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The Perils of Innocence by puck_nc

The Perils of Innocence


Disclaimer: If you recognize the character, it isn't mine. Just playing in Rowling's sandbox.

Apology: Yes, I know, too long. I'm sorry. There was family health. There was kitty health. There was a computer that decided to up and die (flash drives are your friends, boys and girls). There was the need for an extra job for a few weeks to pay for some of this. And there were muses that were much-needed (see signal boost below) but recalcitrant. Thank you to every single one of you, from the beginning to the steady stream of you who continue to find and enjoy this story. More will come as soon as I can bang it out.

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Chapter 28

5 October 1991

Minerva McGonagall was a witch on a mission.

A fortnight ago, Mr Potter and Miss Granger had come to her to tell her about the three-headed dog on the third floor. She confirmed that it had been put there on purpose to guard something, but that she was going to try and get both moved out. They were to please not say a word and stay away from that part of the castle. The children had agreed, but had glanced at one another in a way that told her they were uncertain about keeping the secret from Mr Thomas. She offered them the option of Obliviation very carefully, knowing it was a sore spot for the children. As expected, they refused but promised to keep the secret.

The conversation woke Minerva up from the habits she had fallen into with the beginning of the school year. Once the sensation of Harry Potter being at Hogwarts had died down, she had let routine take over rather than keep a close eye on things as she had promised the parents of the Muggleborns. Even setting up the room for their study of non-magical subjects had not shaken her out of her typical schedule. Given all of that, she was rather surprised and quite grateful that the children had confided in her. She also knew that if she charged in now to try and correct where she had gone wrong, they would very likely see right through her and she would lose much of their trust.

So she waited, patiently, keeping an eye on the little group that had formed around the three students from Esperança House. She noticed very quickly that they seemed to do well in the classes with less focus on wandwork and to struggle with wands. When asked to complete essays, their grasp of the lectures and readings was sound, but when it came to the practical demonstrations they faltered. After confirming with Filius that he was seeing the same pattern in Charms, she began shadowing them a little more closely.

In her Animagus form, she watched the first flying lesson and how all the Muggleborns picked up on the concept after a brief struggle, though within their own comfort zones. Miss Granger had stayed close to the ground, keeping an eye on Mr Longbottom, while toward the end Mr Potter led a group on something of a follow-my-leader game. Her eyes lit up at the way Potter weaved around the Quidditch goals with the grace of a natural flyer. Perhaps he could be persuaded to try out for the team next year.

The Muggleborns all showed progress in Herbology and Astronomy and even Snape was hard pressed to find something of consequence to complain about. Quirrell stammered so hard when asked that she finally asked him to write it down, but his impression was positive as well. She did not waste time with Binns; the most he could possibly say was whether they managed to stay awake in his classes, presuming he even noticed.

Now she was in her cat form again, nosing around the classroom that had been set aside for them. The latest additions included a knitted afghan in Gryffindor red and gold across one of the window seats from Miss Granger's needles; she had heard that a black and yellow one for Hufflepuff was in progress. There were plants here and there thanks to Mr Longbottom.

She rounded a set of shelves to discover that the room was occupied.

Transforming out of her feline guise, the professor cleared her throat. "Hello, Harry."

He looked up from a letter in his hand. "Hullo, professor."

"I'm surprised to see you here alone. It's such a lovely day and we won't have many more of them this far north."

"I wanted to…I needed to think. I have to show this letter to the others and it'll probably upset Hermione."

"May I?" She moved to sit beside him.

Harry handed the neat white paper to her. "It's from Kevin Entwhistle. He-"

"Went to Wenlock Academy. They alerted us when he enrolled." She glanced at the letter, then focused to read more carefully as its message sank in.

Dear Harry,

I hope you and everyone else are well. Please tell them I'll write a different person each time, but I wanted to start with you.

I wanted to thank you again for your offer. Now I rather wish I could have taken it, but I have got to think of Mum as well. Being able to go home when classes end is about the best part of being here. Are any of you feeling really homesick?

I can get along in the theory classes and potions, and the basic Arithmancy class is interesting. Charms and Transfiguration are harder but I'm managing. The teachers are all nice enough and so are some of the other students. But there is this group of students that call themselves "pureblood", meaning that everyone in their family is magical and has been for several generations. They stick together and generally make things as unpleasant for the rest of us as possible. One of the older students explained to me that except for a few who are really interested in Arithmancy or warding, most of the purebloods here want to be at Hogwarts but can't because of money. So they spend all their time making sure that they feel superior to the rest of us. Is it any better there for you?

I also made the mistake of mentioning that I met you. Now not a day goes by without someone asking questions about you or wanting me to get your autograph, even a few of the teachers. I've had two pureblood girls wanting to know whether you're betrothed yet! I hope you aren't getting hounded there like this.

Tell Hermione that I'll send her copies of my Arithmancy notes. Nancy MacIntyre, one of the school prefects, said she'll do a duplication charm on them. I'll write her next and include the notes.


Minerva thought she knew, but decided to ask anyway. "Why do you think this will upset Miss Granger? He's offering her a leg up on a course that won't be available to you until third year."

"She encouraged Kevin to go to Wenlock. At least, she didn't try to change their minds-I offered to cover tuition for him, but he was concerned about leaving his mum alone for the whole term. Now that Kevin isn't happy there, she'll feel guilty about it."

"I see."

"Is it possible for students to transfer from one school to the other?"

"It is possible, but very rarely done. More often a student stays for the seven years and addresses any deficiencies in their education with apprenticeships or other study. Most often if a student transfers, it's because the family moves to another country or they can no longer afford Hogwarts."

She reached over and placed a comforting hand on his back. When he didn't flinch from her touch, she rubbed her hand in small circles. After a few minutes, he looked up.

"Professor, are there students like that here? Students who look down on us because we didn't grow up knowing about magic? I really haven't seen anything like that here, just a few people when we were in Diagon Alley. But we've been sticking together as much as possible…a group of eight or ten is harder to pick on that than just one kid."

"I'm afraid so. There is a population here like that, though they tend to end up sorted into Slytherin. If they ever do anything to bother you, name-calling or bullying, please let me know and I will deal with it."

"Yes, ma'am." Harry smiled a little. "Thank you."

"Now, are you sure you don't want to go find your friends? If you haven't walked down to the lake, you should. The Giant Squid usually surfaces around this time for a little sun."

"Yes, ma'am." Harry tucked the letter into his sleeve and left.


Harry found the girls first. Hermione and Sally-Anne were sitting on a stone bench overlooking a hut. Hermione spotted him and patted the seat next to her. "We were just talking about the Patil twins and how different they are. Padma, the one in Ravenclaw, is very studious but Parvati has nothing in her head but clothes and boys! They even-" She broke off and Harry raised his eyebrows.


Hermione's cheeks turned pink. "She and Lavender keep asking questions about you, wanting to know what kind of girl you'd like. I've tried to put them off but they're being terribly nosy."

"They aren't making fun of you or anything, are they?"

Hermione frowned, considering the question. "Well, no, at least, not where I can hear it. They're nice enough about answering questions or telling me something when they realise I don't know. And the girls from Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw are nice enough as well. It's only the Slytherins that won't talk to us."

Harry nodded, about to share the conversation with McGonagall, when a huge black boarhound came bounding up the hill, barking eagerly. Harry stood and moved in front of the girls and the dog skidded to a stop, barked once more, and darted forward to lick Harry across the face.

"Eeewww!" the girls chorused, giggling as Harry tried to pet the dog with one hand and wipe his face with the other. As Hermione plucked a handkerchief from her sleeve, a huge man that Harry remembered from Gringotts appeared from behind the hut and began running toward them.

"Fang, you useless beast! Down! Down, I say! Fluffy's easier to handle that than you and he's got three heads!"

Hermione's and Harry's heads snapped around at that. Hermione remembered Sally-Anne's presence first and began wiping at Harry's face. He whispered in disbelief, "Fluffy?"

Hermione shook her head at him, but Sally-Anne was already petting the great boarhound. "Aren't you a good fellow? Aren't you?"

The man came up and made as if to cuff the dog. "Fang, you blithering idiot! That's not the way to introduce yourself!"

Hermione finished polishing Harry's glasses and handed them back to him. "No harm done. I'm sure Harry needed his face washed."

He mock-glared at her and put his glasses on. The man chuckled as he got a firm grip on the dog's collar. "Hello again, Harry. Ladies, Rubeus Hagrid at your service. Keeper o' Keys and Grounds here at Hogwarts."

Harry let them fall into conversation for a moment about how new and exciting Hogwarts was for the girls before tossing his question in. "So why is this Fluffy easier to handle even with three heads?"

Hagrid was pulling at Fang, trying to make him sit. "Oh, Fluffy's easy! Play a bit of music and he goes right to sleep. But this one has no habit to him at all. Sometimes it's food he wants. Sometimes it's petting. Sometimes it's exercise. Bloody useless thing."

Sally-Anne giggled, still petting Fang, and Hagrid blinked.

"Pardon, shouldna been so blunt in my language. Would you three like a cup o'tea? Been meaning to invite ye for a while, Harry. Don't know how much those Dursleys told you about your mum and dad, but I have a few stories I could share."

Even as Harry's eyes lit up at that, Hermione answered, "We'd love to. Come on, Fang. You want tea, don't you?"


16 October 1991

Many Wednesday afternoons, with Astronomy scheduled for midnight, the first years used the free time for study or grabbing a nap before dinner. The Muggle-based group had taken to gathering in the schoolroom for company, working on any pressing magical work, or studying up on regular subjects. They often invited others, but of the wizarding students, only Neville was a frequent participant. Ron Weasley had come a couple of times, but claimed that the posters frozen in place were just too weird, and most of the others who accepted an invitation had quickly become bored with the lack of magical focus or, in many of the girls' cases, frustrated with how efficiently Hermione and Sally-Anne kept them from getting too cosy with Harry.

Hermione was in one of the squashy chairs, working on the last rows of the Hufflepuff afghan. Dean was working on a drawing of the Great Hall; he had begun to sketch out things to better show his parents and the Esperança House doctors their life at Hogwarts. Justin and Sally-Anne were working on French. Harry, Terry, and Wayne tried yet again to change matchsticks into needles with wands.

Harry growled in frustration, poking at the matchstick with his wand and only managing to make it slightly silver-coloured. He slapped his free hand over the matchstick and after a moment's concentration, lifted it to reveal the shiny sharp needle.

"What are we doing wrong? We can feel the power in the air here, it's so thick. Just like Diagon Alley. Why can we direct it just like that, but not with our wands?"

"At least you can control it," Wayne snapped back. He imitated Harry, but his result was a completely silver matchstick rather than a needle.

Dean looked over. "Keep your hair on, Wayne. We've just had more practice, is all."

Terry sat up straighter. "Yeah, about that. How did that happen? I know Hermione said something about you all being in a psych ward when she talked us through calling our wands. But what happened?"

Harry and Dean looked at each other uncertainly, while Hermione set her knitting in her lap and went into lecture mode. "It wasn't a psych ward. It was an institution for children with problems. Mostly emotional problems, some learning problems, but it was meant for kids to live there and get help, then return home. My parents brought me there as a last resort because things kept happening around me when I was angry or upset, things they couldn't explain."

"Same with me. My doctor met their doctors at a conference and realized that we all had the same problem," Dean added.

"My aunt and uncle abandoned me there when I was five. I think I did that Apparition thing and moved from the bathroom to the kitchen and scared them too much. The doctors started by just helping me sort out my emotions, and then we started observing what happened, when or why it happened, and how I felt. I eventually learned to control the energy I was feeling in my head. It's the same energy that's so thick in the air around here, around the shopping district."

Justin and Sally-Anne had left off to listen. Justin nodded toward Hermione, who had begun knitting again. "I remember how Hermione described it and it suddenly made sense. But trying to wave our wands through it just feels sludgy, like waving through water."

"I kind of expected the brooms to feel the same as wands," Harry said. "And they did feel sort of warm and alive. But it was like they already knew what do to and just needed us to tell them to do it. Potions are kind of the same. Once you get the mix made and going, it's like you've put the energy together in a way that will complete what it's meant to do. The wands just feel…unfocused."

Terry had begun looking off in the distance as he listened, which was a habit the others had got used to. He watched as Hermione moved her needles, using the points to loop the yarn together into the proper stitches. "Half a mo… What if that's the whole point of a wand? To focus the power so we can use it better?"

The others paid fast attention. Harry pulled his wand from his sleeve. Ignoring Professor McGonagall's instructions for the moment, he simply concentrated, trying to pull in energy and send it through the wand. The same little fountain of red and gold sparks from Ollivander's shop burst from the tip. Harry kept it going, paying attention to how it felt to have that old swelling-balloon feeling change and follow the path from his head through his chest and arm and into the warm wood of the wand. Then, just as he had in his sessions with the doctors, he tried to channel the feeling away from random destruction and into something positive. Then he pointed the wand at a matchstick.

It shimmered and morphed into a gold needle.

Most of the other children cheered and clapped. Hermione picked it up, her eyes dancing with humour. "I don't know…it's rather blunt for a needle, you know."

Harry stuck his tongue out at her and put another matchstick from the box onto the table. "Come on, everyone give it a go."


12 October, 1991

Sirius Black looked around the clearing. Minerva had brought him here with Side-Along Apparition, a shrunken trunk of Muggle-style clothes in his pocket. He turned his face to the warm autumn sunshine. The manor house in their view was a handsome enough example, certainly more inviting than the Black family home in London. When his cousin Andromeda had realized that Sirius had been within inches of slaughtering the last remaining house elf in the family-provoked, yes, but Andy was not willing to let Sirius wallow in bitterness and fury-she had approached Minerva.

And the first thought that came to Minerva's mind was a pair of doctors who had helped to heal a badly abused little boy.

Minerva, her robes transfigured into a set of sensible tweeds, took him by the arm and led him to the door. Inside, she went to the welcome area with a dusky, rather attractive woman who smiled at them.

"Minerva McGonagall to speak to either Dr Greene, Dr Aymler, or Miss Pippa, please?"

"Certainly." The woman picked up a handset and spoke into it. Sirius thought it might be something Lily had described once, wishing for it after a prolonged session on her knees with a Floo call. A telering? Tele-something, anyway.

A few minutes later, another woman approached, one with a brisk professional air that made it necessary to look harder for her lovely blue eyes. She shook hands with Minerva, who asked if they might go upstairs.

The upstairs, achieved through a discreet locked door, had once been a set of bedrooms for manor guests. They were currently furnished as three simple bedrooms, one with a bit more pink-and-flowers, and a meeting room. The woman waved at them to sit at the table in the meeting room.

"Doctor, I would like to introduce Sirius Black. Sirius, this is Emily Greene, one of the doctors who helped essentially raise Harry and teach him to control his accidental magic."

Sirius shook hands. "I must thank you for that, since I managed to land myself in prison and wasn't able to be a proper godfather to him."

She returned the courtesy. "We're glad to know you. It will be helpful for Harry to reconnect with a father figure now that he's in this magic world of yours."

Minerva sat up. "Speaking of worlds, I think Sirius could use a break from ours. There is still so much pain and anger over his situation, not to mention he still needs to recover his health. I wanted to ask what you would think about him staying here, in the rooms you set aside for Harry and the others? He could very easily pay for it, and I thought…" she looked a bit apprehensively at Sirius, "…perhaps a set of ears that hadn't spent the last ten years hearing about the villainous betrayer of the Potters?"

Dr Greene looked him over. "So, a bit of rest and some professional support? Any time frame in mind?"

"I thought, perhaps, that if he stayed until December-"

"December? That's two months, Minerva!"

She glared at him for the interruption. "When Harry will be able to return here for Christmas?"

Sirius paused at that, admiring the practical, elegant beauty of it. The doctor seemed to catch on as well and offered a smile.

A smile with some very cute dimples, Sirius noted.


Author's Note: As always, thank you for reading!