AN: Sorry I'm a day late publishing this! I don't even really have an excuse, this had been done for a while. I just forgot that yesterday was the day this was scheduled to go up. Statistically, more people read this on Saturday anyway, so most people might not even notice the delay! As of this moment I'm about half-way through writing the next chapter, but it's a bit of a slow process. Motivation has been a little lacking. I should hopefully have it ready by posting time, but it might mean that next month only has one chapter as opposed to two. We'll see, maybe the rest of it just falls out.
The morning after the debutante ball was more or less like any other morning for Harry. He got up, brushed his teeth, tried to wrangle his wildly uncontrollable hair, put on some clothes for the day and then headed down for breakfast. A wizarding radio was set up in the kitchen, and was currently playing some Weird Sisters song that Harry didn't recognize, as Andromeda finished flipping a pancake. She turned and looked over her shoulder.
"Good morning Casanova. Ted's at the hospital today, and Nymphadora's got training until 4, so we're on our own till then at least." Andy said, sliding a plate in front of him at the table. "We ran out of treacle, so if you want it sweet you'll have to use normal syrup. Sorry!"
"Not a problem mum. I should probably hold back on the stuff anyway, Hermione will go mental if my teeth start to rot." Harry said, taking a fork and having a bite of his breakfast. "These are really good though. Thank you!"
"Glad you like them. Feel like taking our bikes to the park and then doing some flying? We haven't gotten to do that all this Summer since it's been so dreary." Andy asked, as the Weird Sisters song came to an end.
"Sounds like fun. Do we have a Quaffle to toss around?" Harry asked, having seen his roommates do so during some of their free time at Hogwarts.
"Oh, probably in a closet somewhere. I'll go see if I can find one. Nymphadora liked that too, although Ted was the more athletic one." Andy said, getting up as the radio sparked back to life.
"This just in from the Department of Magical Law Enforcement: Known Death Eater Sirius Black has somehow escaped from the prison island of Azkaban. Sirius Black is of course wanted in-" was as much as the newscaster got out before Andromeda turned the knob on the radio to silence it. Her face turning a pale white, as she leaned heavily against the counter.
"Mum? Are… are you okay?" Harry asked, getting up and walking over to her. Comforting people wasn't something Harry had much experience with at all, but even he could tell that Andy was in need of some at this moment.
"Oh… I… I don't know really. Sit down. We need to talk." Andy said before pulling her seat at the table and gesturing to Harry.
"You're scaring me a bit Mum." Harry said, but did as he was told.
"I'm sure I am, and I'm sorry. But that broadcast… It forced this timetable up a bit. Much more than I would like." Andy said, before taking a deep breath. "I know this is probably hard to bring up Harry, but how much do you know about your parent's deaths?"
Harry was taken aback, but knew if Andy was bringing it up, that whatever happened was important. "Not much really. They were killed by Volde-" Andy cringed, "You-Know-Who, something about that night killed him as well. Got the scar and then was taken away to the Dursleys." Harry said.
"I see. Now, I have some more information to tell you about that night. I was not keeping it from you to harm you, I generally didn't see it as overly important, and didn't want to drag you through old memories without a good reason." Andy started, sighing deeply to herself. "I love you Harry, I would never want to hurt you. I need you to believe me on this."
"Mum, you've taken me in when you didn't have to, You've given me happiness I didn't know I could have, and been my biggest supporter since you came into my life. I'll trust that whatever you're going to tell me, you had reasons to not tell me." Harry said, shooting a smile at his mom. It was a tad forced, but it seemed to put her a bit at ease.
"As I've told you before, I was good friends with your parents. How I met them was because my cousin was best friends with your father, James. Lily and I became somewhat close separately from that, but that is how we were introduced." She started, tears starting to form in her eyes. "The war was going on pretty hard, and your parents were actively fighting against You-Know-Who and his Death Eaters. Trying to do what they could to make the world a better place for when you would be older. That's what got them on You-Know-Who's bad side. They went into hiding after you were born. Using a spell that meant that only one person 'knew' where their house was, and could tell other people where it was for them to go there. That person is called a secret keeper. You give that position to someone close, and that you trust." The tears were streaming down Andy's face at this point. "James… he trusted his best friend, like he always had. Made him the secret keeper, just as he was your god father. Should anything happen to them, it would have been him who raised you… turns out it was wrong to trust him though. He… turned them over to You-Know-Who, and got them killed. That… bastard… was my cousin. Sirius Black."
Harry's world was rocked for a moment. Andy's cousin? His father's best friend? The man who sold his parents out to Voldemort? They were all the same guy? Harry didn't know what to feel. At first he was angry. Not at Andy no, he knew better than anyone that you can't choose your blood family. Beyond that though he was scared… that man was free now? Escaped from prison? How? And for what reason? Voldemort was long since dead, although Harry knew better, no one else but the Headmaster, Sphinx Club, and the Tonks's knew. What did he want?
"D-do you think he's after me?" Harry asked, fear in his voice.
"I don't know sweetie. I really don't. I thought I had known him before all of this. He had rejected all of the pureblood supremacy nonsense like I had when we were younger… but he joined up with it as an adult. Against his best friend, against the family that took him in when he was cast out of his own. I don't know what was going on with him. I don't know what would have happened between then and now. Just know that if he IS after you for whatever reason, I won't let him get you. You mean far, far too much to me." Andy said, moving over and hugging Harry tight.
"I love you too Mum." Harry said, hugging her back.
"Looks like the park is out for today… feel like a game of Wizard's Guess Who?" Andromeda asked, wiping her tears.
"Sounds like fun!" Harry said, squeezing her into a hug.
The rest of June went without issue for Harry, although July had brought some mildly sad news. Charlie Weasley had stopped by and said that he wasn't going to be around this summer, because he and his family were going to go see his oldest brother Bill Weasley in Egypt, where he was working as a curse breaker in Egypt. Charlie explained that the Weasleys had won a drawing in the Daily Prophet, that was an all expenses paid vacation to Egypt, and everything had worked out for them. Harry was disappointed that he wouldn't see Charlie at all this summer, as he did quite like the man, but was happy he was going to see his family. Hermione had also gone on vacation, specifically to the French Alps, although she swore she would be back in time to attend Harry's birthday party.
Harry's party was once more set for the final day of July, and would this year be a joint celebration between himself and Neville, given that Neville was not even a full day older than Harry. The event was held at Longbottom manor, and Harry was excited to see his best male friend's home for the first time.
Despite being an older family, Longbottom Manor wasn't as extravagant or ostentatious as Greengrass manor was. While it was still an incredibly fancy home, it gave off a somewhat warmer and less sterile vibe. Where Greengrass manor had beautiful smooth marble, Longbottom manor had solid wooden floorboards, with warm colored rugs set about the place. Decorations on the walls told of a warrior heritage, with images and busts of great Celtic and even Nordic warriors lining the halls of the manor, leading to the primary centerpiece of the home, an extravagant kite shield, with the Longbottom coat of arms emblazoned on it. The main room where the shield was, also currently held several tables for the party they were having, with a few muggle birthday decorations strewn about, giving it a fun atmosphere.
Harry was admiring the shield when Neville came by and asked what he thought of the place. "It's really amazing Neville! I had no idea you came from such a warrior family." Harry said, elbowing his friend. "Guess I'm not the only one with big shoes to fill."
"No, you're not huh. I guess I'm just so used to it I forget about it. I'm no great warrior anyway. Without you guys in the Sphinx Club I'd probably be flunking my classes." Neville said, his original shyness coming back to the forefront.
"No way. You're almost as good at Defense as I am, and you trounce all of us in Herbology, and you can go tit for tat on the theory side of Potions with Daphne. You'd have done great without us, but I'm glad you didn't have to." Harry said, slapping his friend on the back. "Hard to believe we're teenagers though huh? I remember looking at them on the playground a few years ago and being like 'Wow, those are the BIG kids.'"
"Yeah, it is a bit strange. I still feel like one of those little kids though. Just looking up at everyone else looking like they have everything sorted out." Neville said. "Enough about that though. It's supposed to be a fun day yeah? I think the girls should be arriving soon."
"Hopefully, it's a bit strange we don't really have that many other guy friends right?" Harry said, looking at Neville. "I'm not complaining though, the girls are wonderful."
"Probably just a lack of great options. Gryffindor in our year is… odd. Seamus and Dean seem alright, but just… incredibly focused on finding ways to sneak alcohol into the castle. Ron is, well… not a pleasant person to be around. He's either trying to goad you into chess matches to prove his superiority over you, eating his body weight in whatever he can, or complaining about his brothers." Neville said, turning to look at Harry. "What about your roommates in Ravenclaw?"
"Outside of their studies, they're all Quidditch fiends. They're friendly and everything, good guys generally, but really focused. I didn't see them outside of classes at all when Quidditch try-outs happened. They were spending all of their free time practicing." Harry said.
"Sounds like Oliver Wood would love to have them. He's the Gryffindor Quidditch captain. He's been absolutely distraught that he hasn't managed a year win since he got the job during our first year. Says his team doesn't take the training seriously enough. He'll be in his seventh year this year, so maybe we'll bring home the Quidditch Cup this year." Neville said. "Admittedly, I don't really care for Quidditch that much. It's fun to watch I suppose, but you'd never catch me on the pitch. Ginny's going to be trying out for the team though, she had made that clear last year. Said she'll take over the vacant Seeker position, since we've not had an actual Seeker since we got to Hogwarts. Katie Bell, she's in the year above us, has been filling in, but she's better as a Chaser."
"I'll take your word for it. I know enough about the game to get by because Susan, Nym, and my roommates love it. Although Roger Davies has been begging me to try out for the team since he saw me flying for a bit of fun last year." Harry said, chuckling a bit.
"Ooh! Secret Boys meeting!" Luna said, earning a startled gasp from the two boys. "Haha! I got you!"
"You sure did Luna, when did you get here?" Harry asked, taking his youngest girlfriend into a hug. He was still trying to get used to shows of affection like this, but he knew he wouldn't be judged here, and Luna reciprocated the hug with enthusiasm.
"Oh, I just got here, but I saw you two huddled together and wanted to surprise you. Surprise!" Luna said, throwing her hands up. "Happy birthday Harry! Happy late birthday Neville!"
"Thanks Luna." Neville said, shooting a smile at their younger friend. Harry just gave her another tight hug and said his thanks.
"Guess that means the other girls should be arriving soon. Did you invite anyone outside the Sphinx club, Neville?" Harry asked.
"Not really, no. I would have invited Ginny, but she's with her family in Egypt. Astoria may come with Daphne, but both of them I would put firmly in 'honorary club members'." Neville said.
"Yeah, you're right there. Nym couldn't make it today because of Auror training, so I guess it'll just be a Sphinx Club only day." Harry said.
"Really is a shame that Padma and Parvati aren't going to be able to make it, I hope they don't feel left out." Luna said, looking a little downtrodden.
"Yeah, unfortunately with that criminal escaping from Azkaban, the international floo has strict 'no leisure' rules right now. My Gran was upset about it, since she wanted to spend a week in Costa Del Sol during the summer." Neville said. Harry winced a bit at the mention of Sirius, but no one else seemed to notice.
From there the party went without much in the way of notable events. Hermione, Daphne, Susan, Hannah, Tracey, and Lavender made it to the party, alongside their chaperones, and everyone had a wonderful time. A photo was taken of the gathered kids and a copy was sent to Padma and Parvati, who expressed jealousy at being unable to attend, and promises were made to make it up to them.
August came through the next day, and with it the frantic research of what material was needed for next year's studies. Hogwarts sent out its standard list of required texts, which was useful, but not enough for the voracious knowledge seekers of the Sphinx Club. With their supply lists thoroughly padded with books far in excess of what was expected of third year Hogwarts students, the Sphinx Club hit Diagon Alley in a few separate groups.
Harry, Hermione, Susan, Daphne and Luna were sat at a table just outside the Leaky Cauldron while Daphne's mother and Andromeda paid for the lunch they had just eaten. "So, does anyone have anything special they are picking up while we are here? Outside of the stuff that's necessary for school and all." Harry asked, looking at his gathered significant others. The thought was still strange to him, and he briefly wondered if he would ever be used to it.
"Mum said I could get a cat to take with me to school. I'd always wanted one, but just as we were about to do it I got my Hogwarts letter, so we were unsure about getting one while I was going to a boarding school. Now we know how it works, and since Hogwarts allows and often encourages pets, we decided it was a good time." Hermione said. "I guess that'll need to be the last stop today though, since I doubt shopkeepers will like having cats in their stores."
"Ooh! Sounds like fun! I'll make sure you get a nice friendly one." Luna said, doing a little twirl of excitement. "Maybe I can have it help me look for Nargles! I didn't have the chance to last year because we were so busy with the Basilisk."
"Nargles?" Harry asked, looking over everyone. Harry was still relatively new to the wizarding world, and occasionally still had things he didn't know about that were otherwise common knowledge.
"Yeah, I've got no idea either. Luna, what's a Nargle?" Daphne asked, looking to the petite blonde girl.
"Oh! Well, to be honest we aren't really sure! We know that they live in mistletoe and are the origin of the idea that you have to kiss under the mistletoe, because they mess with your head and make you do silly things like think a plant has something to do with love." Luna said. "I haven't seen any, but I've been looking for them! You can only have so much mistletoe around though, so it's hard to track them down."
"Well, I don't know about hunting Nargles, I just hope I can find one who is cuddly. I'd like to have him lay in my lap while I read or knit or whatever. That reminds me that I need to re-measure your heads this year for hats. Mom sent me a bunch of yarn this year with strict instructions that all of us need warm gloves, hats and scarves!" Hermione said.
"Big order, really think you'll have the time for it?" Susan said, counting off everyone. "That's eleven hats and scarves, and 22 gloves if you just do the Club. Even more if you add in Ginny and Astoria."
"Definitely! I've already gotten a head-start on the scarves, since those don't really need measuring in the same ways, and I usually do this subconsciously while I do my readings. If I really need it I also learned a spell that would do part of it for me while I need my hands for something else. I'd probably only use that if the cold hit early. I can knock out a hat in an afternoon if I don't have anything else going on, so provided no one wants any really fancy designs I should be able to get all these knocked out before the cold sets in mid-way through October." Hermione said with a smile on her face. "I do really need to thank you guys for making me find a hobby besides my reading. Knitting has really helped my nerves."
"Alright kiddos, lunch has been paid for. Your cauldrons should still be good, so I guess our first stop is the stationary shop right?" Andromeda said, coming out of the Leaky Cauldron with Daphne's mother.
"Sounds good." Harry said, everyone nodding and picking up their bags. Andromeda had made some temporary storage enhancing bags for everyone, they would only last the day, but would mean that they wouldn't need to carry around heavy books and supplies in their arms.
Shopping went smoothly, with brief stops for people to check out specific stores of interest as they came up. Susan spent a good deal of time admiring the new Firebolt broom in the Quality Quidditch Supplies store, but knew that even if she had it, she'd throw up riding it. Daphne cleaned up rather nicely in the Potions supplies store, acquiring a good number of ingredients to make many types of potions. When Harry asked what she planned on making, Daphne replied with a rueful 'You'll see.'
The day eventually reached its conclusion with their final stop before they departed for home, the same shop tha Harry had purchased Hedwig in, the Magical Menagerie. Entering the building, the five children were bombarded with a cacophony of sounds and smells, with Owls hooting, Parrots squawking, mice squeaking and even what seemed to be a two headed dog barking. Walking up to the counter, Hermione spoke to the woman at the till. "Excuse me miss, I was hoping to buy a cat to take with me to Hogwarts, can my friends and I meet some to see if I can find one?"
"Oh, certainly dear. I'd be happy to let you. Come, I keep all the kitties in the back room here, keeps them from attacking the birds up front. The owls hate their feathers being ruffled by some of the more playful youngsters." The woman said, as she led the gathered adolescents into a back room that, sure enough, was full of cats of various shapes and sizes. "Take your time! If you find one that takes enough of a liking to you, or you it, bring them up front and I'll ring them up for you."
"Thank you miss!" Hermione said, as the woman closed the door, leaving the children alone with a room full of felines. "Well Luna, are we starting the interview process?" Hermione asked, as she took a seat cross legged in the middle of the floor.
"Yes we shall. Excuse me kitties, if there is anyone here who would like to go home with this girl with the bushy hair, please make your way inside this circle! We want to make sure that we bring home a good friend today!" Luna said, and all the cats in the room made their way to sit in the middle of the circle the friends had created. "Ah! So many! Shame we can't take you all! Well, let's start the questions!" Luna clapped.
Harry was once more amazed at the ease in which Luna could conduct herself in seemingly bizarre situations, but the younger girl simply took being an interviewer in stride, working with Hermione to find what was important to her in a pet, and asking the cats what was important to them in an owner.
After about half an hour of questioning, which had been very odd to hear one side of, there were only a few candidates left that had matched all of Hermione's desire in a cat, and that believed that Hermione would be a good owner for them. "Well Hermione? Any of these guys strike your fancy?" Luna asked, waving her arms towards the gathered cats there.
"Ooh… I don't know. I can't pick! All of them are so nice." Hermione said, looking at the three who remained.
The largest of the group was not one Harry would say was traditionally cute. He had a very flat squished face, and was a large orange fuzzball who looked desperately in need of a brushing. He had introduced himself as Crookshanks, and was the oldest of the cats in consideration. Apparently he had been here for over a year, and people didn't typically look at him as an option due to being kind of ugly. That had made Hermione sad, and she had hugged him and said that she thought he was very cute.
The other two cats were nearly identical, as they were from the same litter. They were both thin, young kittens, with gray fur and white stripes. The only thing that really distinguished them was that one had a solid coloured tail, while the other had striped along hers.
Crookshanks meowed something to Luna, who put her fingers to her chin and pondered. "No, I don't think I've heard that name. I'm sorry."
Hermione looked and asked: "What did he say?"
Crookshanks meowed again before Luna said: "He asked me if I had heard of someone before, although he's also asked me not to tell you the name, so I won't. He also said he understood if you didn't pick him, called himself an old fuddy duddy."
"Ah, You're no fuddy duddy Crookshanks… You know what, you're coming with me. Sorry guys, I'd take you too if I could, but I'm only allowed one pet. Maybe you can find someone who can take both of you home so you don't have to split up." Hermione said, petting the two gray cats.
"When we get to Hogwarts we can tell Padma and Parvati about them. Maybe they would like a cat." Harry suggested.
"Oh! That's not a bad idea. Padma loves cats I know, and Parvati has gushed about being jealous of Lavender's rabbit." Susan said, standing up and dusting the bits of cat hair off the plaid skirt she was wearing.
"Lavender has a rabbit?" Harry asked.
"Oh, she's never told you? Yeah, she has a rabbit at home. She was going to bring it to Hogwarts with her, but its not on the list of approved pets. You have to get special permission to bring something that isn't a Cat, Owl, or Toad. Only person I know who has permission like that is the Weasley family, since Percy had a pet rat he brought with him." Susan added.
"Alright, come on Crookshanks, let's go up front and pay for you okay?" Hermione said, and Crookshanks meowed something. Everyone turned to Luna.
"He wants to say goodbye to his dog friend he made here. Said he'll lead the way, we just have to open the door for him." Luna said, as Crookshanks made his way to the door and pawed it.
The door opened and Crookshanks led them back to the front of the shop, where a large black dog was sat in front of the window, watching people move about outside. A series of barks and meows were exchanged back and forth, before Crookshanks walked back up to Hermione, tail crooked high in the air, and rubbed against her leg.
"Oh! You're buying Crookshanks! I'm so happy. Poor little guy deserves a family, but no one wanted to adopt him. Here, I'll ring you up." The woman behind the till said, ringing up the sale. "Here's a collar and a leash. There's one thing you'll need to know about Crookie though, he's half-kneazle, so he's a lot smarter than a normal cat. You'll need to keep him entertained a bit more than a normal cat, but thankfully, Crookie here seems to like cuddling more than anything. Just make sure he gets plenty of exercise. Bye Crookie! We'll miss you!"
"Will do ma'am. Come on Crookshanks, let's go meet Mrs. Tonks and Mrs. Greengrass." Hermione said, walking the orange fuzzball out of the shop.
With that the Sphinx Club was ready to tackle their third year at Hogwarts.