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Initiate by MarauderLover7
Chapter 3 : Keira And The Kettle
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 5


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When Blaise hadn’t returned to lessons after lunch, Harry hadn’t been entirely surprised, and when Blaise hadn’t shown up the next day, he didn’t think anything of it. When Blaise didn’t show up on Monday, though, Harry started to worry; not only was Blaise gone, but Mr Benson had taken a few days off – apparently for health reasons. By Friday, Mr Benson was back, but he looked tired, and like he’d lost a bit of weight. And, when Mrs Phelps ticked them off the class list that morning, Blaise’s name wasn’t even called.

“I don’t think he’s coming back,” Harry said to Hermione the following Monday.

“I know,” she said, in a low voice, watching Mrs Phelps. She was worried, obviously, but she and Blaise hadn’t got on as well as Blaise and Harry, so Harry didn’t think she missed him quite as much. Still, her slight worry was probably more than Blaise would have had for her, had she been the one who’d disappeared. Harry, for his part, missed his friend a lot. Hermione was great, but there was very little joking around when it was just the pair of them. There’d been a lot of talks about magic, but Hermione didn’t really like Quidditch, and Harry wasn’t quite ready to tell her about his Animagus work, and Hermione loved the theories behind magic, while Harry had always been a very practical sort of person.

As a result, Harry spent a lot of time listening to her explaining things she’d read in obscure textbooks, or her favourite Hogwarts: A History, or trying to answer questions about the magical world, and about Padfoot, Moony and Kreacher before Hermione could ask more.

“I was thinking I might try to, you know, write. To Blaise, I mean,” Harry whispered. “I spoke to Padfoot about it, and he says Zabini’s a solicitor... even if she’s taken time off, she’s got to be contactable, so if I send Hedwig-” Hermione, who’d been writing down the new week’s spelling words, glanced over, interested despite herself.

“Who?”

“Oh, she’s our owl,” Harry said.

“Assuming it can go directly to Blaise... what would you write?” Hermione asked. She glanced around the classroom and then lowered her voice so that Harry had to lean over to hear her. “You can’t really be thinking of explaining who you are on a piece of paper, can you?”

“No,” Harry said, “I’ll just stay as Evans for now. He can assume I’m muggleborn too.” HarryHarry just hoped the muggleborn factor wouldn’t stop the letter from making it to Blaise; he suspected Zabini was probably the type to discriminate against muggleborns. He also hoped wherever Blaise was living wasn’t as heavily warded as Grimmauld, or Hedwig, clever as she was, would never make it through.

“But-”

“Hermione,” Mrs Phelps said warningly, “Harry, I hope you two are getting these down, or you’ll struggle in Thursday’s test...”

“We are; sorry,” Hermione said at once, ducking her head. She began to scribble words down, and was so focused on her work that Harry wondered if she’d forgotten he was there. He sighed, pulled a pencil out of his pencilcase, and started to write them down in his school diary. Hermione didn’t speak to him for the rest of the afternoon; Harry wasn’t sure if she was annoyed he’d almost got her in trouble, or if she was just interested in what the teacher had to say.

She did, however, start talking to him as soon as Mrs Phelps dismissed them, and chattered happily to him about that afternoon; he’d invited her over, to meet Padfoot, Moony and Kreacher, and Dora (if she was there, and not at training) and to pull what might also be the biggest prank of his young career.

*                    *                      *

“-ah, hold that, sorry,” Sirius said, putting his hand up. Marlene paused, mid-sentence, and Sirius pulled his burning Sidekick out of his pocket. He murmured the password, and it clicked open.

“Black,” Hemsley’s voice said, “where are you?”

“Just having lunch,” Sirius replied. “Down in the Ministry cafe. Why?”

“We’ll meet you in the Atrium,” Hemsley said, and his voice cut off.

“Damn,” Sirius said. “Guess lunch is over.” He scooped up what remained of his burger and stuffed it into his mouth.

“That’s disgusting,” Marlene said, eating a chip off her fork.

“Di’ oo expe’ anefink ele’?” Sirius asked, and she pulled a face.

“No,” she said. He swallowed so that he could grin at her. She gave him a wry smile back. “No, not really.”

“I’ll see you soon,” he said, tossing a few sickles onto the table to cover his lunch.

“Probably,” she agreed. He threw her a last grin over his shoulder and stepped out, nodding at a few people he knew.

He got to the Atrium just as Hemsley – flanked by two others; Brown, and someone else - arrived in the lift and swept toward him. Sirius couldn’t work out why Hemsley was wearing a cloak over his robes; it was the middle of June, for Merlin’s sake, and far too hot for that, in Sirius opinion... although, Sirius’ body temperature was always a little higher than the average person’s, thanks to Padfoot.

“You remember Dirk Cresswell,” Hemsley said.

“Of course,” Sirius said, shaking Dirk’s hand. He knew him from school – Dirk had been a Hufflepuff, in Reg’s year – and also from his work in the Ministry. Back in early January, it was Dirk who’d approached them with their current case, because he was quite high up in the Goblin Liason Office. Dirk was a portly little man, with a bulbous nose, curly brown hair and a near-permanent smile, but right now, he looked tired and sad. “What’s happened?” Sirius asked.

“A goblin,” Dirk said sadly, “was killed. Murdered.”

What?” Sirius asked. Goblins didn’t have wands, but they had powerful magic of their own, and a rather strong desire not to be bested by wizards, ever. Hemsley nodded grimly, and Brown mimicked the gesture perfectly.

“Not five minutes ago. We have witnesses,” Hemsley sighed. “Someone used an Unforgivable, of all things, and then Apparated away with the body. The Hit Wizards are there now, but it’s a mess.” Sirius arched an eyebrow and Dirk straightened his muggle-style tie and shoved his hands into his pockets. “That’s where we come in,” Hemsley sighed. He stepped into one of the fireplaces and said, “Leaky Cauldron.” Dirk was swallowed up in the fireplace next to theirs, and Brown and Sirius spent half a second looking at each other before Brown shoved past and vanished into the fire. Sirius rolled his eyes and followed.

They split up in Diagon Alley; Dirk and Hemsley headed to the bank, to question the dead goblin’s superiors and co-workers, while Sirius and Hemsley went down Knockturn Alley to question the witnesses. Sirius, reluctant to be left alone with Brown, tried to reason his way into going with Dirk – he thought it made sense, given that his cousin Andy worked there as a liason for muggleborns, and that he was well respected amongst goblins, because of his name, and the gold that went with it – but Hemsley just shook his head and sent them on their way.

“And Brown,” he called, as they parted ways, “listen to Black; he’s your superior while I’m gone.” Sirius smirked at Brown – he had a whole lot of things he wanted to say – but Brown seemed annoyed enough so he stayed quiet.

Knight – a Hit Witch, who’d testified at Sirius’ trial – was there with a handful of witches and wizards, and Bennett was warding the area of Apparition, so that the traces left behind could be read later. Sirius took in the area; it was a sheltered part of the alley - and that was saying something, given how sheltered Knockturn Alley already was - just in front of a shop that sold a lot of illegal, rather dangerous creatures. A frazzled looking wizard was trying to calm an enormous, spiny bat, and his shop hand – a greasy haired girl with filed teeth – was talking to a smoking cage full of firecrabs. A cloaked figure was leaning against the wall of the bookshop next door.

“Go take their statements,” Sirius told Brown, gesturing to the witnesses gathered on the street with Knight.

“Me?” Brown asked, looking suspicious. “Where are you going?”

“To interview that banshee,” Sirius said. Brown made a noise that sounded a lot like a squeak and hurried over to Knight, and Sirius strode toward Walpole’s.

“Auror Black.”

“Keira,” Sirius said, smiling at the strong, Irish voice that came from beneath the hood. He held out his hand, and a pale green, long nailed hand emerged from the folds of the cloak to clasp his. “How’ve you been?” He hadn’t been down Knockturn Alley in months; Aurors weren’t really supposed to, and Harry’d been at school, so he hadn’t needed any new or unusual literature. They had, however, exchanged a few letters.

“Well, until now,” she replied. “How is Harry?”

“He’s good,” Sirius said, smiling for the briefest moment.

“And your evil necklace?” He didn’t need to see her face to tell how much she disliked it; her tone was indicative enough. “Any luck?” A scowl flickered over Sirius’ face. It had been a few weeks since he’d given the locket any thought; it remained safely tucked away in a warded cabinet in the drawing room, and would, until he found a spell or potion that could permanently destroy it.

“None,” he sighed. She sighed too. Sirius glanced over at Brown, to make sure he was coping – he was looking panicked, and being shouted at by a hag, and by a spindly looking wizard – and Sirius decided he was, and so turned back to Keira. “Sorry to be abrupt, but have you go any idea what happened here?”

“Several,” she said. “Would you like to hear them?”

“If you wouldn’t mind,” Sirius said.

“The goblin was next door,” Keira said, nodding at the magical creature shop. “I have seen many visiting there in the last few months.”

“Do you know what this one was looking at?” Sirius asked. She shook her head. Sirius turned and whistled at Brown, who scurried over, looking relieved.

“They’re mad,” he said, and then noticed Keira and stepped away, looking rather pale.

“Do I make you nervous?” she asked.  Brown shook his head frantically. “Hm,” Keira said, not seeming impressed.

“See that bloke, and his shop assistant?” Sirius said, snapping his fingers to get Brown’s attention. Brown nodded, apparently unable to look away from Keira’s hood. “Brown.”

“Yeah, sure,” Brown said, finally tearing his eyes away from Keira.

“Go and ask them what the goblins have been looking at.”

“But- the statements-”

“This is more important,” Sirius said. Brown rolled his eyes, and then flinched when Keira planted her hands on her hips. He walked off. “Sorry about-”

“He is normal,” Keira said, not seeming bothered. “And predictable. It is the strange ones that do not treat me differently, that surprise me.” Though he couldn’t see her face, Sirius got the impression that she was smiling her strange smile at him. He grinned.

“So after the goblin finished looking-” Keira shook her head.

“He never did; a person-”

“Can you describe them?”

“No, they were wearing a cloak. I don’t even know their gender,” she said, sounding ashamed.

“That’s all right,” Sirius sighed.

“But they were standing over there when they killed him with a spell-”

“A green one?”

“Yes, green. A green spell, while the goblin’s back was turned.”

“Did this person Apparate in, or were they already there, hiding?”

“I only noticed when I saw the spell light through the window,” she said, shaking her head. “And then the goblin fell, and the person came over, took hold of its arm and vanished.”

“Who called the Hit Wizards?” Sirius asked.

“Madam Walpole,” Keira said, gesturing toward the witnesses; sure enough, hunched old Madam Walpole was there. “After I asked her to. The Aurors prefer to deal with humans... or most do.” Again, Sirius got the impression she was smiling at him. “This one, certainly,” she added, and Sirius turned in time to see Brown coming over. He gestured to Sirius, who sighed, thanked Keira and went to talk with Brown.

“He’s not talking,” Brown said, looking sulky, and a bit embarrassed. Sirius glanced over at the shop owner, who was glowering at them, arms folded.

“What did you do?” Sirius asked, chuckling. Brown scowled, insulted, but didn’t come back with a retort.

“I asked him what the goblins have been looking at, and he told me it was none of my business, so I showed him my badge and he said he wasn’t dealing with Aurors and I told him he had to do what I told him to, but he just won’t talk. He’s a prick!”

“Wait here,” Sirius said. He approached the shop owner, Sidekick raised, so that the words Auror Sirius Black were clearly visible. “Afternoon,” he said. “I’m Auror Black-”

“You’re him,” the shopkeeper said. “That one that was a Death Eater.”

“I’ve never been a Death Eater,” Sirius said coolly. “I am an Auror, and I’ve come to ask about your customers; the goblins, in particular.”

“It’s none of your business,” the man said.

“You said that to Trainee Brown too,” Sirius said, “but I think you’ll find that it is in fact, our business.” He smiled in a way that made the other man look nervous for the first time. “There’s a murder investigation happening right here, right now. You’re not legally obliged to answer any of our questions-”

“I know,” the man said, looking smug.

“-but if you don’t, it makes it look an awful lot like you’ve got something to hide.”

“I don’t.” Sirius arched an eyebrow.

“Sir,” he said in a tone as insolent as he could manage, “it was a witness’ statement that led us to question you in the first place. That’s indicative that whatever you know - and aren’t sharing - is something important... something potentially case-solving, in fact-”

“You don’t know that-”

“You don’t know that it’s not,” Sirius replied. “I’m not here to cause trouble for you, but I can and will arrest you-”

“For not talking?” the man sneered. Sirius was quiet for a moment.

“I could decide you’re a suspect,” he said eventually. “And I could take you away to be properly questioned – you’d be allowed to have a solicitor, of course, and fight for your rights to stay silent, but that’d make you look even more guilty... It would also, frankly, be a waste of everyone’s time. You can give me five minutes of your time and a few honest answers, or I can take five days of yours, and close your shop in the meantime so that I, or other members of the DM.L.E. can search it for evidence.”

“Search my shop?” the man asked, his eyes widening. Sirius had no doubt the man had all sorts of incriminating documents and creatures in there, but he wasn’t interested in that this time; Knockturn Alley had a reputation for being dodgy – even Walpole’s had a less than stellar reputation – but Aurors rarely bothered, for a number of reasons; firstly, Knockturn’s inhabitants were rough, but not usually dangerous unless threatened (except for hags that sold human fingernails and the like), secondly, the shops stocked a lot of rare items and ingredients that came in handy from time to time, and thirdly, it was a very good place to run surveillance or set up traps for the wizarding world’s nastier occupants, who felt safe in the area.

“I’d rather not,” Sirius said, “but I know you know something, and I need to know what.” The man hesitated. “I’ll tell you what: you share what you know, and it stays off record. That way, even if you say something you shouldn’t, you can’t be prosecuted for it. Sound fair?”

“Sound too good to be true,” the man said.

“I’m desperate here,” Sirius said, in a self-deprecating voice. The man looked pleased, obviously liking the falsely powerful position Sirius had given him.

“Dragons,” the man said in a low voice. “That goblin, he was looking at dragons.”

“Dragons?” Sirius asked, as a few pieces clicked into place. The man nodded importantly.

“They don’t usually buy here – usually, they buy direct from smugglers, but security’s been tight in sanctuaries, after that egg got taken from Romania. Only the best get through, so the market’s dry, except in a few places.”

“Here?”

“I got the best.”

Sirius asked him a few more things, and then went to rejoin Brown, who was looking at the Apparition traces with a pair of trace readers. One vanished as Sirius approached.

“Well?” Brown asked, glancing away from the place of Disapparition.

“Dragons,” Sirius said.

“Dragons?” Brown asked; he looked torn between wanting to scowl because Sirius had won information Brown couldn’t, and thoughtful. “You reckon they’re scared?”

“Who, the goblins?” Brown nodded. “That’s exactly what I think,” Sirius said, impressed that Brown had got the point so quickly Still, no one had ever accused Brown of being stupid. “They’ve been trying to get dragons since March-”

“-when the blueprints were stolen,” Brown said. Sirius nodded. “So, what, our goblin was about to buy another hatchling to raise into security work, and someone killed it to stop that, or-”

“Dunno,” Sirius said. The second trace reader Apparated back and shook her head.

“Multi-coloured magic,” she said, as Brown wrote everything down. “Green, black, navy, and lots of silver. Gone. The person, whoever they were, went to an abandoned house in the outskirts of London and then left again. I don’t know if it was a Portkey, or broomstick, or Floo, or by Apparition, but they’re gone, and the goblin too.”

“Thank you,” Sirius said. “I reckon we’ve done what we can here.” The trace readers nodded and vanished with pops. “We should find Hemsley,” Sirius told Brown. “He’ll want to know about all of this.”

He sent Brown to tell the remaining witnesses to owl the Auror Department if they felt like they had anything else to share, while Sirius himself went over to thank Keira again. Then, he and Brown made their way to the bank, where a quick flash of their Sidekicks was all it took to have a goblin named Gornuk escort them to where Hemsley and Dirk were talking to the Head Goblin. Several other goblins were in the room, either watching, or talking amongst themselves. Dirk appeared to be doing most of the conversing; either the goblin didn’t speak English, or was too proud or lazy to bother.

“May I present Black and Brown,” Hemsley said, into a pause. “My partner and trainee.”

“A pleasure,” the Head Goblin said flatly, showing his pointed teeth. He said something to Dirk in his harsh language.

“Did you find anything?” Dirk asked.

“The goblin was killed trying to buy a dragon, or dragon’s egg,” Sirius said; Brown was just staring at the goblins in the room and Sirius didn’t trust him not to squeak, or speak offensively. “They-”

“He,” Dirk said, and Sirius nodded.

“He was killed with the Killing Curse from behind, and taken from the scene. We spoke with witnesses, and we had trace readers examine what was left behind, but couldn’t track them past the first destination.”

The Head Goblin steepled his long fingers and sighed. He said something to Griphook - another goblin in the room - and Griphook came forward. Then the Head Goblin spoke to Dirk again, and Dirk nodded.

“You three can go, Alexander,” Dirk said to Hemsley, who nodded. The goblins watched them with dark eyes as they left, escorted by Griphook.

They went back to the Ministry for the rest of the afternoon; Brown and Hemsley spent a lot of time debriefing – Sirius was glad Hemsley did that, because Brown needed the feedback, and Sirius knew it wouldn’t be as well received if it came from him – while Sirius started writing up his report. Being an Auror wasn’t dull by any means, but there was a lot more paperwork than most people thought.

“...another way you might have handled that situat-”

“I’m off,” Sirius said, waving his sheet of parchment at Hemsley, who was still sitting with Brown. He copied it with a tap of his wand, left one for Hemsley to read and add to their personal case file, and then took the original down the corridor to Scrimgeour’s office. Scrimgeour wasn’t there, so Sirius just left it on his desk.

Part of Sirius wanted to stay, and keep looking over their reports, to see if they’d missed anything, and part of him wanted nothing more than to get home and try not to think about it; being an Auror wasn’t a job that ended when he left the Ministry, because there was always something to do, someone to question, a report to write, and Sirius had learned years ago, and then again recently, that he had to make it end, and try to stop thinking about it when he left work, if he wanted any peace of mind.

Besides, that afternoon wasn’t going to be without its own drama; Harry’s friend Hermione was coming over, Harry’s muggle friend – Sirius still wasn’t entirely sure how he’d let Harry talk him into that one – and he and Sirius had spent hours putting up muggle repulsion wards on certain rooms of the house, and hiding anything magical – Kreacher had instructions to make himself scarce – that could raise awkward questions.

He Apparated into the garden of a rundown house around the corner from the school, took off his robes, so that he was just wearing a tshirt and a pair of jeans, and then hid his Sidekick, wand and robes in his rucksack. Then, he jumped the fence – hoping no one had seen him – stepped onto the footpath, and wandered toward the school, like a normal, muggle parent.

Harry and Hermione were waiting at Harry’s usual pickup place when he got there, whispering to each other.

“-lying, Harry-”

“It’s fine,” Harry said, and then grinned and stepped forward to greet Sirius, who hugged him. Sirius released Harry and smiled at Hermione.

“Hello, Mr Evans,” she said nervously.

“Hello, Hermione,” he said. “I hope you don’t mind walking-”

“No,” she said quickly, “I’d usually have to walk to the bus stop anyway, and then home, so-”

“She doesn’t mind,” Harry said, and Hermione, who’d looked like she was about to start babbling, seemed grateful that he’d stepped in to translate. “How was work, Padfoot?”

“Busy,” Sirius said. “Keira sends her best, though.”

“Keira?” Harry asked, looking surprised. “What were you doing over there?”

“Long story,” Sirius said, glancing at Hermione, who was staring very hard at him. “How was school?” he asked her. She seemed startled.

“Oh,” she said, “Good, thank you.” She glanced at Harry, and he just nodded encouragingly. She still looked and smelled very nervous.

“Are you looking forward to the holidays?” Sirius asked, trying to calm her down a bit.

“Oh yes,” she said, smiling for the first time. “There’s an international dental convention in America over the summer, and Dad’s been invited, so Mum and I are going to go too, and then we’ll travel a bit and be back in mid August, so I can have some time at home before school starts.”

Sirius didn’t pry about schools; if he brought that up, she’d probably ask about Harry’s schooling prospects and Sirius wasn’t going to get into that.

“Where in America?” he asked instead. Hermione seemed relieved too, and began to rattle off a list of places, some of which Sirius knew about, and others he hadn’t known existed until she said them.

“Is Moony going to be over tonight?” Harry asked.

“I’ve told him he’s welcome; Dora too,” Sirius said. Remus’ mother had been a muggleborn, and Ted, Dora’s father was as well. She’d also gone to a muggle primary school, like Harry. Neither of them were quite as likely to slip up as Sirius was.

“Here?” Hermione asked, when they arrived in front of Number Twelve. She seemed surprised for some reason.

“What were you expecting?” Harry asked, arching an eyebrow. Hermione seemed embarrassed and muttered something Sirius didn’t catch. Harry just smiled and led the way to the door, while Sirius extracted his wand behind Hermione’s back, and flicked it to open the door, just as Harry turned the handle. Hermione glanced over her shoulder, and Sirius only just had time to stuff his wand up his sleeve.

This was a bad idea, he thought, stepping inside.

*                      *                       *

“You can leave your bag there, if you want,” Harry said, waving to the hallway floor. He kept his own schoolbag on, thinking he’d either leave it in the kitchen, or take it upstairs. “Hungry?” Hermione nodded, still looking around curiously. Harry knew she was looking for signs of magic, but Padfoot didn’t, and he was looking rather disconcerted.

“Sure,” she said. She swung her bag off and tucked it off to one side, where, Harry remembered the troll’s leg umbrella stand had used to live. “Kitchen’s this way,” he said. Hermione followed him, and Padfoot followed the pair of them; Harry wasn’t sure which of them was more nervous; Hermione for not being completely honest with Padfoot, or Padfoot for thinking he was going to inadvertently break the statute. He hid a smile.  Hermione gasped as they passed the stairs, and pointed up at the landings. “What?” Harry asked.

“Is that- is this four storeys?!” she asked, peering up. “It only looked like two from the outside!” Padfoot’s mouth fell open, and he made a small noise that sounded like a cross between a groan and a squeak. “How-”

“This way,” Harry said, guiding her off to the left, toward the kitchen stairs. Hermione looked like she was dying to ask, and he suspected she’d bombard him as soon as she had the chance, but thankfully, she just gave the stairs a longing look and let Harry lead her. Kreacher had left a plate of biscuits on the table, and a tray of small meat pies in the oven.

“Is that safe?” Hermione asked, glancing at the oven. “If no one was home, then-” Padfoot looked stricken for a moment, and then relaxed:

“I was,” Moony said, appearing at the top of the stairs. He smiled at Hermione. “John Evans,” he said. “Patrick’s brother.” Padfoot and Harry were both sporting sandy hair so it was believable enough, even if Moony had brown eyes and theirs were currently blue. “You must be Hermione.”

“Hello,” she said nervously. Harry saw Moony’s nostrils widen and then a look of concern painted itself over his face. Hermione looked at Harry, obviously trying to place Moony from the stories Harry had told her in the last week and a half.

“I didn’t know you were here, Moony,” Harry said. Hermione’s eyes sparked with recognition, and she relaxed a bit, and took a bite of her pie.

“I thought you might like something to eat when you got home,” he said. Harry thought that Kreacher would be scowling if he could hear this, and grinned at the thought.

“Thanks, mate,” Padfoot said, looking relieved to have someone else there. Moony sat down and helped himself to a biscuit and a pie, and then looked at Harry and Hermione.

“New words today?” he asked. Harry made a noise of disgust, nodded, and pulled out his school diary. Moony looked over this week’s spelling words. “They’re not bad,” he said. “What do you think?”

“If I make any mistakes, they’ll be silly ones,” Hermione said. “They’re reasonably common words, so I should be all right, as long as I practice.” Harry rolled his eyes; she probably didn’t need to practice.

“Are you going to study properly this week?” Padfoot asked Harry, sniggering. Hermione looked scandalised.

“You didn’t practice?!”

“I did!” Harry protested. “Moony and I went over them on Thursday morning.” Hermione pursed her lips.

“Where do ‘Moony’ and ‘Padfoot’ come from?”

“School nicknames,” Padfoot said easily; that was a half-truth he had experience telling. “I suppose they stuck.”

“But ‘Moony’...?” Hermione asked.

“It was a dare,” Moony muttered. “I’m not proud of it.” Padfoot sniggered, and Harry knew there was truth to that as well, though that wasn’t where the name had come from. “Oh, shut up, Pads,” Moony said, elbowing him. Padfoot got up to make tea, and was laughing so hard that he dropped the kettle. He reached for it, but in doing so, dropped his wand, which must have been in his sleeve.

The kettle landed with a clanging noise, on the stone floor, and the wand with a wooden rattle. Padfoot might have been able to brush the whole situation off, had his wand not shot out a whole bunch of red sparks, and turned the kettle into a fat, copper-skinned frog. Hermione made a noise of surprise, Moony and Padfoot both swore, and Harry fell off the bench because he was laughing so much. The frog made a noise rather like a kettle whistling, and Padfoot hastily scooped it up and deposited it in the sink under a bowl. It croaked again, sounding distinctly metallic this time.

“Harry, why don’t you go and show Hermione the rest of the house,” Moony said, looking very worried. Harry wheezed and tried to pick himself up off the floor, but couldn’t quite manage it.

“Your kettle just turned into a frog,” Hermione said faintly, and Harry didn’t think she was even playing along; she just seemed stunned, and he remembered she probably hadn’t seen much magic other than McGonagall’s, and the spells she’d tried herself. “Harry-”

Harry,” Padfoot said, looking panicked. Harry just laughed harder at the look on his face, but managed to get off the floor this time.

“All right. Come on,” he said, grabbing Hermione’s arm. A chuckle slipped out, and Hermione looked at him beseechingly. Harry shook his head.

Moony and Padfoot were already standing over the sink, talking in low voices. Harry distinctly heard ‘statute’, ‘muggle’, ‘bloody frog’ and ‘Obliviate’, before Hermione cleared her throat, looking horrendously guilty.

“Mr Evans- I mean, Mr Black-” Sirius and Moony spun around so quickly that Harry wondered how they hadn’t cracked their necks. “You don’t have to worry,” she said, “I... umm... I know. I-”

Moony was staring at her, mouth agape. Then he closed it, looking immensely relieved, and began to laugh. Padfoot opened his mouth, swelled, made an odd noise, as if he wanted to say something, but couldn’t manage it.

“You’re a witch?” he croaked. Hermione nodded, biting her lip. Harry was already running for the stairs, and heard Hermione speak up behind him.

“I’m sorry I didn’t say anything earlier, Harry didn’t- I just don’t want you to worry- Oh!” She made another startled noise, and Harry heard claws scrabbling on the stone floor, and glanced over his shoulder – without slowing – to see Padfoot charging up the stairs after him.

Hermione and Moony stayed down in the kitchen – Harry could hear Moony explaining things in his ‘teacher’ voice, and introducing himself properly – while Padfoot chased Harry around the upper levels of the house. Padfoot caught him outside the library, and pounced before transforming back.

“You should have seen your faces!” Harry gasped, and Padfoot stared at him, shocked for the briefest moment, before he started laughing too. It didn’t stop him from tickling Harry to within an inch of his life, though.

They didn’t introduce Hermione to Kreacher that day, but they did the next Monday, and Kreacher was suspicious, but very polite, and if he had any problems with having a muggleborn in his house, he didn’t voice them to Harry or to Padfoot.

Hermione quickly became a regular, on Monday afternoons. They’d sit in the kitchen and answer her questions, or let her loose in the library for a few hours, or play cards, or chess, or occasionally even doing their muggle homework. Harry and Padfoot took to dropping her home, after a problem with the muggle repulsion wards that Padfoot’s father had set years ago... The first time they came by, they were unable to find the house, or their daughter.

The only reason they hadn’t panicked and called the police, was because McKinnon had gone outside to see what the commotion was about, and worked out what had happened. Harry wasn’t sure how long she’d known they were living there, but that was another prank in itself; she walked right inside, stopped at the bottom of the stairs and started yelling for Padfoot – who, of course, she couldn’t see, thanks to the Fidelius Charm (and he had seemed quite happy that that was the case). Moony had taken Hermione outside to her parents and apologised profusely, and McKinnon had, in the end, stayed for dinner; Moony asked her, because Padfoot was too nervous to.


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