The Falling

Not So Sirius

Sunlight shown through her bedroom window, making Hermione squint as she woke from probably the first full night's rest in a long time. It wasn't peaceful though, as images of her parents in the mirror and Lucius Malfoy's sickly smile flashed through her dreams. She was laying on her side, her head along with one arm resting on Harry's chest, her left leg draped over his waist. She could feel one of his hands resting on her lower back while the other touched her knee. Last night had been quite awkward at first, just as she had expected her first time to be, but being in his arms made her feel safe and secure.
She sighed as she thought about where her parents might be, what condition they might be in. Guilt was quickly flooding her, making her chest feel tight. Harry lifted his hand from her knee and stroked the hair away from her forehead. She looked up to see him smiling at her, a concerned look in his eyes. Suddenly, Hermione shot out of bed, dragging the top sheet with her, wrapping it around her body. Harry instinctively dove for his jeans, withdrawing his wand, crouching beside the opposite side of the bed.
"WHAT?" exclaimed Harry, rubbing his scar with one hand while looking at Hermione.
"Harry! You spent the night here!" replied Hermione looking scared.
"Uh... yeah... um... didn't you... we... I mean..." stumbled Harry stupidly, turning red in the face as he searched for the words, looking extremely awkward.
"What about your aunt and uncle? You didn't return last night! Won't they be furious?" asked Hermione petrified.
Harry pulled on his jeans, stowed his wand in his front pocket, then walked around the bed to where Hermione stood trembling and softly placed his hands on her shoulders.
"Not worried about them right now." he said. "I'm more worried about you."
He pulled her into a hug, rubbing her back with one hand. She laid her head on his shoulder, giving him a half hug in return, not wanting to let go of the sheet. She looked over at the clock on the wall which read, a quarter till seven. Lifting her head off of his shoulder she looked at Harry, who was lost in thought and didn't even register her looking at him till she lightly kissed him on the cheek.
"Sorry," said Harry distractedly "I was just wondering where Malfoy might be hiding your parents."
Hermione couldn't help but smile, tears welled up in her eyes. She knew that Harry would do anything to help her find them. Harry smiled at her then kissed her softly on the lips.
Hermione pushed back smiling and said, "We need to go ahead and get dressed."
"You sure?" asked Harry smiling and lifting his eyebrows, his green eyes twinkling.
Hermione smirked and replied, "Yes!" slapping him playfully on the chest. "The shower's across the hall if you want to wash up first."
Harry kissed her on the forehead, walked round the bed to collect the remainder of his clothes, then headed off to the shower, nodding his head in that direction while looking at her as if to say, wanna come?
Hermione laughed, turning pink in the cheeks, as she shouted, "GO!", pointing her finger towards the hall, watching him until he was out of sight. She continued to laugh as she picked something out of her closet to wear but quickly began to cry as she thought of what her parents might say.

Hermione threw on her bath robe and decided to go spruce up while waiting for Harry to be done. Those plans were derailed when Harry grasped her by the arm and yanked her into the shower with him. She shouted, "Harry!", as he discarded her now soaked bath robe.

After they both were showered and dressed, the hot water completely depleted, they decided go downstairs and fix a bite to eat. Halfway down the stairs however, Harry stopped short. Hermione, who was looking down, looked up quickly then jerked her hand away from Harry's. At the bottom of the steps sat a large black dog. The dog stared at them for a moment before standing up and walking into the kitchen. Hermione turned pink as she wondered how long he had been there.

Harry flung himself down the steps and into the kitchen, Hermione quickly following. She recognized that look in Harry's eyes and knew that his temper was about to get the best of him. She entered the kitchen to see Sirius standing at the kitchen counter, pouring himself a cup of coffee, Harry rounding the opposite end of the table to face his godfather. For a moment she thought that Harry had gone completely mental with rage, for it looked as though he was preparing to duel Sirius.

"Hello Harry." said Sirius taking a sip from his cup. "Are you planning on duelling your godfather?"

Sirius had apparently thought the same as Hermione, for he was clutching something inside his robes and she was sure it was a wand. She stood at the ready, fingering her wand inside her pocket, case she needed to jump in. Trust was a very fragile thing right now, for both her and for Harry.

"I haven't heard anything from anybody for WEEKS! But the moment I LEAVE PRIVET DRIVE," shouted Harry spreading his arms wide "low and behold, here stands my godfather!" Harry slammed his hand onto the table. "So is that what the Order of the Phoenix is about? For spying on people, Sirius? Is that what you've been doing these last couple of weeks? Watching me from behind the BUSHES?"

"Why do you think that the Order is spying on you?" asked Sirius calmly.

"How else would you know that I was here, aye?" scoffed Harry.

Sirius thought for a moment, as if deciding on something then said, "Yes Harry. The Order has been watching you. From behind the bushes however, I'm not certain." He cautiously took another sip then added, "You gave ol' Dung quite a turn though last night. He says you slipped off the Knight Bus before he knew it, though truth be told he was probably too busy trying to pinch a brass fitting from a hand rail to notice. Took him an hour to find you after that."

"Ol' Dung?" said Harry dryly, lifting his eyebrows.

"Mundungus Fletcher." replied Sirius. "If being a sneak thief is a profession, then ol' Dung is a professional. He owes Dumbledore quite a bit after he helped Dung out of a tight spot."

Hermione was shocked by the admission but not surprised. She could see where Dumbledore might need such an individual and how they'd be useful. Unfortunately, this information seemed to only fuel Harry's anger.

"So the Order not only spies but also harbors thieves too." said Harry coldly. "Very interesting, I'll make a note of that."

"Harry, Hermione, please let's sit down." said Sirius, gesturing towards the oblong kitchen table.

With a look of loathing, Harry took a seat at one end of the table, Sirius sitting at the other. Hermione decided that sitting in the middle was the safest, just in case she needed to cast herself between them.

"We aren't the only ones watching you, Harry." said Sirius. "Two Dementors visited Little Whinging last night. They were looking for you but instead found your cousin, Dudley."

Hermione gasped, clasping her hands to her mouth, fearing what he was about to say. Sirius closed his eyes before continuing. Harry however, continued to stare at Sirius, anger filled his eyes.

"Your cousin survived but Mrs. Figg was kissed." said Sirius.

"Mrs. Figg! Why her!" exclaimed Harry, leaning forward in his chair.

"She tried foolishly to stop them but didn't stand a chance." replied Sirius.

"Tried to stop them? Wait... she's a witch?" exclaimed Harry in disbelief.

"A squib, actually." replied Sirius coolly.

Hermione could see the anger burning hotter in Harry's eyes. He was furious, as was she, at such a major oversight. How could Dumbledore have expected a squib to protect Harry? "Or did he?" said a tiny little voice in Hermione's head.

"So Voldemort sends Dementors into Little Whinging to do me in and the best protection I can get is a sneak thief and a squib? Now, Mrs. Figg is worse than dead and my cousin is in who knows what shape!" shouted Harry, beating the table with his fist.

"Your cousin will be fine and Mrs. Figg knew the risks." replied Sirius calmly. " I'm not so sure though that You-Know-Who sent those Dementors, Harry. That is why Dumbledore and I do not think it is safe for you to stay at Privet Drive any longer this summer."

Hermione was becoming concerned by the placid look on Sirius' face. She didn't see love or worry there but instead saw someone that was trying his hardest to hide something. He might give it away if he was distracted, thought Hermione.

"Are all the Weasleys in the Order?" asked Hermione with a bite of contempt, thinking about Ron.

Sirius blinked rapidly, as though being awakened to the fact that Hermione was still present. He looked at her but did not respond. He looked back at Harry and her eyes narrowed, she was not going to be ignored.

"I asked if-" started Hermione but she was cut off.

"I heard what you said." replied Sirius. "I just failed to see how that is important. What's important is where your parents are."

"My parents?" asked Hermione, her voice fading as she spoke.

"Yes Hermione, where are your parents?" asked Sirius, now looking at her. "Dung said that they weren't here last night, nor are they present this morning, though their car is still in the garage."

"They're safe." replied Harry.

Sirius looked back at Harry, stunned by his response. Hermione was too. She trusted Harry so she did not protest.

"What do you mean by, "they're safe", Harry?" asked Sirius darkly.

"What I mean, Sirius, is that Hermione caught someone trailing her through London. She panicked, worried for the safety of her parents, and convinced them to go into hiding." lied Harry.

"Dumbledore said he would be sending a witch to fetch me but said nothing of moving my family for protection." added Hermione convincingly. "I got scared when the witch never showed, so I sent for Harry."

"You should have consulted the Order first before doing such a thing." said Sirius harshly.

"Why? She has a right to protect her family. Why does she need to ask Dumbledore's permission first?" asked Harry, sarcasm dripping from his words. "This isn't Hogwarts." he added.

"You both are underage wizards and should not be acting independently." said Sirius. "It was too dangerous to fetch Hermione else we would have sent for her weeks ago, as planned."

"Yet you show up now!" retorted Harry. "Tell me Sirius, why was it safer today than it was weeks ago? And when were you going to send for me?"

Sirius ignored him. "I've been lobbying very hard to get you inducted into the Order Harry, but if you condone this type of-"

"This type of what? Independent thinking?" asked Harry. "And what makes you think I'd want to be in the Order anyway?"

"We're just trying to protect you!" growled Sirius, slamming his cup down on the table a little harder than he'd wished to.

"And I'm trying to protect Hermione!" shouted Harry before turning red in the face.

Sirius glanced at Hermione who had gone pink in the cheeks. Her heart raced at the sound of those words, lungs filling with air as she breathed it in. She suppressed a sigh while forcing back a smile.

"I can see that." replied Sirius softly, a smile spreading across his face.

It was the first sign of warmth in Sirius' face since he'd arrived. Hermione recognized it as a look she had seen on her father's face several times before. He always had that look when he was very proud of something she had done. The thought brought tears to her eyes.

Sirius sighed, "Harry, I'm sorry. You're a bright young man and I need to trust your judgment." Turning to Hermione he said, "Hermione, as I've said before, you're still the brightest witch of your age. Whatever you have done about your parents safety, I'm sure you gave it considerable thought."

Hermione smiled weakly, nodding as she looked at the table, not wanting to show any misgivings. She was even more concerned about Sirius' sudden change of tact than she had been about his expressions. She couldn't wait till she got the opportunity to discuss it in private with Harry.

"Now then, give the state of things, neither of you will be safe here either, especially if Hermione is being followed." said Sirius, rising from his seat. "The Order has already arranged for your things to be moved to headquarters. You two will be escorted by Order members to headquarters tonight at nightfall. It's not very far from here however, we're not taking any chances."

Hermione did not answer but looked at Harry who seemed to be weighing his words carefully before speaking. Just yesterday morning she had thought of how great it would be to be going to the Order of the Phoenix's headquarters for the rest of the summer, wishing they would hurry up and come get her. Now, the thought made her want to be sick as she contemplated how hard it would be to discuss anything with Harry while surrounded by Order members.

"I had volunteered to be part of your escort however, Dumbledore thought differently." said Sirius, strolling over to the back door. "I have a task to perform then I'll see you two at headquarters tonight."

"So you just stopped by for a spot of coffee with your godson then?" asked Harry, spinning round in his chair to face Sirius, sarcasm and anger threatening under the surface.

"I wanted to make sure you both were alright." replied Sirius. "I know you're angry Harry, but we need to work together if there's any hope of stopping Voldemort."

Sirius opened the door, then in a blink, had transformed back into the large black dog, running out into the sunlight as the door slammed shut behind him. Harry spun back towards the table and laid his head on it's smooth surface. Hermione immediately got up and walked over to him, placing a hand on his shoulder. She took it as a good sign that he didn't shrug it off.

"Would you like some breakfast?" asked Hermione.

Harry did not respond but simply shook his head ever so slightly. Hermione didn't feel much like breakfast now, either.

"Harry, come with me." said Hermione.

She grasped one of his hands and forcefully pulled him to his feet and into the sitting room. She guided him over to the couch, which sat nearest a large bay window, and sat down. She brushed his untidy hair out of his eyes so she could clearly see his face. He sat there, silently brooding over something.

"What's wrong?" asked Hermione, cupping his left hand in both of hers.

"Why was I born, Hermione?" Harry asked coldly. "Everyone around me either suffers or dies."

"Harry, you cannot blame yourself for Mrs. Figg, Cedric, my parents, or yours." replied Hermione softly. "Voldemort is to blame and so am I."

"YOU?" Harry exclaimed. "How are you to blame?"

"If I hadn't called you to me, maybe an Order member might have been there to spare that Mrs. Figg." replied Hermione, tears streaming down her face.

Harry reached over with his free hand and wiped some of the tears from her face. Hermione was wondering how she could keep from telling him what she must do to guarantee her parents safety; her betrayal.

Then that tiny voice in the back of her mind said, "Remember, you only have to tell them what you want to tell them about Harry. As long as it's not damning, how can it be betrayal?"

"If I had been there last night, who's to say that this Mundungus Fletcher would have even come to my rescue?" asked Harry. "I would have probably had to deal with the Dementors myself. With Fudge and the Ministry not believing that Voldemort has returned, I would have probably been expelled from Hogwarts for defending myself."

Hermione sat up straight, her mind running full speed. Of course! That was it! That was what Sirius wasn't saying!

"Harry!" she shouted and Harry almost jumped off the couch. "I just figured out what Sirius wasn't telling us!"

"What do you mean? What wasn't he telling us?" asked Harry bewildered.

"Harry, he was obviously not telling us something!" said Hermione exasperatedly causing Harry to smile. "Sirius said that they weren't sure Voldemort sent those Dementors to Little Whinging. Well, that makes sense if the Ministry sent them."

"The Ministry!" exclaimed Harry.

"Think about it, Harry. Who else could have sent the Dementors and you just put the last piece there." said Hermione smiling. When Harry looked even more bewildered, she continued. "You said that more than likely you would have had to defend yourself, thus getting expelled for it."

"I dunno, Hermione." said Harry. "Lucius Malfoy does have a lot of influence in the Ministry and holds a certain stature amongst purebloods there but could he really convince them to take such a risk? I mean, Dementors kissing the Boy-Who-Lived, doesn't sound like a headline they would want in the Prophet."

"Probably why I didn't get a warning last night either for sending you that patronus." said Hermione, ignoring Harry's doubts and suppressing a shiver.

The thought of Lucius Malfoy thinking he could control her made her sick however, she knew appearances were a must. She must look as though she was doing as she was told. She also knew that Harry would never stand for her telling the Malfoys anything about him.

"Is your scar hurting, Harry?" asked Hermione as Harry rubbed his forehead.

"No. Sorry... habit I guess." replied Harry. "Funny thing though, since Voldemort's return in the graveyard my scar has prickled and burned constantly, but now that you asked I realize it hasn't done either all morning."

"I'm scared, Harry. He's got my parents, he's after you, and I don't know what to do!" said Hermione, her voice shaking.

Harry reached over and placed an arm around her. She laid her head on his shoulder and wondered what would become of them, tears streaming again from her eyes. Would she ever see her parents alive again, thought Hermione. If so, at what price?

"You wished to see me Minister?" asked Dolores Umbridge, her squat face attempting to look innocent as she stepped through the Minister's open office door.

"Yes Dolores, please come in and have a seat." replied Cornelius Fudge, Minister of Magic. "Close the door too, if you would."

Umbridge walked into the spacious office, which she had visited quite often as of late, closed the door behind her and took a seat in front of the Minister's desk right next to Lucius Malfoy.

"Bad business Dolores, bad business indeed." said Fudge, straightening the papers on his desk. "Just got back from the Prophet, doing damage control, of course. Dementors attacking muggles and squibs. The consequences of such a story leaking out are, I dare say, unthinkable! Therefore, I'll be writing St. Mungos today, informing them to place Mrs. Arabella Figg in complete seclusion, for her own safety."

"Minister, if I may, I was assured that Mr. Potter was where he should be, at No. 4 Privet Drive, before we sent the Dementors. I took every precaution, Minister." said Umbridge imploringly. "I had no idea that he was going off on a play date with Miss Granger."

"I'm sure you didn't, Dolores." said Lucius Malfoy. "Mr. Potter is an arrogant young man who wears his scar like a crown. I'm sure he gave no thought to informing anyone before leaving his aunt and uncle's house. It is however, a behavior that is often encouraged by Dumbledore."

"But Lucius, they administered the kiss!" stressed Fudge. "That was never part of the plan."

"Minister, had Mr. Potter been where he was supposed to be, this would not be an issue." replied Lucius. "He would have brandished his wand like a sword without regard to laws, for such things do not apply to him in his eyes, and vanquished the Dementors with a patronus. I've been told that he is quite capable."

"Regardless, we will no longer use Dementors in any tasks other than guarding Azkaban." said Fudge. "Two years in a row! We must be more careful."

"Excellent point, Minister." said Lucius. "I couldn't agree more. Now, when will the Ministry be making it public that the falling standards at Hogwarts are being addressed?"

"Not until September 2nd, Lucius." replied Fudge. "This way Dolores will be able to assert herself into the role of Defense Against the Dark Arts without any interruption from Dumbledore."

"Any chance that he will fill the position before the start of term?" asked Lucius.

"None whatsoever, Lucius, I assure you." said Umbridge in a sweet girlish voice not befitting her toad like features.

"Sirius Black." said Severus Snape flatly. "You sent Black to deal with this situation?"

"Love is a vastly complex thing, Severus." replied Dumbledore. He placed Tom Riddle's diary back in the top left hand drawer of his desk then closed a large book that he was reading. "I do not believe that anyone else could get through to Harry if he has feelings for Miss Granger."

"Why don't you speak to the boy?" asked Snape.

"Too dangerous, Severus." replied Dumbledore. "If Voldemort can see into Harry's mind, as I fear, he will use Harry to spy on all of us and I do not have to point out what position that would place you in, Severus."

"What makes you think he can see into Harry's mind?" asked Snape.

"The link between Harry and Lord Voldemort is very strong, created by what happened that night at the Potters. If I am correct, a connection will have formed between the two." said Dumbledore, staring at his great spy.

"Then why risk bringing him back to Hogwarts?" asked Snape hopefully.

"We need him, Severus." replied Dumbledore. "You say Lord Voldemort is trying to obtain the prophesy from the Ministry linking him and Harry, correct?" Severus nodded. "Then he will need Harry to fetch it for him; for Voldemort cannot risk being caught. Once however, Harry has retrieved it, Voldemort will not be able to resist seeking him out and if my plan works, Severus, we will expose Voldemort to the world!"

"What about Black?" asked Snape.

"I fear that he may be the only person that can counteract Miss Granger." said Dumbledore. "The time for Harry to fight is not yet at hand."

"So does this mean that killing Black is no longer a part of your plan?" asked Snape remorsefully.

Dumbledore hesitated before answering softly, "Correct. Sirius has redeemed his usefulness, unless the other can be dealt with first."

"What about Miss Granger's parents?" asked Snape coldly.

"Sacrifices must be made, Severus." replied Dumbledore. "Time heals all wounds. Miss Granger will recover."

"The Dark Lord calls, Dumbledore." said Snape clutching his left forearm.

"Prepare your mind then go to him Severus." replied Dumbledore.

Snape nodded then swept like an overgrown bat from the room. Dumbledore stood then walked over to Fawkes the phoenix's perch and began to stroke the beautiful plumage atop the bird's bowed head.

"Soon Fawkes, all those that doubted me will be set in their place and I will be restored to my rightful seat." whispered Dumbledore to his loyal pet.

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