two sat down at the table as Hagrid made some tea.

“I really am sorry, ‘Arry. It was stupid of me to split us into groups just to find the creature faster.”

Harry forced a smile and responded with, “It’s alright Hagrid. It’s not entirely your fault. Besides why were Erklings in the forest to begin with?”

Hagrid returned with their boiling hot tea and sat down in a massive chair.

“I don’t really know ‘Arry, but those Erklings would’ve had to been imported into the country like Fluffy.”

“Fluffy?” questioned a confused Hermione.

“My Cerberus, it guards the ston-” Hagrid stopped mid-sentence.

“Stone?”

“Don’ worry about that. That’s between Dumbledore and Nicholas Flame-” he stopped again, before quickly recovering, “Enough about that. I must say well done ‘Ermione on those knockback hexes.”

Hermione faked a smile, and thought about pursuing the ‘stone,' but stopped herself, they didn’t want Hagrid to be defensive. She replied, “Thanks Hagrid. I didn’t know I could perform the spell that well.”

“Yah, you’ll make a great fighter one day. I ‘aven’t seen many first-years perform such a powerful knockback hex.”

Hermione seemed surprised by this. Harry mused that maybe Hermione was a powerful Muggleborn witch like his mother. Malfoy’s blood purity ideals had been proven wrong once again, blood status did not reflect magical ability.

For the rest of their visit, the three talked about inconsequential things, although both Harry and Hermione decided that they weren’t really a fan of Hagrid. He did lead them into the Forbidden Forest for their ‘detention’ which turned out to be a literal fight for their lives. If anything, it only solidified their views on the staff of Hogwarts and making them both seriously wonder about what conditions Dumbledore hires staff. Though it was clear to see that the man was a gentle soul, so it was hard to hold a grudge.

They didn’t have any classes set for the afternoon, so they soon made their goodbyes to Hagrid,

“See you, Hagrid.”

“It was nice to ‘ave tea with you two. Maybe we coul' organise another get-together," said Hagrid.

The duo in question shared a look with each other, before Hermione replied, “Yeah perhaps Hagrid, although we’re quite busy right now. But we’ll let you know when we can.”

“Alrigh’ great. See yah.”

As they were walking back to Hogwarts Castle Harry thought that maybe he should ask Hermione something he should’ve done weeks ago. After visiting the dungeons, and sitting down in the library Harry asked,

“Hermione.”

“Yes?”

“What do you think about practising our duelling skills?”

She looked up from her History of Magic textbook and looked at him with a questioning glance, “What do you mean?”

Harry grimaced a bit before saying, “Well after watching Malfoy and Andrew duel, I realised that it was probably an extremely useful skill to have. We'll likely end up being attacked by other Slytherin students some time, especially if my theory is correct that Voldemort is still alive and may one day return. Having the ability to defend ourselves would be extremely handy.”

He paused a moment before looking down and adding in a quieter tone, “I also felt really useless in the Forbidden Forest, I feel like I could’ve done more, or should’ve acted against the Erkling. Instead of firing a spell at it, I just stood in front of you like a literal human shield.”

Hermione frowned at the last comment and said, “Yes well I was as shocked as you. If it wasn’t for you, I’d probably be on the other end of the poison.”

He gave a small imperceptible smile. “Anyway, what do you think? About duelling practice?”

Hermione bit on her lower lip and seemed to be deep in thought. After a few seconds of mental debate, she answered, “Yes I think that’d a good idea. But where would we practice? We can’t exactly do it in public.”

Harry gave himself a mental facepalm, “Ergh, I haven’t actually thought about that yet.”

Hermione seemed unimpressed.

Suddenly an idea came to mind, "We could just use one of the many abandoned classrooms in the castle. A lot fewer subjects are available now than there was in the past, so free classrooms are scattered throughout the castle.”

Hermione seemed satisfied with his idea, closed her book and quickly gathered her belongings.

“Umm, where are you going Hermione?”

She looked at him like he was stupid, “To find a classroom.” And furrowed her brows and shook her head before walking off.

Harry quickly caught up to her, “Right now? I was just proposing the idea.”

“Yes well, I’d like to start now.” She stopped and smirked at him, “Besides, I’ll be able to wipe the floor with you in a controlled way. Also acts as a way to vent my anger out on you.”

“I thought you weren’t angry at me anymore.”

“I said I was sorry for being mad at you and would be your best friend again. I didn’t say I wouldn’t be angry at you.”

Harry gulped, he knew that Hermione was better than him at theoretic and practical work, but he thought that defence was probably his best subject, so maybe he would be able to beat Hermione at something.

The duo arrived at an abandoned classroom, near the Slytherin Dungeons. They walked inside, where tens of dusted desks, chairs and shelves laid. A lot of them were broken, and it seemed as though no one had been in here for years.

Harry let out a small laugh and said, “Cosy.”

“Indeed. But I think this will do.”

Hermione moved over to the nearest desk and began pushing it to the end of the room.

Harry snorted as she did this.

She looked at him, arms crossed and mad, “Going to help me move these desks or would you rather laugh at me?”

"Well, the latter sounds nice."

Hermione glared at him.

“Or,” lingering on the ‘r.’ “We could practise our knockback jinxes on the desks, and chairs. Not only would it be more efficient, but we'd also perfect the jinx and it would be immensely fun.”

Hermione face turned from a glare to disapproval and then to a smirk.

“FLIPENDO!” cried Hermione. But she was not aiming at a desk or chair, she was aiming at Harry.

Harry having suspected that Hermione might’ve done something like this dodged out of the way, causing the jinx to miss wide, and instead hit a desk which was pushed into the wall.

“Oops, looks like you were in the way of that desk. I hope I didn’t touch hit you or anything?” said a smirking Hermione.

Harry blinked at that and looked at the desk which had been pushed a solid 5 meters. He turned back to his attacker and chuckled.

“You’re on now Granger.”

Suffice to say, training was pretty fun that day. 

Chapter Text

Chapter 9

The Yule Holidays Part 1

A few weeks passed and the Yule holidays were imminent. Students were frantic trying to pack their suitcases and those who’ve already done it were chatting excitedly about coming home. Of course, not everyone was in that joyous mood.

“Are you sure you can’t stay here for the holidays? I know my parents would love to leave me here if I asked them and I don’t want to be without you.” pleaded Harry desperately

Hermione gave him a fond look and replied, "It's the only time I'll be able to see my parents Harry and although we might not have the greatest of bonds, we’re still family, which is more than I can say for other members of mine…”

He shot her a curious look “What do you mean by that?”

“Oh, it’s nothing! Just some silly fight my parents have been having with their parents,” she explained apologetically.

He nodded in understanding and continued to chew on his bacon while appearing thoughtful.

Well if she’s staying here, perhaps I could spend some time with her at home. Mum did offer her a chance to come over and my father did agree, albeit hesitatingly, mused Harry.

“Well if you aren’t staying here, please do come over to the Manor after Christmas.”

Hermione furrowed her brows and said, “Did you not hear what I just said?”

Harry hastily explained, “I know you want to spend as much time with your parents as possible, but I'm sure my Mum would let them come over. Probably be nice for her to have someone to talk to who actually understands all her Muggle references. It'd also give your parents a way to interact with the Magical world. Our society is really lacking in terms of bridging our two worlds, I mean Muggles can’t even enter Hogwarts.”

“Yes, I read that in Hogwarts a History.”

Harry chuckled and gave a knowing smile.

Hermione rolled her eyes before adding, “It’s completely unfair. Just because of my heritage my parents are not given the same courtesy as witches and wizards.”

Harry nodded in agreement, and said, “We better head down to the Express so we can grab a compartment to ourselves. I don’t fancy sharing.”

“Yes, and I think I’ll lock the doors as well, so we don’t get any visits from your brother or other undesirables.”

Harry and Hermione stood up from their spots on the table and left to the Dungeons.

After gathering his belongings and messily dumping them into his trunk, Harry made to leave his dorms but was intercepted by none other than Draco Malfoy.

“Potter.”

It wasn’t the first time the blond pureblood had intercepted him during his day. It seemed to be happening a lot more recently and he would often try to befriend him. However, Harry always waved off his attempts. It also seemed as though the other first-year boys were a lot more cautious around him, usually, he would be lying in bed, reading a book and they would talk about…interesting topics to be sure. But it seemed as though now they completely avoided the topics while he was in their presence. Both the Slytherins and Malfoy’s behaviour had changed ever since he visited the hospital wing. This only solidified his suspicion that their behaviour was connected to his mysterious eye condition, which was now cured.

“Malfoy,” said Harry. He rose his eyebrows and asked, “What do you want? I’m supposed to be meeting Hermione in the common room…”

Malfoy sneered as Harry looked at his watch, “Five minutes ago. So please excuse me and let me be on my way.”

Malfoy, however, didn’t move an inch and instead looked around the dorm, to make sure no one else was watching.

He said in a calm but serious voice, “Don’t worry Potter. I won’t be trying another useless attempt at befriending you and giving you a chance at a noble friendship. I’m just telling you that, nothing is free in life. Harry,” and simply walked away.

As soon as Malfoy turned away, Harry’s face instantly fell into one of bewilderment until it hit him, He helped protect me in the forest and expects something in return. He thought a bit more before musing, Hermione said Draco did it because I was a Slytherin, maybe he intends for the courtesy to be returned. It seemed like a suitable deal, kind of a quid pro quo, even if he didn’t have the ability to consent at the time. He wondered why Malfoy didn’t just tell him what he meant outright, instead of talking in code, but once again it seemed as though the blood purist was indeed an actual Slytherin.

Realising that he had been revelling in his thoughts for a few minutes, he quickly rushed down to the common room, hoping to avoid Hermione’s wrath, which seemed unlikely, considering he was nearly ten minutes late now.

As expected, Hermione was not impressed, upon spotting Harry she glared daggers at him.

Harry gulped, and Hermione’s features softened and then turned into a smirk.

Oh, how she loves to tease me thought Harry who was mentally eye-rolling.

“The blond ponce annoying you?” asked a still smirking Hermione.

“How did you-”

“Didn’t you know I’m a mind reader?” and then put her hands on her head, pretending to look as though she was reading his mind.

Harry chuckled and said, “You do realise that it’s an actual skill in the wizarding world.”

The brunette suddenly looked intrigued.

“Something called Legilimency, I believe. Once you learn it you can read people’s memories, although there are ways to counter this.”

Hermione seemed deep in thought but then shook her head, “Come on. Enough about that, let’s get to Hogsmeade and on the train. We’re already later than I want us to be.”

Harry nodded, and the duo swiftly made their way out of the castle and towards Hogsmeade.

Upon boarding the Hogwarts Express, the two, by unspoken agreement made their way down to the end of the train, hoping to find an empty compartment.

As expected, they found one and quickly stowed their belongings.

Coincidentally, the compartment they chose, was the same one they met in on 1 September. The only changes from last time was that the two occupants weren’t reading, and were sitting next to each other, rather than across from one another.

For the first couple hours of the ride, nothing interesting happened, except for some Gryffindors trying to open their compartment to no avail.

After a while, a small confrontation began to gather near their compartment.

The voices outside were muffled, but Harry could work out two of the more pronounced ones. Clearly, they belonged to two familiar first-years, Andrew Potter, and Draco Malfoy.

Slightly intrigued, Harry walked towards the door but before he could reach it, a false cough was made behind him.

Turning around he stared at Hermione.

“What?” said Harry innocently.

"What are you doing?" asked the bushy-haired brunette.

“Investigating.”

Hermione furrowed her brows in confusion.

“I hear Andrew and Draco’s voice,” and he opened the compartment door slightly to peek outside.

Looking outside the muffled voices suddenly became much clearer.

“I said. Get out of the way Malfoy.”

“Now, Pottah,” sneered Malfoy, purposely pronouncing his name that way. “Why should I do that?”

Harry temporarily flinched when he felt another presence behind him come into contact with his arm. Glancing back, he saw it was just Hermione, and offered her a nervous smile which she returned.

“Move now, Malfoy. Or we’ll have a repeat of that duel.”

“You mean the one that I swept your arse with a knockback jinx?” said Draco sarcastically.

Harry thought that now would be a good time to leave the compartment and walked in as Andrew drew his wand and pointed it at Malfoy.

Now having a clearer view of the confrontation Harry could see five Gryffindors, and three Slytherins.

The Gryffindors consisted of, Andrew, Ron and three second years, strangely enough, Neville Longbottom, the third member of the ‘golden trio,’ was absent.

Meanwhile, the Slytherins consisted of Draco, Theodore Nott and Blaise Zabini. It too, was unusual that Malfoy didn’t have his two ‘bodyguards,’ Crabbe and Goyle.

As if on queue all the participants suddenly drew their wands and pointed it at the opposing house. The Slytherins were outnumbered five to three, and Harry thought it best to intervene. As it would be a good time to repay his ‘debt.’

“Brother,” said Harry while raising his eyebrows in question at Andrew.

Andrew’s stance and confidence faltered a bit once addressed by his brother and said, “What are you doing Harry? Go away while I deal with Malfoy.”

Harry caught Draco’s eye and saw him hinting for support, so he replied, “I think not.” Harry then stood with the three Slytherins and drew his wand.

Malfoy, Nott and Blaise all smirked while Andrew and Ron looked a bit shocked.

“Always knew you were just like the rest of the slimy snakes,” muttered Ron.

Andrew tried to regain his composure and stated, “I-it doesn’t matter. It’s still five against four, besides we have three second years. So last time, Malfoy. Move yourself and your… ‘friends,’ before we make you.”

Behind him Harry heard the one voice, he’d never get tired of hearing, saying, “Oh, and I thought Gryffindors were noble and honourable. So why don’t we make the odds even, what do you say? Five on five.”

As expected, this surprised nearly everyone in the hallway, except for Harry. It was obvious from the looks the three other Slytherins were giving each other that they thought higher of the Muggleborn, albeit only a bit more. The Gryffindors were all confused, none more so than a certain redhead.

“Bu-but you’re a Muggleborn, why would you help those blood purists?” asked Ron.

Hermione simply raised an eyebrow and smirked.

Andrew seeing that the Serpents had no intention of moving said, “Fine if that’s how you want to play it.” And yelled, “Vermillious!” while pointing his wand at Nott.

Due to Harry's quick reactions, and extra practice over the first few weeks, he quickly pointed his red oak wand at a second-year and said, "Flipendo." Both spells, Andrew and Harry's hit their target dead-on, as neither side was prepared and was still in a state of shock.

Nott squirmed in pain, while the Gryffindor was flown back a good four metres and his wand flown an additional ten.

Hermione quickly followed up Harry’s offensive with a knockback hex, which also met it’s mark, as the corridor left little room to avoid spells.

A bogie curse suddenly flew towards Harry, making a split-second decision, he ducked, and the spell landed harmlessly into the corridor wall above him. Taking advantage of his newfound position, Harry launched another knockback jinx, aiming for Andrew. But the boy in question saw what was happening and quickly jumped out of the way. 

The two other Gryffindors were busy duelling Malfoy and Blaise so Andrew aimed his wand at Harry and said, “Flipen-” but before he could finish his sentence Hermione came behind Harry and yelled “Fumos!” while pointing at the ground.

Smoke erupted in the corridor, which completely obscured Harry and Hermione from view. The duo slowly slid their way back towards the end of the train and out of the smoke. Once away, they stood up and pointed their wands at the smoke, from which they could hear muffled groans of pain.

As expected, some Gryffindors were stupid enough to slowly make their way through the smoke wands out and all. Spotting them before they could hope to see them, the two Slytherins shouted, “Flipendo!” at the same time, with both knockback jinxes hitting the unsuspecting targets.

“What’s going on here?!” questioned an annoyed feminine voice, presumably belonging to a late teenager.

As their view was still being obscured by Hermione's smokescreen spell, the two quietly slipped back into their compartment and began reading their textbooks, as if nothing had happened.

“The bloody Slytherins attacked us!” yelled Ron.

A loud snort was sounded, followed by, "tsk. Weasley, you know that you Gryffindorks attacked first.”

This caused a small argument to take place, with students talking over one another, before being shushed by the feminine voice.

“Was anyone else involved or was it just you eight?” asked a male voice.

"Granger and Harry were also here," sneered a voice resembling Andrew.

“And they are?”

“In that compartment,” and three seconds later, the door swung open to reveal two seventh years, with their head boy and girl badges, respectively, on their robes.

“Excuse me, were you two involved in the confrontation outside.”

Harry and Hermione shared confused looks with each other before responding innocently and in unison, “No.”

The Head Girl raised an eyebrow.

Harry responded, “We’ve been here the whole time, though loud noises were heard outside our compartment, and some smoke even seeped in through our door.”

“Can anyone back up your argument?”

“Depends, who was involved?” asked Hermione.

The Head Girl turned back to the eight students and said, “Were Mr Potter, and Miss Granger involved?”

The three Slytherins all shook their head and pretended to look confused, while Andrew said, “What! They were there, besides how do you explain Ron and I being hit by those knockback jinxes when you all were lying on the ground?”

Draco snorted, “You’re just embarrassed that three serpents could take down five lions… with ease.”

This started another round of arguments.

“Enough!” loudly proclaimed the Head Boy.

“Since there isn’t enough evidence, and no teachers aboard to make a better judgment. You eight shall all lose ten points each from your house. We never duel on the Express, it’s not safe for students. Understood?”

The students all nodded their heads in acceptance, though the Slytherins looked a bit smug.

"And you two," said the Head Girl now turning her gaze back to the duo. She looked at their expressions and saw no hint of fear, and dishonesty so she said, “Sorry for interrupting you two. Enjoy the rest of your ride,” and walked off while escorting the Gryffindors in the other direction.

As Malfoy, Nott and Blaise made to leave, they all gave Harry and Hermione curt nods, before Harry shut the door, and added a ‘Colloportus,’ to ensure it was sufficiently locked.

He sat back down next to Hermione and smirked at her.

She exaggerated a sigh and said, “You’re an idiot you know. I don’t know why I follow you into these stupid situations.”

Harry shrugged, “We weren’t caught, were we? And It was fun to shoot jinxes at actual people wasn’t it?”

Hermione smirked and said, “Other than you?”

Harry rolled his eyes and went back to reading.

-o-o-o-o-o-

The Hogwarts Express arrived at Platform 9 and ¾ where the duo made their way out of the train.

It didn’t take long for the two to spot their respective parents.

Looking where Hermione's gaze was, Harry saw two respectable-looking Muggles. They were both well dressed and were smiling at Hermione, albeit nervously. Looking closely at his best friend's mother, he saw essentially an elder version of Hermione. She looked fine enough, and still had the wondrous bushy brown hair, which Harry had come to love. He smiled to himself before pulling Hermione into a big hug.

Hermione was slightly surprised by this, it was not often that Harry initiated contact between them, though she found she didn’t mind.

“I’ll miss you,” said Harry sheepishly while looking into her brown eyes.

“As will I,” replied Hermione.

Harry could feel a few tears welling up, why am I crying? She'll only be gone for a couple of weeks, less if she comes over to the Manor.

Hermione seemed to notice his tears, and smiled reassuringly, with some of her own.

“I’ll see you soon Harry. You’ll write every day, won’t you?”

“Of course. I think I’d go mad if I didn’t have some sort of contact with you.”

Hermione let out a nervous chuckle and brought him into one more bone-crushing hug.

Once they eventually separated, they said their final goodbyes to each other and made their way to their respective parents.

“Mum, Dad,” said Harry bitterly.

His Mum frowned at this, while James just said, “I’m glad to see you’re getting along with this girl, Hermione Granger was it? She seems like a smart one.”

Harry rolled his eyes before saying, “This is so weird, you know? Talking to me so casually. Might I remind you, you barely remembered I existed for eleven years?” he grumbled in anger.

The two parents paled and shared looks with each other before his father replied, “Yes we’re very sorry for that, so we will try to make it up over Yule.”

Harry regarded them carefully for any hint of dishonesty, though none seemed to be there, How unusual.

He gave a curt nod, though he doubted anything they did could really remove eleven years of parental neglection.

“So, I’m still getting presents for Yule then? I still am in Slytherin.”

James looked disgusted but said, "Yes. Besides it's not like any Potter would turn evil."

Harry replied innocently, “Of course not.”

Harry took one more glance at Hermione, who was about to leave the platform with her parents. He gave a small smile, to which she returned and left.

Andrew snickered in the background, “You’re so whipped Harry.”

Harry glared at his brother, “Shut up you, immature prat.”

“Harry!” scolded his mother, “Don’t call your brother a ‘prat.’”

Harry rolled his eyes, “Whatever.”

“Alright you two, enough fighting. We’re apparating home, so hold on to us,” said James.

Harry made sure he had both his trunk, and Ivo’s cage in his hands, but refused to hold onto his mother’s hand.

She sighed and put her arm around his shoulder and apparated them both to the Manor, where Harry instantly made his way to his room ignoring his parent’s protests.

-o-o-o-o-o-

Harry woke up the following morning, but his mood was dreadful. He was not at Hogwarts and would not be seeing Hermione today. He had intended to stay there for the Yule holidays, to avoid his parents and spend more time with Hermione. But since Hermione had decided to go home, to spend precious time with her parents, he decided that there would be no point in staying at school and instead decided to go home. Besides, if things turned his way, Hermione would visit with her parents some time over the break, so Harry wouldn’t go mad from being with his brother and parents alone for an extended period of time.

He quickly got out of bed and wrote a note to Hermione; asking her how she was, how her parents were, and if she asked about visiting the Potters. He then tied the note to Ivo, who then left the manor and towards the Granger residence, of which the black owl had become familiar with over the last few months.

Within the hour, he got a response due to Ivo’s exceptional flying. She said that everything was actually great at home, and she was spending time with her parents, of which she normally never got to. She also said that they would be visiting on the 28th of December, so long as that was alright with his parents.

Harry smiled to himself and quickly made his way to the kitchen, where both his parents were.

“Is it all right if Hermione visits on the 28th with her parents?”

James looked at his son suspiciously, “There won’t be any problems with having her around?”

Seriously dad. So, you can tease me about her, but if I ask her over it’s another question just because of her being a serpent.

Lily frowned, as did Harry and replied, “No there won’t, she’s my best and only friend. She was the one sitting by me at the hospital wing, ring a bell?

“Granger,” said his father slowly, “Don’t think I’ve heard of them before. Is she a half-blood?”

“Muggleborn actually.” His father looked shocked, but Harry continued, “Her parents being Muggle have little idea of the Wizarding World, and I was thinking if they could come over, perhaps you could inform them more of our world.”

He looked to his mother and added, “And they can probably understand all your ‘Star Wars’ references.”

Lily chuckled at that, “Oh James. Why not? Besides Harry hasn’t had a friend over before. And I did extend an invitation before anyway.”

James looked innocently at her, “What? It’s not like I was going to say no. I just wanted to find out some information on the girl.”

Harry rose his eyebrows in a question that said, ‘yeah right’ but that didn’t bother him, he got their permission.

The boy turned to his mother “Thank you, it really means a lot to me that you trust me enough for this.”

He didn't mean to sound accusatory, in fact, he was genuinely surprised and happy that they seemed to care enough to even consider it, but the flinch his mother made gave a small tug of regret at his heart.

Before the situation got even more awkward, he left for the library to research about the three questions bothering him.

  1. What happened to him that gave him his eye condition and prevented people from noticing him? And who did it?
  2. Why does Albania ring a bell? Does it have some significance to Quirrell’s annoying stutter?
  3. Who is Nicholas Flamel and what is his relationship to Dumbledore and this stone? Also, why is Hagrid so quiet about it?

Harry wrote down the three questions on a piece of parchment and decided to research the first two for now.

He went over to the geographic section and picked out a wizarding book on Albania, since it was unlikely that any Muggle books would hold any significance.

After glancing through the entire book Harry found out that many dark creatures lived in and around Albania, which was certainly interesting as Quirrell seemed to be utterly terrified of them. Although, he also seemed to stop stuttering when mentioning the darker ones, which could mean it was all an act.

The possibility that Quirrell was possibly a dark wizard had definitely gone through Harry’s head, but it mostly seemed preposterous.

I mean Quirrell, the stuttering fool as a dark wizard. Please…

Though there could be many other possible explanations to his odd behaviour, him being possessed was one possible theory. But with the little evidence he had, Harry couldn’t prove any of this.

Sighing in defeat, Harry decided to work on his Christmas letter to Hermione for the following day. He also had bought her the perfect present for her, a pristine and expensive quill, with her initials; HJG engraved onto it. It also was green and silver, which could be interpreted as either their house colours or Harry's eye colour which he knew Hermione was fond of.

With that done, he set the letter, and quill aside for Ivo to deliver on Christmas Day, and began his research on his mysterious eye condition.

In the past, he had done some research about it, but he mostly researched Muggle books about eye diseases, but since he now knew the effects his condition had, he looked at darker wizarding books.

It took him a few days and he had to go through a few books before he found what he was looking for. On page 83 of a book about ancient spells it read,

The Obscure Spell

Incantation: Unknown

Counter Curse: Unknown

Power Level Required: Immense

Summary: This extremely, complicated, extensive and useful spell has been forgotten to the ages and was said to be used by The BrotherHood of Assassins, an extremely successful and now-defunct organisation that used stealth as their weapon. It is said to cause one to pass unnoticed by others, unless actively sought out by another, or if the user initiates contact. Records of those who have been under the spell have said they have eye problems and had hard times maintaining relationships. However, the benefits are widespread, as it allows the user the added element of surprise in most circumstances. Unfortunately, there is no known counter curse to the Obscure spell, and its effects are so far known to be permanent…

Glancing over the page again and a third time the raven-haired boy knew that he had found the correct cause of his unusual eye condition.

He mused that it was likely that the flushing potion he was given in the hospital wing probably flushed the effects of the spell from his system. Looks like the Wizarding World did have some advances in Potions if they could cure the spell when the counter curse had been lost to the ages.  

It also seemed to perfectly explain why people were giving him weird looks. They simply had not noticed him before, and since he looked like his brother (except for the longer hair, and green eyes), this was to be expected. And Hermione had mentioned during the period where she was mad at him, she had trouble finding him. Probably because she wasn’t actively looking for him.

It also explained his parents’ eleven years of neglection. It was likely that they weren’t to blame for his predicament, but still Who doesn’t realise there’s something wrong with your son if you hardly pay him any attention? Surely the neglection and favouritism must’ve been obvious!

But that didn’t stop one unbidden thought from popping into his head,

We could have been a happy family; they could have loved me just as much…

However, one big question still remained; who cast the spell? It was written that the spell required an ‘immense’ power level, which made two people come to mind; Dumbledore, and Voldemort. But Harry saw no possible reasons as to why either of them would cast that spell on him, and it just left him entirely dumbfounded. Moreover, the definition of ‘immense’ in terms of magical proficiency could have changed over the years as new ways to perform magic were being discovered.

I guess I won’t be getting answers today, thought Harry.

-o-o-o-o-o-

The days passed by too slowly for Harry, he couldn’t wait for Christmas to arrive so he could send his present to Hermione. His relationship with his parents was also strained. He could see they were genuinely trying to spend with him, but it all felt false. He knew that what happened weren’t their fault now, but eleven years of neglect couldn’t be swept up by logic. And it was clear that his parents weren’t used to giving him their attention.

Thankfully they decided to cut back on the pandering and a courteous attitude was unspokenly decided between them which suited him fine. He hadn’t needed them before Hogwarts, and he didn’t need them now.

But some attention isn’t unwelcome, an annoying voice popped into his head.

He quickly dismissed it.

Andrew was the same as always, arrogant and seemingly high on sugar as he couldn’t wait for Christmas too. To pass the time, his brother mostly played Quidditch with Ron in the freezing temperatures and occasionally worked on his homework to get a passable grade. It seemed that now school had begun, his parents determined that Andrew no longer would need tutors, as he should be able to keep up his grades in school.

Contact between the two brothers was minimal at best, although it looked like Andrew still resented Harry for standing up against him on the train seeing as he made subtle remarks about how he was the best in his class, and no one could come close to beat him.

Even though Hermione and I hit the idiot and his best friend with a perfect ‘Flipendo.’

Regardless, this still struck a nerve with Harry and he decided to change this immediately. And so, Harry decided to train and improve his skills as a fighter. The duel and Forbidden Forest incident made one thing clear. He was weak and needed protecting which didn’t suit him at all.

He needed to be faster, stronger and know more spells as to hold his own. So, Harry decided to train with whatever free time he had.

For his location of practice, he went to the gym at Potter Manor. His dad being an Auror, was required to keep his personal fitness to an exceptional level, it also helped that he loved to keep in shape.

His dad, it seemed had already left out training dummies in suitable locations, so Harry began by firing a ‘Flipendo’ at one of them. As expected, the dummy was knocked back a good distance. He had already practised the spell extensively with Hermione inside the confines of Hogwarts, so he decided to work on a variation of it.

One such variation had simply the opposite effect of the knockback jinx, it instead acted as a ‘Pullback spell.’ The incantation was ‘Relinquere’ and the wand movement was simply the inversion of ‘Flipendo.’

He tried practising the spell in thin air a few times, and after his fourth time, a bolt of energy left his wand, meaning he had performed it correctly.

He then aimed at the same dummy as before and cried, “Relinquere!”

The spell hit the target dead-on, but it only moved about one metre towards him. It seemed as though he needed to work on it a lot.

He also tried to combine multiple spells to maximum effect. Such as releasing a Verdimillious charm in the air, while shading his eyes and firing two consecutive knockback jinxes at dummies. This proved to be an effective combination, even though he hadn’t tried it out on real people he knew that most younger wizards would not be prepared for such a thing. In fact, he couldn’t wait to try it out on Hermione when she arrived, as much as he liked Hermione, beating her at something would make him feel so much better.

Another addition he made was a concentrated Fumos, instead of casting and spreading over a wide area, this Smoke Spell would only target one person. The benefit of this was that it clung to the target and would stay for a lot longer than the average SmokeScreen. An added bonus was that the resulting smoke could also block the view of other targets standing nearby, although it was nowhere close to the AoE Fumos.

The last discovery he made was not a spell, but rather a combination of two spells. He found out that if he used the Vermillious spell on the Verdimillious orb, the resulting blast would be even greater at blinding his foes. It also seemed that the explosion would be able to hurt those close enough to it giving him his first AoE attack.

For the rest of the days leading up to Christmas, Harry perfected his current arsenal, read about new useful spells for battle and trained his body. After a week, he felt confident that he could stand up to Hermione and beat her fairly in most matches. Although, training with Hermione would have been a lot more fun, entertaining and educational. Regardless, this actually proved to be a great way for passing time since, in a blink of an eye, Christmas was upon him.

-o-o-o-o-o-

On Christmas day Harry woke up bright and early to send Hermione’s present to her house. He was looking forward to the 28th, now only a few days away and hoped that his favourite brunette would love his present.

He was also very interested in what presents his parents had gotten him for Yule. They said it would be something that could make up their years of neglecting him, but that seemed extremely far-fetched and unlikely.

Walking into the living room, he found his parents and Andrew waiting for him.

“Morning Harry,” said his mother brightly.

“Morning” grumbled Harry bitterly.

Andrew was getting slightly impatient and asked, “Soo are we going to open our presents now?”

James chuckled and handed ‘The Boy Who Lived’ his presents, but then quickly turned his attention back to Harry, much to the latter’s surprise.

His parents shared a look with each other and seemingly talked to each other with their eyes.

Harry stood confused and said, “What?”

"As we said, we'd really like to make it up to you. So, this year we’ve gotten a few substantial presents for you.”

Bribery thought Harry amused, and gave himself a mental laugh.

“Harry do you know why we gave Andrew the invisibility cloak? Even though it was your birthright”, asked Lily in a comforting voice.

Harry snorted and replied, “Because Andrew gets everything.”

His parents seemed a bit shocked by this, but quickly recovered and Lily informed Harry, “As you know Andrew is the boy who lived.”

Harry did not seem very impressed at the moment, but his Mum continued, "And that means that he'll be in a lot more danger than you, me or your father.”

Harry’s facial expression did not change but he was deep in thought.

I suppose that does make sense. I can be a bit thick sometimes. They were doing it to protect their son, not take away something that was mine. But they still better do something to make it up.

“And?” asked Harry suspiciously.

"Well, instead we're giving you what any son of the Marauders deserves, The Marauders Map.”

This certainly piqued his interest.

“And what is this map?”

"It's a map which shows everyone their location on the Hogwarts grounds at all times. It also shows all the secret passageways Remus, Sirius and I found during our time at Hogwarts. To activate it say, ‘I solemnly swear that I am up to no good’ and to deactivate it say, ‘Mischief managed.’ We think that you deserve it, so long as you don’t play any pranks on your brother with it,” said James

“Of course,” replied Harry. “And where is this map?”

“Errr,” said James, suddenly looking slightly nervous. “Filch should still have it in his office, he confiscated it during one of our failed escapes after curfew.”

Harry frowned, but thought Oh well, Hermione and I will just have to steal this map anyway. The benefits of having it seem to greatly outweigh the cons.

“Well thank you. That sounds like a great present, so long as I can get it.”

The parents looked nervous before giving him their other present,

His father held out a long thing package wrapped in paper and said, “Here you go, son. We know you aren't a sportsman like your brother, so we got you a more stable one."

Opening the package Harry found a Cleansweep Seven broomstick, Neat.

The broom was not as fast as Andrew’s Nimbus, but Harry didn’t really mind. The broomstick was still a new model, fast, stable and agile. Besides Hermione would probably kill him if he ever tried to ride with her on a Nimbus, a Cleansweep was a much better substitute.

“Thank you,” said Harry.

“Obviously you can’t take it to school. But feel free to take it out for a ride whenever you want,” said his Mum.

They then left him and turned their attention back to Andrew.

It seemed that on cue, Ivo arrived back at the Manor, with a present and letter in tow, he opened the letter which read,

Dear Harry,

I hope you are enjoying your holidays as much as me, however, I doubt that’s likely because of your family. I know you wanted to stay at Hogwarts with me, and I really am sorry that I instead chose to go home and be with my family. They made time for me, and time with them is precious, so I hope you understand, and that I wasn’t trying to avoid you.

Harry thought to himself with a smile, Of course, I understand.

I didn’t know exactly what to get for Christmas, but I think you’ll love the present. I know I did, green really is a wonderful colour.

On another note, I can’t wait till I see you on the 28th, now only a few days away. It’s been far too long since we’ve been together, and I think I’ll go mad without being able to talk to you again. It’s so much lonelier being without you as I now know what it’s like to have a friend.

Harry wept a little and thought, I can’t wait to see you again either.

My parents are also dying to meet you. I may have um… told them a lot about you, so they really want to know about the boy behind the stories.

Anyway, I’ll see you soon,

Love Hermione.

Harry smiled to himself and set the letter aside while he took his attention to the present in his hand. Which seemed to be shaped strikingly familiar.

Upon opening the present, Harry’s face broke into a massive grin.

Hermione had gotten him a near-identical quill for him, with the exception of the engraved initials, which instead read; HJP.

He chuckled to himself, Seems like we’re already thinking like one another, and we’ve only known each other for a few months.

And then another thought came to Harry’s mind, If she ever married me and took the Potter name, we’d share initials. But quickly banished the thought, he couldn’t be thinking this stuff as an eleven-year-old, that was simply ridiculous.

-o-o-o-o-o-

Later that afternoon Harry was sitting in the living room reading a book when the fireplace suddenly turned green and a head poked through the fire.

“Hello? Is anyone here?”

Harry bookmarked his page and got up to converse with the visitor.

“Hello yes. I’m Harry Potter, how may I help you?”

“Is your father anywhere? Important Auror business.”

On Christmas day?! Interesting.

Harry gave a nod and walked to the kitchen where he found his dad sipping on some tea.

“Dad, a man is in the fireplace asking for you. Apparently, it’s got to do with Auror business.”

His dad was immediately intrigued before turning into determination and confidence. He got off his seat and made his way into the living room.

Harry sat back down on his seat and pretended to read, but in reality, he was listening in on their conversation.

"James, I'm sorry I have to do this today, but I need to call you in to work today."

“Why is it so urgent?”

“There’s been a serious case of accidental magic, like deadly serious.”

“What do you mean?”

"Five Muggles dead James."

“Do we know the perpetrator?”

“Yes, she’s a student who attends Hogwarts, a Miss Hermione Granger.”

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 10

The Yule Holidays Part 2

Hermione slowly separated from Harry, as they said their final goodbyes, before she walked up to her parents, albeit cautiously.

For their part, they seemed ecstatic to see her, and behind her mask Hermione admitted, she was feeling ecstatic to see them as well.

When the bushy-haired brunette reached them, her Mum opened her arms wide open for a hug. Not wanting to disappoint her, Hermione accepted her Mother’s hug and held her with her signature, bone-crushing technique.

Once they moved apart, Hermione looked up at her Mum who was grinning broadly at her, so she returned the smile.

Now looking towards her dad, she saw the same happiness that her mum had shown. He as well opened his arms for her, and she took them with grace, enveloping him in an overdue hug.

While Hermione loved her parents, and they loved her, their relationship had always been strained. Due to their jobs, they had limited time to spend with her, as they were either working or sleeping. The little time they did spend together, Hermione cherished dearly. It was a nice prospect to be spending weeks on end with her parents, rather than being looked after by the miserable woman, Mrs Thomas.

"Alright, Hermione let's head home. I cooked your favourite tonight," said her Mum.

Hermione’s eyes bulged at that, “Surely not.”

“Of course, I did, so let’s get home before the house burns down, we don’t want that now do we?”

Hermione just shook her head in amusement, it was nice talking to her parents and having a bit of a laugh. The only other person who could consistently elicit a reaction like that was Harry.

Speaking of Harry, Hermione took one final glance over to him and saw that he was giving her a small smile. She returned the smile and felt a small strain on her heart before she walked through the entrance to Platform 9 and ¾ alongside her parents out into Kings Cross Station.

No one seemed to take much of a second look at them, even though Hermione looked a bit off carrying a trunk and wearing robes, rather than typical Muggle clothes. The three walked out of the station and towards the carpark where her parents had parked their car.

Hermione put her trunk into the boot, and sat in the back, while her Dad drove, and Mum sat in the passenger seat. As soon as they started driving her mother started to ask questions.

“So, honey, how was school?”

Hermione grinned, and said, “Oh Mum, it was wonderful. Hogwarts is stunning, there’s so much to learn and do, and the library there is simply amazing. It’s so much more interesting than a Mug- ergh, normal school.”

Her mother looked at her, and grinned widely, clearly happy for her daughter.

“And what about this friend you made? In your letters, you wrote that you had made one, but you didn’t tell us anything about them. I assume one of them was that boy you hugged at the station?”

Mr Granger made an irritated noise at that.

Hermione nervously and cautiously replied, “I have one friend, his name is Harry Potter, and yes he’s the one I was with on the Express.”

Her mother lifted an eyebrow. “Close to him, then are you?” asked Mrs Granger intrigued.

Hermione looked down but gave herself a small smile. “Yes Mum, Harry is such a great friend. Like me, he didn’t have any friends before school, we met on the train, and bonded from there. We even got sorted into the same house, so we share all our classes together.”

“That’s great honey, but what makes him so ‘great?’”

Hermione grinned before saying, “Soon after we became friends, he asked me about my birthday. I told him, and he took me to see a wonderful view and afternoon atop the astronomy tower, he even gave me some presents.”

Mrs Granger looked amused, and with a knowing look asked, “He got you books, didn’t he?”

“Well of course. Soon after that we became best friends, neither me nor him have seen the need to make other friends, so we’re each other’s only friend,” said Hermione.

Her parents didn't know how to feel about this, on the one hand, their daughter had been able to make a friend, and a good one by the sounds of it. However, she still seems to be closed off to the prospect of others. They had hoped that with her travelling to a school full of witches and wizards like her, it would help her to become more outgoing.

Hermione made a sad expression before adding, “It’s unfortunate I won’t get to see him for weeks.”

Looking back up she saw her Mum looking genuinely happy for her.

“Well that’s great Hermione, I hope I’ll be able to meet this boy one day.”

Hermione thought about asking if they would go along with her to Harry’s house sometimes in the holiday, but right now didn’t seem like a great time. Besides she had concluded that time with her parents was immensely better than with the Nanny. And she had weeks of this to look forward to, things were certainly looking up for the bushy-haired brunette.

While she certainly felt comfortable with her parents, she instantly realised that she didn't feel as safe and as comfortable as she did with Harry. Banishing those thoughts, she replied to her mother, "I'm sure he'd love to meet you as well."

Her mother didn’t really know how to reply to that, so she asked, “How are your classes going? Still top of your classes I hope?”

Hermione frowned, “Well of course Mum. You didn’t think I’d go all rebellious and ignore all my studies, did you? Besides, you know I'm a rule follower."

Hermione bit her tongue at that. She did intend to lie about all her rule-breaking activities, but she didn’t realise that it would come with such ease. Her mother didn’t seem to notice either, which made her feel slightly guilty to how well her skills of deception and hiding emotions had come.

“That’s my girl,” said her father.

Hermione forced a smile though she had to admit, she liked a bit of praise.

“I’m at the top of all my classes with the theoretical work. Straight O’s which stands for Outstanding,” said Hermione cheerfully.

“I’m also one of the best with my spell work, though Harry’s brother, Andrew, often succeeds in performing the spell first,” continued Hermione, saying Andrew’s name a bit bitterly.

Mrs Granger must’ve noticed Hermione’s bitterness because she asked, “Andrew?”

Hermione let out an exasperated sigh, "Yes, he's Harry's brother and a first-class git. I mean, he and his friends hate Harry and me just because of our house. He also brags about how amazing he is in passing, though Harry told me that it's largely because of the ‘extra' help he had before attending Hogwarts."

Her Mum frowned, “That seems unfair.” She thought for a moment before asking, “Did Harry get this ‘extra’ help as well?”

The young witch furrowed her brows and replied, “No. Harry didn’t get any. Only his brother since he’s the ‘saviour of our world.’”

For the rest of the car trip, Hermione’s parents continually asked questions relating to Hogwarts, which Hermione answered in the ways they would understand. However, she made sure to leave out any of their ‘extracurricular’ activities.

It wasn’t long when they finally arrived home.

The Granger residence was not a mansion by any means, nor was it an average suburban home. It was sizeable enough, expensive and luxurious and located on the outskirts of London. Her parents being dentists, earned a sizeable wage, although they were avid savers. Still, the home was perfectly suitable for a three-person family.

Once inside the house, Hermione quickly made her way to her room to get changed for dinner.

Putting her trunk down, she quickly changed out of her robes and put her wand inside her bedside table, to make sure she wouldn’t be tempted to use it.

As was evident, being Muggleborn had yet another serious disadvantage. That being the Trace on her wand. If she performed magic, the Ministry would claim that she had exposed the Muggle world to magic, and a violation like that could result in a wand snapping and expulsion from Hogwarts. However, the former only applied, so long as the offender had not completed their OWL’s yet.

Such a punishment seemed extreme, and once again showed off the Wizarding’s world, racist prejudice towards Muggles, and Muggleborns.

Life would be so much easier, if I was a pureblood, or half-blood, thought Hermione sadly.

To be fair, once discovering she was a witch, and attending her first half-year of Hogwarts, Hermione found that she liked the wizarding world a lot more than the ‘normal' one. If it wasn't for her ties to her parents, she might’ve just dropped nearly everything Muggle, hoping for an ounce of respect in the future from both the general wizarding society and her Slytherin housemates.

Hermione let out an exaggerated sigh in frustration and made her way downstairs preparing herself for a wonderful feast with her parents.

-o-o-o-o-o-

The following day, Hermione decided to sleep in for once. Whether she liked to admit it or not, getting up at dawn every morning was simply exhausting. She could manage it during the school term, and seeing Harry made her slightly motivated to do it as well. But now safely tucked inside the confines of her comfortable bed and house, sleeping in was a well-welcomed luxury.

Unfortunately for the brunette, her beauty sleep was interrupted. But once the cause was found, her attention peeked a little. It seemed as though Ivo had arrived outside her window, knocking on the glass attempting to get in. Hermione got out of bed and opened it to let the beautiful black owl inside.

Ivo expectantly held out her leg to deliver Harry’s letter to her, which she quickly untied. Once it was removed the owl tilted her head slightly and made a little hoot. Hermione assumed this meant that the female bird wanted some snacks.

“I don’t have anything here, but why don’t we go to the kitchen and see what’s there,” said Hermione.

The pure black owl seemed to understand because no sooner had Hermione finished her sentence there was a presence on her right shoulder. It seemed as though Ivo’s preferred mode of transport was Hermione, which the brunette seemed to take in stride, and walked out of her bedroom and into the kitchen as if it was completely normal.

“Hey Mum, where’s the bacon? And can we get a bowl of water,” asked Hermione as casually as possible.

“Why good morning to you as well, Hermione.” And looked up to her daughter. Spotting an owl on her shoulder was definitely not what she expected.

“Well I suppose that explains the bacon,” said Mrs Granger.

Hermione looked to her shoulder, “Yes, she wants a snack. So long as that’s okay.”

Her Mum seemed a bit hurt but replied, “Of course. It’s Ivo isn’t it?”

“Yes, she’s Harry’s owl.”

“She’s beautiful,” and handed Hermione a piece of bacon. “Maybe we should get you an owl.”

This, however, seemed to irritate the pure black bird, and she made aggressive noises to Mrs Granger.

Hermione let out a small chuckle, "Well Mum, I don't think you should do that. Seems like this beauty has already claimed both me and Harry. He’s already somewhat irritated that Ivo comes to me for a snack following her owl deliveries, rather than him.”

Her mother raised her hands in surrender. “Okay sorry girl,” she said to the owl. “We won’t get another owl for Hermione; besides we don’t need one with you being so beautiful.”

Hermione just shook her head in amusement at the interaction and fed Ivo some bacon and water, before the bird flew off atop a cupboard, awaiting Hermione’s response to Harry.

Realising that she had not yet opened her letter, Hermione did just that. She quickly glanced over the letter.

It more or less just asked her about how she and her parents were.

Harry also requested that she ask her parents about visiting the Manor.

Impatient, isn’t he? mused Hermione and shook her head in amusement. He had asked the same question at the Great Hall yesterday and seemed like he couldn’t wait more than a day.

“What’s in the letter?” asked her Mum, which snapped the young witch out her thoughts.

“Hmm? Oh, Harry sent me a letter asking how we were.”

“That’s nice of him to ask, makes me want to meet this young man who’s befriended my daughter even more.”

Hermione cautiously said, “About that…”

Mrs Granger rose her eyebrows in question.

“Harry offered an invite to us. You, me and dad, to visit their house sometime over the winter holidays.”

At that moment Mr Granger walked into the kitchen, clearly fatigued. He looked between his wife and daughter before asking, “Could someone catch me up?”

“Hermione was just telling me that Harry has invited us all over to his house,” informed his wife.

Hermione’s dad eyed her carefully, “And just why have we all been invited?”

The witch seemed undeterred by her father’s gaze and replied, “Harry is a great friend. My best friend and I trust him nearly implicitly. He offered an invitation over the break because we wouldn't see each other for weeks, and we're both happier when together. If it wasn't for you both taking off the Christmas break, I might've stayed at Hogwarts, which Harry had hoped to do."

Her parents looked at each other after hearing that.

“And also, he suggested that bringing you two along would allow you to experience the Magical world more. Being Muggles excludes you from luxuries other wizards and witches have, so he thought, and I agreed, travelling to his home would be a great way to include you both more in my life. And don’t worry about not understanding any answers, Harry’s Mum is a Muggleborn, someone like me who has two non-magical parents. Plus, you'll be able to see me perform some magic over there since Harry's family live in their mansion away from the Muggle world.”

Hermione’s parents seemed to follow her every word carefully, as they listened to the end of her speech, they seemed to have reached a decision.

“That sounds great Honey.” Mrs Granger looked at her husband before adding, “We’d really like to be more involved in your life, and if this is a way to do it, we’d like to try it. And we do so want to see you perform some magic.”

Her face then turned grim, however, and under her breath muttered, “Too bad, mum and dad can’t see it that way.”

Hermione frowned, she knew that her parents had been fighting with her mother’s side of the family recently, and after hearing her Mum’s comment, she assumed that she was somehow the cause. She decided to clarify this with her parents.

“Mum?” asked Hermione.

“Yes Hermione,” replied Mrs Granger, though she seemed slightly nervous.

“Why are you and dad fighting with grandma and grandad?”

Her mum’s features instantly softened she looked towards her husband, who merely nodded and back to Hermione. She put her hand on the witch’s shoulder and said sympathetically, “We’re fighting because they won’t accept that you’re a witch and you can do magic.”

Hermione expected that she was the reason, but this still shook her, “Th-they’re fighting with you both because of me being a witch?”

Her dad also looked sympathetically at her and said, “Yes honey. You know they’re devoted Christians and aren’t very open to changing their ideals. Besides, they’ve never really approved of mine and your Mum’s marriage either.”

Hermione simply looked back at her parents, but in her mind, her thoughts were racing.

Grandad and Grandma hate me because I'm a witch? B-but I'm their granddaughter, how can they be so prejudiced… Why is every society so bloody against me?!

Besides her parents and Harry, her grandparents were the only other people she enjoyed spending time with. Well before at least…

Snapping out her thoughts she asked, “So they’re not coming over for Christmas?”

“No Hermione, we’re so very sorry.”

Hermione nodded miserably, and behind her mask, she could feel tears trying to push their way through her eyes.

Changing topic Mrs Granger asked, “So when should we go visit this Harry then?”

Hermione smiled slightly at his name and replied, “He didn’t specify, so I assume he wants us to choose a date.”

Her Mum nodded and Mr Granger asked, “Are his parents okay with this?”

“I don’t think he’s specifically asked us, but his Mum, Lily extended an invitation to me earlier when she was… visiting Hogwarts.”

This seemed to satisfy her parents and her mother suggested, “How about the 28th? We’d have time to do some ‘After Christmas’ shopping beforehand.”

Hermione nodded and quickly made her way back to her room to collect a letter and quill. She quickly wrote a quick message informing Harry of their plans and tied it to Ivo, who had followed her into her room.

“Take this back to Harry please.”

Ivo gave her a look that said, ‘I know.’

“And next time you return I’ll have some snacks in here,” Hermione winked to the pure-black owl.

The bird gave a small hoot and flew out the window at a fast rate.

-o-o-o-o-o-

For the rest of the days leading up to Christmas Hermione spent a lot of time reading and doing homework.

She spent all her hours reading through her course books and made notes wherever possible. Homework was also attended to within the first few days and was completed quickly and efficiently, however, she found she hated being alone when doing it. It was so much better having Harry as company, not only as a comfortable friend but as someone who she could bounce ideas off of and get the occasional advice.

Thinking of Harry also made her slightly agitated. Harry being at his home would be able to use magic during the holidays and polish up his duelling skills. She was slightly annoyed that he would likely be able to beat her consistently when they met up on the 28th, but she did have some secret tricks up her sleeve to wipe his hypothetical smug grin off his face.

Also, it would give her a chance to raid the notorious Potter library. Harry said that they had a range of books that was larger than Hogwarts in some areas.

The days the duo spent in the abandoned classroom had been used efficiently. They were confident that they could beat most first and even second years in a fair duel, as was proven by the confrontation on Hogwarts Express.

Hermione found that while she enjoyed learning the theoretical side of magic, duelling was extremely exhilarating and fun. She also knew that in the future, having impeccable duelling skills would be immensely important for her safety. Especially if Harry is right about Voldemort.

She also spent time with her parents and found she loved and even craved the attention they were giving her. Before the holidays they hardly spent any time with her, and were little more than the ‘people who brought her into the world.' But now Hermione knew she could definitely call them her parents.

She definitely did not regret coming home for the winter, in fact, she determined that she had never been so happy before. Well more accurately was that her entire year had been the best of her life. She had made a friend; learnt she was a witch and reconciled her shaky relationship with her parents. For once Hermione wasn’t worried about the future and hoped she wouldn’t need to be for a long time.

-o-o-o-o-o-

On Christmas day, Hermione decided not to sleep in as much as she had been over the last couple weeks, and was about to leave her bed when she glanced up and let out a small sigh of annoyance.

Atop of her bedsheets, was a familiar owl. It seemed that over the last couple of weeks, Harry had definitely kept to his end of the bargain and sent a letter to her every day. But his idea of every day seemed to be every morning.

As a result, Ivo had arrived early at her residence at the crack of dawn. She seemed to act as an alarm clock for Hermione, but today the beautiful owl had appeared earlier than usual.

“Hey Ivo,” said Hermione sleepily and let out a loud yawn.

She carefully used her small hands to pet the owl, before noticing the unusually big delivery. Attached the Ivo's leg was a long, but thin, rectangular-shaped present, and a note attached to it.

The girl quickly untied the letter and present before tying her own present to Harry. When she began to attach his present, she noticed the strikingly similar shape of their two presents. Looking closer she found them to be the exact same size and dimensions, the only difference being the wrapping paper. However, she needed to get her present and letter to Harry for Christmas, so she did just that.

After feeding Ivo some snacks she petted the bird one last time before turning her attention back to her present from Harry.

She grinned to herself, got dressed and practically ran into the living room where her parents were already waiting for her.

“Someone’s up early,” said her Mum who was smirking.

"Well, of course, Mum. It's Christmas." And plonked Harry's present and letter beneath the Christmas tree.

“Who’s that from?” asked Mr Granger.

“Harry. Ivo delivered it this morning, and I sent his present with her. But I think I’ll open it last.”

Her parents then proceeded to give Hermione all her presents.

They gave her some books, a diary and some Muggle money to spend as she wished. She was ecstatic with what she got and was especially interested in reading some of the books, but it was nothing compared to Harry’s present.

She smiled as she read the letter,

Dear Hermione,

Happy Christmas!

How’s everything going, are you enjoying the holidays?

I can’t help but feel slightly guilty for getting us in trouble at Hogwarts and I hope you’re no longer mad at me.

Hermione rolled her eyes at that.

And you’re probably rolling your eyes right now, so okay I admit, it was entirely my fault.

Attached to this letter should be my present to you. I hope you’ll love it, but if you don’t like it, tell me and I’ll get you something else (probably books).

Anyway, I can’t wait till you come over on the 28th it’ll be so much more fun with you here, and it would be nice to hold a conversation with someone without any awkward silences.

See you then,

Love from Harry

Hermione then grabbed the present under the watchful eye of her parents and untied the wrapping paper. There inside the box, was a professionally made, luxurious silver and green quill.

Looking at it carefully, Hermione found it to be the exact same design as the one she had bought for Harry in Diagon Alley.

“So, what did you get?” asked her Mum eagerly.

Upon spotting the quill, her Mum’s face turned into a confused expression, which became even more bewildered as Hermione was simply grinning.

“Umm honey, isn’t that the same quill you got him?”

When Hermione bought the quill for Harry, she had second thoughts about buying one for herself. She so loved the colour green, and it turned out he had bought the same for her. She would never tell a soul, but green was her favourite colour because of Harry’s eyes. The emerald blaze that only she was allowed to see, made her feel so very special, evidently resulting in that colour taking first place.

Turning it over, she found that he too, had the recipient’s initials engraved onto it, reading HJG.

“Ye-no. Well kind of. It’s the exact same quill design, but this is from Harry, and he had my initials engraved.”

Her parents looked at Hermione with simply love. There was nothing like seeing your child so happy over a present, their only regret was that their presents didn’t have the same effect on their daughter.

The rest of the morning was spent talking and having fun which suited Hermione greatly, she couldn’t wait for the 28th when all her favourite people would be together in one place. The family then went on to have a lengthy Christmas meal which lasted until the afternoon, when everyone was done, Hermione looked up to her Mum and asked, “Do you mind if I quickly go and write a thank you letter for Harry? I’d like to have it ready in case Ivo comes back today.”

Mrs Granger fondly at her daughter and replied, “Of course. I think your father needs to sleep through his lunch on the couch anyway.”

A loud snore was heard as if to reply to the statement.

Hermione nodded to her mum before quickly ascending the stairs with her new quill in hand.

Once she arrived in her room, she set it aside and decided to begin working on a thank you letter.

Wait. Why don’t I just use the new quill he got me?

With that new thought, she took the tool and was part-way through writing it when she heard a loud commotion downstairs.

Curious, Hermione stood up and made her way to her door. There was obviously yelling and shouting going on, but the voices were muffled.

Her heart rate increased as she could clearly tell there were more than two voices down there, implying that it wasn't her parents arguing with each other. What could they be arguing about? And what on Earth are other people doing here?! Did Grandma and Grand-dad actually come?

She slowly creeped her way out of the door, and slipped out into the corridor, making her way to the stairs as stealthily as possible.

Now out of her room, she could discern what the previously muffled voices were yelling about.

“How could you do this! Walk into our home and threaten us!” cried a male voice resembling her dad.

Hermione stopped dead in her tracks at that. It was obvious from her dad's tone that he was dead serious and furious. Someone seriously was threatening them. She briefly thought about calling the police, but that thought process was lost when the next voice spoke.

“You dare stand there with your hundreds of thousands in savings and say that to me!? I have to deal with your little brat all bloody year and I barely make enough to make a living. Now answer me, where is your money?”

This voice belonged to the one person Hermione never wanted to see again and truthfully didn't think she would for until Summer at the earliest. It was most definitely the venomous voice of Mrs Thomas, her Nanny who looked after her when her parents were working.

Hermione paled, her breathing becoming erratic.

Why is Mrs Thomas here? Sh-She wouldn’t threaten my parents, would she? I know she hated me, but she seemed nice enough to them at least.

Deciding that she needed to actually see what was going on, Hermione quietly snuck over to the stairs making as little noise as possible.

“What?! Is all you care about money? You’ll be thrown in prison for this!” spat Hermione’s mum.

Hearing her mum’s defiance Hermione felt slightly elated by her mother’s bravery and she finally got a view of the confrontation.

The bookworm was at the top of the stairs, looking through the railings, and fortunately, none of the assailants were looking in her direction. There wasn’t just Mrs Thomas there, next to her were three other men. They all seemed to be dirty, with terrible clothes. They couldn't be more than 25 years old, only Mrs Thomas seemed to be middled age. However, what they all had in common was the desperate gleam in their eyes promising retribution if her parents acted out of line. Two of them were holding knives pointing at the Grangers in a threatening manner. Her father was protecting her mother, in the same way as Harry did in the Forbidden Forest, just like a human shield.

“Last chance – where is the money?” sneered her Nanny.

“Just fuck off! Before the police get here you, despicable woman,” said Mr Granger confidently.

Her former Nanny shook her head "Mr Granger, as you can see, my friends and I are getting desperate to sustain ourselves. Just give us the money and we won't have to do anything permanent to you, understood?"

However, her father wasn't deterred by her words "You won't get a single penny, you thief."

Hermione saw Mrs Thomas give a nod to the three men, and within seconds they had moved towards her parents and attempted to separate them.

“NO!” cried her mum in anguish.

“Stay the hell away!”

The young witch nearly let out a cry as well but managed to restrain herself, it would be no help to reveal herself to the four intruders.

But it was to no avail, with the duo of attackers threatening to use their knives, the two Granger parents were quickly moved away from each other, where one put a knife to her mother’s throat.

Hermione’s eyes bulged at that. She thought about moving back to her room to collect her wand, but it seemed as though she was glued to where she was standing, and simply watched it play out in shock.

Mrs Thomas then walked up to Mr Granger and said, “Now tell me where is that little ugly bitch, you call your daughter? She’s been gone all year, which meant I was out of work. I’ve been living on the streets unable to pay my bills because I couldn’t find a job. These fine young men are with me to ensure I get the money I need. Perhaps some incentive from her would change your mind.”

“She’s not here,” stated Mr Granger confidently.

While Hermione was indeed to shocked to really react, once she had regained her bearings later, she would feel and appreciate the bravery her father showed to the horrible woman, even while being threatened.

Mrs Thomas looked back at him with piercing eyes but couldn’t seem to see any dishonesty in his stance.

“Well if that’s the case, we’ll just have to use somebody else.”

The man holding her mum put the knife right next to her throat, only a mere centimetre away from her skin. She, in turn, let out a little whimper.

“So, let’s try this again. Where is the money?”

Hermione’s father looked back and forth between his wife and Thomas before replying, “I-I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

At this, the man put the knife so it touched her mother’s skin creating a small, but bleeding cut. Mrs Granger began screaming out in pain.

“WHERE IS THE MONEY!”

This seemed to overwhelm her father who gave in and said, “I-in the safe in the lounge room.”

The man cutting the female Granger moved his knife away but kept it up in a threatening manner.

“Get in the lounge room. Both of you!” cried her Nanny.

The group of six then all made their way into the room, and out of view of Hermione.

Hermione simply stayed where she was for a few seconds trying to process what exactly had happened. Snapping back into reality she realised she needed to help them. Any logic of calling the police was completely forgotten and she quickly, but quietly made her way to her room to grab her wand.

When reaching the stairs on her return trip Hermione heard screams and furious yelling coming from the lounge room.

Forgetting all thoughts of being stealthy Hermione practically ran down the stairs, only slowing her velocity when approaching the living room door.

All I need to do is land a few well placed Flipendos and keep them down until the MLE gets here. The Underage use of magic should summon them immediately. Let’s just hope they understand the situation correctly.

Strangely as she got to the door, she only heard silence. All the screams and yelling from before had mysteriously disappeared.

She pushed open the door, poised to attack but was not ready for what laid inside.

There inside was the four attackers standing over two bloodied bodies, which within seconds Hermione recognised as her parents. The four people just stood there, shocked, looking down at the two Granger parents.

“Shit! – SHIT!” cried one of the men, realising what they had just done.

“Why did you kill them!” yelled Mrs Thomas looking extremely pale.

“I didn’t mean to, they just came at me,” replied one of them.

“We’ll be put in prison for life, for this,” commented another.

“No, we won’t, there are no witnesses, they shouldn't be able to tie us to the crime. Let's just get the money and get out of here. Granger opened the safe at least.”

The agreed and turned to the safe, but one of them spotted Hermione standing transfixed in the doorway.

“Umm, Thomas.”

“Wha-”

They all turned to look at Hermione who was simply standing still staring at her parent’s dead bodies. Her loose grip on her wand faltered and it dropped onto the ground, while everyone was else was dead silent.

It only now seemed to hit Hermione that her parents were clearly dead.

Dead. Not moving, not breathing. Can't be happening. Why? Get up, please. You need to wake u-

A person came in front of her and touched her shoulder, a male hand. Daddy?

She looked up, an unfamiliar face was staring back at her, its face completely torn in panic.

NO!” screamed Hermione as loud as she possibly could, releasing all her anger, anxiety and fear into it.

BOOM!!!

Windows shattered, the room exploded into a loud explosion and everyone within the room, except Hermione, was flung back at an insane speed. Snap of bones and meaty thuds accompanied the sudden explosion.

Exhausted and defeated, Hermione fell to the ground, she held out her left hand to vainly reach them and with that, her parents’ bodies slid towards her, eyes still unseeing. She went to grab and hold them but she quickly recoiled when she felt the coolness start to seep in. She crawled away and curled up into a ball and started rocking back and forwards muttering, “They can’t be dead. They can’t be dead.” over and over again.

Within seconds pops were heard all around the Granger residence shortly after, wizards began pouring into the house and walked into the living room, with many letting out gasps of shock.

“Uh-hh Smith, check everyone in the room.”

Smith took a second to recognise that he had been given an order, “Yes sir.” And quickly made his way to check on the bodies.

"Williams, go and call the Aurors. I want only the best, get Sirius, James, Kingsley and Scrimgeour on this right away."

"Yes, sir."

“Healer! Please go and check on the girl.”

“Will do.”

But as she tried to make her way to Hermione an invisible wall seemed to stop her.

“What’s the matter?”

“I can’t get to her. I can feel her magic physically stopping me,” replied the Healer.

“Smith.”

"Five dead sir, one in a serious condition, and the girl who seems fine, but I can't determine any more."

“Merlin help us.”

Ten minutes later a few more pops sounded.

“Where is she?” cried a young voice.

“Wh-”

“It’s alright, it’s my son.”

“James! You brought a kid to a situation you knew nothing about?! What is wrong with you?!”

“This is my son’s only friend and he would have rather died than stay at home. He deserves to know what happened to her.”

“Fine! She’s over there, but she won’t respond to anyone. I think it may be dangerous so be careful. Oh, and we'll be talking about this when we come back, Mr Potter."

The boy, however, didn’t care and practically ran up to Hermione who was still mumbling, “They can’t be dead.”

“Hermione,” said Harry soft and calm voice.

This seemed to snap Hermione out of her trance, and she flicked her head up to the raven-haired boy with wide, wet, red eyes. After a second of staring at each other, she then flung herself onto Harry with a death grip hug, which he returned with a more comforting hold.

“Harry,” murmured Hermione, who was but sobbing, “Please tell me this is a nightmare, wake me up I beg you; I want to leave!”

The boy had could only try to comfort her.

“I’m sorry Hermione. I won’t leave you alone any longer.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 11

The Yule Holidays Part 3

"I'm sorry Hermione. I won't leave you alone any longer."

Harry tightened his grip on Hermione, conveying to her that someone was there for her, someone who cared.

The raven-haired boy could only imagine the pain Hermione was feeling right now. He only got a brief look into the living room before all his attention turned to his favourite brunette. But he had gotten the general gist of it, bodies were laid throughout the room, unmoving and lifeless. From what Williams had said in the fireplace, Harry gathered that five people were dead, and Hermione was the number one suspect.

He couldn’t fathom Hermione ever doing something like this on purpose. While she wasn’t exactly the kindest of people out there, she was to those she called her friends like himself. It must’ve been a spout of extreme accidental magic.

But what could’ve caused such serious magic to occur was a mystery to Harry, that was until he spotted two familiar-looking bodies behind Hermione. It was clearly the two cold and lifeless bodies of the Granger parents. They were covered in blood, eyes unmoving, and lying next to each other.

Good Merlin thought Harry in disbelief.

Without moving from his hold on Hermione Harry saw out of the corner of his eye another body lying against the wall. But this one was in a condition unlike that of the Granger parents. From what he could gather it looked as though it had basically collapsed in on itself and had made a large puncture in the wall.

He thought about getting a better look but dared not to leave Hermione in her current state.

Now looking back at the two dead Grangers, Harry could tell that their cause of death was certainly different. They had obvious stab marks around their chest area, there’s no way Hermione could’ve caused it. No wonder Hermione was so mad that her magic exploded. It’s likely that the “victims” had attacked and killed her parents. Frankly, if she’s the reason these other people are dead, I don’t really care, and I don’t blame her.

It was a dark thought, but with Harry’s childhood, his outlook on life was bleak at best.

Hermione continued to pour tears upon tears into Harry’s chest, he wasn’t one for that much physical contact, but his preferences were nowhere near as important as Hermione’s needs. He let her cry her eyes out, whispering comforting words into her ear.

After what seemed like an eternity, her sobbing began to subside and she separated from Harry, albeit only partly and looked up into his eyes. Harry simply looked back at her with a face of understanding and nodded slowly to her, to convey this, before pulling her back into another comforting hug, which she openly accepted without resistance.

After a second or so Harry whispered, “Hey… do you want to go over to the couch? I promise that I’ll stay with you.”

Hermione looked up at him with a sad expression but nodded gratefully before letting out a sniff. She then let Harry guide her towards the living room couch. As an added bonus the couch was facing away from all the bodies, making it even more of a suitable choice to sit on, rather than the ground.

Harry then sat in the right corner of the couch, with Hermione snuggling up next to him, holding on with a death-grip and her face in his chest. He held back and played with her bushy hair in an affectionate way to calm her down.

The Head Auror, Rufus Scrimgeour then came into Harry’s line of sight.

“I need to ask the girl some questions.”

Harry simply glared back at Scrimgeour, giving the obvious signs that no such thing would be happening and held onto Hermione tighter.

“Potter… I just need to ask her some questions it’s my job,” replied the Auror, slightly irritated.

Harry was about to reply with something extremely rude, but was saved by his dad, “Scrimgeour leave the poor girl alone – and my son for that matter. She’s obviously just gone through a very traumatic experience, give her some time won’t you?”

“Might I remind you, Auror Potter, that I’m the Head Auror…”

James frowned, “I’m not trying to tell you what to do. I just thought you should remember proper manners, we aren’t uncivilised wizards.”

Scrimgeour snorted and replied, “Fine. But I’ll be questioning her tomorrow. She is our prime suspect.”

“She didn’t mean to do this!” cried Harry venomously.

“Harry, stay out of this,” ordered his father.

Harry grumbled, and relented his assault turning his attention back to Hermione, who was now sobbing and shaking more than before.

“And where will Miss Granger be staying, dare I ask?”

At this, Harry caught his father’s eye and looked at him with a pleading look.

James thought for a few moments before letting out an exaggerated sigh and replying, “She can stay with my family at the Potter Manor.”

The Head Auror rose an eyebrow at that and said, “That’s highly irregular James. It’s a possible conflict of interest.”

“Well Rufus, Miss Granger clearly has nowhere else to go with her family bei…” he decided not to finish that sentence. “Besides we were set to have Hermione over on the 28th anyway if it makes you feel any better, I won’t take any part in this investigation.”

Scrimgeour seemed to consider James’ words carefully before nodding his acceptance, albeit hesitantly. “Fine. I’ll be there around noon tomorrow. Also, you’re off the investigation Auror Potter,” and walked off to converse with others.

“Thank you,” said Harry sincerely.

His dad gave a small sympathetic smile.

In his peripheral vision, Harry spotted a familiar-looking man walking towards them.

“Hey, James.”

“Sirius.”

Sirius then looked towards Harry and spotted Hermione, he opened his mouth to say something but then quickly closed it. Probably was going to make some teasing retort. Thankfully he’s not that daft, mused Harry.

“Hey Harry,” said Sirius simply.

Harry made a small move of acknowledgment, but he wasn’t exactly the biggest fan of his godfather since he too didn’t notice ‘the obscure spell.’

Turning his gaze back to James, Sirius said, “Do you mind if I come over tomorrow? I overheard that you’ll be looking after Miss Granger temporarily and I’d like to be there when Scrimgeour comes over. I’ll make sure she’s questioned in a friendly environment.”

“That’ll be fine.”

Sirius nodded and then left to investigate the crime scene.

James then turned to his son, who was eyeing him with piercing green eyes.

“Harry umm – is there anything Hermione would like to bring before we go to the Manor?”

Harry did not expect his father to ask something so simple, yet important but hid his surprise well. He asked Hermione in a hushed tone, “Is there anything you need, Hermione?”

She sniffed but whispered to Harry in broken English, “Tr-trunk and qui-quill.”

Harry gave a small smile at that. It seemed as though Hermione did indeed like her new quill.

“She’d like her trunk, and the green and silver quill I got her. They’re probably in her room.”

“Alright, I’ll go and get them and then we’ll floo back to the Manor. We’ve connected the Granger’s fireplace to the system, to help assist in the investigation.”

Harry gave a grateful smile, and said sincerely, “Thanks, Dad.”

As James went to gather the young witch’s belonging’s Harry said in a soft tone, “Hermione?”

“Mm?” was all she responded.

“We’re going to go to Potter Manor once my dad gets back. Okay?”

“Kay,” replied Hermione lamely.

Harry just held onto her, until his dad came back a few minutes later, with Hermione’s trunk and quill in hand.

“Ready to go?”

The duo slowly got off the couch and stood up, with Hermione still holding onto Harry for dear life.

“Yep.”

The three then made their way over the fireplace, with Hermione taking one more brief look at her parents before quickly shoving her face back into Harry’s side.

I can’t fathom how she must feel right now. Her parents are dead… As far as I know, they were the only people she really cared about.

They reached the fireplace and Harry grabbed some floo powder, before throwing it in the fireplace and saying, “Potter Manor.” The duo then walked into the fireplace and were transported to the Manor.

Harry made sure to stabilise Hermione when arriving on the other side, as she’d no doubt be a bit uneasy with floo travel.

Once everyone James and Hermione’s belongings were through, Harry said calmly, “Dad could you please just leave us be for a while?”

His dad nodded in understanding and replied, “Of course son. I’ll make sure to tell Lily and Andrew of this development. Why don’t you take Hermione to the guest bedroom next to yours. I’m sure she needs some rest. I’ll take her belongings up there right away.”

Harry agreed and at a slow silent pace, led Hermione up to the room.

They entered the room, which had all its curtains closed, giving the illusion that it was night. He led Hermione over to the queen size bed, opened the covers for her and let her slip inside.

Hermione seemed to understand and hesitantly let go of Harry and got under the covers, without protest.

Seeing that Hermione seemed relatively comfortable, Harry said, “You should have some rest. I’ll see you later okay?”

Hermione was nearly passed out, but she replied in a pleading tone, “No. Please stay here. I-I don’t want to be alone.”

He gave her a small smile and said, “Of course I will,” and sat atop the covers, leaning back against the bed head.

Hermione mumbled, “Thank you.” Before moving closer to Harry and leaning her head on his chest, eyes closed.

This freaked Harry out a little, but before he could do anything to change his situation, Hermione fell fast asleep.

Oh well, I suppose it’s not the most uncomfortable position in the world, thought Harry.

He stayed awake for the next hour trying to stay awake, which admittedly was hard in the dark, regardless of the actual time. Especially when you had a witch sleeping on your chest.

At one point he saw his mother partly open the door to peek a little. She saw their positions and gave Harry a small smile of understanding before quietly closing the door and leaving the room.

Sleep came soon after that for Harry, his last thoughts were on the wellbeing of his best friend.

-o-o-o-o-o-

Hermione slowly opened her eyes and let out a small breath.

Behind her she heard someone breathing in and out calmly, tilting her head in the direction she realised a few things.

One, that she was not in her own bed. Two, that she currently didn’t have her head resting on a pillow. Three, that Harry was in the same bed as her, however, her shock to this quickly subsided when she realised he was still in his day clothes and lying on top of the covers, not under. She thought about moving from her position but decided against it, besides it wasn’t as if it was uncomfortable, and why risk waking Harry up?

But then Hermione fell deep into her thoughts.

Why am I even… wherever I am? I remember that yesterday was Christmas and I was spending time with my family. Harry got me a quill then – Oh God… No… It must’ve not been real, but even Hermione was seriously doubting herself. She was clearly not in her own house, and Harry would only be here with her if something serious happened.

Once the implications of that had sunk in, tears immediately began to spring in Hermione’s eyes. It was all true, her parents had died, been killed by those Muggles. People looking as though they were off the street had broken into her house, with the help of her Nanny and threatened her parents. Oh God, Daddy protected me even when he and Mum were in fatal danger. And I didn’t even get to say… goodbye. The tears began to fall with the odd sniff here and there.

And then I saw them, dead and bloodied with those four people standing over them. She remembered how at the time, she was barely coherent, all thoughts of logic, using her wand or running away gone. Replaced by pure shock, sadness and fury. Merlin… I – I – killed them. God. I – I murdered them. I didn’t mean to – but – I’m a murderer…

Realising this, Hermione’s heart rate sped up, her tears flowed freer and her fear began to settle in her. What if no one understands. What if H-harry hates me… I killed people – who wants to be friend with a mur-.

“Hermione,” said Harry while yawning, knocking her out of her thoughts.

The bushy-haired witch in question paled under his tired gaze.

Harry’s brows furrowed, and then his expression turned sympathetic.

“Hey, don’t worry I’m here. You’re safe here.”

“Ha – where are we? I can’t exactly remember,” said Hermione carefully.

“We’re at my family home, otherwise known as Potter Manor. My dad and I took you here following…” he thought better than to finish that sentence, but Hermione finished it for him.

She sniffed, “Before my parents were murdered…”

Harry wrapped his arms around her and hugged her tight. “I’m sorry,” he said sympathetically.

“I – it’s not your fault. If I was faster – did something but… Oh God, Harry how can you even look at me I’m a murderer.” The witch then started crying furiously, barely hearing Harry’s words. It was only once he tilted her head with one of his hands that she actually paid attention.

Her face was turned to look his in the eyes, his face had a determined look on it.

“Hermione. Listen to me, I know you’re not a murderer. You didn’t mean to do it… and even if you did I’d still be your friend. I’m your best friend, nothing will come between us okay.”

Hermione searched his eyes for any sign of dishonesty but found none, he was being completely sincere and was truly a friend.

“Don’t think that I would ever leave you alone, especially after what happened. You were with me after I was poisoned, so I’m here with you right now. You need someone, and I’ll happily be that person if that’s okay with you.”

Hermione showed him a small smile and replied, “Of course. Thank you, Harry, truly.”

Harry returned the smile before asking, “Do you want to get up now or later? You fell asleep early in the afternoon last night and looking at the clock it’s only 4AM. So, no one else will be up.”

Hermione thought for a few seconds, she could get up now, eat some food; which she desperately wanted to do as they had missed dinner, and prepare for her ‘interview’. Alternatively, she could stay in bed a bit longer, and deal some more with her grief. Having Harry with her certainly made her feel a lot safer, comfortable and dare she say, loved.

“Could we just stay here for another hour?” asked Hermione barely above a whisper.

Harry smiled and gave a small knowing nod.

She shuffled a bit before falling back to sleep. Crying and grieving was exhausting work, so sleep came with little effort.

-o-o-o-o-o-

An hour later Hermione slowly woke up with some little nubs from Harry.

The extra hour of rest had done her well. She felt immensely better than she had before, and was much calmer, mostly due to the fact she wasn’t thinking about them

Those thoughts were quickly banished to as she didn’t want to fall back into another crying fit. Deciding that if she didn’t get up now, she probably wouldn’t have the strength to later, and with her interview set for noon, sleeping in all day didn’t seem like the best choice of action.

She opened her eyes, and turned her gaze to Harry, before talking as casually as she could, “Morning.”

Harry’s face moulded into one of concern before he gave a small smile and replied, “Morning. Ready to get up?”

Hermione nodded slowly, and with that Harry slowly moved her head off him, mouthing apologetically to her, before getting off the bed.

The brunette followed swiftly after, and the two left the room, heading to the kitchen.

They walked side by side, and Hermione thought about grabbing Harry’s hand but thought otherwise.

I need to process some of this myself, I can’t just rely solely on Harry. Also, she wasn’t too sure if Harry was all that comfortable last night with her using him as a human pillow, but she didn’t dwell on it too much. Their friendship was extremely close, and there was no point in making it more complicated at their current age and following recent events.

But just being close to Harry was comfort enough.

They didn’t talk much to each other on the way there, however, Harry kept shooting concerned looks towards her.

Arriving in the kitchen Harry asked, “What would you like to eat? We have a large selection here at the Manor, not as large as Hogwarts mind you, but big enough.”

“Just some fruit please, preferably an apple.”

Harry nodded and grabbed two apples, one for himself and one for her, which he promptly handed over to her.

She accepted it gratefully and started eating it, as Harry led her into the loungeroom silently and sat down on a couch, with Hermione taking a spot next to him.

The two sat in a comfortable silence for a few minutes, with the only sounds being heard, of apples being bitten.

“Hermione – are you okay?” asked Harry in a soft voice.

She slowly turned to look at him with a neutral expression and said, “You know the answer to that question.”

Harry looked apologetic and replied, “I’m sorry… I’m just wondering if you want to talk about it – properly.”

She thought for a moment before replying sadly, “No, not right now. I don’t really want to think about it… right now, and I’ll have to relive it soon enough at noon. So please don’t push me to talk, I really don’t.”

Harry nodded in understanding and brought Hermione into a brief but comfortable hug, before separating, where Hermione shot him a grateful smile.

“Okay, well do you want to read a book together? I know you want to look at the library but right now, probably isn’t the best time. But don’t worry I know it better than anyone here, well I think at least.”

Hermione surprisingly let out a small chuckle at that, Harry always could cheer her up.

“Anything, in particular, you’d like to read?” he asked.

“Do you have a Hogwarts a History anywhere? You know it’s my favourite.”

Harry grinned and replied, “Of course we do. We might even have an older edition.” Hermione felt slightly excited at that, albeit only slightly because of her predicament. “I’ll be back in a tick.”

He then left the room, leaving her to her own thoughts.

She was extremely worried about what would happen to her. The fact was that she had killed three people, while accidentally, did not make the guilt go away. But if she was being truly honest, she did intend to harm them, maybe not kill but harm indeed. They had hurt and killed her family and when one of them touched her shoulder and she realised it wasn’t her dad, she screamed, and her magic blew them apart. Harry said he’d support her no matter what, even if she did mean to kill them which she truly believed she didn’t.

This brought along massive fear from the Magical Law Enforcement.  Would they know that she wouldn’t be completely truthful when she said it was an accident, that she didn’t mean to harm them? Would she be thrown in Azkaban, expelled from school, or worse obliviated and sent to a Muggle orphanage. She shivered at the last thought. The last thing she wanted was to leave the magical world and the only person she had left.

Harry returned at that moment and spotted her conflicted expression. He simply sat next to her and put out a familiar-looking book in between them.

“Well looks like I found one, I’m sorry I took a while.”

An unusual thought came to Hermione, so she asked, albeit cautiously, “Um – Harry… could you read it aloud to me? I – I think it’d be rather peaceful.”

“All right… Though please don’t attack me if I butcher up some of the pronunciations, I’m terrible at reading aloud,” and gave her a sheepish grin.

“Thank you.”

He nodded and then began to read to her for the next hour. As she predicted it was quite comfortable and relaxing. She basically knew the book off by heart but hearing it read aloud by another person was another experience entirely.

As Harry finished a page, he looked up at something in the doorway and stopped reading. Hermione intrigued followed his gaze.

There standing in the doorway with a sympathetic look was Lily Potter.

“Sorry for interrupting you two, I was just heading to the kitchen for some breakfast.” She then turned her full gaze to Hermione, while wearing a comfortable expression on her face, “Nice to see you again Miss Granger, I only wish it was under better circumstances. I’m truly sorry for your loss…”

Hermione let out a small sniff at that and replied, “Thank you, Mrs Potter.”

“If you don’t mind, could you call me Lily, I don’t like feeling so formal.”

“Of course, and please. Call me Hermione.”

“Alright, Hermione – I’m sorry for interrupting you two, I’ll be in the kitchen, call if you need anything at all.”

“Will do Mum,” said Harry.

Lily gave a small wave to the duo before leaving the room.

Shortly after Mrs Potter’s departure, Andrew came into the room.

He walked up to the two, but his usual smug face wasn’t there, replaced by a sad expression.

“I’d just like to say I’m sorry for you Hermione, and I’d like to tell you that I won’t be teasing you or anything about what happened,” said Andrew. “I know we didn’t get off on the best foot, and I’m a bit of a git towards you, especially when you’re one of the best at the theoretical classwork, but – but no one deserves what happened to you parents. I don’t care if they were Muggles, they were people, humans and they were your parents, so I can only begin to imagine your pain. You won’t have to worry about me I won’t be bothering you two, I know you need your space.”

Hermione teared up a bit at mentioning her parents, the images of their bodies re-entering her mind.

Harry glared at him for his ignorance.

“Oh, so-sorry.”

“No – no,” said Hermione, “Thanks for saying, well some of what you said was nice. Could you please just not tell Ron about what happened and ask that he lay off me a bit? I don’t think he’d really understand what’s happened to me.”

Andrew who still looked a bit guilty that he casually mentioned her dead parents, replied, “Of course, of course. I’ll make sure Ron won’t bother you over the next few weeks.”

Hermione gave a small nod, while Harry was still glaring at him, albeit lighter than before. Andrew quickly turned and left the room, leaving Hermione and Harry to continue where they had left off, but now Hermione’s mood had worsened and would not improve for a while.

-o-o-o-o-o-

Five Minutes to twelve Sirius Black came through the floo network in his Auror robes. He looked around, giving a small nod to the duo, before leaving to look for James.

Harry and Hermione decided that it would be best to do the ‘interview’ in the living room, and for the ten or so minutes they had gone over a few practise questions together. Harry just hoped that Hermione wouldn’t break down during the interview, or the Aurors might get the wrong idea, but then again maybe that’s exactly what we need. I don’t want to ask her to do that, but if the facts line up badly towards her, it might be our only option. He was about to voice this to Hermione before the fireplace burst into green once more and the Head Auror, Rufus Scrimgeour and Senior Auror Kingsley Shacklebolt came through.

“Afternoon Miss Granger, and Mr Potter, we’ll start the questioning in a moment, just as soon as Auror Black arrives,” said Scrimgeour.

Just as he said that Sirius and James came into view, talking in hushed voices. Upon spotting the two senior Aurors, Sirius stood a little straighter and made his way over to them, with James standing behind the kids. Lily arrived shortly after doing the same.

“Now that everyone is here, I’d like to go through a few questions with you Miss Granger,” said the Head Auror.

Hermione made a small nod of acknowledgment while Harry moved slightly closer to her, hoping to comfort the young witch.

“Can you please tell me what happened yesterday? Starting from the other Muggles arriving.”

Hermione took a large breath in before replying, “I was in my room, writing a letter when I heard an argument downstairs. I made my way over to the top of the stairs and peeked over to see three men I didn’t know and my Nanny threatening my parents.”

“Nanny?”

“Yes, a woman named Mrs Thomas used to take care of me when my parents worked.”

Scrimgeour nodded satisfied, before asking, “Why were they threatening your parents?”

“Money,” said Hermione simply.

“Could you continue with what happened next.”

Hermione seemed to hesitate a moment, to which Harry squeezed her hand and she replied, “They were taken into the living room forcibly to which I followed shortly after. I walked in and…” The brunette began to tear up before saying, “I saw th–their bodies all bloodied and cold.” Hermione couldn’t hold it in anymore and began to cry into Harry, who simply comforted her.

“Then?”

Hermione didn’t reply, as she was still crying. Lily came around the couch and wrapped her up in a motherly hug which she gracefully accepted.

Harry saw the tension leave Hermione’s body and Harry grabbed one of her hands.

Once Hermione had calmed down enough she answered, “Then one of the attackers put their hand on my shoulder and I-I ju-just screamed.” She sniffed before continuing, “I don’t remember much of what happened next, not until Harry came.”

“Are you aware that you killed three muggles and seriously injured another?”

“I-I didn’t mean to I swear! It was an accident.”

Scrimgeour seemed to eye her, seemingly unconvinced but Sirius pitched in,

“Scrimgeour the girl has just been through a seriously traumatic experience, a bout of dangerous magic for all we know is entirely possible.”

The Head Auror considered his Auror’s words carefully before giving a small nod.

“One more question, can you explain why this was found at the scene?” while holding out her wand.

Harry felt Hermione tense up a little, and he couldn’t blame her. They had completely forgotten about her wand and he hoped they would understand her situation properly. He looked towards Hermione who had turned slightly pale, but she answered anyway.

“I had intended to use it to defend myself and family, but I dropped it.”

“Intended hmm? That is a serious breach of underage magic usage and could break the statue of secrecy.”

“My family was in trouble! What was I meant to do?”

Scrimgeour was about to counter her, before being interrupted by James, “Scrimgeour! Tell me what you would do if strangers came into your home with weapons and threatened your family. And you were not allowed to do magic,”

Scrimgeour’s expression turned sour and he replied, “Potter, you’re not a part of this. You shouldn’t even be here.”

“Regardless sir, he has a point. Anyone in her situation would probably react the same,” said Kingsley.

The three Aurors then walked off and talked for a few minutes, while Harry and Lily comforted Hermione.

They returned a few moments later and Scrimgeour said, “We’ve determined that it was indeed accidental magic. Because the four victims were Muggle, no hearing will be held at the Ministry, and due to the circumstances, no charges will be held against you.”

The Potters, and Hermione all blew a sigh of relief, before Kingsley said, “Here’s your wand Miss Granger.” And handed over her wand.

“One more piece of business, your grandparents got in touch with us and they’d like to have you over for the rest of the holidays. They already know about our world and the guardianship now lies with them. Although it still is your choice. Their details will be left here, I’m sure Mrs Potter will be able to contact and transport you there if that’s your wish.”

The three Aurors then left through the floo network.

-o-o-o-o-o-

Hermione was confused, she had managed to get off without any charges and her grandparents, seemingly wanted her.

Over the Winter her parents had told her that her grandparents hated that she was a witch, but then why would they want her? Maybe they had a change of heart after….

Regardless, it was her only link to the Muggle world and her only living relatives. Besides she did love them, she only hoped they were the same people she knew before.

“Hermione?”

“Hmm?”

“Umm, so are you going to your grandparents?”

Hermione thought for a few seconds before determining, “Yes. If they’d like to take me in, I’ll go along with it, they’re my only family left. Besides I don’t want to be a burden to you or your family.”

Harry gave her a worried look and replied, “You’re not a burden, and are you sure about this? Last time I checked your relationship with them was a bit rocky…”

“I’m sure.”

“Are you sure?” Harry asked as he rose an eyebrow.

“I said I’m sure.”

“I promised not to leave you,” said Harry.

“I know, and I’m truly grateful, but I think it would be easier to heal with my grandparents as well. They lost their daughter and son-in-law.”

Truth be told she wasn’t entirely sure if that was true, but she really did want to see her grandparents again.

Harry nodded sadly, “Okay – if you’re sure. But please write back every day.”

“Of course.”

-o-o-o-o-o-

The following day Harry, Hermione and Lily travelled to Hermione’s grandparents' house to drop her off for the holidays.

Upon arriving the door opened to admit her two grandparents, “Hermione! Nice to see you all well and good. We’re sorry for how we thought of you earlier, but that’s now all behind us… After what happened,” said the grandmother tearing up at the thought of her dead daughter.

Harry gave Hermione a worried look, but she ignored him and said, “Nice to see you two as well.”

The woman smiled before saying, “Thank you Mrs?”

“Potter”

“Thank you, Mrs Potter, for looking after my granddaughter.”

“It was a pleasure.”

The group then said their goodbyes to each other, with the duo sharing one last comforting hug before parting.

As Harry watched Hermione walk into the house, he fell deep into his thoughts.

They seemed nice enough… but what was with them thinking of her differently?

He let out an exasperated sigh, he wished that Hermione had stayed with him for the rest of the winter, and he promised that he would never leave her side again, but when Hermione put her mind to something, there was little chance in changing her mind. Sure, he had done it before, but in Hermione’s current state persuading her to do something she didn’t particularly want didn’t seem to be the right thing to do.

He understood that she needed to heal, and family was the best way to do that. But he couldn’t stop the dread the filled his body, almost as if something bad was going to happen.

He hoped that everything would be perfectly alright.

-o-o-o-o-o-

The next day, the mood in the house was pretty sombre. Everything was done with slow movements as if they were being bogged down by some unknown force. More friends and family came to visit but for some reason, his godfather Sirius came more than most.

Most of the time, he came and helped with some tasks that needed tending as if his job wasn’t enough work already. But on rare occasions, he would sit down with James or Andrew and just talk with them about everything and anything.

This time was one of them. Harry spotted his godfather sipping away a Firewhiskey with his dad while reminiscing about ‘the good old days’ at Hogwarts. Harry was comfortably reading a book while awaiting Hermione’s answer to his letter. However, after a few minutes reading, he started finding the book pretty boring, he listened in on his father’s hijinks which were admittedly pretty funny and something that Harry could see himself doing some time.

Guess the apple really doesn’t fall far from the tree, he mused.

After a while, his dad was called by his mum for some menial labour which made the man sigh while Sirius made low whipping sounds. What Harry found strange though was the insistent pressure he felt at the back of his skull, turning around he found that it was Sirius looking at him.

“Is there a problem?” he asked a bit perplexed.

The man didn’t relent on his staring and simply said, “Come sit in front of me, Harry.”

Now thoroughly confused, but also intrigued, Harry made his way to the table and sat opposite of him.

A few seconds of awkward silence ensued before the boy spoke up “What’s wrong?”

Sirius, now seemingly having found the words he wanted to say replied, “It’s been a while since we talked hasn’t it?”

“If you don’t count the letter where you thought I was a Slytherin for a joke, I think it would be 2 years.”

The man flinched at that statement, seemingly not proud of that fact.

“That sounds about right. Some godfather I’m supposed to be right? James ought to kick my ass for not taking my role more seriously.” He let out a nervous laugh following that.

Harry’s eyes darkened “My father has no say on how you can or cannot act with me, especially since he failed as a parent himself.”

However, he never meant it. That stupid spell caused all of this and he’s trying so hard now.

Harry waved that thought away.

This didn’t seem to help with Sirius’ mood, “That doesn’t excuse how I acted. Especially since I know how it feels to be ostracised by your own family.”

Harry was surprised at that. He never looked deep into his godfather’s history. The only thing he talked about relating to his past was all the things that he and his friends did at Hogwarts.

The grey-eyed man didn’t seem to notice his surprise and continued on “The Blacks of old were hell-bent on blood purity. Our own motto “Toujours Pur” reflects that but I never adhered to it. I always thought that judging someone on their blood seemed silly even as a child. Of course, as Heir of the House of Black, my parents or more specifically my mother couldn’t accept that. I was… punished. Multiple times a day so that I would fall into their doctrine. But the only thing that happened was me resenting them further for causing me this much pain. Thankfully I had someone before Hogwarts, my brother.” At this Sirius looked down to seemingly hide his tears to no avail.

“He believed in the purity nonsense, but he was there for me. Healing my wounds and taking care of me while saying ‘Brothers linked by blood take care of each other’. I would have died without him.” He had a faraway look now.

Harry gulped “Where is he now?”

Sirius focused his eyes back onto him, “He died fighting for Voldemort. We lost our relationship at Hogwarts when I was sorted into Gryffindor. I think that was the moment he realised that his big brother would never think like him. I thought that would be the end of me, I had no one left and no one to return to. However, that’s where your dad came in, he took me in and accepted me even though I was supposed to be the enemy, I thank my lucky stars every day for finding him. He showed me that friendship transcends rivalries, history and even blood.” Sirius shook his head.

“Those were my best years Harry. I was so happy.”

The boy looked at him, “Why are you telling me all this?”

“Because I feel that you’re in the same situation as me. You were neglected and pushed about by your own family members and this… Hermione was it? She’s your James. The one who’s currently saving you from the path of self-destruction you were inevitably going down on and who’s going to make everything better.”

Sirius was now staring at Harry with such pressure that he started to fidget on his seat.

“Don’t lose her Harry. You have a beautiful friendship that goes far beyond words and I can’t even imagine how you would feel losing her. I have a hard enough time thinking about losing James or Remus.”

Harry teared up a little “I won’t Sirius, I promise. She’s the best thing that happened to me.”

He nodded at that statement “Good. That’s all I can ask. Although… Is it too much to ask that I become your godfather again? My lack of actions were unforgivable but I still want to make this work.”

Harry smiled “Of course, I would love to”

His godfather opened his arms “How about we seal it with a hug?” he said with a cheeky grin.

“I might be a little too old for that now!” he laughed embarrassed.

“Nonsense! Come here you git!” and he lunged at him, furiously rubbing his head with his knuckles.

“AH! UNCLE UNCLE!” cried Harry as he tried to getaway.

“Is everything okay here?” questioned a female voice from the other side of the room.

“Ah, Lily! Everything is fine! Isn’t that right Harry?” replied Sirius while throwing his godson a smile.

The green-eyed looked at Sirius before turning towards his mum.

“Everything is great mum!”

Chapter Text

Chapter 12

The Yule Holidays Part 4

Three days! No replies… This isn’t like Hermione… Something is wrong… I knew it I shouldn’t have let her leave, what was I thinking… she wasn’t in any state to make proper decisions.

It had been three days since Hermione had left, three days since Hermione had made any contact with him. He had sent Ivo to send letters to her, but the owl had returned empty-handed every time which got him seriously worried.

He decided to take up his concern with his parents.

“Mum?”

“Harry, what’s the matter?” asked Lily after spotting his troubled expression.

“Hermione hasn’t replied since she got to her grandparents and that’s definitely not like her. Could we go check on her?”

“Of course, let me just grab your father.”

He nodded, and soon after the three had arrived in front of Hermione’s grandparents’ house.

Lily knocked on the door and Hermione’s grandma opened the door, looking surprised and slightly pale.

Oh no… thought Harry.

“Mrs Potter what can I do for you?”

“My son is concerned about Hermione, you see he’s been sending letters to her, and she hasn’t replied.”

The elderly woman hesitated slightly before replying, “Hermione’s been sick over the last few days you see. Probably due to the grief over what happened…”

“I need to see Hermione,” growled Harry.

“I don’t think I like your tone boy.”

Harry felt a hand on his shoulder, his dad’s, who said, “What Harry means is he’d like to see Hermione and he won’t leave until he has.”

At that moment Hermione’s grandfather appeared in the doorway and said, “Why is it his concern? He’s not family.”

“She’s my best friend.”

“Well I’m telling you, she doesn’t want to see anyone.”

Harry snorted, “I find that hard to believe.”

This seemed to make the two grandparents slightly nervous, to which James and Lily noticed.

“I’m James Potter, and I’m an Auror, basically a wizard police officer. So, tell me now. Are you hiding anything?”

At the mention of ‘wizard’ the two elders’ expression turned dark, “You’re all wizards and witches… You’re demons!”

Wha-if they think this. Merlin, Hermione!

“Where’s Hermione!”

“I already told you! Now leave before I call the police.”

Lily seemed to figure out what was going on and stepped towards the two grandparents and pulled out her wand.

"Now you two will tell my son where she is. It's obvious you have no respect for us, so I'm extremely concerned about her well-being. I've only known her for a short time, but she proved herself to be an amazing person, one who never left my son's side. So, neither am I leaving here until you let us talk to her!" said Lily, getting louder as she went on.

She then stalked into the house, with Harry in tow while James moved the grandparents into the house at wand-point, warning any aggressive movements and they’d be stunned.

They searched frantically for a few moments before Harry heard a faint, but strikingly familiar sob coming from a cupboard?

“Mum!” called Harry.

His mother quickly made his way over to him where he was standing in front of a locked cupboard door. His mother quickly cast an ‘Alohomora’ spell on the door, and what was inside appalled Harry and made him angrier than he ever had been in his life.

There, lying in the middle, weak and exhausted was Hermione. She looked at the disturbance ever so slowly and Harry saw her eyes. If it was even possible they had even less colour than the day they met.

“H-arry,” croaked out Hermione.

“Hermione,” said Harry and practically ran up to Hermione and brought her into a gentle hug.

Immediately he noticed that Hermione seemed slightly leaner than before, and she wasn’t holding on to him with her signature death grip.

What did they do to her? wondered Harry.

"I'm sorry," he said into her bushy hair. "I shouldn't have let you go… I should've persuaded you to stay."

Hermione just cried into his chest, though they were of sadness, they were also of joy.

“Th-they locked me in the cupboard as soon as they thought you were gone…”

Harry slowly separated from the hug but kept his arm comfortably around her. He turned to look at his mother who had listened in on the conversation, and whose face was now red with anger.

She stormed away furiously, heading towards the entrance hall, with Harry and Hermione lagging behind.

Lily stomped her way to the two grandparents, James who saw her coming moved back so Lily could talk to them, face to face.

“How could you! Lock your own granddaughter in a cupboard! You’re MONSTERS!” screeched Lily.

The two elderly faces turned pale, knowing that they had found Hermione.

“We needed to drive the demons out of her!” one of them yelled. “Magic is not natural it’s an abomination!”

“Magic… Is a gift! It’s not some horrible thing given by the devil! You both disgust me, calling yourselves parents when you care more about her ‘gift’ than your own granddaughter who just lost both of her parents.”

“We just wanted our granddaughter back!”

Harry had to restrain himself at that, to not throw spells wildly at the two elderly parents.

Lily pointed her finger at Hermione, who was still attached to Harry. “You see, that young lady right there is your granddaughter. She’s the same person. Having magic doesn’t directly change who you are or what you do.”

“You’re all freaks - demons!”

Lily sighed and said, “I’m going to give you two choices. Either I call some of my contacts in the Muggle child services who will probably arrest you, as we’ve got witnesses and Hermione herself who could testify. Or…” She shot a glance at James who seemed to understand what she was thinking and nodded in response. “You’ll transfer guardianship of Hermione over to me and James.”

The two grandparents gasped at that.

Lily turned to look at Hermione and Harry and asked in a soft voice, “So long as that’s alright?”

Hermione gave a small nod.

“Don’t worry we won’t finalise it for a while, so you’ll be able to change your mind at a later date.”

Tears of joy fell from the brunette’s eyes, “Thank you.”

Lily smiled then turned her attention back to the two grandparents, "So what'll it be? Either way, you'll lose guardianship over Hermione it just depends how you want to do this."

“We-we’ll transfer her guardianship. Just please don’t kill us.”

Kill? Now that’s an interesting thought, but they shouldn’t worry, Mum would never do that. Not that I’ll tell them that, leaving Hermione all locked up in a cupboard, and that’s just from what I’ve observed.

“You’re okay with this arrangement?” asked Harry in a hushed tone.

Hermione smiled for a very brief moment and replied, “Yes. It’d be nice to spend the rest of the winter with you, and your Mum seems nice enough. I-I just thought that the Muggles,”

Harry mentally gasped at that. The way Hermione said ‘Muggles’ was unusually bitter. But then again after what happened to her, first with her parents than the last few days… I don't blame her at all considering what I saw for the past few days.

Hermione, oblivious to Harry’s thoughts continued, “Would see past my ‘abnormal’ abilities and treat me just like they had for the last twelve years.”

Harry brought her into another hug and said, “I know you did, I’m sorry it didn’t work out that way.”

“Mum? If we’re done could we go home? Hermione’s not all that comfortable here.”

Lily turned to her son and said, “Of course honey. Let me just get Hermione’s belongings.” She turned her gaze to Hermione and asked softly, “Where’s your trunk and wand?”

“I-in the locked basement. Th-they put it there and threw my wand into it as well…”

Lily glared at the grandparents before making her way out of the entrance hall.

The duo walked past the two elders, with Harry glaring at them with a look that would kill if it was possible and made their way past James, and outside the door.

Gazing at his dad, Harry saw that James was angrier than he had ever seen before, it seemed as though any of his weariness towards Hermione was overshadowed by the parental neglect of the two grandparents.

If it wasn’t for that bloody spell, they might’ve been great parents to me, and perhaps I would’ve had a happy childhood…

But those thoughts were banished, now was about Hermione, not him.

Lily came back with Hermione’s trunk, before leaving the house with James she made one final comment to Hermione’s grandparents.

She snarled, "You two are some of the worst human beings I have ever met… and I have met some truly horrible ones. But to do this to your own blood and family is utterly despicable. I'll be back over the next week to finalise the guardianship transfer."

They simply nodded in shock.

The Potters and Hermione then travelled back to the Manor, via apparition.

-o-o-o-o-o-

For the next week, Harry spent the majority of his time with Hermione. She was still reeling over recent events but so far had not opened up about the incident at her grandparents.

It was eventually finalised that the Potter's would become Hermione's legal guardians, and since no one objected to it, it was easily formalised. A formal adoption was discussed but it was decided otherwise, for one Hermione still wanted to keep her surname and another reason Harry didn't really want Hermione to be his ‘sister' especially with how close they were already. Otherwise in later years if things between them evolved it would be quite wrong indeed. After hearing Hermione's opinion, the Potter's agreed without protest, they always wanted a daughter and whether or not Hermione was their child or not, she would be under their care, so it didn't matter.

Lily and James had tried to get to know Hermione a lot more, but she was pretty distant, with her daily attention being on other things. Harry had explained this to his parents, and they had understood, but Lily insisted on feeding Hermione as much food as she’d eat. And after Hermione finally told him exactly what happened he understood why.

“Harry?” asked Hermione softly.

All attention suddenly went from his book straight to Hermione, they hadn’t talked much over the last week so her asking his name in question certainly caught his attention.

"Yes, Hermione?"

“I think I want to talk about what happened.”

“Are you sure? If you don’t want to, I won’t force you.”

Hermione looked slightly conflicted, but her expression turned absolute, “I’d like to.”

“Okay go ahead. If anything is too painful to say, please don’t push yourself.”

She flashed a grateful smile and began, “While we were at Hogwarts my parents and grandparents had a falling out over me being a witch…”

Harry shot her a concerned look, he wanted to comment but let Hermione continue.

“I thought that after everything that happened and with them also losing my parents, they would overlook my abilities… and when we arrived, they seemed completely happy to take me in, no ill intentions seemed to be present.”

She turned her direct gaze to Harry and said, "I should've stayed with you. I know you didn't want to leave me and I'm sorry about that…"

“Don’t be sorry it’s not your fault…”

Hermione looked down before saying, “Once you and Lily were gone they instantly confiscated my trunk and wand, throwing them in the locked basement before they forced me into the cupboard and locked me in.”

"Over the next few days, they didn't give me anything to eat, only a cup of water every day. They kept calling me a ‘freak' and a ‘demon' and said it ‘was for my own good…' Oh, Harry! How could they treat me like that, I'm their bloody granddaughter."

Harry could feel the anger rising in him, if he had the ability to apparate right now, he probably would’ve and cursed her grandparents into oblivion.

Hermione then started to lightly sob, to which Harry held her hand and said, "You're none of those things. You're a witch, the brightest of our age, and also beautiful. You're not a freak or demon if anything they are. I don’t know how they could do that, but I can say I’ll always be here for you now. I let you get away once it won’t ever happen again, Okay?”

Through her sobs, Hermione said, "Okay."

She finally calmed down and gracefully smiled at Harry before continuing her story, "Over those days I heard my grandparents talking about a black owl delivering letters, but they never gave them to me. I was starving so much Harry, I hadn't eaten in days, I'm so glad you and your parents came when you did. Otherwise, I think I may have died, whether that be from weakness or the will to live… I thought nobody loved me, not even my own family."

Harry brought her into a comforting hug and softly said, “Hey, you do have a family now. You have me, Lily and James, we won’t let you ever go back to them.”

She snorted and said, “Also Andrew.”

Harry let a chuckle out at that, "Yes, unfortunately, him as well, but don't worry if I can ignore him, it shouldn't be that hard for you."

“So, will I need to call you brother?”

“Oh, gods no, don’t do that, just don’t.”

Hermione started giggling at that. Well at least her mood has improved, even if it’s at my expense.

-o-o-o-o-o-

After their talk, Hermione’s mood improved immensely. She started to open up to Lily and James a bit, and they got to know each other better.

Hermione also told Harry that he could tell his parents what happened to her, but she didn’t really want to be there, as she had no intention of reliving it again.

So, Harry did, to which Lily and James were seriously appalled, in fact, Lily even made an anonymous tip-off on Hermione's grandparents hoping the horrible people would be put in prison.

Everyone but Harry now seemed to act a lot more careful around her, since she had gone through so much already, which resulted in Hermione getting slightly annoyed.

Harry noticed this and decided that if there was anything that could take Hermione’s mind off of something it was books. And what better than the infamous Potter library, which also contained some Black books gifted by his godfather.

“Hey Hermione, I think it’s time I introduced you to the Potter library.”

She snorted at that. “About time, I’ve been waiting forever – I was this close to raiding it myself.”

“Yes, well you needed time to heal.”

“And I truly thank you for that… but now the library.”

Harry rolled his eyes, “Come on then, let’s go.”

The bushy-haired brunette practically jumped out from where she was sitting and forced Harry out the door, hoping to make their trip faster.

As soon as they entered the library Hermione’s jaw dropped wide open completely in awe of the massive room full of books.

“Hermione?”

She made no response.

"Hermione!" cried, Harry.

This caused Hermione to flinch slightly, “Prat. I was just observing your family’s library.”

He chuckled and said, “Well since you’re living here now, you’re free to use it at any time.”

She smirked at him, “Big mistake Potter.”

Harry fake a hurt expression, before smirking back at her, “Well there’s no way you’ll be able to read everything in here.”

“Is that a bet?”

“Perhaps.”

“Okay well that is impossible, I’m not that naïve… but I’ll still read most of it.”

“Of course.”

And with that Hermione ran off to find some books.

Harry shook his head in amusement before selecting a book on Magical Creatures and sitting down on the couch.

Hermione returned ten minutes later trying to balance four books, Harry oblivious to this jumped out of his seat in fright when Hermione dropped them all onto the coffee table with a loud thump.

After recovering Harry said with an eyebrow raised, “Some light reading I take it?”

“Aww, you know me so well.”

He rolled his eyes at that.

As Hermione sat down next to him and selected one of her four books, Harry eyed the titles of the ones visible.

Strangely enough, they were all on wizarding etiquette and what one should wear. This struck Harry as odd, but he thought back through the last week and noticed something significant. Harry realised that he had only seen Hermione in plain robes all day. On Christmas and the day, they rescued her, she had been wearing Muggle clothes, but now, here at the Manor, she wore none of the sort. And it wasn't like the Potters were against this casual clothing. In fact, his mum wore it nearly all the time, only changing when going somewhere where robes were needed, mainly formal occasions. 

Furthermore, Hermione had seemed slightly annoyed whenever Lily asked her about something related to the Muggle world, whether that be as simple as an electronic appliance or a Muggle reference.

Maybe she now hates everything Muggle related. Or is it because thinking about the Muggle world is too traumatic for her? Either way, I can’t blame her. I would like to be as far away from the memories as possible.

Harry too didn’t want to do anything with the Muggle world if this was how they treated one of their own. Their world had caused his best friend so much pain and anguish, and why? Because of money…

The two sat mostly in silence for the next couple of hours when Hermione suddenly snapped her book shut.

Harry looked at her with a questioning glance and Hermione asked, “Harry, am I allowed to do magic here?”

“Umm – You should be able to, I am at least. Since we’re in a magical area the trace shouldn’t apply and we’re free to use magic… why?”

Hermione had a smug look on her face, "Oh no reason really, I just wanted to practise some of my spells. And what better way than wiping your arse on the floor with my superior skills."

Harry rose a brow at that, "Oh you'll be wiping me onto the floor, will you? We'll see about that. Come on let's go to my Dad's gym, it's a perfect area for duelling."

“You’re done for Potter.”

"Whatever you say, Granger."

The duo arrived at the gym and made their way inside. Upon entering Harry found the room to be set up with training dummies scattered everywhere.

“What do you say we practise out knockback jinxes to make some room?” said Harry.

"Why don't we make it a competition? The one who hits the most back wins."

“You’re on.”

For the next minute shouts of ‘Flipendo’ were heard, with the duo frantically throwing the knockback jinx at all the targets to make room.

By the end of it, Harry had moved six, while Hermione had only moved four.

“Woah… The Harry Potter – has beaten the brightest witch of our age, Merlin forbid” said Harry teasingly.

“Oh, shut up. Just because you’re faster than at throwing ‘Flipendos’ doesn’t mean you’ll beat me in a duel.”

Harry had a smug grin on his face and replied, “Mhmm.”

The two then stood opposite each other and bowed respectively.

“On three.”

“One.”

“Two.”

“Three!” shouted the duo in unison.

Harry began by shooting a ‘Flipendo’ at Hermione who easily dodged it and said, “Oh, Harry. You can do better than that.”

He smirked and fired, “Verdimillious.”

Hermione pre-emptively close her eyes so she wouldn't be blinded and fired a knockback jinx. However, it missed its mark by a wide margin.

His next move thoroughly confused her. He threw red sparks not at her, but towards the glowing orb. Reacting on instinct, she jumped out of the way, however, that wasn't enough as the resulting blast caught her, and she landed on her arse.

Harry walked up to her with a smug grin on his face and said, “You were saying?”

Hermione hit his hand away and glared at him, “Again.”

“Alright.”

They once again opposite each other, but this time Harry shouted, “Relinquere,” at a training dummy behind Hermione.

Hermione must've understood the Latin phrase because she promptly moved out of the way.

Harry did not expect her to catch on so soon, he looked back at Hermione who said, “Flipendo,” twice in quick succession.

Harry panicked and jumped to the left, dodging both the spells and throwing a concentrated Fumos in the hopes of stopping her. This did nothing to help as the spell spun off widely due to his bad positioning. She then yelled, “FLIPENDO!” at full volume.

Harry ducked quickly to dodge the potentially lethal spell and cried out, “Hermione! That spell could have killed me! What are you doing?!”

“Shut up Harry! Aren’t we battling? FIGHT ME!” she shouted while sending multiple knockback jinxes.

He shot a Fumos in front of him to provide cover while giving himself some breathing room to focus. Both of them were blind now. Knowing Hermione, she would take the cautious approach and wait for him to make a move before retaliating. So, sending a Verdimillious charm would be the best ide-

He never managed to finish his thoughts as a running Hermione leapt out of the smoke and threw the strongest Flipendo she could manage.
Harry, still shocked by this turn of events wasn’t prepared to dodge and was sent flying across the room where he hit the wall, forcing out all of the air inside of him. He was pretty sure he cracked his skull too.

Merlin, that was a powerful jinx, thought Harry.

Hermione came running up to him with a worried expression, “Oh my god Harry. Are you okay? I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean to throw one so powerful, I’ve just been so angry lately.”

He shook his head before looking at her seriously and asking “Hermione, do you hate Muggles?”

That question shocked her, and she replied, "W-What do you mean?"

“Just the way you dress now and how you act. It looks like you want to distance yourself as much as you can from the world of your parents. I don’t want us to have secrets between each other.”

She fidgeted and looked downcast before answering “No, I don’t think I don’t. I could never hate what my parents were but… I’m just tired of it. The pain is just too much and I don’t want to deal with it anymore. It’s time I focused on what I know and have now, and what I do know is that I’m a witch and that I have magic. If that helps me move on, then I’ll gladly take it.”

He nodded “Alright.”

She looked at him quizzically, “Alright? So, you’re not going to try and convince me to embrace my Muggle heritage and let bygones be bygones?”

“Nope, I trust you Hermione and if it helps make you feel better then I’ll support you every step of the way. Best friends remember?”

She smiled “Best friends.”

“So, now that’s that done over with I need to tell you something!”

Hermione looked at him weirdly, “What do you mean?”

“Did I tell you about what my parents got me for Christmas?”

"Yes, you got a Cleansweep Seven – which I will remind you, Potter. I will NOT be riding.”

He chuckled and said, “Well they also gave me another present… well more like told me about it.”

“What’s is it then?” asked Hermione, intrigued.

“The Marauders Map,” replied Harry dramatically.

“Which is?”

“It’s a map which shows the location of every secret passage-way and every single person in Hogwarts, including the staff. My father and his friends created it while they were at school.”

“Sounds awesome so where is it?”

Harry’s expression turned sour, “Dad said it was last seen in Filch’s office. So, I suppose we’ll have to grab it off him.”

Hermione frowned, “Yes we will.” But then she smirked, “Though once we get it, school is certainly going to be interesting.”

“Indeed.”

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 13

The Return to Hogwarts

The duo had spent their last few days at the Manor duelling each other. They had both gotten quite proficient at duelling, with Harry usually getting the upper hand. His faster reactions and on the go thinking is what enabled him to win more often than not, but Hermione wasn’t always predictable. Sometimes she would spontaneously go on a super aggressive attack which would lead to Harry being defeated.

But this still didn’t stop him from telling her that he was finally better than her at something. Hermione, however, took it in stride, so what if she wasn’t better at duelling, she was more proficient at a multitude of other tasks.

They also spent a lot of time studying, with Harry being the most studious surprisingly. He was sick and tired of being second-best to his brother and one way to one-up him would be to get better marks at school. He obviously knew he had no chance at topping Hermione's performance, but with her, as an eager tutor, he knew he could probably pull off ‘Oustandings’ in all his classes.

These two tasks also proved to be an effective distraction from Hermione’s recent trauma. She had mostly overcome her guilt and anxiety, but she still teared up whenever she remembered either of the events.

Unfortunately, it seemed the anonymous tip-off Lily had sent to the Muggle authorities had not resulted in Hermione’s grandparents being arrested. That’s a problem which I vow to rectify in the future. No one has the right to do that to m- Hermione.

Harry’s relationship with his family over the holidays was still strained, but his ties to them had strengthened. He now had a Mum and Dad who noticed, cared and loved him, although their favouritism towards Andrew was still there. His godfather had also gone out of his way to start a proper relationship with him, having barely spoken to him for the last two years.

Still, even now he couldn't stop imaging what his life would’ve been like if it wasn’t for the obscure spell. However, he was partly glad that people had ignored him for his whole life. If it wasn’t for the spell, he probably never would’ve met Hermione on the train and started the best relationship of his entire life.

In the few short months they had known each other they had struck a friendship like no other. Harry had observed Andrew’s interactions with Ron and Neville, and he knew his friendship with Hermione far exceeded the closeness of theirs.

And looking back he wouldn’t change anything.

For life without Hermione sounded absolutely miserable.

-o-o-o-o-o-

The two Potter twins and Hermione had just arrived at Platform 9 and ¾ and it didn’t take long for the whispers to spring forth about ‘The Incident’ when everybody saw them.

“Heard that Granger killed Muggles in self-defence,”

“Really? I heard that she killed them for fun.”

“Wouldn’t surprise me, animals killing other animals. It’s nothing new.”

These comments enraged Harry and he was making a mental tally on all the people who were badmouthing Hermione to this degree. Looks like my Marauder’s side will be rearing its head in the near future.

Hermione, on the other hand, was meek and wasn’t able to raise her head to defy the ones who were defaming her. The guilt and horror were taking control once again.

He immediately went and squeezed her hand which took her by surprise. He flashed her his most comforting smile which seemed to work for now. Head now held high, they turned towards Lily and James were saying their goodbyes to the Potter parents.

“Bye kids. We’ll see you three in the summer,” said Lily shooting infuriated glances to the people watching them.

“Bye Mum,” said Harry and Andrew, though at different times.

“Bye Lily, thank you once again,” said Hermione earnestly.

“No problem Hermione, having you stay with us was a pleasure. I look forward to seeing you again in summer,” replied Lily as she smiled at the brunette.

“Bye kids,” said James giving them an earnest smile.

They said their goodbyes to James before promptly leaving to board the express. As soon as they had separated away from the Potter parents, Harry and Hermione instantly disappeared in the opposite direction of Andrew, who instead went to find his two best friends. Being alone would make it easier to stop hearing all the negativity.

The duo quickly took occupation of ‘their’ compartment, as they had sat there the last two times as well. Hermione quickly cast a locking spell on the door before essentially snuggling up to Harry who was already sitting.

Over the holidays the two had become a lot more comfortable in each other’s close presence. They often sat next beside one another with little room in between, and more often than not were sharing a book to read together.

Harry knew their relationship was a little unorthodox for a ‘platonic friendship’ but he didn’t care. They were happier with this new development and it seemed unlikely they would revert back.

They started reading a book on duelling techniques, Hermione was focused intently on it making sure to absorb it all. She would then wait 20 or so seconds for Harry to finish the page, as he could not keep up with her reading speed.

They stayed like that for a couple hours before a knock was heard on the door.

Bloody hell, who would want to talk to us?

Harry separated from Hermione, mouthing an apology before moving towards the compartment door. He opened it slightly to find a familiar Slytherin first-year, Draco Malfoy.

Harry mentally sighed before asking, “What do you two want?”

“I just wanted you to clarify some rumours I heard from the Gryffindors,” replied Malfoy.

Scowling, Harry fully opened the door as Hermione came to stand next to him.

“As you might guess Malfoy, talking about this subject to us isn’t going to make us happy so can you please leave us?” it wasn’t a request even if it was framed as such and Draco knew it. But the insufferable ponce continued.

“Well you see the ‘golden boy’,”

Of course, it’s Andrew, thought Harry mentally shaking his head.

“Has been telling people that Granger killed three Muggles – I must say I’m impressed didn’t think the Mudblood could do such a thing.”

Harry glared even more ferociously at Draco who flinched at his piercing green gaze.

“Do not call her that,” growled Harry, and he felt Hermione grip his hand tightly.

Malfoy rose an eyebrow, “And I thought you’d figure out now Harry, how we speak here in Slytherin.”

“I also thought you were supposed to keep your word which you made on September 1st…” said Hermione.

Draco ignored Hermione’s comment and said, “Anyway… It was simply a compliment, I mean killing three of those animals, amazing.”

“Just piss off Malfoy, before I hex you to oblivion. You know, I thought things had improved between us serpents at the start of Yule, but I suppose not,” said Harry

"You see that's where you're mistaken, Potter. This is an improvement, and I’m also sorry about your parents Granger.”

“You’re sorry?” asked Hermione sarcastically not believing a word out of his mouth.

“They may have been Muggles, but they were still your parents, hence why you killing those Muggles deserves such praise – when the dark lord returns, maybe you’ll have a place… maybe. Though I wouldn’t count on it.”

“Are you done?” asked Harry coldly.

“So, the rumours are true then?”

Neither Harry nor Hermione answered him.

“Well I guess they are then – See you around Harry and Granger.”

So, he deems me ‘worthy’ to call me by my first name now, and didn’t sneer at Hermione for once, interesting.

“You okay?” asked Harry turning his attention to his favourite brunette and sitting back down, with Hermione sitting down next to him.

She gave a small smile and replied, “Yes, I’m fine… That was just unusual.”

“Indeed – Ergh, I’m going to hex that git when I get the chance.”

She looked at him questioningly, “The blond ponce?”

“No, my brother, he broke his word remember?”

“It’s not a big deal Harry, I never fully trusted him to begin with.”

"Well, it matters to me. Plus, I intend to punish everyone who badmouthed you today. Those things they said about you…” he shook his head, still infuriated.

“All of them are fools Harry and we both know it.”

“That still doesn’t mean they have a right to what they said!” he was getting passionate now.

Hermione's face was impassive before she let out a smirk, "All right, well if my opinion doesn’t matter- ”

“That’s not what I meant,” interrupted Harry suddenly panicked.

“I’ll join you, but it’ll be a good idea to get that map first don’t you agree?”

“Agreed. We’ll sneak into Filch’s office at night after we gather some information.”

“Good idea”

-o-o-o-o-o-

Four nights later the duo left the common room just before curfew and headed towards Filch’s office. They knew that Filch would leave his office to find students who were out after curfew, so they had devised a plan.

They waited for curfew to begin and positioned themselves to the right corridor of Filch’s office. They knew from the last three nights that Filch always headed towards the left corridor first when leaving his office. So, all they had to do was walk right in as soon Filch had left out of view in the opposite direction.

As expected, the Caretaker did exactly that, and with a quick ‘Alohomora’ from Hermione, the two were within Filch’s office.

Looking around Harry saw what could be described as a complete and utter mess. Books, sweets, parchments and objects were scattered around the office. It looked as though Filch had confiscated much more things than Harry ever imagined. Finding the Marauder’s map would be a hard task indeed.

“Harry, I’ll look in the drawers, while you look over at that pile,” said Hermione while pointing to the referenced pile of junk.

Harry nodded and got to work, looking through the pile he didn’t find anything worthy of note, he knew that the Marauder Map would be disguised a simple piece of parchment, but instead, he found some book titled very ‘interestingly’ which some horny boys might’ve appreciated. However, he quickly dismissed them and tried the other side of the room.

As he was walking to the other side, Hermione let out a gasp.

Harry instantly turned his attention to the door, thinking Hermione had heard Filch, but instead she let out a small chuckle.

“What’s so funny?” asked Harry.

She turned her gaze away from the letter she was holding and said, “Oh it’s just that Filch is a squib.”

Harry looked at her weirdly before he said, “No wonder he’s so grumpy.”

She nodded in agreement, “Must be miserable to be magical, but have no magical abilities.”

For the next 40 minutes, the duo searched frantically for the Marauder map but couldn’t manage to find it.

“Harry, are you sure your father wasn’t playing a prank on you?”

“I’m sure, he seemed so honest at the time, and Mum was there as well. There’s no way they weren’t telling the truth… Perhaps someone else found it.”

Hermione rolled her eyes, “It better not be a Gryffindor who did. Imagine the trouble they’d get up t-“

“Bloody brats! Kissing in broom closets at this time. I’ll need to have a word with McGonagall,” said a loud voice from outside the office.

Harry and Hermione looked at each other, both pale and terrified of what would happen if Filch found them messing around in his office.

“Hmm? What do you mean Mrs Norris… someone is in my office, are they? Well, they’ll be getting a detention if I have anything to say about it. YOU HEAR ME? YOU’RE STUCK IN THERE, THERE’S ONLY ONE WAY OUT!”

Harry mouthed to Hermione, “trust me,” and the witch nodded in response.

As the door snapped open Harry cast a ‘Verdimillious’ charm towards it, blinding Filch before he saw them, and quickly followed up with a ‘Fumos’ spell in the doorway. He then grabbed Hermione’s hand and the two ran through the smokescreen and out into the corridor.

They then took a right turn, with both Harry and Hermione casting ‘Fumos’ spells behind them.

When they reached a fork in the road the duo paused momentarily only for Hermione to cast another smokescreen off to the right. Harry began to move in that direction before Hermione said, “No. I sent a distraction, let’s go the other way and hide in a classroom.”

Harry understood and steered in the opposite direction. By casting a smokescreen off in the other direction, hopefully, Filch would think to follow that direction instead of searching the way they went.

The duo quickly made their way into the nearest classroom, which was locked, but a quick ‘Alohomora’ solved that problem. They quickly entered and shut the door behind them allowing them to finally breathe a sigh of relief.

Harry turned his head towards her and said, “That was way too close for comfort.”

She only nodded in response, sweat sliding down her brow.

Turning his attention to the middle of the room Harry saw a giant mirror sitting there looking prestigious.

He looked towards Hermione who simply had a confused expression on her face.

His curiosity getting the better of him, Harry walked towards the mirror with Hermione following closely behind.

He looked into the mirror and gasped at what he saw.

There, looking back at him was himself and Hermione, but when he took to glance at the girl to his right, he realised they were not the same.

This Hermione was older, standing in prestigious robes with a straight pose looking deadly powerful. Not only that, she was only what Harry could call absolutely and utterly beautiful. It was a subjective matter; she was no supermodel but to Harry she was.

She still had her signature bushy brown hair and beautiful brown eyes, but her eyes seemed as though they were on fire with determination. Her slender fingers on her right hand were gripping her wand and twirling it around. And then this Hermione smirked at him, a look that made his insides turn to mush.

Looking to her left arm, you could see it was draped around the other figure in the mirror, himself.

Neither was it just Hermione who looked different in the mirror, so did he. He was older, in a similar stance and wearing matching robes to Hermione and while he may be biased, he thought he looked quite handsome. His hair seemed to be slightly more tamed and he no longer hid one of his eyes.

Speaking of his eyes, his glasses were gone allowing his green emerald eyes to become more pronounced than ever. He couldn’t tell all that well, but he knew he was much more muscular and evidently powerful.

This Harry stared into his eyes and smirked, which actually caused Harry to flinch.

The duo in the mirror then grinned at him, one of their arms draped around each other. Standing there together as equals, partners and royalty.

What in Merlin’s name does this mirror do? Is this the future – that’s Hermione, and that’s me but we’re so different, aren’t we?

He slowly turned his head to his right trying to get his bearings together, to where the real Hermione resided, mouth gaping openly at the mirror.

“Hermione?” said Harry softly.

She too slowly took her gaze off the mirror and looked at him. Her face slightly pale and her lips trembling.

“Hermione, are you okay?”

“Umm – maybe – maybe not… Harry do you know what this mirror does?”

“No, do you?”

“Yes. Look at the words,”

And so, he did, they read Erised stra ehru oyt ube carfru oyt on wohsi.

“I don’t understand.”

Hermione took in a breath before saying, “It’s meant to be read backwards as ishow no tyo urfac ebu tyo urhe arts desire, and if you rearrange the spacing it reads as I show not your face but your heart’s desire.”

The implications of this just processed through to Harry, “So this mirror shows what I want the most?”

“I-I think so…” replied Hermione.

Harry just stood there petrified, So, what I want the most is Hermione and me together, side by side older and happy? But that can't be right, can it? I suppose it makes some sense but why?

“Umm – So what do you see?” asked Hermione nervously.

“Uhh – What? It’s kind of… unusual,” replied Harry as equally nervous.

Hermione frowned, “I thought you asked that there would be no secrets between us… or was that simply to have me divulge information to you?”

“No, you know that’s not why.”

“Then, you’ll have no problem telling me, besides,” Hermione then seemed to have a mental debate with herself before continuing, “I’ll tell you what I saw afterwards.”

Harry looked at her nervously, “We won’t judge each other?”

“We won’t. I promise.”

“Well in the mirror I saw us… well us but we were older. Much older, as in we were adults. You were as beautiful as ever, and you stood there with me by my side and we looked powerful… I don’t know how else to explain it, it’s kind of hard to describe you see?”

Hermione seemed to let out a sigh of relief.

“So, you don’t think I’m unusual for seeing that then?”

"Well, I'd be a hypocrite if I said that.”

Harry looked at her quizzically.

“Well you see, I think I see the same thing. I see my parents,” and teared up slightly at the revelation of her parents being in the mirror. “I also see me and you together, side by side, only…” She paused not really wanting to continue.

“Only?” asked Harry, while he brought her hand into his, hoping to comfort her. I should’ve known she’d see her parent… but that begs the question why didn’t I see mine? Do I not care about anyone’s opinion but Hermione’s?

“There was also a little girl.” She smiled at the image of it. “A small girl, no older than five with bushy-raven hair, and green eyes… but they were clearly your eyes.” She then flushed in embarrassment.

“Hey Hermione, it’s okay. We said we wouldn’t judge, so we won’t.”

She gave a small smile in response.

“Anyway, c’mon we need to get back to the dungeons. Besides I feel an uncomfortable drag coming from the mirror. I think it’s best to get away from it.”

“I agree.”

And the two quickly made their way out of the room, not noticing the disillusioned wizard that had been listening and watching the whole time.

-o-o-o-o-o-

Dumbledore was surprised when the duo came into the room and even more so as they seemed like they had been running.

He had hoped that Andrew would be sneaking around with his friends under the invisibility cloak and come upon this room. He needed to know what his heart’s desire was and how this could possibly be used to help defeat Tom once and for all. Because he knew for certain that Tom was not dead.

Harry and Hermione, however, while unexpected, were still a reason to watch.

He watched them look into the mirror, and expectedly they froze. He had expected such a reaction, many people did not know what their heart truly desired and evidently left them in a shocked state.

When they discussed what they had seen in the mirror the Headmaster had scratched his beard in thought. Two major revelations came to his mind

The other Potter boy and the Granger girl have a much closer relationship than I had ever imagined. I suppose it makes sense in a way, they were the two outcasts in Slytherin. A half-blood boy from a strong light family, and a Muggleborn girl. The house would be against them, and together they were too big a threat for any of the bullies to target. However, I still thought that maybe Harry would have branched out into the darker friendships residing there. From what I had been told of him before Hogwarts that seemed like a real possibility.

It had still confused the Headmaster how Hermione Granger, a Muggleborn girl had been sorted into Slytherin. He was shocked, to say the least, for he was still reeling over the fact that Harry Potter had been sorted there as well. Furthermore, through his entire time at Hogwarts never once had he recalled a Muggleborn being sorted into Slytherin, it just didn’t happen.

And that wasn’t the only revelation the Headmaster had, as the two keep getting up to trouble.

Albus Dumbledore was not oblivious to the duo’s activities. He knew they had spectated the duel between Andrew and Draco, and now they had clearly gotten up to something else, being outside of their common room past curfew.

But he had no intention of giving them a detention as they would probably be furious at him spying in on them. Additionally, he had no need to make their image of him worse than what they already perceived.

And their activities in abandoned classrooms were not unnoticed. He knew they were practising to duel, to which he only hoped was for self-defence purposes.

But them being in Slytherin certainly doesn’t help mused the Headmaster.

As they left the classroom Dumbledore was left completely alone to his thoughts. He had heard what had happened to Hermione and her parents over the break, and it was indeed disturbing, but that didn’t mean they would be set on the path they seemed to be taking… Would it?

He eventually conceded back to his office, deeming it unlikely for Andrew to see the mirror tonight. The fact remained, he needed Andrew to see his deepest desire and for him to understand how the mirror works, so he could know how to use it when the time was right.

Andrew needed to be ready for the trials and tribulations to come in the following years, or else the entire wizarding world was doomed.

-o-o-o-o-o-

The duo had quickly arrived back at the Slytherin Dungeons, without being caught. They shared a look with each other before heading off to their respective dormitories.

As Hermione walked into her dorms a million thoughts were running through her mind. She quickly got changed and moved under her covers, all the while noticing Tracey’s suspicious gaze.

It seemed as though the other girl was about to ask her something, but she instead shrugged and turned away from Hermione.

The busy-haired brunette thought back to what she saw in the mirror.

She had seen Harry, herself, a young girl, and her parents. Truthfully, she had expected her parents to be there, they had been taken away from her in such a cruel way and her life felt almost entirely empty without them.

Hermione knew without a doubt that the child was supposed to represent their child.

Was her heart’s desire to have Harry, a daughter, to have a family? She could understand why she would see her parents. Her own family had been taken away from her last winter, first with her parents’ deaths and then with her grandparents essentially killing her.

The Potter’s were nice people to be sure, but no one could ever compare to Hermione’s parents, at least to her.

And then he said he saw himself and me as well.

The fact that she was not entirely alone with her desires made Hermione feel a lot better. She didn’t want any secrets between them, but he said he wouldn’t judge, and he didn’t.

God, he’s just such a good friend. I don’t know what I’d do without him.

And then she realised, she really didn’t know what she’d do without Harry. Life without Harry sounded miserable. If it wasn’t for him being there for her, she probably would’ve given up on the willpower to live.

She let out a mental gasp. Have I really become so dependent on Harry that I’d rather die than have a life without him? But even now she wasn’t all that concerned, it was likely without him she would've completely collapsed over the Yule holidays, well, in fact, she would've died.

Without Harry being her friend, her grandparents would’ve starved her to death.

Her grandparents… that rose anger in her she didn’t know existed. She could hardly believe that they could do something so horrific to their grandchild, their own blood. But alas, the did and Hermione wanted to -.

She stopped with her thoughts. Those kinds of thoughts shouldn’t be in her mind at all, she let out an audible sigh before making her mind as blank as could be and letting sleep take her over.

-o-o-o-o-o-

It was the weekend and the duo was studying for classes. Over the last week, Harry's marks had definitely improved and the young witch communicated as much to Harry.

He even scored an ‘O’ in potions class which was certainly surprising since there was still a certain animosity between the student and teacher.

Hermione mused that it had something to do with Harry being Andrew’s brother, but she couldn’t be sure.

Regardless, when Snape had taken a look at his cauldron, it was filled with what could only be a perfect potion. The Professor had looked as though he was about to communicate something to Harry before giving a curt nod and berating the Gryffindors.

Hermione was truly proud of him, and she thought with some more work he could be one of the top students in the year. But not the top, that spot belongs to me thought Hermione a bit smugly.

“Harry, did you ever find out anything about Nicholas Flamel? asked Hermione, suddenly remembering that she had forgotten about it all break.

He looked a bit guilty before replying, "Oh. I may have completely forgotten about Flamel and the stone especially after what happened…”

They had already been studying for an hour or so on Transfiguration and Hermione thought Harry looked as though he was about to die of boredom.

“Well if that’s the case why don’t we do some research on him now.”

“Really? I don’t have to get this done right now?” asked Harry hopeful.

She smirked, “No you’ll just have to do it later instead. But come on, let’s go look for some books on this mysterious Flamel.”

Harry nodded in agreement and the two went to the miscellaneous section and the letter ‘F.’ However, they couldn’t find any marked Flamel. Hagrid had told them, unintentionally that Nicholas Flamel was linked to a ‘stone’ which implied he was a creator of something. So, they grabbed a few books on Potion and Alchemy creators and returned to their table before glancing through them.

They searched the books for a few hours to no avail. But then Hermione came across a page titled the ‘Philosopher Stone.’ Intrigued, Hermione carefully read over the page before communicating it to Harry.

“Harry, I think I’ve found what we are looking for.”

“Do tell, I don’t think I could read anymore.”

She rolled his eyes before saying, “Nicholas Flamel is the only known creator of the Philosopher Stone, a stone which can create the elixir of life.”

“The elixir of life?”

“Yes, a liquid which gives the consumer eternal life, and can also be used to turn materials into gold.”

“So, the ‘stone’ is this Philosopher Stone?”

“I think that’s the most likely outcome. But why would Dumbledore be hiding such a precious item here at Hogwarts? That seems highly unlikely and unsafe.”

“Well, Dumbledore is considered the strongest wizard alive, so having it in his care would definitely lower its chances of being stolen. Maybe it’s hidden behind that third room corridor he warned us all at the start of the year, he must have protections in place.”

“But why warn everyone in the Great Hall like that at all? It would’ve been better to keep it a secret you’d think.”

“I agree with you. The Headmaster must be up to something.”

He smirked at her “Care to find out Miss Granger?”

She responded in kind, “You bet Potter.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 14

The Dragon

“So how should we approach this investigation of our esteemed Headmaster and the Philosopher’s Stone?” asked Harry.

Hermione made an irritated noise and replied, “Do we have to talk about this right now, Harry?”

The raven-haired boy just rose an eyebrow.

“But we’ve nearly finished this book,” replied Hermione while giving him puppy dog eyes.

Harry let out a knowing chuckle and his features softened under her expression. Hermione took that as an affirmative and snuggled up closer to Harry.

Always her and her books. I love books as well, but Hermione’s enthusiasm drives me mad sometimes, but I love it as well, it’s so… Hermione, thought Harry, mentally shaking his head.

The duo was currently sitting right next to each other on one of the common room couches, opposite the blazing warm green fire. It was always a bit chilly in the Slytherin Dungeons at night, even more so with it being a freezing cold winter.

So, they used it as an excuse to sit right up next to each other, but it wasn’t like anyone in Slytherin really cared. But there were still some who sneered and glared at the duo because of their heritage.

They knew that tension was growing within the house, and knew eventually someone would be unable to restrain themselves,

They were currently reading a book on the Founders of Hogwarts. Harry had initially been very interested in what information the book contained, but after they had finished the section on Salazar Slytherin and began on Helga Hufflepuff, Harry zoned out and his thoughts turned back to the other day where they discussed finding out what Dumbledore was up to.

They hadn’t really discussed it much since then, as they were caught up in their studies to which Hermione insisted were more important than some investigation where they could end up with detention, but she had promised to start their investigation soon.

Still, she has a point, studying is most definitely a valid use of our time. Especially if I want to be better, faster, smarter and stronger than my fellow peers.

The duo also had no luck finding the Marauder’s Map. They hadn’t tried to go back to Filch’s office to search for another time, one because it was too dangerous as Filch probably would be prepared for another break-in. And secondly, they had searched it thoroughly the first time and agreed with the earlier assessment that another student probably stole it sometime in the past.

If they had secured the map it would make sneaking around and conducting their ‘adventures’ so much easier. Evidently, Harry had sent a letter to his father informing him of this development hoping that James knew some way of tracking the map.

His father had replied saying he’d talk to Remus and Sirius about it and would get back to him a few days. Surprising Harry was that James also promised to give him another present if they could not acquire the map. Harry was still having time understanding such generosity from his parents and again reminded himself of the obscure spell.

If I ever find out who cast that spell on me, I might bloody well kill them, thought Harry.

Every day that went past reminded him of the childhood he had lost and the family love he never experienced until this year.

Still, I should be grateful. At least I still have my parents and my godfather, while all Hermione really has is me. Sure, she has my parents as well, but she’s never fully warmed up to them.

He let out a dramatic sigh and replied, “Fine we’ll finish reading the book.” Before leaning his head on her.

“You’re so annoying,” said Hermione teasingly. And even though Harry couldn’t see her face, he knew she was rolling her eyes.

“But I’m still your best friend.”

“Not for much longer if you keep up this attitude,” said Hermione, not sounding serious at all.

"Yes, Ma'am."

Hermione rolled her eyes again, making Harry wonder if her eyes would be strained one day because of his ability to elicit such a reaction.

As he looked back to the book, Harry read along with Hermione, but still found the section on Hufflepuff largely bland, but he continued to read along for Hermione’s sake, besides while Helga Hufflepuff didn’t have the achievements that the other founders shared, she still had strong values and traits. Loyalty being the main one, which was a value Harry held in high regard.

Eventually, they got to the final page of the book where Hermione snapped it shut before he could even finish it.

“Oi! I wasn’t done,” said Harry in a hushed voice, not wanting the other Slytherins to notice his sudden outburst.

“And I thought reading this was such a chore for you,” said Hermione while smirking.

Now it was Harry’s turn to roll his eyes.

“Okay, so what's the plan?"

Hermione didn’t need him to elaborate, she knew he meant the stone and Dumbledore’s plan.

Hermione waited an unnaturally long time to create a dramatic pause before smirking and saying one word.

“Hagrid.”

“Hagrid?” said Harry, completely confused… until realisation dawned on him, and confidently said, “Hagrid.”

She gave a smile and said, “I knew you weren’t a dunderhead.”

Harry glared at her in response.

“Yes, Hagrid. It's likely he knows some secrets about the stone and potentially what protections are in place. I think if we go about it correctly he’d spill any secrets he knows,” said Hermione

“I agree, why don’t I write a note to him first thing in the morning, asking for us to come over for tea. He did want to do it again with us, so it’s unlikely he’d reject us.”

“Exactly what I was thinking.”

The raven-haired wizard just grinned at the bushy-haired brunette.

-o-o-o-o-o-

The following afternoon the duo left the library and headed out the main doors, into the Hogwarts Grounds.

“So how exactly are we going to go about this Hermione? I don’t think it’d be the best idea to tell him what we know upfront.”

“Well obviously Harry, that’s why I wrote up and memorised a bunch of questions to ask.”

“You don’t have to approach every task like it’s schoolwork,” said Harry while shaking his head in amusement.

“Of course, I do. That’s what I do with everything, how do you think I beat you the other day in that duel?”

“Luck.”

Hermione snorted, “Luck doesn’t play a factor in my duelling Potter. I think and plan out how to defeat you.”

“Yet when your plan fails, your entire defence falls apart. And I doubt you’re really planning out exactly how to defeat me when you run through a smokescreen like a psychopath throwing spells.”

Hermione scowled and replied, “I‘ve still beaten your arse multiple times, so don’t lecture me.”

“Yes boss,” said Harry while smirking.

Hermione rolled her eyes at that.

They arrived outside Hagrid’s hut, and a few moments after knocking, the door swung inwardly to admit Hagrid, who at first had a wary expression before turning into a broad grin upon spotting the duo.

“’Arry! ‘Ermione! Nice to see you two.”

Harry gave a smile that didn’t reach his eyes and said, “Nice to see you too Hagrid.”

“Likewise,” commented Hermione.

Somehow Hagrid’s grin grew even larger, if that was even possible and said, “Well C’mon in you two, I’ve got something to show yah.”

As Hagrid turned to leave back inside, Harry and Hermione shared a nervous look with each other.

“What could he possibly want to show us?” asked Harry.

“Nothing good, that’s for sure.”

The duo walked inside the hut only to immediately hear a loud groan from an occupant inside.

Once they spotted the owner of the groan, they both in unison scoffed and said, “You’ve got to be kidding me.”

“I’ll go and get you five some drinks and my ‘ome made rock cakes.”

"Thanks, Hagrid," said Harry and Hermione.

Five? Who else could there be – Oh no… You’ve got to be kidding me.

Sitting down at Hagrid’s table was none other than the infamous golden trio. Andrew, Ron and Neville all had annoyed expressions on their faces and were directing it to the two Slytherins.

“Why in the bloody hell, are there two Slytherins here?” sneered Ron.

Hermione dramatically rolled her eyes and said, "Weasley, could you just put your prejudices away for once, you bloody git.”

Longbottom did not seem impressed by Hermione’s words. So, he stood up and said, “Hey, leave him alone Granger. He’s not a git. And what’s wrong with his views on you two, hmm? He’s lost family members to Slytherins just as I have.”

Harry clenched his teeth, “You mean Death Eaters, Longbottom.”

“Death Eater, Slytherin same thing. All Death Eaters were Slytherins,” said Andrew though his words were softer than his two friends.

Harry rose an eyebrow and said, “Oh really? Might I remind you how you got that scar brother? Oh right, Peter Pettigrew, a ‘Gryffindor’ student joined the Death Eaters and revealed the location of our home to Voldemort.”

Both Ron and Neville flinched at the use of the Dark Lord’s name.

“Well – most of them are,” stated Andrew, hesitation still lingering on his face.

“Okay I admit that most Death Eaters were Slytherins but let me ask you this, did everyone in the house join the Dark Lord? No – So is it fair for you to make such prejudices and assumptions based on what some people did?” said Harry.

“Aha! So, you admit -”

However, he silenced himself as Hagrid had returned with everyone’s tea and rock cakes.

“Aye, everyone got your food and drinks ‘ere.”

Harry and Hermione sat down in some spare chairs around the table, as far away from the trio as possible.

Hagrid then passed them around, when Harry received his drink he had to force himself not to cringe when handed the very hot mug. He swiftly put it on the table. With Hermione doing the same.

Does Hagrid not understand the concept of safety?

“Bloody hell! Hagrid, these are boiling,” exclaimed Ron.

Andrew and Neville said much of the same.

“Argh, Sorry bout that Ron – ‘Ard to tell the heat to of things with my tough skin,” apologised Hagrid.

He sat in his massive chair and offered everyone a rock cake, to which Harry and Hermione politely took, albeit hesitantly.

He looked towards the duo and asked, “So ‘Arry and ‘Ermione have you seen it yet?”

“Hagrid! We don’t know if we can trust them what if they tell Snape?” commented Andrew.

“Unlike some people,” sneered Harry while glaring at Andrew. “We don’t snitch and spread rumours around.”

Andrew had a slightly guilty expression but said nothing.

“You two won’t tell what you’re about to see will you?”

The duo in question shared a brief look before Hermione said, “Of course we won’t Hagrid. We don’t want you in trouble.”

“Yeah well ‘ave you seen the egg?” questioned Hagrid.

“Egg?” said Harry looking confused.

Hermione nudged him in the hip, causing Harry to briefly glare at her.

Looking at where she gestured he saw what Hagrid was talking about.

Somehow he missed it, but in the centre of the table was an abnormally large egg.

“H-Hagrid is that what I think it is? No, it can’t be can it?”

“It is,” replied Hagrid in awe.

"What is it, Harry?"

“If I’m right, which I normally am," this cause Hermione to eye-roll and Andrew to force out a loud cough. "Then this is a dragon egg."

“Correct ‘Arry, this is a dragon egg. I’m gonna have my own pet dragon, isn’t that awesome?”

“Er, Hagrid isn’t that illegal and unsafe?”

“That’s what I’ve been trying to say!” commented Neville.

“Neville, it’s Hagrid, I’m sure he knows what he’s doing.”

Like how he ‘knew’ what he was doing when he was having us trek through the Forbidden Forest resulting in me nearly dying.

Harry caught a glance at Hermione who seemed to know what he was thinking and offered a sympathetic smile before saying, “Hagrid you are aware you live in a wooden hu - house right?”

“Well yeah, of course,” replied Hagrid thoroughly confused.

“And what do dragons do?”

“Er, fly?”

“Eat?”

“No Weasley, that’s not what I meant.”

“They breathe fire,” said Andrew.

"Well, at least you aren't all idiots.”

“Hey!”

“So, Hagrid,” continued Hermione, ignoring the complaints from the golden trio. “When the dragon hatches it will probably burn your house down, won’t it?”

“Well of course not ‘Ermione - that would never ‘appen. I’d house train it.”

Hermione glanced at Harry and blinked for a pregnant moment to convey that she was saying ‘seriously?’

Harry continued for her, “Well then you must’ve raised a dragon before right Hagrid?”

"Er… No, but won’t it be fun!?

“Yeah it will!” said Ron, with Andrew agreeing and Neville hesitantly agreeing too.

“And how did you get this egg, Hagrid?”

“Oh, well that’s a tale. See I was having a drink in the pub. And I met this fellow who offered me a dragon,” said Hagrid, as if it was completely normal.

“Oh right…” said Harry, not convinced that someone would do such a thing.

“Anyway, Harry and I better be off, send a letter to us if there are any developments on the egg.”

“I’ll do just that, see ya two.”

The Gryffindors made no motion to acknowledge their departure except for some negative expressions.

As soon as the door to the hut closed, Hermione immediately began to speed off. And once they were a safe distance away from the hut, she began to rant.

“Jesus, Christ, Merlin, God he’s bloody mad! Why would he think having a dragon would be a good idea? I mean, there are so many things that could go wrong. He could be caught with it and arrested, his hut burnt down. Could be burnt by the dragon himself, or students even! I mean I knew he was a bit uneducated on how student safety works after the Forbidden Forest where you nearly died. Because of his stupid idea to send us into the forest called ‘Forbidden’ looking for some animal which killed a unicorn!” ranted Hermione with barely a breath.

Harry let out a small chuckle, to which Hermione glared at him, “This is not funny, Harry Potter.”

“I know – it’s just you said that in nearly one breath.”

Hermione shook her  head, “Oh, honestly.”

“But yes, I agree he has no concept of safety. And as crazy as he is, I don’t think I want him to lose his job, he’s still a nice guy.”

“I agree, he doesn’t deserve to be fired. It’s also annoying that the Gryffindors were there, we didn’t get to ask him any questions about the stone.”

“I suppose, we’ll just have to ask another day. It’ll give us more time to find the Marauder Map anyway.”

“True that. We still need to come up with a valid plan to find it, hopefully, your father finds out something."

“Yes, because as soon as we have it, we’re sneaking out for another broom ride,” said Harry while grinning.

Hermione immediately stopped dead in her tracks and looked at Harry with a quizzical look. This surprised Harry as he thought for sure, that she would be glaring at him.

Hermione shrugged and simply replied, “Okay.”

“Okay – Wait… What!?” cried Harry, completely confused as to why she wasn’t the slightest bit angry.

“I said okay.”

“I know what you said – I just thought you’d be angry at me.”

“Well… there is one condition.”

Oh great… This can’t be good.

“You have to fly with me – under no circumstances am I to fly alone.” She pierced her eyes before continuing, “Got that Potter?”

“Sure, thing Hermione,” replied Harry while grinning.

-o-o-o-o-o-

The duo was eating breakfast and talking about inconsequential things in the Great Hall. Their conversation was interrupted when Ivo swooped down in front of the two, offering her leg with a simple envelope attached.

He removed the letter and began to read it as Hermione fed the pure-black owl some bacon.

Dear Harry and Hermione,

Sorry that it took me a few days to get back to you both, I have some good and bad news.

Firstly, I’ve talked with both Sirius and Remus and we think we came up with an idea for you to get the map. You see Remus, suggested the ‘Accio Charm’ otherwise known as the summoning charm to collect the map as we used it during school when it was out of reach. It’s a fourth-year charm, but knowing how much you two study, I think you could pull off the charm with lots of practice.

The charm is also extremely useful in several other circumstances, such as summoning a wand, a book or even objects out of a bag. The fourth-year charm book should contain how to perform the spell, which you can easily access at the Library.

Harry thought that the summoning charm did indeed sound very useful. And much more viable than the pullback charm as he would be able to summon the opponent’s wand if they ever dropped it in a duel.

Secondly, we discussed it and agreed that your Christmas present has been much harder to get than we initially had intended so Remus is charming two additional mirrors for the both of you.

These mirrors will allow you to communicate with each other anytime, anywhere and also with me, Lily, Remus and Sirius if you so choose.

They should be sent to school in the next few days, to activate them, just call the person’s name you want to talk to when somewhere private.

Also, an update on the events of Christmas Day. The woman who attacked the Granger’s is still in St Mungo’s and has gone mad, apparently, the healers say she has no chance of recovering, so she’s being kept at the hospital permanently.

If there are any other developments I’ll keep you both up to date.

Anyway, hope you’re enjoying your time at Hogwarts, Lily sends her love.

Love from Dad

Harry frowned after reading the letter especially the last part. There was little chance Hermione would react well to her Nanny being alive but mad. He knew she didn't really want to kill anyone that day, but if any of them should’ve died it should’ve been her Nanny.

Not that the horrible woman deserves any sympathy.

Regardless, they wouldn’t hide any secrets, so he handed the letter to Hermione who had been waiting expectantly.

As expected when Hermione’s reached the bottom of the letter her face turned red with anger. She calmly put down the letter and took a deep breath in, before turning to Harry.

“These mirrors seem like a great present, if we ever get separated we can always contact each other. And this ‘Accio’ charm is something we should learn during our duelling sessions.”

“I agree.” He motioned that the two leave the Great Hall.

Once outside Harry asked carefully, “Hermione… how do you feel about your Nanny being – er in the state she is.”

Hermione let out a sigh and replied, “I don’t know… Is it wrong that I’m angry she’s not dead but also feel guilty she’s gone crazy? What type of person does that make me? Is there something wrong with me?” she was panicking and speaking faster the closer she got to the end.

Harry stopped walking and put his hand on her shoulder, “Hey, there’s nothing wrong with you. I’d feel the same way if the person responsible for my parents… If the person responsible for that was dead, I think I’d feel better as well, okay.”

He then brought Hermione into a comforting hug.

“Thanks, Harry,” said Hermione once they separated.

“Anytime, Hermione.”

-o-o-o-o-o-

That afternoon the duo was walking through the corridor, having just finished their DADA class, when an owl flew in front of his brother and dropped off a letter.

Soon after opening it, Andrew called for Ron and Neville before the trio practically ran out of the corridor.

His gaze was on them the whole time, so he didn’t notice the owl had come towards the two of them and offered a similar letter.

“Harry.”

“Hmm?” said Harry as he turned his head to his best friend. “What’s in that letter?”

Hermione passed it to him, and he read the three lines written onto the letter.

Harry and Hermione,

It’s hatching, come soon,

Hagrid.

Harry furrowed his brows, “This won’t end well, will it?”

“Probably, but we need to go now. Regardless, of the dangers I want to see a dragon hatching,” replied Hermione, practically whispering the last bit to not be overheard.

Harry nodded in agreement and the duo left in the direction of Hagrid’s hut.

Unbeknownst to them, a blonde figure was watching them with interest, and decided to follow from a safe distance.

-o-o-o-o-o-

Once outside the castle, the duo practically ran down to Hagrid's hut. Harry knocked loudly on the door before Hagrid quickly led them inside.

“C’mon, C’mon you two, it’s about to ‘atch.”

The duo swiftly made their way over to the table ignoring the noises coming from Weasley.

They stood and watched the egg in fascination, transfixed to it, ignoring everything else in their surroundings.

Ever so slowly, a head began to point its way out of the egg, chirping at the egg before falling out. It wasn’t the most beautiful thing Harry had seen, far from it in fact. He may have even compared it to an erkling, but at least he knew this creature wouldn’t shoot poison darts at me.

No, it’d just burn me alive, thought Harry sarcastically.

“What species is it?” asked Neville.

“This beauty,” Harry mentally winced at that, beautiful, it was not. “Is a Norwegian Ridgeback. Extremely rare they are.”

Hagrid then picked up the small dragon who curled into his hand, and laid down its head, trying to sleep.

“And, how big do one of these grow?” asked Hermione.

“Uhh – well some get about three times bigger than me, and don’ take lon’ to grow.”

“Hagrid you seriously need to do something about the dragon -”

“Norbert,” interrupted the half-giant.

“About – Norbert.  It won’t be safe here and won’t go unnoticed if it gets as big as you say.”

“Nonsense ‘Ermione, no one will notice small little Norbert here,” and stroked the dragons head softly.

Norbert, however, reacted a let out a small puff of fire, engulfing one of the nearby curtains.

This caused Hagrid to immediately put the dragon down and grab his ‘umbrella’ before pointing it at the curtain and shooting a jet of water. Which extinguished the flames.

Harry gazed towards the ‘golden trio’ who all looked a bit scared, and much more uncertain about the dragon Hagrid had under his care.

” I can’t believe I’m about to say this, but I agree with Granger,” said Andrew slowly.

Hermione rolled her eyes and made a ‘tsk’ sound at that.

“Hagrid, Norbert is clearly dangerous, he can’t stay here.”

“Andrew, where else is the poor baby meant to go? If the ministry finds out about it, they might ‘ave it killed.”

It looked as though Ron had a stroke of inspiration at the mention of where Norbert would go.

No, must’ve been my imagination.

“I have a brother in Romania, Charlie you remember him right?”

“Yeah, nice boy, always loved the creatures around Hogwarts. Where is he now?” said Hagrid.

“Well he works in Romania, with dragons, so how about I send a letter to him, asking him to collect Norbert. That way everyone wins!”

Hermione raised her eyebrows in surprise, as did Harry. They didn't expect that Weasley would be the one to come up with a solution and a simple one at that.

Hagrid seemed a bit uneasy, “You sure Ron?” He then turned addressed the other two members of the trio, “And you both agree.”

“Yes Hagrid, it seems like the safest bet,” said Neville.

“I agree, and Hagrid we really do not want you to lose your job over this.”

Hagrid looked to the duo for support, they shared a look before Harry spoke for them.

“I have to agree, Weasley’s plan seems like the best bet.”

Hagrid nodded his head sadly, “Oh, okay. Well Ron, keep me updated on when Charlie responds.”

“Will do.”

“Well would anyo -” but he was cut off and practically ran to the window.

“Hagrid what’s going on?” asked Harry.

“A-a s-student was watching, I think he was blond.”

Malfoy,” said the two Potters and Hermione in unison.

“He’s going to snitch about the dragon,” said Ron. Weasley then turned his attention to the duo, “It’s your fault! If it wasn’t for you two he wouldn’t even be here.”

“Ron – you don’ know tha’, calm down,” said Hagrid.

“Harry and I will go back to the castle, track Malfoy down and make sure he doesn’t say anything, while you idi – Gryffindors go make sure Norbert get delivers to Weasley’s brother,” suggested Hermione.

“You’d do tha’ for me?” asked Hagrid.

“Of course,” replied Harry.

The trio all gave acknowledging thanks, they even seemed partly genuine rather than hostile.

The duo gave their goodbyes, and quickly made their way out of the hut, taking only a brief look at the dragon.

-o-o-o-o-o-

Once inside the Slytherin Common Room, they spotted Malfoy sitting alone on a couch with a smug grin on his face reading about a book on dragons.

Bloody hell.

“So, Harry and Granger, I see you’ve been having some ‘extra credit’ lessons with dangerous magical creatures.”

“Yes, so it seems. That’s what we’re here to discuss. Care to join us over in that corner?” asked Hermione, motioning to the back of the room.

"I wouldn't dare not to take up your offer for the world,” said Malfoy sarcastically.

Once in the more private setting, Draco asked, "So what do you two want?"

“We’d like you not to tell Snape, or any teachers about what you saw down there,” informed Harry.

Draco snorted and replied, “Now why would I pass a chance to get my nemesis and most disliked staff member in trouble?”

“We’ll offer you a favour of your choosing, in return, you'll forget what you saw and never tell a soul."

“And what could this favour be? And is it one from each of you or just one in total?”

“One favour between us. And name your favour, and we’ll determine if it’s suitable or not, otherwise go ahead and snitch on us, but there will be consequences,” said Hermione, finishing with a smirk almost daring him to think of an inappropriate favour.

Malfoy thought for a few moments before saying, “Fine. As long as you let me in on whatever you’re doing. It’s clear you two are hiding something and I intend to know what.”

Harry cringed while Hermione immediately replied, “No deal.”

A little smirk from the blond ponce “Well then I guess you can kiss your friend goodbye.”

This time it was Harry who responded, “Why do you even think we’re hiding something?”

"Well, Granger just admitted it by refusing my offer instead of playing dumb. I admit I was only 40% sure that there was something else going on. I'm glad you fell into my bluff."

Hermione blushed while looking at her shoes while Harry just glowered. He started to weigh the pros and cons of this.

On the one hand, Malfoy was the son of a supposed criminal and he gave no inclination that he was different. So, telling him that they were investigating the ‘Elixir of Life’ might not be the best of ideas. Plus, was saving Hagrid’s skin really that much more important? The man almost killed him for Christ’s sake. He felt guilty for thinking that though, Hagrid never meant to hurt, and it was clear he only held Harry’s best interest at heart. The Duo also cemented a tentative partnership with Malfoy, and he knew how it would end for him if he crossed them.

It’s not like something has to happen, we’re not even sure if the stone is in actual danger. Do we even need to tell the full truth?

“Alright,” Hermione threw him an incredulous look while Draco’s smirk bloomed fully but he continued on “However, we can’t tell you now. We need to go back to Hagrid and the others to tell them the news.”

It also helps that it gives us more time to think about how to deal with you.

Draco deflated at that, but he nodded anyway, “Fine. I expect to hear this secret of yours tonight.”

“Thanks for doing business with us, Malfoy. But if you break your promise, we will know, so you better avoid doing that. Unless of course you’d like to get beaten, by a Muggleborn,” said Harry whispering the last bit.

“A deal’s a deal, Potter.”

“Let’s hope so.”

And with that, Harry strode out of the Common Room with Hermione following closely behind. Her face still painted in shock. After moving out of hearing age, she grabbed his arm. “What the hell was that?”

“What do you mean?”

“You know Harry, how do you know we can trust him?!”

He smirked and leaned in “We can deal with that when we get there, but it’s not like he needs to know the whole truth does he?”

She still looked sceptical.

He sighed and continued on “Look, we can figure out this mess later, we have all day, let’s just go to Hagrid’s Hut.”

She nodded reluctantly and they both headed off to the wooden house.

-o-o-o-o-o-

The duo arrived at Hagrid hut, and just as Harry was about to knock on the door, it swung open to admit a panicking Hagrid.

“’Arry, ‘Ermione – did you stop Malfoy? Are we all good? Is poor little Norbert going to be okay?” said Hagrid frantically looking left to right in panic.

“Everything is going to be fine,” replied Hermione calmly. “Why don’t we continue this inside,” she suggested.

“Righ’ of course.”

Harry walked through the entrance, with Hermione following behind. Shortly after entering he noticed the three other occupants.

“Good you’re all here,” said Harry unusually cheerful.

“Good?” replied Andrew sceptically.

“Yes good. Anyway, we’ve dealt with the Malfoy problem, he won’t be telling anyone about the dragon,” informed Harry.

Andrew scoffed, “And how on earth can we possibly trust him?”

“We made sure of it, a deal was made.”

“What deal?” asked Neville.

Harry turned his head and glared at Neville, “That’s our business don’t you think?”

Ron cried, “Why in the hell should we trust you? You and Granger are both Snakes, same as Malfoy. As far as we know they told him everything in exchange for Malfoy not handing them in and getting us in trouble instead.”

Wow that’s actually quite insightful, too bad he’s off the truth.

“He won’t snitch,” said Hermione coldly.

Ron was about to retort, but Andrew intervened, “Hey Ron, let’s calm down. He’s my brother I’m sure he wouldn’t do anything that drastic unless he wanted to face Mum’s wrath.”

Harry snorted, “You’d have to want a death sentence to do something as stupid as that.”

“See?”

Ron grumbled but relented his assault.

“Alrigh’ now tha’s cleared up is there anything else we need to know?”

“We don’t have anything else to inform, but we’d like to know if you’ve come up with a plan to deal with Norbert.”

Neville was the one to reply, “We have actually, at first we thought it best for Ron to mail Charlie, but instead, we mailed my grandmother, who floo called to Romania and contacted Charlie. He’ll be coming over tonight with a few friends to take Norbert off our hands atop the astronomy tower. We’ll be using Andrew’s in-”

“Don’t worry they already know about it,” commented Andrew.

“We’ll use Andrew’s invisibility cloak to not be spotted and if all goes well, the dragon shall be off our hands before tomorrow.”

Harry rose an eyebrow, “And everyone thinks this is the best idea?”

“You got a better one?” asked Ron.

“Well, no I suppose not – Okay while you three do that tonight, Hermione and I will make sure not to let Malfoy out of sight, since you don’t trust our word.”

Although we were going to talk to him tonight regardless.

“Thanks ‘Arry and ‘Ermione for all your help. Come by for tea whenever you want.”

“Sure Hagrid,” replied Hermione, and the duo left the hut to continue with their day.

-o-o-o-o-o-

That night they stayed up late in the common room, before being cornered by Draco Malfoy.

“Well?” said Draco expectantly, obviously wanting the information he was promised.

Harry glanced at Hermione who gave a nearly imperceptible nod, “So you want to know our secret?”

“It’s what I was promised wasn’t I, or shall I go fetch Professor Snape?”

“They’ll be no need for that,” commented an annoyed Hermione.

“Well get on with it then.”

“Okay well before Christmas we learnt some interesting information from Hagrid.”

Malfoy made an irritated noise.

“He mentioned a stone and one Nicholas Flamel."

“Nicholas Flamel?” asked Draco.

“We researched about him over the last few weeks and turns out he was a master alchemist, and especially famous for creating the ‘Philosopher’s Stone.’ The book we found on him, contained no more than that. So, we’ve spent a lot of time trying to find out more, but to no avail.”

No need to tell him about the ‘Elixir of Life.' A child of a dark follower would certainly not use that information for anything ethically good.

“Satisfied?”

“That’s all? If there’s more you will tell me otherwise your life here in Slytherin will be very hard.”

“It is,” replied Hermione confidently.

Draco snorted, “Well if that’s it I have to say I’m surprised. I thought you two would be up to something more interesting than just some stupid research,”

He then narrowed his eyes at them “You wouldn’t mind if I joined you in your ‘research’? You know, just to be sure.”

Harry gritted his teeth “Of course not, feel free to come by anytime! Might be a nice bonding experience.”

The blond snorted “Yeah right, we’ll see,” and with that, Malfoy went to his dormitories, confident that he got what he was after.

“Well that might be a problem,” commented Harry once Draco was out of earshot.

“We’ll need to think about how to act later. Let’s hope your brother managed to do his task.”

“What couldn’t my brother, ‘The Boy Who Lived’ do?” asked Harry mocking the last part.

“Oh, shut up Harry,” said Hermione while rolling her eyes.

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 15

Investigation

Hermione woke up with a start.

She was breathing hard and took in her surroundings.

I’m okay – I’m in my dorms… safe in bed.

It had happened again.

Hermione had hoped that now that she was back at school and had more things to distract herself they would stop happening.

But it had not.

Every night, always the same, a nightmare.

A nightmare which changed every time but nearly always played out the same.

She had to relive the events of Christmas day, seeing her parents’ bodies, bloodied, cold and lifeless. And it wasn’t just her parents who she saw dead.

Often Harry was also there. The intruders would move to attack her, then Harry, appearing from nowhere, would do all he could to protect her. This resulted in him being stabbed, and then he’d die slowly in her arms, gurgling on his blood, until his eyes lost all their beautiful green colour, leaving her completely alone.

She knew they weren’t prophetic visions, only dreams.

Every time the nightmare would end with her unleashing magic upon the intruders, smashing them against the wall. Mangling their bodies into impossible positions, their screams blearing into her ears. And while she hated them, she felt guilt, so much guilt.

No matter how much Harry had tried to convince her, that it was not her fault, she knew it was. Regardless, that her attackers were horrible people, truly despicable thugs, they were human beings. They had lives, families and dreams.

And she had killed them. Killed three people at the age of twelve, she chuckled darkly at that.

That is not amusing! she berated herself, but she could not help but feel some satisfaction that her parents had been avenged. That thought just added to her guilt.

And these nightmares only brought her to loathe herself more.

She hadn’t had a peaceful night’s rest since the afternoon she slept on Harry’s chest. Every other night had resulted in nightmares, and Harry was the only constant variable.

Whenever she felt safe, happy and loved, it wasn’t because of where she was, but who was there with her. She had come to depend on him dearly.

But I can't just continue to use him as I have been… like a tool. Someone to comfort, protect and care for me. And I keep telling him off when all he's doing is trying to cheer me up. Yet, he still puts up with me.

She let out a sigh she didn’t know she’d been holding. She’d apologise to him and appreciate him more. If it wasn’t for him, she’d be dead, that was certain.

And maybe she’d tell him about her nightmares as well. Harry would understand, of course, he would – and I really need to tell someone I can’t keep sleeping like this. And if my theory is correct, the nightmares should subside as long as he helps me through it.

Since the incident, Hermione’s sleep schedule had been totally disrupted. Some nights she woke at four, others at six, there was no consistency and it was affecting her performance.

Thankfully, Harry hadn’t noticed yet, she’d been hiding her emotions to her absolute best, and it seemed as though it was working. She had truly become a master of deception. Although guiltily she had hoped he would, No secrets he had said, and yet I’m withholding this from him.

Her thoughts were interrupted by a loud snore from one of her roommates, Pansy.

Steeling her emotions, Hermione decided to grab some homework and head down to the common room, so she could be left alone to her thoughts.

She checked her watch, it was only 5:00am, Harry likely wasn’t up. No matter, the homework will be an adequate distraction.

However, when she made it into the common room, a familiar raven-haired boy was sitting on the couch reading a book.

Smirking, she walked up behind him, Harry, being completely engrossed in his book noticed nothing.

She put her mouth a few inches from his ear and softly questioned, “What are you doing up?”

Harry jumped in shock, snapping his head to her. He quickly recovered, pierced his green eyes at her and retorted, “What are you doing up, Hermione?”

Her façade fell slightly at that but was quickly steeled. Harry, however, noticed.

He furrowed his brows and looked at her concerned.

“Is everything all right?” asked Harry, laying his hand atop hers, which rested on the back of the couch.

Her eyes widened in response and she looked away. A million thoughts ran through her mind. Should I tell him now? What if he doesn't understand… No, no, of course, he will. I said I would, but I didn’t think I would inform him about my nightmares so soon. But I said I wouldn’t use him as a tool anymore.

Her thoughts continued to go around in circles, arguing for and against. Slowly she dwelled away from her mind and looked back at Harry.

It had been minutes, for sure, but still – his expression was as worried as ever. Pressure was being applied to her hand; he probably had been ever since he asked his question.

His actions and presence confirmed her that he’d understand so she said nervously, “I-I had a nightmare.”

Quick as a flash, Harry let go of her hand, Hermione instantly missing the comfort, dreading the worst.

But those thoughts were quickly dashed as he moved swiftly off the couch, came up to her and brought her into a hug.

She collapsed into it, her mask gone, replaced by tears and vulnerability. If another Slytherin had seen her, they’d probably laugh at her for being weak. But not Harry.

“Hey… it’s okay,” whispered Harry. “I’m here, you can tell me anything.”

She gave a small smile at that, and with a sniff separated from the hug, but he grabbed her hand to which she was grateful for.

Hermione gave a small nod, to which Harry responded with a brief smile, and led them over to the couch.

Once sitting down, he brought her into another hug, bringing her closer to him. He patiently waited as Hermione tried to figure out what to say.

“I had a nightmare, that’s why I’m up.” She knew he already knew this, but she wanted him to prompt her with a question as she didn’t know what to tell him.

“And what was this nightmare about?” asked Harry in a soft voice.

“It-it’s about Christmas day.”

“I-I think it may help if you talk about this, Hermione.”

The way he always said her name was so smooth and relaxing, so she decided to elaborate.

She took a deep breath in and prepared herself, “I saw my parents, bodies again, j-just as cold and lifeless as before.”

She squinted her eyes, trying to hold back tears as she continued, “Because I’m dreaming, it seems so real – sometimes I see their bodies through the day but only briefly, bu-but in the dream it seems like an eternity.”

"And then you died, Harry! Be-being a noble git, and protecting me,” causing Hermione to sob lightly into his arms, hugging her.

Hey.” It must’ve been the third or fourth time he had said it, but only now did she hear him properly. She sniffed and looked towards him as he said, “I’m here. I’ll always be here; it was just a nightmare okay.”

“Thanks,” replied Hermione sincerely.

“Don’t mention it,” replied Harry automatically.

No time like the present.

No. seriously Harry.”

He looked at her perplexed.

“Thank you, earnestly. You’ve been looking after me these past weeks, and I haven’t appreciated you enough. I’ve just been taking you for granted, and that’s not what best friends should do.”

He opened his mouth to retort her comment, but Hermione stopped him.

“No,” snapped the bushy-haired brunette. She then softened her tone, “I mean it, Harry.”

He just sheepishly smiled in response.

"I'd do anything for you, Hermione, trust me.”

“I do, and you know I’d do the same.”

A comforting minute of silence past through them before he asked, “Is this the only time you’ve had a nightmare about your parents?”

She was about to deny it, but realised that she did trust him, so why not tell the truth?

“I-I’ve been having them every night.”

He moved his one of his hands softly rubbing her arms, which were hugging her.

“You should’ve told me,” said Harry with a touch of disappointment in his voice. “Is there anything I can do?”

I’ve talked about it to him, maybe that’s enough, wait maybe…

“Could you just hold me while I rest?” asked Hermione, nervousness evident in her voice.

She was afraid he might stiffen or hesitate, but he just instantly replied, “Sure thing Hermione.”

He tightened his grip around her and with a small smile on her face, sleep soon took her.

-o-o-o-o-o-

“Ahem.”

Hermione snapped opened her eyes took look at the person who made the noise. And as it turned out it was none other than Draco Malfoy.

She briefly looked at Harry who was still holding her and scowling at Malfoy.

She then looked back to the blond ponce.

He had a smirk on his face and said, "Now while I'd love to preach how Potter is cuddling his girlfriend to the whole house, I think I better not, unless I want to ruin our arrangement. Since for some reason, the creature seems to have disappeared.”

“You two wouldn’t happen to know anything about that? Would you?”

The duo cringed under his question.

“But you’ll both keep your word, won’t you?”

“We won’t betray our word,” said Hermione.

“Good,” replied Malfoy and stalked out of the common room.

She turned to look back at Harry who seemed a bit irritated and red?

Only now did she notice that they were still entangled with each other, immediately causing Hermione to fluster slightly. If Malfoy was up, it wouldn’t be long before the rest of the house would see them and make assumptions.

Harry loosened his grip, and Hermione left his embrace. She stood up, and dusted herself off before saying to Harry, “Thanks again, Harry.”

He offered a smile in response before looking at his watch and asking, “Do you want to go to breakfast soon? With any luck, those 'mirrors’ will arrive with Ivo.”

"Yes, but it's not likely we'll be apart much, so I don’t see us using them much.”

“True, but you can always call my parents if you want,” said Harry with a thoughtful expression.

She furrowed his brows at him, “They won’t mind?”

Harry snorted. “I’m pretty sure you’re one of my Mum’s favourite people and you only met her for a short period of time. So yes, they won’t mind.”

“And if you ever need to talk, you can always call me on said mirror when you’re in your dorms.”

“If I ever need to, I will.”

He smiled and said, “Anyway, I need to get out of my nightclothes and into my robes, so see you down here in two?”

Hermione rolled her eyes, “I have to as well. Ten minutes.”

With a slight smile, Harry nodded his head and went back to his room, as she did the same.

Just as stated, ten minutes later, Hermione came back into a common room where Harry wasn’t patiently awaiting her.

He came up to her and asked, “Ready?”

"Yep. Let's go to the great hall.”

Upon arriving some Slytherins gave the duo weird looks, as they were later than usual.

They sat down in ‘their’ spot, where instead of the three usual girls of, Daphne, Tracey and Lily sitting opposite, Malfoy was there instead.

“What are you doing here Malfoy?” asked Harry in an unfriendly manner.

“Just keeping an eye on you two.”

“Keeping an eye on us is more interesting than annoying the other Potter, is it?” asked Hermione with a raised eyebrow.

Malfoy shrugged in response and went back to his breakfast, in turn, the duo ignored him.

As expected, when the owl deliveries arrived, Ivo flew ahead of all others before landing in front of Harry with a package.

Harry mumbled his thanks to Ivo, while Hermione fed her bacon and let her drink some water. To which the bird chirped in thanks, before leaving the hall.

“Merlin… I’ve never seen a school owl that fast before,” commented Malfoy oddly intrigued.

“That’s because it’s not a school owl, she’s our owl,” replied Hermione.

She didn’t even realise that she had said ‘our’ instead of ‘Harry’s’ owl, only noticing the words she had said when Harry let out a small chuckle next to her.

Malfoy had a weird look on his face and said, “Right…. So, is that package a book on Flamel?”

“No,” replied Hermione coldly. “And it’s got nothing to do with that, it’s none of your business.”

Malfoy flinched back at Hermione’s tone, “Gees, Granger. Just asking – anyway the reason I’m interacting with you two is that I want to know when we’re going to research. It’s been a few days since you agreed to our deal.”

“This afternoon. Four O’clock. Library,” said Hermione in a monotone voice.

"Well, I’ll see you then,” replied Draco and left the hall.

Harry looked at his bushy-haired friend confused and asked, “This afternoon?”

She shrugged in response, “We’ll have to do it sometime – anyway now that the blood purist is gone, open the package.”

“Oh right,” said Harry, having completely forgotten about it.

He opened the package, and read a note, before passing it to Hermione.

Dear Harry and Miss Granger,

Here are the two mirrors as promised, they’ve already been set up and charmed so all you have to do is say the name of who you’d like to call.

If there are any problems be sure to mail or mirror call me or James.

I haven’t seen you in a while Harry, and I’m dreadfully sorry for that. Not trying to make excuses but my condition certainly doesn’t help.

So, over the summer holidays, I'll be sure to see you. I've also heard that Miss Granger now lives with you, so I look forward to meeting her as well.

Kind regards,

Remus Lupin.

Looking back to the opened package, there were two handheld mirrors.

She looked up to Harry who had a slightly excited expression on his face.

Hermione leaned up to his ear and whispered, “Let’s go test them in our duelling classroom. We don’t have any classes today.”

“Alright – and I also want to start learning the ‘Accio’ spell and try a new duelling technique together.”

His best friend looked intrigued, “Care to elaborate?”

He smirked and responded with, “You’ll have to wait to we get there.”

“Okay, well let’s go,” said Hermione casually.

Harry had a weird look at that. As Hermione was usually more forceful when wanting answers. But then he smiled and the two left their unfinished breakfast.

-o-o-o-o-o-

As soon as they arrived in the classroom, Hermione sat in a chair, set to the side, with Harry silently doing the same.

He pulled out the mirrors and handed one to Hermione, who murmured a soft thanks.

“Okay so how do we test them?” asked Harry.

“Let’s just try to connect with each other’s first.”

“Umm – okay, so we just say the person’s name we want to call?”

“That’s what your dad said. I’ll try first.”

“Harry!” exclaimed Hermione to the mirror, surprising her, Harry’s face appeared in it, with the stone wall behind them visible. It was also weird, as she heard her echo since they were right next to each other.

“Cool,” said Harry and moved his mirror around, allowing Hermione to follow whatever he was pointing it at.

“Alright that’s enough,” said Hermione, ending their call. She put her's in her bag and told Harry, "Why don't you call you go call your Mum.”

“Good idea, Lily Potter!”

Hermione leaned over his shoulder, so she could see the mirror as well. Nothing happened for the first 10 seconds, causing the duo to share awkward looks with each other before a redhead finally appeared.

“Harry! Hermione! Nice to see you two. Sorry about that, I was busy.”

"No problem Mum, how're things?”

“Things are fine, just dealing with the boys.”

By the boys, I assume James and Sirius, mused Hermione.

“For some adults, they really do act like children a lot. But how are things going at school? No one’s bothering you, are they?”

“No, Lily, everything’s alright. Just getting back into the routine for school, and trying to get this one,” motioning at Harry. “To study more.”

The boy in question seemed amused.

Lily smirked, “Well you keep doing that Hermione. I need someone to keep him out of trouble and up with his marks… too bad no one can do the same for Andrew,” said Lily, mumbling the last bit.

The tension was thick in the air for a few seconds before Hermione broke it saying, “Well it was nice to catch up Lily, but Harry and I have stuff we need to do.”

Lily looked as though she had a knowing smile and responded with, “See you two then. Feel free to call anytime.”

“Bye mum.”

“Bye”

They ended the call, and Harry turned to her.

“Well they certainly work; I’ll be sure to keep it with me at all times. But let’s start working on the ‘Accio’ spell, then we can move onto duelling.”

She pulled out the fourth-year charm book from her bag, smirked and said, “Bet I can master the spell first.”

“You’re on Granger.”

For the next three hours the duo tried to learn the charm but to little avail. They were getting frustrated, as neither had managed to summon anything to their hand, only move the quill slightly.

“This is ridiculous!” cried Harry, “We’ve been at this for hours.”

“Well it is a fourth-year charm Harry remember, and we’re first-years. It’s not meant to be easy,” replied Hermione calmly, even though she too was getting annoyed that she couldn't summon a single bloody quill.

“Alright that’s enough,” said Harry.

She turned to look at her best friend who had a determined look on his face, “I know you’re getting frustrated as well, so let’s take it out on a duel.”

“Going to elaborate now?”

“Yeah, alright. So, I was thinking, instead of duelling each other, why don’t we practise duelling together, back to back. I know it’d pretty hard considering we can only through spells at the walls and desks, but we know one another so well. Working together should make us a formidable team,” said Harry breathlessly.

He paused before nervously asking, “What do you think?”

She grinned widely at Harry, “I love the idea! Let’s start right away.”

“Awesome,” replied an equally enthusiastic Harry.

The two both stood up and moved to the centre of the room. There they came up with plans for moves to pull off together.

And then they began.

As Harry would shoot a ‘Fumos’ Hermione would follow up with a quick ‘Flipendo.’ The idea was that they would spot their target, block the sight but also fire a spell to their last known location.

Which would hopefully result in the spell landing without giving the target adequate time to dodge or set up a shield spell.

Doing it as a combined force was much more effective than one person casting both spells, as it would not only be quicker but more confusing to their opponent.

They also tried some other combinations, such as the ‘Verdimillious’ and ‘Vermillious’ combination to create the damaging and blinding AoE effect. With Hermione casting the former and Harry the latter since he had better aim.

This would hopefully cause their opponents to either have minuscule time to cover their eyes or move out of range of the blast.

They continued to come up with different combinations that they could work with together, and after some laughs decided to come up with code names for them.

By the time it was lunch, both of them were magically exhausted having spent hours on end casting first the ‘Accio’ spell and later duelling ones.

When they had finally got around to eating, they practically devoured their plates, but in a mannerly fashion.

-o-o-o-o-o-

At four O’clock the duo made their way to the library, where Hermione quickly spotted a blond-haired boy frantically looking left to right.

They walked up to Malfoy who seemed relieved to see them.

“You right there Malfoy,” said Harry in an insincere way and smirked.

Draco scowled and replied, “Bloody hell, you’re both finally here. Thought the Mu-Muggleborn had dragged you off to a broom closet or something.”

Harry was about to retort Malfoy, probably with something offensive, but Hermione beat him to it and said coldly, “For your information Malfoy we were not ‘in a broom closet’ and if we were it isn’t really your business now is it?”

Malfoy rolled his eyes, while Harry turned slightly red.

“Besides its 4:01pm, so don’t complain.”

Instead of looking irritated Malfoy chucked and said, “Gees Potter, you have to put up with her all day? You’re most definitely a Gryffindor.”

“Leave her alone Malfoy,” said Harry icily.

Draco made a ‘tsk’ sound and said, “Whatever, let’s just get this done with.”

The duo begrudgingly agreed, and they all headed off in separate directions looking for various books on the topic of Nicholas Flamel.

They all re-joined at a table and began to read in silence.

It didn’t take long for Malfoy to get bored.

“Have either of you two found anything yet?”

Hermione slowly looked at the blond who looked bored out of his mind. Without answering his question Hermione returned her gaze back to her book, and both Harry and she ignored him.

Talk about impatient, we’ve hardly been researching. She mentally huffed, He’s probably only staying here just for the sake of it. If you don’t want to be here – leave!

Five minutes later he asked, “Found anything Harry?”

“No.”

“Granger?”

The witch in question ignored him for a few seconds before sighing dramatically and replying, “Well there’s a small passage here on him.”

Malfoy’s features rose in surprise and intrigue, “Do tell.”

She read aloud, “Nicholas Flamel is a famous alchemist who has worked closely with Albus Dumbledore numerous times… He’s also the creator of the Philosopher Stone.”

“That’s all?” asked Malfoy not convinced.

“Mhmm.”

“Give it here, then.” And before she realised what he was doing, he’d taken the book away from her and read over the page.

Hermione’s mentally smiled in satisfaction, watching Malfoy’s arrogant features fall after reading the page.

She had intentionally picked out one of the most basic books on Alchemy hoping there would be a brief bit of information on Flamel, which would potentially make Malfoy disinterested in their research.

Another thirty minutes past, before Malfoy, snapped his book shut.

“Fine. I’m done doing this, you’re both mad. But if you do find anything, you’ll tell me.”

“We sure will Malfoy,” responded Harry.

Malfoy began to head off, and Hermione began packing up gaining Harry’s attention in the process.

“We may as well head back to the common room, as well, Harry."

He looked at his watch and gave a knowing look, “Yeah it’s nearly dinner, we’d better go.”

Malfoy had noticed that they were not far behind, so he immediately began to speed up his pace. It wouldn’t be any good for another blood purist to see him in the company of a ‘Mudblood.’

Just as they were about to reach the Slytherin Dungeon’s Nott appeared in front of them and asked,

“Granger, a word?”

Hermione’s mask instantly went into full effect, ‘Granger’ not ‘Mudblood?’

“Whatever you have to say, Harry can hear as well. He won’t tell anyone.”

Nott’s features faltered a little and his face revealed a touch of nervousness.

Maybe I’m just imagining things, and it was just a ‘trick of the light,’ mused Hermione.

“Sure, that’s fine,” said Theo bluntly regaining his face of indifference. “Let’s head in here, I don’t want anyone else overhearing us.” And motioned towards a nearby classroom.

Hermione shared a look with Harry who was obviously trying to keep calm, well obvious to her at least.

He gave her a curt nod and the three went into the classroom.

But it was a mistake. For as soon as they had entered, a whispered ‘Colloportus’ was sent to the door and six wands were drawn at them, trapping them in a circle. Looking at the wizards and witches threatening them, Hermione noticed they were all wearing Slytherin robes.

Shit.

Chapter Text

Chapter 16

Confrontation

Shit.

That was the first thought that came to Harry’s mind once they entered the room and looking to Hermione, he knew she was thinking exactly the same thing.

He should’ve been more suspicious of what Nott was doing as if their peer would’ve had any proper reason to talk to Hermione, but alas his curiosity had gotten the best of him and now they were surrounded by their housemates.

None of whom seemed in anyway friendly or peaceful.

A loud audible scoff was produced by Nott who proceeded to say in a sarcastic voice, “Mudblood, Half-blood… And I thought you two were meant to be the top of our year. Yet you idiots fell for my trap.”

To the left of Nott was Pansy Parkinson, who was currently glaring at Hermione, while holding her wand in her right hand. Her eyes seemed to be communicating pure hatred for his bushy-haired best friend.

Keeping his movement minimal and looking around the room quickly, Harry spotted the four other Slytherins, each of whom looked like they were second years, none of which he knew by name. They all seemed to have the same hatred emanating from them.

Probably all blood purists thought Harry.

He then gulped, fully understanding their situation Bloody hell… What in Merlin are we going to do? There’s six of them, and two of us. We’re surrounded and the older years ought to know spells which we won’t know how to counter.

“And I thought we had reached a mutual relationship on the Express,” said Hermione in a monotone voice.

Nott chuckled while flinging his wand carelessly, “As if. Sure, you were there, but we all know Potter did everything.”

Harry clenched his jaw, and Hermione tightened her fists. He wanted to retort the comment, but he knew doing so would only antagonise Theo further, and result in ‘his’ group flinging spells at them before they could react.

He decided to delay time for the inevitable fight. “What do you want. Nott?” asked Harry slowly and carefully.

Nott smirked, “I thought it was pretty obvious – I wanted to talk to the Mudblood alone.”

He could see to his right, Hermione’s anger was building up, he had to de-escalate things but before he could, Hermione asked,

“Alone, with five others?”

Pansy pitched in, “Well rumours are going around that you killed three Muggles and nearly killed another. So, Nott suggested that more the better. Can’t have you getting away, now can we?”

“Potter, I’m giving you a chance to leave your Mudblood bitch alone and go back to your own business. Malfoy’s taken a liking to you, and I’d rather not piss him off. But if you don’t, you’ll be taught the same lesson.”

“This is my business, and the only ones teaching lessons will be Hermione and me," growled Harry coldly, all caution thrown out the window.

Amused giggles and laughs were heard around the circle.

“You think you can beat all of us?” said one of the Slytherins.

“Mudbloods and Half-bloods truly are stupid.”

“This will be fun, always wanted to injure a Mudblood,” sneered another.

Harry almost started to fling spells right then and there but kept his composure. Out of his peripheral vision, he could see Hermione was trying to develop some sort of plan, and rightfully so looked scared. They were in this situation for the sole reason that Hermione was a Muggleborn and they deemed that Hermione deserved to be ‘punished.’

“Any last words before you both wake up in the hospital wing?”

Harry tried to come up with something to say and opened his mouth, but nothing came out. Luckily Hermione replied for them.

“Do you really have to do this Nott? I can always help with your homework, I know quite a lot about Phoenixes,” she replied while looking at him out of the corner of her eye.

Phoenix! It’s one of our codewords. I’d congratulate her for her brilliance right now if we weren’t in this situation.

Nott had a confused look on his face, and his brows were furrowed. The other Slytherins too seemed slightly confused and their grips on their wand had faltered.

“Wha-” started Nott but was unable to finish his sentence as Hermione snapped up her wand in an instant and yelled “VERDIMILLIOUS!”

Harry already was getting out his wand and said, “Vermillious,” while aiming at where Hermione had cast the green orb. As Harry was doing this Hermione sent a whispered ‘Fumos’ right below them. Which engulfed their general vicinity in smoke, making it impossible to see through.

A red light emanated through the smoke, marking it so that their AoE Verdimillious combo exploded, and cries of pain confirmed they hit one or more people.

Harry flinched as someone grabbed his left arm forcefully, but even with the limited visibility, he could tell it was a feminine hand, and a familiar one at that.

It was trying to push him down, Harry understanding, laid on the ground next to Hermione who was breathing furiously.

Evidently, Hermione had the right idea, as a mere second later cries of ‘Flipendo’ and ‘Expelliarmus’ were heard. Followed by spell bolts passing just above them. It seemed as though, none of them thought to clear the smoke with a 'Verdimillious' being too caught up with offensive spells rather than charms.

“Did we hit them?”

“I don’t know!”

“Keep casting to be sure,” said a voice which sounded like Nott.

As the Slytherins kept throwing spells randomly, their position proved to have another benefit. The smokescreen was mostly thick enough to cover their position while standing or crouching. However, it wasn’t so thick at ground level. This allowed for some visibility and Harry could discern a pair of feet.

He nudged Hermione, and whispered, “Feet.” She seemed to understand, as it looked as though she spotted them as well.

“Together,” she whispered.

Understanding he pointed his spell a metre or so above the pair of feet, and in unison with Hermione said, “Flipendo.”

It looked as though the spell hit, based on the feet magically disappearing and a loud thump heard a second or so later. A wand also dropped to the floor, and Hermione quickly said, “Relinquere,” while pointing at it.

 “Nott, they got one of us!”

“What?” snapped Nott, “Don’t stop casting morons! We need to keep them pinned down.”

Spells continued to whizz overhead. “He’s knocked out cold,” informed one of the Slytherins.

Good riddance thought Harry.

“Come on Mudblood, if you come out and surrender, we’ll let Potter go.”

The constant use of ‘Mudblood’ was really getting on his nerves, but Hermione gripped his arm and looked to him considering the proposal, but Harry harshly whispered, “No. I said I won’t leave you alone again and I mean it.”

“No? Fine, you'll get what's coming, as will Potter.” He chuckled before smugly saying, “You’ll both end up like your parents. Slaughtered like the animals they are… Not like they’re any different to you – Mudblood!”

Too far. And looking to his best friend, his suspicions were confirmed. Hermione looked as though she wanted to run out and kill Nott. He put a comforting hand on her shoulder, but it didn’t seem to dissipate her anger, fortunately, she made no move to confront Theo.

But he too was struggling not to attempt the same.

If she doesn’t knock him out, I will – you can’t go saying that stuff, that Muggles and Muggleborns are sub-human.

The smoke was starting to dissipate so Harry cast another ‘Fumos’ before they were spotted.

“Argh,” said one in frustration, “They can just do this all day. Does anyone know how to get rid of the stupid smoke?”

“What was that orb they cast?”

“A Verdimillious charm, I think. I think it can get rid of smokes.”

"Well, why didn't you say that earlier?"

Anticipating what was about to happen Hermione snapped whispering harshly, “Phoenix.” He nodded and they both quickly got up and ran in the same direction wands raised and sprinted out of the smoke.

Immediately once his visibility had come back he spotted four of the Slytherins in a huddled group discussing and throwing the odd spell at the smoke, and Nott off the left.

“Ver-” began Nott but let out a shriek as Hermione said, “Verdimillious!” as fast as she could while aiming at the small group.

Harry followed where the orb was heading for half a second before casting a ‘Vermillious’ where he predicted it would end up, having practised for hours earlier today.

Hermione had snapped off to presumably deal with Nott. While Harry got his wand at the ready, intending to cast jinxes at the group once the orb exploded. And no sooner had that happened that Harry uncovered his eyes and started throwing a Knockback jinx at the four insanely fast.

The four were all on the ground with their wands scattered, unprepared for the incoming spells.

As each spell collided, Pansy and the three others were all knocked far from their wands, giving Harry the chance to pocket each of them, leaving them defenceless.

On Hermione’s side, Nott’s wand was unfortunately knocked right next to the wall he hit. Harry knew that it would cause trouble if Nott managed to grab it. However, his fears were dashed when she did something quite unexpected.

“Accio wand!” Surprising both of them, the wand snapped straight into her left hand, but Hermione didn't look smug or happy at all. Only determined and angry after Nott's comment.

“Ahhh! Help! The Mudblood is here!” cried Nott.

Harry glared at the four, but they were all cowering in fear, and now wandless they simply ran from the room.

Turning his attention back to Hermione he noticed she was standing over a cowering Nott.

“DON’T BLOODY CALL ME THAT! OR EVER TALK ABOUT MY PARENTS! Especially like they aren’t human!” cried Hermione venomously  and fired a powerful Flipendo at Theo, knocking him to the wall.

Realising that his best friend could end up seriously or fatally injuring Nott, he cried, “Hermione!” as he ran towards her. But she paid him no attention.

“You judge me based on my heritage. Who my parents were… not my intelligence or spell work,” said Hermione harshly. “Here let me show you just how ‘good’ I am.”

And she proceeded to cast red sparks, followed by green ones.

“Hermione!” cried Harry again, closing in on her, but still she was oblivious to him.

Nott was whimpering in pain, “Please stop… I-I’m sorry.”

“LIA-” but stopped and snapped her head around, wand at the ready.

Harry had finally reached her and put a hand on her shoulder, softly saying “Hermione.”

When Hermione’s head had snapped around Harry to his credit he didn’t flinch and looked into straight her eyes which were in a furious state.

They then flicked between Nott and him, before becoming panicked.

“Wha-What have I done?” whispered Hermione, her face now pale.

Knowing Nott was ‘out of commission’ Harry made no hesitation to comfort Hermione, instantly bringing her into a hug.

“Hey, don’t worry, Nott will live.”

Hermione collapsed into his embrace, “I took it too far… I should’ve knocked him out and stop after the first spell.”

Harry could feel her heartbeat speeding up, and her breathing becoming erratic. “Look at me, Hermione,” and as their eyes locked her heartbeat and breathing calmed.

He then told her, “You can’t change what’s already happened okay. I’ll always stick by you. Always.

“Thank you,” mumbled Hermione, her voice muffled by his shoulder as she began to regain her composure.

“Besides,” began Harry and whispered in another tone, “He kind of deserved it.”

Hermione looked at him wide-eyed for a moment but then gave a small smile.

However, it instantly disappeared and was replaced by an impassive mask as the door snapped open and three staff members poured in. Pomfrey, Snape and Quirrell.

Two disarming spells then collided with each of them, causing them to falter a few steps back as their wands and Nott’s flew straight into Professor Snape’s open hand.

“Potter! What have you done?!” demanded Snape, glaring at Harry and briefly taking a glance at Nott.

He looked momentarily shocked before saying, “Madam Pomfrey, please check on my student.”

The witch nodded and walked briskly over to Nott, who was still in pain before notifying Snape that he needed to go to the hospital wing immediately, as well as the unconscious Slytherin. The Professor nodded in acceptance before glaring back at Harry.

“Now Potter, tell me what on earth happened or I’ll see you both expelled. I had four of my students running to me, saying that they should check in this classroom. You don’t happen to know why they looked scared and disarmed?”

Harry opened his mouth to talk but no sound came out.

“Well?”

Hoping that his head of house could be reasoned with, Harry spoke honestly, “Nott asked to speak with Hermione, but it was a trap. We fought off six of them, and came out on top… Nott was hit by a strong knockback jinx and some other spells…”

Snape then pierced his eyes at Harry for a few seconds, causing his composure to break under the pressure. Then suddenly Snape’s expression turned to one of surprise, then loathing.

“You beat all six of them?” asked Quirrell and for some reason without a stutter.

But Harry took no notice of that and replied with a simple, “Yes.”

Snape scowled, “I’ll be taking this up with the Headmaster to determine your final punishment-”

What about theirs?! No - just us… we didn't even start the confrontation, thought Harry furiously.

“As it stands you both have a fortnight of detentions every night.” And added a bit forcefully, “Is that understood?!”

Harry took notice that he purposefully decided to take no points away from their house.

“Yes sir…” said Harry and Hermione.

“You’re just like your bloody father.”

“I am not my father, nor my brother,” spat Harry venomously.

“Another detention! Don’t speak to me in that tone.”

Snape then flicked his gaze to Hermione and added, “And since you both can’t seem to be apart, you’ll have it as well.”

WHAT?! She does not deserve another for my actions.

“Yes sir,” said Hermione while nodding sadly.

“I’ll inform you further after discussing with the Headmaster. I’m keeping your wands till further notice. Also, hand over any wands you took from your housemates.”

The boy hesitantly did as asked. With the Professors raising an eyebrow at Harry.

Professor Snape then took a potion out of his robe and held it out for Hermione, “And take this Miss Granger, it’s a calming draught you seem like you need it.”

How does he know she needs one? wondered Harry.

Once a confused Hermione took the potion, Snape with a flick of his cloak, turned on his heel and left the room.

Quirrell, strangely, looked at them curiously for a few seconds, before shivering and leaving as well.

Once they were gone Harry turned back to Hermione he asked, “Why did he think you needed the potion? I thought you hid your emotions well.”

She shrugged and replied, “I don’t know maybe he can just read people.” And she drank most of the potion, and Harry instantly noticed the tension leave her body.

She offered him the potion and said, “Want some?”

Harry knew he was still quite angry over the whole event, but he knew Hermione needed the potion more than him. All of it.

He held up a hand, “No, I’m fine. Please drink it."

She smiled gratefully and downed the rest, the first signs of drowsiness seemed to be appearing.

His best friend put the glass away in her bag, and Harry brought his right arm over her back, grabbing her right shoulder.

Hermione collapsed into him, and they walked in a comfortable silence back to the common room, where Harry asked Tracey to take her up to bed.

Tracey looked at him confused because they had hardly ever interacted before this. She also seemed worried for Hermione and did as asked.

Malfoy looked at him with a confused expression, but Harry ignored him.

Harry then went up to his dorm, and went under his covers, despite the time. All thoughts of eating dinner were absent and promptly fell asleep.

-o-o-o-o-o-

Dumbledore was in his office attending to some work when his detection wards went off telling him that someone had arrived. A few moments later Professor Snape, looking down at his feet appeared.

“Severus, what can I do for you my friend?” asked the Headmaster with a friendly tone and a smile.

Snape flicked up his face to look at Dumbledore, but the expression worn on it was grumpy and agitated.

Nothing new there, thought the Headmaster.

“The bloody Potter boy,” sneered Severus with disgust.

Now, what is Andrew up to? I expected him and his friends to try to find the stone, could they have done it without my knowledge?

Dumbledore tried to hide his excitement as he asked, “What’s Andrew got up into now? Dare I say he’s solved the puzzle?”

Snape blinked in surprise, “You mean the stone? No, not even Quirrell has tried since Halloween. I’m talking about the other Potter boy, the one in my house.”

Albus rose an eyebrow surprised and said cryptically, “Harry Potter.”

“Yes, that’s the one. I thought he might be better than his idiotic brother-”

Dumbledore frowned at that.

“But it seems he too has a knack for trouble just like his father.”

“I wish you’d put behind your hate for James away for the benefit of his kids.”

Snape scowled at that

Albus continued saying, “Which I must also remind you are Lily’s children.”

The Potions Master clenched his jaw and looked away.

Even after all this time? noted Dumbledore.

Sighing, the Headmaster questioned, “So what has Harry Potter got up to?”

“Him and his Mu – Miss Granger, were both involved in a confrontation with six of my serpents.”

“Are they not your students as well?” asked Dumbledore calmly.

Ignoring him he continued, “Somehow the two of them managed to win in a fight, six against two. Four of which were second years…”

Six?! Certainly, interesting indeed…

Snape gulped visibly frightened a little, “I read Potter’s mind and saw Miss Granger attacking Nott quite relentlessly. She only stopped once Potter arrived at her side and calmed her down - Albus the girl seems dangerous.”

A Muggleborn dangerous? Preposterous.

“Nonsense Severus. She must just still be mad over her holidays. No one was seriously injured, were they?”

“Theodore Nott came quite close to being grievously injured, but Poppy says he’ll make a full recovery… But Albus the girl is twelve-year-old, and her environment isn’t exactly the best.”

Dumbledore waved off his fears, “Miss Granger has Harry, other teachers have informed me that they’re ‘thick as thieves.’ Your comment just further confirmed this.”

He continued, “And there’s no way a Potter would ever go dark, besides his relationship has improved with his family over the holidays – Now what will you have me do about their ‘incident.’

Snape didn’t look convinced but replied, “Punish them of course, I’ve already given them a fortnight of detentions and taken their wands.”

The headmaster thought for a moment before replying, “That seems sensible. But give them back their wands, in case there is any retaliation.”

Snape gaped at him, “They defeated six students and took all their wands and you want to give theirs back?”

“How are they expected to defend themselves Severus? Teenagers wanting revenge won’t care about the odds as long as they can cause damage.,” replied Dumbledore simply.

Snape blinked in shock before curtly nodding and flicking his cloak, muttering under his breath as he left the Headmaster’s office.

Harry Potter and Hermione Granger, an interesting pair of people indeed.

-o-o-o-o-o-

The following day, Hermione met Harry in the common room, albeit earlier than usual.

“Morning Harry,” she said.

He gave a wry smile and replied, “Morning.” His face morphed into concern as he asked, “Are you feeling better?”

Feeling bet- oh last evening, that's right.

“Yeah, I’m okay. Good thing we practiced working together as a team.”

The raven-haired boy gave a grin at that, “Yeah well you did most of the work. I only helped.”

Hermione snorted at that.

“’Helped’ – if I recall correctly, you went and knocked back four of them while I was dealing with Not-,” she stopped speaking, remembering exactly how she had felt last evening.

When Nott commented that her parents were no better than animals she snapped right then and there. There weren't many things that could set off her temper like that, but insulting those she loved was definitely one way to get her going.

Nott had insulted her parents, calling them animals – as if they were nothing. Less human than them, simply because they weren’t magical.

So, her temper spiked, any thoughts she previously had of sneaking away with well-placed smokes went out the window in favour of 'teaching' Nott a lesson.

When she confronted Nott, it was almost as if a beast took control. She took out all her anger on Theo, with her words, spells and maybe if Harry didn't arrive physical force.

And she enjoyed it…. She felt guilty indeed, but one-upping a blood purist, one who had tried to make her life as miserable as possible since day one was somewhat satisfying.

No, it was immensely satisfying.

At first, she was worried that Harry might look at her differently, but ever the loyal friend he was, she could count on stayed right by her side. He brought her out of her hatred without fear, shock or disgust.

Then he even made the comment that ‘Nott kind of deserved it.’

She wasn’t sure if Harry felt it, but the way he said the words sent a shiver down her spine and not in a bad way.

Such devotion and acceptance were not something Hermione ever would’ve thought possible in a friend. But Harry was so much more than that, he was her best friend, her rock, her lifeline and her mission.

“Hey it’s all good,” said Harry. He smirked before saying, “You beat him up pretty good, maybe enough that you’ll enjoy Quidditch now?”

Hermione rolled her eyes, “You and Quidditch…”

“Hey, remember I only watch it for the violence.”

Hermione ‘tsked’ before telling Harry, “On another note, it seems like I won our bet."

“What? What are you talking about?”

She smirked and replied, “I managed to perform the ‘Accio’ charm and summon Nott’s wand.”

He countered smirked and said, “Alright, summon my quill right here and now.”

She looked at him funnily and went to grab her wand from her pocket, but found it nowhere… Then it dawned on her.

She scowled at him, “Ha-ha very funny Harry. When do you think we’ll get them back?”

“I don’t know hopefully soon.” He then whispered, “I feel vulnerable without my wand, is that weird?”

“No, I feel exactly the same, maybe we should go and ask Professor Snape.”

As if on cue, their Head of House suddenly strutted into the common room, with a direct walk over to the duo.

“Potter, Granger to my office, now,” he ordered.

“Yes sir,” they replied, albeit quietly.

The two followed the Professor through the common room doors, and into his office. There he told them to wait outside, while he went on in.

Hermione looked at Harry, "Guess we're going to find out about our punishment.”

“Let’s hope it’s not something insane like waltzing through the Forbidden Forest at night searching for a dangerous creature which killed a unicorn,” said Harry sarcastically.

Hermione furrowed her eyebrows, “We won’t have a repeat of that. I’d rather not spend another week in the hospital wing because of you acting like a Gryffindor.”

Harry rolled his eyes, “I’m not a Gryffindor, I just protected my friend… What did the sorting hat say? We’ll make our real friends in Slytherin?”

He then grinned at her, “I’d say the hat was right, wouldn’t you?”

She grinned back, “I completely agree. And even though most of our house hate us, I don’t regret being sorted here.”

“Me neither.”

Suddenly a loud voice sounded from inside Snape’s office, “Enter!”

They quickly did as told, and upon entering their Head of House’s office, they found him sitting behind his desk with a disappointed expression on his face.

“Both of you sit down. And next time I don’t want to hear you two talking to each other when I tell you to wait outside. Is that understood?”

He heard us talking outside? Must’ve been listening charms or something…

The duo nodded their heads in response.

“Good, you’ll do well to remember that next time.” He then looked at them with a raised eyebrow, “I assume you both know why I’ve called you here?”

Hermione shared a look with Harry, who nodded for her to answer, “We believe you called us here to inform us of our final punishment.”

Snape didn’t seem very impressed but replied, “You’d be correct to think that… but it seems like events have taken another turn.”

Hermione looked at the Potions Master confused, “Sir?”

“I took up your little encounter with the Headmaster," he sighed before continuing, "For some reason, he thinks the punishment I gave you was punishment enough… still, I expect you both here, every night for the next fifteen days at eight o'clock sharp.”

Fifteen days of detention, I suppose that's not too bad… Still, that messed up our study schedule…. mused Hermione.

“I also have to give these back,” grumbled Snape, placing their two wands on the table.

Hermione went to grab hers, desperately missing the feeling of it in her hand, but flinched back when the Professor suddenly slammed his hand on their wands and strongly said,

But! You will not use these for attacking other students-”

Harry went to retort that statement, but Hermione kicked his leg, causing him to shut right up.

“Mr Nott was injured to a dangerous degree Miss Granger, I expected you to have a stronger temper than that. And Potter you’ll do well to keep your mouth quiet. So, the Headmaster is telling me you can have them back in case of any ‘retaliation.’ So, you may only use these for classwork or on other people, during class or in serious situations for self-defence purposes.”

“And when you’re defending yourself there is no need to keep attacking them once they’re down, in fact, what you both should’ve done is told a teacher immediately at your first chance.”

Harry frowned at that, “We never had a chance to do so.”

Nor would we, we aren’t snitches…

Snape seemed to think carefully before wording his answer, “The students I’ve talked to discussed how you both made use of the ‘Fumos’ spell, now how hard would’ve it had been to use it to escape if you two truly were the ones attacked…”

“So, is that all understood?” questioned the Professor, “If there is another incident I will not tolerate any excuses, you should be grateful that I was one of the ones to arrive there.”

We got off easy because of him?!

“Now take your wands and leave.”

They did as told, and once her wand was back in her grasp, Hermione instantly felt better than she had all night.

“And both of you stay away from Mr Nott,” said Snape’s voice as they left the office.

As soon as they were out of the door Hermione motioned for them to walk through the corridor, to avoid Snape’s ears.

“That was… surprising,” commented Harry.

“Yes, I thought we might end up with losing our wands outside classes or something. Maybe even suspended…. Well me at least.”

Harry informed her, “They wouldn’t do that, especially now that my parents have guardianship over you.”

She didn’t seem entirely convinced, “Muggleborns aren’t viewed the best in Wizard society, how can you be so sure?”

“Oh, you being safe has nothing to do with that and everything to do with my Mum. She’ll fight ‘tooth and nail’ for you, I think that’s the term,” mumbling the last bit. “To make sure you aren’t suspended. You should’ve seen her when she confronted your grandpar-” he stopped abruptly wanting to avoid that topic for her sake.

However, she waved off his caution, “I’m not entirely over it, and will never forgive them. But I’ve accepted it, so please.” And gave him an encouraging smile.

Hermione’s reassurance seemed to be enough for him, so he continued, “I don’t think you heard Lily, but when we went to check on you, she went ballistic over your grandparent’s reluctance to answer our questions. And she’s Muggleborn too, so don’t worry. Besides her and Dad are war heroes, they hold lots of influence.”

“Okay so a possible suspension is off the table,” concluded Hermione.

“Suspension?” questioned a feminine voice.

Looking up in the general direction of said voice, she saw her most tolerable roommate, Tracey Davis.

Harry rose an eyebrow, “Tracey?”

"Yep, that's me.”

“Eh, thanks for helping Hermione up to her dorms last evening,” commented Harry albeit awkwardly.

“Yeah thanks for that Tracey, sorry for not saying it sooner. We had… a long evening.”

Tracey snorted in response, “Yeah must’ve been, I’ve never seen you both so exhausted before. Though when Pansy came up a few hours later, I think I understood a bit better… So, what did you two do to her?”

“Parkinson?” questioned Harry seemingly deciding to answer truthfully for her help yesterday. “It wasn’t just her, Nott and four second years as well joined in. We defeated all of them, while trapped in a room,” replied Harry, though it sounded a bit unusual as he was completely humble about it.

“Six?” clarified Davis. When they nodded, she seemed a bit shocked but didn’t ask for more information on how they defeated them. “And where’s Nott? I haven’t seen him in any classes all day.”

Harry replied, “He’s in the hospital wing, eh, recovering.”

“Recovering what did you do?”

Hermione was going to clarify, but Harry instead said, “He said the wrong thing, to the wrong person…” He rose an eyebrow before asking, “Satisfied?”

“Well – no. But you two are kind of scary you know that?”

“Well thanks for your honesty,” replied Hermione.

Shaking her head in amusement Tracey then took a deep breath in steeling herself, “Umm – hey do you two want to possibly study with me sometime? Don’t worry Daphne and Lily won’t be there, just me, and I have no intention of intruding on your close friendship.”

Truth be told, the request shocked her. She had thought that she and Harry would be alone for the duration of the year.

But I suppose I’ll have to make friends with other people at some point, and Tracey is probably the least annoying and prejudiced girl I’ve met in Slytherin. Besides she’s a bit funny.

Hermione glanced at Harry who gave a nearly imperceptible nod to her, “We can do that Tracey. How about five o'clock tomorrow afternoon? Can't do much later because we've got detention with Professor Snape every night for a while."

Tracey gaped at them, “What the hell did you two do?”

Hermione smirked at her, as did Harry. Hermione imagined they looked quite predatory with their current expressions.

“That’s a story for another time.”

“Right… Well see you tomorrow then,” said Davis, before dashing off back into the classroom.

“A much better confrontation than with Malfoy I’ll say,” said Harry.

Hermione let out an exasperated sigh, “What’s the chance that as soon as Malfoy has a chance with us alone, he’ll question us about our evening last night.”

Harry huffed and sadly said, "One hundred per cent."

She squared her shoulders “Ready to face the world? Davis and Malfoy won’t be the only to question us today.”

He bit back a groan “Not really no, but as long as you’re not next to me it won’t be so bad.”

The statement made her turn her head at him. After staring at him for a second, she shot him an adoring smile, “Yeah, it won’t be as bad as I thought.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 17

Conversations

As the duo went to leave the Slytherin Common room, Malfoy motioned for them to talk in one of the secluded corners.

Sharing a tired glance with Hermione, the two made their way over to Malfoy passing by Parkinson and a couple of the second years, who quickly scrambled away from them.

People are scared of us!? Well, that’s amusing… not sure if it’s a nice change from being ignored though.

As soon as they were out of ears reach from their housemates, Malfoy snapped around and questioned, “What in Merlin, did you two do?”

Sharing a brief look with Hermione, he smirked, as did she both knowing what they were going to do. They turned back to Malfoy with impassive faces.

Let’s have some fun.

Harry furrowed his brows in confusion and asked, “What do you mean? I don’t recall us doing anything out of the ordinary.” He paused before adding, “Do you, Hermione?”

He looked towards Hermione who had an innocent expression on her face, “No, we just minded our own business all evening.”

He smiled teasingly at Malfoy, “See?”

But it seemed as though Draco was in no mood to play games, and forcefully grabbed Harry’s left arm causing Harry to tense and Hermione’s demeanour to instantly shift.

“Get your hand off him, Malfoy,” hissed Hermione, while glaring at him with a look that could kill.

Malfoy actually seemed a bit threatened but replied, “Jeez calm down Granger.” Although, he wasn’t completely confident.

Out of the corner of his eye, Harry spotted Hermione tensing her right hand, She’s probably holding her wand.

“So, what -” but was cut off by Hermione, who brought up her wand to Malfoy’s neck.

“I said, remove your hand from Harry, or I will do it for you,” said Hermione coldly.

Draco gulped, and went pale, but did as demanded anyway. A few moments later, Hermione pulled her wand away from his neck but didn’t pocket it.

“Okay… now last evening makes complete sense.”

Harry rose an eyebrow, “What do you mean? We didn’t do anything.”

“Okay, stop playing dumb, it’s really annoying. I know that both of you were attacked by three serpents yesterday, and if the rumours are true, you beat them all. I visited Theo last night, and his injuries didn’t look natural. “

“You believe we were the ones attacked?” questioned Hermione.

Malfoy gave an ‘are you serious’ look and replied, “I’m not stupid Granger, the rumours may say otherwise but you two would never go out of your way to attack a larger group. You have no interest in a power play, but instead, prefer to stay invisible.”

So, he’s been watching us carefully over our first year then. He certainly is a lot smarter than I first took him for, mused Harry.

“Well if you do believe us, let me clarify. It wasn’t three but six.”

This caused Malfoy to gape openly at them.

Harry continued, “Pansy, Nott and four second years. And like you said, we prefer to go unnoticed, why go out of our way to show off our ‘blood purity’ when we can be ignored?”

Malfoy looked at Harry with a quizzical gaze then at Hermione, before asking, “Are you sure you don’t have any magical parents, Granger?”

She smirked in response and said, “Why? Would it be so bad that a ‘Mudblood’ and half-blood beat six Purebloods?”

Malfoy flinched in response and tried to open his mouth to reply, but he seemingly had no idea what to reply with.

“Is that all, Draco?” asked Harry, emphasising his first name.

Malfoy looked really pained before he replied in basically a whisper, “Thanks.”

“What?” they said in unison.

Draco scratched the back of his neck nervously and began, “Well you see, when you two fought Nott and his group of followers you actually helped me out. See Nott was taking over leadership for the younger years, as they didn’t appreciate me talking to you both.”

“Isn’t that what you’re doing now?”

Malfoy continued nervously, “Yes, but uhm… Well now people should know not to mess with you. Even though you’re of lesser blood than us,” Hermione rolled her eyes at this, “proving you can beat all those purebloods should allow people to care less about our arrangement.”

“Okay, Malfoy, what are you saying?” questioned Harry.

 “I’ve never really cared for Nott, he’s always been a bad friend. I’ll make sure to tell my father about him. Theo’s recent actions show he was trying to take my position, which is now secure thanks to both of you…” Though it pained him to say that.

Is this a good thing? Or a bad thing? wondered Harry.

“So, don’t worry there won’t be any retaliation from me, I have no intention of causing harm to either of you. Also, if you need a favour… I’ll help. But our arrangement still stands, let me know if you find anything else out.”

Harry was in disbelief, but Malfoy seemed to be completely genuine it what he was saying. There wasn’t a hint of dishonesty, only nervousness.

Hermione replied, “Good. We’ll notify you if we discover anything else about our ‘investigation.’ And we’ll take you up on that favour when the time arises.”

“Right,” replied Malfoy, and gave a curt nod before leaving the common room.

Turning to Hermione, Harry commented, “Well that was…. unusual.

“Do you think we can trust him with more information regarding the stone?”

Harry had a thoughtful expression and thought for a few seconds before replying, “It may be a good idea to tell him more. That way he’ll trust us more, and someone like Malfoy could offer us a lot of protection and stop future incidents like that from happening again. But there’s no way in hell I’d be a dog for him like Crabbe and Goyle. If we arrange something it’ll be as equals only.”

“So, you’re saying we could make a possible friendship with him in the future?” clarified Hermione.

“Yes, but probably not this year. I think we should wait till years end before deciding. We don’t want someone who will betray us at the first sign of trouble,” suggested Harry.

“That seems sensible. Well, at least it seems Malfoy no longer has a negative view on us. But it’s quite annoying my blood heritage is still a problem. He has to stop calling me Mudblood, that is non-negotionable. I didn’t choose who I was born to.”

Harry gave her a sympathetic smile, “Yes it’s ridiculous that you’re birth parents are the reason everyone dislikes you.” He gave a cheeky grin before saying, “Otherwise everyone would be scrambling to you with their homework.”

His best friend made an irritated noise and shook her head in amusement.

Harry continued, “But at least we seem to be breaking some of those heavy prejudices from the most traditional families.”

Hermione snorted and said, “Maybe one-day Purebloods will respect me.”

Harry chuckled, “There’s no chance they won’t. They will, Hermione… I know it.”

The bushy-haired brunette gave him a grin, “Thanks for your confidence, Harry. But they’ll respect both of us. I’m with you till the end.”

Harry repeated her words, but it sounded like a vow, “With you till the end.”

-o-o-o-o-o-

The duo was walking to the Great Hall for breakfast when Hermione dragged him into an unused classroom, much to the confusion of Harry.

“Hermione what are we doing?” asked a flabbergasted Harry.

“I just remembered, now I have my wand back I can perform the ‘Accio’ charm and we can summon the Marauder Map.”

Harry grinned at her and replied, “Yeah that’s great! I completely forgot about that.” He furrowed his brows before asking, “Are you sure you can perform the spell again? What if it was just a fluke? Not that I’m doubting your abilities.”

“It wasn’t a fluke, I’m positive. Here let me show you, ‘Accio Harry’s quill.’”

And with that, Harry’s quill flew out of his bag and into her free hand.

Hermione had a smug smile and said, “See?”

Accepting that she had succeeded in performing the spell again, Harry flicked up his wand and said, “Accio Harry’s quill.”

The quill moved slightly from Hermione’s grasp but didn’t leave from her hand.

“Hey, Harry it’s okay,” said Hermione, sensing his disappointment. “I think I know the reason why you aren’t succeeding.”

Harry’s face lit up at this, “How? If you don’t mind sharing tips, of course.”

Hermione had a slightly shocked face and replied, “Harry, of course I don’t mind. You’re my best friend.”

Harry just gave her a sheepish smile in response.

“Anyway, I think I managed to summon Nott’s wand because of three main reasons; intent, imagination and confidence. I had really intended to get Nott’s wand, to stop him from using it. I had imagined it flying into my hand and was very confident that I could cast the spell correctly. So, when I did, everything seemingly fell into place.”

“Why don’t you give it another try?” suggested Hermione while placing his quill on a nearby desk.

Harry nodded and tried to put what Hermione suggested to use.

He tried to conform his mind around the idea of summoning the quill. He imagined it flying from the desk, straight into his left hand. He took a deep breath in, hoping to calm himself and becoming more confident, “Accio Harry’s quill!”

This time the quill lifted off the desk and started to glide towards Harry, albeit slowly.

That’s unusually slow… too slow, thought Harry, becoming less confident as the quill’s speed kept on slowing.

Suddenly the quill stopped where it was mid-flight, and simply dropped onto the floor, but luckily the quill Hermione had gifted him remained undamaged.

Hermione picked up his quill, giving a small smile while rubbing her finger over his initials before placing it back on the desk.

She walked over to him and said, “You were doing perfectly fine, your confidence just faltered, hence why it stopped.”

Harry didn’t look convinced, “Are you sure? Maybe I just can’t cast the spell yet, and I need more practice… it is a fourth-year charm.”

“Harry you can do it. Stop making excuses.” Once she was over to him, Hermione moved next to him, putting an arm around his side. “Try again,” she said softly.

Hermione’s presence made Harry more confident, and he once again said, “Accio Harry’s quill.”

This time, the quill glided to his hand at a much faster pace than before. He snatched it as he came into contact with his quill.

“See you can do it.”

Marvelling at the masterful craftsmanship of his quill, he turned to Hermione with a smile and said, “Did I ever tell you how much I love this quill?”

Hermione waved him off, “You buying the same quill for me explains everything.”

Wanting Hermione to take some praise he said, “By the way, you’re an amazing teacher.”

Hermione blushed slightly and mumbled, “Thank you.”

Harry then brought her into a brief hug, which was as comfortable as ever.

“What was that for?” asked Hermione, though she didn’t seem like she minded.

He gave a sheepish smile, “Just you being amazing.”

She smiled back and said, “Anyway, we need to come up with a plan to obtain the Marauder Map. It’s not like we can use the spell in the Great Hall, under the gazes of the staff. That certainly will attract attention.”

Harry thought for a few seconds and replied, “Why don’t we stand outside house dormitories and cast the spell there? We know that a student is likely to have the map, so all we have to do is cast the spell when the door to their common room opens.”

“That’s a good idea, though I find it unlikely that a Hufflepuff or Ravenclaw has the map. It’s more likely to be a Gryffindor or a Slytherin.”

He nodded his head in agreement, “Yes Slytherins and Gryffindors seem like they’d use the map to sneak around over the other two houses.”

“Who shall we start with then?” asked Hermione.

“Hmm – Let’s start with the Gryffindors. Considering it’s only…” He glanced at his watch, “Quarter-past seven it would be a prime time to cast the spell as their entrance would constantly open for the students leaving for breakfast. Whereas, we always have access to the Slytherin dungeons.”

Hermione could see no fault with his logic and shrugged, “Let’s do that now then.”

The duo started walking through the corridor, where Hermione asked, “Where is the Gryffindor’s common room?”

“Oh,” replied Harry, “I didn’t think about that.”

Hermione rolled her eyes, “We’ll just follow some of their early risers from the Great Hall. I’m sure they have some people who get up early enough and leave the hall before the masses arrive.”

Harry nodded his head in agreement and the two stayed in the shadows around the Great Hall. It wasn’t long before a few older Gryffindors left the Hall, presumably wanting to get some extra studying done.

He made a motion to Hermione to follow them, and they did so, keeping out of sight.

A few minutes passed until the older Gryffindors were standing outside a portrait of a massive lady. They said a password, which the duo was unable to hear, and the portrait swung open to admit the Gryffindors.

Taking the opportunity presented, Hermione took out her wand and said, “Accio Marauder Map!”

Just as the portrait was about to close, a blank piece of parchment flew straight through the almost closed gap and straight into Hermione’s free hand.

“Well that was easy,” remarked Hermione.

But as she said this, the portrait suddenly opened, to reveal two frantic looking teenagers bickering amongst each other.

Upon closer inspection, Harry realised it was the infamous Weasley twins, although he couldn’t tell who George was, and who was Fred.

“What do you mean the map just flew from your hand? That’s impossible,” said the twin of the left.

“I’m telling you, Fred, it just took off from my hand and went out the portrait hole,” replied George.

George then looked in their direction, where the duo was standing, holding the ‘blank’ piece of parchment.

He elbowed his twin brother and motioned towards Harry and Hermione, and then both Weasley’s walked up to the duo.

“Oh hey, what are you two Slytherins doing up here?”

“Hey George, I recognise this one,” pointing to Harry. “He’s Andrew’s traitor brother.”

Harry scowled at this, “Just because the sorting hat decided otherwise, doesn’t make me a ‘traitor.’”

“Sure Harrykins, whatever. Well, at least now we can play some pranks on him, as Mrs Potter can no longer stop us from trying. I totally forgot that he existed.”

Wait… Mum stopped them from ever playing pranks on me?! Even when the spell was active? I guess even an ancient spell couldn’t stop Lily Potter forgetting about her child completely. He made a mental note to appreciate his mother more.

Hermione forced out a cough, “We’re both right here you know? Anyway, what do you two want?”

“What do we want?”

“We want what you have stolen from us.”

“We haven’t stolen anything from you both. Unless you mean this?” replied Hermione, holding up the parchment.

The twins shared a look before one replied, “Yes, that’s our piece of parchment.”

“Yeah, we need it for eh – homework.”

Harry rose an eyebrow and said, “Why would you two want a simple piece of parchment so badly… unless it’s the Marauder Map, which you stole from Filch’s office.”

Both twins gaped openly at the duo, turning pale with shock. The one of the right recovered first and replied, “Oh – no, of course not. What are you talking about? We just want our parchment back.”

Harry shared a look with Hermione, who seemed to understand. She pointed her wand at the ‘parchment’ and said, “I solemnly swear that I am up to no good.”

Suddenly the parchment changed into a map of the entire grounds of Hogwarts, with name tags under the location of every student and staff member in the school.

“How did you know how to do that?” asked one of the twins.

Harry looked at them and said, “Well my father was one of the Marauders, as were his three closest school friends.”

“No, that’s impossible.”

To prove his point, Harry got out one of the letters from his father, mentioning the map and handed it to the twins. They read it over once, then twice before one replied, “Why shouldn’t Andrew have the map then? He’s also a son of a Marauder.”

“Well my parents gave it to me, and Sirius Black and Remus Lupin agreed as well. Andrew already has other items of great importance.”

The twins still didn’t seem convinced, “If you really won’t part with it, I could tell Filch that you stole the map from him, I’m sure he’d love an excuse to punish you both.”

This made them both think deeply for a minute. Harry and Hermione let them, knowing that either way they were going to get what they came for. After a while, they started speaking to each other.

“Do we have anything to barter? There is that-“

“No, too valuable. Especially if we want to start our little project.”

“True, true. How about that one for our little expeditions?”

The twin looked at the map and shook his head, “Not valuable enough and they’ll know it. How about information? I’m sure they would like to know-“

The other one snorted, “They won’t care about that. I think we’ve lost this one dear brother.” They both nodded.

They turned towards the duo before one of them said, “Alright, we accept as long as you tell us who the Marauders are.”

Seems fair enough, besides I’m sure they’ll be in for a slight shock knowing who one of their idols are.

“Prongs, is my father, James Potter. Padfoot is Sirius Black, Moony is Remus Lupin… and Wormtail is Peter Pettigrew.”

“Peter Pettigrew -”

“The one who betrayed your parents and is in Azkaban?”

“The very same,” replied Harry.

The Weasleys seemed to have a quiet conversation with each other, with Harry only picking up parts of it like, “To think we used to worship him.”

Harry interrupted their conversation and said, “So we good?”

“Eh, I suppose…”

“Good,” interjected Hermione. “And if you two ever think of pranking us, you will regret it,” threatened Hermione in a cold voice.

The twins, however, didn’t seem to believe that she was serious. “Yeah, alright,” replied one in a disbelieving voice before the twins both left back to their common room.

Harry furrowed his brows, as they walked back to the Dungeons. “They didn’t take you seriously. We might end up being pranked by them.”

“Let them try. If they do they will regret it.”

“Revenge?”

“No, justice,” replied Hermione with confidence.

“Justice indeed. And with the map now in our possession, it should make everything easier. That reminds me.” He pointed his wand at the map, and said, “Mischief managed.” The map went black and reassumed the look of a piece of black parchment.

-o-o-o-o-o-

It was the afternoon, and the duo was practising duelling, before their meeting with Tracey at five o’clock.

“Flipendo!” cried Hermione.

Harry manoeuvred out of the way and crouched before firing his own ‘Flipendo’ back.

Instead of dodging the spell and returning fire, as Harry would expect. She fired a ‘Fumos’ under her, to cloak her location, as the spell flew harmlessly through.

Harry had a general idea on what Hermione would do next, she’d either rush out in an attempt to surprise him or wait for him to make the first move.

So he quickly fired a smoke screen off to the side, before firing a ‘Verdimillious’ charm to the right-hand side of her smoke, and three ‘Flipendos’ to the left side.

A small thud indicated that one of his knockback spells hit his target, and hoping that she had dropped her wand in the process he cried, “Accio Hermione’s wand!”

A small, long and slender piece of wood flew through her smokescreen right into his hand. A few moments later an annoyed Hermione emerged from the smoke.

“Looks like I’m still better,” commented Harry.

Hermione retorted, “Yeah well, who got an ‘O’ on their last transfiguration test.”

“Alright, alright. Just give me this small victory won’t you?” replied Harry while holding out her wand.

 She gave a small smile, “So long as we know who’s more intelligent.”

He snorted, “Well there’s no debate to that… Are you alright? I didn’t rough you up too much with the knockback jinx did I?”

“No, just caused me to drop my wand, and get knocked on my arse.”

“Good.”

Hermione was waving her wand and asked, “What do you think about learning other advanced spells?”

That would give us an extra edge, I see nothing wrong with that.

“What do you have in mind?”

Hermione replied, “I was thinking we’d start with something pretty basic, and not too advanced. Such as the disarming spell. It’s a second-year spell, and if those Slytherins we beat could cast it, I doubt we’d have any trouble.”

Harry grinned, “Alright let’s do that. I’m great with defence spells.”

“You begin, Harry. The incantation is simply ‘Expelliarmus’. Give me some time to prepare for the knockback. From what I’ve read if the spell lands my wand will fly from my hand towards yours, while additionally causing me to be knocked back. But to a lesser extent than a ‘Flipendo.’”

“That does indeed sound useful, and has more utility than a simple knockback jinx,” said Harry as he took a position opposite Hermione in the classroom. “Ready?” he asked, preparing to cast the spell.

Hermione nodded her head, and Harry said, “Expelliarmus!” A jet of scarlet light left his wand and hit Hermione square in the chest. It knocked her back a few metres and caused her wand to forcefully leave her hand and slowly fly mid-air.

With a quick ‘Accio’ Hermione’s wand sped up and landed straight into his free hand.

“Nice work, Harry,” said Hermione, while smiling at him. “On your first try as well.”

He returned the smile, “Thanks. I’ve always had a knack for the defence spells.”

“That you have.” She looked at her watch before saying, “Let’s switch it around, I’ll try the spell, and then we’ll head off to the library for our meet up with Tracey.”

“Do try to not hit me too hard,” teased Harry.

“I’ll make sure I won’t.” They took up their positions again, and she asked, “Ready?”

“As ready as I’ll ever be.”

“Expelliarmus!” shouted Hermione. Just as with Harry, a scarlet light left the tip of her wand, and smacked into Harry, nearly causing him to fall over, and lose grip of his wand.

He was still recovering when he heard, “Accio wand.”

Breathing in exhaustion he said, “Jeez, Hermione. I thought you said you’d take it easy.”

“But you said ‘too’ hard, that measurement is up for debate,” retorted Hermione while smirking.

Harry shook his head in amusement and picked up his bag. “Come on, let’s go meet up wait for Tracey, might be nice to have another person to talk to.”

Hermione passed him his wand and turned to look at him in the eyes, and faked a sad face, “What, bored of me already are you, Potter?”

He chuckled in response, “I could never get bored of you Hermione.”

“Good otherwise -”

“Yes, yes,” interjected Harry. “But Hermione, you must know you can never be replaced.”

“Neither can you, Harry.”

The two grinned at each other, as they left the classroom in the direction of the library.

-o-o-o-o-o-

Tracey Davis, was currently on her way to the library for her meeting with the ‘mysterious duo’ as they had been deemed inside the house of snakes.

Truth be told, she didn’t just want to study with them, though that was an added bonus. She really wanted to unpuzzle them.

The two, Harry Potter and Hermione Granger were a mystery to her. When she had first been sorted into Slytherin, she knew that she would probably have a hard time. It was extremely likely she would be the only half-blood in her year, but Potter and Granger changed that.

Potter, the elder and forgotten brother of Andrew Potter, surprised everyone by his attendance at school this year. Not only that, but he was sorted into Slytherin. Tracey had thought that perhaps everyone would try to swarm him in an attempt to make friends, but really all they did was ignore him, whether that was due to his blood status or friendship with Granger.

Hermione, however, was a Muggleborn. People’s knowledge of Tracey being a half-blood was greatly overshadowed by the bushy-haired witch who somehow managed to be sorted into Slytherin.

She had discussed Granger’s heritage with Daphne and Lily, and they came to the conclusion that Hermione had to have some of Dagworth-Granger’s blood. It only made sense since she was clearly the best potioneer in her year.

And now she was meeting them, and possibly becoming friends with them. Unlike others, rather than being fearful of the ‘top’ Pureblood families such as the Malfoy’s, she was scared of the ‘duo.’ Especially considering they had just defeated six of her housemates, something Tracey was still recovering from.

As she walked into the library and looked around for the two, she recalled her last conversation with them. The way they smirked at her after she asked what they did literally sent shivers down her spine. It was the scariest look she had ever seen, especially with Harry’s unusual eye colour.

It took her a while to find Harry and Hermione, as they were located in the most secluded corner.

Should’ve known they would’ve been there from the start.

She stuck her head around the corner, looking at them from a distance.

Harry and Hermione were currently sitting right next to each other, talking in whispers reading a book. It would’ve been a cute sight if Tracey hadn’t read the book’s title.

An Introduction to the Dark Arts, what the hell?!

She seriously wondered what on earth was with those two. Deciding that she better reveal herself rather than leave, she did just that.

Tracey walked up to their table and said a simple, “Hi.”

Hermione was the first one to look away from the book slowly raising her eyes at Tracey, before nudging Harry, who scowled lightly at Granger.

“Hi, nice of you to arrive, Davies,” said Hermione.

Last name basis. Okay well, they obviously aren’t friendly to outsiders. I better take a slow approach and go about addressing them the same way.

Tracey really did want to get on friendly terms with the duo for two main reasons. One because it’d obviously be better to be their friend than their enemy. Knowing that in a few years time, they could be better at duelling than the entire school. And two, they seemed like they’d be the most loyal friends you could ever meet.

Sure she was friends with Daphne and Lily, having met the two on the Hogwarts Express. They had taken her under their wing, but she always felt a sense of resentment from them, probably due to her blood status. A thing which neither Harry or Hermione would have any problems with.

Daphne was also a bit of a snob acting like she was better than everyone else, and Lily was simply a follower, doing anything and everything to please Greengrass.

And while she knew she’d never share the same ‘friendship’ Granger and Potter shared, even getting a taste of what being friends with them entailed would be great. For they never seemed to leave each other's side and were fiercely loyal to one another.

She reddened slightly and replied, “Sorry, I had trouble finding you two. Can I start again?”

“Sure, go ahead.”

“Hello, Granger and Potter, mind if I study with you two?”

Hermione put away the ‘dark arts’ book and replied, “You’re welcome to. Anything you need help with?”

“Um, yeah. The potions essay that Snape assigned, I’m not entirely confident on how my essay flows.”

Hermione surprised Tracey by replying, “If you’ll give it over here, I’ll proofread it for you.”

“Really? Thanks, Granger,” and handed over her essay after fumbling around in her bag.

As Hermione went about reading her essay, she turned her gaze to Harry, who was studying her with a critical gaze.

She decided to say, “I seriously don’t know what is with Snape and his bias towards you, Potter. It seems like he hates you for no reason.”

Harry rose an eyebrow, “You noticed too? Huh, and here I thought you were just an average person.”

This angered Tracey a bit, “Don’t insult me, Potter. I’m not as stupid as I look.”

However, her desired effect on Harry didn’t happen as he smiled and said, “I never intended to insult you. I was just saying it’s nice that someone else notices something so blatant.”

“Um – okay thanks?”

Hermione made an irritated noise, “Okay, Davis. Out with the questions, we know that’s why you’re here.”

Tracey made a hurt face, but they just gave her knowing looks. So she sighed and said, “That seriously wasn’t the only reason I was here, let me assure you.”

They didn’t reply so she sighed again and asked, “Okay, so what happened the other day with our housemates? Just give me the quick version, if it’s easier for you.”

“Alright,” replied Harry. “More or less, we beat six Slytherins with clever combinations of spells and Nott got uh – hurt badly in the process. We won’t talk about that.”

“Anything else?” asked Hermione.

Granger’s look made Tracey cower slightly, but she asked, “Sorry if I felt intrusive, I was serious about studying, could we help each other out for a couple of hours?”

Hermione shared a look with Harry and then turned back to Davis  and said, “Sure, besides, it would be good to have another person to teach Harry, here.”

Harry rolled his eyes at that.

It’s so weird to see the two interact. I’ve never really seen them in private, but it seems they act in such a friendly manner with one another. Something which people never would’ve thought looking from the outside.

For the rest of the evening, the three studied in mostly silence. Tracey made an effort to stay as friendly as possible throughout their session and even helped Harry on some questions he had. They also helped her immensely with her work, giving her tips and suggestions she never would’ve thought of.

Around seven, Hermione said, “Alright, I think we’ll end it here. We’ve got to have tea.”

She gave a grateful smile at the duo and said, “Thanks, both of you. You were really helpful.” She packed up her bag and made to leave, but turned around and said, “Bye, Harry and Hermione.”

As the words left her lips, she froze in place. She didn’t intend to use their first names, it just happened. But it seemed that whatever relationship she had just made with them was unaffected, as Hermione just smiled in response and replied in a friendly manner, “See you later, Tracey.”

First name basis. Maybe with time, we’ll all be good friends.

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 18

Revelations

As Tracey left the duo, Hermione smiled to herself. Perhaps there are other people like Harry. Ones who like me for who I am and aren’t prejudiced.

“That was oddly… pleasant,” commented her best friend.

“Yes, certainly not what I would’ve expected. I thought she would nag us with questions relating to recent events before leaving promptly. However, Tracey was nice company and helped with some questions neither me, nor you could figure out.”

Harry rose an eyebrow at her, “Also this is new, Tracey? First name basis?”

Hermione had a thoughtful expression, “Well like I said, she was comfortable company, and compared to other people she surpasses them all. Not that it’s very hard to beat someone like Malfoy.”

“That is true, besides it’d be nice to call someone else by their first name.” He paused before cautiously asking, “Do you think pursuing a friendship with Tracey would affect our neutrality with Malfoy?”

She looked at him seriously and replied, “Out of the two who would you prefer to be friends with?”

He replied almost instantly, “Tracey.”

“Well, then there’s your answer. Besides, if Malfoy can’t accept other people of ‘lower blood,’ what hope do we have of any successful friendship with him?”

Harry rolled his eyes in amusement and replied, “You’re right of course. And Tracey has no prejudices towards our blood status, being a half-blood herself... Which would only make us get along easier with one another.”

As an afterthought, he added, “And you’d be safer with Tracey as your friend, especially in female-only areas.”

Hermione shot him a slightly annoyed look, “I don’t need anyone to protect me. I’m perfectly capable of defending myself.”

Harry moved his hands wildly in an attempt to reassure her, “No, no, no. That’s not what I mean.” His face turned serious and he said, “You are the only Muggleborn in Slytherin, and recent events prove that there are people out to get to you. We both know if I wasn’t with you, something worse could’ve happened that day. We were lucky as is. Having Tracey would further act as a deterrent from possible threats, in no way am I doubting your abilities. I know you’re extremely capable.”

His features then softened and with a worried look, he informed, “I’d just really like you being as safe as possible and Tracey seems like the type to stay and fight for her friends… Whereas with Malfoy or some other Slytherin, self-preservation would be the first thing on their mind. At the first sign of trouble, they’d bolt.”

She nodded, “Alright, although let’s not be hasty about her. This was only our first meeting after all.”

“Definitely, a few more study sessions and we can be sure.”

She smiled at him, “And Harry, thanks for thinking about my safety… I’m sorry I jumped to conclusions.”

The raven-haired boy shook his head, “There’s nothing to be sorry about.” He waited a moment before saying, “On another topic, I think we have an appointment set.”

Hermione shot him a confused look, “What do you mean?”

“Well we now have the map… So I was thinking we’d bolt dinner,” replied Harry.

Realisation dawned on Hermione, He wants me to go flying again… The memory of their lesson last year brought a smile to her face, That view really was amazing. And after the initial shock and fear, I have to admit I really did enjoy myself. Besides, I did agree to it not that long ago.

She gave Harry a slightly worried expression, “You’ll be with me the whole time, right?”

He gave a reassuring smile, “If you’d prefer that… But at some point, you’ll need to practice flying on your own. While I’ll try to always be there, I can’t guarantee it.”

“So long as when I fly alone, I’m not flying high or fast.” She sighed dramatically and added, “Okay we can go flying.”

He grinned at her, “Great. Maybe one day in the future, we’ll even be able to race each other.”

She chuckled, “Maybe, but I doubt it. Anyway, let’s pack up and head over to the Quidditch pitch. But we better use the Marauder Map, it wouldn’t be good to get caught. Especially when we’re intending to fly without supervision.”

He nodded in agreement, “And we’ll need to sneak off towards Snape’s office around eight for our daily detention, which gives us approximately an hour of flying… I’m really sorry about landing us that extra detention.”

Hermione waved him off, “It’s not your fault that Snape baited you into it. But I do wish you would show some more restraint.”

“So you’re not mad?”

“Mad?” said Hermione in disbelief, “As if I’d let you go to that detention alone anyway, I would’ve gone regardless.”

He gave a thankful smile, “You’re the best.”

She teased, “And You’ll do well to remember that, Potter.”

He mocked a salute and replied, “Yes Ma’am.”

Hermione rolled her eyes with a smile on her face, Gods he can be such an idiot sometimes. But one who brings out the happiness in me like no other.

-o-o-o-o-o-

The duo were walking to the Quidditch Pitch when Hermione decided to whip out the Marauder Map, and muttered, “I solemnly swear I am up to no good.”

“I haven’t had much of a look at the map, does it live up to what I was told by the adults?”

She took in his question and glanced at the map. There were the names and ‘footprints’ of everyone in Hogwarts and it’s grounds. It didn’t take her long to spot both of their names.

“I think it does indeed,” commented Hermione, while Harry looked over her shoulder.

“Cool,” said Harry. “And hey look it even shows staff members,” while pointing his finger at Professor McGonagall’s name. “Just as my dad said.”

Hermione smiled softly for Harry, happy that his parents enabled him to obtain this map which lived up to their expectations.

Coupled this with the mirrors, it really seemed like Mr and Mrs Potter were making a real effort to help repair their relationship with their eldest son. To which Hermione was happy for Harry. And by extent, she was included in their friendliness as well, considering she now lived with him and his family which made her feel guilty, and thankful at the same time.

If it was anyone else, she might’ve been left with her grandparents and for all she knew, she’d be dead.

“I’m glad everything they said was the truth,” told Hermione.

“Me too Hermione, me too…” but he began to trail off, causing Hermione to look at him in confusion.

“What?” she asked looking at a conflicted Harry.

Harry motioned with his eyes, at a spot on the map near to them, “There.”

She followed his green eyes to where they were looking causing them to widen slightly in surprise.

Not too far up from them, was the infamous ‘Golden Trio’ moving into a nearby classroom, which in itself was confusing.

Harry moved to her side and asked, “Do you think we should listen in on them?”

She gave him a sceptical gaze, “Is that the best course of action? It seems like every time we let curiosity get the better of us, we end up in some sort of trouble.”

Harry shrugged, “I said I wouldn’t do anything without your support, so it’s your choice. Besides we do have that map so we’ll know when we need to move away to avoid them.”

Hermione nodded and thought to herself. On the one hand, they could overhear something useful from the trio, which could prove to be valuable information. But on the other hand, they may just be talking about inconsequential things, and as a result, she and Harry would be needlessly risking themselves.

She leaned more towards the former and communicated as much to her best friend, “It’s alright – I’m for it. We may learn something useful… if we can’t get out of sight in time I’ll put down a smokescreen to cover our escape.”

He nodded in agreement, “Though I doubt it will come to that. Anyway, let’s go now or we may miss something important.”

The two carefully, but quickly moved towards the classroom which held the trio in, and leaned their ears on the door.

A quick check beforehand noted that no one else was around, so they would be fine from being spotted listening in.

“Do you reckon it was Hagrid’s?” asked a voice sounding like Andrew.

“I don’t see who else would own a Cerberus, let alone call it ‘Fluffy,’” replied another voice, resembling Longbottom.

A Cerberus?? Asked Hermione to herself, In Greek Mythology it’s a three-headed dog, I wonder if it’s the same in the Wizarding World. And if so, wherein the hell did they find one? But it’s no surprise Hagrid would call such a creature ‘Fluffy.’ Considering he named his harmless dog, ‘Fang.’

She took a glance at Harry whose eyes had widened, giving her more evidence that the Cerberus was, in fact, a three-headed dog.

“If that thing is Hagrid’s I don’t want to ever visit him again,” said Weasley.

“Ron, come on don’t be like that. Hagrid just has… er… weird ideas on naming animals. You know he’s perfectly harmless and would never purposefully put us in danger.”

Ron scowled, “As long as you’re not counting his rock cakes when you say that.”

This seemed to cause Andrew to laugh a bit, “Yeah those things are literal rocks.”

“Guys!” exclaimed Longbottom.

“Right, right. Sorry, Neville, don’t worry we’ll still be visiting Hagrid… won’t we Ron?”

It sounded like a small yelp came from Weasley and he replied, “Yep, of course.” Though it sounded quite panicked.

Must’ve elbowed the idiot, mused Hermione.

“Besides, we need to figure out how to get past the creature and Hagrid is our best bet. Didn’t either of you see the trap door under the Cerberus?” questioned Andrew.

“Don’t you mean the two trapdoors?” asked Longbottom.

“There were two?! I didn’t even see one! I’m just glad we got away from the third room corridor, Dumbledore wasn’t lying when he’d say we would ‘die a horrible death,’” commented Weasley

So they were in the Third Room Corridor… The one the Headmaster told us was out of bounds. They also seem to believe that the Philosopher Stone is being kept there. And if Longbottom is to be believed, there are two trapdoors under the Cerberus, noted Hermione.

“Thank Merlin, that Neville remembered the ‘unlocking’ charm, otherwise we would’ve been caught following Snape,” said Andrew.

Ron mumbled something, but Hermione was unable to catch what he said.

“But Snape went up to the corridor, he must be preparing to go after the stone. But we have no chance of following him without getting past the Cerberus.”

“We’ll have to visit Hagrid again, I suppose,” commented Neville. “It wouldn’t be hard to make him spill his secrets.”

“Alright it’s late now, we need to head towards the Great Hall for dinner,” said Andrew.

“Thank Merlin! I’m starving.”

An amused Andrew replied, “You’re always hungry, Ron.”

Hermione nudged Harry as the ‘footprints’ on the map had begun to move. They quickly hid in a secluded corner, while the trio passed by them completely unaware of their presence. Once they were gone she fixed Harry with a serious look.

“Did you catch all of that?”

His eyes widened slightly, “You mean about the Cerberus, Snape, the Third Room Corridor, and the trapdoors?”

“Yep. What do you think is going on?” asked Hermione.

“I don’t know exactly… but it may be worth taking a look for ourselves,” replied Harry.

“I agree, but we should follow the trio’s idea to ask Hagrid first or we could just follow them and let them take care of Fluffy for us. Either way, we might end up dead – however, as much as I hate Snape, I don’t think he’s trying to get the stone.”

Harry looked at her confused, “Wait, you hate Snape? And why do you think he’s not going for the stone?”

She smiled at him, “Snape hates you, so by extent I hate him. I won’t tolerate anyone hating my best friend. And to answer your other question, remember our conversation with Snape yesterday?”

Harry nodded and replied, “But I don’t see how that tells us anything.”

So Hermione informed him of her observations, “The way he talked about the Headmaster implied that he was on good terms with him. So I doubt he would go ‘under his nose’ for the Stone. Especially considering how powerful Dumbledore is rumoured to be.”

“Wow, you’re really observant you know that?” She shot him a thankful smile and he added, “But then what was Snape doing up there?”

Hermione furrowed her brows, “That’s what troubles me. If Snape wasn’t going for the Stone he must have another reason.”

Harry shrugged, “I don’t know. Anyway, we need to head to the pitch quickly, we’ve already wasted enough time as is. And I don’t fancy waiting any longer.”

Within a couple of minutes, the duo had arrived on the Quidditch Pitch, each holding a broom.

Hermione deactivated the map and told Harry, “We’ll go flying, but I’m going with you first. I don’t want to fall off.”

“That’s fine Hermione. I promise to not go fast this time.”

She gave him a nervous look, “Actually could we go fast at some point? I think it would help me overcome my Acrophobia the fastest.”

He smirked at her, “Need I remind you that you screamed last time?”

“I did no such thing,” replied Hermione defiantly.

“Well if you’re so sure then.” He got on top of his broom and said, “Come on, get on, Hermione.”

She gave him a nervous look but got behind him on the broom anyway.

“You might want to hold onto me,” suggested Harry.

So she wrapped her arms around his stomach in a loose grip, and then they lifted off.

Immediately her grip on Harry tightened as they ascended. She even dared a look at the ground, causing her to cringe in fear.

They may have only been a few metres above the ground, but her acrophobia was clearly still there. But she could clearly tell she was much more comfortable than when they went flying last year.

For Hermione’s benefit, Harry kept their speed to a slow pace, until they were level with the quidditch goals.

He looked back over his shoulder and asked, “Comfortable?”

She considered the question and looked around. Ignoring the immense height they were at, she took in the view. Unlike their trip last year, this time they were here in the evening, where it was already dark. It gave the pitch, and their surroundings a vastly different look.

She wouldn’t necessarily call it more beautiful but regardless it left her in awe. There was always something about being above it all, almost like you were a god looking down on your creations.

She had been on an airplane a couple of times before, but in these you would be trapped in a metal vehicle whereas here, atop of a broomstick you felt the wind blowing in your face, the chills, and could breathe in the fresh air.

It was no wonder Harry enjoyed flying so much, and she would make sure they would go flying over the Summer, on Harry’s new broom no less. The duo hardly ever got enough fresh air, being held up in the library most of the time.

She replied to Harry softly, “Yes. Very.”

“Good, because now we’re going to go fast, and I’ll show you how one truly enjoys flying,” said Harry while trying to giving her a reassuring look.

She trusted him, “Okay. Hopefully, I’ll enjoy myself.”

“And you won’t scream right?” he teased.

She gaped at him and remained stubborn, “I already told you I did not.”

“Alright, whatever,” said an amused Harry. “Hold on tight.”

And no sooner had she tightened her grip around Harry, that he sped off towards the other goals.

Immediately she began to scream.

But after a few seconds, she calmed down and realised things really weren’t that bad. In fact, the rush of wind on her face, and the speed they were travelling were oddly pleasant.

As they reached the other goals, instead of slowing them down, Harry simply did a u-turn around them but this only further excited Hermione.

Now she knew why people loved to fly at such high speeds, the exhilaration was unlike anything she had ever felt. At this present moment, she believed that flying all day, every day wouldn’t be such a bad thing.

Harry then began to slow them down, allowing Hermione to rest her head on his back and take in the sights.

He’s such a nice pillow… That’s a weird thought.

They continued to fly at a slow pace for a couple of minutes until Harry cocked his head back at her, “Want to try something a little bit… unorthodox?”

She gave him a questioning gaze.

He chuckled, “I noticed you seem to be enjoying yourself now, so what do you say?”

“Is it safe?”

Harry grimaced a bit, “I’ve never tried the maneuver with two people before, but I think I can pull it off. I’ll lower us down, just in case.”

“Okay, we’ll try it, I trust you.”

He smiled and looked towards the front before diving them down. Once they were five or so metres above the ground he asked, “Ready?”

She wasn’t exactly sure what he had in mind but was ready to experience whatever it was, “Yep.”

Harry flew them in a straight line, gradually speeding up before he flew them into a backwards summersault.

While she was sure her acrophobia had mostly subsided, looking at the ground from above her was a totally new experience. Once the maneuver was finished she patted him with her hand a few times to communicate to Harry that she wanted to get down.

Once safely on the ground Hermione looked at him flabbergasted, “Harry! I didn’t think you meant we were going upside down!”

He gave her a sheepish smile, “Sorry. I thought you would find it fun.”

Hermione rolled her eyes, “Sometimes your definition of fun greatly differs from mine.” She took in a deep breath and said, “I want to have a go at flying on a broom myself.”

Her best friend smiled at her, “Alright, here take this one.” And offered the broom they were riding, “It’s more stable than the other, which I’ll ride – I’ll be near you at all times.”

“Thanks, Harry.” She mounted the broom and gave a small kick off the ground. She only lifted a few metres and her grip wobbled due to the pressure she was exerting upon it. She forced herself to relax by taking a deep breath before silently flying for twenty minutes. The next thing she knew she was speeding up and dashing across the field with ease.

She didn’t dare go any higher at the moment, but she continued to speed up and made sharp turns all around the pitch. And surprisingly, she found herself enjoying flying.

Another thing to share in common with Harry, thought Hermione to herself.

It wasn’t long before a smirking Harry caught up besides her and they raced each other from one end to another.

They continued this for another twenty minutes when she got off her broom, with Harry doing the same.

“Exhausted are you?!” asked Harry playfully.

She smirked at him, “You wish Potter. But no, we need to get back inside before our detention.”

He went slightly pale, “Shite, you’re right.”

She giggled, “Aren’t I always?” and winked at him before making her way back inside the castle. Hermione didn’t need to see his face to know that he had rolled his eyes at her.

-o-o-o-o-o-

Voldemort was at an all-time low. It had been nearly an entire year, and he was still just a parasite using the blithering idiot, Quirrell as a vessel.

Still at least one of my followers came to look for me. No help from Lucius… I’ll need to pay him a visit once I get the stone.

Every day was utter torture for the Dark Lord.

Being stuck in Quirrell’s body meant he had to listen to the bloody idiot teach all of his classes, yet he could barely understand anything his servant was trying to teach with his constant stuttering.

But at least it means that when I get my body back they’ll have no idea how to fight back.

He seriously wondered why Dumbledore hired Quirrell in the first place. The possibility that he hired him because Dumbledore knew he was possessing him had passed his mind but seemed unlikely.

Even I have to respect that Dumbledore is very intelligent… He always does something for a reason.

But what that reason was, he did not know yet.

Sometimes he’d take over Quirrell and teach something particularly dark, in the hopes of turning some of the elder students to other types of magic.

But Quirrell’s reputation was a joke, no one respected him. So all Voldemort could really do, was to observe.

And observe he did.

There weren’t many promising students in the older years, as it seemed all the suitable Slytherins were just arrogant bullies. But they did have their uses, of course. Being ideal candidates for ordinary Death Eaters, but none of them would have any likelihood of joining his inner circle.

The class of 91, however, showed otherwise. The first years contained prominent children of his followers such as Nott, Malfoy, Parkinson, Crabbe and Goyle. But the latter two were obviously mentally handicapped. In class, they were the last to produce red sparks… A simple spell.

Draco seemed like a carbon copy of his father, yet he lacked one of Lucius’ saving traits; leadership. And it was obvious he was a spoiled child filled with pure arrogance. Still, he showed promise.

Theodore and Pansy were more or less average students, but they commanded the respect of their house… Well, at least they used to.

That was until they had an encounter with the ‘duo.’ Harry Potter and Hermione Granger; Voldemort would’ve choked on something in surprise if he could at the sorting when those two somehow managed to be sorted into Slytherin.

The brother that wasn’t there at Godric’s Hollow that Halloween, the one he would’ve killed as well, had been sorted into the house of snakes. Voldemort thought for sure that the naïve boy would’ve been devoured and subjugated within a matter of weeks, but he had stayed hidden along with his Mudblood bitch, Granger.

The only thing more confusing than Potter being sorted into Slytherin was the fact that a Mudblood had been as well. But it didn’t take long for it to become obvious that they both deserved to be in Slytherin, however, unusual it was.

Both students showed exceptional talent in the classroom with their theoretical and practical work. They were top of the defence class, as for some reason Andrew’s performance had faltered after the first couple of months much to the Dark Lord’s delight.

And then recently, the two had fought six of his potential followers alone. He had watched the battle unfold through the eyes of the Mudblood and it was exceptional to watch for two people at such a young age. Even if he was disappointed that six purebloods were defeated by a half-blood and a Mudblood.

Both Potter and Granger shared anger and talent which could easily benefit him, but they both lived with a strong light-side family, the Potters. Turning either of them to the dark would be extremely hard, and impossible if either one of them wasn’t tempted.

Granger may be a Mudblood, but exceptions could be made for those who showed exceptional talent.

As much as I hate it, I’m a half-blood myself… and my mother was a bloody Squib.

The other Potter boy, the one he had failed to kill that night was another story. Any chance of turning him seemed impossible, he was clearly in Dumbledore’s pocket and an idiot Gryffindor.

But his lack of natural talent in defence class certainly improved Voldemort’s mood. Not once had he seen the boy master a spell within a lessons’ time in recent months. Unlike the other Potter and the Slytherin Mudblood.

The thought to kill the baby that almost killed him had passed through his mind. But it seemed as if there would be little point. All he would succeed in doing is creating a martyr and result in the entire Wizarding World believing him to be alive.

Voldemort doubted his followers would return to him unless he was in his own body. In fact, they’d most likely help the ‘Light’ to gain back respect.

As Quirrell finished teaching the first year,Slytherins and Gryffindors, he got him to get the ‘duo,’ to stay behind.

“Har-rry Pot-ter and Miss Granger, stay behind,” stuttered the fool.

As the rest of the students left the classroom, Voldemort decided to take full control of Quirrell, there was no point in talking through his servant who would simply stutter the whole time.

It occurred to him that Potter and the Mudblood would be able to see through him, which caused him to second guess his decision…. But maybe it’d be interesting to see what they would do if they figured me out.

The two shared a look with one another and turned back to him/Quirrel. They had impassive expressions on their faces, but their eyes deceived them. It was clear that they were confused.

“Why did you ask us to stay behind?” asked Granger.

“I would just like to talk to you both, being my top students and all,” replied Quirrellmort without a stutter.

It’s too much work to intentionally talk like the fool. Perhaps they won’t pick up on it and if they do I’d like to see what they would discern.

If they were surprised, it didn’t show, “Oh,” said Potter. “Okay, what would you like to talk about.”

“I’d like to talk to both of you of your progress in class.”

He shared a glance with Hermione and it seemed with a look at each other’s eye they reached an agreement.

“That’s fine.”

So they are indeed one and the same. Everything one seems to do needs to be discussed and agreed upon with the other. Making an enemy of either of them wouldn’t help in my endeavours.

“Well I’m sure you already know, but you’re both at the top of your class. I was wondering, have either of you read up on anything more advanced?”

“Um – Yeah we have.”

So they are indeed ambitious, “Good. Mind telling me if you’ve succeeded with any spells?”

Their mistrustful eyes were clear as day to him, but their expressions deceived them. “Only the disarming spell,” replied Hermione cautiously.

He rose an eyebrow at them, “A simple spell, nonetheless extremely useful. Could you show it to me in action?”

“Sir?” asked Harry.

Realising he was overstepping his bounds a bit he replied, “Just cast the spell at the wall, I’d like to see your ability to cast it.”

Potter nodded his head and took out his wand, pointing it at the wall and saying, “Expelliarmus.”

A scarlet light emerged from the tip of his wand and slammed straight into the wall, one which seemed quite powerful for a medium volume cast at eleven years old.

“Granger, your turn.” He had to force himself to not call her ‘Mudblood.’

“Expelliarmus,” said the girl.

Just like Potter’s, a scarlet light left her wand and hit the wall, albeit at less power than Harry’s.

“Impressive,” muttered Quirrellmort. It was certainly unusual for two first-years to cast the disarming spell with such ease and power. And observing them, there were no signs of exhaustion.

Remembering back to the duo’s incident last week, Quirrell remembered that the Mudblood had managed to summon Nott’s wand when he was looking through Granger’s mind.

‘Accio’ was a fourth-year charm, something even those talented struggled to learn. Yet these two first-years had managed such a feat.

Wanting to know just how skilled the duo were, he asked, “Have you two ever done a mock duel before?”

He already knew the answer, but asking them seemed like the best way to derail them.

Their composure seemed to break and Potter asked, “Yes. We’ve duelled each other a few times…”

“Really? If you don’t mind, do one right now in front of me. Neither of you will get in trouble, whatever your choice.”

They seemed very sceptical and rightfully so. Wolves are always better than sheep I say. A sheep is simply a mindless follower, whereas a wolf is more deadly and once tamed ever loyal.

“Professor, could you give us a minute please?”

That didn’t surprise him in the least, “Of course, don’t feel pressured.” Although he had the urge to cast a compulsive charm on them to do what he wanted. He knew they were more observant of these things than the typical child. Casting one would be a mistake.

A potentially irreversible one.

Finally, they replied that they would duel in front of him. He didn’t dare smile at them, having forgotten how to do so in a friendly manner.

With a swish of his wand, he cleared the room so that there was adequate space.

The duo stood opposite of each other and seemed hesitant to start duelling, but no sooner had the first ‘Expelliarmus’ been thrown, the two let go of everything.

It was as if they had forgotten he was even there, so Voldemort watched on. Their movements, dodges and on the go thinking was most certainly impressive for two first-years. He didn’t think even he was this good at their age.

When they were older he knew both of them would be exceptional duellists. Though no one would ever rival him in magical power, it was evident they would be extremely agile, even more than him.

Never had he seen such young people move at such a fast speed, it was no wonder they had defeated six Slytherins without a scratch on themselves.

Granger and Potter were on a pretty even field, though Potter had a slight edge on the Mudblood. But she countered nearly every aggressive move he made at her, it was clear they had duelled much more than ‘a few times.’

The duel came to an end when Potter landed a ‘Flipendo’ on the girl’s chest, causing her to momentarily drop her wand, to which Potter quickly shouted, “Accio Wand!” Granger's wand snapped straight into Potter’s free hand, who then quickly ran up to her and helped her up.

“Wow, that was impressive,” said Quirrellmort, not even having to fake his delivery.

“Oh, thank you,” replied Granger.

“Thanks,” replied Harry.

Deciding to make a choice which could potentially backfire, he grabbed a note from Quirrell’s desk. And signed it as Quirrell, passing it to Potter.

“This is a pass to the restricted area in the library. There are some books there that may prove useful. And don’t be afraid to branch out.”

He could probe that this made them slightly uncomfortable and Guilty? Perhaps they already have.

“Thank you, Professor,” replied Potter. They made to leave, but Harry stopped Granger with his arm and turned back towards him.

“Professor Quirrell, if you don’t mind me asking. Why did you not stutter at all?”

He had expected such a question and answered, “I don’t mind, curiosity is a good thing. I stutter when I’m around large groups of people, they make me nervous.”

Potter nodded his head but didn’t look convinced, the Mudblood meanwhile was piercing her eyes at him, seemingly able to see through his lie.

The duo then quickly left with a short goodbye at him. As they left the room Voldemort let Quirrell take prominent control over his body again, his last full possession having exhausted him heavily.

There’s potential here… To achieve greatness, but to corrupt. Interesting indeed…

Chapter Text

Chapter 19

Theories & Making Another Friend

Harry and Hermione had just left the DADA classroom in a slightly rushed state and were now in the corridors.

Harry’s eyebrows were furrowed as he looked down at the ‘pass’ Quirrell had given them.

But is he really Quirrell? Or was he just pulling off some elaborate act? wondered Harry.

He wasn’t entirely sure what the Professor was trying to imply when he asked them to go to the Restricted Section. ‘Don’t be afraid to branch out,’ is what Quirrell had said. Which implied he wanted them to look into dark magic, which they had already looked at quite a bit, but that couldn’t be right, could it?

For someone like Quirrell, the scared and usually unintelligible teacher to suggest something like that seemed greatly out of character. It brought up the possibility that some of his theories over the holidays may have some truth to them.

Hermione must’ve spotted his confused state because she asked, “Are you alright, Harry?”

He stopped walking and turned to her. She was looking at him in a worried expression, ready to help him however she could.

His initial thought was to simply respond that he was fine, but this was Hermione. Why would he lie to her?

“I’m just very confused about how Professor Quirrell acted after class. He wasn’t much like himself,” he informed her.

She gave a short nod, “I know what you mean. But why do you think that exactly?”

He shrugged, conveying that he wasn’t completely sure, but elaborated, “Quirrell is usually a shy, quiet and scared professor. It wasn’t just the fact that he managed to talk to us without stuttering, to which he justified with a clearly bullshite reason.”

Hermione gave him a disapproving look over his language but didn’t comment. Though ever since I’ve met her she’s been more tolerant of such language and even used more of it herself as well.

“Additionally, he talked in a way I’ve never heard him talk before. He didn’t even shiver or cower at all, which seemed quite normal to his character since the beginning of school.”

He looked around frantically to see if anyone was nearby but saw no one. Unbeknownst to him, however, a nearby portrait was listening in on everything. Harry looked at her with his brows furrowed, “I think I have a few theories about Quirrell.”

Hermione seemed instantly intrigued. Of course, she is , Hermione loves to solve puzzles and mysteries.

“When he initially called us to stay behind, he was his usual self. All nervous, and stuttery… but as soon as everyone else was gone, it’s like he changed into a totally new person. He also took an interest in both of us, completely out of the blue. A possible reason I have for that is that ‘Professor Quirrell’ is all an act.”

The bushy-haired brunette had a confused expression and motioned for him to continue.

“Okay well, over Yule I did some research. I always wondered why Albania rang a bell in my head and after reading some books it came back to me.”

He took in a deep breath before saying, “Albania is home to a lot of dark creatures and generally a place that dark wizards like to linger, see what I’m getting at here?”

Hermione had a thoughtful expression, and a hand on her chin, “I remember saying I’d overheard some students talk about Quirrell’s new stutter. One he didn’t have last year… not until his trip to Albania.”

Exactly,” said Harry dramatically. “Quirrell’s trip to Albania must’ve done something serious to him, and my leading theory is that he’s now a dark wizard or at the very least a sympathiser, preposterous I know but bear with me.”

“You, of course, know what his last comment may have been referring to, right?” asked Harry.

“Yes, obviously. He was trying to get us to look into dark magic…” Harry had given her a raised eyebrow so she continued, “And there is no way any normal Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher would advise a student to do such a thing. I mean it’s called ‘defence against the dark arts,’ not ‘the dark arts.’”

“Exactly. And think about it, if he is a dark wizard or sympathiser, being a teacher at Hogwarts would be perfect to tempt others to the Death Eater’s side, that is, if he’s a follower of the crazed lunatic himself.”

Hermione was grinning at him, filling him with pride, but he didn’t know why she was, given the topic they were discussing. 

He looked at her confused and tilted his head, “What?”

“Nothing,” replied Hermione unusually chipper. “It’s just really nice to see you explain your theory to me while letting me catch on. It’s an unusual change, but it’s nice to be learning from my peer.”

He smirked at her, “Is that all I am? A ‘Peer?’”

Hermione punched him lightly on the arm, causing Harry to say ‘hey’ dramatically. “Oh, come on you big baby. You know what I mean.” She made a ‘tsk’ sound and rolled her eyes, “You don’t have to be a drama queen about everything I say.”

“Okay, okay alright, now, where was I? Oh that’s right - so do you see my reasoning on why I think Quirrell may be faking all his stutters and nervousness to hide his true self? Or at least how he’s been since he visited Albania.”

Hermione considered what he said and gave him a shy smile to which he let out the breath he was holding. “I think you may be correct… but it’s not a flawless theory, do you have any others?”

He chuckled and raised his hands in surrender, “Alright, don’t laugh when I say this.” Hermione gave him a reassuring look so he continued, “Another theory, and one far more ridiculous is that he’s being possessed.”

She looked at him with a quizzical gaze, “But who do you think could possibly be possessing him? The only wizard that comes to mind is… well, Voldemort.”

He huffed in frustration, “That’s what’s annoying me. He’s the only person that comes to mind but if that was him, why on earth would he even tolerate you? The Death Eater’s whole agenda was to essentially subjugate those of ‘lower blood.’”

“Mmm,” said Hermione while thinking. “Yes, you make a perfectly good point. I’d say we can rule out the ‘possessed’ theory, cause like you said if it was Voldemort he wouldn’t have been so courteous to me. But I doubt anyone would listen to our other theory on Quirrell – especially considering the amount of trouble we’ve gotten up to this year.”

He chuckled and commented, “It’s not like we went looking for trouble.”

Hermione was an eyebrow at that, “Is that so?”

He scowled, “Okay maybe we let our curiosity dictate over logic and safety a few times.”

She snorted, “That’s an understatement.”

”Hey, well at least they were fun.”

Hermione was smiling at him in disbelief, “Fun?! Which one of our adventures was fun? If I recall, they include spectating that stupid duel, nearly dying in the Forbidden Forest and helping an illegal baby dragon escape… How was any of that fun?!”

“You’re right of course… mostly,” replied Harry while grinning. “Though, the flying trips and your birthday say otherwise. You seemed like you really enjoyed yourself.”

“ I did,” said Hermione softly while looking upwards.

They walked in silence for a couple of minutes before Hermione said, “You know, after that trip on my birthday I knew right then and there, you’d be the most loyal friend I could ever have.”

It wasn’t often that someone said such nice things to him. And when it did happen, Hermione was usually involved. Nevertheless, it didn’t stop the way it made him feel, a warmth which was amazing.

He gave her a small smile, “While I appreciate it, you can’t exactly say that when you don’t have others to compare to.”

After the words finished coming out of his mouth he realised his words could be viewed harshly. But Hermione didn’t interpret them that way, or if she did, she understood that wasn’t what he was trying to convey.

“I don’t need other friends to see the truth. I’ve observed other friend groups such as Tracey, Daphne and Lily as well as the infamous Golden Trio. Our friendship has always been built on immense trust, and I don’t remember a time you haven’t stood by my side.”

He smiled shyly at her, “Nor you. I know you’re the most loyal friend I could ever have. I’m so glad my first taste of friendship was experienced with you, Hermione.”

“I feel exactly the same way,” replied Hermione returning the smile. “Anyway, come on let’s get back to the common room, we’ve spent enough talking already.” 

He nodded in agreement and the two made their way quickly to the Slytherin Dungeons.

-o-o-o-o-o-

For the rest of the day, nothing interesting happened for the duo, until 10 pm that night after one of their detentions with Snape.

They were currently sitting down at a table in the common room studying, but Hermione’s mind was elsewhere.

Tracey, who Hermione had been eyeing out of her peripheral vision for the last half an hour, moved from the table she was ‘studying’ at.

So it wasn’t just my imagination that she was stealing glances at us, mused Hermione as Tracey walked over to them cautiously.

The bushy-haired brunette watched the black-haired witch look from side to side, as if she was afraid someone was watching her. 

Hmm, I suppose she doesn’t want others to know that she spends time with us. Not that I blame her, it’s probably a smart move, especially considering Greengrass and Moon ignored us for most of the year. I’m not sure if they’d stick up for their half-blood friend. While some Purebloods claim to not care about blood status, I think they all share some underlying belief they are superior to others, regardless of how serious it is. 

Tracey finally made it over to the duo and offered a small smile, to which Hermione responded likewise. May as well be friendly to her. Though she couldn’t help but feel a tinge of jealousy go through her

Hermione pondered why that was.

She mused that there was an underlying fear that Tracey would ‘take’ Harry from her, but the more she thought about it the more she calmed down. Harry had told her time and time again, that he wouldn’t leave her, and his actions had proved exactly that.

And she couldn’t go making assumptions like that about Tracey. She had shown nothing but friendliness and while she hadn’t opened up, neither had she and Harry, for the longest time. So she couldn’t hold that about her.

She couldn’t expect a friendship to be one-sided.

Her instincts were usually right, as evidenced with their confrontation the other week. They told her to avoid everyone but Harry, but there were a number of probable reasons for this. 

The first was that other than Harry, she had never had any positive relationships with people outside her family. Branching out was always something she’d become careful of since her childhood, to avoid being hurt, tricked or manipulated. 

Looking back, taking Harry’s offer of friendship was a risky move, one which would’ve left her in a precarious situation in the House of Snakes had she chosen to refuse it.

But his beautiful green eyes and their hours of comfortable silence around each other had convinced her otherwise. 

Secondly, neither she nor Harry should have to rely on each other alone . Having Tracey or another person would allow for more safety. And like Harry mentioned the other week, she would be safer. Something which made her smile, the fact Harry cared so much about her.

Besides, perhaps it’d be good to have regular conversations with someone who wasn’t Harry. She was perfectly fine chatting to Harry all the time, but Tracey’s fun and cheerful attitude may prove beneficial for all.

And last but not least, Hermione had become an expert at reading people’s eyes for dishonesty. And Tracey showed little to none while in their company. She had seen right through Quirrell’s lie, so she doubted Tracey would be anywhere near as deceptive as a possible dark wizard.

Concluding these reasons were evidence enough to continue to be courteous to Tracey Hermione called out, “Hey Tracey!”

This seemed to shock the black-haired witch a bit, obviously not expecting Hermione to talk first.

Next to Hermione, Harry had an amused expression on his face, obviously enjoying their interaction.

Tracey’s eyes darted left and right before she said, “Eh - Hi, Harry and Hermione.” She sat in front of them and added, “Did you have to say that so loud?”

“Sorry, sorry, I know you don’t want to be spotted in our company until you’re sure.” She paused a moment before adding mysteriously, “I was just testing out a theory..”

Tracey paled, “Uh - No, of course, I do,” she said panicked.

Hermione made an irritated noise and replied seriously, “Don’t lie to us.”

Oh, that may have been a bit harsh , she made her way to rectify the situation but Harry beat her to it.

He nudged her and gave a raised eyebrow before turning to Tracey and saying, “What Hermione means is that we don’t mind if that’s your reasoning. We know that talking to us is dangerous to you as the Slytherins we beat may go after you for revenge.”

Hermione straightened herself and continued for Harry, “And if you aren’t friends with us they have no reason to fear retaliation. Plus, you aren’t sure how Greengrass and Moon will react, I’ve seen how those two are closer than you are with either of them and you’re afraid they might ditch you if it comes to self-preservation.”

Tracey was in awe, “Wow.” She shook her head before saying, “You literally both got everything right. How on Earth did you do that?”

Harry smirked at her and said smugly, “Well we aren’t the smartest students in our year for no reason.”

“And this one,” said Hermione while pointing at Harry, “Apparently has no idea how to be humble.”

Harry gave her a disbelieving face, “Oh, like you’re humble at all? If I have to recount the amount of times you reminded me that you’re ahead of me in most classes we’d be here for a while.”

They didn’t even realise that the two of them had gotten lost in their own little world until Davis began to giggle.

“What?” said Harry and Hermione in unison. They then both rolled their eyes at the same time, causing Tracey to giggle even louder.

“Oh my, you two are so cute together,” claimed Tracey.

Cute?

“Cute?” asked Harry.

“Just... You’re so in sync with each other, I’d bet you’d make the cutest couple ever… unless you already are?” 

Hermione knew the idea didn’t disgust Harry, but by mutual unspoken agreement they hadn’t progressed it to couple level, things were fine as is. Besides, they were only eleven and twelve, any relationship of that scale would probably be awkward. 

“No we aren’t,” replied Hermione. “Though that may change in the years to come,” she added while giving a wink at Harry, who blushed in response.

Tracey blanched, probably from Hermione’s bluntness. “Why am I even surprised anymore,” mumbled the black-haired witch. “Anyway, I just came over because I’d like to study with you both… if that’s okay. And ask a few questions.” 

Hermione glanced at Harry who was already looking at her, she gave him a look to which he responded to Tracey with, “Sure that’s fine.”

When Davis came back with books Harry asked, “What do you want to know?”

“Why is it that everyone forgot you existed? Did your parents hide you? Are you actually The Boy Who Lived?”

Of all questions, Harry obviously didn’t expect this, but he answered anyway, “Most people knew I existed, but they had… forgotten about me per se. However, I won’t elaborate further on that.”

Hermione knew why people had ‘forgotten’ about Harry as he’d discussed it with her in private during the Winter Holidays. 

And it made her furious.

Someone had ruined her best friend’s childhood with the use of a spell, and while Harry may never have become her friend if it wasn’t for that, no one deserved to be ignored and forgotten like the two of them.

“To answer your second question,” began Harry. “No, my parents didn’t hide me. And for your last question, nope there’s no way I’m actually The Boy Who Lived, considering I wasn’t there when Andrew did whatever he did.”

Tracey didn’t seem all that satisfied by Harry’s answers but didn’t push for more.

“Now,” said Hermione while smirking. Time for some ‘quid pro quo,’ “Harry answered your questions, yet we know hardly anything about you… So can you tell us anything about yourself?” 

This time, however, it seemed Tracey wasn’t surprised and began, “Well, as you probably know I’m a half-blood. My mother was a pureblood and married a Muggleborn, something which isn’t looked very kindly upon Slytherins as you both know. From there I had a mix of both worlds, Magical and Muggle while growing up.”

She continued, “I met Daphne and Lily on the Express and there they kind of took me under their wing. So I’ve been spending most of my time with them when I’m not studying, something the two of them avoid. Ahh, let’s see what else - My favourite subject is charms and I love Hogwarts.”

So it seems she’s quite similar to us in some ways. Better than someone like Malfoy whose as unlike us as possible, mused Hermione.

“Charms?” said Hermione surprised, “That's my favourite too. Though Harry here,” nudging Harry. “Prefers Defence Against the Dark Arts.”

She leaned forward, smirked and whispered to Tracey, “Though I think it’s only his favourite because it’s the one class he’s better at than me.” Causing the other girl to giggle again.

Why exactly did I do that? pondered Hermione. Guess I’m comfortable around Tracey, that’s always a good sign.

Harry scowled, “I can hear you, you know?”

“We know,” said the two girls together.

Harry hit his head on the table, “Ahh - I’m already being teamed up against, by the two of you.” Though his tone suggested he wasn’t annoyed or angry.

Hermione chuckled dryly, while Tracey laughed. Hermione wasn’t one to outright laugh or giggle a lot, especially with the events of Christmas…

“Okay, okay, enough laughing at my expense. Let’s do something, or else I’ll have to deal with a stressed Hermione who won’t be at least a week ahead in her homework,” said Harry while grinning at his best friend.

Hermione rolled her eyes, “I won’t be.”

Harry gave Tracey a disbelieving look, who was smirking at them.

The playful banter stopped there as the three studied together. It was just as enjoyable as their last time in the library, even more so as they felt more comfortable and free around the black-haired girl.

Tracey, herself was a lot happier than either of the duo could ever recall. And her smiles were like the ones Harry gave when he was being sincere, no hints of deception were there.

They continued this for another hour until Tracey plunked head, face-first onto her open book.

Hermione looked at Harry who had a raised eyebrow in Tracey’s direction. 

Deciding it’d be best to wake her up and head off to bed herself, Hermione moved over to Tracey.

She tapped her on the shoulder and said, “Tracey.”

“Whaa-” said Tracey groggily. She yawned before looking around at where she was, “Oh, sorry you two… I must’ve dozed off. I can’t be machines like the both of you.”

“We need sleep just like everyone else.”

She looked at Harry and silently asked him a question, Harry gave a rare genuine smile and nodded his head.

“As does our friend,” said Hermione softly while smiling at their fellow Slytherin.

Tracey looked as though she had misheard, as she blinked in confusion a few times before shaking her head. 

“Sorry, I’m tired and I think I misheard you, could you please repeat what you just said?”

Hermione gave an encouraging look, “You heard what I said. And you’ll be our friend if you’ll have us that is.”

The girl was obviously shocked but didn’t seem disappointed. She looked between the two and asked, “You’re both okay with this?”

Harry answered, “When one of us speak, it’s for the both of us, we share the same opinion. So yes, Hermione is, and so am I.”

“Do you not want to be friends?” asked Hermione cautiously, “Cause if you don’t it’s perfectly fine.” Though her voice drifted off near the end.

“No, no I definitely do,” reassured Tracey. “I just want to verify one thing.”

“Go ahead.”

“I just have to say this is so weird. It seems so formal for friendship, though I understand both of you aren’t people to give trust easily.”

“It’s not something that comes easy to us, no,” replied Harry.

“Well if we do become friends are there any requirements on what I need to do?”

“Requirements? Tracey, we aren’t going to dictate what you can and can’t do. If you mean, if you have to show our friendship publically, that’s totally up to you,” replied Hermione slightly shocked.

Tracey sighed in relief and smiled sincerely at them.

Did she really think that we would dictate how a ‘friendship’ works? 

Hermione said, “Well anyway, we need to go to bed, it’s nearly midnight.” 

She began walking off with Tracey and then turned on the spot, “That includes you too, Mister.”

Harry rolled his eyes amused, “Yes ma’am.”

The two girls made their way into their dorms and quickly got into bed. Hermione was about to close her eyes when Tracey whispered to her.

“Hey, Hermione?” whispered Tracey. As their beds were located next to each other, the bushy-haired brunette was easily able to hear her.

Next thing she knew the two of them talked about inconsequential things, relating to school, home and Harry. It being late, none of the other girls were awake so they weren’t interrupted… unless you count Parkinson’s snores.

Eventually, Tracey drifted off, and Hermione did soon after.

-o-o-o-o-o-

Days passed and the duo continued their friendship with Tracey, though in private. 

Hermione assumed that she feared possible backlash from her current friends if she talked to them in a friendly manner publically. 

The simple solution was for Tracey to drop her ‘friends’ but she knew that was totally unrealistic and completely unfair. Neither she nor Harry had any right to demand such things.

During meals in the Great Hall, Hermione often noticed Tracey stealing a few glances at her and Harry, though she always quickly averted her gaze before anyone else caught on.

At night it became a common occurrence for the two girls to talk.

Their conversations were often light-hearted and enjoyable, so Hermione never really minded.

She had thought about calling Harry over the mirror to join in, but after discussing it with her best friend, they both agreed Tracey would need to earn their trust before they revealed the mirrors to her. Considering the mirrors would likely be on Filch’s list of banned items if he knew about them.

They knew Tracey probably wasn’t a snitch, but she was a snake after all. And while they doubted she was deceiving them, it may be possible that’s it’s all be part of a cunning plan of hers. So Hermione refrained from using the two-way mirror during her talks with their companion.

They were now in charms class, where Flitwick had assigned groups of three.

Wisely, the Professor chose not to separate Harry and Hermione, much to their relief.

Parkinson forced her way into a group with Greengrass and Moon much to the two girls’ annoyance leaving Tracey dejected from the group. Daphne and Lily gave Tracey an apologetic look, but it didn’t do much to cheer up the girl.

Hermione made a small motion for Tracey to join their group, and she did so gladly.

This allowed the three to work and talk, without anyone giving them a second look. Their work was done quickly and to the highest standard awarding them five points each for Slytherin.

As the class finished and the three were packing up Hermione commented, “It’s a lot easier to get it done when we have a third person we can work with well.” This was because normally, in group projects requiring three or more students, Harry and Hermione ignored everyone else and did all the work themselves, but with Tracey, they didn’t need to do such a thing.

“I’m glad, said Tracey. “Well, I’ve got to go catch up with Daphne and Lily, I’m sure they’ve got stories for me about Parkinson. Take care.”

They gave her a small goodbye and made their way out of the classroom. They started down their usual path to the library when Harry diverged off outside the castle.

“What are you doing?” hissed Hermione, running to catch up to him.

“Following my brother and his trio. They headed outside, meaning they’re probably going to meet Hagrid and maybe find out how to get passed Hagrid’s Cerberus.”

“Don’t you think they would’ve already done such a thing, we overheard them weeks ago.”

He snorted, “Andrew isn’t the type of person to do something straight away, he’s a professional procrastinator. Besides, why else would they head outside, considering neither Weasley nor Andrew seemed thrilled at visiting him so soon.”

Hermione considered what he said, and determined he was probably right. 

“Alright, fine. We better not get caught though.”

“Caught doing what?” asked a familiar voice.

“Is it any of your business, Malfoy?” asked Harry icily.

“Considering it involves the stone, yes it does,” replied Malfoy just as cold.

“How did you know-” but partway through she realised her mistake.

Draco smirked, “Well I wasn’t sure, but you just confirmed it for me. The second time you’ve done that Mudblood.”

Hermione clenched her jaws and was about to retort Malfoy with something rude, before Harry hissed, “Don’t call her that Malfoy. If you want to be in our company, you won’t call her such a derogatory term.”

“That’s unreasonable, and what in Merlin does that word even mean?”

Harry rolled his eyes, “Nevermind that. Come on Hermione, we need to catch up to the trio before they start talking to Hagrid.” He began to move, as did Hermione but then sighed dramatically. “Are you coming or what, Malfoy? We can argue later.”

“Whatever,” but followed them anyway as they made their way to Hagrid’s hut. 

Just as the hut came into view, they saw a redhead enter, Weasley .

Hermione looked at the two boys with a finger on her lips, communicating to them, that they should be quiet as she leant up under one of the hut’s windows.

“‘Aven’t seen you three in a while. ‘ow’s things, Andrew?”

“They’re good Hagrid, though I was studying magical creatures and came across one I’d heard about from my Mum and Muggles.”

“Which one’s that?” asked Hagrid.

“The Cerberus, I read about it in one of my Mum’s Muggle books and also found it in a Magical one. Could you tell us anything about them?”

Malfoy looked at her with a quizzical gaze, so she mouthed ‘later.’ He seemed annoyed but accepted her answer.

“Ahh wonderful creatures they are. Got one meself, the name’s Fluffy, big ol’ friendly dog. ‘E may be three-headed though all those ears fall to the sweet sound of a musical lullaby. But they’re most definitely a Magical creature, Andrew. I didn’t know they existed in the Muggle world.”

“It’s all just legends and myth from the Ancient Greeks, Hagrid. Anyway, thanks, I think you told me what I needed to know.”

“Ahh, tha’s good. Want any rock cakes, anyone?”

It soon became evident that they weren’t going to return to the important topic so Hermione motioned for the two of them to sneak away from Hagrid’s Hut and make their way back to the castle. 

They were about to enter when Malfoy put an arm in front of them, and said, “Wait, you’re going to explain what’s going on and what you’ve discovered. We also aren’t going in -”

“Yes, yes, yes so you aren’t seen with a Mudblood and Half-blood,” finished Hermione for him.

“That’s not what I was -”

“No, maybe not, but changing your words and keeping the same message, doesn’t change anything,” retorted Hermione.

Malfoy conceded, “Okay, fine, whatever, yes. Now… explanations?”

The duo had already determined that this day would come where Malfoy would demand an update, so they’d agreed to tell him everything and to see how he’d use it. But that did not include mentioning about the Elixir of Life .

“Okay, the other week - ”

“Week?!” exclaimed Malfoy in anger.

“Jeez, just let her finish Malfoy.”

Draco rolled his eyes in response but stayed quiet.

“The other week we overheard the trio talking to one another and their discovery of a Cerberus on the third floor. They also believe that the stone is hidden beneath a trapdoor under the creature.”

“Ahh - so now they know how to get past the animal… Wait the stone is here? At school?” said Draco.

“That’s what the Gryffindors seem to think, and it seems to make sense, considering Dumbledore warned us of the corridor at the Sorting Feast.”

“But what makes the stone so special?”

Hermione answered for Harry, “I think it’s got a lot of sentimental value, as we found out Dumbledore helped create the stone with Nicholas Flamel.”

“Hmm - alright… I think you’re both still hiding something, but some of us have things to do,” said Draco. “See ya, Harry, Mu-Granger.”

The boy trotted off leaving a shell-shocked duo behind.

“Did… Did he just call you Granger? He hardly ever does that…”

She blinked at the retreating blond before turning to Harry, “Seems like he did, maybe he’s starting to learn something!”

He scoffed at that, “Fat chance, this is Malfoy we’re talking about.”

“True, but a girl can dream.”