Chapter Two - The Burrow
It didn’t take long before Hermione realised what Sirius had done. Every time her father came within two feet of her, he was overcome by the inescapable need to vomit.
Thankfully, he had put this sudden illness down to food poisoning, although her mother had pulled her aside one morning and asked very seriously if she’d had anything to do with it.
Hermione had rolled her eyes and reminded her that she wasn’t allowed to do magic out at school, so her mother had dropped the subject, not really upset about the turn of events.
The lack of Ministry owl had bothered Hermione for a while, but she soon forgot about it; she’d heard whispers of bias in the underage magic law and she could look it up when she arrived back at Hogwarts.
Hermione spent her last three days at home preparing to leave for good. All she could take to The Burrow without arousing suspicion was her school trunk, which was fine for clothes and school books, but that was it.
However, she had picked up another magically expanded satchel in Diagon Alley, which held everything else. She had also bought a book on empathy, hoping for some sort of explanation. The people at Flourish and Blotts had seen her so often that no one batted an eyelid at her purchase.
That, or it was because she also bought a set of DADA books at the same time as Harry’s birthday present.
Unfortunately, and Hermione made sure to read it at least three times before admitting it, the information it offered was quite poor.
In the mid-1800s, the Ministry of Magic had released a report that named empaths as Dark Creatures. Empaths at the time had tried to argue that there was a political agenda – after all, reading emotions also meant detecting lies – but it was to no avail and, with prejudice worse than that against werewolves, empaths went ‘underground’.
With that in mind, all the book could tell her was that she could sense other people’s emotions – which she already knew – and ‘see and communicate with living spirits’.
The book went on to explain:
Since no empaths have offered their services for study, this is merely a theory. Theoretically, every magical human has a body, a soul and a spirit. In life, the soul and body are joined together and can survive without each other, but will no longer be alive. The existence of the spirit, however, is debated for the above reason. If true, the spirit can leave the body and travel elsewhere; this would be extremely rare, since the body and soul exist separately and, while they have an effect on the spirit’s behaviour, it is a one-way relationship.
So, Hermione supposed, if her spirit went to Australia, she still wouldn’t know what was going on there. She couldn’t really see how this would affect her, so she put it out of her mind for the moment.
By Wednesday, her room was barren, but for her bed, wardrobe and desk. All that was left to empty was one of the desk drawers, which contained memorabilia from her childhood – certificates, old letters, Muggle school records.
Right at the back, however, Hermione found a badge that looked like a police shield, but the emblem was two crossed wands shooting sparks.
She sat on her bed and stared at it, trying to understand what it was and where it had come from. The shield was attached to a leather wallet and she flipped it open to find an ID card.
Ministry of Magic Auror Division
Sirius Orion Black
July 1979 –
Hermione’s eyebrows rose into her hairline. She had known Sirius was an auror … but what was she doing with his badge?
Her thoughts were interrupted by the doorbell ringing loud and shrill downstairs.
Hermione didn’t hurry, knowing that Arthur Weasley would relish the chance to play with the doorbell for a while, and slipped the badge into the satchel with everything else. Then she slipped the satchel into her trunk on top of her school robes and closed the lid, before scooping Crookshanks up as he threatened to slip out the door.
“Oh no you don’t, darling,” she cooed to the fluffy orange part-Kneazle. “I need you to come with me.”
Depositing Crookshanks into his carrier, she dragged her trunk out on to the hallway, left the note to her mother on her pillow and shut the door firmly.
Hermione hurried down the stairs, placing the pet-carrier on the side table where the telephone resided, before opening the door.
Mr Weasley rang the doorbell once more, beaming at the now-louder sound. “Remarkable!” He said cheerfully. “It’s good to see you again, Hermione.”
“Hello, Mr Weasley. Thank you for letting me stay for the rest of the summer.”
“Oh, not at all!” Mr Weasley assured her. “Think nothing of it! Now by some amazing miracle, we’ve managed to get a car for today. I don’t know how we’ll get Harry though; we’ll never get a car that close to the match. Are your parents here?”
“They’re at work.” Hermione said calmly, despite the pang of sadness in her chest. “We said our goodbyes this morning. I’ll just go and get my trunk.”
“Don’t worry.” Another voice said from behind Mr Weasley. “We’ll get it. Good to finally meet you, Hermione.”
Hermione didn’t need an introduction to know that this was one of Ron’s eldest brothers. He was closer to the twins build, still tall, but stocky with it. His face was even more freckled than Ron’s and, when she shook his hand, she could feel numerous callouses. “You as well, Charlie, right?”
Charlie raised an eyebrow. “How’d you guess?”
“Probably the burns.” Yet another unfamiliar voice teased. “You know Ron tells all and sundry what you do for a living.”
This had to be the eldest Weasley brother, Bill. But Hermione had to admit that he wasn’t a bit like she’d pictured him. Knowing that Bill had been Head Boy at Hogwarts, she had assumed that he was like Percy, but Bill was tall, like Ron, with long hair pulled back in a ponytail and an earring with what looked like a dragon fang dangling from it.
Then again, she realised as he shook her hand with a friendly greeting, she probably should have known better than to assume head students had to be as stuffy and overbearing as Percy was.
After all, James Potter had been Head Boy and he had been a Marauder.
And Lily Potter had been Head Girl, and she hadn’t exactly been an angel …
Wait – where did that come from? I don’t think I really know anything about Mrs Potter … she was Head Girl … probably a prefect. Red hair, green eyes, Gryffindor, Muggle-born … Good at Charms, I remember Harry saying … Very intelligent according to Sirius … But that’s all. Where did I get the idea that she caused trouble at school?
“Hermione?” Bill prompted. “Where’s your trunk?”
“Hmm?” Hermione shook herself from her thoughts. “Oh, sorry. It’s at the top of the stairs. I was just mentally running through everything I’d packed to make sure I hadn’t forgotten anything.”
“Organised.” Bill commented. “Ron must drive you crazy.”
“Not really.” Hermione shrugged. “I like a challenge.”
“Gryffindor.” The two Weasley boys concluded in unison.
“And this must be Crookshanks.” Charlie added, bending down to see into the basket. “Did he really eat Scabbers?”
Hermione rolled her eyes, somehow hiding the anger she felt towards Wormtail. “Is he still on about that?”
Bill sniggered. “Been moaning about it for the last few weeks.”
Hermione couldn’t help feeling surprised. Ron wasn’t usually one for tact and she knew that he had taken the news about Scabbers very personally. That he had explained away his absence to his brothers without letting that shine through was quite impressive. “Well, I don’t know what happened to Scabbers, but Crookshanks hadn’t left my dorm all day. He was sick, weren’t you, Crookshanks?”
Despite his irritation at being confined, Crookshanks let out a purr, nuzzling his mistress through the bars.
“Smart cat.” Charlie remarked, as Bill levitated the trunk down the stairs. “Might be half-kneazle.”
“I think he is.” Hermione agreed, picking up the basket.
“You’ll have to carry it the rest of the way, boys.” Mr Weasley told them.
Charlie rolled his eyes. “Muggle neighbourhood. We know, Dad.” He took one end of the trunk, Bill took the other, and they carried it out to the waiting car.
Hermione followed Mr Weasley out the front door, pausing only to lock it, leaving her childhood home for what would – hopefully – be the last time.
Hermione had never been to the Burrow before, electing to meet the Weasleys in Diagon Alley instead, but Harry absolutely loved the place and it turned out to be exactly how she’d imagined it – a house that looked like it had stepped right out of one of her childhood story books, with chickens pecking around the yard and so many pieces jutting out that it appeared to be held up with magic. Hermione couldn’t help but feel, however, that this brand of magic was that of love and family, rather than Charms and Transfiguration.
Ginny met her at the door with a tight hug. “Hermione, it’s so good to see you! Here, let’s get him out.” She undid the latches and gently lifted Crookshanks from the basket Hermione was carrying. Once freed, the grumpy-looking cat settled down in Ginny’s arms, purring contentedly.
Hermione rolled her eyes, but didn’t argue the nickname, as Ron came running into the kitchen, his hair smoking slightly.
“Twins.” He explained briefly, gesturing to the singed areas.
“Why doesn’t that surprise me?” Hermione sighed, hugging him in greeting. She had barely let go, when two other set of arms encircled her, almost lifting her off the ground.
“Mya!” Two voices chorused.
“Why do you call me that?” Hermione asked, unable to hold back a giggle. “And put me down!”
Fred and George set her down and gave her identical grins.
“Well, Hermione …” Fred began.
“… is too long to say …” George continued.
“… so we decided …” Fred explained.
“… to call you Mya.” George finished.
“That’s alright, isn’t it?” They asked in unison.
Hermione gave herself a moment to connect the snippets into one sentence and nodded. “If you must. Do you have to talk like that? I feel like I’ve been watching a tennis match.”
“It’s a twin thing.” George told her.
“What’s a tennis match?” Fred asked.
Hermione shook her head. “Never mind. It’s too complicated to explain.” She was swiftly pulled away by Mrs Weasley, who hugged her tightly before holding her at arm’s length.
“Hermione, how wonderful to see you again!” Mrs Weasley paused. “You’re very thin, dear.”
“According to you, Mum …” Fred began.
“… everyone is thin.” George finished.
Hermione bit back a laugh at their antics, knowing there was no point in arguing with the Weasley matriarch, despite the fact that she knew she was a healthy weight for her age. “Well, we sent a lot of food to Harry.”
There may well have been a better way of redirecting Molly Weasley’s attention, but it had yet to be found. Sure enough, Mrs Weasley’s demeanour changed immediately. “Oh the poor boy! I don’t know why Professor Dumbledore insists on sending him to those people!”
Hermione was slightly startled at the venom in her voice. She had always assumed that Mrs Weasley believed that everything Dumbledore said was the word of Merlin. After all, last year, she had been very much in agreement that Harry shouldn’t be told that Sirius Black was supposedly trying to kill him.
Of course, to be fair, that was more because Mrs Weasley felt that Harry ‘didn’t need to know’ than because Dumbledore told them not to tell him.
Or was that the Ministry’s decision?
At one time, Hermione too would have taken Dumbledore or the Ministry’s word as law, but after the chaos of last year, she wasn’t so sure. Dumbledore knew everything that happened at Hogwarts, or so it seemed, and yet he still didn’t see fit to warn Harry about the ‘mass-murderer’ trying to kill him.
She had seen how reckless Harry had acted last year – and he had known. She dreaded to think how bad he would have been if he hadn’t.
Realising that Mrs Weasley was still talking, she tuned back in hastily. “Ginny and I were going to make a couple of birthday cakes for him, would you like to help?”
Just in time. “Of course.” Hermione said with a smile. “Wouldn’t miss it?” She glanced around, noticing that there was one face missing. “Where’s Percy?”
“In his room.” Ron told her. “Speaking of, we’ll show you yours.”
“You’ll have to share with me, I’m afraid.” Ginny added, as they led her up the rickety staircase that zig-zagged through the house. “We haven’t got much room. Bill and Charlie are sharing with the twins and Harry will be sharing with Ron when he gets here. Percy gets to keep his room, because he’s got to work.”
Hermione couldn’t help but notice the light blush that spread over Ginny’s face at Harry’s name, but hoped that she’d get over it soon. Harry saw the Weasleys as siblings and would never see her as anything more than a sister. And Hermione was sure – despite having no frame of reference – that your sister having a crush of you tended to put a strain on your relationship.
“What does Percy do then?” Hermione asked, as they approached the second landing. “I don’t think you mentioned it.”
“He only got the job a few days ago.” Ron explained. “He’s a junior in the Department of International Magical Co-Operation.”
“But he’s a tad obsessed.” Ginny warned. “So keep your voice down.”
At that moment, a door just ahead of them opened and a head popped out. “Would you keep your voices…Oh, hello, Hermione.” Percy was always polite to Hermione, probably because she was the only one who pretended to be interested during his lectures.
“Hello, Percy.” Hermione replied. “Congratulations on your new job.”
“Thank you.” Percy puffed up importantly. “At least someone has their priorities straight.” He shot a nasty look at his younger siblings and disappeared behind his door again.
“Mental, that one.” Ron muttered under his breath, leading the way up the next flight of stairs to Ginny’s room. “Ladies, your humble abode. Now, if you don’t mind, I’m going to go and play Quidditch with the others.”
Hermione moved aside to let him pass, rolling her eyes in the process, and followed Ginny into her room. “Charming! Do they ever ask you to play?”
“Never.” Ginny sighed, gesturing to one of the beds. “That one;s yours.”
The room was quite small, just big enough to allow the two girls movement around the two beds, but it was comfortably so and still bigger than Hermione had expected, given the size of The Burrow and the placing of the door.
The walls were painted a pretty pale yellow colour, and the soft green bedclothes gave the room the image of spring-time, which was amplified by the jar of wild flowers on the window sill.
The beds themselves were identical, but one (the one Ginny hadn’t pointed at) had a trunk at the foot and a worn hand-knitted stuffed rabbit sat on the pillow.
“What do you think?” Ginny asked, a slight trace of nervousness in her voice.
“I think it’s really pretty.” Hermione answered, almost wistfully. Her bedroom at her parents’ house had always been plain white, with smart mahogany furniture – hardly interesting for a young girl.
It took Hermione a few minutes to realise that she had referred to it as ‘her parents’ house’ and not ‘home’.
Ginny smiled brightly. “We’ll get your trunk brought up and it’ll fit under your bed.”
“I’m ahead of you, Gin.” Charlie floated the trunk in and landed it in the middle of the room. “Do you two want to play with us?”
Hermione grimaced slightly. The last time she’d been in the air was on the back of a hippogriff and she wasn’t too excited about getting up their again.
“Normally, I’d say yes.” Ginny answered. “But Hermione’s scared of heights.”
“I am not scared of heights.” Hermione protested. “I’m just not particularly fond of them. Besides, you can go, I don’t mind.”
“I know.” Ginny said. “But I need a girl talk.”
Charlie blanched slightly. “Right. I’ll leave you to it then.” He practically fled down the stairs.
Hermione giggled. “Works every time, that.”
Ginny nodded in agreement. “I don’t often use that excuse, but it’s the only way I can get any privacy with six brothers. Did you bring that book you said I could borrow? The Lion and … something?”
“The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.” Hermione remembered. “Yeah, hang on.” She opened her trunk and dug through her books. “Not in here. Hang on.” She opened her satchel and dug around in it. “Well, that’s the weirdest thing I ever saw; I’m sure it’s in here somewhere.” She stuck her head right in and finally extracted it. “Ah, here it is.”
Ginny stared at her. “What on earth is in that bag?”
“Everything but the kitchen sink.” Hermione replied jokingly, handing her the book.
“Thanks. Seriously, what is in that bag?” Ginny repeated. “Are you planning on moving in or something?”
Hermione shrugged. “Not really. I just…can’t go home next summer, that’s all.”
“Why not?” Ginny pressed gently.
Hermione took a deep breath, closed her eyes and began to talk, slowly admitting everything about her home life and her father. At one point, she started crying and the younger witch moved off her bed to sit beside her, rubbing her back soothingly. When she’d finished, they sat in silence for a few minutes, Hermione assumed while Ginny took in what she’d said.
Finally, after what seemed like hours, Ginny spoke, her voice low and shaking with anger. “First of all, you’re not going back even if I have to hide you in my trunk and smuggle you back here. Second of all, what were you thinking letting Sirius Black into your house?”
Hermione froze. “Pardon?!” Terror and concern was rising around her, tainted with a bit of anger, and she realised too late that her method of coping with her past, of shutting off all conscious thought while she talked, had led to more than she had anticipated being revealed.
Her heart thudding, she grasped Ginny’s arm. “Ginny, I need you to hear me out and not tell anyone, understand?!”
Ginny fought off her arm and closed her bedroom door, fixing Hermione with a stern look she had inherited from her mother. “Explain. Now.”
“Harry’s going to kill me.” Hermione muttered, before launching into the story of the Marauders, four boys who had become brothers and who were ripped apart by the terror of war. By the time she’d finished, Ginny was almost in tears herself. “Poor Professor Lupin.”
Hermione had to admit that she hadn’t thought about it from that angle; her thoughts had lain firmly with Sirius – and with Mr and Mrs Potter when the shock had worn off – and she was ashamed to admit she’d never even thought about how the whole debacle had affected the other remaining Marauder.
“It can’t have been easy for him.” Ginny continued softly. “Werewolves have it hard enough without losing his entire family and then to find out that he didn’t have to be alone for the last thirteen years …”
“At least he had Mandy and Arabella.” Hermione commented softly, falling easily into the way Harry had addressed them outside of class. “You won’t tell anyone, will you?”
“Not a soul.” Ginny assured her. “I promise. Are you going to talk to my parents about your parents?”
Hermione sighed. “Only if I need to. I don’t want to put them out or anything; you know, make them feel like they have to have me next summer.”
Logically, she knew that wouldn’t be the case, but that was how it would feel, she knew, if Mrs Weasley immediately extended an invitation.
Ginny looked like she wanted to argue, but she just smiled comfortingly and jumped to her feet. “Come on; let’s go and help Mum make birthday cakes.”
Hermione smiled as well, relieved that Ginny wasn’t going to push the subject. “Good idea. Baking always makes me feel better; it’s therapeutic. Only if you do it the Muggle way though.”
“Oh, Mum always makes birthday cakes the Muggle way.” Ginny told her. “She says it adds more love to them.”
“It does.” Hermione agreed absently. “Strawberry or chocolate …”
As the two girls made their way downstairs, Hermione pushed the feeling of unease to the back of her mind, but it wouldn’t disappear, as it very rarely does. What she didn’t know was that, in a few weeks time, Harry, and, by default, Sirius, would be getting that very same feeling …