Unlike a sister
CHAPTER 7: THE SNITCH
Summary: Harry told Ron he saw Hermione as his sister. Is i true? Remember, Harry has no sister.
Harry did not see Hermione for several days after that.
Her absence allowed him to be more productive at work, but nevertheless he found his thoughts often turning towards his best friend. But Harry’s work situation was further improved by several days without any developments in the Callahan case. Harry remained hopeful that a few quiet weeks could return things to normal among his rank and file Aurors.
All that said, Harry unlocked his office door Saturday afternoon with a slight feeling of trepidation. Right then, Hermione and John Lakey were in Gloucester sitting in a regional Wizengamot courtroom for Callahan’s arraignment. Earlier that day, Harry had been distressed to learn from Ginny that the Prophet had sent more than one reporter to cover the proceedings.
Now, Harry sat in the maze of Auror cubicles surrounding his office. He was listening to a briefing from one of his more trusted Aurors. His name was George Durkheim, a man of small, but stocky, stature. He had dark brown hair and a grizzly face; he had joined the force eight years ago and had a cutting intellect.
“…So that was when Regina left to inform the regional council. I was left alone with the Muggle family and drafted a report with them. All that had been stolen were a few family heirlooms and ’round eight hundred in Muggle currency. Credit cards untouched.”
“Any witnesses?” Harry asked.
“No, Chief. Whoever it was did everything in the middle of the night. Didn’t even wake up the family. Definitely a wizard though; no forced entry on the premises and I cast a few revelatory spells. There was a definite whiff around the family safe and in their parlor.”
Harry sighed. “That’s the sixth Muggle robbery in Bristol this year. Higher than average. We’ll keep an eye on it. Send a memo to Carson Martel and ask him for his personnel preferences—I’m going to send him two more Aurors until the end of the year.”
“Yes, sir,” Durkheim replied. “Anything else?”
Just then, Harry spied a slight figure quickly making its way towards him from the golden elevators. Even from a distance he could tell it was Hermione. She looked anxious. Durkheim followed Harry’s eyes and, upon spotting Hermione, turned back towards his boss.
“Right, Chief. I’ll leave you to it.”
Harry watched Hermione approach, barely noticing Durkheim take his leave.
“What’s wrong?” Harry asked as soon as she was in earshot.
“Can I have a moment with you?”
“Sure. My office?” he asked, sliding off Durkheim’s desk.
Hermione nodded curtly.
Once Harry had closed the door, Hermione spoke. “He pled not guilty, Harry. They lied to us.”
“What?” Harry said, dumbfounded. “I thought Bruton said he’d plead guilty? How can he even try that? We did a fucking priori incantatem on his wand. We know he cast those spells—and there was no Imperious Curse involved. What are they playing at?”
“I know. I know,” Hermione said, shaking her hands in front of her as she paced around the room. “It makes no sense. Bruton simply doesn’t have the evidence for that plea. John and I had come in prepared to offer him an eighty-year sentence and medical compensation for the Camerons. Generous considering the circumstances. Bruton has to be trying for some ridiculous play for public sympathy. Otherwise, I don’t know what he’s pulling… But Harry, there’s more.”
“As I was leaving the courtroom, I stayed behind to answer some questions from the press. One of the reporters from the Prophet asked me what I thought about the magical evaluation.”
Harry stared blankly at her, lost for words. He looked down and walked to his desk.
Hermione was exceptionally contrite. “I am so sorry. There was no way we could have known the press would look into the arraignment amendments and see Anne’s report. Apparently there were four or five Prophet reporters there alone, so I guess some of them had nothing else to do but rummage through the paperwork…I’m so sorry.”
Harry ran both hands through his tousled hair. “Fuck. So, this will be in tomorrow’s edition?”
“Most likely,” Hermione answered. “The Sunday edition,” she added reluctantly.
Harry cursed again—the Sunday Prophet was the most widely circulated edition of the wizarding newspaper.
“Can Lakey do anything?” Harry demanded.
“I’ve already spoken with him. Apparently, the Prophet hasn’t been too helpful—they don’t seem particularly interested in the facts of the case, as they were released a few days ago. The evaluation is shiny, new information.”
“What did you say to the Prophet about the evaluation?”
“I said something like ‘the extreme circumstances of the case warranted a thorough investigation, which included a magical evaluation…'”
Harry groaned loudly. “Hermione, that’s just it! No one yet thinks this case is extreme. They think your department is being extreme by prosecuting this man!”
Hermione’s temper flared. “Harry, the facts are extreme! Anyone can see that! Muggle Legilimency? The Cruciatus? Permanent Oblivation? Who cannot be disgusted by the facts of this case?”
Harry sighed. “Hermione, I know the facts are extreme, but you’ve got to see it from the perspective of an average wizard. Most wizards don’t know many Muggles so they haven’t internalized what it means to do this horrible shit to them. The politics of Muggle rights hasn’t reached a point where people really condemn attacks against them. You know that…”
“All I know is you shouldn’t worry about the politics of anything, Harry Potter,” said Hermione furiously. “It’s your job to uphold the laws of this country, right? That means you defend Muggles from torture by wizards, doesn’t it? If you can’t carry out your job then perhaps you had better hand it over to someone who will!”
Harry glared at her for a moment, refusing to give in to the shame Hermione wanted to heap on him. He could tell she was angrier at the situation than at him. He kept his voice calm as he answered, “You know I am the most pro-Muggle Auror Chief this department has had in decades. Do you really want to throw out accusations like that?”
Hermione looked chastened, a feat Harry rarely accomplished.
“I know. I’m not blaming you, Harry…but you’ve got to tell people that the evaluation was necessary. They’ll trust your opinion…”
Harry gaped at her. “Hermione! I didn’t even know about the evaluation until five minutes before it happened! That was your and Lakey’s call. Might I remind you that I also put a media blackout on all my Aurors about this case, which includes myself.”
Hermione swallowed and approached his desk. “I know that, Harry. I wouldn’t be asking if I didn’t think it was necessary. I know this isn’t your jurisdiction anymore. There’s no reason for me to be in this office right now, besides the fact that I need your help…as a friend.”
Harry exhaled slowly, shaking his head. They both knew that Hermione had just thrown down the “friend card.” That unassailable, unspoken pact all three of them had made when they were eleven. When one of them truly needed something, you did it. No more arguments.
“Fine. I’ll provide a statement. Two sentences, tops.”
“Thank you,” Hermione said, relieved.
Ten minutes later Harry and Hermione had composed a carefully crafted statement from the Chief of the Auror Department of the Ministry of Magic.
The Auror Department condemns the actions of ex-Auror Theo Callahan. The nature of his case required that all available means be employed to determine the facts and defend the laws of wizarding Britain.
Harry J. Potter
Chief of the Department of Aurors
Ministry of Magic
“Could be more forcibly worded…” Hermione mumbled next to Harry, both leaning over a small sheaf of parchment. “And you didn’t have to put ‘wizarding’ in front of Britain.”
“Shut it. This is the best you’re getting from me.”
Hermione smiled, her lips close to his shoulder before she straightened. “Thank you.”
Harry only smirked.
“No, I really mean it. I owe you. Anything you want, you got it,” she said teasingly. “Need to embezzle some money? I promise my Department will turn a blind eye…”
Harry chuckled, handing her the parchment. “You don’t owe me anything. Let’s just call it even for your saving my arse over the years.”
“Hmmm. I certainly hope you don’t mean every time I saved you arse, because that’s a debt I intend to collect very slowly and with interest.”
Harry found himself laughing again. Yet, as Hermione collected her things he began to feel anxious once more.
“Hermione, wait” Harry called out as she moved towards the door.
He closed the short distance between them and placed a hand on her arm. She looked up at him curiously.
“Please be careful how you handle this,” he said. “One statement from me isn’t going to turn the public in your favor. You can’t expect everyone to have your high morals going into this. Just be…delicate, will you? It’d make me feel better,” he threw in.
Hermione squeezed his elbow and smiled. “Don’t worry. I understand.”
Harry sensed she was not taking him seriously. She was only saying what he wanted to hear…
She reached for the doorknob behind her.
“But you’re wrong on one count,” she said, turning. “We can’t lower our morals to conform to the public. The public rises to our morals, even if it’s difficult to take at first.”
She shut the door before Harry could respond.
Harry arrived home at five o’clock completely exhausted. Before he left the AD, he briefed his Aurors on the news they would hear tomorrow concerning Callahan’s arraignment. Harry stressed the need for all Aurors to remain aloof from the media. Politicizing the Auror Department was the last thing they needed; the public needed to trust that their law enforcers were impartial.
Harry also told them of the magical evaluation.
There were a few gasps and murmurs, at first. Yet, once Harry had explained the need for the examination (no witnesses, no clear motive, the severity of the injuries on the Muggles) most of the Aurors began to nod in agreement. However, Harry couldn’t help noticing the stony faces of a rather large contingent of veteran Aurors in the back of the room. It was that cadre of old guard Aurors that worried Harry.
Harry set his attaché down on the foyer table as he heard small feet running down the stairs. Harry looked up just as Lily flew into his arms. Over her scarlet hair, he saw two people emerge from the kitchen—Ron and Ginny.
“Hiya, sweetie,” Harry said to Lily, kissing the top of her head and placing her on the ground.
“Daddy! Hugo’s here too. He wants to fly in the backyard. Can we go? Please?” Lily squeaked, pulling hard on his hand.
“Sure, but turn on the safety wards and no going into the forest!” Harry called since Lily was already running up the stairs to fetch Hugo.
Harry turned towards Ron and Ginny.
“Hey, you,” Ginny said, coming towards him. She quickly kissed him. “I got word at the Prophet about the arraignment. Did you handle things all right with the Aurors?”
Harry sighed. “Mostly. At least there should be no surprises for them.”
“And Hermione?” Ron asked.
“She seems to be managing things. Callahan pleaded not guilty, which is most likely a ploy for public sympaty…” Harry mumbled. Hermione’s rhetoric seemed to rub off on him when she wasn’t around.
“Huh,” said Ginny lightly. “That’s a lot to project on the guy right now, don’t you think? He hasn’t even been through trial…”
The three moved into the kitchen.
“Well, no. It’s pretty clear that Callahan is guilty,” Harry stated reasonably. “Priori incantantem and the magical evaluation all point to him as the perpetrator.”
Ginny shrugged while Ron moved towards the pantry.
Harry looked towards the kitchen table and saw several Weasley Wizard Wheezes‘ catalogs open on its surface.
Harry was about to ask Ron a random question about catalog design so he wouldn’t have to talk anymore when all three of them heard a small ‘pop’ in the entryway.
Hermione appeared a moment later, looking just as exhausted as Harry. Her hair was more frazzled than usual, her eyes bright.
“Ron,” Hermione said, moving towards her husband at the counter. “I thought you’d be at home. I was going to fix dinner…”
Ron looked at her derisively. “Hugo had a play-date with Lily.”
“Oh, right. Of course,” Hermione said, distractedly running a hand through her hair.
As Harry saw Ron roll his eyes, he suddenly felt anger well up inside of him.
“I’m going to go check on the kids,” Harry said, dismissing himself.
Harry sat in an armchair on the enormous back porch watching Lily and Hugo streak and dive through the air. Foam bludgers were careening around their heads while they passed the Quaffle to one another. The sun was beginning to set behind the small forest in the backyard, giving the sky a purplish glow. The leaves were changing color in earnest now and the wind had a mild chill to it.
He watched Lily pull off a rather complicated maneuver, scoring a goal on a nonexistent Keeper by zooming up from the ground and throwing the ball through the far left hoop. Lily had inherited her parents’ Quidditch skills. Years of watching her mother play, while her father explained the rules to her in the stands, had made her quite the aficionado. She didn’t like to flaunt her knowledge though, as Lily was all about keeping things girly. Yet, Harry could tell she would easily make a Hogwarts House team in three or four years’ time.
Hugo had also inherited his parents’ Quidditch skills—meaning Hermione’s nonexistent talent and fear of heights, and Ron’s rather shaky control of a broom. When Hugo was younger, Ron had despaired that Hugo would be hopeless on the pitch. He used to say that the boy got Hermione’s Muggle genes on the flying skills. But now Hugo was starting to resemble his father. He knew how to position himself to be in the right place at the right time, but he lacked the grace and agility of his cousin Lily.
Harry was just thinking how nice it would be to get out his Firebolt Mach7 and join the kids when he heard footsteps behind him. A moment later, someone was dangling a glass of whiskey in front of his face.
Harry moved his eyes upwards from the hand that held the much-needed libation until they landed on Hermione’s face.
“Oh, thank you,” he said, taking the glass gratefully.
Hermione moved to the wicker armchair beside him. “I figured you needed something stronger than wine after what I put you through today.”
Harry watched her seat herself. She was holding a scotch and soda. They sat in silence for several minutes, watching Lily and Hugo dart around the field. Lily was giggling as she flew in circles around Hugo, holding the Quaffle out to him teasingly.
“What did you do with my statement?” Harry asked.
“I gave it to Don Holliday, the Ministry Spokesman. I had him contact the Prophet immediately upon receipt. They said they’d run it in tomorrow’s paper.”
“Good,” said Harry, lifting the glass to his lips and taking a quick swig.
“Everything should be all right,” Hermione said, looking out at the pitch. “There’s no need for you to worry.”
Harry wanted to tell her that he would worry. He was always going to worry as long as he felt she was in danger. Maybe he could begin to feel marginally better once Callahan was locked up for life in Azkaban. Yet, he stopped himself from saying this—he didn’t want to place even more pressure on Hermione. He could tell she was very stressed.
They became silent again, sipping their drinks and watching the children. The field was growing darker as the light changed from light purple to deep pink and then into hazy greyness. Harry waved his wand at the outdoor lamps and they immediately ignited.
The sound of two sets of feet became louder from inside the house. Ron and Ginny emerged a moment later, carrying their own drinks.
“Hey,” Ron said, his eyes on the children. “Thought we’d come join you. Tired of going over catalog design with Ginny, but she’s better at this design stuff than either me or George.”
“How is George doing?” Hermione asked.
“He’s all right. It’s Roxanne’s birthday in a week. He’s planning this elaborate gift to send her through the post. I said it would be embarrassing, but after she gets past the explosions, there is a lot of loot down in there that she can share with her friends.”
“Ah, the joys of being the daughter of a joke-master,” Hermione laughed.
Ginny turned to Hermione. “Speaking of birthdays, yours is less than two weeks away, isn’t it Hermione?”
Hermione’s face colored slightly.
“Yeah, what do you want us to do for it?” Ron asked.
Harry watched Hermione, smiling. She seemed to be struggling with the sudden attention.
“Nothing fancy. Just take me out to dinner or something?”
“Sure, we can do that,” said Ron simply.
“Yeah, but what do you want, Hermione?” Ginny asked. “Anything we can get you?”
Hermione laughed uncomfortably. “I haven’t thought of anything. You don’t have to get me presents. I think we’re past the age when that’s necessary…”
Ron made a retching sound. “Don’t ever say that.”
The four of them laughed, catching Lily’s attention out on the darkened field. “Mum? Dad? Do you want to come play too?” she called.
“It’s a bit late for that, sweetie!” Ginny called back.
“Aw, c’mon! Please?” Lily squealed, her pleading face just visible in the twilight.
Ginny turned to Harry, who shrugged. “Do you want me to get your broom?” she asked.
“Sure,” Harry replied. “You can have the Mach7 if you want.”
“Oh, thanks,” Ginny said happily and she passed back into the house with Ron behind her.
Harry looked back at Hermione. She had a sour look on her face. “So, thirty-eight years old…”
A few minutes later, Ron and Ginny returned. Ginny was holding Harry’s prototype Firebolt Mach7, which had been given to him by its maker, and her own older version of the Firebolt. Ron held the latest generation Comet.
Harry took Ginny’s broom and heaved himself out of his armchair, feeling tired all over again. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Hermione give all three of them a dubious look.
“Not coming along, sweetie?” Ron called out sarcastically as he ran onto the field.
Harry heard Hermione mutter a soft “ha ha ha” under her breath.
Harry, Ron, and Ginny flew into the air to join the children. In one blissful moment, Harry didn’t feel so tired anymore. He was back in the air—a place he had always felt he belonged. They maneuvered into a loose circle around the kids. Harry waved his wand at the outdoor lamps and they began to glow even brighter.
“So, what were you playing?” Ginny asked Lily and Hugo.
“We were just passing the Quaffle around. There’s not much you can do with two people,” Lily replied, swinging her legs on her Cleansweep 12.
“Well, we can have a short scrimmage,” Ron suggested. “But there’s only five of us. We need Hermione…” Ron said, laughing at the thought.
Ron looked back towards the porch and called out to Hermione. “We need one more player, Hermione! Come and join us, why don’t you?”
Harry turned to look at Hermione too. She had on her fuck-you-all face. They all laughed, but surprisingly Hermione got out of her chair.
“Do you still have that one broom? The one that doesn’t move much?” she called to Harry.
“Yeah, the Silver Arrow?” Harry shouted. “It’s in the shed. Should be right behind the door.”
Without another word, Hermione stepped off the porch and walked around to the side of the house.
“Well, would you look at that,” said Ginny, grinning.
“This should be hilarious,” Ron snickered.
Hermione reemerged a minute later holding an old fashioned broom warily in her hands. She placed the broom on the ground.
“Up!” she said with as much force as possible. The broom did not move. “Up!” she said again, more testily. Still no movement.
“Up, you son of a…!” she said, cutting off the last word for the sake of the children.
Luckily, the broom shot upward into her hand. Hermione looked grimly satisfied. The three adults chuckled above her. Hugo and Lily were merely impatient.
She floated shakily towards to them. “I’ll play as long as I’m Keeper,” she said, continuing to float past them so that she had to speak over her shoulder, “and you only get to score through the middle hoop thing.”
“Aw, c’mon Hermione!” Ron groaned.
“Those are the conditions,” Hermione shouted, as Ginny flew a few feet forward and turned her around, back towards the group. “If not, I’m going back down right now.”
“All right, all right,” said Ginny laughing as she towed Hermione alongside her. “Those are the rules. Let’s split ourselves up.”
The strongest players were obviously Harry and Ginny, followed by Ron, Lily, and Hugo. They quickly decided that Hermione should be paired with one of the strong players, which turned out to be Ginny. Given the level of Hermione’s ineptitude, she also got Ron on her team. That left Harry with the kids.
Harry herded Lily and Hugo to the other side of the pitch. Hugo wanted to be Keeper like his mother, so Harry and Lily took up their positions as Chasers. Harry would also play Seeker. For the opposing team: Hermione was Keeper, per her request, with Ron and Ginny as the Chasers. Ginny also played the double-role of Seeker.
Once the balls were released, the game was on. Harry flew forward with Lily. He seized the Quaffle and quickly passed it off to his daughter. He let her charge ahead towards her mother and uncle. It was beautiful to watch. The small girl controlled her broom perfectly, deflecting Ron’s attempt to steal the Quaffle and delicately dodging a foam Bludger. She moved towards Hermione, who was basically sitting inside the middle hoop.
Lily hovered in front of Hermione in an attempt to lure her away from the goal. It worked, though Hermione seemed to know what Lily was trying to do. Lily faked left and Hermione followed. Ten points.
Harry cheered as Lily made her way back to him. This time, Ginny had the ball and she smiled dangerously at Harry.
“Go cover your uncle!” Harry shouted at his daughter. The redheaded girl streaked off towards Ron and Harry went to shadow Ginny. A moment later, however, a Bludger gave him a soft tap on the back and Harry pretended to fall away. Ginny charged off towards Hugo. Ten points.
The game progressed fairly evenly from then on. Ron and Ginny shouted at Hermione a few times to stop sitting in the hoop, but otherwise there were few problems. Whenever possible, Harry passed the Quaffle to Lily and focused on finding the Snitch. Harry had never much liked playing the position of Chaser. He’d rather give Lily the extra practice than improve his own Chasing skills. Hugo was doing decently, blocking just under half of all the attempted goals. At one point, Ron and Ginny double-teamed on Lily and Harry flew to her aid. He shot past all three of them and moved towards Hermione’s goal post.
“Lily! Pass!” he shouted. The Quaffle came flying over Ron and Ginny’s heads and landed squarely in Harry’s arms. He turned and found himself face-to-face with Hermione.
He gave her a half-smile. “Sorry about this.”
He seized her wrist and swung her to the side. He easily tossed the Quaffle through the center hoop. Ron, Ginny, and the children laughed. Hermione gave Harry a haughty look, which she was still able to accomplish despite being nearly sideways on her broom after Harry’s maneuver.
Harry gently touched her shoulder, pushing her upright. His hand lingered. “You’re doing good,” he whispered to her.
“Shut up,” she said again, though she was smiling.
The stars were out now. Both the children and the adults were starting to get hungry. They ordered the kids inside to wash up and change clothes while the adults gathered the equipment. Ron collected the foam Bludgers and placed them in their crate. Ginny tossed the Quaffle in as well. Finally, the Snitch needed to be found. They all darted about searching for the small flying ball, except Hermione, who stayed floating by the goal posts.
As Ron was saying, “We might as well call it a night and find it tomorrow,” Harry spied the Snitch hovering by Hermione’s head.
With a smile, he streaked off towards her. Ginny immediately knew what he was doing and gave chase. Hermione stared in horror as Harry and Ginny shot towards her. Harry watched as comprehension dawned on Hermione’s face that she was the intended target. She let out a scream.
“Hermione! Don’t move!” Harry yelled.
He and Ginny were shoulder to shoulder now and Harry roughly nudged her to send her off course. She pushed him back harder, however, and Harry over compensated.
It was too late for Hermione. As Ginny laughed, turning her head to look at Harry as he corrected himself, she flew headlong into Hermione. The two women went tumbling through the hoop towards the ground. Harry immediately darted below them to break their fall. The three of them landed in a tangled heap atop wet leaves and soft grass.
Harry had the wind knocked out of him as both women landed on top of him—Hermione first, then Ginny. He felt something hard pressing into his sternum.
“Unnh,” Harry wheezed.
Ginny was laughing uncontrollably. “Your face, Hermione!” she gasped. “You should have seen it! So funny!”
Harry tried to laugh too, but he was still breathless. Hermione was pressed flush up against him, Ginny on top of her. Hermione’s head had been squished into his shoulder. He slipped a finger between himself and Hermione and retrieved the hard object that had been poking him in the chest. It was the Snitch. Its wings were beating feebly.
“Hermione?” Ginny was saying, rolling off of her. “Are you all right? We took quite a tumble.”
Harry propped himself up on his elbows and lifted Hermione’s face off his chest. Her eyes were wide, her mouth open in a small “oh” of shock. They both stared at her and, after a moment, she spoke.
“What the fuck was that?”
Harry and Ginny broke into fresh peals of laughter.
Harry looked down at the Snitch in his hand. No one had noticed he caught it—or more accurately, that he and Hermione had jointly caught it. Carefully, he slipped the golden ball into Hermione’s loose hand, which was pressed against his side. She was too dazed to notice.
Ginny brushed herself off and went to meet Ron, who was running towards them. Harry pushed Hermione into a sitting position. He kept his hands at her waist as she rubbed her forehead with her free hand.
“Yeah,” she said with finality. “That’s definitely the last time I’m playing Quidditch.”
“Yeah, but look,” Harry whispered lightly in her ear, “you caught the Snitch.”
“I…what?” Hermione stammered. She looked down at her hand. Her eyes grew wide and her face broke into an expression of heart-breaking joy. “I caught—?” she repeated softly.
“You did,” Harry replied.
Hermione looked at him in rapture. He was shocked to see tears forming in the corners of her eyes. “I caught the Snitch?” she asked, smiling from ear to ear.
Hermione jumped to her feet and waved the Snitch wildly above her head. “Hey!” she called to Ron and Ginny. “Hey, look! I caught the Snitch! Ha ha!”
She jumped around in a small circle, pressing the small golden ball to her chest.
Ron and Ginny had arrived. Ron offered Harry a hand and pulled him to his feet.
“Nice job, Hermione,” Ron said, smiling at her.
Hermione ran towards him and kissed him quickly on the cheek. She did the same to Ginny, then Harry. Her hair was a mess and her white button-down shirt was covered in grass stains, but she looked absolutely ecstatic.
She placed the Snitch in her pocket and, without looking back at them, walked off towards the house. “I’m keeping this thing forever,” she said.
Harry, Ron, and Ginny watched her go and then together moved towards the equipment crate.
“Are you going to tell her it’s illegal for any player besides the Seeker to catch the Snitch?” Ginny asked.
“Not a chance,” Harry said.
They laughed quietly to themselves.
It was amazing what a little whiskey and Quidditch could do to distract Harry from the calm before the storm.