Hermione was already gone when Harry emerged the next day; he assumed she was visiting Ron or down at breakfast – or in the library, getting in some last minute reading before the end of term.
Professor McGonagall bustled in as he was about to head out, calling everyone down to the Common Room. “Attention! Attention, please.” She said, once they had gathered. “We are changing things up a bit this year for the move out. The house elves are busy with another project in the works for next year, and so cannot take care of the usual post dorm clean up. Therefore, you all are responsible for making sure that everything is set to rights before you leave. All the trash is to be thrown out, trunks packed neatly, bedding and towels and other items into the laundry chutes, and floors and windows washed.” She shooed them back to their rooms amid groans and complaints, Harry included.
“I will return later for an inspection, and only after I give my leave are you allowed to go. And do not fear for whatever plans that you may have made.” She added loudly over the grumbles. “I assure you, the other three Houses are similarly engaged, so your friends will not miss your presence.”
The four boys – Dean, Harry, Neville, and Seamus – stopped just inside their dorm and looked around in dismay.
“Oy, where’s Weasley?” Seamus complained, glaring at Harry and kicking a discarded wad of parchment under his bed. “Most of this is his mess.”
“I’m not his keeper, Finnigan.” Harry shot back. “But he’s in the Hospital Wing if you must know. I’m sure Madame Pomphrey will send him our way soon, or Professor McGonagall will sort it out.” He looked around, gauging the utter chaos with a jaundiced eye, well trained after having to clean up after Dudley for three years. “Right. Let’s get all the big stuff first – bedding, towels, all that – cleared out and in the laundry chute before it gets clogged, then we can divvy up the rest, yeah? Save the loo for last and hope the house elves get done with whatever they’re doing first.”
The other three simultaneously glanced at the door to the bathroom and shuddered.
“Good idea.” Dean said hastily. “C’mon then lads, might as well get to it. Someone turn on the Wireless – if there’s no game, then at least we can have some music…”
Neville obliged, and they set to work, methodically working through the room. Dean made a game of getting the trash in the rubbish bin, assigning points depending on distance and creativity of shot, which helped to keep them entertained.
Professor McGonagall returned to release them for lunch in the Great Hall, sternly admonishing them to return within an hour to finish up the last few tasks. The boys were gone like a shot, whooping and hollering and playing around all the way downstairs to release some of their pent up energy.
In the Great Hall, Harry automatically slid into the seat Hermione had saved for him, his gaze already on the pastrami sandwich sitting on the table in front of him. He took a bite, and nearly moaned in bliss. It was exactly the way he liked it – horseradish, mayo, and mustard, with a layer of plain chips to give it crunch.
Ginny snickered into her sandwich from where she was sitting across from them.
“What? What’s so funny?” Harry frowned, sure he had something on his face.
The redhead’s cheeks pinked slightly. “I can’t decide if you’re like an old married couple, or merely platonic friends who have been together forever and are everything but romantically involved, or if you’re platonic friends who are swimming deep in the river denial and haven’t yet come up for air.”
Harry and Hermione stopped mid-bite to exchange a horrified look. “What? NO! Hermione’s as much my sister as – as you are!”
Ginny blinked. “Well, that certainly put me in my place, didn’t it?” She muttered under her breath.
“You don’t have to sound quite so horrified,” Hermione mock scowled at him, ignoring the redhead. “I’d probably be insulted – if I didn’t feel the exact same way.” She snorted. “Gin, Harry and I are more like cousins than siblings, truth be told; we don’t argue nearly as much as you and Ron do.”
“Mmm, I don’t know. I think Ginny’s last reasoning is more plausible.” Lavender mused, poking her nose into the conversation.
“Oh, honestly – “
The sharp call of an owl caught everyone’s attention, distracting them from Hermione’s outrage as the bird flew above their heads to drop a long, heavy parcel on Harry’s head.
“OY!” he yelped as it flew away. “Ruddy bird, that hurt!”
His Housemates were more interested in the package than his pain. “It looks like a broom. Maybe McGonagall replaced your Nimbus?” Neville suggested, looking up to the high table, but their Head of House wasn’t there.
“There’s no note…” Harry pointed out, still rubbing his skull. Knowing that they would give him no peace, he unwrapped the item, eliciting gasps all around.
“Hey! That’s a Firebolt!”
“Potter’s got himself a Firebolt!”
“Harry, can I have a go? After you, of course!”
The excited voices of his companions tripped over each other in the background as Harry stared at the broom in his hands. He remembered salivating over the prototype in the window when he had visited Diagon Alley with Hagrid, that summer before his first year at Hogwarts. It was even more gorgeous now, all sleek lines and gleaming wood and bristles.
“Who?” he wondered aloud, even as he fought to remain his seat. He knew exactly who had sent the broom, and what it meant.
“Dunno.” Hermione murmured under the ruckus of their friends. “But this came with it.”
He followed her gaze down to just below the table, where she held a large dappled grey feather. Tied to the feather was a tag that had two sets of paw prints and a pair of cloven hoof tracks. He laughed out loud, scrambling from his seat and taking off for the front courtyard with Hermione hot on his heels. Their Housemates yelped in surprise and took off in pursuit, bursting out of the Great Hall.
“And where do you think you’re going, Mister Potter?”
The entire group skidded abruptly to a halt, Neville mumbling apologies to whomever he had stumbled into.
Professor Snape loomed closer, his dark eyes narrowed suspiciously.
“We had a bit of time left before lunch was over, so I was going to try out my new broom. Sir.” Harry answered warily.
“And where did you get such an exorbitant item, Potter? Surely not from your Head of House. Such deliberate acts of favoritism are strongly discouraged and will be penalized accordingly.”
“No, sir! It was a gift! From –“
“Yes?” Snape prompted silkily.
“From my parents!” Hermione blurted out. “My mum, I mean. She’s a big sports fan anyway, loves football, and she’s been wanting to thank Harry in some way since he saved my life in first year from that troll, and last year with the basilisk and Chamber of Secrets. It was supposed to be a surprise for his birthday, but – “
“That is more than enough of your incessant prattling, Miss Granger!” Snape snapped exasperatedly. “Unfortunately for you, Potter, lunch is over. You and your Housemates will return to your dormitories and resume cleaning, until you are released by Professor McGonagall directly.”
“But sir!” Dean protested tentatively. “We’re mostly done! Just Ron’s stuff that needs to be packed.”
There were very few people whom Snape despised more than Harry, but Ron (and Neville) were definitely tied for second place on the list.
“Very well.” He murmured. “If you are telling the truth, then you will have no problem with my doing the inspection instead of Minerva.”
He watched in satisfaction as most of the Gryffindors paled slightly – except the Boy Who Lived, who merely stared back impassively with those green eyes.
“None whatsoever, Professor.” The brat replied coolly. “Excepting, of course, chapter 743, Section 523, Part M. Subsection II in Hogwarts, A History, which clearly states that a Hogwarts Head of House may not enter another House unless in cases of extreme emergency and extenuating circumstances.” He raised his brows faintly. “Surely, Professor, even you could not possibly classify end of the year inspections as an extreme emergency?”
“Why you insolent little – “
Everyone turned from the confrontation to see Professor Lupin ambling towards them. “Ah, young Gryffindors! I was just coming to find you all. Minerva has been called away, so she asked if I could conduct the rest of the inspections for her House so that you all could be away to other outings and enjoyments. I couldn’t help over hearing the happy coincidence of your…conversation here, Professor, and as Harry so auspiciously pointed out, you are not allowed in Gryffindor Tower.” He gathered the stunned teens with his eyes, and with a nod to Snape, led them calmly away.
“Thanks, unc- Professor.” Harry said with a grin as soon as they were out of sight.
Remus winked at him. “I was looking at a Map, and deciding where I wanted to go,” he said as they walked back to the Tower. Harry’s grin widened. “-and I was overcome by sudden hunger pangs. Seeing that Minerva was in her office, I stopped by to see how she was doing with end of the year paperwork. Some naughty little blighter had set off a duplicator spell, and she was near literally buried under parchment work! Of course I, being the helpful junior professor that I am, offered to help with inspections while she was otherwise occupied.”
“I thought she asked you?” Seamus frowned, as the rest of the students giggled.
“She would have, I’m sure. In her defense, she was rather distracted.” Lupin shrugged, giving the password to the Fat Lady. “In grand tradition, let’s do ladies first.” He gestured. “After you.”
Harry and the other boys headed upstairs to wait (and make sure of last minute piles). Neville opened the door, only to jerk to a stop. Harry ran into him with a muffled grunt, and they stumbled into the room, barely leaving room for the other two.
“Nev, why’d you – “ Dean, being the tallest at the moment, poked his head over Neville’s shoulder. “-stop.”
The others were too busy staring in utter disbelief at the absolute chaos that had overtaken their formerly spotless dorm. Ron looked up from the middle of the mess and smiled weakly. “Hey guys.”
“What the bloody hell happened in here?” Seamus exclaimed.
“Well, I was looking for my Exploding Snap pack, and erm, I found them. In my trunk. At the bottom, under all my stuff. And, well, they react to being exposed to light after a certain amount of time, so they kind of, reacted. All over everything.” Ron mumbled.
“Knowing the load of junk you have in that trunk, I’d react like a vampire to sunlight too at the exposure to fresh air.” Harry muttered under his breath, rolling his eyes. “Dobby!”
The house elf appeared instantly. “Harry Potter called Dobby?”
“Yes. Dobby, will you return this room back to the way it was before we left, and move all of Ron’s belongings to his bed for him to sort through?” Harry requested politely. “This way, you can sort through all of your stuff as you pack, since your trunk is now empty, and discard what you you don’t want as you go. You’re my friend, Ron, but I’m not touching your junk with a ten foot broom.”
Put that way, the redhead couldn’t argue, although he looked like he desperately wanted to. Dobby snapped his fingers, and just like that, the mess was contained to Ron’s already messy bed. Professor Lupin could be heard, talking cheerfully and a bit loudly as he climbed up the stairs, his voice growing closer, so the house elf disappeared instead of groveling in front of Harry like he usually did.
“Hello boys! Are you ready for me?” Lupin called cheerfully, stepping into the room and looking around. His eyes widened at the pile on Ron’s bed, but he diplomatically said nothing, instead clapping Neville on the shoulder before following the boy to his area. Ron worked in sulky silence as Lupin made a thorough inspection of each area, gently pointing out a few places that needed a bit more attention, before smiling in satisfaction. “Well! Except for Mister Weasley, who had a bit of a late start, I’d say you have all have passed with flying colors, and will pass on my recommendation to your Head of House. She has the final say, of course.” Dean pretended to pass out on his bed in relief, making the werewolf’s grin widen. “Now, there’s a bit of time before dinner, so you have the freedom to do as you wish, within reason of course. Unfortunately, that does mean no flying, as the pitch has already been closed off for maintenance and repairs, but that does leave the rest of the school open to possibilities, doesn’t it?” He laughed as the four boys whooped and darted past him, out the portrait hole and off to their own mischief before he could change his mind.
Harry had thought about lingering downstairs in the common room for Remus, but Dean tugged him along with Seamus and Neville out the portrait hole. “C’mon Harry! We may not be able to fly, but we have enough for a two on two football game, at least! It’s too nice to be inside still!”
Caught up in his enthusiasm, the raven haired teen gamely followed his friend outside, chattering all the way about the Muggle game, his favorite teams, the rules, and his expectations for the upcoming season. Since Dean had managed to pull Seamus and Neville into a few games already, he put Harry on his team as the novice, and left the other two fend for themselves.
Harry found that his hand eye coordination was excellent when it came to spotting and catching the Snitch, but his eye foot coordination wasn’t nearly as good. This evened things out nicely, as Neville was still Neville, be it on the ground or in the air, while Seamus was a decent match for his best friend.
They burst into the Great Hall a couple of hours later, winded, exuberant, and starving. Harry slid into his seat next to Hermione, his greeting barely out of his mouth before he was piling his plate high with food. She eyed him, but wisely said nothing, content to simply enjoy the happy chaos and chatter of her Housemates.
Ron was asleep when Harry returned to the dorm, presumably; his drapes were closed, and he hadn’t showed for dinner. It was unlike lanky redhead to miss a meal under any circumstances, but he didn’t respond when Harry said his name, so he shrugged and climbed into his own bed. Whatever the redhead’s problem was, he wasn’t going to let it ruin his surprisingly good day. He was soon fast asleep, and dreamed no dreams.
The next day was the last day of term, and a free day for all who didn’t have last minute tasks to complete. Harry was up early, dressed in his Quidditch gear, and clattered down the stairs to the common room, jumping the last couple of stairs. Hermione was already there, waiting.
“Figured you’d be down here early. You escape to the pitch, and I’ll corral the others and send them your way in a few minutes.” She greeted him.
“Thanks, Hermione! You’re the best!” He exclaimed in pleased surprise, catching her in a quick hug before disappearing out the portrait hole.
She rolled her eyes affectionately, curling up once more with her book and waiting for the telltale sound of the other boys trampling down the staircase. Sure enough, about twenty minutes after Harry left Dean emerged, still looking tousled and sleepy.
“Harry’s already out on the pitch with the Firebolt.” She said before he could speak. “If you hurry, you’ll beat the others and can get first shot when he’s done.” Ron and Seamus clambered down the stairs in time to hear her. “Or not.” She added with a smirk.
The three boys looked at each other and took off running, shoving each other to get out of the portrait hole first. She followed at a more leisurely pace, taking the time to bundle up.
Harry had indeed gone straight to the pitch, so she settled into the stands to watch as he played a bit more, curving and swooping and diving, before reluctantly landing and handing the broom off to Ron. She watched him stride towards her, silently taking a purely female moment to appreciate the sight. Harry Potter in his Quidditch gear was enough to make any girl’s heart flutter a bit, even his best friend’s.
She had deliberately sat in the lower seating, so it only took him a minute to climb up and join her.
“I take it you had fun?” She grinned.
He grinned back at her, his face lit with joy and happiness so much that it nearly took her breath away.
“That was wicked!” He crowed, still breathless. “You have to try it, Hermione!”
“No thank you. You may enjoy being a daredevil speed demon up above the clouds, but I will keep my feed firmly on the ground and my wand at the ready in case I need to catch you.” She teased. “It’s good to see you so happy, Harry.”
“It’s nice to be happy again, if only for a moment.” He replied quietly, scooting closer so that she could loop her arm in his and rest her head on his shoulder. “Two years. I lost two years of spending time with my dad because of a manipulative old bastard.” His voice and eyes hardened. “Dumbledore has a lot to answer for. I will never forgive him for that – or for Sirius.”
“Easy, Harry.” She warned. “We don’t know the full story yet.” Pulling an envelope from her pocket, she showed it to him. “The letter’s blank.”
Harry stared at the parchment, which only read, “State the your intentions.”
“I solemnly swear that I am up to no good.” He laughed, tapping the parchment with his wand.
“Clever. I wonder how they put a password on a letter? Could it be done with other things, d’ya think?”
Dear Harry and Hermione,
The boys are back! Reunited, and it feels so good! Reunited…
The teens snickered.
I meant to speak to you before I left, Harry, but it wasn’t feasible. We have retreated to a safe house that no one would think of willingly, and will see you both after term ends.
Yes, both of you. It appears I was more right than I realized when I said that you remind me of Lily. But I will let your mother explain all of that.
Hermione frowned. “How does he know my mother?”
Two more days, Harry. I have a feeling that you’ll appreciate this all more when we see you again.
Siriusly. Be patient.
Moony, Padfoot, and Prongs
“Well!” Hermione sat back with a sigh. “What does it all mean?”
“It means that my dad and uncle have some scheme cooking. We just have to wait and watch the show.” Harry laughed, determined to focus on the good news rather than the deep anger he still felt about Sirius’s condition. “I’ll be okay, Hermione. I don’t like it, but I can handle going back to the Dursleys for one day.”
She nodded, snuggling closer to him for warmth. They sat in silence and watched their Housemates play with his Firebolt, until they all got hungry enough to call it off for lunch.
Harry was lagging a bit beyond, in no particular hurry, when he spotted a familiar pale blonde turn the corner in front of him. Quickly handing his broom off to Hermione, he motioned for her to go on without him. “Guard that with your life.” He said sternly. “There’s something I have to do really quick. I won’t be more than a few minutes.”
Hermione eyed him suspiciously, but reluctantly accepted the broom. “I’ll wait for you in the Common Room.” She said, striding away.
Harry waited until she was out of sight before jogging to catch up with the blonde.
“Malfoy!” He called, raising his hands briefly to show he wasn’t armed as the three Slytherins whirled around. “I just want to talk to you. Alone.”
Draco sneered at him, but curiosity flared in his blue grey eyes. “You’ve got two minutes, Potter. Don’t waste it.” He shoved Crabbe and Goyle away when they would’ve lingered. “Go on! I can handle Scarhead.”
Harry gritted his teeth at the hated nickname, waiting until the two goons were gone before speaking again. “Look, this is going to sound strange, and it will likely never happen again, but I wanted to apologize.”
“This ought to be good.” Draco scoffed. “For what, exactly?”
“For the way I acted when we met for the second time, in the Great Hall before the Sorting.” Harry said quietly. “It was probably a complete shock because it was an absolute about face from our first meeting in Diagon Alley. You were the first wizard my own age that I’d ever met, to be honest.” He shook his head, grimacing. “Look, I can’t tell you the details, but sometime between that day and the first day of school, I was Obliviated. They took all of my memories, and gave me new ones. I didn’t even remember meeting you until a couple of nights ago, okay? So as far as I knew, Ron was the first wizard our age that I’d met, and I really wanted a friend.” He glared at Draco a bit defiantly. “But the memories are back now, and that one sticks out, so I just wanted to apologize. That’s all.” He turned abruptly away, wanting to get out of hexing range before the shock wore off.
Draco watched him go, still gobsmacked. Of all the things that he had expected, an apology from the Golden Boy was not one of them! He stared after the dark haired Gryffindor, brow furrowed in thought.
Obliviated. Someone had Obliviated the Boy Who Lived. But who? And why? He shook his head, hard. “Who cares.” He muttered. “It doesn’t matter anymore.”
But it did. Draco had been surprisingly and genuinely hurt when Harry had refused to shake his hand, turning his nose up at everything silver and green in favor of Weasley red and Gryffindor gold. He hadn’t questioned why Potter had done such an abrupt about face, but the barb had struck deep and he had channeled all that hurt and resentment into becoming Harry’s rival. If they couldn’t be friends then they would be enemies and thus equals and in each other’s lives, in some way.
But what was he supposed to do now? It felt almost…petty and undignified to continue his self-imposed revenge on Potter (although Weasel was still fair game), and Granger had a wicked right hook that he had recently experienced up close and personal. Maybe he would lay off a bit for a change. Ignore all of them, and rile them up by his very inaction. See how Potter liked it, being snubbed like he had done to Draco…
The blonde stopped in surprise. Why hadn’t he questioned the other boy’s abrupt personality switch? And why was that particular day in the robe shop so vague in his own mind? He probed the hazy memory, like testing a sore tooth with his tongue. He could remember that day, but…someone had taken the memory. And the more he searched, the more hazy spots he found in his mind.
“Bloody fecking hell!” he seethed, stomping off to his dorm. His mother suddenly had a lot to answer for, and he had no intention of waiting until he saw her the next day at King’s Cross. He snapped the password at the entrance and stalked through the Common Room straight up to his dorm room. “Get out,” he ordered at Crabbe and Goyle, snapping his fingers like he was commanding a dog. They scrambled to do his bidding, eyes wide at the visible signs of his temper.
Only when he was alone did Draco draw a slow breath, before going to his trunk and unlocking a special compartment deep within, pulling out a small tin of Floo powder. With Slytherin House being under Black Lake, each dorm had a small fireplace within it. Surprisingly, there had never been any signs of anyone watching the fireplaces for secret communication with the outside, although it was impossible to get into the castle by that means. Getting out, though… Sticking his head into the flames, he carefully breathed in and called out, “Mother! Are you home?”
“Draco?” There was the light sound of rustling, and she appeared, dressed in a simple gown. “What is it? Are you alright?”
“I’m fine.” He answered. “I wouldn’t have called if it wasn’t an emergency though. We need to talk. May I come through?”