Chapter 3 : Chapter 3 - Passing the Torch
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“I believe the galleon is now mine, Minerva,” he said quietly, smiling sadly and nodding towards both Harry and Hermione.
“Albus, this isn’t a laughing matter.” Minerva snapped at her former Headmaster. Turning back to Hermione, she fixed her with infameous McGonagall stare. “Am I to understand that Hermione Granger isn’t going to finish her education?”
Hermione looked back at her with a strange look in her eye. “That’s not what I said, Minerva, I said that Harry and I wouldn’t be returning for the start of term. I’m pretty certain that both of us, and Ron, are going to avail ourselves of the third option you just mentioned.” Not looking defiant, Hermione was more resigned than anything else.
Turning to Harry, Minerva pursed her lips and frowned. “Is this one of you ideas, Harry?”
Smiling sadly, Harry shook his head. Before answering, he looked up at Dumbledore, who nodded to him, sadly. “Minerva, the first time the decision not to return was spoken aloud was when Hermione broke it to everyone just now. It wasn’t a unilateral one on her part, but she made the final determination when we heard the options we have for next year.” Smiling at Hermione, Harry nodded for her to jump in.
“Minerva, it’s not that we don’t love it here at Hogwarts. This is the first place I was truly in my own element and this will always be the first place Harry called ‘home’. But we don’t belong here anymore, and neither does Ron.” A tear began to trickle down her cheek. “For all the things that happened here last year, we weren’t a part of them. We were out there hiding and searching and trying to survive long enough for Harry to defeat Voldemort. We all almost died more times than I care to say, and we’re not the students who set out last August.” Wiping her eyes with the back of her hand she lowered her head. Harry smiled at her as he picked it up for her.
“We couldn’t be here without having an adverse impact on the other students. There are people coming back here next year that we love dearly and ones that we respect beyond measure. The presence of the three of us would rob them of their last chance to just be students here at Hogwarts, especially for the older ones. None of them will ever be the same, we’ve all seen too much. But the three of us were in the center of everything and we’re not the same people we were. While we were on the hunt, you don’t know how much I wanted to come home to Hogwarts and just be a kid again. The night of the Final Battle, that kid died, literally. My greatest regret in life is that my dying brought my best friend such pain that she can’t come back to the one place she loves.” Smiling sadly at Hermione, he patted Teddy on his back as he slept against his shoulder. “We haven’t spoken of this with Ron, but I’m fairly confident that he won’t be back.” Looking over at Kingsley, he nodded. “I don’t know if those ‘provisional certificates’ Minerva mentioned would be good enough to for acceptance into the Auror program when you get it back up and running, but you might want to see if there were a couple of slots available in case a pair of former Gryffindors were acceptable to you.” Watching the smile on Kingsley’s face, he knew what the answer would be.
“I’d say that three slots would be available if you three wanted it.” Hermione looked up and smiled a bit sadly. “Kingsley, I appreciate the offer, but I think I’m going to pursue trying to improve the lot of house-elves for a few years, at least. If the Ministry would have me, of course.”
Looking at Minerva fondly, she tried to smile. “I do hope you’ll forgive me, but can you see why we can’t return as students?”
Shaking her head, she stared at the pins in her hand. “Everything you said makes perfect sense, and I do understand your reasoning. Not that I like it very much, but I do understand. I was anticipating you two being the Head boy and girl that would set the standard for a long time.”
Blushing, Harry looked to Hermione before he spoke. “If you don’t mind our recommendation, we think that you have two very inspired choices who will be back for start of term. Neville and Luna were two of the three leaders of the resistance here at school and they would be the perfect pair to show the rest of the school the way to move forward.”
Shaking her head, Andromeda smiled. “I’m wondering why you’re not putting forth Miss Weasley. From what I understand, she was the true spark of the resistance and I would think she would be a natural for that job.”
Piping up to cover Harry’s blush, Hermione laughed. “Gin’s looking forward to being Gryffindor Quidditch Captain and taking the House and Quidditch Cups for her swan song. Though Gwenog Jones has been to the house twice to speak with her, so she might be occupied a bit next spring.”
Looking up, Minerva fixed Albus with a withering glance. “I told you twenty years ago that the ‘Quidditch Exemption’ was a bad idea.”
“And I told you then and I’ll repeat it now that it’s better to keep them engaged in some sort of school program after they’re recruited than to have them lose out on their education altogether. Would you rather have a bunch of Ludo Bagman’s running around?” The laughter that followed that remark brought any conversation to a halt for several minutes.
Waking up, Teddy smiled and quickly grabbed Harry’s glasses. Smiling fondly, Hermione conjured a snitch and distracted him with it while Harry retrieved his glasses, a bit the worse for wear. A casual wave of Hermione’s wand righted them as she turned back to Andromeda.
“Determined to make my grandson a seeker?” Andromeda asked drolly as she watched Teddy track the slowly flying snitch as it circled Harry and him. Smiling fondly as she watched the two of them track the snitch she nodded.
“It worked well for Harry, though if Teddy has his mum’s build, my guess is that Gryffindor will have an excellent beater in a few years.” Smiling at the look Harry sent her, she sighed thinking how much of a natural he was with children.
Faking indignation, Andromeda drew herself up haughtily. “Remember his mum was in Hufflepuff and his grandmother was in…” Stopping herself, she shook her head, “Let’s wait a few years before we go down that road to see if my old house can begin to redeem itself.”
Albus chuckled dryly, “Andromeda, one of the reasons I hired Horace was to accomplish that very goal. I didn’t mention it to him when I hired him, but I do know that he wasn’t overly happy with what Slytherin had become. Give him a chance to weed out some of the more obvious dark leaning senior students and replace them with first years who don’t feel that they have to become Death-Eaters and I think you’ll see a change in House Slytherin.”
Nodding in agreement, Minerva smiled at Albus. “And I’ve had a couple of conversations with the Sorting Hat about some of the restrictions we had placed upon house placement. Starting in September, the restriction against placing a muggle-born in House Slytherin will be lifted. It will do them a bit of good to remember that cunning and ambition come from quite a variety of backgrounds.”
Leaning over and ‘rescuing’ Teddy from Harry, Hermione turned to Andromeda. “When can we take him back to the Burrow with us?”
Smiling warmly, Andromeda nodded to Kingsley. “I think that these two will justify the faith Remus and Dora had in them quite admirably.” Nodding she waved her wand towards an open area beside Minerva’s desk. Uncloaked, there were now sitting a diaper bag, a carry bag and a small suitcase. “I anticipated you two being imminently suitable, regardless of how moody and difficult Harry may think he is, so I brought clothes, nappies, and the basic essentials for you to take with you. We’ve warned Molly you’re coming with a surprise, and I’ve made arrangements for a cot, pram and some other essentials to be delivered to the Burrow this afternoon. Molly said that she will make suitable arrangements for a room for you and Teddy; he’s been a bit moody since things have happened and he really isn’t able to sleep alone just yet. Now comes the difficult question, which one of you is better going through the floo?” Watching as both of them looked warily at the other, she laughed. “I thought so. Why don’t you do a transfer? One of you floo through, keep the network open and then the other can pass the baby through and then the other can catch up.” Smiling at the relief in both their eyes, she could see that neither relished being the one who would attempt to floo to the Burrow with Teddy in their arms. “It’s really not that difficult, although Dora used to joke that the reason she was so clumsy was the amount of time she spent spinning in and out of fireplaces as an infant.” Smiling sadly, she wiped a tear from her eye.
Kingley stood and came over and put an arm around her. “Andie, I’ll take you back to the Ministry and we’ll get your sister released and home with you within the hour.” Looking up at Harry and Hermione, he nodded. “You two will be excellent godparents for Teddy, and I have no qualms about designating you two officially his godparents and guardians, with Andromeda his primary caretaker for the time being.” Smiling at Minerva he shrugged. “I’d say I’m sorry you’re losing these two for start of term, but I’m certainly glad I’ll have them to start putting things to right at the Ministry.”
All standing, they started moving towards the door. “I think that the Gryffindor Common room fireplace will serve admirably to get everyone on their way.” Smiling sadly, Minerva looked at Hermione as they approached the door.”
“Minerva, may I stay behind a moment to talk with Albus?” Hermione asked quietly, ignoring the sharp look Harry gave her.
“Of course, dear. We’ll just wait for you in the Common Room. The password is still ‘Victorious’, so we’ll be there when you arrive.” Seeing that Harry was trying to decide whether to stay or go, she took his elbow with her free hand. “Come along Harry, I’m certain that Hermione will be fine in my office since I’ll be looking after you to make certain you don’t get into any trouble between here and Gryffindor Tower.” Smiling at the shocked look on his face, she ushered him to the door and shut it behind her.
Hermione stood, silently, surveying the office. Looking around she saw that the various portraits of the Headmistresses and Headmasters were empty except for two. Severus was sitting, quietly reading and ignoring everything but his book. Albus, back in his own frame behind McGonagall’s desk was patiently waiting for her to speak. Sadness clouded his normally bright blue eyes.
“I was in the Great Hall when he died.” Her voice was distant and matter of fact. “He died alone, surrounded by Death Eaters. You knew all along that it would end that way.”
“Hermione, I didn’t know, but I hoped since it was the only way to insure that Tom Riddle would be defeated.” Sounding old and tired, Dumbledore looked upon her with admiration and pride. “The one thing I hadn’t considered was the fact that his death was almost yours.” Looking at her thoughtfully, he paused for a second. “He doesn’t know how close you were to following him, does he?’
Tears forming in her eyes, she shook her head. “And if he ever hears it from you, I’ll make certain that all your portraits are locked in cells with Death Eaters at Azkaban. He still blames himself for me almost dying at the Department of Mysteries; he’s not going to carry this around with him, also. I know you did the only thing you could, and you were right about Harry being strong enough to accept what needed to be done.” The tears were running down her cheeks now. “There in the Great Hall, I can still remember his despair and fear, and I hated you for a moment. Not because of what happened, but because you were safely dead and you didn’t have to wonder about how to live without him.” Composing herself, she drew herself up and held her head high. “However, the one thing it will be years before I’m totally over is the fact you left him with those people for eleven years without intervening.” Her voice took on a stronger, more confident tone. “He’s told me enough of what happened to him that it sickens me to think about it, because I know there are things he won’t tell me that are even worse.” A cold look of fury transformed her face into a marble mask. “His aunt and cousin have come around and he’s looking for a way to forgive them, but Vernon Dursley should rot in a special corner of Hell for what he did, to his own family, and to Harry.” Sparks began playing from the end of her wand; a subtle tension began to fill the room. “Albus, I respect you and am grateful for everything you did to make certain we had what it took. You enabled Harry to succeed and Ron to come back to us, and for that I’m truly grateful. But you should have checked on him occasionally.” Her composure began to crack a bit, as she stomped her foot and pointed her wand at him. “Merlin’s wand, you idiot. You don’t just leave a child with people and never go back to check, especially given the history between Petunia and Lily. I wouldn’t drop a kitten off under those circumstances, much less a child. Did it ever once occur to you to see how he was getting along?” Almost shouting, golden sparks were falling from the end of her wand, causing small burns in the floor in front of her. “Answer me!”
Looking at her with respect and fondness, Albus nodded to her and then spoke. “Hermione, why didn’t Harry speak to you or Ginny that night, once he’d made his mind up to go?”
Shaking her head in disbelief, she stared. “Because it would have been too difficult for him to go if he had. He wouldn’t have wanted to leave Ginny like that, and he knew that he’d have to put me in a body bind to keep me from coming with. What’s that got to do with why you never checked back on him?”
“Similar reasons applied. If I had gone back and they were treating him very well, I still would have been tempted to take him with me to oversee his childhood. If I had gone back and saw the conditions as they were, I would have taken him out of there, disrupting the protections his mother died to give him. Until seven years ago, Lily and James were the two students at this institution that I cared the most for and respected. I wasn’t going to let her sacrifice come to naught because of my emotional weaknesses. But it never occurred to me that the Dursleys would mistreat Harry, much less go as far as they did. It’s not an excuse, but that’s the truth of it.”
Shaking her head, Hermione looked thoughtful. “I’ll think on what you said, Albus. I’m not certain that excuses what you did, but I do see how it saved Harry’s life, although the cost is one he’s still paying. I’m still not happy with what happened, and someone will pay for what he did to Harry, but I’ll consider what you’ve told me today.” Smiling faintly she bit her lower lip. “I think we can declare a truce on this, for Harry’s sake if nothing else.” Nodding to him, she turned for the door.
“Miss Granger, a moment, if you would.” The quiet voice of Severus Snape stopped her as she put her hand on the door.
Turning around with a bit of apprehension, she saw that he was still reading. “Yes, Professor Snape?”
Without looking up, he spoke quietly. “This school will be a much duller place without you next term.” Closing the tome, he looked up at her. “Lily has asked me to give you her thanks for what you’ve done for Harry. Parents cannot pick their children’s companions, even under the best of circumstances, but she wants you to know that if she could, you would be the one she would choose for Harry.” Looking off to the side of his portrait, he smiled and nodded to someone out of Hermione’s line of sight.
“Thank you, Professor, and tell Lily that I’ll always be there for Harry when he needs me.” Turning she started to step through the door as his voice spoke one last time.
“And Miss Granger, I can’t imagine that you’ve forgotten, but for the record my name is Severus. You might want to hurry up a bit, I’m certain Harry will get into some sort of mischief without you there to watch him. Good luck, Hermione.”
Smiling at him over her shoulder, she nodded. “Thank you, Severus. Thank you Albus.” She closed the door quietly behind her and proceeded to skip down the stairs.
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