ccxxiii. a sign of the times

Harriet stood next to Sirius as they listened to the distant whistle of the incoming train.

"We'll have something good for supper," Sirius said, his arm around her shoulders. "With everyone home—and Remus! Though, he may be a tad late, tying up things at the school. It's not Hogwarts food, but it should be good."

"As long as you don't cook it," Harriet grumped.

"Oi! I've been practicing!"

Harriet hummed under her breath, lacking the energy to banter. Truly, she'd barely had the energy to leave the house, but she wanted to see her friends, and staring at the same four walls of her bedroom had gotten dull.

They wore Muggle-passing clothes, and the others on the station barely glanced in their direction, standing near the Floos. The shoulders of their jumpers had been soaked by the drizzle as they'd elected to walk over Barnsbury Estate from Islington. The clouds that had been hanging around finally started to rain.

"Is anyone else going to be there?" Strange wizards and witches had been popping by Grimmauld Place ever since Harriet came home, and they had whispered conversations in the dining room, going quiet when Harriet passed through. She didn't know what was going on, but she gathered it was serious.

It's because of Voldemort, she told herself. Because he's back.

"No. Tonight's just for family. And—maybe don't mention the others right off? I will have to find a way to bring it up with Elara…."

Harriet fidgeted, staring down at her trainers. She'd left them at Grimmauld last summer, and they'd gotten too tight in the toes now. She hadn't mentioned anything about it to Sirius; with everything else happening, getting her new Muggle shoes felt like a petty concern. Water had soaked through the canvas top and down through the laces.

"They're coming in now," Sirius said, patting Harriet's shoulder. "Right on time. You feeling all right, Harriet?"

"I'm fine," she replied, sighing. She'd been saying that a lot lately, usually through the bedroom door. Mr. Flamel had been staying at Grimmauld for a few nights this last week, and sometimes he could coax her out to eat, and other times he couldn't. Harriet hated sitting at the table and pretending nothing had happened, that everything hadn't been flipped on its head. That, and the medicine Madam Pomfrey sent Sirius to give to her made Harriet groggy. She spent an inordinate amount of time in bed, Livi coiled around her middle, tossing and turning between nightmares.

Harriet picked at the bandage poking out from beneath her sleeve.

"Stop that," Sirius muttered. "It's not going to heal if you pick at it."

Harriet grunted.

As the red train pulled in, a great plume of steam hissing from the front stack, more parents and families began to meander onto the platform, eager to see their children. Harriet joined them, stepping away from Sirius, wanting to greet her friends first. He seemed to sense this and hung back, waving her off with a smile.

What if Hermione doesn't want to see me? a weak but insidious voice in the back of her mind asked. What if she thinks what happened to Terry is my fault?

Every morning this week, Harriet woke up and stared at the growing stack of letters on her desk and despaired. She didn't know what people wanted her to say, how she was meant to react. What should one's response be to being tortured, assaulted, threatened, and kidnapped? What kind of letter should that be? What should she write when thinking of a friend's sudden murder? What was she supposed to send Hermione?

What if she blames me for what happened?

The train doors opened, and the first group of students came hurtling out—mostly first years running for their parents, already babbling with excitement. They passed Harriet without a second glance, but the next group, older students from Hufflepuff, saw her and started whispering under their breath.

Harriet squared her shoulders and pretended not to see.

When Elara and Hermione finally disembarked, neither looked much pleased, the former levitating their trunks while the latter had a dark look on her face. That didn't bode well for Harriet, and she braced herself for what was to come.

"Absolutely ridiculous. The whole lot of them, behaving like children—Harriet!"

Stiffening, Harriet didn't know what to expect—and then Hermione collided with her, arms slung around her neck. The sudden cloud of puffy hair in her face took her breath away—and Harriet burrowed closer, taking in the familiar smells of parchment and jasmine and spilled ink. Warmth bled through her rain-dampened clothes, and only then did Harriet realize how cold she'd been.

"You had me so worried!" Hermione chided, pulling away to see Harriet's face. She tucked back her messy fringe, the hair hanging in her eyes. "Why haven't you replied to my letters?"

"I—." All of her excuses suddenly sounded weak and silly, the kind of stuff a coward might say to escape responsibility. Harriet didn't want to be a coward. "I…thought you might be angry with me. About what happened."

Distress colored Hermione's expression, and the hands still on Harriet's narrow shoulders tightened. "I would never do such a thing. Do you understand? Never. It was not your fault."

Harriet's face crumpled, and she nodded, allowing Hermione to yank her forward into another hug. "I'm sorry," she croaked. "I'm so sorry about Terry."

A muffled sniffle buffeted her ear, there and gone as Hermione pulled away and wiped her eyes. "Thank you, Harriet."

Settling the trunks, Elara stepped forward and delivered a soft smack to the back of Harriet's head. "Ow!"

"Idiot," her god-sister said before tugging her jumper, pulling her into another hug. Harriet grumbled into her school robes, too short to see over her shoulder. "Did you really believe she would blame you?"

"I dunno. I blame myself," she admitted, voice soft. Elara rested her cheek atop her head, and Harriet felt small but safe tucked under the arm of Elara's robes.

"Idiot," she gently repeated.

"Have…have you seen Snape?"

"No. He hasn't returned."

Harriet closed her eyes and tightened her hold on Elara, curling her fingers into the back of her blouse.

"Where's Sirius?" Hermione asked. Harriet let go of her god-sister to turn around.

"He's over there by the Floos," she said, pointing, though she couldn't see him through the crowd. The last of the students had jumped off the train, cramming the platform with bodies and luggage and familiars. Suddenly, the idea of food didn't turn Harriet's stomach. Thinking about being home with her family, no matter the shadow hanging over her head, sounded perfect.

"Hey, Potter!"

Harriet winced at the call of her name, but she nevertheless looked around for the speaker. She spotted Cedric Diggory struggling through the throng until he reached their little group.

"'Lo," Harriet said, peering up at the taller boy. "I read you won the Tournament. Congratulations."

"Thank you!" Cedric replied as he caught his breath. "And I mean that—sincerely. I wanted to thank you for all the help you gave me over the year. With the dragons, with the egg, even the list of spells you thought I might need in the last task. I needed quite a few in the end."

"Yes, well." Shrugging, she glanced down at her dirty trainers again. "So long as Longbottom didn't win, I guess it's okay for Hufflepuff to have a victory."

"I couldn't have done it without you." He bent forward suddenly and Harriet startled, stunned motionless when Diggory pressed his lips to hers in a quick peck. He retreated, wearing a wide, glittering grin. "I'll see you around!"

Harriet couldn't formulate a response and may have blurted out a noise worthy of a beached fish as Diggory departed into the crowd. Her face blazed scarlet—and Elara burst into laughter.

"It's not funny!" Hermione scolded. "He should have asked first! Harriet, are you all right?"

Harriet just nodded, not convinced she could speak yet.

Elara's laughter trailed off into guffaws. "How does it feel to have snogged a Triwizard Champion?"

"That wasn't even a snog." Harriet shook her head and felt her cheeks, her palms cool against the overheated skin. "Merlin's pants."

The trio broke into breathless laughter—the kind of laughter Harriet hadn't felt in so long. Not since that day a year ago, when they fled into the trees chased by Death Eaters and they printed the Dark Mark in the morning paper. Not since she saw the centaurs murder Greyback. Not since the Mirror of Erised shattered and rained upon the dead body of Quirinus Quirrel.

And then—.

Heavy hands landed on her shoulders. At first she thought Diggory had returned for some reason—but the hands were too old, too rough, and she caught sight of maroon sleeves in her peripheries.

"Harriet Potter," said the gruffer Auror of the pair manhandling her. "You are under arrest for the murder of Terry Boot."

Her stomach dropped.


The second Auror grabbed her arms and maneuvered them behind her back. People turned and stared. Someone shouted, "Murderer!" Harriet's ears rang.

"You do not have to say anything. But it may harm your defence if you do not mention when questioned something—."

"What do you think you're doing?!" Elara shouted. She made as if to move, but a third Auror held her back. "Let her go! Unhand me this instant!"

"Sirius!" Hermione yelled over the noise, but it was so loud. Harriet could barely breathe as the shackles closed around her wrists. "Sirius!"

"I didn't do anything!" Harriet cried as those strange hands gripped her by the upper arms and practically lifted her off her feet. "I didn't do it!"

Her pleas fell on deaf ears. From one step to the next, the tight pinch of Apparition closed in upon her, and Harriet disappeared from Platform Nine and Three-Quarters.


A/N: That's the end of part four! Thank you all so much for reading, and I hope you're as excited at I am to begin Part Five: The Order of the Phoenix!

Remember, there's a Discord where you can join the CDT community and stay up to date with new releases. The link can be found on my author page

Harriet: "I'm going to have a nice, peaceful summer."

Gaunt: *activates trap card*