Continuing Tales

Just Let it Happen

A Harry Potter Story
by La. Bel. LM

Part 27 of 35

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Just Let It Happen

27 Days ago…

Hermione squinted through the darkness as Harry slipped the invisibility cloak off their shoulders and stepped into the cave. The rain was coming down in torrents, icy cold. With the wind at her back, Hermione could feel the stinging pinpricks of water against her calves. She walked forward a few steps until she was out of range of the pelting raindrops and then she sank to the ground, shivering.

This was not what she had signed up for. Harry had lied to her. He said that he had a plan—and, of course, he thought he did, in his own little Harry way. But what Harry had really had was an idea, not a plan. Hermione had made it a plan. Like she always did.

Though, truly, in the end, the fact that they had a plan at all was what counted, and so there was hardly any use in ruminating on past frustrations; bitterness was not a helpful emotion in times such as these, and they had a lot of work still to do.

Hermione unslung the bag from around her shoulders and set it on the ground in front of her, careful not to knock around its fragile contents. She unzipped it and began to pull out the different assortments of glass jars and bottles, checking first to make certain that none of them had cracked or come uncorked, and then she arranged them carefully, one by one, against the rock wall at her side.

Meanwhile, Harry assembled a rudimentary ring of stones on the ground a little ways deeper into the cave and conjured a warm fire in the center of it. He stared blankly for a moment, his gaze deep, unblinking, so drawn was he in that moment by the flickering purple flames. For one wild moment, Harry imagined Sirius's head was somehow materializing right there before him, cheeks rough with stubble, hair clean but unkempt, smile lopsided, eyes warm, concerned. An instant later, Hermione set a long-necked bottle on an uneven patch of stone and it fell sideways against the row of glass containers, clinking loudly.

Harry shook his head. Work to do.

Now that the fire was started, Harry began to set up the cauldron. It was bigger than the ones he was used to using in class so it took a bit longer to figure out how to assemble the rod iron frame on which he was going to place this massive object. They had taken the cauldron from Snape's laboratory—along with an entire duffle-bag full of ingredients—and with a clever trick from Hermione that had shrunk both cauldron and bag temporarily to the size of acorns, they had smuggled their stolen goods from Hogwarts castle and made their way through Hogsmeade to this little cave, well into the woods on the far side of town. And here they intended to remain for the entirety of the coming month.

Once Harry had assembled the iron frame and set the cauldron on top of it with a quick swish of his wand and a muttered Leviosa charm, he turned to Hermione. She was standing with her hands on her hips, surveying the long line of assorted ingredients she had just finished arranging.

"Is that everything?" Harry asked, not expecting her to answer.

"Almost," she replied.

Harry did a slight double-take. "I… what? Sorry, I thought we had everything." He looked very tired. "Have we left something behind?"

"Of course not, but—"

"What could we have missed?"

"We didn't miss anything, Harry. I just, well I added a new ingredient last night, and it's not one we can find at Hogwarts."

"What do you mean you added a new ingredient? That spell is, what, hundreds of years old. I mean, you can't do that… can you?"

"Of course I—Have a bit of faith in me, would you?" she retorted testily. "If I say I have, I have. Anyway, it's only a small adjustment, nothing dramatic."

"What for?"

"I believe I've found a way of making it stronger... or rather, making the effects last longer."


"Obviously I haven't had time to experiment with it properly, but, just guessing, I would say I could push it into at least four or five hours instead of the usual one."

Harry's eyes lit up. "You're joking! That's brilliant. How are you going to do it? What ingredients are you going to add?"

Hands still on her hips, Hermione gave him sideways look and said quite promptly, "Firewhiskey. Lots and lots of it."

Harry's face remained vacant for a long moment before he finally seemed to register her response. He cleared his throat, looking skeptical. "Er… OK… Well… I mean… I don't really think—"

"Look," she snapped, "you don't have to believe me or anything, but I'm a pretty clever witch when I need to be, Harry, and I know what I'm doing. So you can wipe that stupid look off your face and, I don't know, wish me luck or something." The rain and the cold were making her far more irritable than was probably necessary—on top of which she was still quite peeved about having to play mommy yet again to Harry's crazy not-even-a-plan "plan". She ran her hands through her hair and then bent down to pick up the empty duffle bag. "I have to get going now so that we can begin brewing tonight. Firewhiskey is ingredient number one and we're going to need buckets of it."

Harry felt stunned; Hermione rarely ever snapped at him like this, particularly without warning. "W-wait a second. Hey! Where the bloody hell are you going?"

Hermione had retrieved the invisibility cloak again and was all but disappeared beneath it. "I'm going into Hogsmeade," said her floating head. "I feel horrid about it, but the Three Broomsticks is the only place within a hundred miles that has enough firewhiskey for what I've got planned—and since we obviously can't walk up to the bar and order it ourselves, I am going to have to steal it. I've got a few dozen galleons that I'll leave on the counter or something, but feel free to contribute too if you've got some—in fact, I know you've got some, so hand them over. I don't like the idea of leaving Madam Rosmerta with nothing. She works hard, it isn't fair."

Harry, still three blinks shy of flabbergasted, shook his head. "Wait. No."

Hermione's eyebrows raised dangerously high. "No?" she repeated slowly.

"I mean—no, yes, I agree with paying the galleons—sure, that's fair, yes." He delved into his pocket and handed Hermione several gold coins. "But—well, obviously I think I should be the one stealing things, not you."

Hermione narrowed her eyes. "Why not me?"


"Oh, yes, flawless reasoning, Harry, as always."

"We'll both go."

"That's stupid. One person has got to stay here and watch our camp—not to mention, a second body under this cloak will only get in the way. What about the duffle bag? For heaven's sake, why send two when one can do it better?"

"Alright—so then, you stay and I'll go."

"No you won't, Harry."


"Do you know how much firewhiskey we need?"

"No, but—"

"Do you know what else would be a viable alternative if there isn't enough? Or if we can't get at it somehow?"

"Well, no, but you could—"

"Are you an unregistered animagus?"


With that, Hermione flipped up the hood of the invisibility cloak and completely disappeared from view. "I'm going," echoed her voice through the cave, and then Harry watched as the faint outline of her hunched figure trotted out into the rain.

He gave a dark, sullen sigh and then turned back to tend the fire. Even though, as he knew very well, a magic fire hardly had any need of tending.

Hermione's feet slipped, and for the second time in two minutes she nearly took a dive head first down the wooded slope. Thankfully, she was able to snatch a tree branch and rescue herself from disaster, but her heart was thudding hard in her chest and she was already well out of breath.

Careful, Granger, said a voice in her head. It took a moment before she realized whose voice it was. Stuff it, she thought back—but, of course, had that been the real Snape giving her snide advice, she would have found it the most welcoming sound in the world. She shook her head.

Don't think about that now. Still several more steps to go until then. A month at least, and a million and a half things I haven't the faintest clue how I'm going to accomplish.

Another fifteen minutes of tramping delicately through the foliage and Hermione at last emerged onto a muddy back road that led around the southeast perimeter of Hogsmeade. Wasting no time, she paused only a moment to readjust the strap of her bag and then took off at a jog down the path. A part of her wished that she had let Harry do this after all, for she was woefully out of shape—not to mention weary to the bone from months of poor sleep and skipped dinners. Harry was naturally athletic. It would have been a breeze for him.

However, all of the things she had said back in the cave were still true. She knew more than he did, she was smaller, she had mastered more spells, and, quite frankly, Harry always had a knack for getting himself into trouble doing even the simplest of tasks. All in all, Hermione was much more likely to pull it off… that is, if she ever managed to catch her sodding breath again.

Regardless of the stitch in her side, Hermione pressed on, resting only the few times she encountered other people on the road and had to hide herself in the shadow of a garden shed or behind patio furniture. (She was in the residential portion of Hogsmeade). Ever so gradually, small houses gave way to bigger houses, then to shops, then to restaurants, then Hermione at last found herself on the main drag next to Zonko's Joke Shop, which, judging by the dark windows, had obviously been closed for the night.

She hoped the Three Broomsticks was still open, otherwise she would never get in; the security spells were too advance, and she couldn't use her wand besides. For, if Hermione had learned anything from her long months on the run with her Potions professor, it was that unlicensed wand magic was the surest thing to get her found by those she would most like to avoid.

The old saying 'careful what you wish for' came immediately to mind when Hermione rounded a corner and found herself facing a pub that was not only open, but packed wall to wall with chilled but sociable locals looking to warm themselves with a pint of Madam Rosmerta's famous butterbeer. Bugger, she thought. This was going to be even more difficult than she imagined. She shrugged internally. Oh well, no use standing here in the snow. Let's get this over with…

Hermione hadn't made it two steps into the Three Broomsticks before someone's foot caught the edge of the invisibility cloak and she stumbled hard into a squat, portly man at her side. The man, who must not have been very stable to begin with, crashed spectacularly to the ground, taking a nearby table with him and the five full pints of frothing liquid that had been sitting upon it.

The surrounding crowd let out several "ooooh's" of sympathy, a few of them laughed, and two of them—the two who had been sitting at the table that had just recently been overturned—let out a stream of curses.

Hermione held her breath. Was she caught already? Would they wonder who had caused the accident? Surely the man she knocked into would jump to his feet at any moment and cry out that some invisible person had assaulted him and that they should all start searching the pub immediately for this despicable culprit! If this happened, there was absolutely nowhere for Hermione to run. She was surrounded.

But the man simply rolled over on the ground, groaning loudly, as a cherry-faced woman with plump cheeks and a generous backside stooped down to help him to his feet.

"Come on, Bernard, you old drunkard," she guffawed kindly. "Say your apologies to the nice gentlemen and buy them a fresh round. What were you havin' there, gents? Alright, Bernard, that's it, on your feet. I'm sorry, Sugar Ale was it? That's right, Bernard, did you hear that? A round of Ale, and you say you're sorry now. Go on, then, you great buffoon."

Bernard, who had finally, laboriously, made it to his feet (though he was still swaying quite dramatically), mopped his enormous sideburns with a sleeve. They had soaked up a significant portion of spilled ale as he had rolled around on the floor. Bernard paused only to let out an enormous belch, and then he bellowed a good-natured apology to the two men, who, in turn, laughed and clapped Bernard on the shoulders, nearly sending him to the floor again.

"There you are!" exclaimed the rosy faced woman, as she signaled for the waitress. "A round of Sugar Ales, f'you please, missy!"

Hermione let herself relax a bit. Had this not been such a serious situation, she may have found the whole scene quite amusing—but, as it were, she had a very serious mission to complete, and she must not allow anything to distract her from it.

A further ten very loud, yet thankfully uneventful, minutes passed, and Hermione at last managed to squeeze her way to the back of the pub, searching all the while for a door that might lead her to the basement, or at the very least some sort of storage closet. Oh, well, alright then, she thought, when she turned to face a wall on her left and found the words STORAGE CLOSET in big block letters nearly three inches from her nose. That was…easy.

Carefully, she reached out and tried the handle. It was open.

Don't jinx yourself Hermione—stay alert! Any number of things could still go horribly wrong…

She waited diligently until she was as sure as she would ever be that no one was watching her, and then, quick as a blink, she opened the door just wide enough for her to fit through, and slipped inside.

It was dark. Which, honestly, she had expected—yet "lumos" was half way out of her mouth before she bit it back and stuffed her wand back into her belt again. Stupid! Stupid! For pity's sake, you're worse than Bernard!

Trembling slightly with her near misstep, Hermione stopped for a moment and considered her next move. This is really quite pathetic, Hermione. Ha, ha. Bravo. Of all the things she had prepared for, of all the things she had successfully anticipated, the difficulty of conjuring a light had never even crossed her mind.

The only light to see by was a thin, glowing ribbon coming from the crack beneath the door. Was there no other way? Apparently not. She was running out of time, this would just have to do.

So, painfully slowly, taking every possible care, Hermione tip-toed to the back of the closet (it was a rather large closet, unfortunately) and began to feel around on the ground for a promising bottle. Her hand found a gridded crate. She slipped her fingers inside it and pulled out a heavy glass bottle by its neck. Then she crept back to the door, knelt down, and attempted to examine the label against the feeble light.

Nope. Vegetable Oil. Damn.

She returned the offending jar to its crate, and then groped around at her feet for the next one. This time, the bottle was rounded with a short neck. She took it back to the door and peered closely at the label.

Shit. Olives.

It was a very slow process.

But Hermione continued diligently to repeat it, every time convincing herself, alright, the next one. The next one. Has to be it. Has to be...

Once, the door flew unexpectedly open, just when Hermione was replacing a jar of spiced carrot juice on its shelf and she nearly dropped it, forgetting for a moment that she was still under the invisibility cloak.

So many things could have gone wrong in that moment—but someone somewhere must have been looking out for her, because none of them did.

Said door-opener turned out to be a very surly looking waiter with a thick, dark mustache and squinty eyes. He could have opened the door when Hermione was in the front of the closet instead of the back. He could have looked up and noticed the gallon of spiced carrot juice floating apparently unaided in midair, instead of casting his gaze to the floor in search of a dustpan. And, worst of all, he could have been seeking something on the very back shelf, which would have meant that there was no feasible way Hermione could have avoided being caught. But the waiter merely opened the door, stooped down, picked up the dustpan, and left. It was all over in less than a second. And…


She had been too terrified to utilize that moment of full illumination to look around the room and determine where the firewhiskey was kept!

Don't look now, Granger. It appears Longbottom has gained a new colleague in the fine art of colossal ineptitude.

Snape again! Oh, honestly. That man. She had forgotten how abrasive the old bugger could be… in your own head for Christ's sake, you deranged little twit! she berated herself. Stop talking to yourself! Get this done!

Hermione set the spiced carrot juice down on the shelf and moved on to shelf above it, which held a few rows of promising-feeling bottles.

At last, at last, at long last—after a grueling half hour in the dank, musty dark, tip-toeing back and forth, kneeling up and down what felt like a thousand times, she saw the faint outline of "FIREWHI" imprinted on the rounded glass in her hands. Breathless with joy, she rotated it, just to make sure—then she saw the "SKY" and suppressed a hoot of triumph. She set down the duffle bag on the ground, put the firewhisky delicately inside it, and then returned to the last shelf she had touched.

All in all, she was able to fit a full eight handles of amber liquid in her bag, before she zipped it up, heaved it (carefully!) onto her shoulder, left her modest pile of galleons on a nearby crate, held her breath, and then squeezed out the door into the bright lights of the pub.

Her eyes were dazzled for a moment, after spending so much time in the dark, but once her vision adapted, she blinked once and her heart took a gigantic leap into her throat. A twisted old hag (wearing, of all things, a lime green turban) sat with her jewel-encrusted hands resting on the bar. And she was staring right at Hermione… or, rather, she was staring at the closet door, which had, to all appearances, just opened itself.

Oh... my god. Oh my god. ohmygodohmygodohmy—

"Wretched door!"

Hermione had just enough sense to throw herself against the opposite wall of the hallway in which she had just emerged, when Madam Rosmerta herself came busting out of another set of doors (that, Hermione gathered, must have led to the kitchens), and barreled down the hall to slam the storage closet closed again.

Rosmerta noticed the hag looking at her and gestured casually to the closet with her thumb. "I've had Mikey work on those hinges I don't know how many times, but I tell you, one gust of wind at just the right moment and—" she snapped. "There it goes! Pain the arse ruddy door, I'm telling you!"

With another loud scoff of frustration, Rosmerta stomped off into the crowd towards a rowdy group of wizards. They were lobbing pumpkin seeds at an enormous, orange-haired troll two tables away, perhaps looking to start a fight, and who, Hermione quite accurately guessed, were about to receive a very swift and uproarious telling-off from the lady of the establishment.

Hermione looked back at the hag in the green turban, expecting her to have returned to sipping whatever glowing, steaming concoction she had bubbling away in her goblet—but the hag had not removed her eyes from the hallway where Hermione currently stood. She was obviously not convinced by Madam Rosmerta's timely tirade.

Best move on, then, Hermione told herself gently. Don't get excited. Even if she suspects something, who is she going to tell? What's the worst she could do?

Those questions were meant to set her at ease; in reality, all they did was set her to thinking of all of the twisted, horrible things that mysterious old hags in wizard bars could do to a Muggleborn such as herself.

Just to be safe, let's walk this way…

Hermione hedged around the corner, keeping the duffle bag at all times pressed tightly to her body, and inched her way towards the east side of the pub. Her plan was to simply follow the wall all the way around. But there were far too many people, tables, and chairs leaning against it, and so she was forced to deviate from her course.

Oh, bloody hell! Hermione dropped to the ground as the surly, mustached waiter who had nearly caught her earlier came whisking by carrying two serving trays laden with pints of butterbeer—one of which was on course to colliding with the side of Hermione's head if she hadn't ducked in time.

Unfortunately, someone else had not ducked in time, and there was an almighty crash for the second time that night, as six full pints of butterbeer clattered to the floor amid a symphony of yells, hoots, and profanity.

Quick as a flash, Hermione scrambled underneath the nearest table and hugged her knees to her chest, careful to avoid what turned out to be four different pairs of legs on all sides of her.

"Ouch. Someone's going to have a headache in the morning."

"You mean the bloke on the floor, or the poor bastard who's cleaning up his mess?"

"Too right, good point. Both of them, then, I wager."

"Ouch, right in the nose! Jolly bad luck."

"You're idiots. All of you."

"Of course we are."

"Who said we weren't?"

"Not I."

"You wouldn't."


"Anyone fancy another round?"

"Next time, I'm afraid, I'm off."

The legs nearest to Hermione—on her right—stood up.

"Got to finish assembling this portfolio for Miss"—the word 'Miss' was said with a clear disdain—"Dubblepee so that I can hand it in first thing tomorrow, bright fuckin' early. No, no, Candy, dear—I'll get the tab. Or, I should say, the Daily Prophet will get the tab. Business write-off, of course."

"Pardon me, Dylan, but you mean to say you were working all this time?"

"Naturally! Interviewing the locals, obviously. Dubblepee loves to hear the opinions of common folk."

"Oh, thanks."

"Opinions on what? The large breasted woman at the next table?"

"Touché, Rutherford. Now, really, do you want me to pay or not?"

"Absolutely I do!"

"Well alright then."

At last, a window of opportunity opened up just as the man who was standing—Dylan, Hermione gathered (where had she heard that name recently?)—slid back his chair and stepped away. She made a break for it, counting on the surrounding chatter to mask any noise that her duffle bag might make as the bottles inside it clanked around.

Half a moment later, her head began slowly to wind itself up into overdrive; she knew that man! Somehow, that name Dylan sounded familiar—like she had come across it recently, and repeatedly. It bothered her that she couldn't nail him down, because he might be exactly whom she was looking for. Obviously he worked for The Daily Prophet, which made sense, as she had certainly read that rubbish paper enough in the past few months to have come across every journalist and editor's name a thousand times over. But he also mentioned his boss—or someone he worked for, someone who needed a portfolio from him first thing in the morning. So he wasn't a top writer, he was a flunky—but a flunky could be just who she needed. He was a fact gatherer, perhaps; he interviewed people. That was important, very important—she could use that. But whom did he work for?

Dubblepee. Dubblepee. Hermione turned the name over and over in her mind as she wound her way carefully out the door and onto the street. She was held up briefly when she had to fight her way past a necking couple and, next to them, an enchanted lamppost that kept swaying back and forth to what sounded like a drunken man's recording of a Frank Sinatra song. Once she had found her way back to Zonko's and the familiar pathway that lead around Hogsmeade, her escape seemed to take no time at all. Her mind was far too occupied to register her jogging and how tired it made her.

What in the hell kind of a name was "Dubblepee" anyway? She had never heard that. Never. Dubblepee. Dubblepee. What does that mean? Dubblepee. Dubble... pee. Dubble… Double… Double? Yes! Double! That's it! P not pee! Double P! Two P's! Penny Paige! He works for that weasel faced harlot Penny Paige!

Hermione did a crazy little jig of triumph before she vaulted over a bush and began to climb back up the wooded slope. This was perfect! This was exactly, precisely what they needed!

"Harry! Harry!"

Hermione threw off the invisibility cloak and slid the duffle bag onto the ground next to the other ingredients as Harry emerged from the shadows in the rear of the cave. He looked understandably anxious.

"What is it? What?"

With no warning, Hermione threw her arms around him and gave him a long, fierce hug. Then she pulled back, her eyes sparkling. "I have an idea!"

Harry was thunderstruck. "But… but we've already got an idea."

Hermione gave him a clever smile. "I have a better one."

"What? How? What about?"

"I'll tell you! But let's get to work, alright? There's a lot to do and a lot to plan, and I don't even know where her office is!"

"Whose office?"

Hermione grabbed two full handles of firewhisky out of her bag and passed them to Harry for him to open. She pointed to the cauldron. "You pour. I'll talk."

He nodded. "You got it."

It was a full twelve days before Harry and Hermione were able to find out where Penny Paige's office was, and it was another five before they realized how impossible it was going to be to actually find it.

It turned out that the Daily Prophet in fact had two headquarters—one was well known and larger than the other, residing somewhere in Diagon Alley (Hermione had passed it many, many times, and yet she never thought once she would need to remember its exact location)—but the other, the most relative one in this case, as it housed the offices of its senior and most well-paid employees (of whom was included the notorious Penny Paige), was rumored to reside somewhere in the Muggle borough of Bloomsbury in London. But its origins were founded by a notoriously secret literary society, and, to this day, the secret was very well kept.

Finally, running out of time, anxious to secure this final piece to Hermione's intricate plan, they gave up on locating Penny's office and instead decided to take up a slightly more questionable, and subsequently riskier, course of action.

The final days of Harry and Hermione's stakeout in the cave, before the new and improved polyjuice potion was completed, happened thusly:

Hermione drafted a letter to Dylan Hadley—who, it turned out, did indeed work for Penny Paige as her personal assistant. In the letter, Hermione disguised herself as a Hogwarts student named Alice Benson (Hufflepuff, second year), who had something scandalous to say about her Headmaster, wanted nothing more than to blab it all to the Daily Prophet, and that she could meet Mr. Hadley for an interview two days hence under the large magnolia tree near the Shrieking Shack.

Dylan Hadley responded first thing the next morning with his affirmation, and Hermione and Harry began to feel the tight chord of anxiety wrapped around their necks loosen ever so slightly. But they weren't breathing easy yet—they had only seven more days before the full extent of their plans would be put into action, and they would need most of that time for travel; it was important they get this done as soon as possible (even two days was stretching it).

At last, the hour of the interview arrived. Hermione, in rabbit form, and Harry, beneath the invisibility cloak, waited impatiently for the man to show. It was unfortunate that Hermione had never actually seen Dylan's face, and so would not be able to tell whether or not the real Dylan showed up. Though it was not much of a risk, strictly speaking, for it was very unlikely that anyone who was not Dylan Hadley would have any conceivable reason for locating themselves beneath this exact tree a few hundred yards away from the most haunted house in Britain at the exact time Hermione had specified in her letter.

Thankfully, Dylan had the courtesy to show up right on time (perhaps he realized that twelve year-old girls could be rather flighty, and that Alice might turn tail and leave if her interviewer did not appear precisely when he said he would). Dylan was a slim man, with mousey brown hair and a peculiar nose. As he settled himself against the trunk of the tree to wait, looking at his watch with a puzzled, slightly irritated expression, Hermione took a deep breath, and emerged.

With a running mantra of, you're a rabbit, act like a rabbit, you're a rabbit, act like a rabbit, she hopped cautiously out from beneath a bush and began to nibble at the grass inches from Dylan's shoes.

This had the desired effect; with a hushed, "Well, hello there," Dylan leaned down to get a better look at what he undoubtedly perceived as perhaps the friendliest wild rabbit on the face of the earth. Dylan's face loomed so near, Hermione could very well count his nose hairs. She froze, her heart pitter-pattering nervously, her animal instincts screaming at her to run the opposite direction. But her wizard instincts reminded her what she was there to do, and she allowed Dylan to reach out with a hand in order to stroke one of her long ears. In response, she flicked that ear and then the other as well. This was the signal for Harry to get ready. A branch from a nearby bush waved back and forth. Hermione was too nervous to tell if it was Harry or simply the wind. At that point, there was no way to know if Harry was prepared or not, so Hermione simply trusted that he was, and proceeded.

Just as Dylan got close enough, Hermione lunged, sinking her teeth into his outstretched palm, and at that exact moment, Harry supposedly scissored a large chunk of Dylan's hair and tucked it away in his pocket—but there was no way to know!

The whole thing was over in a flash. Before Dylan had barely finished his first cry of pain, Hermione released her hold on his hand and bolted away—under the brush, through the woods, and didn't stop until she had made it all the way back to the cave on the other side of Hogsmeade.

Harry did not make it back until ten minutes later (he had actually had to jog the distance). He arrived smiling, and showed Hermione the hair, at which point, Hermione squealed with triumph, and gave her friend another strong-armed, enthusiastic hug.

However, bells of alarm were, as always, still ringing in the back of their heads, and they found the happiness of their victory evaporate within moments. Only one more week before the grand escape! With that in mind, Hermione spent the following two hours completing the final touches to the bubbling cauldron. Once it was complete, she filled four vials full to the brim, stoppered them, and then put them into a small pouch with Dylan's hair. Then they packed up their things (they left most of the ingredients in the cave, thinking they may come back and retrieve them at a later date if all went well), and ducked once more beneath the invisibility cloak.

Then it was back to Hogwarts.

Using the Marauder's Map, they negotiated their way through the grounds—it was late evening at this point, which meant everyone was in the grand hall for dinner. They had traversed this path many times, yet Hogwarts grounds always seemed foreign, somehow, Hermione thought, unpopulated and under the soft glow of moonlight.

Quietly as they could, they snuck into the Gryffindor's locker room (there was a simple spell protecting it, but Harry knew the password), where Harry retrieved his Firebolt, and Hermione, with a whispered apology, took Ron's Cleansweep.

Then, with much difficulty, they tucked all of this back beneath the cloak—no doubt there was a sizable portion of their feet and ankles showing, but, due to Dumbledore's recent curfew, there was no one around to notice—trotted back across the grounds, and then hiked a short ways into the Forbidden Rorest. There, they mounted up, Harry stowed the cloak away in his bag, and they took to the sky.

Hermione was glad she had practiced her flying. It was a rough night.

They arrived on a deserted street a few blocks away from the Muggle entrance to the Ministry of Magic just a few minutes before daybreak. Tired but on fire with nervous energy, they found an out of the way place—down a dark alley, beneath some stairs, behind a wooden crate—where they placed the duffle bag and their two brooms. Hermione kept only a small bundle of clothing that she tucked beneath her arm. Then, just to be extra safe, they carefully laid the invisibility cloak over the whole lot. Harry would retrieve it later.

With an hour to kill until the Azkaban Office in the Ministry was officially open—and perhaps another hour until people actually began to show up there, which seemed to Hermione to be a safer, less suspicious bet—they seated themselves at a Muggle pub and had a long, leisurely breakfast…"leisurely" being a relative term. For, Hermione, for the most part, was too nervous to eat. Even though she was ravenous, and had not eaten a proper meal, nor been properly full, for well over a month. This was part of the plan, though, too; while a poor diet and no sleep was perhaps a handicap in a majority of situations, it would, in fact, help her greatly a few days hence.

Once breakfast was over, and they had finished whatever meager, exhausted snippets of conversation they managed to piece together between the two of them, Hermione squeezed Harry's hand for luck, grabbed the bundle of clothing she had brought with her, and excused herself to the bathroom. The Men's bathroom.

Two minutes later, she emerged wearing a pair of Harry's old corduroys, his least favorite sweater, and looking perfectly, seamlessly, like Penny Paige's mousy-haired assistant, Dylan Hadley.

Harry watched her leave. Hermione didn't dare even glance in his direction due to the immediacy of the situation; she needed to hoof it over to the Ministry phone booth in order to take as much advantage of whatever amount of time the new potion had given her. This was made very difficult, however, because it turned out that there was one major downside to the polyjuice potion that, quite frankly, she was having difficulty negotiating: She was drunk. Crazy drunk. This, Hermione had not foreseen. All things considered, she really should have calculated this possibility into the equation, but she had been so focused on the other properties of firewhisky, its potency, and how it would lengthen the effects of the potion, she completely forgot about what large amounts of alcohol actually did to the human body. Perhaps because the portion size had been so small (surely no more than regular shot glass!). But it appeared that something about the combined magical properties of the concoction had condensed, perhaps even magnified, the alcoholic effects.

Oh briiiilliant, Herms. That's just super fantastic, quite very much, just wonderfully perfection. Hermione. Great. Oh, dear, Hermione. Get a grips. Get… Get a grip. On yourself.

She paused outside the pub to take a deep breath and attempt to collect herself.

Okie. Inner dialogue, not so pithy. But let's give our bests to make verbal speech more goodly, kay? Good girl. Well, good. Okay. Let's go.

In any case, after her initial panicked realization, she began to settle into the flow of it, and the situation eventually began to seem half-way manageable. Terrifying, disgruntling, but manageable. She wobbled a little when she walked, as the ground felt more like the deck of a ship at sea rather than stable concrete, and her brain took a few more nanoseconds than usual to processes information and formulate a response—but, all in all, after a few more minutes of practicing coherent speech in her head, she thought she was more or less up to handling it. And even if she wasn't, what other choice did she have?

Once at the phone booth, Hermione squeezed in with an elderly red haired wizard and his toddler nephew, riding with them down to the Ministry's ground floor. On the way down, she asked, casually and succinctly as she could possibly manage, if the old wizard happened to know on which level the Azkaban Office was located. He looked very startled by the question, but Hermione introduced herself as Dylan Hadley, Dylan Hadley who worked for Penny Paige, Penny Paige who worked for The Daily Prophet, Penny Paige who meant business, and so the old man was quick to oblige Hermione with an answer. It turned out that he did, in fact, know very well where the Azkaban Office was located, as he worked as a file clerk in the Office of Magical Security and Law Enforcement, which was right next door.

Relieved, and more than a little awed by her own good luck, Hermione was able to follow the old man (whose name, she learned, was Leopold), and his nephew (whose name Hermione did not catch) straight through the check-in desk on the ground floor. Then they continued on through the maze of passages, elevators, doors, crowds of bustling wizards, and trolls, and goblins, and all the way up to the office itself. She thanked Leopold kindly, waved goodbye to the little boy, who stared at her strangely (He knows! He knows! she shrieked silently in her head), watched them hobble quickly away, and then she walked inside.

Hermione found the appropriate forms almost immediately. Thank God. They were located on a stand right next to the door; she grabbed the blue one titled "Azkaban Prisoner Visitation" and began filling it out.

What the fuckin' blimey, Hermione, no, no—your name is DYLAN, you stupid cow, why are you, it'ssss Dylan, what is wrong with, pull it together, this is, this… Oh fuck, I need another one. Fuck.

Trying to be nonchalant about it (in retrospect, she doubted very much she was able to pull off anything even close to nonchalance) she threw away the first form and grabbed a brand new one.

A tall albino man was sitting in a chair close to the stand with the forms, and he gave Hermione a very incredulous, judgmental look—which Hermione subsequently ignored. Or tried to ignore. Actually, it was very hard to ignore anything when you were magically disguised as a person you had never met, surrounded by potential enemies, and quite arguably wasted out of your mind.

She shook her head, and tried to concentrate on the new form. It was actually very simple, she thought, which made Hermione wary, but she decided not to get ahead of herself. Completing it took much longer than was probably appropriate, as Hermione had to focus harder than she ever had in her life on making sure that her letters were straight and her answers were coherent—everything, including the text on the paper, seemed to be swimming before her eyes. Looking at them for too long made her feel dizzy, a little nauseous even. But, ironically, her nerves somewhat helped to steady her—they sobered her enough so that she was able to give her task the proper attention. This time with the correct name, and hopefully the correct information. Some of it she had to make up, but she had already prepared most of Dylan's backstory in advanced, though it was a miracle she managed to remember it all.

Once finished, Hermione turned in the form to the secretary—who was very old, and very mean, and who sat at a desk in the middle of the room scribbling away on a seemingly never ending stack of papers with the most enormous peacock feather quill Hermione had ever seen in her life. For a moment, Hermione had an almost overwhelmingly impulse to just, to just grab it and start prancing around the room giggling madly, but—

STOP IT. Okay. No. Don't do that. Bad idea, Herms. Bad. Bloody. Idea. What would Snape do? Hahahaha... Hermione had to suppress the mad gurgle of laughter welling up in her throat. What would Snape do, indeed. That would have been a good standard to hold herself to, if the the thought of Snape's expression upon hearing even a fraction of her current thought process didn't seem like the funniest—

"Take a seat," growled the secretary, as she snatched the form out of Hermione's hand. "Over there." She pointed a gnarled finger at a group of chairs lined up against the wall to Hermione's right, where several witches and wizards were already sitting. Each one looked more dangerous than the other. Hermione sat in the chair on the end, the farthest from all of them she could feasibly get, and settled down to wait. She looked at her watch. By this time, half an hour had already passed, and it was sure to take her a while to negotiate her way back out of the Ministry and onto the streets again. She hoped she wouldn't have to wait too long.

She waited for two and a half hours.

This was not because the line was extraordinarily long—in fact, it was quite short—rather it was because each person who went in (apart from the entrance, there were four different doors, through one of which people with blue forms were escorted) did not come out again for ages. Hermione was growing frantic. Three hours! She had been in Dylan's body, now, for three whole hours, and there was no telling how much longer the potion would last! She felt her insides quaking and shaking, her every sense acutely tuned to each pair of eyes in the room—of which there were many—and how many times they turned in her direction. In particular, there was an incredibly foul-smelling Cyclops sitting on her left, whose one eye kept glancing over her, very pointedly, every few minutes, as though he were sizing her up, trying to decide whether she would taste best with the Chianti or Sauvignon Blanc. (Not that Hermione had any basis for assuming that a Cyclops would eat a little girl—MAN. YOU ARE A MAN, HERMIONE. JESUS.—or that even if he did, he liked to enjoy said man at the dinner table whilst sipping daintily upon a glass of expensive Italian wine, but her mind was doing strange things to her, and nothing made sense anymore). She wanted to leave, she needed to leave. In fact, Hermione was half a second away from cutting her losses and bolting for the exit, when a woman with a bandana and hooped earrings emerged from the Azkaban Prisoner Visitation door, and the secretary warbled out Dylan's name.

"Mr. Dylan Hadley, Azkaban Visitation!" The woman then glared at Hermione viciously, wrinkling her hooked nose, baring her teeth which were crooked and yellow and looked as though they were, this very moment, rotting right out of her mouth. Hermione stared helplessly.

Oh goodness, you are so ugly, Hermione found herself thinking, despite whatever shred of good sense she had left telling her she was mad. Oh, my gracious, madam, you are just, you are just the worst. Looking. I'm, I am sorry, indeed, I wish I could help you with that. I mean, I don't know how, but you need to, you need something, because you are, frankly, not aesthetically fortunate. In the face. Or, really, all over. Really. I—Oh, shit. Stop that. Need to, yes, walk now, into the room. What would Snape do? Hahaha, Keep it together, Herms, Hermione, Dylan, please, or you are very likely going to screw this up quite royally. Which would not be, that would not be helpful. At all. Thank you. Dylan. Hadley. Man. Dylan Hadley, the man. I am a man. Yes. Thank you.

Slowly, deliberately, Hermione stood from her chair, trying her hardest not to seem unsteady or, in fact, completely pissed. She nodded to the secretary on her way by, attempting normalcy (probably failed spectacularly), then walked right through the Azkaban Prisoner Visitation door and into the room beyond.

The room was very bright, very sparse. There was only one desk and two chairs, in one of which sat a middle-aged witch with long brown hair and piercing green eyes. She did not look friendly.

Heart hammering painfully somewhere in the vicinity of her throat, Hermione sat down in the chair opposite the woman.

The woman had a file on the desk in front of her, which she opened. It took a moment before Hermione realized who's file it was—it was Dylan's.

Oh, dear.

That's what this was. An interview, a background check—which made perfect sense. Of course! Surely the Ministry didn't allow just anyone to visit Azkaban prisoners, there had to be some sort of protocol. And, judging by the amount of time each person had spent in this room before Hermione's turn, this protocol was very efficient, and very thorough. Which was not fortunate news. For Hermione.

"Good afternoon, Mr…" said the woman tersely, trailing off to allow Hermione the chance to introduce herself.

Make nice impressions on the lady!

Hermione stood abruptly, and, perhaps a bit too enthusiastically, flung out her hand over the desk. "Dylan Hadley, it's a damned pleasure to meet you."

What? Why, Hermione! Why!

Understandably, the woman looked quite shocked. Clearly, this was not common behavior for those whom she usually interviewed. However, she took Hermione's hand and shook it politely.

"Yes. Mr. Hadley, a pleasure. My name is Rose, I will be interviewing you today."

"Rose? That's lovely, what a lovely name. Fire away, Rose." For some stupid, ungodly, unknowable reason, Hermione winked as she sat back in her chair.


Except… Hermione couldn't believe it. Surely, her brain was playing tricks on her again, but it just seemed, very much, as though Rose the interviewer was… blushing. She was! Hermione, Dylan, whoever, seemed to be having an effect. A positive effect.

"Thank you, Mr. Hadley. I'll try not to fire too many."

Oh, dear Jesus, we're flirting! WHAT? How is… well, maybe this is, yes, this is goodly. Good. This can help. Keep doing this. Hermione. Dylan. Mr. Hadley. Is this wise? What the hell do I know. Just don't throw up on her. She likes me.

And Hermione's drunken conscience could not have been more correct. Because while the first half hour passed relatively smoothly—with easy, answerable questions that mostly pertained to Dylan's work, and his interest in interviewing an inmate of Azkaban Prison, there were a few things that Rose stumbled upon which Hermione nearly had a heart attack trying to answer.

"So, I see you have a charge on here—Excuse me, I don't mean to pry unnecessarily, but it says here that you were arrested three years ago for… am I getting this correct? You were arrested for charming the wall of a women's public toilet so that it became transparent to those on the other side. The other side was a men's public toilet. Would you care to explain or elaborate on that charge?"

Dylan. What the fuck.

Hermione felt her mind go deeply, infinitely blank. But Rose was waiting for an answer, and Hermione's whole plan, her entire everything depended on passing this screening test with flying colors. She had to answer! Now! Hermione's poor, troubled mind, raced for what felt like hours to assemble an appropriate response. She didn't even know where to start. What? Toilets? Disgusting! Why would he do that? Me. So horrible! Why would, who would, how could someone, I mean, What? WHY?

Finally, finally, at long last, she was able to mutter a very unconvincing, "Framed, I was. Very… embarrassing. Couldn't give an alibi. I was… framed. Of course."

Much to Hermione's surprise, Rose did not seem to think Hermione's response unconvincing—or if she did, she made a deliberate point of rationalizing it anyway. Rose simply smiled apologetically and nodded, reaching out to pat Hermione's hand with an uncomfortable sensuality that made Hermione's cheeks grow very warm indeed.

"Of course, Mr. Hadley… er, Dylan. May I call you Dylan? Would you mind that terribly?"

Hermione swallowed the big lump in her throat and did her best to smile rakishly (though she had never in her life known what a rakish smile looked like). "You certainly can, Rose. Certainly, you can."

And so the interview went on. A few more rocky moments came and went, but things were going well… until Hermione glanced at her watch and realized with an enormous jolt that she was nearing the fifth hour mark!

She could feel it happening already; her pulse was quickening, her vision was stabilizing—her speech was becoming more and more succinct, easier to manage. Oh no, oh no, oh no, oh no!

As the minutes continued to tick by, and Rose began to wind down her questions into the final farewells, Hermione was all but jumping out of her chair with nervous anticipation.

Finally, Rose ended by giving Hermione's hand a particularly affectionate squeeze and telling her—quite suggestively—that she got off work at five, and if Dylan might like to meet her for drinks?

"Er… er, no… no, I'm sorry, I can't… I have, a prior engagement… going out of town… yes… I'm sorry—but I'll be back! Yes! I'll be back, er, next week, and maybe then—"

"Oh, perfect. Glorious. It's a date, gorgeous, I can't wait to see you and get you all… liquored up." She batted her eyelashes.

Hermione felt, with an alarming pop, one of her feet shrink back to normal size within one of Harry's borrowed shoes. Instantly, she leapt out of her chair, grabbed Rose's hand in an extremely brief but erratic handshake, shouted something along the lines of, "YesIwillthankyouverymuchbye!" then turned tail and took off out the door, through the waiting room, and back into the hall.

The Ministry, just as she feared, was difficult to escape. There were people everywhere, and no stairs, only lifts—which were close and uncomfortable. Every time it stopped, Hermione expected someone familiar to shuffle in, recognize her, and blow her entire plan to smithereens. She had looked fully like her own self for a good ten minutes before she was finally able to find her way back out onto the street again. But, thankfully, luck had been with her once again, and no one familiar had entered the lifts, or stopped her, or seemed to identify her as the missing, bushy-haired best friend of Harry Potter. She had made it. For now.

Once on the pavement, Hermione took off Harry's overlarge shoes and carried them in her hand as she sprinted as fast as she could to the hotel where Harry had said he would be renting a room for them for the day. Harry was in the lobby, reading the paper when she arrived. He jumped to his feet as Hermione barged in.

Gasping for breath, Hermione tried to tell him, in as few words as possible, her success. "I don't know, Harry, there was, you see, this man, small child, then, albino guy, theseforms, my gosh, and a Cyclops, I couldn't handle this, old woman, so ugly, don't know why, so sorry, so rude, and I flirted, with this lady, interviewed me, so many questions, she liked me, a lot, I don't think, that was appropriate, but she wouldn't shut up, and Dylan, bloody, fucking, is a maniac, did not know about his past, and, and, Oh God, Harry, I gotta lay down."

Laughing a bit with dumbfounded amazement, Harry led Hermione (who was still babbling occasionally, and always incoherently) up a flight of stairs and into their rented room.

Because they could only fly their brooms at night, under the cover of darkness, Hermione had the whole rest of the day in which to catch up on some much needed rest. Which she did, immediately. The moment Harry opened the door and led her inside, Hermione collapsed into bed, still dressed in Harry's clothes. Her head had barely sunk into the pillow before she fell into a deep, profound, immovable slumber.

Travel over the next three days and nights was tough but uneventful. They rested in hotel rooms and in Muggle pubs when the sun was up, and flew fast and furious as far as they could once it set.

On the third night, they reached a dense, unpopulated forest. This meant they could continue to fly even as the sun rose, for they were well into wizard country now and did not fear any Muggles sighting them. And time was running out; they needed to really push it in order to make it to their final campsite with enough time to spare before "Dylan's" scheduled interview with Snape.

That evening, they landed on the outskirts of a pond, far into the woods, a few short miles from the ocean, and made camp. Admittedly, "camp" did not mean a lot, because neither of them had had enough room or ingenuity to magic up, or bring with them, a tent. But they were both so utterly exhausted that even sleeping on the ground did not entirely discourage them.

Hermione stayed at the campsite only long enough to see that Harry was settled and had started a small fire, before she began to prepare herself for the next enormous step in her plan. It had to be done that night, because tomorrow was the interview.

She took out the bag that contained the three remaining vials of polyjuice potion, along with Dylan's hair. Then she transferred two vials, and half of what remained of the hair, into a small pouch with a long string that Hermione was then able to tie around her neck. She stowed the rest of the hair and the final vial of polyjuice back in the bag (to be used the next morning). Then she took out the invisibility cloak and wrapped it tightly around her shoulders, so familiar was she now with the weight of it, the feel of it. She left the hood down, as she would need range of vision.

Then Hermione looked at Harry. His face was stoic and unreadable across the campfire. The moment he sensed that Hermione was ready to leave, Harry stood up, walked over to her, and enveloped her in a fierce hug.

"Be safe," he said, gruffly in her ear. His emotions had been running hot for months now, but it was only this past week that seemed to have rubbed him raw.

Hermione had no voice with which to answer. So she simply nodded, hugged him in return, and then mounted Harry's Firebolt. She used one hand to steady herself, and in the other, she held Ron's Cleansweep.

Time was still of the essence. With no further indication or ceremonious word, Hermione kicked off from the ground and soared high up into the stars. The wind off the ocean grew louder and louder in her ears the further upwards she climbed. Up and up she flew, until the campfire disappeared from view, and all around her was the night sky.

It took a moment to orient herself. Azkaban Prison was just a tiny black dot far, far in the distance, across the forest, out in the ocean, surrounded by dark sea water. She found it, though, and made right for it, her knees gripping the Firebolt so hard she could feel her skin beginning to bruise.

As the black dot came nearer, steadily growing in size, larger and larger, Hermione could start to feel the unearthly coldness of the Dementors. It permeating her skin, her body, her every organ. The very blood in her veins felt chilled. In fact, she was so close now that if she strained her eyes, she could even see the Dementors, flying around the perimeter of the prison. Guarding it.

This was why Hermione hadn't eaten or slept—had done nothing but run herself down to the barest shell of a person she dared to become.

Her intended destination was not technically a hot spot for Dementors (she did not think); it would be on the rocks, close to the water, well out of the way. But Dementors had keen senses, and Hermione did not want to risk them detecting her through her emotions, her health of spirit. So she let herself feel hungry and tired, desperate, sad—all the things that a Dementor would find unappetizing and would hopefully ignore. It was with this mindset that Hermione approached the treacherous rocks at the base of Azkaban's island.

The wind was mighty, howling. The waves thundered and crashed at her feet, exploding against the rocks, occasionally dousing her when they leapt too high. Every time a wave caught her, it felt like a wall of ice shattering over her head, pushing her down a few feet. She felt dizzy and confused. She had a difficult time finding the right place to land (as, all things considered, her flying skills were still less than admirable). And yet she managed it, somehow. She managed it.

Once off her broom, she began to climb, feet slipping, her entire body soaked with frigid ocean water. Within minutes her hands ached torturously from having to catch herself so many times as a gusts of wind bowled into her and she had to prevent herself from falling to her immediate death. Time went by, she climbed on and on, up and up. Eventually, Hermione was able to find a flat spot, a break in the cliff face, with enough room for her to crouch comfortably for a few minutes. Here, she carefully placed Harry's Firebolt. Then she unhooked the invisibility cloak from around her shoulders and laid it over the broom, making sure, extra, incredibly sure, to anchor it on all available sides with heavy rocks, so that no matter how hard the wind blew (and it was blowing very hard indeed), the cloak would remain where it was. At least, she hoped it would. With all her might she hoped to everything in the world, that it would.

She used a small jagged rock to scratch a large 'X' into a nearby boulder, marking the spot so she could find it again later. Then she wedged the Cleansweep between some heavy rocks, shaking it back and forth several times until she was certain it was secure.

At last, the final task Hermione had left to complete was to sit on the hard, wet ground, close her eyes tight, and concentrate. Concentration was difficult; the gears of her mind were so frozen, it took a momentous effort to get them going again. She shut out everything—the wind, her ocean soaked hair thrashing about her face, the aching in her feet, her legs, her hands, her shoulders, the cold and ever present anguish of the Dementors' presence pressing in on her from every available angle, her own nerves, her anxieties, everything—and transformed herself once more into her animagus form. Her body shrank, her skin grew fur, her ears lengthened and magnified the sounds of the howling ocean. The transformation was complete.

So it was, eighty-seven days after Severus Snape had been snatched up by the Ministry and taken so abruptly from her life, Hermione Granger, exhausted beyond all human comprehension, but still determined with every bone and fiber of her body and being, began the long, laborious climb, up the cliff face of Azkaban Prison, into a gutter pipe, beneath the stone wall, through the vermin infested corridors, up the damp, dripping, mold covered stairwells, step by step, and eventually, hopefully, tediously, all the way up to the prison cell in which Severus Snape now waited. Where she would try to rescue him. Save his life. Just as he had done for her. Many times over.

Just Let it Happen

A Harry Potter Story
by La. Bel. LM

Part 27 of 35

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