Disclaimer: I am not JK Rowling and do not own any of these fantastic characters.
Harry wearily dragged his trunk out from under his four-poster, where it had been sitting idly ever since Hermione had unpacked it from the beaded bag a few weeks ago. It felt odd to be doing what he had done so often before when leaving Hogwarts (at the end of a school year) when everything was so different now.
However, packing was also nothing like what it had used to be. Rather than filling the trunk with books, potions ingredients, school robes and similar things, he was packing only a bare minimum – the invisibility cloak, a few battle-worn shirts and jeans, and some of the other things he had discovered that Hermione had produced from the beaded bag (most of which Harry didn’t even know she had packed) such as Peruvian Instant Darkness Powder from Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes, some of Moody’s dark detectors and a wand she had won during the battle (Harry had agreed when she had suggested that when working as an Auror, it may be wise to keep a spare wand on hand; Harry had even duelled and beaten her for it (on her suggestion) so that it would work better for him, should he need it).
Harry and Ron had made plans to stay at Grimmauld Place in the immediate future while they were filling in as emergency Aurors. This was why Harry didn’t need to pack much – though Hermione had kept all the important things such as The Tales of Beedle the Bard and the cloak in her bag during their stint at Sirius’s old house last year, they had left many of their spare clothes and such there when Yaxley’s untimely visit brought about their departure. Harry had asked Kreacher about the state of the place, and the old elf had replied that though it had been thoroughly searched by Yaxley and other Death Eaters, the house and its contents were mostly still intact.
In fact, since Kreacher had learned that they would be staying yesterday evening, he had returned regularly in the night to excitedly inform them that various rooms were now tidied; clothes (strewn to one side by the Death Eaters) were now put away and ironed ready for their visit, and had even appeared this morning to inform them that he had put the stove on for a beef casserole, which would be ready for them on their arrival later that day. The house elf seemed brighter than Harry had ever seen him.
Harry’s thoughts were interrupted by Hermione entering the dormitory, muttering to herself slightly. She gave him a wry smile, then turned to Ron’s bed, and began shaking out the duvet.
“What’s he forgotten now?” inquired Harry; since Ron had “finished” packing an hour ago and gone down to the common room, Hermione had been appearing frequently to locate something Ron had forgotten and insisted wasn’t there.
“Ah, here they are,” said Hermione huffily, emerging from the sheets with a small, 5-sided container clutched in her hand. “I’ve no idea why he needs his wizard card collection, but there you go...”
She made as if she was about to leave, but Harry called out to stop her.
“Erm... Hermione?” he asked in a slightly awkward voice. “I was wondering if I could ask you something.”
It was something he had been meaning to point out for days – ever since the battle had ended – but had felt too much that it was none of his business. Now, though, he thought enough time had passed to have a fair reason for mentioning it.
Hermione turned and gave him a quizzical look. “Yes, of course. What is it?”
“Well, it’s just...” began Harry slowly. “It’s just that... it’s been a while since the battle now, and... well, I just thought that...”
Hermione looked very puzzled, so Harry decided to just come out and say it.
“Look, I know this is going to sound nosy, insensitive and stupid, but... your parents, shouldn’t you be going to get them now?”
Hermione blinked, and looked slightly taken aback a moment. But then she regained her composure and said, her voice very brittle compared to usual;
“I know. I mean, yes, I should, but... I’ve been thinking about it for a while. We’ve been so busy, with all the cleaning up and memorials, and I thought...”
Her face betrayed a tear and Harry realised the dilemma she was in.
“Oh, Harry, what will they think of me!? I’ve wiped their memories, sent them to Australia and let them get their own life there! Will they even want me back? And not to mention how tricky memory charms are to undo... remember Lockhart?” She put her head in her hands.
Harry thought back to seeing the once-famous Gilderoy Lockhart in a ward at St. Mungos, his memories of his fame completely gone (though he was just as full of himself as ever) and his manner childlike. Harry was sure Hermione had performed a better and more intricate charm on her parents than Lockhart’s backfired attempt, but he could imagine the difficulty in reversing it.
Hermione still wept, and Harry could think of little to say to console her. “Of course they’ll want you back – you’re their daughter,” Harry pointed out, but felt very awkward for bringing the subject up.
To his relief, at that point Ron appeared in the doorway.
“Hermione, did you find my...” but he stopped when he saw her crying and immediately went over to her, putting his arm around her shoulders and letting her head fall onto his shoulder.
“What’s wrong?” he mouthed silently to Harry, soothingly running his hands through Hermione’s bushy hair.
“She’s worried about her parents; how to get them back,” Harry mouthed back. Ron seemed to have understood, and gently untwined himself from the sobbing witch to face her. He brushed a strand of loose hair out of her eye.
“I’ll go with you, if you want,” he said comfortingly, “to Australia. We’ll get them back,”
“Thanks,” sniffed Hermione, “B-but I think I need to go alone. They’ll be angry, and n-not likely to want anything to do with the wizarding world for a while. I’ve got to ease them back into it. But Harry’s right (Ron gave Harry a stern look at this point, as if telling him off for upsetting her), I need to get them back. It’s b-been long enough.”
She wiped her eyes with a handkerchief she seem to have produced from thin air, and stood up.
“Sorry for the fuss,” she said, “It’s silly when they’re perfectly fine and unharmed. But they’re my parents, and...”
Ron cut her off. “It’s OK. Let’s go and get some lunch. I’m sure the house elves will... I mean, I’m sure there’s something to cheer you up.”
Hermione gave a watery smile. “Don’t worry, Ron. I don’t mind them doing the cooking; McGonagall treats them right. I just don’t understand why they refuse to get paid...”
As she began to descend the stairs, Ron gave Harry a slightly sarcastic grin, then followed his girlfriend down to the common room and beyond to the Great Hall.
It looked like Twelve Fail-Safe Ways to Charm Witches was again coming into play for Ron. Harry made a mental note to flick through his copy before he had some free time with Ginny, and added it to the small pile in his trunk.
15 minutes later
Seeing Ron, Hermione and Ginny tucking into lunch at the Gryffindor table, Harry made a beeline for them, his stomach growling. But halfway past the Hufflepuff table he accidentally collided with a tall, dark-haired someone.
“Sorry,” said Harry, looking up to see who he had hit.
“That’s OK, Harry,” said Neville, who looked very distracted. “My fault – I wasn’t looking...”
“Hey, what’s wrong?” asked Harry – Neville’s body language suggested he was in even more than a kerfuffle than usual.
“Oh, it’s nothing...” Neville started airily, but saw that wasn’t going to work. “It’s just that I can’t find anywhere to put me up in London during the Auror work. I was going to stay with Great Uncle Algie in Ealing, but I’ve just got an owl saying he’s discovered a Doxy infestation and the house won’t be fit to live in for weeks while the Ministry clears out the Doxies. And the Leaky Cauldron’s full, I’d be hopeless in a Muggle hotel...”
Harry had a brainwave (he seemed to be full of them recently).
“You could stay with me and Ron at number 12, Grimmauld Place,” suggested Harry. “It’s my house anyway, and the old headquarters of the Order of the Pheonix. There’s plenty of room – you’d be welcome!”
Neville’s face, which still bore cuts and bruises from the battle (and before), brightened. “Really? You wouldn’t mind?”
Harry grinned. “We’d be delighted to have you!”
“Thanks,” Neville beamed back, “I’ve got my stuff all packed already. When do we go?”
Harry checked his watch (which, through all their trials and troubles, had somehow remained in perfect working order).
“In about 5 hours,” he calculated. “It’s 12:34 now, and we’re set to leave at five thirty to arrive in time for tea. Kreacher’s cooking beef casserole. My house elf,” he added by way of explanation to Neville, who had possessed a blank look at Kreacher’s name.
“Wow, Harry, you’ve got a house elf? Cool! But, erm, is Hermione OK with it? ‘Cause...”
Harry laughed. “Yeah, she’s alright with him. He’s happier now that... well, long story.”
Neville nodded understandingly. “OK. See you at five fifteen in the entrance hall then. Thanks again!”
“No problem,” Harry replied, and set off for his friends to tell them the good news. Though he knew it wouldn’t be plain sailing, he was looking forward to the next few weeks!
By 5:23 that evening, Harry, Ron and Neville were packed and ready to go. They said goodbye to the Weasleys at the steps of the castle, but Ginny and Hermione walked down with them to the castle gates. As Hermione had countless times reminded them in the past, they were unable to disapparate while within the Hogwarts grounds, so Harry had had to ask McGonagall how to get out of the gates (which still held countless protection charms to stop unwanted visitors, though now they were used to keep out reporters rather than Death Eaters). The headmistress had obliged by casting a Patronus that would stand by the gates awaiting their presence, then allow them through when they arrived.
As the high, foreboding shadow of the new gates loomed near (the old gates, which dated back to when Hogwarts was first founded, lay in a mangled heap of twisted metal nearby after being conquered by Voldemort and his followers during the battle) the three said their goodbyes. Ron held Hermione close and seemed to be whispering to her more words of comfort about her parents (who she now planned to retrieve the following week) while Ginny engulfed Harry in a trademark Weasley hug that half-crushed him to death but made him feel happier than anything else could. Neville stood by waiting slightly awkwardly.
“Be careful,” Ginny whispered into his ear. Harry could feel in the hug a slight note of worry; both of them knew that being an Auror would be by no means an easy or safe job.
“I will,” he breathed back, and as they broke apart he gave her a short but passionate kiss.
“See you on Monday,” said Ron to Hermione – they had arranged to meet just before the latter’s flight to Australia from Heathrow airport. Ron had been baffled as to why Hermione had decided to take the “Muggle flying train carriage”, as he put it, rather than apparating, but Hermione put forward the good point that apparating to Australia would mean several stops in various countries, and would tire her out to the point of exhaustion. Also, she wanted to get back into the “feel” of Muggle life, as she suspected her parents may be very sensitive about magic in the days following her reversal of the memory charm.
Harry and Ron finally pulled away from their girlfriends (well, sort-of girlfriend in Ron’s case) and strode with Neville towards the gates. They were identical in design to the old ones, but much shinier paintwork. Only one of the two winged boars that had flanked the gates remained; the other looked to have been blasted into tiny fragments by the Death Eater attack.
When they were a few feet from the gates, the glowing form of a cat leaped out from behind a nearby bush. It had distinctive spectacle markings around its eyes, which told Harry that it was McGonagall’s Patronus (which took the same form as she did when she transformed into a cat, which she could do thanks to the fact that she was an Animagus). It purred, circled them once (leaving a trail of light in its wake) and then jumped straight through the gates. Landing nimbly on all-fours, it turned to face them expectantly.
The trio of Aurors-to-be stepped forward slightly nervously. The light that had circled them flared up for a second as they stepped towards the gates. From the girls’ point of view, the ball of bluish-white light within which the boys were now located then floated through the gates and vanished, leaving behind a rather puzzled-looking Harry, Ron and Neville. The Patronus watched all this, then faded away into nothing as the ball of light had done.
Harry got his breath back from the surprise of, through his eyes, appearing instantly on the other side, and turned to check Ron and Neville were OK and ready. Both nodded, clutched their suitcases (and, in Neville’s case, box containing a toad) tight and prepared to disapparate. Ron would take Neville (who didn’t know where Grimmauld Place was) while Harry would take his luggage, to even out the load.
As he prepared to disapparate, he saw Hermione and Ginny waving at them from the other side of the gates. He waved back, concentrated on an image in his mind of the dingy street that was Grimmauld Place, and disapparated.
After the horrible feeling of being forced through a small, tight rubber tube was over, Harry found himself and his load standing in the middle of a darkly-lit, worn-down Muggle street. Before he had had time to do much, however, Ron and Neville appeared beside him with a loud “crack”.
“You both OK?” asked Harry, as Neville looked interestingly around at their surroundings.
“I think I splinched a filling,” growled Ron, poking his tongue around his teeth to try and work out which had a part missing, “but I’m OK.”
“Erm, OK, I think,” Neville replied groggily, “Not a nice experience, though. Not nice at all. How do you put up with it all the time?” Neville had never apparated before, though he had had basic lessons with the rest of his classmates back in 6th year.
“You get used to it,” said Ron, shaking his head to clear his diziness. He then withdrew the Deluminator from his pocket and clicked it until all the streetlamps on Grimmauld Place had gone dark, while Neville watched on in amazement. Finishing his work, Ron pocketed the Deluminator and turned to houses 11 and 13.
Neville now looked even more bemused. “I thought you said that the house was number 12?”
Harry exchanged winks with Ron. “Watch and learn, Neville.”
Harry reached into his pocket and drew out of piece of parchment, on which he had written a few hours earlier. He handed it to Neville.
“Read it out loud.”
“The residence of Harry James Potter may be found at number twelve, Grimmauld Place, London,” read Neville. He handed the parchment back to Harry, who placed it on a nearby wall.
“Incendio!” cast Harry, pointing his wand at the piece of parchment. It crumpled and withered, then broke out into a small ball of flame. When the tiny fire died down, the parchment was no more.
“Hang on, mate,” said Ron. “That’s left a black mark on the wall – Tergeo!” The ash which had burned the wall was siphoned off by Ron’s cleaning spell - Hermione would have been proud... if not also a little surprised.
Neville didn’t know where to look. For while Harry and Ron had been going about their business of destroying the parchment and cleaning the wall, another house had forced itself into existence in between numbers 11 and 13; a house that was identical to all of the others in the road aside from its twisted serpent-shaped doorknocker.
“Wow,” he breathed, “So this is your house?”
“Yeah,” replied Harry. “As I said, it was headquarters for the Order, but the three of us – that is Ron, Hermione and me – stayed there for a while last year while we were on the run. You know, before we broke into the Ministry of Magic.”
It sounded bizarre saying it, even now. Neville nodded weakly as they ascended the steps to the door with its flaking black paint and serpent doorknocker. Harry stepped forwards, knocked once to inform Kreacher of their arrival, then opened the door (which creaked much less than Harry was used to) and entered.
Ten minutes later, they were tucking into a massive beef casserole, topped with steaming mashed potato and flavoured with a variety of rich-tasting herbs, as prepared for them by Kreacher. The old elf had greeted them all warmly, including Neville (“’Tis a pleasure, Master Neville!”), transported their luggage upstairs - where Harry and Ron would sleep in the room they had shared in the past for the time being, and Neville would take what had been Mr and Mrs Weasley’s room (Fred and George’s old room was still full of gizmos that Harry felt it was best not to touch for now) – and bustled them into the kitchen for dinner.
Now, he said gleefully in his bullfrog voice, “Desert’s almost ready now! Chocolate fudge trifle; Master Ron’s favourite.”
Ron’s eyes lit up, but Neville said, “Erm... I don’t mean to be impolite, Kreacher, but I couldn’t eat another thing after this!”
Kreacher, though, took this as a compliment to his cooking, and beamed. “Young masters must get their strength up for tomorrow. Young masters have a big day with Auror training!”
Harry nodded, his mouth full of casserole. “You’re right there, Kreacher,” he half-choked. “Absolutely right...”
Hey folks! First and foremost, thanks for reading, and I hope you’ll take the time to review. All reviews are appreciated, good or bad! Also, a quick note on the way this chapter panned out; I planned to have most of it involving Harry, Ron and Neville’s entry into the Aurors and maybe even a visit to the Dursleys or Malfoys, but somehow it ended up as a bit of a filler – sorry! I know it’s a bit lacking in action and some of the paragraphs are a bit long, but I hope you still enjoyed it.
Secondly, before anyone pulls me up on this (well-spotted if you found it :-D) I know that JK has said in an interview that Hermione performed a different spell on her parents than Obliviate (yes, the film gets it wrong) as Obliviate wipes memories as opposed to the spell Hermione used, which just took away memories that could be returned with a counter-curse. But I felt it would be too complicated to explain all this during the course of the story and that it would interrupt the flow (there’s a lot of waffle as it is in this chapter LOL) so I just put the spell she used under the vague title of “memory charm” (maybe the spell Hermione used fell into the category of memory charms?). I know the Lockhart comparison makes it seem like Obliviate, but I’m just going with that Harry didn’t know the exact spell Hermione used.
Finally (and thanks if you’re still reading this madly long authors’ note) a big thank you to Jay and all the staff for all of their great work, particularly during the recent troubles in early April, but also generally for their hard work, dedication and patience. It’s their contributions that keep this site’s heart beating, and they deserve more credit than they are ever given. Thanks guys!
That’s it from me; I hope you are enjoying the story so far! The next chapter should be up quite soon – I’m writing it now – and I promise it’ll be more action packed. Thanks again for reading and (hopefully) reviewing! Dalek194 :-)