Erised, and What Harry and Hermione Saw There
(a revision of the 2011 version)
an Harry Potter fanfiction
by Andrew yclept Aelfwine
The characters and situations of the Harry Potter series are copyright J.K. Rowling. They may not be used or reproduced commercially without permission. The use of these characters and situations is not to be construed as challenge to said copyright. They are merely borrowed for this work of non-commercial fanfiction, from which the author derives no financial benefit.
Warnings: First Year AU. Yours truly. Harry/Hermione. Hugging, cheek-kisses, and general sappiness. Imperfect yet non-evil Dumbledore.
So, I was thinking about putting this fic on Archive of Our Own, and I realised it needed some work. Eight hundred words later, plus some pruning of unnecessary dialogue tags and ellipses, here it is.
Harry Potter made his way back to Gryffindor Tower from the room with the amazing mirror. He was elated at his discovery, but somehow he knew that it would be a thousand times better if only he could share it with a friend. Maybe Ron will be up. I know he's missed his Mum and Dad and his baby sister this Christmas, so I'm sure he'd love to see them even if it's only in a mirror. But once he'd got through the portrait hole he saw that Hermione was sitting awake with a book, reading by candlelight. There was nobody else in the room. He wasn't used to her sitting up this late in the Common Room, but then again classes weren't in session yet. Lavender and Parvati weren't back yet, but perhaps Hermione found the dorm too lonely without them? The boys' dorm would have been pretty lonely if Ron hadn't stayed, now that he thought of it.
Hermione had returned to Hogwarts yesterday evening, earlier than the other returning pupils, well before the start of term. He'd been surprised to see her walk into the Great Hall, just before dinner, walking side by side with Professor MacGonagall. He'd felt very funny inside, which he supposed must have come from being so surprised. He'd wanted to leap up from the table, run to his friend, and fling his arms about her, which was a thing he'd never done with anyone before, but something had made him think it wouldn't look right and might embarrass her, so instead he'd waited until she came over and sat down with himself and Ron. And instead of hugging her, he'd offered her his hand to shake. She'd smiled, and held onto his hand longer than anyone else had ever done, so it must have been enough.
He started to creep up the stairs to find Ron, but then he thought better of it. Ron was probably asleep by now, and he didn't like to be awakened. Besides, they'd gone exploring night before last, and hadn't found much of anything, so Harry suspected Ron would grumble at him and go back to sleep. Instead, he took the cloak off and sat down beside Hermione on the couch. She gave a little squeak, as if she'd been lost in her book and hadn't noticed him coming in, but then she smiled at him and he felt as if the room had suddenly got much brighter. "Hullo, Harry. I thought you'd gone to sleep hours ago."
"I've found something wonderful, Hermione. Will you not come to see it?"
"Harry, it's the middle of the night. We shouldn't be out in the corridors."
"We've the cloak, Hermione. It's big enough to fit over both of us." He'd shown her his father's invisibility cloak earlier in the day, when they went for a walk with Ron and nobody else was around. She'd speculated that the cloak might bend light around itself, which Harry had thought sounded very interesting. Ron had said the idea of bending light was mental, that you might as well talk about bending the stink of Quirrel's garlic-stuffed turban or Fang's farts, and obviously an invisibility cloak just made things invisible, and then he'd started a snowball fight. Hermione had laughed and joined in, but Harry had wondered if she was disappointed at not having the chance to tell them more of her thoughts. I should ask her to talk about the bending light thing sometime. Maybe when Ron's with his brothers?
"But is this a good reason to use it? Don't get me wrong, I'd like to see whatever it is you want to show me, but couldn't we go to look at it in the morning? That way we'd not be breaking the rules."
"I don't think so, because I don't see how we could get into where it is without other people noticing and asking us why we were going into an empty room that nobody seems to have used in years. And I'd really like you to see this. It's a mirror that shows my parents when I look in. And all my family. I've never seen them before, but I know that's who they are. My dad looks a great deal like me, but I've got my mum's eyes."
"Oh, Harry, that's fantastic. I'll have to come and see it, then."
“And maybe it would show your family as well? I'd like to know what they look like.” He didn't altogether understand why she smiled so brightly when he said that, but he liked the expression.
They slipped softly out through the portrait hole, covered with the invisibility cloak. Hermione clung a little closer to his side than she strictly had to; he could feel the warmth of her very clearly. He liked that, for some reason.
They moved slowly along the corridor. Harry couldn't help but notice how much easier this was with Hermione than it was with Ron. She didn't grumble at him for not moving fast enough, for one thing. For another, she smelled much nicer.
They paused at one point in an alcove, to wait whilst Filch passed by, and Hermione laid her hand on his. Harry wondered if he were meant to hold it, but he wasn't sure, and he didn't dare be wrong. In any event, simply having their hands together felt nice, and it seemed to make Hermione happy.
At last, they reached the room where the mirror was. Harry folded the cloak. He noticed that Hermione was smoothing her hair. Well, perhaps he'd better do the same. She might know something he didn't, after all.
"Well," he said, "here we are." He cast a soft Lumos, and sat down in front of the mirror. Hermione sat so close to him that their shoulders were touching. He looked in the mirror. This time, Hermione was sat next him, just the same as she was in real life. Except that in the mirror their arms were about each other, and their outside hands were joined, and their heads were touching. His mother and father were there, but they were looking at Hermione just as much as they were at him. Very softly, his mother stroked Hermione's hair, and his. And now a man with bushy brown hair, and a blonde woman with Hermione's nose, stepped into view. His father and Hermione's shook hands warmly, clapping each others' shoulders, and their mothers hugged. A whole mob of what must have been Hermione's family appeared, and began introducing themselves to Harry's relations. Some of them seemed to already know each other. He was fascinated to see two old men in frock coats and knee breeches embrace, pounding each others' backs.
Hermione gripped his arm, hard, just short of hurting him. "Harry," she said in a hoarse whisper. "What do you see?"
"Umm... we're sat together, just as we are, and our parents seem to like each other. Our whole families seem to like each other. There's these two old men, with their hair in pigtails, and they're wearing really old-fashioned clothes, like you'd see in a picture in a history book. They're hugging each other. I think they must be relatives of ours, and really good friends, and they must be happy that you and I are friends. I wonder if that means there's Wizards in your family as well? I don't think I see anybody else who's dressed like them."
"Hmm. Anything else... about us?"
Harry was amazed that Hermione hadn't jumped on the thought that there might have been Wizarding folk in her family before her own birth. It made him worry that she might not like what she was seeing. "Well, we've got our arms round each other. I hope you don't mind?"
He turned to look at her. Her face was red, but she was smiling brightly. She looked down at her hand, as if she'd forgot it was there, and let go of his forearm. "Goodness. I'm sorry, Harry. I hope I didn't hurt you."
"No, you didn't."
"Err... could I put my arm round you?" She had a shy little smile on her face. He liked it.
"Sure." She did. After a moment more, he put his arm round her. She pressed herself against him. He glanced back at the mirror. Now Mirror-Hermione was so close to Mirror-Harry that she was practically sat in his lap. "So, what do you see? Is it different to what I see?"
There was a long pause, and he wondered if he'd said something wrong. "Well, we're together, and we've got our arms round each other. But we're sitting on a couch, in a library. It's not the Hogwarts library, and it's not any place I've ever seen before, but it looks simply perfect. Maybe it's our own library, in our own house? We're not really altogether grown up yet, I think, but we're older than we are now. I think we might be in Fifth or Sixth Year. You've... well, you're not wearing a shirt, just a pair of trousers cut off at the knees, like something you might wear at the beach if you weren't actually going in for a bathe. You've got really nice muscles, Harry. I don't think you're all that much taller than me, still, but you've fine broad shoulders. Oh, and your hair's long. Not as long as mine, but past your shoulders. It looks very good on you. I'm playing with it, wrapping a lock around my fingers. And..."
He looked at her again. She was blushing very brightly. "You don't have to tell me anything more, Hermione, not if you don't want to."
She put her lips very close to his ear. "Oh, Harry, I, well, I just hope you're not shocked. I'm almost sitting in your lap, and all I'm wearing is a shirt, and only a couple of the buttons are done up. I think it must be your shirt, because it's big on me, and somehow I don't think I've got much of anything on underneath it. You're stroking my hair, and we're reading a letter together. Somehow I can tell it's from my Mum and Dad, and it's to both of us. I don't know how I know it, but I'm certain they really like you a lot, although they'd probably rather not know that I'm cuddled up with you and... not really dressed for going out in public. Then again, I don't want to know what they're doing when they're alone together, either, and... I'm sorry. I'm babbling, aren't I?"
"Not really." He patted her hand, as he thought that might comfort her. "It's all right."
"Thanks, Harry. I hope you don't mind. I mean, we're too young, and... well, Mum said boys don't get interested in girls at our age, and, I'm sure..."
"No, I don't mind. I hope you don't. Err... I'm not altogether sure what 'interested in girls' means, but I do like girls, very much. The boys at my old school were always awful, because Dudley would hit them if they weren't, but some of the girls would say hello to me, and sometimes they would even talk with me, at least if Dudley and Piers weren't around to scare them away. And you... you're so nice, and so pretty, and..."
"Oh, Harry." She hugged him as tightly as she could. He got his arms round her, and hugged her back. "I'm sorry. Sorry you had to go through all of that. Sorry I wasn't there to help you."
"It's all right, Hermione. You're here now." She looked him in the eyes for a long moment and then, very softly and lightly, kissed him on the cheek. He didn't know exactly what he was meant to do, but he expected kissing her cheek might be the appropriate thing. She didn't seem to mind when he did; in fact, she gave him a soft little pat that made him think she approved.
They sat for another long moment, watching. Mirror-Harry and Mirror-Hermione kissed each others' cheeks. After glancing about to make sure their parents were distracted, they brushed lips. And then, after another quick look about, they kissed, very lightly. Harry's mother looked out of the mirror, glancing away from her conversation with someone who might have been Hermione's aunt, and winked at him. Beside him, Hermione made a happy little sigh, as if something she'd seen made her just as happy as seeing the two of them, and then his mother's gesture, made him. "I wonder why it doesn't show us the same thing?" she whispered at last.
"I don't know. I thought it only showed families, but I suppose that was a bit thick of me."
"No, it's not, Harry. It was a perfectly reasonable hypothesis, since that's what you saw. You're not thick at all."
"Yes, really. You could pay a bit more attention to our lessons sometimes, but I don't think that's altogether your fault. Ron distracts you something awful, doesn't he?"
"I have to admit he does. But... well, he's the first friend I ever made."
"Oh, Harry." She squeezed him a little tighter. He didn't understand why, but he liked it. "Could I ask you something? You don't have to answer me, but did your relatives punish you for having good marks?"
"Not exactly, but... when they started giving us marks at school, and I had better ones than Dudley, they started giving me even more chores. They said I obviously had too much time on my hands, and that I was probably doing something freakish to make him look bad. I didn't understand what they meant by 'freakish' at the time, but I suppose they meant magic, or something like."
"They're not here, Harry. But I am. And I'll never think badly of you for being just as smart as you really are. As for Ron, he'll get sense eventually."
Harry wasn't sure how long they sat there quietly together. He glanced at the mirror occasionally, and saw Hermione do the same, but for the most part his attention was on the real Hermione, the one beside him, and hers was on him.
At last, the clock struck. "I suppose we'd better go back to bed," Hermione said.
"I suppose we had." He took one last look. In the mirror, Harry and Hermione were stood in a doorway, dressed in pyjamas and saying good night to their parents. After the elder Potters and Grangers left, he expected to see the two of them exchange a final good night. But instead, hand in hand, they walked to a four poster bed, got under the covers, and cuddled together, their heads on a single pillow.
"Did you see us..." He trailed off, uncertain if it was right to say it.
"Go to bed together? Yes."
"If only we could... Harry, maybe that's it!"
"What the mirror does."
"It shows what we'd wish for? That makes a lot of sense, actually."
"Does it bother you, Harry?"
"No. I really do wish everything I saw could happen. It's nice to see it, even if it's only in a mirror. And it makes me happy that your wish has us spending lots of time together."
"Does it bother you that my wish has us, err, not wearing very much clothes?" She said the last bit in a tiny little whisper.
He felt his face get hot. He reckoned he'd look just as red as Hermione did. "No."
"That's good. Not that I really want to do it right now, but maybe someday..."
They made their way back to the portrait hole, gave the password, and went in. "Well, good night, Hermione," Harry whispered at the foot of the stairs.
"Harry? Could I ask you something?"
"I hope you don't mind my asking, but... have you ever even seen a picture of your parents? I noticed what you said, about your dad looking like you, and I couldn't help but wonder. I understand if you don't want to talk about it, but..."
"To be honest... I haven't. My aunt and uncle didn't have any. Well, actually, I did once see a picture of Aunt Petunia's family, when she and my mum were little, probably before my mum's First Year. There was a red-headed girl, and somehow I thought she might be... but Aunt Petunia stuffed it back in the box--she was sorting through a bunch of old photographs, putting them into albums--and I knew better than to ask."
"How old were you, Harry?"
Hermione hugged him. She buried her face in his shoulder, and he felt her body shake in his arms. Harry wondered how long they might end up standing there, and how he'd convince Percy Weasley or Professor McGonagall that it was only his fault they were out of bed.
He stroked Hermione's hair, and the back of her neck. He'd seen someone do that to someone else, to comfort them. He didn't know who it had been. Certainly Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia would never be seen in such a state, at least not where Harry might see them. He wasn't sure what it meant, but it did seem to comfort Hermione, at least a bit. The shaking stopped after a while, and at last she stood up a bit and backed off to arm's length. He could see her eyes glisten in the faint light of the coals in the grate and the single gas sconce that was always left burning. "I'm so sorry, Harry. I just wish there were something I could do."
"It's all right. I... I'm here, now, and so are you."
"I wish I could bring... well, if wishes were fishes the chip shop would pay us for every fillet we took off their hands. That's what my dad always says."
Harry wasn't sure what Hermione might be wishing she could bring to where. But he didn't mind not knowing. He was sure that, whatever Hermione wished, it would be something nice. "It's okay, Hermione. Thank you."
"Thank you, Harry. Good night." She hugged him again, and then she ran up the stairs to the girls' dorms. Harry watched her go, then went up to his own bed. Ron was snoring. As Harry changed into his pyjamas, he wondered if Professor Flitwick might be willing to teach them a Silencing Charm once lessons started up again. He closed the canopy and lay down. For some reason he started thinking about his vision in the mirror, with Hermione snuggled into his arms and the duvet pulled up to their necks. One of the things he'd realised tonight was that she smelled very nice. He called up the memory of her scent, and tried to imagine how it might feel if she were here right now. Her hair might tickle his nose, a little bit, but it would be a good sort of tickle, and he'd have no problem falling asleep.
The next night, Hermione and Harry and Ron were the last ones in the Common Room, Hermione reading and Harry and Ron playing chess. "Another game, Harry?" Ron said.
"No, thanks. I think seven losses in a row is as much as my men will forgive me." Harry's king nodded emphatically; the queen glowered at him. "Sorry. My people, I should say." The queen gave him a curt nod.
Ron laughed. "Well, then, I'm for bed."
"Harry," Hermione whispered, once Ron had left, "would you like to go and have a look in the mirror again?"
Out in the corridor, under the cloak, Hermione's hand found his. This time, he held onto it. He could almost feel her smile.
They settled down in front of the mirror. Hermione snuggled up against him, and he put his arm round her without any prompting. This time he saw the two of them sat together on a beach. He'd never actually been to one, but he'd seen pictures. There were palm trees and white sand, and the water was very blue. He thought they must be in some warm country, like Greece or one of the Caribbean islands. He always had wanted to see such a place for real, and it would be especially nice with Hermione beside him. She was wearing a one piece suit in a soft amber shade that looked nice with her brown hair and eyes, and a big floppy straw hat. Her hair was in a single thick plait.
Harry himself was wearing a pair of trunks. He wasn't sure if he liked the idea of being out in public without a shirt, but he gathered it was the appropriate thing to do. Besides that, he had the feeling it would make Hermione happy. Judging by the way the Hermione in the mirror was looking at the Harry in the mirror, he was right.
He leant a little closer to the real Hermione, and whispered "What are you seeing?"
"We're on a beach. What about you?"
"Mmm, that's lovely." She leant very close to him and whispered "What are we wearing?"
"Our swimmers. What do you..."
Behind them, someone cleared their throat. "Good evening, Mr. Potter, Miss Granger." It was the Headmaster. Goodness, this was awkward. Were they in trouble? Should he not have his arm round Hermione? Well, it was too late for that. And she'd taken a grip of his hand; he wasn't about to try and take it away from her.
"Good evening, Professor Dumbledore," Hermione said, her voice only shaking slightly. "If... Well, I was the one who thought we should come here. I practically dragged Harry out of bed. It's not his fault."
"No, I'm the one to blame," Harry said. "I wanted to go exploring, and Hermione was in the Common Room, and I talked her into coming along."
Dumbledore chuckled slightly. "Rest easy, both of you. I wouldn't ordinarily condone pupils wandering the corridors in the middle of the night, but under the circumstances I have to consider it well within my remit to look the other way. So, I see you've discovered the Mirror Erised. Have you worked out her secret yet?"
Hermione looked at him, gave him a small encouraging smile. "Hermione thinks... that is, Hermione worked it out and I think she's right, sir, that it shows what we wish for."
"We worked it out together, Harry," Hermione said. "We couldn't have got enough data alone, after all."
"And what did you see?" Dumbledore said. "That is, if it's not too personal." Hermione blushed, and Dumbledore winked in a way that made Harry think he was imagining pretty accurately what Hermione might have seen.
"I saw my family, the first time," Harry said. "The next time, when Hermione came back with me, I saw both of us and our families meeting each other. And right now... we're at the beach together, Hermione and me."
"Last night I saw the two of us, a few years older than we are, sitting in a library together. We were reading a letter from my parents. I think it might have been the library in a house of our very own, or maybe it was the Potter family's house, because we were... That is, I wasn't... we didn't have our shoes on, and Madam Pince wouldn't tolerate that." Her face was bright red. Harry didn't know what else to do, so he squeezed her hand.
"I suppose she wouldn't," Dumbledore said, "but being... barefoot together in your own library sounds a perfectly fine activity for when you're a bit older. And should I ask about tonight?"
"We're more the age we are now, and we're on the beach. It's a very pretty one, and, well, we have it all to ourselves."
"The seaside does tend to be a lovely place," Dumbledore said. "In any event, this mirror will be moved to another place after tonight, I think. And I'm afraid I must ask you both not to look for it again."
"I don't think we will, Professor," Hermione said. "But did you know that Harry hasn't any pictures of his mother and father? His aunt wouldn't even let him see a single photograph of her own sister."
There was a long moment when nothing was said. Harry scarce dared to draw a breath. Hermione's grip on his hand was as tight as a vice.
"I see," Dumbledore said at last. "I confess I had realised that your relatives would be... less than pleased to take you in. But I had no concept that anyone, not even the very worst sort of Muggles, would treat their own kin like..." His lips worked for a long moment. At last he said several words in a foreign language. If anyone else had said them, Harry would have suspected they were terrible swears. But surely Professor Dumbledore wouldn't swear, would he?
Hermione cringed, and Harry held her more tightly.
"Good heavens, Miss Granger," Dumbledore said, "I'm not angry at you. In fact, I'm most grateful for your bringing this to my attention." For a long moment, he looked into the mirror. Harry wondered what the headmaster might be seeing. He dared to take another glance, himself. He and Hermione were strolling along the beach, arm in arm. There was something in the sky. Dumbledore and McGonagall riding double on a broomstick? Swooping down and waving at them, as if this sort of thing happened all the time? And there were Harry's parents and Hermione's, all sat together at a picnic table with a big umbrella over them. There were four more places at the table, and it looked as if Dumbledore and McGonagall were coming in for a landing.
"The fact that the two of you see yourselves, together and much as you are, allowing for slight differences in age, setting, or... footwear is an excellent thing. In fact, the very most contented man--or woman--in the world would be able to use the Mirror Erised as an ordinary mirror," Dumbledore said. "That exceedingly lucky individual would see himself exactly as he was. I certainly don't."
"Professor," Harry said before he could stop himself, "what do you see?"
There was a long pause. Harry clung to Hermione, hoping he'd not just ruined everything. "I see myself holding a lovely pair of warm, thick, woollen socks in the most outrageous shade of purple I've ever seen. It's Christmas Day, in a house that's long since fallen to ruin here in the real world, and many people I've known, most of them long gone, are there. A very dear old friend has given me the socks, and I've just unwrapped them. He's reciting a little poem in German about how I've been complaining for years that people keep giving me books, and nobody ever gives me socks, so he persuaded my sister to teach him to knit and now he'll always give me socks. You're whispering in Mr. Potter's ear, Miss Granger, and I think you're translating for him. You've got your arms round each other, and it's very endearing. Your mother certainly thinks so, Mr. Potter. She's taking a photograph of the pair of you. Miss Granger's mother has got her own camera out as well. I imagine they'll share prints, so they'll each have a Muggle photograph and a magical one." Dumbledore's eyes were glistening in the faint light, the same way Hermione's had done last night.
"I'm sorry, Professor."
"Don't be, Mr. Potter. It was a fair question."
Hermione was warm beside Harry, her head almost leant on his shoulder. He wondered if she was about to fall asleep.
"Mr. Potter, Miss Granger, would you care to join me in a cup of chocolate?"
Hermione straightened. "Yes, please, Professor."
"Yes, please, sir," Harry said. Dumbledore waved his wand and said a spell Harry didn't recognise, and immediately there was a steaming china cup for each of them.
They didn't talk much as they sipped the rich sweet thick liquid. At last, when the cups were emptied and vanished away, Dumbledore said "Well, Mr. and Miss--Please forgive that slip of an old man's tongue, Miss Granger."
"Of course, Professor." Hermione's face had coloured very prettily. Her small smile made him think she hadn't minded Dumbledore nearly calling her by his surname.
"In any event, although I would encourage you both to stay close under that excellent cloak, you should find the corridors to be remarkably clear of staff. Not that you should use this as an excuse to linger outside of Gryffindor Tower, of course. Good night."
Harry and Hermione kept their arms about each other until they were inside the Common Room. Harry thought the Fat Lady's smile was a little brighter than usual, although he wasn't sure why that would be. At the foot of the dormitory stairs, they hugged and kissed each others' cheeks.
A few days later, Harry found a small framed photograph of his parents on his night table. There was a little bundle of blanket in his mother's arms--it took him a moment to realise that she was holding his infant self. His father had his arm around her shoulders. Both of them were so intent on their child that they scarcely moved more than a Muggle photograph would. There wasn't a note, but he knew who must have left it.
He went down to the Common Room to show his friends. "Oh. That's nice, Harry," Ron said. "Listen, I've been thinking, and you really need to start reading up on Seeker tactics. Malfoy's a ponce, of course, and the Ravenclaw could just as easily start thinking about some daft thing to do with clouds and forget to notice the Snitch, but this Hufflepuff fellow Diggory is excellent, at least for a Puff."
Hermione, on the other hand, almost squealed with delight. "Harry, that's wonderful! And is that you? It's such a lovely shot. Do you think the Headmaster left it for you?"
"I reckon so."
"Why would Dumbledore do that?" Ron said.
"Because Harry's parents were favourite students of his, of course." Harry was glad she'd not brought up their conversation with Dumbledore. They hadn't agreed to keep the mirror a secret from Ron or anything like that, but it seemed a little bit too private, somehow.
Fred, or maybe it was George, took a grip of Ron's elbow. "Oi, Ronniekins. Weasley meeting. Come along." Harry thought the Twin in question might have winked at him and Hermione, but it may have only been a trick of the light.
"Thank you, Hermione."
"Err, Harry? Why...?"
"You're the reason the Headmaster knew. I never would have dared to tell him."
"Oh, Harry. Thank you." She reached out and took his hand in both of hers. They sat there like that until Angelina, who happened to be passing by, sneezed.
Hermione let go of Harry's hand. Slowly, not as if she were embarrassed, but as if she knew what some people might have said in Angelina's place. "Bless you."
"Thanks," Angelina said, with a little wink.
Lavender and Parvati came past, giggling about something one of the Hufflepuffs had said at dinner. Their eyes flickered across Harry and Hermione and Angelina without a pause. Quietly, Hermione said "And thank you."
"Thanks, Angelina," Harry said.
"Any time, you two."
It was the final morning of the year. Harry was packing his trunk, and wishing he didn't have to go home to the Dursleys. They don't know I can't do magic over the summer. Maybe I can threaten them into leaving me alone, at least. As long as they're too scared to actually try anything, I'll be all right. Maybe.
"Excuse me, Mr. Potter?"
"Professor Dumbledore?" Harry knew Dumbledore would have had to have come into his dormitory, to leave the invisibility cloak and the picture, but he'd never imagined that he'd actually see the Headmaster here.
"I was wondering, do you want to go back to Privet Drive?"
"Not really, sir, but I've no other place to go. I already asked Professor McGonagall about staying at Hogwarts over the summer, and she told me it's not possible."
"I knew, almost eleven years ago, that I might be putting you in a home less, shall we say, welcoming than you deserved, but before that night in January I had no concept of precisely how much less loving that home might be. There were reasons, sound reasons, relating to your mother's sacrifice and the defeat of the Dark Lord, but still, you deserve better, and I've done some research, research that I must admit I should have done years ago. Did you by any chance know that your mother's grandmother was named Bettina Tonks?"
"No, sir." He didn't know where this was going at all.
"As it happens, she was an excellent pianist, and I myself had the privilege of playing the violoncello with her on two or three occasions, but that's neither here nor there. The important thing for our purposes is that two of her grandchildren were born with magic. Your mother's second cousin, a Muggleborn wizard named Theodore Tonks, attended Hogwarts some years before she herself came here. And his wife, Andromeda Tonks née Black, is your own second cousin on your father's side. This means that you would have much the same protection from Voldemort's followers and his lingering shade in their home as you do in the house of your aunt."
It took Harry a moment to realise what Dumbledore was saying. It wasn't that he didn't understand that he must have some living family besides the Dursleys; it was simply that the concept of someone actually wanting him, of relatives who didn't loathe the very concept of magic, was so very improbable. "Would they mind? I'm sure it would be an awful burden for them."
"Not at all, dear boy, not at all. I've contacted them, and they would be delighted for you to move in with them. As would your cousin, Miss Nymphadora Tonks, who has just finished up her final year here at Hogwarts. Would you wish to live with them?"
"Yes. If they'll have me."
A supremely improbable-looking girl came into the room. She was a head taller than Harry and her hair was the most impossible colour of pink he'd ever seen, except where it was purple. It seemed to vary in length from moment to moment, from shorter than Harry's to almost knee length. As he thought about it, he had seen her before, but Firsties didn't really look at Seventh Years, especially ones in other Houses. "Wotcher, Cousin Harry!" she said.
He held out his hand. "I'm pleased to meet you, Cousin Nymphadora."
She ignored his hand and hugged him, almost as hard as Hermione would have done. "Would you call me Tonks, Harry? Please? Only Mum calls me Nymphadora, and I'm afraid that, if you do call me by that name, I'll have to call you Ickle Cousin Harrykins or something like. And I really would hate to have to do that." She released him from the hug at last, and held him at arm's length.
"Of course, Tonks." She grinned and ruffled his hair.
"It may also interest you, Mr. Potter, that your cousins' home is in a non-magical section of Crawley."
Crawley. Why did that mean something...? "Hermione! You mean I'd be living in the same town with Hermione?"
"Not just the same town, but in the same street," Tonks said. "Speaking of which..."
"Tonks!" Hermione cried. "Hullo! Will you be riding the train home with us, or will you be Apparating somewhere to celebrate with your yearmates? And have you met my best friend, Harry? I'm sorry I didn't introduce you all year, but..."
"Oh, it's fine, Hermione. With Percy Weasley's little brother always on both of your heels, there weren't exactly a lot of opportunities, and I've been busy trying to pass my NEWTS besides. The important thing is that Harry's my cousin, and not just through my mother like every third Wizard in England is. But not even you could be expected to know that, Missy Mione, since I didn't know myself until the day before yesterday when the Headmaster told me." Tonks ruffled Hermione's hair, much as she'd done to Harry.
"Your cousin? Umm, Tonks, this is really awkward, and I don't know how to begin saying it..."
"I'm not empowered to make a marriage contract for him, Hermione. You'll have to woo him all by yourself."
Hermione blushed bright scarlet. "What I'm trying to say is, do you think there's any way at all your family might be able to take him in? His uncle and aunt are horrible, terrible, vicious people who've got no business keeping rabbits, much less fostering their nephew. I would marry him right now, if I could get him out of their house that way. But all the books say we'd need permission from both our Heads of House to marry before we're seventeen, and I know I'd never convince my father."
Harry didn't know what to say. Once or twice he'd thought about marrying Hermione, someday, in the vague sort of way he contemplated whether he might be an Auror once they'd left school or if he might even play Quidditch professionally, but surely people couldn't get married until they were grown ups, eighteen or twenty and out of Hogwarts. But if we could, and if Hermione wanted to, and if that were what it took to get out of Little Whinging, sure. I've never met anyone I'd like to marry more than Hermione.
Tonks laughed. "Actually, the Headmaster asked my parents if they'd like to take Harry in. And of course they said yes. So, assuming Cousin Harry accepts, and I really hope he does because I've always wished I could have a brother, you're going to be neighbours." She ruffled his hair again.
"I can't think of anything I'd like better."
Tonks' hair turned an even brighter, fiercer shade of bubblegum pink. "Yay! And since I'm moving back home for at least the summer, I suppose I'm going to be spending a lot of time chaperoning my new favourite cousin and my favourite bushy-haired former child-mindee. Right?"
"Oh, Harry!" And before he properly knew what was happening, he'd been caught in a full-force Hermione glomp. There was no place he'd rather be.