Hermione Granger always woke with the sun. It was not only a habit, it was necessary if she wanted to have any time to herself before the Dursleys awoke. Luckily for her, the Dursleys were generally a very lazy lot so if she woke up at the right time, she could get quite a bit done before she needed to start thinking about her morning chores. She stretched out her stiff muscles, cursing as she realised that she’d, once again, fallen asleep in front of the fireplace. That meant it was probably quite a bit later than she had thought and she’d have to hurry to get her chores done. Belatedly, she wondered why Harry hadn’t woken her…
Then she remembered: he was gone.
She bit back a sob, feeling fear and loss squeeze her heart. She still couldn’t believe they’d done it, that they’d sold him like a piece of furniture, to pay off their debts after they’d squandered all of Harry’s own money on themselves and Dudley.
She supposed she couldn’t be too surprised. After all, they treated him just like a servant – worse, even – when he was the rightful owner of the Potter estate. She’d only been here four years – she couldn’t even begin to imagine what it must be like to live your entire life under their thumb.
She shuddered, the events of yesterday flashed across her mind and suddenly she was back, reliving it all...
Hermione heard the men laughing, heard them struggle with Harry and throw him in the cage. She heard them drive away.
She sobbed into the ground, feeling helpless, as she struggled to get to her feet and chase after them, yelling and cursing. But she had hit her head too hard and just breathing made her head scream in agony and her stomach try to heave out what little she had had to eat that day. So she just lay there, listening to the laughing jeers of the men and the ever growing fainter sounds of the carriage.
By the time Hermione could sit up and open her eyes, he was gone. She stared hollowly down the dusty drive, not knowing what to think. Her thoughts were all swirling around her in a chaotic mess, much like her life. Her mind jumped from rage at the Dursleys, to wondering what would happen to Harry now, to fretting about what on earth she would tell Sirius and Remus, to wondering, rather ridiculously, what had happened to the stupid blue silk for Dudley.
Eventually, though, she got to her feet and wandered about, searching for her wand. It wasn’t really her wand, not in the standard sense. Only the very rich could afford to have their own wand made. Hermione’s wand was second hand and had belonged to Harry’s mother, Lily.
Finding it amongst the foxgloves, Hermione picked it up and placed it reverently in her pocket. Then she scrounged around on the ground to pick up the pathetic splinters of Harry’s old wand, stuffing as much as she could alongside Lily’s wand. She wondered how Lily and James would have reacted, if they were still alive. But then, Hermione reasoned, if they were then this never would have happened.
Hermione walked round the back of the house, feet moving automatically, her mind elsewhere. Ducking into the kitchen, she sat down in front of the empty cold fire place and stared at it with unseeing eyes. She could hear the distant thuds that signified the Dursleys were moving about up there, but she paid them no mind. She felt completely numb.
Or maybe not completely numb. She winced, feeling her head still throbbing. Gingerly, Hermione put a hand to her hair and felt blood. That must have been where she hit the tree, she mused, still feeling detached, and carefully pulled out her wand. Whispering a healing charm, she gritted her teeth as the spell coolly did its work, knitting together the skin and disinfecting the wound with a sharp sting.
As soon as it was finished, Hermione found herself come back to awareness with a jolt.
And then she realised just how incredibly angry she was.
Hermione Granger was finally pissed off.
Hermione shook her head, determined not to let the tears fall, wondering at her foolishness. She had gone upstairs, full of rage, to hex the Dursleys to oblivion and what had they done?
Ordered her to make tea.
Hermione actually laughed at that, albeit a little hysterical. Tea! They had illegally sold their own nephew – their own noble nephew – to deportation for crimes they had enacted against him! It was laughable, really, if it wasn’t so awful.
Hermione had yelled at them, screamed and swore and they had shouted back. The worst thing about it was that Hermione understood why they had done it. It was only a month or so until Harry was old enough to turn them out of the house and imprison them all for what they’d done to him. They’d simply ensured he couldn’t by doing it first.
What Hermione couldn’t understand was how they honestly thought they’d get away with it. The King’s ministers hadn’t listened to Sirius and Remus all those years ago, true, but didn’t the Dursleys think that they’d get a little bit suspicious when Earl Potter never appeared at court?
In the end Hermione had gotten so frustrated that she had tried to curse Dudley. Unfortunately she had missed (not due to Dudley having excellent reflexes but because he’d by chance just dropped some food on the floor and was bending over to get it) and Vernon had promptly thrown her down the stairs into the kitchen, locking her in overnight.
Hermione felt it was a bit of compensation that all three Dursleys had to go hungry that night.
A cock crowed outside, jerking Hermione back to the present. Getting to her feet, still determinedly not crying, her hand shot out automatically to grab the book that toppled from her lap. It was “Alchemy in the Modern Age”, the book Harry had given her for her sixteenth birthday. It evaded her grasp, however, and like some cruel cosmic joke landed open, displaying the message Harry had scrawled inside:
“To Hermione, devoted book reader, even with a lack of books to read. Love, Harry”
The tears finally started to fall.
Sirius, weak and tired, stumbled into the kitchen
and found her there, still sobbing, clutching her book to her as though it
might somehow bring Harry back to them.
He stopped, a feeling of foreboding taking over.
“Hermione?” he rasped out, holding on to the table for support. Last night’s full moon had been a particularly hard one. Remus had just recovered from a sickness he had been made to work through ever since last month and the effect of the silver had been particularly nasty. It had taken nearly everything Sirius had to keep his old friend alive through the ordeal. He hadn’t even needed to change into Padfoot, the wolf was so weak. Instead he had stayed human all night, whispering encouragement, trying to keep Moony’s spirit up.
At his croak, Hermione whipped round, startled, before stumbling to her feet and speaking a mile a minute. “Oh, Sirius,” she gasped, “I’m sorry, I couldn’t stop them. Not with Tonks being away and you two…” she trailed off, swallowing, before launching back in to speech. “I tried to stop them, I really did. I just couldn’t – they – you know they hate him, but I never, never thought… I mean, he’s their nephew! But then they’ve always – ”
“Stop!” Sirius bellowed, a hollow feeling in his stomach as the startled girl stopped talking. “What’s going on, Hermione – what… what did they do to Harry?”
“They… they sold him,” Hermione replied, faintly.
Sirius couldn’t believe his ears. “They – they what?”
Hermione looked at him tearfully. “You know how much debt they’re in – they’ve squandered the entire manor’s money. Some men came in yesterday and just dragged him away. They sold him to pay their taxes.”
There was a startled silence. “They can’t – he’s a noble – he’s the owner of this house – it’s his money they’re all living off!”
“They said as it was his taxes that had to be paid and he who no longer had any money they thought it fitting that he should pay. They said they didn’t see why they should loose a servant and suffer for it because of his faulty finances!”
Sirius was now gaping at Hermione like a fish, before going purple. “I’m going to kill them,” he growled, shoving Hermione to the side as he made for the stairs. “I’m going to bloody murder them in their sleep. Bastards!”
“Sirius, no!” Hermione hissed, alarmed, even though that’s exactly what she felt like doing at the moment. “You’ll be hung if you kill a member of the nobility – and what about Remus?”
But Sirius was beyond reasoning. Reaching the kitchen door he hauled it open, wandlessly summoning a kitchen knife to him. He was serious.
“Sirius!” Hermione hissed again, before whipping out her wand. “Stupefy! Accio Knife!”
Sirius, intent on revenge – retribution – whatever you wanted to call it – never heard the quiet curses from the teenager behind him. Knife safely whisked out of harms way he toppled to the floor unconscious. Levitating him back into the kitchen, Hermione deposited him safely by the fire, before hiding the rest of the knives. It crossed her mind that if Sirius was really serious then putting the knives in a locked cupboard was unlikely to stop him, but she ignored it.
That done, she sat down, drew her knees up to her chest and cried until the bell began to ring for breakfast.
“What’s taking so long? I’m hungry!”
Dudley’s whining voice made Hermione stop just outside the door. Oh, how she hated the greedy wretch, but there was nothing she could do about it. She entertained herself for a few minutes with the idea of spilling hot tea in his lap, but decided the lashing she’d receive for her “clumsiness” wasn’t worth it.
Not for the first time, Hermione wondered what on earth she was doing. By all rights she should have run off in the night, getting out whilst she had the chance. If Petunia could do that to her own nephew, then surely she wouldn’t think twice about doing it to any of the rest of them. But, if she was honest with herself, Hermione didn’t know what else to do. Godric’s Hollow was her home and had been for four years now. She had tried living on the streets before and almost died. She didn’t think she could do that again.
But things were different now. She had a family and had control of her magic. She wouldn’t have to be on her own. Remus and Sirius would be both conscious soon and they would know what to do. But in the meantime she had to play her part and, for now, her part meant breakfast.
“I’m sure breakfast won’t be much longer, Dudley, darling,” came Petunia’s voice, sickly sweet, before the icy indignation took over. “It’s very rude of her to keep us waiting this long – we’ve been here nearly five minutes. She’d better be here soon.”
Recognising the icy threat, Hermione gritted her teeth against the anger that flared and entered the room. Almost at once she was met with frosty glares. Dropping her eyes to the floor, Hermione curtsied. “My Lord, my Lady.” Trying to keep the contempt out of her voice, Hermione added, “Master Dudley.”
There was a pause and Hermione wondered how the Dursleys were going to react. She didn’t dare look up at them. That wasn’t a small argument they had had last night – Hermione had yelled and swore for all her worth and they weren’t going to let that go in a hurry. She suspected the fact that they had no idea how to make their own food (and because they considered that sort of thing beneath them) was the only reason Petunia hadn’t called back that red wizard and sold her right alongside Harry. So that begged the question: how were they going to deal with yesterday?
Apparently by pretending it had never happened.
“Well,” thundered Vernon, “aren’t you going to apologise for your tardiness, girl?”
Hermione looked up, startled, but was thankfully interrupted by Dudley. “Never mind that, father – I’m starving and if it’s much longer all the food will be cold. Come here, wench.”
“Now, Dudley,” reprimanded his mother. “You shouldn’t use such foul language in the dining room.”
Dudley made no response, already starting on the food that Hermione laid in front of him. Despite his devotion to wolfing down all his food, he still managed to spare a hand to grab Hermione with. She stiffened and moved out of the range of his grabbing hands, finding herself going red with anger. She looked over at him, before catching the eyes of Vernon. He looked at her, as though daring her to say something. She looked down, cursing both him and herself, before moving on to Petunia, who hadn’t seen anything.
“Now, Dudley, we’re not going to impress the Princess if you eat like that, darling,” Aunt Petunia was saying, pursing her lips at Dudley’s pig like eating skills.
Hermione tried not to snort at the comment – both in derision and disbelief. They had had this same conversation at one meal or another almost every single day for the past two years. As Hermione automatically served Petunia her eggs she couldn’t believe that the Dursleys were treating this as just another day: that they hadn’t just sold their relative into slavery or that she hadn’t tried to curse them all last night. She was expecting at least a little bit of tension...
“Don’t be silly, Petunia,” Vernon interjected, leaning back in his chair. “Dudley is a proper gentleman at all times – it is not his fault if he was starved due to the laziness of a wretch of a serving girl.”
Petunia pursed her lips as Hermione finished serving her and moved on to Vernon. “Hmm, yes. I don’t like that girl, Vernon – she caused such a scene yesterday – and attempting to use… you know what – absolutely obscene.”
Hermione felt her insides twinge at this, both with fear and anger. She was long used to being talked about as if she wasn’t there - the Dursleys considered themselves too far above servants to notice them more than they had to – but calling what she did last night just a ‘scene’? It made her sound as though she had just thrown a tantrum or broken some plates in front of the King. She ground her teeth and forced herself to continue serving Vernon, even if her movements were a bit jerky.
“Yes, well, unfortunately, we don’t have enough money to hire a replacement for that boy,” Vernon commented, causing Hermione to stiffen in anger. ‘That boy’ was Harry – their own nephew – and they…
“Are you somehow stuck?”
The icy enquiry came from Vernon as Hermione realised that she had frozen, bowl of eggs halfway towards Vernon’s plate. With a little bit more force than she had intended, she plonked Vernon’s eggs down before stepping back. “Forgive me, my Lord,” she apologised, curtsying again. “I was… distracted.”
“Yes, by our conversation, you rude chit,” Vernon snarled. “Be very careful, girl – much more cheek out of you and it’ll be the lash, mark my words.”
Hermione swallowed, looking down as she curtsied. “Yes, my Lord.”
She looked up to see Petunia staring at her in a calculating way and couldn’t help but shudder. So she wasn’t going to get away with yesterday then. No doubt the ‘lady of the manor’ was planning some sort of appropriate punishment and, unfortunately knowing Petunia as well as she did, Hermione knew it wasn’t going to be pretty. Petunia gave a small, nasty smile, no doubt knowing the cause of Hermione’s fear, before dismissing her. “Get gone.”
Surprised, Hermione curtsied. “Yes, my lady.”
She backed out of the room, trying not to show her relief. Usually she had to stand in there until they’d finished, trying to ignore their petty conversation and find something to interest her. Today, though, she’d been more worried about cursing them to oblivion, especially if they had said just one more thing about poor Harry.
However, as Hermione hurried down the cold, empty corridors of Godric’s Hollow, her thoughts were not on her best friend. Instead, they lingered on an exhausted, sleeping werewolf, on the other side of the house.
How on earth was she going to tell him?
Harry sat huddled in the dank cell, trying to get
warm. It was not easy. The cells were in the dungeons of the castle,
under the moat, and there was no natural light anywhere. Most of the cells were wet and slimy and he
shivered in his thin, summer garments.
Not for the first time, Harry wished he had his wand. A simple warming charm would make things so much more bearable. ‘Not to mention,’ Harry thought, with a touch of wry humour that surprised him, ‘I could get the bloody hell out of here...’
He had arrived at the cells in the evening, having first gone through a sort of central hub. Along with a score of other detainees Harry had been hauled up in front of a judge, a squint eyed, bitter old noble who looked as though he drank far too much. He hadn’t even looked at the mass of bodies before pronouncing that they were to be deported to the Americas.
Another set of red robed guards had quickly hustled them off and into another cage before Harry had time to be surprised. He would have thought that he would be going to Azkaban, not deported. He wasn’t quite sure whether to be relieved or not. He had heard many horror stories about Azkaban from Sirius and Remus, guarded by the terrifying dementors, so he supposed a new life in an exotic location instead of rotting away, driven insane by his own thoughts, on a miserable rock in the middle of the sea, was certainly a plus.
But America was so big. Not to mention extremely far away. If he got sent there, he didn’t know how in the world Sirius would ever find him or if he could ever get back. On the other hand, no one had ever escaped from Azkaban before... not that Harry thought that would stop Sirius. The question was would he still have been sane when they managed to get him out?
He felt a pang in his chest as he wondered about his adopted family and what they were doing. He hoped Remus and Hermione had managed to stop Sirius from killing the Dursleys, even though a part of him secretly hoped he had. His poor Godfather had been through so much, he didn’t deserve to be sent to Azkaban or, worse, executed.
The same could be said for Remus. Harry knew how guilty he felt every full moon, when the burden of the estate fell upon just Harry and Hermione. Harry knew that Remus would be swallowed up by guilt, thinking that if he had never been bitten, then both he and Sirius would have been there to stop Petunia. And Tonks wouldn’t even know! She was on the other side of the country doing business for his wretched relatives. Would he already be in America when she found out? Or would he still be on a ship somewhere out at sea?
And Hermione. Did she get into trouble for last night? Was she hurt by that last spell? She was only just stirring by the time the cart had taken Harry out of sight, down the long, humiliating ride to the hub. People had come out of their houses to throw vegetables at him, swear and curse him. Harry found it very hard not to hate them for that, not to scream back at them that he was innocent, that he didn’t deserve to be there. But he knew the crowd loved that and it would just spur them on.
So he had just stayed sat in his corner, numb.
A groan... Harry looked over at the other convicts in his cell. There were only five of them so far, but Harry had heard the guards talking and knew that more were being sent over later today. It had been hard enough fighting over food the last night, the other men all larger than Harry they had easily pushed him aside. Harry gingerly raised a hand to touch his swollen eye, where someone had clipped it with their elbow. It would be even tougher getting food once the new arrivals had come in.
Harry repressed a shudder of fear.
Tomorrow he was being deported.
“Eeurgh…” Remus moaned, unable to move. He ached all over. Even his bones seemed to be pounding,
matching the answering throb in his head.
He had never had such an awful full moon before. Even when he had first transformed – widely
acknowledged to be the worst – the pain after could come nowhere near matching
the agony he was now in. Even breathing
It was one of the few times that he wished he could just die right there – then the pain would go away. Then he would never have to go through something like that again. But he never did. He just carried on, doing his work, until the next full moon – the next bout of pain – was gone.
It had never been so bad when James was alive. He hadn’t lined a basement with silver and shoved Remus down there every full moon. He – with Sirius and Peter – had become animagi for him – kept him company… kept him sane. But he was gone now…
‘Better not think of that,’ Remus told himself, ‘not now.’
Remus hated the Dursleys more than he had hated anyone before – even the werewolf who had turned him in the first place. Knowing both Sirius and Remus would never leave whilst Harry was there, they had a freedom of sorts. They could do this to Remus – torture him like this – because Harry was still here and Remus would never leave him. Likewise with Sirius – neither of them got paid anymore and both were doing the work of at least twenty men, but they couldn’t leave or complain.
The door creaked open, pulling Remus from his dark thoughts. He was in his room, now, where Sirius had brought him once the moon had gone down. Trying not to grimace, Remus turned to smile at Harry, who would have his breakfast.
“Hello, Remus,” Hermione greeted, carefully not looking at him.
Remus frowned. “Where’s Harry?”
Hermione swallowed. “He’s… he’s somewhere else.”
Remus looked at her carefully. “He’s running an errand for the Dursleys?”
“You… you could say that,” Hermione agreed, picking up a spoon full of porridge. She still wouldn’t meet his eyes. “How are you feeling?”
“Bloody awful,” Remus admitted, before narrowing his eyes. “Hermione, you’re not a very good actress – where’s Harry? What’ve they done to him?”
Hermione fidgeted nervously. “You should rest, Remus – you look awful.”
She sighed. “Now, just – don’t try and do anything – you’re in a bad enough shape as it is,” she warned, putting the porridge bowl down. “They… they sold him.”
Remus stared at her. He was sure he must have heard her wrong.
“Sold him?” he repeated. “You can’t sell a member of the nobility!”
“I know that, Remus!” Hermione snapped, eyes filling up with tears. She gave one large sob before managing to control herself. “They know that, everyone bloody knows that... but they did it anyway.”
Remus couldn’t believe it. Slowly, over the past ten years, everything had been ripped away from him. First his best friends, people who had never turned away from him, despite what he was, were killed. Then they were replaced by, he could say with complete honesty, the worst people that had ever existed.
He had suffered through the gradual loss of all his friends as the Dursleys squandered Harry’s estate and both fired and sold off servants to pay their debts. Nearly every month he came close to death in his silver cage they had constructed for him and lost whatever tiny income he’d had to pay for this poison.
He had watched, helpless, as the little boy he loved suffered from horrendous neglect and turned from a happy little toddler to the quiet, impoverished boy he now was.
And now Harry, the one person he had struggled through this hellish existence for, was gone.
‘Oh, Lily, James... how I have failed you...’
Loud sobs reached his ears and he belatedly realised that Hermione was crying. “Oh, Hermione,” he said, before drawing the distraught teenager into his arms. “Oh, Hermione, don’t cry.”
“I tried to stop them, I really did,” Hermione cried, tears falling so thickly now that they were soaking into his frayed shirt. “I even tried to stun them but there was a wizard with them a-and he dis-disarmed me before I could r-really do anything!”
“Did they know?” Remus wanted to know. “Did they know who he was?”
“N-No,” Hermione choked. “They just laughed wh-when I told them.”
“Those Dursley bastards.”
Hermione gave a wet, derisive chuckle. “Tha-that’s just what Sirius said.”
Shocked, Remus pulled her back from him. “Sirius? Oh Merlin,” he swore, feeling another surge of fear. “What has he done?”
But Hermione was shaking her head. “N-nothing.” When Remus looked at her in disbelief, she added, “I stunned him. He was going to kill them.”
“They deserve it,” Remus said quietly, “but Sirius doesn’t deserve Azkaban.”
They sat there for a moment in heavy silence. What Hermione was thinking, Remus didn’t know, but his thoughts were occupied with ideas of escape. “We should make plans to get out of here.”
Hermione looked at him, shocked. “How do you mean?”
“We have to let someone know what they’ve done,” Remus said, feeling resolve hardening. “They might ignore letters about abuse but this? This is a far more serious offence. The King has to hear us out.”
“The King?” Hermione spluttered, terrified. “He won’t listen to us!”
But Remus felt a new determination settle over him. “Oh, yes, he will! I’ll make him listen if I have to.”
“But where will we go?”
Remus looked down at the girl he’d come to regard as a daughter. She looked up at him with big, brown, teary and terrified eyes and it suddenly struck her just how young she was. Just sixteen – this was going to be tough on her.
‘But then how tough is it going to be for Harry?’ he thought, feeling that knot of tight determination again. ‘Just turned sixteen and sold into slave labour by his guardians?’
“We won’t decide anything now,” he soothed her, pulling her into another hug. “After all, we have to wait till Tonks comes back – and for Sirius to come to.”
Hermione gave another wet laugh at that, before she started crying again.
And, rocking Hermione gently, Remus let his world dissolve into tears and despair. In a long run of awful days, this was by far and away the worst day of his life.