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Harry Potter and the Lady Thief (Harry Potter AU)

Discussion in 'Creative Writing' started by Starfox5, Jul 29, 2017.

  1. Threadmark: Prologue and Chapter 1: Expelled
    Starfox5

    Starfox5 Versed in the lewd.

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    Harry Potter and the Lady Thief

    Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter or any of the characters in the Harry Potter books or movies.

    Author's Note:
    This story is set in an Alternate Universe. A number of canon events didn't or won't happen. The society of Wizarding Britain is a bit different and a number of characters will act differently as well.
    I'd like to thank fredfred for betaing. His help has improved the story a lot.

    Summary:
    Framed as a thief and expelled from Hogwarts in her second year, her family ruined by debts, many thought they had seen the last of her. But someone saw her potential, as well as a chance for redemption - and Hermione Granger was all too willing to become a lady thief if it meant she could get her revenge.

    Notes:
    Original prompt by CG99.

    Cover:

    [​IMG]

    Prologue

    Near Blagdon Hill, Devon, Britain, August 23rd, 1981

    He knew he was too late the moment he arrived and saw the Dark Mark floating in the pitch black sky. He ignored the Auror raising his wand in his direction, just as he ignored the older Auror grabbing her partner’s arm and pulling it down. All of his attention was focused on the burning cottage. His home. Green, cursed flames were leaping through the roof and out of the windows.

    A dozen Aurors and Hit-Wizards were struggling to control the fire, to keep the flames from spreading into the garden and nearby fields, their red and grey robes tinted green by the fire’s glow. For a second he felt hope. Maybe Martha had managed to escape with Jane. His wife wasn’t a member of the Order, nor a duellist, but she was a talented witch, and…

    He spotted the two bodies laid out at the gate, covered with white sheets. An adult and a child. His family. He trembled, stumbling towards them. One Auror got in his way, saying something he didn’t hear. He pushed the man away and fell to his knees before the bodies, reaching out to lift one of the sheets.

    Then he screamed.

    *****​

    “Mundungus?”

    He didn’t react and kept staring at the ashes of his home. The fire had, finally, burned itself out. The Aurors had gone, as well. They had tried to talk to him, but he had ignored them. He had never cared much for them, anyway.

    “I offer my heartfelt condolences, my friend. To suffer such a loss…”

    He tensed up and clenched his teeth. He had expected him, had expected those words, had heard them before, even if not addressed to him. But to hear them, now, after… “Save it, Albus!” he spat.

    When the old wizard didn’t answer he turned his head to look at him. Albus met his eyes, and his expression was so understanding, he wanted to hex the old man. No, to curse him! “Where were you?”

    “There were multiple attacks all over Britain, most of them aimed at the homes of Order members. I did what I could, but it was not enough. Gideon and Fabian were murdered, as was Edgar and most of his family.”

    “And my family.” He stared at the old man.

    Albus inclined his head in response.

    “I should have been with them. I should have protected them.” Together, they would have managed to escape. Snuck out and disappeared. He was good at such things - it was why Albus had recruited him. And it was why he hadn’t been with his family tonight.

    Again, the old man remained silent. He hated that, that understanding, that pity!

    “Aren’t you going to ask if I succeeded at my mission? The oh so important reason I wasn’t with my family tonight?” He snarled at him, daring him to answer. “Aren’t you going to tell me how much we need to stand fast in our darkest hour, to prevent others from suffering the same fate as my family?”

    Albus shook his head.

    “Why not? Are you going to let me grieve a day, a week, before you have another ‘mission’ for your personal thief? A task to focus on, to take my thoughts off my pain?” He trembled with anger as he faced Albus. He didn’t let the old man answer and pulled the ledger he had copied inside Parkinson Manor earlier tonight and threw it to the ground.

    “Here!” After a deep breath to regain control of himself, he went on: “Don’t speak to me again! I’m through with you, with the Order, with this whole damn war!”

    Spinning on his heel, he apparated to an abandoned factory in muggle London. He had used the place before, to test spells and potions, and no one had ever bothered him here. He could cry here as long as he wanted, too.

    And, Mundungus Fletcher added to himself as he pulled out the bottle of Ogden’s Old Firewhisky he had pilfered from Parkinson’s desk after cracking the man’s strongbox, no one would bother him while he drank himself into a stupor either.

    *****​

    Chapter 1: Expelled

    Hogwarts, March 31st, 1993

    “That’s it! That’s my grandmother’s necklace!”

    Standing near her bed, Hermione Granger stared at the golden pendant dangling from the Auror’s hand, barely registering Greengrass’s words. How had this thing appeared in her trunk? “I’ve never seen that necklace before!” she exclaimed, shaking her head. How could it… “Someone must have planted it in my trunk!” That was the only explanation - she knew she hadn’t stolen it!

    “And someone else who looked just like you was seen by Miss Parkinson, sneaking out of her dorm?” The Auror - John Dawlish, she remembered, was his name - didn’t bother to hide his derision.

    “They could have used Polyjuice! Or else she’s lying!” Everyone knew that Parkinson was Malfoy’s girlfriend. Or wanted to be his girlfriend. And Malfoy had ample reasons for trying to get Hermione into trouble.

    “The only one lying is you!” Greengrass snarled at her. “Filthy thief!”

    She shook her head. “I didn’t steal that necklace! I didn’t!” She looked at Professor McGonagall. “I didn’t steal the necklace!”

    But her favourite teacher wasn’t looking at her. “I’ll inform the Headmaster,” the old witch said, her face set in a grim expression.

    As she followed McGonagall, walking between the two Aurors as if she was a prisoner being transported to jail, Hermione felt like crying - and even more so when she noticed how many of her fellow students were in the Gryffindor common room, watching her being led out, and heard them whispering behind her back. Hunching her shoulders, she kept her eyes down - she didn’t want to see them staring at her.

    “Hermione! What’s going on?”

    Harry! She whipped her head around, looking for her friend. There! He was standing near the entrance, still wearing his Quidditch gear - he must have just arrived. Ron was right behind him, and both looked confused, and concerned.

    “Parkinson and Greengrass are framing me for theft!” she responded. “It must be Malfoy’s work!”

    “Miss Granger!” McGonagall glared at her. “Don’t make this any worse!”

    Hermione gaped at the teacher. What did the witch mean? Didn’t she realise that this was a setup? Didn’t she believe Hermione? Was McGonagall angry at her? She wasn’t a thief! “But…” she began, only to be interrupted by the old witch.

    “Don’t say anything until we’re in the Headmaster’s office!” McGonagall snapped at her.

    Trembling, Hermione followed the witch. How could her teacher think this of her! As they left the dorms, she tried to calm down. The Headmaster would fix this - he knew she wasn’t a criminal! He knew what Malfoy had done!

    *****​

    “I see. This is quite a situation,” Dumbledore said, stroking his beard.

    “A situation?” Dawlish blurted out. “It’s an open and shut case! We have Miss Parkinson’s statement, and we found the stolen necklace in Granger’s trunk!”

    Hermione bit her lower lip to stop herself from saying anything. Dumbledore had to know she was innocent!

    “Appearances can be deceiving,” Dumbledore said. “I will need to talk with Miss Granger in private.”

    “What?” Hermione and half the others in the room said in unison.

    “That’s against Ministry regulations…” Dawlish started to object.

    “This is Hogwarts, and Miss Granger is one of my students,” the Headmaster interrupted him.

    “This is not a disciplinary matter, but a criminal matter!” Dawlish retorted.

    “A student being accused of theft is most certainly a disciplinary matter,” Dumbledore corrected him, and Hermione felt her heart lift. But his next words destroyed her growing hope that he would nip this awful plot in the bud: “It remains to be decided whether or not this is also a criminal matter.”

    “That is not your decision to make.”

    “I never claimed it would be - only that as the Headmaster of Hogwarts, it is my prerogative to handle disciplinary matters. It should not take overly long.”

    That apparently calmed Dawlish. It had the opposite effect on Hermione, of course, and by the time everyone but her and Dumbledore had left the Headmaster’s office, she had bitten her lower lip bloody to keep herself silent.

    “Headmaster! I’m innocent! Someone planted the necklace in my trunk! Parkinson is either lying, or was fooled. It has to be a plot by Malfoy! You have to believe me!”

    “I do believe you, my dear.” Dumbledore’s smile was gentle. “This does look like Lucius’s handiwork.”

    She nodded rapidly. “He’s trying to get back at me for foiling his plot against Harry earlier this year!”

    “Indeed. Though I would say that he does not simply want revenge, but also to remove you from Harry’s side, to prevent you from foiling further plots.” Dumbledore nodded gravely.

    That… that… Hermione clenched her teeth before she cursed in front of the Headmaster. The depths to which Malfoy and his father would stoop! “So… how can I prove my innocence?”

    The old wizard hesitated to answer, and she gasped. He sighed. “Alas, that may prove impossible, Miss Granger.”

    “But I am innocent! Even if they do not believe me, they can interrogate me with Veritaserum!” She knew exactly how well that worked, after all.

    “I am afraid to say that that cannot be allowed to happen, Miss Granger.”

    “What?” She stared at him. “Why not?”

    “The Aurors, well-prepared by Lucius, would most certainly not limit their questions to the matter at hand.”

    She gasped, finally understanding. “You mean…” He knew! Of course he’d know, he was Dumbledore!

    “Indeed. While it is very impressive for a second year to have brewed Veritaserum - a feat even many who have passed their N.E.W.T.s have trouble with - you broke the law in doing so. And to make matters worse, the illegally brewed potion was then used on young Mister Malfoy.” She shivered, and he smiled sadly at her. “The punishment for brewing a restricted potion is not overly harsh, but to use Veritaserum on someone…” He shook his head. “Many among the members of the Wizengamot are well aware of how easily they would be ruined, should they be forced to spill their secrets, and will make an example out of you.” Or her friends, who had helped her use the potion on Malfoy.

    She swallowed. “Azkaban?”

    “Yes. A year at the minimum. But since you are a muggleborn, and the potion was used on the son of Lucius Malfoy…”

    She sniffled. She wouldn’t survive that. “What… what can I do, then?” She couldn’t go to Azkaban!

    “I could obliviate you of the critical knowledge, of course, but that would, if detected, which would have to be expected, invalidate your testimony under Veritaserum.”

    “Can’t you limit the questions? They can’t just ask all sorts of questions, can they?” That was how it worked with muggle trials, wasn’t it?

    “I am afraid that they can, provided they can claim to have reasonable suspicion of further crimes. Which Lucius will ensure - I am certain that he has anticipated this course of events. There is a reason that the use of Veritaserum requires explicit permission from the Wizengamot, unless the accused asks for it, and that such permission is very rarely granted when it involves a relative of a member of the Wizengamot. We are rather fortunate that you, as a muggleborn, are merely being accused of larceny, and not of a more serious crime.”

    “But…” That was corruption!

    “I am sorry, Miss Granger, but the only way to avoid Azkaban is to avoid being interrogated using Veritaserum.”

    “But I can’t prove my innocence otherwise!” When he didn’t answer and simply looked at her with a sad expression, she understood. “You mean… I will be found guilty?”

    “With only your word to put against Miss Parkinson’s, and with the necklace found in your trunk, it is a certainty. The most I can do is lessen the punishment.” He spread his hands with a rather apologetic expression. “An attempt to do more would be decried by Lucius and his allies as me trying to interfere with the course of justice, and might even lead to a harsher punishment.”

    “But…” She couldn’t get punished for this!

    “It saddens me to tell you this, in light of the fact that you find yourself in these circumstances for having helped your friend, but I do not see any other way to handle this without seeing you condemned to Azkaban.”

    “What… what punishment should I expect?”

    “Fines. I may not be able to exonerate you, but there are enough good people on the Wizengamot to ensure that a young witch will not be sent to Azkaban for theft - especially not for a first offence. I doubt that Lucius would even attempt to push for such a sentence, knowing how it would be received.”

    “Even as a mudblood?” She couldn’t keep the bitterness out of her voice.

    He frowned at her. “Miss Granger, while I am the last wizard to claim that the foul and foolish ideology of blood purity has no more adherents in Wizarding Britain, your blood status will not significantly change anything with regard to the sentence.” Chastened, she lowered her head. After a moment, he continued: “Although, and it honestly pains me to say this, your expulsion from Hogwarts is also unavoidable.”

    She stared at him, blinking. That couldn’t be true. It couldn’t. She couldn’t get expelled. If she was expelled from Hogwarts, she’d lose her wand. She’d lose her education. She’d lose her friends!

    He slowly shook his head in response to her silent plea, and she broke down in tears.

    *****​

    Hogwarts, March 31st, 1993

    “I’ve heard that they arrested Granger. For theft!”

    “Yes. Aurors found her trunk full of stolen jewelry!”

    “She’s been taken straight to Azkaban!”

    Harry Potter clenched his teeth and resisted the urge to yell at the gossiping witches in the corner of the Gryffindor common room to shut up or get hexed. Hermione wasn’t a thief! She wouldn’t steal some stupid necklace. But she hadn’t returned to the dorms yet, nor had she been at dinner.

    “Stupid witches spreading lies,” Ron mumbled, shifting around in the seat next to his. Harry’s friend looked as worried as Harry felt, though. “Tomorrow they’ll say she broke into Gringotts.”

    To be fair, Hermione had stolen potions ingredients - but they had needed them to foil Malfoy’s plot. And Harry and Ron had helped her. He leaned towards Ron, who was scowling at the closest witch, Lavender. “Do you think this is another of Malfoy’s plots?” he whispered.

    Ron looked at him as if he was confused. “Of course it is! She told us so when they took her away!”

    “No.” Harry shook his head. “Do you think she might have stolen the necklace because Malfoy wanted to use it against us?”

    “Oh.” Ron blinked. “But why didn’t she tell us? We’d have helped her!” he whispered back.

    “I don’t know. But it’s all Malfoy’s fault either way.” Harry was certain of that. He suddenly stood up. “We’ll get to the bottom of this. Come!”

    “Huh?” Ron looked confused, but stood up anyway. “What do you mean?”

    “We’ll go to Dumbledore!” Harry said. They should have done that right away.

    *****​

    “Please sit down, Harry, Mister Weasley.”

    Harry didn’t want to sit down. He wanted to stand, to pace, to do something, anything. But instead he sat down in response to the Headmaster’s invitation, as did Ron.

    “I assume that you are here because of the incident with Miss Granger,” Dumbledore said.

    He wasn’t smiling, not even a little, Harry noted with a sinking feeling in his stomach. He hadn’t even looked as serious after Quirrell’s death, and Harry had played a rather large part in that! “Yes,” he said, nodding. After a moment, he went on: “She hasn’t returned to the dorms. Not even after dinner. And there are rumours that she has been arrested…” He trailed off, pressing his lips together.

    “I am sorry to confirm that your friend has been arrested.”

    Ron let a curse slip for which his mother would scourgify his mouth while Harry gaped at the Headmaster. “But… she wouldn’t steal a necklace! Not unless it was part of a plot by Malfoy!” Harry protested, leaning forward in his seat and almost jumping to his feet.

    “Yes,” Ron chimed in, “she scolds us when we break the rules, too! The Slytherins are lying!”

    Dumbledore sighed. “I am certain that Miss Granger hasn’t stolen Miss Greengrass’s family heirloom.”

    “So she’ll get off?” Harry blurted out, then winced when he realised that he had interrupted the Headmaster.

    Now Dumbledore smiled - but only a little. “She hasn’t stolen the necklace, but I have it on good authority that she isn’t actually innocent of any crime.”

    Harry blinked. “What?” Hermione wouldn’t commit a crime, she wouldn’t! What was the Headmaster talking about… “Oh.”

    “Yes,” Dumbledore said, “I am referring to the actions she took in dealing with your ‘curse’ earlier this year.”

    “The Malaclaw venom? Harry almost died because of that!” Ron scowled. “We had to do something!”

    “And it was Malfoy’s fault!” Harry added, rubbing his right arm. He had had to take a large dose of Skele-Gro after the crash that had destroyed his Nimbus 2000.

    “Indeed it was. But the manner in which that knowledge was revealed has caused quite a serious problem.”

    “What?” Harry tried to think of what they had done that would cause this. They had slipped a few drops of Veritaserum into Malfoy’s pumpkin juice during dinner…

    “It was quite clever of you to arrange for a teacher to question him about the latest misfortune that had befallen Harry, but dosing anyone with Veritaserum is a serious crime.” Dumbledore looked from Harry to Ron and back.

    “But… that’s got nothing to do with the theft!” objected Ron.

    “No, but given the evidence arranged against her, the only way for Miss Granger to prove that she is innocent would require that she be questioned under Veritaserum - which would almost certainly reveal her own use of that potion. And the punishment for illegal use of Veritaserum is far harsher than for theft.”

    “But…” Ron trailed off.

    Harry shook his head, trying to make sense of this. “You mean… she’ll be found guilty for something she didn’t do?”

    “In order to avoid being punished for something she did do,” Dumbledore said. With a noticeable frown, he added: “And to avoid incriminating her friends.”

    “Oh.” Harry repeated himself. Hermione would do that. Like when she had lied to the teachers after the troll attack.

    “But we helped her!” Ron exclaimed.

    “Admitting your own culpability will not help Miss Granger; all such a confession would accomplish would be to see you two sent to Azkaban as well, and see your father ruined, Mister Weasley.”

    “She’ll be sent to Azkaban?” Harry gasped. He had heard enough about the wizard prison this evening in the common room to know how horrible that would be.

    “No, not for the theft which she is accused of having committed.” The Headmaster’s smile had appeared, but it was rather thin. “Do you now understand the situation in which Miss Granger finds herself?”

    “Can’t we do anything?” Harry asked.

    “I shall do my best to mitigate her punishment. She will not be sent to prison, I can assure you.” Dumbledore sighed. “But she will be expelled from Hogwarts.”
    “What?” Harry looked at Ron. His friend seemed as shocked as he was. Hermione, expelled? Gone from Hogwarts? That was… she had once called that a fate worse than death.

    “But only the Headmaster can expel a student!” Ron said. “You can refuse to expel her.”

    “I could - but the school governors would take action against me, and I doubt that my successor would uphold my decision.” Dumbledore’s faint smile vanished again. “The events of this year and the year before have not been received well by the governors.”

    Harry clenched his teeth. It was partially his fault, then. If he had paid more attention, hadn’t been so reckless, then Quirrell would still be alive, and Malfoy wouldn’t have been able to poison Harry.

    “It’s not your fault, Harry,” Dumbledore said, in a gentle voice. “As the Headmaster, and even more so, as a wizard of my experience, it was my responsibility. I should have handled things better. I was preoccupied by politics, but that is no excuse.”

    Harry nodded, but he still felt guilty.

    “But… where will Hermione go, if she can’t go to Hogwarts?” Ron asked.

    “A witch as gifted as her has several options,” Dumbledore assured them. “Even after this affair.”

    That made Harry feel a little better. Ron and he might lose their best friend, but she wouldn’t lose magic. “Will we see her again?” he asked. “Before she gets expelled, I mean.”

    “Yes, of course. Although I expect that she will have to spend a day in the Ministry's custody first.”

    Harry managed to smile at that, even if he felt like crying.

    *****​

    Hogwarts, April 2nd, 1993

    They were waiting for her when Hermione Granger came down the stairs, dragging her trunk behind her. Harry and Ron. Her best friends. Her only friends, even. There were others in the room as well, but she didn’t care for them. They didn't care for her either, anyway.

    “Hey.” Harry shuffled his feet and tried to smile.

    “Hermione.” Ron wasn’t doing any better.

    She bit her lower lip then took a deep breath. She could do this. She had to do this. She had prepared for this. “I guess this is goodbye.” She wouldn’t cry.

    It was obvious that they didn’t know what to say. “Did you talk with the Headmaster?”

    Harry nodded. “We did.”

    They knew then. Good. She couldn’t say anything more, not with an Auror standing behind her.

    “I’ll write you. And we can see each other in the summer,” she managed to say.

    “Yes.”

    “Of course.”

    None of them mentioned how difficult it would be to meet, with the Dursleys, and Ron not being familiar with muggle London, and her… expelled. “Good,” she pressed out, then lunged forward, gathering both of them together in a hug.

    “Don’t do anything stupid,” she whispered. “Malfoy’s just waiting for that.” It was bad enough that she had to take the fall; she wouldn’t let that bigot ruin her friends’ lives as well. She could feel them tense, but they didn’t answer. “Promise me!” she added.

    “OK,” Harry said after a moment, and she felt Ron nod.

    “That’s enough,” the Auror said in a gruff voice. “We’re leaving now.” She released her friends and looked over her shoulder at the wizard. He had his wand drawn. He would probably use it on her, too - he had taken her wand, so she couldn’t levitate her trunk, earlier.

    Frowning, she turned away and bent down to pick up her trunk again. To her surprise, it was far lighter than before. She looked up, and saw Fred or George smile at her.

    She smiled back, feeling a little better. Her ordeal would soon be over, too. She wouldn’t even have to spend another day in a cell, so she had been told, since her trial would take place that afternoon. She could do this. She had to.

    Her smile didn’t last long. Along the route to the entrance, students were lined up - all of them Slytherins. But they should be in their classes or dorms right now! Some were simply staring and whispering, but many were jeering and sneering at her.

    “Look at the thief go!”

    “Check her pockets, I’m missing a Knut!”

    “Have a good time in Azkaban!”

    “Bye-bye, Beaver!”

    “You should never have come to Hogwarts, mudblood!”

    That was Malfoy. This was all his fault! She wanted to yell at him, to curse him, but she couldn’t. It would just make everything worse. She had to endure this, to show that she was better than them. No matter how much they doubted her, believed her to be a criminal, she knew the truth. She knew who the real criminal was here.

    “Go back to the muggles, mudblood!”

    Turning a corner, she saw Snape walking towards her, a scowl on his face. He was shooing the nearby students away, and for a moment, she felt relieved. Then she felt rage rise inside her. Snape should have stopped this from happening at all! There were no Ravenclaws or Hufflepuffs around, only Slytherins. As if the bigot wouldn’t have been able to prevent this! He was just covering himself now that his students had already slung their slurs at her!

    Hermione focused on her anger, her rage, and sneered at him, then held her head high and did her best to ignore the hecklers as she strode out of Hogwarts.

    *****​

    London, Ministry of Magic, April 2nd, 1993

    Sitting in the centre of a large chamber, magical chains binding her limbs to a wooden chair, with everyone looking down at her from their seats above her, wasn’t how Hermione Granger had wanted to visit the Wizengamot. Not at all.

    Bu here she was, the accused, with everyone already convinced of her guilt, or so she thought, glancing at the faces of the assembled Wizengamot and the rest of the court. She could even spot Malfoy’s father, among the Wizengamot, and up high, among the spectators, his son. He must have asked his father to pull some strings to be allowed out of Hogwarts for this so he could gloat!

    Dumbledore smiled at her, but the rest of the wizards and witches present didn’t. Especially not the fat witch standing in for the Minister for Magic - Dumbledore had managed to keep the Minister from interfering directly; Lucius Malfoy had been cultivating Fudge for years.

    The fat witch cleared her throat. “Criminal trial of the second of April, 1993,” she spoke, her nasal voice amplified by a spell. “Hermione Jean Granger stands accused of multiple counts of grand larceny.”

    What? Multiple counts of grand larceny? Hermione gasped and looked at Dumbledore. But the Headmaster seemed to be surprised himself.

    “How do you plead?”

    “Not guilty!” she answered, still reeling from this unexpected change. “What am I being accused of?” she added. “I was arrested for theft!”

    “The charges have been expanded due to new evidence,” the witch - Dolores Umbridge, Hermione remembered - explained with a cruel smile.

    “I haven’t been made aware of this,” Dumbledore spoke up.

    “It was all filed properly.” Umbridge’s smile widened.

    Hermione expected Dumbledore to lodge a protest - that was impairing her defence! - but the old wizard simply sat down again. She felt even worse, now. And Malfoy, sitting high above her, was smiling!

    “Take a note that the accused has pleaded not guilty,” Umbridge ordered.

    “I still haven’t heard what I am being accused of in detail!” Hermione yelled.

    “Another such outburst and you’ll be found in contempt of the court!” the other witch snarled at her. “Auror Dawlish, present the evidence against the accused.”

    The Auror who had arrested her in Hogwarts stood up. “Witnesses for the prosecution: Miss Daphne Greengrass. Miss Pansy Parkinson. Miss Millicent Bulstrode. Miss Tracey Davis. Mister Allan Borgin.”

    Hermione had never seen that man before. What was going on? She looked at Dumbledore, and saw that he was frowning. That was… she bit her lower lip. She couldn’t lose her composure. Not now. She forced herself to calm down, despite her growing desperation.

    “Are you Hermione Jean Granger, born September nineteenth, 1979, resident of London?”

    “Y-yes.” Hermione swallowed and once again bit her lip.

    “Did you steal this necklace from Miss Greengrass?” Umbridge pointed at Dawlish, who was raising the necklace in the air.

    “No.” She shook her head.

    “Did you steal this ring from Miss Parkinson?”

    “What? I’ve never seen that ring before!”

    “Answer the question!” Umbridge snapped.

    “No, I didn’t steal that ring!”

    “Did you steal this diadem from Miss Bulstrode?”

    “No!”

    “Did you steal this bracelet from Miss Davis?”

    “No!”

    She looked at the sneering Slytherins. What were they trying to accomplish? Those pieces hadn’t been in her trunk. Had they placed them in her room after she had been arrested, to be ‘found’ in time for the trial?

    But as she soon found out, Malfoy’s plot - and it had to be him behind all this - was a bit more intricate.

    *****​

    “... to sum up: We have heard how the necklace stolen from Miss Greengrass was found in the accused’s trunk the morning after the theft. We have heard that Miss Parkinson, Miss Bulstrode and Miss Davis had been missing jewelry as well - a ring, a diadem and a bracelet, all very expensive, goblin-made heirlooms - but assumed that they had lost them, which is why they didn’t report the loss - until they realised that if the accused could steal from Miss Greengrass, she could have stolen from them as well. And, most importantly, we have heard the testimony of Mister Allan Borgin, who bought these three pieces of jewelry during the last few months, thinking he was helping out a young pureblood witch who had fallen on hard times. Against this stands nothing but the word of the accused - a muggleborn witch who could never afford such treasures. The evidence is overwhelming, and the punishment should fit the crime. I ask for her wand to be snapped and for her to be incarcerated for six months in Azkaban. Let this be a message to others tempted to steal and rob.” Auror Dawlish sat down.

    Hermione was trembling when she noticed how many of the Wizengamot members were nodding in agreement. Azkaban! Half a year! She couldn’t… she would not survive that. Tears were running down her cheeks, but she didn’t care any more.

    Dumbledore rose to speak for her. “Honoured members of the Wizengamot! The accused is a young witch; she has not yet finished her second year at Hogwarts. To think that she would be able to not only steal multiple times without getting caught, but also sneak out of Hogwarts, travel to Knockturn Alley and then sell the stolen pieces without any trouble, beggars belief. That she would stash stolen loot in her trunk, instead of hiding it somewhere else, makes this whole story even less plausible. No, she is not the culprit, but simply a scapegoat, another victim of the true culprit.

    “But even should you believe this tale and find her guilty, you should consider her young age, and that this would be her first offence. Azkaban is a place for the worst criminals of Wizarding Britain - murderers, those who try to break the Statue of Secrecy, dark wizards and Death Eaters.” Hermione saw a number of Wizengamot members jerk at the last words.

    “You all know the fate of those sent to Azkaban. Dementors, those vile fiends harboured there, will torture her, slowly draining her of any joy and happiness, leaving her a broken shell of herself. Six month there have seen hardened criminals reduced to insanity! Will you burden your conscience with doing such to a young girl, over theft?”

    Hermione noticed that the witches who had done this to her now looked uncomfortable, shifting on their seats - even Parkinson. None of them spoke up, though. And Malfoy was smiling, even!

    “Sending her to Azkaban would not be justice, but needless cruelty - fit for a Death Eater, but not for a member of the Wizengamot.”

    As Dumbledore sat down, Hermione wiped the tears from her face and hoped fervently that his plea had been enough to sway the Wizengamot and spare her.

    *****​

    Hogwarts, April 3rd, 1993

    Muggleborn Thief Fined And Expelled!

    Sitting down for breakfast in the Great Hall, Harry Potter winced when he saw across the table the headline of the Daily Prophet Percy was reading. He craned his neck, trying to read the front page, but he hadn’t gotten further than the author’s name - a Rita Skeeter - when Percy folded the newspaper up and handed it to him. The older boy didn’t say anything, but he smiled apologetically - or so Harry thought. It wasn’t an expression he often saw on Percy’s face.

    Reading the article - Ron joined in a minute later, looking over Harry’s shoulder - Harry hissed with anger. There was a picture of Hermione’s wand being snapped in front of her. He could see her flinch, then press her lips together and stand straighter, when the two parts were thrown at her feet, before it started again.

    He realised he had stared at the picture for a minute when he heard Ron exclaim: “Blimey! Have you read the paragraph about you?”

    “What?” He hadn’t.

    According to our sources at Hogwarts, Granger was quite close to the Boy-Who-Lived, and deeply involved in the affair surrounding his almost fatal accident last autumn. While unconfirmed, the possibility of this criminal attempting to steal Harry Potter’s fortune through various means cannot be dismissed out of hand - many students describe her as ambitious and cunning, so she might have had long-term plans to that effect. Several of our sources went into detail about her practice of using her relationship with Harry Potter to escape punishment for her numerous offences. It is certainly a good thing that her corrupting influence has now been removed from both the Boy-Who-Lived and Hogwarts.

    “Those… those…” He knew who those ‘sources’ were. Slytherins. He glanced over at their table, and saw a gaggle of them bent over a few newspapers, some pointing and laughing.

    “Merlin’s beard!” Ron’s curse drew Harry’s attention back to the article. What else could this Skeeter have written? She had already turned Hermione’s alleged crime into a veritable crime spree that ‘had shaken Hogwarts to its founding stones’. He saw what his friend was pointing at, and hissed under his breath.

    Granger’s grades - she allegedly excelled in tests, but, according to other students in her year, she was lacking in practical talent - are now also suspect. A witch willing to steal an heirloom of the scion of an Old Family like the Greengrasses would certainly be able to cheat in tests. In hindsight, this should have been obvious - had the girl been truly as smart as she claimed, she would certainly have been sorted into Ravenclaw rather than Gryffindor. We can only hope that the school’s staff will investigate these accusations thoroughly - it would not do to have a cheater affect the standings of hard-working, honourable students.

    Harry glanced over at the Ravenclaw table and noticed several of the students in their year looking quite satisfied. “Jealous gits,” he mumbled.

    One can but hope that her expulsion will spell the end of the recent string of scandals which have plagued Hogwarts - as our readers know, not only did the Boy-Who-Lived almost die in a potions-related accident, but last year Professor Quirrell was killed under mysterious circumstances.

    Those had been the work of Malfoy and Voldemort respectively! And the Prophet was hinting that Hermione was responsible? Harry threw the newspaper article on the table, not caring that it landed right on a plate filled with sausages. He wanted to hex that journalist, the Slytherins and the Ravenclaws!

    “Hey, Potter! Aren’t you glad you were freed from the clutches of the mudblood before she stole your family fortune, leaving you both orphaned and poor?”

    Harry jumped up and drew his wand. His promise be damned, he wouldn’t let that stand!

    But before he - or Ron, who had mirrored his own actions - could hex the foul git, the Headmaster’s voice cut through rising excitement: “Mister Malfoy! Twenty points from Slytherin and detention tonight!”

    The Great Hall fell silent as everyone turned to look at Dumbledore. The Headmaster almost never raised his voice, much less disciplined students directly; he left that to the teachers. Teachers, Harry noted, who looked almost as surprised as most of the students. Even Snape.

    Harry expected Malfoy to protest, but not even that arrogant idiot would dare to talk back to Dumbledore, and the git sat down instead.

    “Did you hear me, Mister Malfoy?”

    The Slytherin jerked and looked back at the staff table. “Yes, sir,” he pressed out.

    Dumbledore nodded slowly, apparently satisfied, then vanished the Daily Prophet on his table.

    “Serves the git right,” Ron whispered as both of them sat down again.

    “It’s not enough though,” Harry answered. Not by far.

    “We promised not to do anything,” Ron said - as if he hadn’t been about to hex the git a minute ago.

    But Harry’s friend was correct - they had promised Hermione. Slowly, Harry started to grin. “Yes, we did promise. But,” he added, with a glance at Fred and George, “they didn’t.”

    Ron’s smile matched those of his brothers’.

    *****​

    London, Kingston upon Thames, April 24th, 1993

    Hermione Granger was sitting in the garden, behind the old tree in the corner. She needed to be alone. Away from her parents and their silent accusations. And the telly covering the bombing in the City of London. And she wanted to enjoy the garden before they had to move out.

    Which they would have to, once the house was sold. They would have to find a flat - a cheap one - near whatever new employment her parents could find after selling their dental practice. Which they needed to do because of her. She pulled out the broken pieces of her wand. She had kept them, despite the wand being ruined. It would serve as a reminder.

    Her family was ruined, and it was all her fault. Her fault, but even more the fault of those despicable Malfoys and their friends. It hadn’t been enough for Malfoy to get her expelled with his plot and the lies of his friends - no, they had to go even further! All those lying witches, claiming she stole even more from them… and Borgin, claiming he had bought those treasures in good faith, for a fair price! The fines and damages were more than her family owned! And, as a muggleborn, she was lucky that the Wizengamot, which mostly consisted of purebloods who had inherited their seats, hadn’t sent her to Azkaban!

    She clenched her teeth, rage filling her. They would pay! She didn’t know how, yet, but all who had conspired to ruin her would pay! Every single last one of them. Malfoy, Parkinson, Greengrass, Bulstrode and Davis. Borgin, of course. Umbridge, for hiding the new charges so Dumbledore couldn’t do anything in time. Dawlish, for going along with the plot. And Skeeter, for calling her a cheater! And all those who had sneered and slandered her at Hogwarts. The bigots and the jealous.

    She would get her revenge!

    When she noticed that her broken wand was sparking, she forced herself to calm down. A bout of accidental magic would cause even more trouble for her and her family. And they definitely couldn’t afford that.

    Once again, she considered asking Harry for help. But that would ruin him, and she couldn’t do that. Not when it was her fault for not considering the consequences of her plan. For not researching enough. And to see him spend all his gold for her, after that awful article… But, she thought, maybe she could ask him to buy her a new wand? Nothing but the lack of money kept her from buying one - and the fact that any money she changed into Galleons at Gringotts would be confiscated right away by those loathsome goblins.

    But even if she had a wand, she couldn’t return to Hogwarts, and she couldn’t afford to go to another school of magic. Dumbledore had told her that he’d do what he could to let her continue her education, but after sending her a selection of admittedly fascinating books to study, she hadn’t heard anything more concrete from him. She could ask Harry or Ron in her next letter to bother the Headmaster for her… No. She could wait a little longer.

    Hermione wiped the tears from her eyes. She had cried enough since the trial. She had lost this round, but she wouldn’t stay down. She would get her revenge!

    “Miss Granger?”

    The sudden question made her gasp and jump to her feet. A man was standing a few yards away, leaning against the fence - inside the garden. How had he managed to get so close without her noticing? She looked him over. He was wearing an expensive suit. Tailor-made, she thought. Polished shoes. A bow-tie, of all things. Immaculately shaved and coiffed. “Who are you?” she asked in return.

    “Fletcher. Mundungus Fletcher.”

    Mundungus? That sounded like a wizard name. She glanced at his hand.

    He grinned and, with a flourish, produced a wand. “Indeed, I’m a wizard.”

    “What do you want?” She hadn’t heard his name before.

    “I’ve been looking into your trial. A clear set-up, in my opinion. You must have angered Lucius Malfoy a great deal for him to go to those lengths.”

    “So?” She already knew that. Then she had another thought. Was the man here for her? Wasn’t ruining her and her family’s life enough? Had Malfoy hired the man to kill her?

    She took a step back and glanced towards her house. If she sprinted… she wouldn’t make it.

    “I’m not here to harm you, Miss Granger.” The man smiled, though a bit crookedly, in her opinion. “I’m here to make you an offer.”

    “What?”

    “As I said, I’ve been looking into your case, and into your history. You didn’t steal from those witches. But you could have. And you would have done it in a far less obvious way, right?”

    Well, of course! She had stolen from Snape, after all, to brew the Veritaserum without getting caught!

    “And you’re in dire need of gold.”

    “Yes.” What was he proposing? Was he… certainly not!

    “You have the talent and the motivation - and people already think you’re a thief. You have nothing to lose, I think.” He grinned. “Would you like to learn how to become a real thief, and rob those pureblood bastards blind?”

    She blinked in surprise.

    *****​
     
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  2. Pahan

    Pahan Know what you're doing yet?

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    Completely beggared, but apparently not completely b*ggered.
     
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  3. Pahan

    Pahan Know what you're doing yet?

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    More seriously, this may well be the least inane and bashy Hogwarts framing/betrayal/expulsion ever written in the history of this fandom.

    Will definitely follow.
     
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  4. Starfox5

    Starfox5 Versed in the lewd.

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    Well, I already got a few reviews who assume that it was Dumbledore and/or Mundungus who set up Hermione. Even though that wouldn't make any sense - if either of the two could manipulate and use Malfoy and co. so easily, why would they bother with Hermione?

    Evil!Stupid!Dumbledore is deeply entrenched in the fandom.
     
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  5. RedX

    RedX Know what you're doing yet?

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    Yeah, why add more conniving manipulators with unsavory agendas and heavy political and financial influence into the narrative, when you've got such a selection right there? Look forward to them getting seriously come-uppanced.

    The cover's interesting. Hermione in spygirl clothes, natch- though I'm half-desiring a Carmen Sandiego getup for her at one point. That sort of flash is not really her style, though. Is that Harry in a set of Wizangamot robes, or some such?

    Excellent use of Mundungus Fletcher, too. Again, why put a thief with a heart of gold in when you've got a thief pre-approved by the Order of the Phoenix hanging around already? Good stuff.

    Do you think this'll be another epic, or a shorter one, along the lines of Girl Who Walked On Water?
     
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  6. Starfox5

    Starfox5 Versed in the lewd.

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    A Lady Thief needs a leather catsuit! And it might be not her style now, but once she's ready to take her revenge...

    Those are red Auror robes Harry is wearing. Who better to catch the mysterious thief ruining pureblood families than the Boy-Who-Lived? And he can even ask his good friend Hermione for advice, if he keeps getting stumped!

    I'm not planning an Epic, but then - I hadn't planned for "Divided and Entwined" to be much longer than say 20 to 30 chapters. (Originally, I thought the entire war wouldn't take more than 10 chapters or so...)
     
    Last edited: Aug 14, 2017
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  7. RedX

    RedX Know what you're doing yet?

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    Excellent- looking forward to it!
     
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  8. Pahan

    Pahan Know what you're doing yet?

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    Lots of fics with Hermione in Slytherin do this as well, for some reason. A brilliant and outspoken muggleborn surrounded by children of Death Eaters, with Voldemort retuning in the background apparently does not provide enough opportunities for conflict and character development, so Dumbledore needs to be recruited as an enemy as well. (I guess making Draco an antagonist interferes with the 'shipping.)
     
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  9. preier

    preier Getting sticky.

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    very interesting, as usual.

    i just hope ron & harry actually pay malfoy back. the little shit is already on his second murder attempt
    and it would be nice to see the boys be relevant sooner than the 30th chapter of the story ^^
     
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  10. Pahan

    Pahan Know what you're doing yet?

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    That would be bogarting Hermione's revenge.
     
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  11. Starfox5

    Starfox5 Versed in the lewd.

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    A Slytherin Hermione, without Draco being a white knight... one can dream.

    The story will focus on Harry and Hermione, so Harry (and Ron) should be relevant soon enough. Though it'll be until their later years - having preteens fight in wars feels both overly dramatic and convoluted.

    Her revenge won't be affected by a few pranks or beatings.
     
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  12. Prince Charon

    Prince Charon Experienced.

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    I think I saw one that had the whole trio in Slytherin, that I think might have had Draco as an antagonist (or annoyance), but it's been long enough since I read it that I may be mixing two or more fics up (and I don't recall the author or title of any of them).
     
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  13. Starfox5

    Starfox5 Versed in the lewd.

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    I remember something like that as well. "The Silver Trio" maybe? And "Actions Speak louder than words" has Harry and Ron in Slytherin, and friends with Hermione, It's hilarious.
     
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  14. Pahan

    Pahan Know what you're doing yet?

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    There's a handful of fics. There's JacobK's unfinished classic, of course. There's Mudblood Mistress series by Jose Hood --- though she does end up dating Draco much later, and her character is a bit unrecognizable at that point, though not nicified but rather made more impulsive and less cautious and calculating. A bunch of one-shots, as well.

    Oh, and we can dream. You don't have to dream. You can actually write one. :p

    Well, OK, so can I, in theory; in fact, I tried, but it's beyond my abilities as a writer at this time, and I don't have time to develop those abilities.

    Edit: There are basically five kinds of Hermione-in-Slytherin fics:
    1. Bizzaro Hogwarts: The fic takes place in a Bizzaro World where Slytherins are more accepting than Hufflepuffs. The story tends to be accompanied by heavy Gryffindor-bashing in general and Dumbledore-bashing in particular. (Recommended examples: none.)
    2. Incognito: Nobody knows that she's a Muggleborn. (In fact, she is usually magically blood-adopted by someone.) Often, her whole upbringing and personality are quite different. (Recommended examples: there are some decent ones.)
    3. Patron: Hermione quickly gets a patron (almost always Draco) who protects her from any meaningful adversity. (Recommended examples: https://www.fanfiction.net/s/6671596/1/ .)
    4. Ensemble Sorting: at least one other canon friend (e.g., Harry) is also sorted there. The fic usually focuses on the other sortee.
    5. Hard mode: Hermione is sorted into a House where a significant number doesn't want here there at all and the rest are indifferent unless her presence benefits them. (Recommended examples: see above.)
     
    Last edited: Jul 30, 2017
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  15. nobodez

    nobodez Bringer of Context

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    I followed this in fanfic.net, but might as well do the same here.

    and yes, the use of Fletcher is good, as is the idea of framing Hermione for a crime she didn't commit, then getting her on a bigger crime.
     
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  16. Pahan

    Pahan Know what you're doing yet?

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    Starfox5, we need a Manipulative!Fletcher omake that reveals that it was all a part of his plan to get himself a talented apprentice while causing Dumbledore much angst.
     
    Last edited: Aug 1, 2017
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  17. Threadmark: Chapter 2: New Beginnings
    Starfox5

    Starfox5 Versed in the lewd.

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    Chapter 2: New Beginnings

    London, Knockturn Alley, April 24th, 1993

    Albus Dumbledore heard Mundungus before the other wizard returned to his flat - one of many stuffed into the decrepit-looking building in Knockturn Alley thanks to the overuse of Extension Charms. Unlike other wizards, Mundungus didn’t tend to apparate directly into his home, but preferred to check for intruders before entering - a cautious habit, and one that had served Albus’s old friend very well in the past.

    The Headmaster wasn’t trying to hide, though, and he simply waited until the door was opened and Mundungus entered, leading with his wand.

    “Good evening, Mundungus,” Albus said from the armchair he had conjured, raising a hand in greeting.

    “Albus,” Mundungus said in a flat voice. He was wearing ratty robes again, but he was still looking far better - clean shaven, coiffed and sober - than the last time Albus had seen him. “I should have known you’d come.” And speaking like the educated wizard he was, instead of the gutter rat he had become for over ten years.

    Albus nodded.

    “That was your man, observing her home.”

    Albus nodded again. He had hoped Mundungus would notice the guard he had posted at the Grangers’ - it showed that his old friend’s talents hadn’t been dulled by his Firewhisky excesses. Or not overly so, at least.

    “Do you expect an attack on the girl?” Mundungus asked, walking over to sit down on a wooden chair that looked weathered enough to collapse under Filius’ weight.

    He shook his head. “No. It is merely a precaution, in case I am wrong.” He had been wrong before, after all. And it would be good training for those of his friends in the Order who had let their skills grow rusty since Tom’s defeat.

    “Good. You’ve been spectacularly, fatally wrong in the past.” Mundungus spat the words at him, and flicked his wand. An empty bottle flew into the thief’s hand, and he stared at it, then at Albus.

    Albus merely let his smile widen a smidgen. He had failed his friend before, but he wouldn’t fail him now.

    Mundungus scoffed. “Not very subtle.” He threw the bottle at the wall, but vanished it before it hit the peeling, faded wallpaper.

    “Subtlety didn’t work before.”

    His friend snorted. “I met the girl. Talked to her.”

    “And she agreed to become your apprentice.”

    “She agreed to take a few lessons from meself. Cautious chit.”

    Albus noted how the Knockturn Alley accent was slipping back into his friend’s words. And how his posture started to change as he slouched in his chair. “Understandable, after her experiences.” Which were at least partially his fault. He hadn’t expected Lucius to go to such lengths against a young witch who had done nothing more than help save her friend. Plotting to send a young witch to Azkaban… he had managed to spare Miss Granger that, at least.

    “Yeah. ’Er ‘experiences’.” Mundungus narrowed his eyes at Albus. “Why do ya want me to teach ’er? You all but ordered me to go to ’er.”

    “Miss Granger is a very smart witch.” The smartest of her generation, as far as Albus could tell. “And yet she was sorted into Gryffindor.”

    “Bleedin’ ’ell.”

    “Indeed.” He grew serious. “While it would be a shame to see her talent wasted on the muggles, I am far more concerned about the possibility that, left alone, she would choose a rather questionable path to take revenge on those who wronged her.”

    “You think better be a thief than a dark witch.”

    Albus nodded. “One way or another, she will get even.” More than even, in his opinion - Miss Granger was not one to do things by halves.

    “And so you picked me to be her mentor?” Mundungus threw back his head and laughed, though it sounded forced to Albus. His friend stopped laughing abruptly. “Di’n’ wanna let your traitor mentor ’er? Or is ’er blood too muddy for ’im?”

    “Severus’s other duties would preclude such a task.” And, Albus thought, his prejudices would doom such a plan from its inception. That had been proven without a doubt when he had let young Mister Malfoy organise his mob to hassle Miss Granger on her last day at school. Albus had voiced his displeasure quite clearly at seeing his orders undermined like that. If Severus wasn’t needed for the coming troubles...

    “Other duties? What, scarin’ the kiddies?” Mundungus narrowed his eyes again. “No… there’s something else. Something more important than Snape’s attitude.”

    His friend’s wits hadn’t suffered overly much during his plunge into the gutters either, it seemed. Albus nodded. “The Dark Lord wasn’t killed, not entirely, in 1981. His shade lingered and surfaced last year.” Poor, brave Quirrell had paid with his life for another of Albus’s mistakes.

    Mundungus hissed. “So that’s why you bothered me. You think we’re about to ’ave another war and you want your thief back - and another thief in case I buy it.”

    “I have never stopped ‘bothering’ you to pull yourself out of the gutter,” Albus corrected him. He had merely let his attempts to help his friend lapse a bit longer with each failure.

    “But ya’ve been preparing. I’ve ’eard about some ’effin Aurors askin’ odd questions lately.”

    Albus nodded. He had pondered setting them on Lucius’s tools, but even a confession before the Wizengamot by the four young witches wouldn’t achieve anything, not at this point. It would be dismissed as the result of coercion or guile - probably with some spells arranged for additional plausibility. And any use of Veritaserum would see the questioner in Azkaban. No, better to set his friends on the real threat. Although Severus would have to keep his house in line - and impress upon the Slytherins that another attempt would have drastic consequences. The next year wouldn’t be pleasant for the four witches and Mister Malfoy, Albus would see to that. He hoped the others of the House of Green and Silver would learn the lesson.

    “I shoulda known.” Mundungus swore a string of curses. Some even Albus didn’t know, and he made a note of them - maybe he would be able to surprise his brother next time they met.

    “This doesn’t change anything with regard to Miss Granger.” Albus knew his friend - better than Mundungus knew himself these days.

    “She wouldn’t stay away anyway, would she?”

    “She is very loyal to her friends, among whom Harry Potter numbers rather prominently.”

    Mundungus scoffed. “You’ve got your way. Now get on your way.”

    Albus smiled as he rose and vanished his seat. Then he banished a small piece of parchment towards his friend.

    Mundungus caught it and glanced at it. “What’s this?”

    “The address of a flat more suitable for the teacher of a young witch,” Albus said.

    “She’s gonna ’ave to learn about the seedier places too,” his friend muttered. At Albus’s raised eyebrows, he added: “But not until later, I guess.”

    Smiling, Albus apparated back to the Forbidden Forest and checked the time on his watch. He was early enough to foil the latest scheme of the Weasley twins. The two purveyors of mischief were determined to take revenge on young Mister Malfoy on behalf of Miss Granger, and seemed to take the continuing failure of their efforts as a challenge. Maybe Albus would have to explain to them that their efforts would, ultimately, only benefit Lucius, who would use the opportunity for further attacks against Albus and his staff.

    *****​

    London, Greenwich, April 26th, 1993

    “Lumos!”

    Hermione Granger smiled widely at the bright light shining from the tip of her wand. Her new wand, bought less than an hour ago in Diagon Alley. Made of walnut wood, 9¾ inches long, slightly flexible, with a dragon heartstring as its core, it seemed to sing in her hand, eagerly working magic with the slightest gesture. After three weeks without a wand, three weeks without casting a spell, three weeks without feeling like the witch she was, Hermione wanted more than anything to spend a day, or two, just casting every spell she knew, to ensure she hadn’t forgotten anything. She had had her books to read, but reading about magic, studying the wand movements in the diagrams, had made her longing to cast spells even worse.

    But, she thought with a glance at Mister Fletcher, who was watching her with a faint smile, they hadn’t come to this flat for her to play with her new wand. They had travelled here - by Apparition! Her first Side-Along-Apparition experience - so she could receive her first lesson from her new teacher.

    So she took a deep breath and slid the wand into her equally new enchanted wrist holster, styled to look like a bracelet - and then had to resist the urge to test the QuickDraw Enchantment that would slip the wand into her hand at a mental command. “I’m sorry,” she said.

    “Don’t be.” Fletcher snorted. “To go without a wand is among the more dreadful fates a wizard can suffer. Not the worst, not even close, of course.” The man looked a lot older when he said that, Hermione thought, and a lot more serious.

    He quickly smiled again, though, and gestured towards the dining table. “Let’s take a seat. But first,” he added, and Hermione stopped halfway to the closest chair, “let’s change.” With that, he transfigured his robes back into the suit he had worn when he had fetched her from her home earlier today, then did the same to her own clothes, leaving her in jeans and a sweater. “We’re in muggle London, and we should attempt to fit in. Especially right now, with all the muggle policemen up in arms. Not that they would be able to enter this flat, or even notice it, but it's the principle of the thing - you need to develop a habit of doing this.”

    Hermione nodded, feeling slightly guilty for forgetting about Saturday’s bombing in Bishopsgate in her excitement.

    “The more you look like you belong, the less chance that a bobby or Auror will single you out.”

    She nodded in agreement. That made sense. Then she blinked - she was already thinking like a thief. She wasn’t certain if that was a good or bad thing. But after her recent experiences with Aurors, she certainly knew that avoiding their attention was a good thing.

    “So… before we start with any practical lessons - which we will, don’t look that disappointed - you need to learn the basics.” He leaned back in his chair. “I’m not going to teach you how to become a common criminal. I’m going to educate you in the art of the gentleman thief. Or, in your case, lady thief.”

    “That’s still a criminal.” At his crooked smirk, she narrowed her eyes. A thief stole another’s property, usually by stealth and without using violence or force. That was the definition - Hermione had looked it up.

    “Correct. But not a common criminal. A gentleman thief has rules.” That sounded… more like from a book - a fictional book - or a movie to Hermione. She tried not to let her doubt show, though, as he continued. “The first rule is simple: Don’t kill. The penalties for theft are relatively light - relatively, mind you - but if you murder someone, it's the Kiss or Azkaban for you for certain. And the Aurors go after a murderer with much more effort - and violence - than a burglar. There are enough spells and other magical means to deal with, say, interlopers without killing them anyway."

    She nodded and made a note. “That makes sense.” And Hermione didn’t want to kill anyone anyway. Well, maybe the elder Malfoy. He had tried to send her to Azkaban, after all, which she considered an attempt on her life.

    “Of course it does - otherwise it wouldn’t be a rule. Thieves are practical.” He cleared his throat. “Second rule: Don’t steal from the poor. Not only is it poor form to steal from those who don’t have much to begin with, but it generally isn’t worth the effort anyway. And you never know if that hovel might turn out to be a Death Eater’s hideout.”

    “Ah.” Hermione filed that tidbit about Death Eaters away in her mind while she wrote that rule down.

    “Third: Keep mum about your profession. Never tell anyone who is not directly involved about your heists. And for ’eaven’s sake, don’t brag!” He scoffed. “Word travels fast. Even people you trust completely might reveal something - accidentally, or against their will.”

    She bit her lower lip. She didn’t like keeping secrets from her friends - from Harry and Ron - but it made sense.

    “Which means that your essential notes will have to be very carefully hidden, and any notes you don’t need any more have to be destroyed.”

    She gasped. Destroying her notes? That… that…

    “Trust me - you don’t want your... parents, or your boyfriend, to accidentally stumble upon the schematics for a house including the strongbox’s location.”

    She blushed slightly at the ‘boyfriend’ remark - she didn’t have one, and she didn’t think anyone would be interested in her, bushy hair and buckteeth and all - but she could see how that would be a really bad thing. It wasn’t as if her parents knew anything other than that ‘Mister Smith’ was her new tutor. But… “Are you speaking from experience?” She regretted her question at once when she saw his face close up.

    After a moment that seemed far too long to her, he went on: “Fourth rule: Never rat out your accomplices. Not only do informers tend to end up dead, but you will quickly run out of friends and contacts if you can’t be trusted.”

    She thrust her chin up. She hadn’t tattled on her friends! Not ever! At least not at Hogwarts!

    He chuckled. “Ah, I see.” He looked rather wistful, too, in her opinion. “Now, the next rule is obvious: Don’t get caught.” The way he looked at her made her think he was hinting at her trial - her conviction.

    She scowled. “I wasn’t caught. I was framed.”

    “Same thing, in the end. The best method to avoid getting caught is to avoid catching attention. Don’t be obvious. Don’t stick out. Don’t be seen, even. Always have an escape plan - and two more in case the first plan fails. Getting away is more important than getting the loot, never forget that!”

    She nodded emphatically. She certainly had no intention of getting caught by the Aurors ever again!

    “And in order to avoid getting caught, you need to always keep an eye out for traps, ambushes, and anything out of the ordinary. Patience and caution are much more important than courage, so you’ll need to rein in your inner Gryffindor.”

    She frowned at that - she wasn’t brash, unlike others in her house. Her former house, she corrected herself with more than a little regret.

    Once more he chuckled at her expression. “You’ll have to work on hiding your feelings as well. Anyway, those are the most important rules. They’ll keep you alive and out of prison.” He looked at her until she nodded, then smiled again. “Now, let’s start with a more practical lesson. Can’t let you forget how to cast spells, after all.”

    Hermione perked up and let her wand slip into her hand. Finally!

    *****​

    Hogwarts, May 5th, 1993

    “This is weird!” Harry Potter said, putting his quill down and leaning back in his chair in the Gryffindor common room.

    “What’s weird?” Ron asked, looking up from where he was reading a Charms essay Percy had written in his second year.

    “I keep expecting Hermione to appear and quiz us. Or tell us to study harder.”

    Ron snorted, but he didn’t sound amused. “Or tell us that we should have started studying earlier. Like last year.”

    “Yeah.” Harry sighed. “If you told me a few months ago I’d miss her nagging…”

    Ron nodded. “Bloody Malfoy! It’s all his fault,” he muttered.

    Harry looked around, then leaned forward and whispered: “Your brothers haven’t had much success.” He had expected much more than the few pranks they had managed to do.

    “The Headmaster told them off.” Ron frowned. “Otherwise, Malfoy would be begging his father for a transfer to Durmstrang now.”

    Harry knew that. “Still…”

    “Would you go against Dumbledore?” Ron stared at him.

    Harry was tempted to do so. Even knowing that Malfoy’s father would exploit any incident to further weaken Dumbledore’s position. “Each time I see his ugly face I want to hex him until he cries,” he said through clenched teeth.

    “You and me both, mate,” Ron muttered. “But we’d get expelled as well.”

    “It might be worth it,” Harry said. “We could study with Hermione’s tutor.” They’d still do the exams - Hermione had told them that Dumbledore would send her the questions. After the exams at Hogwarts, of course.

    “Mum would kill me. And Hermione would kill us. We promised her that we’d leave the slimy git alone, remember?”

    Harry sighed. He remembered - Hermione reminded them with every letter. And he really didn’t want to leave Hogwarts. The Dursleys wouldn’t let him study magic. It would be Stonewall High for him. “Bloody arse,” he spat.

    Ron nodded. “He’ll get his. What did Hermione say in her last letter? Revenge is a dish best served cold?”

    “Yes.” Harry had had to explain the saying to Ron.

    His friend suddenly grinned. “Can you imagine what she’ll do to him with enough time to prepare?”

    Harry smiled. He certainly could.

    *****​

    London, Greenwich, June 9th, 1993

    Hermione Granger frowned at the parchment in front of her. The written Charms exam had been harder than she had expected. Although given her lack of access to the Hogwarts Library, she should have anticipated that - she hadn’t been able to research the material as thoroughly as she should have. And she hadn’t had that much time to study either, what with the upheaval caused by her family’s recent move to a small flat in London.

    She clenched her teeth. If the wizards and goblins had been reasonable, they would have let her parents keep their practice and pay the debts over time with their greater income. But they hadn’t been reasonable. Not at all. The whole thing was a travesty to start with, and would never have happened in a decent court - her parents wouldn’t have been held liable for her actions in the first place! But with the Wizengamot stuffed full of bigoted rich purebloods...

    “Done?” Mister Fletcher asked, looking up from where he had been reading the Daily Prophet.

    “Yes.” She dried the ink with a quick charm, then banished it towards the wizard.

    He caught it, though with some difficulty, as she noticed, and stowed it in the scroll case on the low table near the couch. Once Hedwig brought Harry and Ron’s next letter, the owl would carry the case back to Hogwarts with the other exams she had taken, to be corrected by the teachers.

    “Good. Then let’s get through the practical part.”

    She didn’t frown when she stood, but she felt like doing so. Mister Fletcher wasn’t the best teacher when it came to casting spells. He wasn’t bad, but the difference between him and Professors McGonagall or Flitwick was obvious. He was used to casting without incantations, and often without precise wand movements as well, and she usually had to resort to animated sketches in the books to learn the basic wand movements of a spell. Which limited her progress, since she had only limited access to such documents.

    Mister Fletcher had said that Dumbledore owed her for failing to foil Malfoy’s plot, and that she should use that to get access to the Hogwarts Library over the holidays. She didn’t want to - the Headmaster had saved her from Azkaban - but on the other hand, she really missed being able to read whatever book she wanted…

    And, she thought when she faced her tutor, there were Potions and Herbology to consider. And Care of Magical Creatures. She could handle Potions - having brewed Veritaserum by herself, with a pilfered cauldron and stolen ingredients, proved that. It wasn’t as if Snape deserved to be called a teacher anyway! But Herbology and Care of Magical Creatures needed practical lessons her tutor couldn’t provide.

    “Ready?”

    She stopped pondering her academical problems and nodded at Mister Fletcher. “Yes.”

    “Good.” He conjured a small piece of wood on the floor. “Cast an Engorgement Charm on it.”

    She knew that charm. “Engorgio!” The piece of wood grew rapidly, until it was the size of a table. She smiled - that was a good result for such a charm, according to her reading material.

    He nodded. “Shrink it down.”

    “Reducio.” She had gone through that spell in her head already while he had inspected the wood - those two charms were taught together for a reason.

    “Good.” He took a step back and held his wand at the ready. “Now stand on top of the wood, and then cast the first charm again!”

    She blinked. That wasn’t in the test notes she had received! She opened her mouth to protest, when she suddenly understood what he was doing.

    “Exactly!” He grinned. “A nifty little trick to get over walls - or on top of roofs - with the right object. Don’t overdo it while we’re inside, though!”

    She huffed. As if she’d forget that the ceiling wasn’t that high above her head! “Engorgio!”

    The piece of wood rapidly grew again, but even expecting it, she couldn’t adjust for the sudden movement, and lost her balance halfway to the ceiling, toppling off the wood.

    Before she hit the floor though, she suddenly froze in mid-air - Mister Fletcher had stopped her fall with another charm on the exam list. He shook his head. “And that’s the difference between learning how to cast a spell and learning how to use the spell.”

    She frowned at him. “That was the first time I tried this!”

    He inclined his head. “True. I expect you’ll do better the second time, then.” He cancelled his spell with a grin, and she dropped to the floor. “Or not.”

    Hermione rubbed her rump - that had hurt! - and glared at him.

    “Third time’s the charm?” He tilted his head slightly sideways with a grin.

    Yes, Hermione thought while getting up - and resisting the urge to try and hit him with a Stinging Hex - Professors McGonagall or Flitwick would never have done this.

    But then, they wouldn’t have taught her some of the uses for those harmless-looking spells either.

    *****​

    London, Enfield, July 11th, 1993

    Harry Potter spotted her before he regained his balance - magical travel, apart from flying, didn’t seem to agree with him, and Ron’s dad side-along-apparating him and his friend was no exception. Hermione was leaning against the bus stop sign, wearing jeans and a T-shirt. By the time he had managed to stand straight, she was already greeting them with a smile.

    “Hello, Mister Weasley. Hi, Ron. Hi, Harry.”

    “Hermione! There you are, just where you said you’d be! At the muggle bus stop!” He pointed at the sign and turned to Harry and Ron. “See boys? This is what muggles use to stop their busses, since they have no wands.”

    Harry refrained from telling Mr Weasley that he had been taking buses for years. Ron’s dad had been kind enough to fetch him from Privet Drive, sparing him a lengthy trip.

    “Are your parents here as well?” the older wizard asked, looking around.

    “They’re at work,” Hermione answered, her smile slipping a little.

    “Ah.” Mr Weasley nodded. “Do you live around here?”

    Hermione’s smile disappeared completely. “We had to move here after we had to sell our house.”

    “Oh, yes. I’m sorry, I forgot.” Ron’s dad had the grace to look embarrassed. “Terrible shame that affair! Terrible!”

    Harry glanced apologetically at Hermione. He didn’t think that she wanted to talk about it - he knew her relationship with her parents was still rather strained. Even though the Grangers weren’t as bad as the Dursleys, they certainly weren’t fond of magic now.

    “So… I’ll be off then, back to The Burrow. We have so much to prepare for our trip! International travel is complicated! Ron, take the Knight Bus home in time for dinner. And ask your friends before you assume something about muggles, will you?”

    “Yes, Dad.” Ron didn’t quite roll his eyes, and Harry felt a touch of jealousy. He wished he had parents who cared that much about him. Hell, he wished he had parents, period.

    Mr Weasley disappeared with a cracking sound, and the three were alone at the bus stop.

    “Are you going on a trip?” Hermione asked.

    “Ah…” Ron cleared his throat. “Right, yes, we are. Dad won the Daily Prophet Grand Prize Galleon Draw. Seven hundred Galleons.” He looked almost embarrassed, Harry thought. “So, we’re going to visit Bill in Egypt for a month.”

    Hermione smiled. “That’s great, Ron. When will you depart?”

    “Last week of July - I’m going to miss Harry’s birthday.”

    “It’s not as if I’m going to throw a party,” Harry said. “The Dursleys would never allow it.”

    Hermione sniffed. “We’ll be celebrating your birthday, Harry,” she declared in that firm tone of hers that left no doubt that things would happen as she wanted.

    Not that Harry would want to contradict her - he was looking forward to his birthday. They’d probably watch a movie, eat out...

    “Ah, alright.” Ron glanced at him, then at Hermione with a strange expression, but quickly smiled again. “So, how are things with your tutor?”

    “Ah, they’re going well. It’s not the same as Hogwarts, of course - I really miss Professors McGonagall and Flitwick - but according to the test I took, I would have done well on the exams. Even in Defence, which is quite surprising, since that’s not one of my better subjects.” Which meant that she wasn’t the best in her year in Defence, Harry knew. Or rather, hadn’t been the best, since she was no longer a student at Hogwarts.

    “Well, you won’t miss Snape,” Ron muttered. “Bloody git.”

    Hermione nodded. “How that awful man remains a teacher I cannot fathom.”

    “Dumbledore must have told him off, though - he’s been on his best behaviour ever since you left,” Harry said. Granted, the man’s best behaviour was still rather dreadful compared to the other teachers, but there had been an improvement. He didn’t think it would last past the summer though.

    “Lockhart was a decent teacher, I guess.” Ron sounded as if he had to force the words out - he didn’t like the man. Harry shared the sentiment - especially after he saw how Hermione’s eyes lit up. Lockhart had just been too… full of himself.

    “He won’t be returning for our next year,” he said. “Apparently, there’s been a zombie outbreak in Africa, and Britain is sending a force to deal with it.”

    “I’ve read about that,” Hermione said, and once more, Harry felt nostalgic at the familiar tone, “there is speculation that this could be the work of survivors of the ICW Intervention of 1870. Or a splinter group of houngans from Jamaica trying to establish themselves there. My tutor thinks the houngans are trying to expand and are using that as a cover story,” she added.

    “Who’s your tutor, anyway?” Ron asked. “You haven’t told us his name.”

    Hermione flinched a little - Harry almost missed it - before she straightened. “I told you, Ron, he doesn’t want his name to be known. I’m persona non grata in wizarding society, after all, and being known to teach me could harm his reputation.”

    “Dad doesn’t care about that,” Ron said, frowning.

    “Well, he should! No one but Malfoy profits if your family gets dragged into my mess.” With a scowl, she added: “And Malfoy has profited far too much already.”

    “So, what are we doing today?” Harry was as curious as Ron about Hermione’s mysterious tutor - he thought it was Dumbledore himself, but Ron thought that the Headmaster wouldn’t have the time to teach anyone - but he wouldn’t push their friend.

    Hermione smiled again. “I’ve prepared a schedule!”

    While their friend pulled out a rather large sheet of paper and started to explain, Harry exchanged a grin with Ron. Hermione would never change.

    *****​

    London, Greenwich, July 19th, 1993

    “My friends asked me about you again,” Hermione remarked as she walked down the street next to Mister Fletcher.

    “Curious lot, are they?” He didn’t look at her as he answered, but she could see that he was grinning.

    “They are concerned about me.” Being curious was not a bad thing, but she felt the need to defend Harry and Ron anyway.

    “And you wonder why I gave a fake name to your parents.”

    “No.” She glanced at him. He was now looking at her. “While you were a gentleman thief, you haven’t been one for some time.”

    He snorted, and for a moment, he didn’t look like a middle-aged gentleman, but a … crook, she decided after a little deliberation. Then he sighed and simply looked old. “Yeah. ‘Mundungus Fletcher’ got a reputation. Not a good one, mind ya. Guttersnipe. Drunk. Petty thief. Not a name ya would want to be associated with. And not a good cover for a gentleman thief either.”

    Hermione didn’t ask what had caused one of Dumbledore’s friends to become such a man. Nor did she ask if he had left his past behind. He was always shaved and perfectly coiffed, but that was easy with magic. The occasional trembling of his hands, or the expression he had once when they passed a Wine Merchant, though, were harder to hide. “So now you’re Mister Smith.”

    “Yeah.” He sounded rough, then cleared his throat and went on in a much smoother voice. “Mister Smith, recently moved here from the Colonies, now whiling away his time as a private tutor in the Old Country.”

    “Obviously a fake name, but people will assume you are simply one of the refuges - émigrés - from one of the wars in North America who wants to avoid trouble with old enemies. They won’t suspect that you are a thief.” She had put that together a week ago, after reading up on the situation in Magical North America - a conglomerate of small and usually extremist wizarding enclaves, at least half of them either at war, or close to starting a war, with their neighbours on any given day.

    “Gentleman thief,” he corrected her. “Of course, I’ll be maintaining my identity as Fletcher too.” Once more he grinned crookedly. “There’s a lot places a bleedin’ gentleman would be thrown out of where a guttersnipe can enter jus’ fine.”

    She managed not to shudder at his accent. “Will I be joining him on such… ventures?”

    “No,” he said in a very flat voice. “Those are not places that a young witch should visit.”

    She wasn’t certain if she should feel relieved or insulted, but she had a notion of what kind of witches would be found in those places. “What if I need to, to case a joint?”

    “You’ll need to be older to fit in convincingly.”

    He wasn’t looking at her as he said that, and she didn’t think he was being entirely honest with her, but she didn’t pry any further. She had no real desire to visit such places, after all. “What disguises will we be using today?” she asked instead. “Pureblood daughter from a good family?” Mister Fletcher had been drilling her in ‘proper pureblood manners’ when he hadn’t been teaching her more spells or checking her other work.

    “That would be ‘illegitimate pureblood daughter from an affair with a witch of the continent’,” he corrected her. “You can’t pass as a British pureblood witch from a ‘good family’ - they all know each other. The older witches know the pureblood family trees better than a dragon breeder knows his bloodlines.” She didn’t try to hide her revulsion at the images that conjured up inside her mind. He laughed. “They don’t try to breed their children as if they were animals, mind you - it’s politics they keep track of. And inheritances, of course.”

    “Ah.” They passed a muggle café, and she waited before answering. “So… will we be using that disguise?”

    “Not today. You still need to learn to act a bit better.” He snorted at her pout. “No, today we’ll case a joint - a muggle bank.” Her eyes widened. Would they...? “We’re not gonna rob it, mind ya. It’s just training for the real thing.”

    “Gringotts?” She had heard stories…

    “Merlin’s beard, no!” He was shaking his head. “No, the real thing will be a magical house - and we won’t break into one any time soon, either, don’t look so eager.”

    She didn’t. Not really. But it would be good to do something… productive. Even if she hadn’t yet decided how to explain her career choice to her parents. Which she would have to, once she started to steal gold.

    “Now… look at the bank there - without looking as if you’re studying it. We’re just waiting for the bus, father and daughter.” She glanced at the building. “How would you enter it?”

    “Roof or upper floor windows,” she answered quickly. “From a broom.”

    “You have no broom.”

    “From a floating board, then.” She could do that, even though standing on a board that only her magic was keeping in the air was even more disturbing than flying on a broom.

    “And once inside?”

    “Unlocking Charm on all doors until I reach the vaults… no. There would be alarms on the doors.”

    “Indeed.”

    A Silencing Charm wouldn’t help - the doors would send out electronic alerts. Now how to deal with that… “I’ll have to find out who can disable the alarms.” She looked at him.

    He seemed pleased. “Yes. And how can you do that?”

    “Enter disguised and make someone else trigger an alarm, so I can observe what happens.” A Compulsion Charm would do it.

    “That’s one method, yes. There are others, of course.”

    “Do pureblood manors really have alarm charms on their doors?” That would be a hassle, she thought.

    “Some of the more paranoid families do - at least on the less used or more important ones. But it’s the principle of the thing - you can’t just break in and grab some loot if you want to steal a fortune. You need a plan, and for that, you need a lot of information. Information best acquired in disguise.”

    She nodded.

    “And for that, you need to learn to act convincingly. You have a way to go there, too.”

    She scowled. She was working hard on that. And she was making progress. Her parents didn’t suspect anything, after all. Not that they were speaking with her that much, these days.

    “How’s your physical training progressing, by the way?”

    Her scowl deepened. P.E. was the only class she had never liked. And after two years free of it, it had now returned with a vengeance.

    Mister Fletcher laughed at her expression, utterly unimpressed with her glaring at him.

    *****​

    London, Enfield, July 31st, 1993

    “That was a great movie!” Harry Potter exclaimed when he and Hermione left the cinema.

    “They made a lot of changes to the book,” his friend said, pursing her lips. “The characters acted quite differently. And I’m not entirely certain if they incorporated the latest discoveries about dinosaurs.”

    Harry had to laugh, even though he should have expected that reaction from her. Of course she would have read the book beforehand! “Well, it was a good movie. Thank you for inviting me!” He smiled at her.

    Her slight pout, a reaction to his laughter, disappeared, and she returned his smile. “It’s your birthday gift. Or part of it.” She pulled a small package out of her handbag. “Here’s the other part!”

    “Thanks!” He took it and started to unwrap it while they walked. He knew it was a book before he even touched it, and tearing off the wrapping paper revealed a copy of ‘Jurassic Park’.

    “Since you liked the movie I think you’ll like the book as well,” she said. “I mean, I didn’t know that you’d like the movie when I bought the novel, but it was a safe bet.” She was biting her lower lip though, he noticed, so she probably was worried he wouldn’t like it.

    “Thanks! I’m sure I’ll like it - I can read it at Hogwarts, too, and remember the movie.”

    The smile that had appeared on her face slipped a bit, and Harry wanted to hit himself for reminding his friend - and himself - that she wouldn’t be joining him and Ron at Hogwarts this year. “So… let’s get something to drink, OK?” he quickly said, pointing at the nearest café.

    She nodded. “Alright.”

    “My treat,” he added. Hermione opened her mouth to protest, but he shook his head. “I insist.” He expected her to argue, but after a moment, she nodded. He was glad - he didn’t want her to spend even more money on him. Not when he knew how bad her family’s situation was. At least she was more sensible than Ron about such things.

    His eyes widened. “I almost forgot: Ron sent a letter.” He dug around in his jacket and pulled out the envelope. Handing it over, he added: “There’re two pictures from Egypt inside as well.” She looked at the letter, hesitating. “Go ahead and read it.” It wouldn’t take her long, anyway, and they would be able to talk about it.

    With a quick smile, she pulled the letter and pictures out. By the time the waiter brought their order, she had already finished. “That’s a really long letter. For Ron,” she said. Her own, of course, were generally longer.

    Harry nodded. Sometimes, it had felt as if Ron was bragging about his trip. But then, Ron didn’t get to brag about much, so Harry didn’t really mind. Even if he would have loved to go to Egypt as well. Or just stay with the Weasleys. On the other hand, that would have meant leaving Hermione alone by herself.

    And he doubted that he would have been able to enjoy his vacation knowing that.

    *****​

    For a change, Harry was happy when he reached Privet Drive. That had been his best birthday, ever! And Ron was at least partially responsible for it, too, despite his absence - Harry and Hermione had talked at length about his letter, and had been able to avoid the touchier subjects.

    He sighed, enjoying the evening for a moment, before he opened the door and entered the house. Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia were in the living room, watching the telly. Dudley would still be out, with his friends. ‘News and Sports’ had just began, from what he could hear.

    After a moment’s hesitation, he entered the living room. “I’m back!”

    Uncle Vernon turned his head and glared at him. “The news has started!”

    Aunt Petunia frowned, then asked: “Did you have a nice day?”

    “Yes.” Harry almost grinned. His aunt didn’t really care, but she insisted on the proper forms - the Dursleys were a normal family, after all, and a normal family asked after your day. “You?” he asked.

    “We had a great day!” Uncle Vernon grumbled.

    Aunt Petunia was about to go into more - boring - detail when she suddenly gasped and stared at the TV. “Dear Lord!”

    Harry blinked. There was a report about a mass-murderer having escaped a special prison. He looked like a maniac on the picture they showed. “Sirius Black?” He hadn’t heard of the man.

    His aunt was trembling. “I recognise that man!”

    “What?” Harry and Uncle Vernon said in unison for the first time in their lives.

    She nodded shakily. “He’s a wizard… he was one of your father’s friends. I met him at Lily’s wedding!”

    “A mass-murderer?” Harry couldn’t believe it. His parents had been heroes!

    “I can believe that,” Uncle Vernon grumbled. “Evil lot, all of them. Like that giant who cursed Dudley!”

    “What… what if he’s looking for us?” Petunia asked, still trembling, before Harry could defend Hagrid. Vernon paled as well.

    “I’ll mail Dumbledore,” Harry said. “He’ll know what to do.”

    For once, neither Uncle Vernon nor Aunt Petunia disagreed about him contacting a wizard.

    *****​

    London, Greenwich, August 1st, 1993

    Someone had broken out of Azkaban! Hermione Granger was reading the article in the Daily Prophet for the third time, trying to spot any detail she might have missed. According to her research - and she had read what she could on that horrible prison after her close brush with being incarcerated there - Sirius Black was the first prisoner ever to have managed that feat.

    “How could Black have escaped?” she asked, looking up from the newspaper at her tutor, who was currently reading Seeker Weekly.

    “Inside job,” Mister Fletcher answered without any hesitation. “It’s not possible otherwise. He must have had help, probably from a guard.”

    “A human guard?”

    “Of course. The Dementors wouldn’t help anyone - they’d even attack the guards, if they could get away with it, and suck out their souls.”

    Hermione shuddered on being reminded of the ultimate punishment used in Wizarding Britain - the Dementor’s Kiss. To go as far as to destroy a soul… She shook her head and rubbed her arms to banish the morbid thoughts that brought up.

    “But to get inside help after more than twelve years… why wouldn’t he have escaped earlier?” That didn’t make much sense. Even a few months among Dementors tended to drive prisoners mad.

    “Well, cui bono? Someone must have an interest in freeing a crazy Death Eater.” He was looking at her, expecting her to work it out.

    She wasn’t entirely certain that he knew the answer himself in the first place, but she still tried to reason it out. “Having such a dangerous prisoner escape weakens the trust of the population in the Minister. So a political rival might have engineered this.” He nodded at her. She bit her lower lip, then went on: “Since he is a threat, whoever catches him will gain a lot of prestige. A rival of the Minister could use that to replace him.”

    “Good guess, but the one who would profit the most, Amelia Bones, Head of the DMLE, isn’t the type to play such games. She would never set a prisoner free in such a plot.” He snorted. “If the bleedin’ witch had ’er way, she’d keep all prisoners forever.”

    Hermione decided not to ask if he had personal experience with the Head of the DMLE. She cleared her throat. “But if she is such an ethical person, others could exploit the capture of Black.” People like Malfoy.

    “They could. But Fudge is such a weak-willed wizard, they could probably simply bribe him and get what they want without going to such lengths.” He was back to speaking with a barely noticeable - and entirely fake, as she knew - American accent.

    “So... maybe they want to use this opportunity to achieve something else. It might be a pretext to search the houses of his suspected accomplices or relatives. Or simply a way to ruin their reputation with rumours and suspicions.” She was simply speculating now.

    “Aye, that could be it - but the most obvious victim of such a plot would be Malfoy, being both an ‘imperiused’ Death Eater, and the husband of Black’s cousin.” Mister Fletcher grinned. “Do you think Dumbledore would go that far?”

    “It sounds a bit risky,” she said. It also sounded like a great way to get back at Malfoy, as long as Black wasn’t actually free to roam Britain.

    “But you forgot the most obvious angle.”

    “Which is?” She frowned at him. She didn’t overlook the obvious! Not often, at least.

    “Gold. If Black gets killed - and the Aurors will not hold back when they find him, so that’s rather likely - his relatives would inherit the Black fortune.”

    “Malfoy.” She spat out the name like the curse it was.

    “Yeah. Would be a nice, neat way to get at that gold without having to wait a few more decades until Black croaks in Azkaban.”

    She narrowed her eyes. “But… if Malfoy wanted Black dead, wouldn’t he have had the guard on the take simply kill Black in prison and make it look like an accident or an attempt to escape?”

    “Good question.” He smiled at her. “Maybe he wants Fudge weakened as well - or is trying to blame Bones for this. Malfoy is a cunning man, and his plans reflect that.”

    Hermione clenched her teeth, scowling - she knew that only too well. But she would get her revenge!

    And, she thought, she would look into how one could escape Azkaban. If the worst happened, she wouldn’t languish there for a decade.

    *****​

    Little Whinging, No 4 Privet Drive, August 14th, 1993

    Weeding the garden was tiring work, but Harry didn’t mind - he was getting paid well enough for it, after all. Especially as the threat of Black meant working outside the house was seen by his relatives as being more dangerous. And it wasn’t as if he had anything more interesting to do. Harry wasn’t in the mood for losing another video game against Dudley, he had read all his books already and had done all his homework. And Uncle Vernon had asked Aunt Marge to cancel her visit due to the danger, which meant that so far the summer had been more pleasant than expected. On the other hand, the Dursleys had limited his trips to London to see Hermione to days when Dumbledore’s friends could protect both the house and Harry, and that had seriously cut down on the time Harry had been able to spend with his best female friend.

    Straightening up after pulling out a particularly resistant weed, he narrowed his eyes when he saw, through the gap in the fence, the flattened grass near the tree in their neighbour’s garden. Over the last two weeks, he had become quite good at spotting the guards Dumbledore had placed at Privet Drive - even invisible, they had to pick a location from where they could observe the house’s entrances, or at least most of them, and usually something gave them away. A cat or dog staring at the spot - Mrs Figg’s cats seemed particularly apt at sniffing the wizards out - or some of the neighbours making a detour without any obvious reason.

    But today none of the usual spots had been occupied. And from that tree the front door and the garage were not visible at all - Harry had been up that tree often enough in the past to know that. So why would anyone trying to prevent Black from breaking into the house be hiding there?

    If that was Black… but the fugitive would have spotted Harry already, and he hadn’t been cursed.

    “Heh!” He heard a chuckling laugh. “Spotted me, huh? Good instincts, Potter. I’m impressed.” The voice would have fitted an escaped prisoner - rough and harsh.

    “Who’re you?” Harry stood up and put his hand on his wand holster - a late birthday gift from a friend of his parents, Dumbledore had called it when he had handed it over.

    The air around the tree seemed to shimmer for a moment, and then a man appeared. An old man, with scarred face and… something that spun wildly in place of his left eye. And a peg leg! “I’m Moody.”

    “Moody.” Nickname, first name, last name? Harry couldn’t tell with wizard names.

    “The others told me you were a sharp kid. Guess they weren’t as rusty as I thought.” The man cackled. “Keep that attitude up. Constant vigilance!”

    Harry felt slightly irked at the patronising tone. He had spotted all of his guards so far, after all! “What happened to your eye?”

    “Lost it in a fight against a dark wizard.” Moody grinned, which wasn’t a comforting sight with his scarred face. He didn’t explain further.

    “Can you see through walls with it?”

    More laughter. “Really sharp kid. You’ll make a good Auror. I can see through walls, and behind me.” He suddenly stiffened, then frowned. “And you should return to weeding the garden. Neighbours’re coming home.”

    A flick of his wand later, the man had disappeared from view. And the grass wasn’t showing any imprints any more.

    Harry looked around for a little longer, then knelt down again to finish his chores. He could use the money for his next trip to London.

    *****​

    London, Enfield, August 15th, 1993

    “So... have you already spotted our tail today?” Hermione Granger asked sotto voce while acting as if she was very interested in the clothes on display in the window in front of her and Harry.

    “Hm.” Harry leaned forward, probably to get a better angle on the mirror behind the window. “There’s been a rather clumsy fellow bumping into people behind us.”

    “Yes,” she whispered. “But that could be a decoy, to throw us off the real tail.” Mister Fletcher had been thorough about the tricks Aurors used when tailing a suspect. And how to throw them off. Unlike spotting invisible wizards, which a spell could do easily, spotting disguised wizards was very difficult - especially since they could use magic to change their disguises and hair colour. Not that she would let that deter her. You could never be too cautious, as her tutor was fond of lecturing her.

    “I doubt that,” Harry retorted. “They don’t have that many people - they need to guard the Dursleys as well while I’m with you.”

    He had a point, she admitted with a frown. “I hope they catch Black soon. You haven’t been able to visit often.” She could visit him, but spending a day with the Dursleys didn’t sound appealing at all, and if she and Harry left the house, they would need another bodyguard anyway.

    “Yeah. I hope they catch the traitor soon.” Harry bared his teeth - he hadn’t taken well to her telling him what Black had done to deserve Azkaban, and Hermione hoped that Harry wouldn’t do anything foolish, should Black make an attempt on him.

    She winced at the thought - she was being a little hypocritical, seeing as she was training to become a lady thief, which was certainly not a low-risk profession. On the other hand, she tended to think things through before acting, unlike Harry. Most of the time, at least.

    “Another one stumbled over the curb,” Harry whispered. “Either we’re close to a meeting of Clumsy Anonymous, or that’s our tail.”

    Hermione agreed with him. Then she had a thought. “Unless that’s Black.” After more than a decade in a small cell - the conditions for prisoners in Azkaban were even more horrible than she had thought before researching the matter - he might not be in a very good shape.

    “He’d have tried something if that was the case,” Harry said. “A few times he had a clear line of fire.”

    Hermione hadn’t noticed that! That failure irked her even more than the realisation that Harry didn’t see anything wrong with his method to check if their tail was Black or a friend. She glared at him.

    “What?”

    “Nothing.” She huffed. She couldn’t lecture him about his safety on the street. And her new favourite secondhand book shop beckoned.

    She would tell him later, in private.

    *****​

    Little Whinging, No 4 Privet Drive, August 21st, 1993

    When the doorbell rang, Harry Potter peered through the window first, to check who was visiting them on a Saturday evening. Black might be crazy enough to simply walk up to the house - Hermione had told Harry in detail just what happened to prisoners in Azkaban.

    But it wasn’t a stranger outside - it was Dumbledore. Or, he corrected himself, someone looking like the Headmaster. But the guard posted near the house hadn’t stepped in. They could have been dealt with, of course - if Harry could spot them, then so could a wizard capable of breaking out of Azkaban. Moody had been vocal about that during their second meeting.

    “Who is it?” he heard Aunt Petunia ask from the living room, where the Dursleys were watching TV.

    “Wizard,” he answered.

    “Deal with him, boy!” he heard Uncle Vernon yell - he had expected that; they usually left ‘such matters’ to Harry.

    He opened the window slightly. “How did you answer me when I told you how easy it was to spot the guards?”

    The old wizard smiled. “I see you have been taking lessons from Alastor. You wrote me a letter, and I reassured you that the Black situation was under complete control and that you were entirely safe wherever you were.”

    That was the specific wording. Harry still had his wand in hand when he opened the door. Dumbledore must have noticed, but didn’t comment. “Good evening, Headmaster.”

    “Good evening, Harry.”

    “I didn’t expect you today.” He was supposed to go to the Weasleys tomorrow, for the last week of the summer. “Did… did something happen?”

    “Indeed, a serious matter, so to speak. Something best discussed in private.”

    For a serious matter, Dumbledore looked far too happy, Harry thought. But he gestured towards the stairs. “We can use my room, then. After you.”

    The old wizard nodded. “I might impose on Alastor, should I need a new Defence teacher. You certainly seem to have taken his lessons to heart.”

    “Not all of them,” Harry said as they took the stairs to his room. He wasn’t paranoid - there really was a mass-murderer out to get him. Normal boys didn’t get around the clock protection.

    “Good. Alastor is a good friend, but he is a little too zealous, at times. Understandable, of course, given his experiences.”

    They entered his room, and as soon as Harry closed the door, the Headmaster cast several spells he didn’t recognise on it. “Those will ensure that we are not overheard,” Dumbledore explained while he conjured an armchair for himself.

    Harry sat down on his swivel chair. “So…”

    Dumbledore sighed. “I must confess that I have not been entirely truthful with you - for a good reason, mind you.”

    “What?” Harry tensed.

    “I have known for two weeks that Sirius Black was no danger to you. But in order to catch a very dangerous criminal, I had to keep this knowledge secret. Even from you.”

    “What?” Harry repeated himself.

    “Sirius contacted me soon after his escape, and surrendered himself into my custody so I could verify his story. As it turned out, he was innocent of the crime for which he had been imprisoned - and the real culprit was still at large.” The Headmaster’s smile grew more grim. “That changed this afternoon. I’m happy to say that the man who betrayed your parents to Voldemort has been arrested and will be standing trial.”

    Harry gasped. “So… Black was innocent?” Twelve years in Azkaban as an innocent… he didn’t even want to imagine how horrible that must have been.

    Dumbledore nodded. “After so much time in Azkaban, he had lost a lot of his memories to the cruel attention of the Dementors, so Veritaserum would have proven less than useful. Fortunately, I had other means at my disposal.”

    “Who was the traitor?” Harry felt his fingers digging into his thighs, and forced himself to relax.

    “Peter Pettigrew. Another friend of your parents - and a spy for Voldemort.” Dumbledore grew serious. “I cannot know for certain yet how many he betrayed to the Death Eaters, but I fear he has been responsible for many more deaths than your parents and the twelve muggles he murdered to frame Sirius.” He reached out and patted Harry’s knee for a moment. “Justice will be done, trust me.”

    Harry wasn’t entirely certain of that - first Hermione was framed and expelled, and now it turned out that Sirius Black had been framed and imprisoned for twelve years. Obviously, Wizarding Britain’s judicial system was somewhat less than reliable. He nodded anyway.

    “Now, that said, there is another thing to discuss.”

    “Yes?” Harry tilted his head as he looked at Dumbledore.

    “Sirius Black was more than a friend of your parents. He is your godfather.” After a moment, he added: “Your parents intended for him to become your guardian should they die.”

    Harry gasped again.

    *****​
     
  18. nobodez

    nobodez Bringer of Context

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    I see your ignoring anything regarding the magical Americas from post-Deathly Hallow, what with the lack of a MACUSA.

    Oh, and a good chapter too.
     
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  19. Starfox5

    Starfox5 Versed in the lewd.

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    Oh, yes. I had my version of the New World done before the movie came out, and see no reason to change it. In my stories, I generally assume that the wzards split from the muggle world in 1692, when the SoS came into effect, and their countries developed differently from the muggle ones. No Magical USA - that wasn't even an idea back then. Instead, there's a collection of usually warring magical enclaves at the east coast where all the people who didn't fit into Magical Europe's older countries went to (From "Mudbloods are only fit as slaves" to "Long live the Muggleborn Republic! Death to Purebloods!"), the native shaman nations in the middle of the continent, where they managed to stop the wand-armed wizard colonists (and have been playing divide and keep them at bay" ever since, and Magical California at the west coast.

    Similarly, there's still a Magical Ottoman Empire around in ym version of Europe and the middle East.
     
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  20. preier

    preier Getting sticky.

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    like it.

    still lots of "they really will be sorry that they were so naughty but let's not actually do anything"
    for draco and his accomplices, snape etc... from dumbledore. harry and ron... well they have the
    excuse to actually be powerless and there seems to be actual mental progress, good job.

    harry's lack of open incredulity at dumbledore's "Justice will be done, trust me" really felt like a missed occasion though ^^
     
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  21. Starfox5

    Starfox5 Versed in the lewd.

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    Dumbledore is constraint by the fact that Lucius would jump at any sign of "Dumbledore takes his anger at my policy out on our poor, defenceless children". Something at least Ron will understand, thanks to his dad. But there will be changes at Hogwarts indeed.
     
  22. Pahan

    Pahan Know what you're doing yet?

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    I'm wondering what you're going to do with Voldemort. On the one hand, with Pettigrew captured, he's going to have a harder time coming back; on the other hand, it's going to be harder to knock the horcrux out of Harry without him around.

    So, my wild speculation is that things might go more in accordance with Dumbledore's original hope --- that Harry be older and more experienced before he has to face Voldemort in earnest; but Dumbledore might still get himself killed hunting horcruxes, leaving both sides without their uberwizard. Voldemort's impending return would make it necessary to destroy the Death Eaters' politically and economically, so that Wizarding Britain could present a united front.
     
    Last edited: Aug 8, 2017
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  23. Prince Charon

    Prince Charon Experienced.

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    Reading these, I sometimes wonder how the various characters from your AUs would react to your other AUs. Like, imagine how the Hermiones from Divided and Entwined or MLR would react to the situations in Lady Thief, Patron, or Family Business (and vice versa, for that matter).
     
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  24. Starfox5

    Starfox5 Versed in the lewd.

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    I've been shooting for a different solution to the Horcrux problem in every story so far since I don't like repeating myself. So, it'll be something new. At least for me.

    That'd be a god plan for Dumbledore. Without the dying himself part, of course.

    Well, I like to think that they're still the same at their core. Even Hermione from Spygirl was raised as the daughter of dentists. And while the AUs have their differences, I think the core conflict is still quite recognisable and relatable for every itineration of Hermione.
     
  25. Pahan

    Pahan Know what you're doing yet?

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    D&E!Hermione: Sounds like you'd be great at planting explosives in the purebloods' manors.

    LT!Hermione: Plant explosives? That sounds like something that would get a lot of people killed.

    D&E!Hermione: You say it like it's a bad thing. I call it precision delivery of munitions.

    or

    D&E!Hermione: I blew up several score Death Eaters and sympathizers.

    Patron!Hermione: I killed Voldemort and every marked Death Eater with one spell.

    LT!Hermione: I... I'll just stand over there. Outside the blast radius. And, um, ACCIO Any Parts of Me Not Currently Attached to Me.

    or

    D&E!Hermione: Wasn't allowed to return to Hogwarts after my OWLs under Voldemort-inspired laws.

    LT!Hermione: Expelled from Hogwarts and beggared after being framed for theft.

    Patron!Hermione: Lucky b#$%es.
     
  26. Prince Charon

    Prince Charon Experienced.

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    Rather like that, yeah. I also think they'd be very curious about the cultural and historical differences between their various worlds, because Hermione is Hermione.

    Some of them might find FB-Hermione's philosophical defense of prostitution a bit disturbing, though not all for the same reasons. I think at least D&E Hermione would agree with her about killing the goblins after hearing her story, though.
     
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  27. Threadmark: Chapter 3: Past Sins
    Starfox5

    Starfox5 Versed in the lewd.

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    Chapter 3: Past Sins

    London, No 12 Grimmauld Place, August 21st, 1993

    Sirius Black was pacing back and forth in the entrance hall. He would meet his godson Harry for the first time in almost twelve years. And Harry had spent all that time thinking Sirius had killed James and Lily. He would hate him. And rightly so - Sirius had failed his parents. Harry’s parents, that is. He had let the traitor escape. He had...

    “Sirius!”

    He whirled around and faced his old friend - whom he had failed as well - and barked. Barked? He blinked, then realised that he had changed into Padfoot without noticing. Again. Sirius quickly changed back. “Sorry.”

    Remus shook his head. “You don’t want to greet Harry as a dog.”

    He flinched. Things were easier as a dog. Clearer. Simpler. That had kept him alive, and sane - more or less - in Azkaban. As Padfoot, he didn’t worry much. He didn’t brood much over his past. He didn’t feel much guilt. He simply was what he was. “It’s just… he will hate me!”

    “Why would he? You were unjustly imprisoned. You broke out to save him when you realised how close the traitor was to Harry. You brought the traitor to justice.” Remus shook his head. “He has no reason to hate you.” In a lower voice, he added: “I’m the one who has no excuse for never visiting him.”

    Sirius didn’t have a good answer to that. He tried anyway. “You were not really yourself after the war. Not with all of us…” he trailed off, wincing. “And there’s your furry little problem.” Remus could use that as an excuse, couldn’t he? Get something good from his curse, for once. “You couldn’t get enough of the Wolfsbane Potion.” That would change, of course. What use was the Black fortune - all his now, as he was the last Black heir - if he couldn’t use it to help his friends? Or his godson’s friends. Hadn’t Dumbledore mentioned that a witch had gotten into trouble helping Harry, or something? Ah, Harry was his godfather’s son, already charming the ladies and getting them into trouble!

    “I’m only dangerous for three days a month,” Remus muttered, looking even gloomier now.

    Sirius grinned. “Ah! Finally you admit it! I’ve been telling you that for years, and you never accepted it!” He rubbed his chin in an exaggerated fashion and forced himself to smile widely. “Something else that you have in common with witches, now that I think about it - they also usually never believe me, and they are rabid beasts a few days per month as well…”

    “Sirius!” Remus half-yelled, half-groaned in that achingly familiar way of his.

    Sirius smiled for real now, remembering the good times, at Hogwarts, when… he blinked. He didn’t remember! Nothing detailed. Just some hazy images… and fragments of laughter and… he shook his head. His smile gone, he cursed under his breath. “He’ll understand, Moony.” But he wasn’t convinced himself. Remus should have visited.

    And Sirius shouldn’t have been in Azkaban.

    He noticed that he had changed into Padfoot again when he realised that the world hadn’t just figuratively lost all colour, and that the background noise wasn’t the moaning and ranting of the other prisoners in Azkaban, but the screams from his mother’s portrait, dampened by the enchanted wall Dumbledore had put up five minutes after Sirius had brought him to the Blacks’ ancestral home.

    Which, he thought, after changing back into a wizard, wasn’t their actual ancestral home, being far too young for their family tree - but the Blacks didn’t talk about what had happened to their real ancestral manor in 1756. Not even after they had taken revenge for it.

    He sighed. “Maybe we should do something useful, instead of simply waiting.” And brooding. And turning into dogs. “Most of the rooms here still haven’t been cleared of curses and traps.” Dumbledore had said he’d send a Curse-Breaker over, but the man hadn’t been available yet, and the Headmaster hadn’t had time to do more than Sirius’s bedroom - which had been filled with more traps than Sirius had expected, and all of them focused on his bed - and the kitchen.

    Remus stared at him. “Have you forgotten what happened the last time we tried?” Sirius blinked at him, and Remus hissed. “Sorry, I didn’t…”

    Sirius shook his head. “No, no, I remember.” He shrugged. “We got a bit singed. No harm done. No real lasting harm done,” he corrected himself when Remus pointedly glanced at the sleeve of his brand-new robes. “We’ve been through worse at school.” At least he thought they had been… Weren’t Dementors supposed to only take the good memories?

    “Yes.” Remus’s face showed a mixture of nostalgia and regret, so Sirius had guessed correctly. “But it also took us an hour to recover. Meeting Harry while you’re on fire is hardly better than meeting him as a dog.”

    His friend was right, but Sirius wasn’t about to concede so easily. ‘Never admit anything, least of all your guilt or defeat’, hadn’t that been their maxim, back at Hogwarts? He couldn’t remember. Dumbledore had said his memories would return, over time… but had been cagey when Sirius had asked how long it’d take. “Bah.” He was about to launch into a tirade about being Gryffindors when the fireplace in the hall lit up. Harry!

    He bounded over - bounded? He changed back again and spread his arms… and almost hugged Dumbledore. Sirius managed to turn his gesture in a credible bow, though. “Welcome to my humble and curse-infested home.”

    “Thank you, Sirius. Remus.” The Headmaster smiled - he probably hadn’t been fooled - and stepped to the side. A second later, a body shot out of the fireplace and into the hall.

    Sirius eyes widened. “Harry?”

    Harry - Dumbledore wouldn’t have brought a stranger, would he? - sat up, rubbing the back of his head and mumbled what Sirius was certain were curses Sirius’s mother would be appalled to hear. His godson really took after him! “Yes? Sorry about that; magical travel doesn’t agree with me. Apart from brooms.” He stood up. “Mr Black…?” he trailed off as he offered his hand.

    Sirius grabbed and shook it, enthusiastically. “Call me Sirius! Or Padfoot. You look like James…”

    “... except I’ve got my mother’s eyes, I know,” Harry interrupted him, then winced. “Sorry, I just hear that all the time.”

    Sirius chuckled. “Well, it’s true.” He hadn’t lost those most precious memories. His godson was cheeky too! “I’m sorry for not meeting with you sooner… I was in prison. Unjustly, you know.”

    “Yes. The Headmaster explained it to me.”

    “Did he?” Sirius glanced at Dumbledore, who nodded. One weight off his chest, he guessed - his memories were a bit spotty, after all. With that out of the way, it was time to talk about the main topic. He forced himself to smile widely again. “Good. Now… as soon as I’m officially exonerated, I’ll take custody of you and fulfill my duties as your godfather!” Harry looked surprised, and Sirius felt his stomach drop. “If you want me to, I mean…” he added in a smaller voice. Harry hated him!

    “Ah… I think I do, yes.” Harry nodded. “Though we might get to know each other first?”

    Sirius refrained from turning that into a double-entendre and nodded. “Have I mentioned I’m rich?” Kids liked gold, didn’t they? “If you need anything, you just have to ask; the Black fortune is at your disposal!” That should help his godson see that he was the best choice as his guardian.

    Harry looked surprised again. “Err… how rich?”

    Sirius grinned - honestly, this time. “Well… I’ve heard you know Malfoy, right?” Judging by the scowl on his godson’s face, he did know the tosser. Wait, that would be the tosser’s son. But, like father, like son… unless it was Sirius; he was an exception. He shook his head. “Anyway, we’re far richer than them!” Unless his family had managed to squander the entire fortune before they had all died off. But that was unlikely - as this cesspit of a house proved, they had lived more than frugally in his absence. Probably.

    “Well, it wouldn’t be for me… and it would be very expensive, but I have this friend, my best friend - my best female friend - and…”

    “Say no more!” Sirius clapped him on the shoulder. “Spending gold to impress your girlfriend is always a worthy expense!” Harry was his godfather’s godson!

    “Err... she’s not my girlfriend,” Harry said.

    Dumbledore cleared his throat, and Sirius could see that Remus had his face covered by his hands.

    “What?”

    *****​

    London, No 12 Grimmauld Place, August 21st, 1993

    Harry Potter stared at Sirius Black - his godfather, the Headmaster had said - as the man looked first confused, then concerned and almost afraid. His clothes looked new, but Black looked haggard, his face pale and hollow-cheeked - a weird contrast with his well-kept beard.

    “What?” Black repeated himself, looking from Dumbledore to the other wizard - whose name Harry hadn’t yet been told - and back. He wasn’t looking at Harry, though.

    “Harry’s twelve,” the other man said.

    “Thirteen,” Harry corrected him. He wasn’t twelve any more.

    The other man was showing his teeth, too. “Thirteen. That’s not an age to... spend gold on a girl.” That made the offer to help Hermione sound… dirty.

    Dumbledore cleared his throat. “Harry’s friend’s situation is a little more complicated than it may appear.”

    “She helped save me from one of Malfoy’s plots, and, in revenge, Malfoy’s father had her framed for theft, and ruined her family,” Harry explained. “Her family was sentenced to pay a huge fine.”

    Black nodded, apparently taking this at face value. “That sounds like the Wizengamot I know. Or rather, the Wizengamot I never knew, since I didn’t get a trial.”

    For a moment, silence filled the room - a rather dark and dusty entrance hall, complete with a big stairway leading up to the first floor. Though the wall at the back looked new. Harry looked at the third man again. “So… who’re you?”

    The man took a deep breath, but it was Black who spoke up: “That’s Remus. Remus Lupin. He was one of your parents’ best friends. We were inseparable in our Hogwarts years. If not for me, he’d have been your godfather.” Black was talking almost as fast as Hermione in a rush, Harry thought. And he was smiling widely again. “You may be wondering why we didn’t visit you, after the war.” Harry hadn’t but he hadn’t known about Lupin until now.

    “Sirius!” Lupin hissed.

    Black was undeterred, wrapping his arm around his friend’s shoulder. “Well, I was in prison, as you know. Innocent, though. And Remus is a werewolf.”

    “Sirius!” Lupin literally growled.

    “He’s only dangerous for about three days a month - like witches - but since werewolves are considered dark creatures, and he couldn’t afford the Wolfsbane Potion, he felt too bad to visit you.” Black nodded. “That has changed, though, since he now has a job. He’ll be your new Defence teacher!”

    “Ah.” Harry didn’t know what else to say. He had no idea about werewolves, other than muggle movies and comics.

    “Oh…” Sirius blinked. “Please don’t tell anyone about his furry little problem, will you? That could get him fired. People are afraid of werewolves.”

    “An unfounded, but unfortunately common, prejudice,” Dumbledore said. “Werewolves are wizards like you or me. Only under the full moon, three nights per month, do they transform. And only in their cursed form can they spread the curse. Even without the Wolfsbane Potion, which grants them control over their cursed forms, they can take precautions to avoid endangering others during that time.”

    “Ah.” That made sense to Harry. At least for the moment.

    “I’m very sorry I didn’t visit you,” Lupin said, shaking off Black’s arm. “I was in a bad place, after the war. I had lost all my friends, or so I thought, and…” He shrugged and didn’t meet Harry’s eyes.

    “It’s alright,” Harry said. He wasn’t certain if he meant it, but Lupin looked rather pitiful.

    “So… that’s settled. Let me show you the house! At least the safe parts. Which aren’t that many, but we’re working on it!” Black exclaimed after a moment.

    “The safe parts?”

    “Oh, yeah. Most of the house is littered with traps and curses. My parents went a little crazy before their death.”

    Harry silently wondered if that ran in the family as he followed the two strange men to the kitchen.

    *****​

    “What are your impressions of your godfather and your future teacher?” Dumbledore asked Harry after they arrived in the small park near Privet Drive.

    Harry shook his head before answering - Side-Along-Apparition didn’t agree with him either. “They seem…” He searched for a diplomatic way to say ‘mental’. “...to have gone through a lot?”

    The Headmaster sighed. “Indeed. Both of them suffered a lot after the war, and little blame can be applied to them for it.”

    Harry made a noncommittal sound.

    “You may be sceptical, understandably so, but I can assure you that they are both good men - although fallen on hard times. Sirius has spent more than a decade under the cruel attention of the Dementors, and Remus has been struggling with his curse since he was a child, always afraid of being hated and feared by everyone should his secret be revealed.” He looked sternly at Harry.

    “I won’t tell anyone!” Harry quickly said.

    With a smile, Dumbledore continued: “Few knew about his secret and did not fear him. Your parents were among them, and they and most of his other friends were lost in the war. In addition to that, Remus has spent all these years hating his best remaining friend, thinking he was the traitor responsible for all of this. That burdens him more than anything, I presume.”

    “I guess so.” Harry could understand that, but he still felt some resentment. If he had known about his parents, about magic earlier…

    For a few minutes, they walked towards his relatives’ home in silence. “Will I be living with my godfather once he is cleared?”

    “Only if you want to,” the Headmaster said. With a wry smile, he added: “And not before the house has been thoroughly cleared of curses and traps - and dust and dirt.”

    “So… shortly before I graduate?”

    Dumbledore laughed. “You may be underestimating what magic can achieve, my boy. I estimate that you could, if you want to, spend Christmas with Sirius in comfort and safety.”

    That would mean he could see Hermione more often, Harry thought. Sirius lived in London, after all - much closer to her new home. And… “Sir. Do you think my godfather will help Hermione?”

    “I have no doubt. Sirius is a very generous person, and keenly aware that your friend was framed as a result of her helping you. As well as that, Sirius has suffered a grave injustice at the hands of the Ministry himself, just like Miss Granger. Such a shared experience will make him rather sympathetic, I think. He cannot currently access most of his family’s fortune, but once he has been exonerated, that will change.”

    “But it’s a huge sum.” Harry had thought he was rich, after seeing his vault, but he couldn’t have covered the Grangers’ debts even if he spent all his gold.

    “Your godfather was not lying when he boasted about his wealth. He can afford it - though it will certainly not be a trifle, not even for the famous Black family fortune.”

    That sounded good. “How long will that take?”

    “Not too long. Pettigrew’s trial will be held this week, and Sirius’s should follow soon afterwards.”

    Harry felt relieved. That meant he could tell Hermione the good news before he went to Hogwarts. If everything went well.

    *****​

    Devon, Ottery St Catchpole, August 23rd, 1993

    “The boys are in the garden, weeding, my dear. We didn’t expect you this early.”

    “Thank you, Mrs Weasley. I’ll go find them, then.”

    Previously, meeting the Weasleys hadn’t made Hermione Granger feel so conflicted. On the one hand, she hated the pity Mrs Weasley was showing her. She didn’t need the witch’s pity - especially not since the Weasleys weren’t really better off than her own parents. On the other hand, Ron’s mum had accepted her without reservations, convinced of her innocence. And shared her ire at the Malfoys. And the Weasleys knew what it meant to be poor. Although they had had a longer time to get used to it. A much longer time.

    She stepped out on the porch of the house and looked at the nearby pond, then closed her eyes and faced the sun for a moment. Autumn was fast approaching, and you should use an opportunity when it presented itself, as Mr Fletcher was fond of saying. Provided it was safe to do so, of course.

    But she hadn’t come here to sunbathe - and how she missed her summers in France! She had come to see her best friends. Shaking her head, she walked out to the garden. Harry and Ron stood there, looking at something in Ron’s hand. A gnome, she realised when she reached them.

    “Harry! Ron!”

    “Hermione!” the two chorused. She hugged Harry while Ron disposed of the gnome in his hand by throwing it over the fence before hugging her as well. He seemed to have grown and put on some muscle during his time in Egypt. And he had gotten a tan - or at least what people with his skin tone had after a long time in the sun.

    She buried the jealousy thoughts of Egypt caused her to feel, then frowned. “Shouldn’t you turn them around a few times, to prevent them from coming back to the garden?”

    “Well, yes. But one gnome more or less won’t matter. Can’t get rid of them for good anyway.” Ron shrugged.

    Harry laughed. “Yes. I was tempted to get some for my aunt’s garden, but Ron persuaded me not to.”

    “Really, mate - you don’t want to degnome your garden every day next summer!”

    “Well… if all goes well, I won’t be living there next summer,” Harry said.

    “Oh?” What had happened? Hermione hadn’t heard anything about this.

    “Yes. My godfather, Sirius Black, has offered to take custody of me.”

    “What?” She stared at him as his serious expression gave way to a smirk.

    “Didn’t I mention that?” He was even laughing now. At her.

    “No, you didn’t.” She pursed her lips. “And why would you want to live with an escaped mass murderer who wants to kill you?” Unless that wasn’t true. Hermione knew very well how wizarding justice worked.

    “Well, he’s innocent, for one thing,” Harry said.

    “Yes,” Ron cut in. “The real murderer was Scabbers!”

    “What?” His rat?

    “Yes!” Her friend was nodding emphatically. “He was an animagus. A wizard named Peter Pettigrew.”

    One of Black’s supposed victims, she remembered. “Like Professor McGonagall?”

    “Yes. He’s been hiding as Percy’s and my pet for years!” Ron shuddered and looked like he wanted to retch. “Black recognised him from that picture in the Prophet, broke out and told Dumbledore. And when we got back from Egypt, Dumbledore was waiting for us. Scabbers tried to run, but the Headmaster had him stunned, petrified and bound in an instant. Too bad he didn’t kill the rat!” he added with a scowl.

    “If he had died, then Sirius would have trouble proving his innocence.” Harry was frowning at Ron.

    “He slept in my bed!” Ron retorted.

    Hermione wasn’t about to get into that argument. She could understand wanting revenge. All too well. “So, you’ll be moving to Black’s home then?”

    “I’m not certain yet.” Harry sighed. “I’d like to leave the Dursleys, of course, and they would be happy to see me go, but… Sirius is not exactly… well, he’s been locked up for over ten years in Azkaban, and it shows.”

    Hermione winced. That probably meant Harry’s godfather was dangerously unstable.

    “I’ve heard people go crazy in Azkaban after a year!” Ron had the grace to blush when Hermione and Harry both glared at him. “Sorry.”

    “Dumbledore says he’ll get better, but…” Harry shrugged. “I guess I have to see how he is come Christmas.” He smiled at her. “But there’s good news for you!”

    “Yes?”

    “Sirius is rich - really rich. He can pay your debts! And he said he’ll do it,” Harry added.

    Her friend sounded excited, but Hermione was sceptical. Or cautious. “It’s a huge sum.”

    “He’s much richer than the Malfoys.”

    “Oh.” He could afford it, then. And without ruining himself, unlike Harry. “But would he want to spend so much gold on a stranger? Once he is feeling better.”

    Harry blinked. “Well, I think so. If he wants me to live with him, he better do it!”

    “Harry!” She frowned at him. “You can’t decide whether or not you’ll live with him over whether or not he pays my debts!”

    “Sure I can! If he doesn’t want to help you after you got into trouble for saving me, then he obviously doesn’t care about me that much!” Harry grinned at her.

    “He’s got you there, Hermione.” Ron grinned as well.

    She huffed, but there wasn’t much she could say refute that. And, if she was honest with herself, she didn’t really want to say anything to refute it either.

    If Harry’s godfather paid her debts, then she didn’t have to feel that guilty any more for wrecking her parents’ lives.

    “So… how about a quick game of Quidditch?” Ron asked. “The weather’s perfect for it, and Mum won’t have lunch ready for an hour or so - Dad’s going to be late, seeing as he has to talk to the DMLE about Scabbers.”

    “Well…” Harry glanced at her, then at Ron.

    “Sure,” Hermione said, “let’s do it!” She tried to sound as enthusiastic as she could. The surprised - or even shocked - expressions on her friends’ faces helped.

    “Really?” Ron was gaping at her.

    “Yes, really.” Hermione smiled. Mr Fletcher had told her to get better at flying - a good thief needed to be a good broom flyer as well. Apparition and Portkeys could be blocked much more easily than a fast broom.

    She would simply have to get a better broom than the decrepit ones she had flown at Hogwarts.

    *****​

    London, Enfield, August 23rd, 1993

    Hermione Granger doubted that she would ever be any good at Quidditch. Even now, many hours after the game, she felt despondent when thinking about it. She had done embarrassingly badly in every position they had put her. They had finally settled on her being Keeper, since ‘she might block a Quaffle by accident, at least’, as Ginny had put it, the little traitor. She set her jaw - she would master broom riding. She had to. And no piece of wood would get the better of her. She was a witch!

    And she was procrastinating, she added to herself, sighing, when she glanced at her parents. Her mum was sitting at the table, going over bills, and her dad was reading a magazine. Shaking her head, she stood up. She had to do this.

    “Mum? Dad?”

    They looked at her, and she couldn’t help feeling that their tired smiles hid their justified anger at her. It was her fault, after all, that they had been ruined. Financially, at least. “Yes, dear?”

    She took a deep breath. She had debated this - it was just hearsay, although Harry wouldn’t lie to her - but her parents needed to know. If only to give them some hope. “There is a possibility that my debts will soon be paid.”

    “What?” Her parents looked more alarmed and suspicious than hopeful, she noticed.

    “Harry has recently reconnected with his godfather, who has offered to pay my debts, since this all started when I helped save Harry. He hasn’t got control of his family fortune yet, though - some legal entanglements need to be resolved first.” That was a good, neutral way to speak about a charge of mass murder, she thought. Her parents didn’t need to know every detail, after all. “That shouldn’t take too long, though.” Her smile faltered a little when her parents still didn’t look like they believed her.

    “Dear, we’re talking about a huge sum - a real fortune. For normal people, at least,” her mum said. “People don’t pay that much to friends of their godchildren. No matter how rich they are.”

    “And even if that man did - and you haven’t mentioned his name yet, I noticed,” her father said, and she winced in response, “you - we - would simply owe him. Even if he said we wouldn’t. There’s always a catch.”

    She pressed her lips together. “His name is Sirius Black.”

    “The wanted murderer?” Her mother gasped.

    “He was framed,” Hermione said.

    “Framed?” He father sounded even more sceptical.

    “Yes, framed. But they caught the real culprit, and so he’ll be exonerated soon.”

    Her father’s scoff told her enough about his faith in wizarding justice.

    “And he was in that wizard prison, with the Dementors?” Her mum’s face and tone told her that she knew what that meant for Black’s mental health.

    “Yes.”

    Her parents exchanged a glance she knew very well. They didn’t believe her. But she would prove them wrong. She would set this right, no matter what it took. And she would make Malfoy and the others pay for their crimes!

    *****​

    London, Ministry of Magic, August 25th, 1993

    “This is your first time at the Ministry of Magic, right?”

    Harry Potter nodded at Mr Weasley without really looking at him - he was busy taking in the sights in the Atrium. So many wizards were bustling about, coming and going from the half a dozen or more fireplaces lined up along one side - the same fireplaces from which he, Ron, Percy and Ron’s dad had just stepped out, or, in Harry’s case, stumbled out. And there was a big marble fountain with golden statues in the middle of the hall, between them and their goal - which seemed to be a lift guarded by two wizards in grey robes.

    “Those are Hit-Wizards,” Percy said - he must have noticed Harry’s glance. “They’re wizards who specialise in magical combat, unlike Aurors.”

    “Aurors are the police, right?” Harry asked. He had seen them, in their red robes, when they’d arrested Hermione.

    “Yes,” Mr Weasley answered. “There aren’t as many Hit-Wizards as Auros - they mostly guard the Ministry and Azkaban.”

    “In times of peace there is not much need of Hit-Wizards. Certainly not enough to justify the expense of paying a large number of them,” Percy cut in, in his typical, slightly pompous, manner.

    “That might be true, but it means that when you suddenly need more Hit-Wizards, you have to hire and train them first,” his dad retorted. “It’s better to spend more gold in peace than needed than to spend Auror lives in war.” He sounded unusually serious to Harry - but then, they were here on serious business.

    “Henry. Bertie.” Mr Weasley nodded at the two Hit-Wizards.

    “Arthur,” the one on the left, Henry, responded. “Here for the trial?”

    Mr Weasley nodded. “Yes.”

    “Nasty business. You know the way.”

    The doors opened, and the four stepped into the cabin. Once the lift was moving, Mr Weasley sighed. “What’s wrong, Dad?” Ron asked.

    “It’s nothing.”

    The three boys exchanged glances. Harry was certain it wasn’t nothing, but it wasn’t as if he could push Mr Weasley. And neither Ron nor Percy seemed willing to pry either.

    He shelved the thought when they arrived on the Wizengamot’s floor. There were more guards here - both Hit-Wizards and Aurors - and they were quickly ushered to the seats for the audience, which Harry found were in the topmost row of the Wizengamot Chamber.

    Most of the seats were already occupied - but a number of people offered him their spot when they recognised him. For once, Harry was glad about his fame, though he could have done without the whispers behind his back. Or, as he realised when he overheard some ‘didn’t notice him for over ten years…’ comments, behind the Weasleys’ backs.

    He was distracted by Mr Weasley pointing out various members of the Wizengamot as they started to file in.

    “There’s Augusta Longbottom. She is the proxy for her grandson, until he comes of age.”

    “Neville will be a member of the Wizengamot?” Harry asked. It was hard to imagine the rather shy boy in this Chamber, mingling with the other impressive wizards.

    “Technically, he already is, but he cannot vote until he is seventeen years old,” Percy explained. “So his grandmother votes for him until then.”

    “There’s Malfoy, the bloody bastard,” Ron spat through clenched teeth.

    That was the man who had forced Hermione out of Hogwarts, Harry thought as he stared at the blond wizard. He looked very similar to Draco - just taller, and even more arrogant, in his opinion. Harry wished he could curse the git.

    “Must be hard for him, judging a fellow Death Eater,” Ron muttered.

    “He was under the Imperius,” Percy said, not bothering to hide his doubt. “Officially.”

    “That’s enough, boys,” Mr Weasley said. “This is not the place for such talk.”

    Chastised, the three remained silent until the chamber had filed and the trial began.

    Harry didn’t pay much attention to the opening - he focused on Pettigrew, chained to the accused’s chair, down below, in the centre of the chamber, flanked by two Aurors. The wizard who had betrayed his parents and framed his godfather looked pitiful. A small, cringing man in tattered robes, stringy, unkempt hair falling to his shoulders. And his face… He looked like the rat he had been for so many years, Harry thought.

    “...accused of treason, twelve counts of murder and conspiracy to pervert the course of justice. How do you plead?”

    “N-not g-guilty!” Pettigrew stammered. “I’m innocent! It was all Black!”

    While Pettigrew’s plea was noted down and his personal information confirmed, Harry leaned over and asked Mr Weasley: “Treason?”

    “Supporting the Dark Lord is considered treason,” Ron’s dad whispered back.

    A stern-looking woman with a monocle was leading the interrogation. “Did you willingly join the Dark Lord?”

    “No! No! I didn’t join him! It was all Black! He forced me!”

    “Did you willingly take his Dark Mark?”

    “No! I didn’t! I was under the Imperius!”

    “Did you betray the location of James, Lily and Harry Potter to the Dark Lord?”

    “No, it was Black! He is the traitor.”

    Harry clenched his teeth. Whatever small amount of pity he had felt for the miserable wizard down there had vanished. “Damn liar!” he muttered as Pettigrew tried to blame his godfather for all his crimes.

    “I hope he gets the Kiss!” Ron whispered, glaring at the man.

    With Pettigrew denying every charge, the interrogation didn’t take long, and Madam Bones, the Head of the DMLE - Mr Weasley had pointed her out to him earlier - stood to address the Wizengamot.

    “Honoured members of the Wizengamot! You have heard the denials of the accused. He claims he had been placed under the Imperius Curse by Black and forced to join the Dark Lord, to take his mark and to betray the Potters. He spins a tale about how he barely escaped Black after the murder of the Potters, and how Black just failed to kill him while murdering a dozen muggles! And yet he cannot explain how he was able to escape Black if he were under the Imperius Curse. Or why he didn’t come forward after Black’s arrest - nor went to St Mungo’s to have his finger regrown.”

    “I was afraid for my life!” Pettigrew yelled. “I knew Black would escape! He...”

    A flick of the left Auror’s wand cut Pettigrew off. “Silencing Charm,” Percy mumbled.

    Madam Bones continued unperturbed. “But, most importantly, he cannot explain why he hid as a rat among a wizarding family for twelve years, living as the pet of two of the family’s sons, spending years at Hogwarts, in close proximity to Dumbledore himself, but never daring to seek the Chief Warlock’s protection. He has not offered to testify under Veritaserum either.

    “Honoured members of the Wizengamot! The man bears the Dark Mark. His behaviour cannot be explained by him being under the Imperius Curse, nor by him being afraid of Black - not after the Dark Lord had been killed and Black had been sent to Azkaban. No, the only explanation for the accused’s actions is that he was a follower of the Dark Lord. If there is any doubt about this man’s guilt, which I do not believe there is, then I ask for an interrogation under Veritaserum. Otherwise I ask for a guilty verdict, and for the accused to be imprisoned in Azkaban for the rest of his natural life.”

    Harry noticed that many were nodding in agreement with the witch as she sat down. Even Malfoy!

    The Minister for Magic, Cornelius Fudge, rose from his seat. “Mr Pettigrew, what do you have to say in reply to that?”

    Mr Weasley whistled. “No one is willing to speak for him. That’s not surprising, given the charges.”

    “Don’t they have lawyers?” Harry asked. He was no expert, but the accused had a right to a lawyer. At least on the telly.

    “Lawyers?” Mr Weasley shook his head. “This is not a muggle court. Only members of the Wizengamot have the right to speak here. Apart from witnesses and the representative of the DMLE.”

    “Ah.” Harry nodded.

    Down below, Pettigrew was blathering: “I’m innocent! It was all Black’s fault! He imperiused me! I couldn’t help it! I was so afraid, even with him in Azkaban! I knew he would escape! He had even fooled Dumbledore! I… I… I’m innocent!” He broke down in tears and sobbed in his chair.

    The Minister rose from his seat again. “Honoured members of the Wizengamot! Those among you in favour of clearing the accused of all charges, light your wands.”

    Very few wands lit up in response. Pettigrew wailed.

    “Those among you in favour of conviction, light your wands.”

    The entire chamber seemed to light up as dozens of lit wands were raised.

    “The accused has been found guilty of all charges. Does the Wizengamot wish to alter the requested sentence?” One wand was raised in response. “The chair recognises Mr Malfoy.”

    Murmurings filled the chamber as Malfoy’s father stood up. “Honoured members of the Wizengamot! The crimes this man has committed are without peer. Not only has he betrayed the Potters, whose son saved us all from the Dark Lord, but he also framed the scion of the Black family, a man who should be sitting among us now as the Head of his family, causing him to be imprisoned, despite his innocence, in Azkaban for twelve years! The Chief Warlock himself reminded us just recently of the fate of a prisoner of Azkaban; I do not think I need to add anything to that. For crimes such as these, the Dementor’s Kiss is the only appropriate punishment.”

    The murmurs grew louder. Harry stared, his mouth hanging open. Malfoy had been the last wizard he had expected to ask, no, demand that.

    “Blimey!” Ron muttered. “I didn’t expect that!”

    “It helps to distance him from Pettigrew,” Mr Weasley explained. “He only escaped prison himself because he claimed to have been imperiused.”

    “One rat sacrificing another rat to save himself.” Ron scoffed.

    When the majority of the Wizengamot followed Malfoy’s suggestion and, once again, many wands lit up the chamber, Mr Weasley stood up. “Come on, boys. You don’t want to see what comes next.” Ron opened his mouth, probably to protest, but his dad glared at him. “No, you really don’t want to see that, Ron. Come on.”

    They were not the only ones in the audience to leave.

    *****​

    London, Greenwich, August 26th, 1993

    Sirius Black Innocent! Peter Pettigrew the Real Killer! Sentenced to Dementor’s Kiss!

    Hermione Granger shook her head as she read the front page of the Daily Prophet. “How quickly justice is done if you’re a pureblood and rich,” she muttered, more than a bit envious of Black’s good fortune.

    “That’s the way things are in Wizarding Britain,” Mr Fletcher responded. “The rich get off. Though I wager that it’s the same among muggles.”

    She hadn’t expected him to overhear her - he had been reading the sports section in his favourite armchair and had seemed to be focused on the Quidditch scores. Another lesson in not trusting appearances. And he wasn’t exactly wrong. “Yes, but it’s not usually that blatant,” she admitted. “Although that might be because there are too many newspapers and other media in the UK to be bought off.” She was getting a tad too cynical for her age, she thought. But the things the article had said about the Weasleys, the hints about how they had to be either stupid, or would have known about Pettigrew… Someone wanted Ron’s family to suffer for this, and she was certain she knew who.

    Mr Fletcher laughed. “Yeah. Though the Prophet is an equal opportunity newspaper - if you have the gold, they’ll write what you want.” He put his own newspaper down. “But isn’t this good news?”

    “It is.” Hermione was already feeling guilty about her envy. “Mr Black offered to pay my debts.”

    “Did he, now?” Mr Fletcher tilted his head sideways. “That’s shockingly generous of him.”

    Hermione frowned at the wizard’s tone. “Harry asked him to, and Mr Black thinks the world of his godson.” And, from what Harry had told her, he felt terribly guilty about the death of Harry’s parents.

    Mr Fletcher scoffed. “That’s a hell of a sum to pay to get into your godson’s good graces - even if he’s the Boy-Who-Lived. On the other hand, the Black fortune is legendary. More than once I toyed with the notion of breaking into the house. But it was too dangerous.” He stared at her. “The Blacks earned their reputation as one of the most dangerous families in Britain. They know more dark curses than any other family, and they know how to use them as well. Black’s cousin Bellatrix was the Dark Lord’s right hand. Deadliest witch in decades. And Black’s got a reputation as well.” He snorted. “I bet that also played a role in his exoneration - he wasn’t present at his trial, but remained in hiding. So everyone knew that if they voted against him, he would know - and could get at them. Or their families. If you steal from the likes of him, you have to make dead certain that no one knows it was you, or they’ll hunt you down and kill you - slowly.”

    She didn’t think planning to rob Harry’s godfather was a good idea - especially not after his generous offer. “He seems like a good man. He fought the Dark Lord, until he was unjustly imprisoned without trial.”

    “I’ve met him a few times in the past,” he answered. Hermione filed that away with the other information her tutor had let slip about his past. “Brave and brash, the stereotypical Gryffindor - though that was before he went to Azkaban. That changes a man.”

    Hermione knew that as well. “He might change his opinion about me too, once he recovers from that ordeal.”

    Mr Fletcher laughed again. “You don’t ‘recover’ from bleedin’ Azkaban. I ’aven’t yet met anyone who did.”

    She nodded.

    “But it affects people differently. Most go mad in there, but some come out broken, and some come out… nastier. Crazier. Knew one cutpurse, got caught once too many times, and spent a year in Azkaban. ’E came back a killer. Didn’t cut purses any more - ’e cut people. Ta pieces. Took an Auror down with ’im when they ran ’im down.” He was staring at the wall now. “Never thought bleedin’ Cuttin’ Curses coulda done that.”

    She shivered. “Well, Dumbledore thinks Mr Black is safe to be around.”

    Mr Fletcher scoffed. After a moment, he took a deep breath, and continued, his accent gone again. “Even if Black pays your debt, even if he says it’s a gift, you’ll owe him. You’ll owe him big.” He grinned. “You want to get even with people - for good or ill.”

    She couldn’t deny that. “I plan to get the gold back from the pureblood bigots anyway. With interest.”

    He laughed, but not in a patronising way. “And with that said, let’s get started on today’s lesson. Today, we’ll study the Supersensory Charm. It’s not third year material, but after seeing how you did in your tests, I don’t doubt that you’ll cast it easily.”

    Hermione smiled - she had done well in her mock-exams. Not as well as she would have had she stayed at Hogwarts, of course. But more than well enough. And she was determined to keep that up. She had to if she wanted to get her revenge.

    *****​

    Hogwarts Express, September 1st, 1993

    Harry Potter was looking out of the window, watching the landscape pass as the train wound its way up north, towards Scotland. Ron was reading the latest issue of Quidditch Weekly for the third time - today. “You know,” the redhead suddenly spoke up, “usually, Mum asks me if I’ve packed all my things. Today, she asked if I remembered the advanced locking charm Bill taught us in Egypt.”

    Harry remembered the scene - he had been present, after all. And Mrs Weasley had been adamant that neither her children nor Harry would be framed as thieves. “Hermione wasn’t that impressed by the charm, though.”

    “She’s Hermione. The charm will keep Slytherins out, at least.”

    Harry could have pointed out that Hermione had been the one Malfoy and the other Slytherins had framed, but that wouldn’t have served any purpose. He had to trust that the measures the Headmaster had said he had taken would prevent them from repeating their foul plot. “We’ll still have to be on our guard.”

    “Can’t trust the slimy snakes,” Ron agreed.

    Hermione would have told them that snakes weren’t slimy, Harry thought. He sighed. At least they could meet her on Hogsmeade Weekends. Probably in the local bookshop, he thought with a grin, then frowned - she might not have the money to buy the books she wanted. Harry did, though. He couldn’t pay her debts, but he could at least pay for her books.

    His thoughts were interrupted when the door started to rattle - someone was trying to get in. He heard some incantations as he drew his wand, noting that Ron had done the same, and loudly asked: “Who’s there?”

    “Open up, Potter! Or are you scared?”

    Malfoy. Harry snarled. He wanted to hex the git.

    “Do it yourself. Or are you too stupid to open a door, Malfoy? Need your father to do it?” Ron yelled back.

    “You… just you wait! Granger’s gone, and you’re next!”

    “He doesn’t even bother lying about it,” Harry muttered as Malfoy tried once more to open the door, before moving away.

    “Everyone knows it was him anyway. Everyone who counts, at least.” Ron scoffed.

    Harry nodded, but he knew that enough students believed that Hermione had really stolen from the Slytherins. Or wanted to believe that.

    *****​

    Hogwarts, September 2nd, 1993

    “Have you heard? Malfoy got detention! On the very first day of classes!” Ron yelled with a wide smile as Harry came down the stairs to the Gryffindor common room from their dorm .

    “For the rest of the week!” Lavender cut in, nodding several times. “Parvati heard it from Padma, who heard it from Zabini.” The witch lowered her voice until half the room was crowding around her. “He threatened that second year muggleborn, Colin Creevey, who went and told McGonagall. And an hour later, Snape’s tearing strips off Malfoy’s hide.”

    “Snape? Punishing Malfoy?” Harry shook his head. He couldn’t believe that.

    “Zabini said that Snape told the Slytherins that if he had to punish them because they went against the Headmaster’s rules, then he’d make them suffer even more for the humiliation,” Lavender went on.

    “Zabini is a snake. He probably wants us to think that,” Ron said, scowling.

    “Even Snape fears Dumbledore.” Neville shook his head, then cringed when he realised he had the room’s attention. He continued, though: “And Dumbledore was very clear at the feast that anyone trying to get others in trouble would regret it.”

    “Malfoy was rather quiet at dinner,” Harry pointed out. “And the Slytherins didn’t jeer at us either.”

    “Well, good!” Ron huffed. “They should expel him. And the rest of his snakes.”

    “Not Zabini, though. He’s dreamy!” Lavender said with a smile.

    “He’s a snake!” Ron yelled.

    Harry slipped away while Ron and Lavender started to argue about Zabini. Lupin had asked Harry to meet him after dinner, and Harry didn’t want to discuss how fanciable Zabini was, or how stupid it was to trust a Slytherin.

    *****​

    “Ah, there you are, Harry. Come in.” Lupin sounded even more tired than he had an hour ago, in their first Defence lesson of the year.

    Harry had barely taken a step inside when he found himself gathered in a tight hug. “Harry! How do you like being back at Hogwarts?” Sirius Black was apparently visiting his old friend and in a chipper mood.

    “Hi, Sirius,” Harry said after he had been put back down on the ground. He glanced around. Lupin’s quarters were adjacent to the Defence classroom, and he was familiar with them, having helped Lockhart with his fan mail last year. Lupin didn’t seem to have made many changes - other than the massive cage in the corner. There would be a full moon tonight, he remembered. “It’s weird to be here without Hermione. And the rumours are running wild about the Slytherins.”

    “Oh! Just like James, when Lily had been sick for a week!” Sirius said, nodding with a grin before blinking. “Or was that the Easter break?” His eyes lost their focus, and Harry didn’t catch what he was mumbling under his breath.

    Lupin cleared his throat, drawing Harry’s attention. “The Headmaster has made clear that he will not tolerate another incident such as what happened to Miss Granger. Apart from having instructed the house-elves and rearranged the portraits to keep an eye on the dorms and the students between classes, he has also had a quiet word with each Head of House, or so I gather, to ensure they will keep their students under control.”

    Sirius snorted, apparently no longer lost in his thoughts. “The only teacher with whom he needed to speak was Snape. Bloody... bastard,” he finished, and Harry caught Lupin glaring at his godfather.

    “I heard Malfoy received detention.” Harry tried to look as if he wasn’t fishing for information.

    “That is correct.” Lupin looked grim. “He threatened students with expulsion, hinting that they would be exposed as criminals. The Headmaster wasn’t amused.”

    “Bloody git! As rotten as his father,” Sirius snarled. “Did I tell you that Lucius Malfoy is trying to prevent me from taking over my family’s affairs? He has ‘voiced concerns about my mental state’,” he added with a sneer. “Call me crazy, will he? I’ll show him crazy!”

    “No, you won’t,” Lupin said firmly, despite his obvious physical discomfort. “That’s exactly what he wants you to do. Dumbledore has said that the most Malfoy can do is delay your taking control of the Black fortune - as long as you don’t play into his hands.”

    Sirius looked mulish, but nodded. Harry couldn’t help feeling that Malfoy’s depiction of Sirius’s mental health wasn’t completely wrong. “How long will that take?”

    “A few months at most,” Sirius said.

    “Provided Sirius behaves,” Lupin added.

    “I’ve just been talking to a few of my soon to be honoured colleagues.” Harry’s godfather grinned widely and shrugged. “Told them my tale of woe from Azkaban, a few tales from the war… they were very understanding.”

    “Just be careful.” Lupin sighed, as if he didn’t think Sirius would manage.

    “Anyway, I’ve not - just - visited dear Moony to see you and bore you with talk about politics,” Sirius said, sitting down on the couch. “There’s a more serious matter to discuss as well.”

    More serious than his godfather’s gold and Malfoy’s plots? Harry looked at him.

    “We need to train you, Harry.”

    “Train me?”

    “Yes. Dumbledore told us that Voldemort isn’t dead, as most people think.”

    “I know. I met him last year.” Harry pressed his lips together.

    He remembered that grotesque figure stumbling out of the dungeons when Harry, Ron and Hermione had been caught out after curfew by Quirrell. It had come straight at them. “Inferi!” Quirrell had yelled and stepped into the thing’s path, his wand flashing, but his curses had no effect on the attacker. Not before it had reached him and swatted him aside with inhuman force, smashing him against the stone wall. The sound of the teacher’s head cracking open, the sight of the blood and brains on the wall… Harry shuddered at the memory. And that paled in comparison to the sound of two voices screaming themselves raw and the horrid smell as the creature was burned alive by his own touch...

    “Harry?”

    “Harry!”

    He shook his head. “I’m alright. Just remembering.”

    The two wizards exchanged a glance. “Anyway,” Sirius said, “He is out there, a shade, a ghost, or something else, we don’t know. But we do know that he wants to kill you. Almost did, too. Of course, we’ll do our best to protect you, along with Dumbledore, but this is Voldemort we’re talking about - our best may not be enough. And you can’t depend on Lily’s protection either. So you need training in Defence.”

    “You won’t be able to take on the Dark Lord in a duel, of course,” Lupin took over, “but it might be enough, combined with everything else, to escape him.”

    Harry slowly nodded. He had mixed feelings about this. On one hand it was refreshing to see that they were open and honest with him about his chances. On the other hand, it was also rather depressing.

    “Mad-Eye Moody wanted to train you, said you had talent, but you’re not yet ready for Moody’s insane idea of ‘training’, Sirius went on. “Might as well face the Dark Lord - that might be less dangerous. So Moony and I will train you, a few evenings a week. Shouldn’t cut into your Quidditch training sessions. Can’t let the snakes win the cup, now, can we?”

    Harry’s godfather apparently didn’t know the current team captain, Harry thought - Wood was a maniac when it came to training. But this was more important. But… “Can Ron join us? He was there too, when Voldemort attacked me. And he’s my best friend.” Best mate, in any case.

    “Of course!” Sirius said at once with a wide smile. “Just like James and me!”

    Harry didn’t know if that was a good thing.

    *****​

    London, Diagon Alley, September 4th, 1993

    “Mr Smith?” Hermione tilted her head to the side, as she had practised. “I think this ’at ’ere looks best.” She held her wand with two fingers as she pointed it at a wide-brimmed hat on the rack in Madam Malkin’s Robes for All Occasions - apparently, pointing with your bare hand was considered a gaffe, as was holding your wand as if you were ready to cast a spell. She brushed a strand of blonde hair behind her ear and smiled brightly at her tutor.

    “Ah.” Mr Fletcher looked at her, then turned back to the saleswitch with whom he had been chatting - flirting, Hermione thought, despite the age difference. “Pardon me a moment, dear. It looks like my charge has made her selection.”

    He walked over to her and bent a bit down to peer at the hat. “A classic, Miss Abel.”

    “Thank you, Mr Smith.” Hermione dipped her head, slightly tilted still, and kept smiling as if she had just been praised for an excellent essay by Professor McGonagall.

    “But it might not go too well with your robes.” Mr Fletcher rubbed his chin. “Dear, do you have matching robes in stock? Elegant, but not too daring - nothing French, please.”

    The shop did have such robes in stock, of course, and Hermione found herself being fitted with new robes quickly enough. And they weren’t at all daring, in her - admittedly uninformed - opinion.

    “How did I do?” she asked half an hour later when they had left the shop and she noticed Mr Fletcher subtly casting a privacy spell.

    “Passable. The accent was still a little overdone, but that can be explained by being a recent arrival. You need to add just a hint of French, nothing more,” Mr Fletcher said. “Remember: You’re a young witch born out of wedlock, and you’re trying your best to fit in in your father’s country.”

    She snorted, but kept her vapid smile in place. At least the wig she was wearing didn’t itch and the fake glasses were charmed to be near weightless. “It seems as if I just have to act as if I don’t care about anything but appearances.”

    “Appearances are crucial in our business,” her tutor chided her. “You need to fit in perfectly, so no one will ever suspect you of having even the slightest nefarious thought.”

    She had known that, though acting like some of the girls in her dorm - her former dorm - grated. “And do I have to flirt with the saleswitches too?”

    He laughed. “No. But you need to know how to treat the staff. Friendly enough so they don’t despise you, but also with the right amount of aloofness to fit your role as a pureblood.” He snorted. “You can’t afford to underestimate the staff. Even house-elves, whose limited magic barely makes them more competent than muggle servants, can spoil a heist. They are too weak to stop you, or even slow you down, but they are sneaky, generally know their master’s house better than the owners themselves, and all they need to do is to sound an alarm to ruin your day. They, like human servants, see much more than their masters suspect. And most of them gossip like schoolgirls.” He grinned. “You’ll find that out yourself, when you’re learning how to act as a maid.”

    “I can’t wait.” She didn’t care to hide her lack of enthusiasm.

    He chuckled, presumably at her expression - she had remembered to pout, to stay in her role, instead of scowling. “Oh, it’s not that bad. Only fools mistreat their servants, and such fools rarely have anything worth the effort - or if they do, posing as their servant isn’t necessary.”

    She huffed. “Why do wizards even have servants? There’s a spell for everything.” She had seen Mrs Weasley do the work of half a dozen housewives in an afternoon using magic.

    “Status, of course. Whether it’s a house-elf, who generally are limited to the oldest families, or human servants, having others serve you is a status symbol. Some purebloods claim it allows them to focus their magic on important things instead of wasting it on trivial chores, but that’s hogwash. It’s not as if you have a limited amount of magic at your disposal.”

    “You get tired, though,” Hermione retorted. At least she felt winded after a long practice session.

    “Yes. But that’s mental and physical exhaustion. And the harder you train, the less exhausted you’ll be when it counts.”

    His grin widened a bit, and she knew there was a hard practice session in her near future.

    *****​

    Hogwarts, September 6th, 1993

    “Are you OK, mate?” Ron asked as he and Harry Potter made their way from the Gryffindor tower to Lupin’s quarters.

    “Do I look like I’m OK?” Harry shot back, a little more heated than he’d wanted.

    “You look like you’ve been used as a practice target for a swarm of Bludgers.” Ron was as blunt as ever.

    “That’s exactly what happened,” Harry answered. “Wood wanted to ‘stress-test’ your brothers and released eight Bludgers.”

    “What? That’s stupid! There’s never more than two of them in play!”

    “That’s Wood.” Harry sneered as he imitated his team captain’s speech: “‘If you can defend our Seeker against eight Bludgers, you’ll have no problem at all when there are only two of them!’ the bloke said. And, as we found out, they can’t defend me against eight Bludgers. And I can’t dodge that many either.” He rubbed his shoulder, which, even after a visit to the infirmary, still hurt. At least the Bludgers had been training balls, not the real deal, or he’d be drinking Skele-Gro for days.

    “Merlin’s beard!” Ron shook his head. “I’m almost sorry I missed practice. But I needed to finish my Transfiguration homework. Percy insisted.”

    Harry groaned. He had yet to finish his.

    *****​

    “Hello, Harry. Good evening, Mr Weasley.”

    “Ah. Hi, Harry. Ron.”

    Lupin’s greeting was as cordial as ever, but Sirius took a deep breath before addressing them, Harry noticed, and didn’t seem to be too happy to see him. His godfather hadn’t stood to greet him, and he had a glass filled with amber liquid in his hand - drinking before dinner usually meant bad news when Uncle Vernon did it.

    “What’s wrong?” Harry asked. He didn’t think refusing to to go along with Sirius’s plan to use detentions as a cover for his training was the reason for the other wizard’s mood; Harry couldn’t afford to get a reputation as a troublemaker with Malfoy around.

    “Wrong?” Sirius scoffed. “Nothing’s wrong… but nothing’s right either!” He downed his glass and then coughed fire. “You haven’t heard then.”

    “No. We were in the Infirmary,” Harry said. “Quidditch training accident!” he hastily added when Sirius’s head whipped around and the man drew his wand while rising from his seat.

    “Ah.” Sirius sat down again. “Someone stole my revenge. Again!”

    “I told you: Such talk will make you a suspect!” Lupin glared at Sirius, then sighed when the latter simply glared back. “Barty Crouch was found dead in his home.”

    Harry had never heard of Barty Crouch, and his face must have shown that, since Lupin elaborated. “He was the Head of the Department of International Magical Cooperation, but before that, he was the Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement.”

    “He was the bastard who threw me into Azkaban without a trial!” Sirius hissed. “And now he’s dead, like Wormtail - and I didn’t get to kill either of them!”

    Harry really hoped that his godfather had a good alibi, because it seemed as if Sirius would be the main suspect.

    *****​
     
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  28. nobodez

    nobodez Bringer of Context

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    Interesting developments, and I'm glad you didn't go the Wizengamut Harry route, though there's still the matter of the "mounds of gold coins" from Harry's vault, but perhaps that was just Rowling's well known hyperbole.
     
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  29. Starfox5

    Starfox5 Versed in the lewd.

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    Harry isn't rich. Sirius, however, is. But that isn't a solution to all problems.
     
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  30. Pahan

    Pahan Know what you're doing yet?

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    Interesting. Assuming a canon-like disposition, either BCJ threw off his father's Imperius about a year early and murdered his father; or someone (Lucius or some hireling of his?) did so to try to frame Sirius, perhaps not to convict but to delay Sirius getting access to his wealth. Of course, whoever did it would run into BCJ, who, while he might not impersonate Moody this time around, is still someone who can bring about Voldemort's resurrection. On the third hand, the goal may have been to free BCJ in the first place, by someone who got a hold of Bertha Jorkins's memories.

    Actually, what canon evidence do we have for the "Noble and Most Ancient" House of Black being oh-so-rich? The Wiki says they are, but they don't seem to source that claim particularly well. (Yes, I know, AU, but this is actually an interesting question in and of itself.)
     
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