Harry Potter and the Trouble With Neurotypicals 26

Harry Potter and the Trouble With Neurotypicals: Book Four.
Or, "Autistic Potter and the Goblet of Fire."

Notes: I do not own this. J. K. Rowling does. This is just fan fiction. No money is being made. Not by me, anyway.

There may be a few bits and pieces lifted word-for-word from the canon material. I tried to do that as little as possible, though. And the more this deviates from canon, the less that will happen. But some descriptions and things like that are too good to skip or try to reword.

Just as a reminder, so I don't have to shoehorn in descriptions in the text of the story as a reminder, but in this fanfic Harry and Hermione, apart from having Asperger's Syndrome, are both black as well.

I'm just as bad as Rowling at forgetting about birthdays of characters other than Harry, at least in this fic. So I'll just act as though Harry and the others remembered in the past offstage, and I'll try to be better in future to at least mention them.

I also fixed the mistake in book 2 of this fic where Draco claimed Sirius was an uncle, when Sirius is, in fact, Narcissa's cousin. I fixed that before I posted this chapter.

Chapter Two: Building Bridges

The next day, Sirius side-along apparated Harry to the Granger house where they picked up Hermione to take her to Grimmauld Place. Sirius had gotten strong enough since his release to where he side-along apparated both Harry and Hermione without splinching anyone, though he had to sit down at the dinner table and recover while Kreacher served Sirius tea and biscuits.

Antigone, for her part, came by Floo.

“Ah,” Sirius said when he saw her come out of the kitchen fireplace, “so you must be Antigone, one of Harry's Slytherin friends?”

The Indian girl smiled and brushed her black hair out of her face. “Yeah, that's me. Antigone Dreyfuss.”

She held out her hand, and he shook it jovially.

“Nice to meet you, Antigone. I hear you helped Harry out during his first and second year against Voldemort, is that right?”

She nodded. “Yes, I did. In the Chamber of Secrets, I got Slytherin's flaming sword from the Sorting Hat!”

“A flaming sword, that's perfectly Biblical,” Sirius said.

“That it is.”

“Well you go run along and meet with your friends.”

“It's nice to meet you, Sirius.”

“Likewise. Now go, you don't need to keep this old codger company.”

She grinned and ran off to find Harry and Hermione.

“Oh good, there you are Antigone. Now I only have to tell the story once. Come on, I'll tell you about my day yesterday, it was loads of fun!”

~

They were all still laughing about the antics of Luna's raven when Sirius came to the doorway and said, “Harry, Luna and her father are here. Their raven is missing, and they thought they'd check here.”

“What? Oh okay,” Harry said, getting up. Hermione and Antigone followed him, and as they came out of the drawing room, they came face to face – so to speak – with Luna and Xeno.

This time, Luna was dressed in a dress that looked made of spider silk, it was so gauzy. She had some short pants and a tank top on underneath, which was good because they could see it clearly. Luna also had a wreath made of various sorts and colors of flowers, very artfully done, with a daisy the size of a fist as the crown jewel. She also had flowers attached to the gauzy silk dress, around the fringe of the bottom and around the neckline, which continued down to her abdomen. She was barefoot, and her ankles had anklets of tinkling bells. Her skin art from the day before was still there, looking almost as good as it had the other day. She had her back to them when they first saw her, and Harry had seen a brief glimpse of a large sunflower with green vine rays emanating from it painted between her shoulder blades before she turned back around.

Xeno, for his part, was wearing an outfit that looked like someone from Robin Hood's era had made an outfit out of green fabric that bore a strong resemblance to actual leaves. He wore a similar, but understated, flower crown on his head, more on the order of a flower circlet than a crown. He wasn't barefoot, but his sandals looked like he'd woven them by hand from corn husks.

Catching the stares of everyone, Xeno smiled as he gently turned Luna around to face them.

“Admiring out religious garb, I see?”

“Er... is that what it is?” Antigone asked.

“Religious garb?” asked Hermione in confusion.

“Well it is for me,” Xeno said. “For my little fairy gift here, I suppose it counts as part of her cultural heritage.”

“Xeno, Luna! I found your bird. He was in the library,” Sirius said, coming into view carrying Writing Desk on his shoulder.

“Ah, excellent. He was probably trying to see if you had any Edgar Allan Poe or Shakespeare books in your collection, he's a connoisseur of fine literature.”

Writing Desk flew over to land on Xeno's shoulder instead. Luna looked momentarily disappointed at this, but smiled.

“He must want to feel tall today,” she said.

“What did you mean by 'cultural heritage,' Mr. Lovegood? And 'religious garb'?” Hermione asked, sounding like she was waiting for confirmation of something before she went off on an Aspie rant.

“Yes,” Harry said. “And 'fairy gift'? Why'd you call her that?”

“Well... when my Luna was little, some ignorant people used to call her a Changeling Child, saying she was stolen away by the Fair Folk and replaced with a changeling, like in the old stories. But they had it all wrong. Pandora – my wife – was having so much trouble getting pregnant that she and I sought the help of the Fair Folk using some of the ancient rituals. Well, the very night after we did that, Pandora was taken away by the Fair Folk overnight. They plied her with ambrosia and food, and several Fair Folk – including a satyr, a faun, and a Tuatha de Danaan – er... 'made merry with her' as they say, and in the morning she was returned. Two weeks later, though we hadn't tried again ourselves, Pandora was with child. Luna was born nine months later. Hence, she's a gift from the Fairies.”

“Aren't fairies the little human-looking creatures with insect wings?” Hermione asked, looking incredulous.

“Oh no, those are just one of the kinds of fairy to still live in our world. Those of us who still believe in the Fair Folk call them nixies. Others include pixies and doxies, trolls, mer-people, centaurs, dwarves, goblins, and elves. Anyway, the land of Fairy cut itself off from ours one or two thousand year ago, at least officially, but there were known to be hundreds of species of Fair Folk. Some of them were human-sized and mostly human-shaped, as well, like the Tuatha de Danaan. The fact that they answered our prayers and gifted us with Luna proves they still care about our world.”
“Do you have any proof of any of this?”

“Did you have any proof of magic before you got visited by Professor McGonagall?”

“Well, no. But---”

“My dear, there's all kinds of evidence of these things if you know where to look. Ever seen rooms or trunks or bags that are larger on the inside than on the outside? Ever wonder how those work? Ever wonder where all the missing mass goes when you transfigure a hippopotamus into a garden snake? Well the answer is simple, Miss Granger: between our world and the land of Fairy is a dimension known as The Borderlands. Trunks that are bigger on the inside than the outside are really portals to constructs within The Borderlands, and the missing mass of the transfigured hippo slides into The Borderlands until it needs to return.”

“Yes, Hermione,” said Luna. “The land of Fairy is how we have magic in our world at all. All magical creatures can trace their lineage from Fairy in one way or another. The Fair Folk bred with humans and made witches and wizards, too. And of course, the Fair Folk and their magic are why we have magical versions of normally non-magical animals, like owls and ravens.”

Hermione opened her mouth to object, but didn't seem able to find an argument. Either that, or she decided not to bother. She closed her mouth again and sighed.

“And these are some reasons why my Luna and I worship the Fair Folk, especially the Tuatha de Danaan, the High Lords and Ladies of Fairy. Our home altar is dedicated to them, especially to Brigid and Lugh.”

“Well that explains the 'religious garb' bit, but what about 'cultural heritage'?” Antigone asked.

“Isn't it obvious, Miss, er...?”

“Dreyfuss.”

“Ah yes, Miss Dreyfuss. Isn't it obvious, Miss Dreyfuss?”

“Um, no.”

“I told you how Luna was gifted to us. I don't know... you seem old enough to know how these things work, how babies are made, I mean---”

Her face turning so red it was visible through her brown skin, Antigone hurriedly said, “Yes I know okay don't tell me!”

“Well, when I say some of the Fair Folk 'made merry with' my wife---”

“I GET IT, I get it! Forget I asked.”

“Of course, that term usually has some darker connotations, I suppose,” he said, looking thoughtful. “So I should specify that Pandora was completely willing. She knew why she was there, after all; she'd asked for their help, and she knew their help always comes at a cost.”

Hermione frowned. “So you think Luna is half Fairy, and half mortal?”

“Oh no, not at all.”

“But---”

“No, you misunderstand, Miss Granger. Given that Pandora was most likely sterile, I'd say Luna is more likely full-blooded Fairy. Probably Tuatha de Danaan, since she never had a tail or faun ears, and she's never shown any sign of horns yet.”

“Yes, I was very disappointed by that. Horns would have been fun to have, even if people would make fun of me for it,” Luna said.

“It'd certainly be a talking point,” Antigone said, trying not to laugh.

“But yes, Miss Granger, I do think my Luna is one of the Fair Folk. Just like those mean people who called her a changeling, but in this case she's a good thing, a special gift, a child for a barren couple. And I have other evidence of this, too. She took far longer than other children to start talking, skipping the babbling stage altogether, and her first words were an entire sentence – 'I love you, Mummy and Daddy.' She's extremely creative, she can see things we humans can't, has always been very curious about animals and even plants but has always been very gentle with them, she's honest to a fault – a well-known trait of the Fair Folk, and she always seems to be standing in two different worlds, like part of her attention is always back in the land of Fairy. Isn't that right, my Luna?”

Luna smiled in that far-off way of hers. Now that Harry thought of it, 'away with the fairies' sounded like a good description of the way Luna often looked.

Hermione, her arms crossed, snorted in disbelief. “That sounds like what Harry and I have, Asperger's syndrome. Nothing to do with fairies at all!”

“If that's what you believe, Miss Granger, you won't hear any condemnation of it from me. To each their own, after all,” Xeno said.

“Yes, Hermione,” Antigone said. “If it's not hurting anyone, what's the harm? And arguing about it just makes you sound rude, I'm sorry to say.”

Looking hurt and defiant at the same time, Hermione turned to Antigone, but backed down at the older girl's gentle expression. “I didn't mean to be rude,” Hermione finally said in a small voice.

Xeno chuckled amiably. “Don't worry about it, Miss Granger, I'm well accustomed to accidental rudeness. Like I said, my Luna is honest to a fault.”

There was suddenly one of those silences that meant the conversation was over, simply because it had run its course, and it was time for a new one.

Taking this as a hint, Sirius said, “How'd that raven even get into the house in the first place?”

~

On the Friday of their meeting with the Malfoys. After a delicious breakfast of truly sublime cinnamon rolls, fresh-squeezed orange juice, and the fluffiest, richest omelet Harry had ever tasted – made by Dobby, who was trying to outdo Kreacher's cooking, and after sitting for a couple hours in the sitting room digesting and waiting to leave, they were on their way through the Floo to Hogwarts. Dumbledore greeted them and bade them sit down. Harry noticed there were five chairs around a round table, where Dumbledore's desk had been before. Knowing Dumbledore, he probably transfigured his desk into a table for this meeting.

As they sat waiting for the Malfoys to arrive – since they were early themselves – Sirius and Harry talked.

“I got you an appointment with a Muggle mind healer, Harry. Psychiatrist, I think the term is. She'll be able to get you an official diagnosis at last.”

“Good. I don't really need it, because I know I'm right about my self diagnosis, but it'll be nice to have anyway. When is it?”

“It's on this coming Wednesday, if you're up to it. If not, I can reschedule.”

“No, Wednesday is fine. Thanks, Sirius.”

“You're welcome, pup.”

“So, have you heard from this Malfoy boy at all since his parents sent their letter?”

“Yeah, I got something yesterday from him. He was astonished that his father was being so reasonable. But he thinks Lucius is being genuine about it.”

“Well even if it is some clever ploy, at least it can't be an outright trap. Not under Dumbledore's nose, anyway. Still, don't touch anything from either of them in case it's a portkey.”

“Sirius, my dear boy,” Dumbledore said with a twinkle in his eye, “you're getting quite as paranoid as Alastor.”

“My godson is marked for death by an immortal dark lord who blames Harry for being a powerless wraith for the last 12 or 13 years. Paranoia is a survival trait, in this context.”

Something in Dumbledore's collection of whirring, puffing, and occasionally whistling collection of unidentified artifacts made a tinkling chime.

“Ah, that will be Minerva letting the Malfoys in through the gates. I give it 10 minutes before they're at the gargoyle.”

Sure enough, 10 minutes later, a small gong went off from the artifact cabinet.

“That will be them,” he said.

A short while later, there was a knock at the door.

“Enter,” Dumbledore said.

The door opened, and in came the familiar Mr. Malfoy, looking very similar to the first time Harry had seen him, but in a different set of robes. He held his snakes-head cane casually at his side. Despite what he was here for, his expression still looked like he was disapproving of a very bad odor in the room.

Following behind him was a blond woman who had to be his wife. She was wearing an elegant dress, her hair in a knot at the back of her head. She looked like she was here for a formal dance or a ritzy party. Well, they both did, now Harry thought of it. He was reminded strongly of how Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon would dress up fancy to impress people. From there it further reminded him of the kind of dominance displays he sometimes caught glimpses of when the only thing on the telly that didn't bore Dudley to tears was nature documentaries. He had to fight to keep from laughing at the image of Mr. and Mrs. Malfoy as a pair of silver-back gorillas putting on a display.

“Welcome, Mr. and Mrs. Malfoy,” Dumbledore said. Harry was momentarily thrown by this; Dumbledore usually addressed adults by their first names.

“Thank you,” Mr. Malfoy said, making it sound like a threat.

Harry regarded Mrs. Malfoy. Unlike her husband, it looked like she was trying for 'icy bitch' and was failing at it. She couldn't quite hide her concern for her son, if Harry's guess was right. He figured most people could tell right away without thinking about it, while he himself had to guess based on a mix of experience with the Dursleys and the greater context of why they were here. He looked at Sirius in silent question. Sirius wasn't looking at him, he was looking at Mrs. Malfoy, but the expression on his face suggested that he was thinking along similar lines.

“Please, Lucius, Narcissa, have a seat,” Dumbledore said.

“Thank you kindly,” Mrs. Malfoy said this time. Her tone suggested she was feeling slightly ill.

“Is this room protected from eavesdroppers?” Mr. Malfoy asked before sitting down.

“Yes, Lucius. I have put every relevant security spell on this room for the day. Nobody will be hearing us but we who are seated at this table.”

Mr. Malfoy looked up at the portraits of old headmasters. “What of them,” he asked, gesturing with his head.

“The portraits? Lucius, I have trusted them with things far more sensitive than this matter. They are as secure as house elves. More so, even, as they are very limited in where they can go.”

“Good,” Mr. Malfoy said, and pulled a chair out for his wife, waiting for her to be seated before he took his own seat.

Once seated, Dumbledore said, “So, Sirius here tells me you are both very concerned for Draco, and you wish Sirius and Harry to pledge to protect your son.”

“A succinct summary,” Mr. Malfoy said with a sneer. “But true in essentials.”

“Very interesting, how far we've come in less than two years,” Dumbledore said.

Mr. Malfoy looked a little paler than before, and he was gritting his teeth. “Are we here to trade barbs at each other, or are we here to negotiate?”

“I meant no offense, Lucius. Quite the opposite, in fact.”

“Headmaster Dumbledore,” Mrs. Malfoy said, the ice back in her voice, “we have no wish to be here at all. But our son is more important than our comfort or its lack. Let us dispense with the small talk and get right to the meat of the matter.”

“Indeed,” Dumbledore said. “But relevant to the matter at hand, I find myself very curious why you feel it necessary. Perhaps I should clarify; I understand that you seem certain Voldemort will return, and soon. And I understand that Draco is siding with his enemy. What I seek to ascertain is why you did not simply send Draco away to Beauxbatons or Durmstrang, as I know you are capable of doing. If Draco were away from Harry, it would be very difficult indeed for Voldemort to have any quarrel with Draco. In fact, such a thing might make it easier to get Draco back on Voldemort's side.”

Harry was impressed; the two Malfoys had barely flinched at all when Dumbledore said Voldemort's nom de guerre. Most people jumped, and some people even shrieked. Even Professor Snape would flinch slightly at the sound of the name.

Mr. Malfoy sneered at Dumbledore more intensely than before. “Clearly, you have forgotten what it is to be young. Sending Draco away would only drive him further from the Dark Lord's views, and put more of a target on him as a result. Plus, how would we forbid owls between him and Potter? We couldn't.”

“At least not without making things look even more suspicious,” Sirius said.

Mrs. Malfoy glanced briefly at Sirius. “My cousin is unusually perceptive today.” Her emphasis on the word 'cousin' sounded about the same as Harry's did when he talked about Dudley.

“Avoiding the question, are you?” Sirius asked. “I'm curious for the answer, too. A real answer, I mean. Not just the obvious answer.”

“Whatever do you mean, dear cousin?” Her words made Harry shiver.

“I think what my godfather means is, have you changed sides? Not completely, I'm sure; you probably still think yourselves superior to Muggles and anyone who isn't pureblood. But Draco once told me, Mrs. Malfoy, that you always disagreed with your husband being a Death Eater, that you disagree with Voldemort's tactics. He said that you believe magical blood, no matter how impure, was too precious to be spilled.”

Breaking her icy facade completely, her eyes widened in surprise momentarily before she got her face back under control. She didn't respond right away, looking like she was mulling over what to say. Her husband looked to her for guidance, waiting to let her speak. Harry was again impressed; this was a marriage dynamic Harry had never seen before. It was plain, even to Harry, that Lucius respected his wife a great deal, and valued her opinion, giving her first crack at a conversation instead of presuming to speak for her. Likewise, she plainly felt the same respect for her husband, as she looked at him as well, almost like they were communicating with glances alone.

Finally, she spoke. “Surely my son also told you I have never opposed the Dark Lord, however much I may privately disagree with him. He is a powerful man, and he has my respect, despite my opinion of his tactics.”

“You mean 'was,'” Sirius said. “He's powerless at the moment.”

“Yes, but he yet lives. No body to speak of, and yet he isn't dead. That in itself is worthy of respect. And then there's your little rat problem to consider.”

“You think Pettigrew is going to go back to Voldemort?”

Mr. Malfoy sneered. “Of course he will. He fears the rest of us. The Dark Lord went to the Potter house on his information, and met his downfall there. There is nowhere safe in the world for Pettigrew to go, save for the side of the Dark Lord.”

“Enough of this,” Mrs. Malfoy said in a tone like a blade rammed into the table. “My husband and I do not trust your security, Mr. Potter. Nor yours, dear cousin. We have ways of keeping ourselves safe. We tried giving Draco the same training, but it didn't take. So we are here to make other arrangements. We will brook no more irrelevancies.”

“Alright, then,” Sirius said. “In that case, let's talk about what we're going to want from you in return.”

“Make your offer, cousin.”

“For starters, my seat on the wizengamot returned to me.”

“You mean the Black family wizengamot seat?”

“Yes, that.”

She glanced slyly at her husband a moment. Then---

“That can be arranged. But it won't be easy. Mr. Rowle will expect us to fight to keep it.”

“Expected as much. Ms. Pennyroyal can take care of it.”

Mr. Malfoy snorted as though he didn't believe that.

“Anything else, cousin?” Mrs. Malfoy asked.

“It would be nice if I could count on your own vote for things.”

“You ask too much, Black. It would not be safe for us to side openly with you.”

“Oh I'm sure there's some clever Slytherin way of doing it while keeping plausible deniability.”

Mrs. Malfoy paused to consider this. Her husband looked thoughtful as well.

“I do not think we can guarantee being able to side with you on everything,” she said. “It will depend on what is up for vote, as well as your arguments in favor of your side. Did you have anything specific in mind?”

“Legal protections for house elves, similar to how Muggles have legal protections for animals.”

“Like some sort of Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to House Elves?” Mr. Malfoy sneered.

“Yes, something like that. What you did to poor Dobby is a crime against human decency, for instance.”

Mr. Malfoy looked suddenly ill, but also angry. Mrs. Malfoy looked at him in a way which seemed to say 'I told you so.'

“I see,” Mrs. Malfoy finally said. “I think, if I give it some thought, I could find a way to make it seem reasonable I would support that. Everyone knows my husband and I are equal partners in how we vote on the Wizengamot. Yet I am a trend-setter, I could see myself successfully starting a new trend among pureblood circles. 'Oh, you punish your house elf with physical pain? How gauche.' 'You still find their pain entertaining? How dull. I have much better things to do with my time.' Yes, I could have the majority of the pureblood elite on your side of that issue in a matter of months, and it would be far more effective than a mere law being passed, though at that point passing the law would be child's play. Yes, cousin, I could do that for you if we can come to an agreement.”

Mr. Malfoy actually smiled, then, as he considered his wife. “You are a wickedly clever woman indeed, my love. I never cease to be amazed by your cunning.”

Sirius didn't quite manage to suppress a gagging noise at this.

“Excellent,” Dumbledore said. “We're making progress, it seems. So is it agreed? Sirius's seat on the Wizengamot returned to him, and efforts made to vote his way when possible?”

“My husband and I are in agreement with that, assuming you hold up your end of the bargain.”

“If Voldemort returns, I'll be putting a Fidelius on the house anyway, to protect Harry and any of his friends who need the protection. That includes your son.”

“Would you swear an Unbreakable Vow to it?”

“HA! No way. I'm not suicidal. I'm a Griffindor, my word should be good enough. But if you want, I'll sign a contract about it.”

“We want no physical evidence of this accord,” Mr. Malfoy said.

“In that regard, I have a solution,” Dumbledore said. “As much as I do not like them, there are some magically-binding rituals that would be akin to a contract, but with no physical evidence, and without the dangers inherent in things like the Unbreakable Vow.”

“We are game if Sirius is,” Mrs. Malfoy said.

“I'm game. What does this ritual entail?”

Dumbledore summoned a book with his wand, and opened it up. “A little blood from all the signatories mixed together in a small bowl, and some ritual words. Simple enough.”

“Er... I'm not a signatory, am I?” Harry asked.

“No, Harry. You are a minor. Sirius will be signatory in your place.”

“Good to hear.”

Dumbledore summoned a small metal bowl with his wand, and set it in the center of the table. Then the two Malfoys and Sirius pricked their fingers over the bowl, where the blood mixed. Dumbledore was swirling his wand over their hands the whole time in a spiral pattern, making a faint spiral of light in the air that traveled through their wrists toward the bowl. Taking their cues from Dumbledore, they said the ritual words.

“I, Lucius Malfoy, do hereby swear that I will do all I can to get Sirius Black his seat on the Wizengamot, and to make serious attempts to vote as he does unless I believe doing so will put my family at risk. I swear to do these things unless Sirius Black breaks this accord first. So shall it be.”

“I, Narcissa Malfoy nee Black, do hereby swear that I will do all I can to get Sirius Black his seat on the Wizengamot, and to make serious attempts to vote as he does unless I believe doing so will put my family at risk. I swear to do these things unless Sirius Black breaks this accord first. So shall it be.”

“I, Sirius Black, do hereby swear that I will do all I can to keep Draco Malfoy safe, especially in the event of the return of Lord Voldemort to power, including putting my house under a Fidelius Charm if Lord Voldemort should return, unless I truly believe doing so will put my godson at risk. I swear to do these things unless either Lucius Malfoy or his wife Narcissa Malfoy nee Black breaks this accord first. So shall it be.”

“I, Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore, do hereby bind this accord among Lucius Malfoy, Narcissa Malfoy nee Black, and Sirius Black. So shall it be.”

The spiral of light flashed brightly, then vanished.

“It is done.”

“Good. I am sure my son will be glad to spend some time with his new friend,” Mrs. Malfoy said, practically glaring at Harry.

“I bid you good day, Dumbledore, Black, Potter,” Mr. Malfoy said, again sounding like he wished they would all drown. He took his wife's arm in his, and the two beat a dignified yet hasty retreat from Dumbledore's office.

“Well, that was an experience,” Sirius said. “What do you think she meant by 'I do not trust your security'?”

Harry blinked. That must have made a huge impression on Sirius for his godfather to bring it up after all this time.

“She meant occlumency. Theirs is very good, and would have had me fooled if she had not said that; she did, after all, specify the two of you but not myself. They know occlumency, and they know I do as well. Whatever their secrets, they will not tell us until you and Harry know occlumency as well, if even then.”

“Yeah, I kinda want to learn that anyway, because Sirius and Kreacher made up over the summer, and Sirius won't tell me why until I learn occlumency.”

“Indeed? Well, that sounds like a good thing for you to learn anyway, Harry, given that Voldemort is a legilimens. It means he can peruse the surface thoughts of others, and correctly interpret them, generally as a means of knowing whether or not someone is lying to him.”

“Oh. And occlumency protects against that?”

“It does.”

“Even more reason to learn it, then.”

~

The next day, by way of plans changing, Angela and Danzia both showed up at Number 12, within five minutes of each other. First to arrive was Danzia, who came out of the kitchen hearth looking like a Muggle tomboy in a football jersey, shorts, and dirty trainers. Her strawberry-blond hair was tied up in a hastily-done knot in the back that looked like she'd just wrapped her hair around the base of her ponytail and kept it contained with a purple hair scrunchy.

Looking up at Sirius's incredulous stare, Danzia raised an eyebrow. “What?”

“A Slytherin wearing Muggle clothes when she doesn't need to?”

Danzia shrugged. “I like this style when I'm at home. At school, not so much; some of the other Slytherins would have fits. Anyway, I was playing football with my brother and some cousins not long ago.”

“Slytherins playing football, too? Well, you're very interesting, Danzia.”

“Oh you haven't seen interesting yet,” she said, a mischievous spark in her eye that reminded Harry of a similar spark in the eyes of the Weasley twins.

As Harry and Danzia left the room, Sirius said, “I don't know about that one, Remus. Something in her eyes reminds me of myself at that age.”

Lupin smiled, pouring himself and Sirius some tea.

“Yes, I hear she can be a bit of a troublemaker. Or at least, suspected to be. She doesn't often get caught, from what I hear.”

Just then, the flames in the hearth turned green and out popped Angela.

“Let's see, older girl with glasses, black hair, Japanese ancestry if I'm not mistaken... you must be Angela.”

Angela nodded silently.

Danzia came back in. “Is that—oh Angela, there you are! Sorry, didn't know you'd be here so soon. Sirius Black, Remus Lupin, this is Angela Whitechapel. She starts out shy, takes some getting used to people before she opens up.”

“Well I promise I don't bite,” Sirius said.

Angela smiled a little. “H-hello, Sirius. Um... Harry said to call you Sirius, because you and your father didn't get along.”

“That's correct. My parents weren't Death Eaters, but they approved of Voldemort. I very much do not.”

She nodded again.

“I notice you didn't flinch at Voldemort's name,” Sirius said. “Interesting. Most people do.”

“I'm a Muggle-born. I never learned to fear the name.”

“Ah. Muggle-born Slytherin, that must be difficult.”

“I've had some help pretending to be otherwise. I met Antigone at Diagon Alley over the summer before my first year, and she helped me out.”

“Well that was lucky. Anyway, you two go join your friends, I know you'd rather be with them than a couple old mutts like us,” Sirius said.

Angela looked uncertainly between Sirius and Danzia for a moment. Danzia took her arm and pulled, so Angela nodded and took off with her friend.

“So, Remus,” Sirius said as the girls left the kitchen, “any word on who's replacing you this year as the Defense teacher?”

“I hear Dumbledore is trying to get Alastor Moody to do it,” Remus answered.

“Really? Mad-Eye? He retired. And an ex-auror for Defense, that'll be an interesting year if he manages it.”

“I hope Mad-Eye won't curse any of the students.”

“Oh, he won't. Might jinx them, or hex them, but even in his old paranoia he won't curse kids.”

“Good, good. And I hear you're taking Harry to a psychiatrist for an official diagnosis?”

“This coming Wednesday, yes.”

“Have you ever been to any kind of Muggle hospital before?”

“Once. I went with James and Lily on one of their pre-natal trips to the hospital. Lily wanted to have Harry in the hospital, but James and I finally convinced her to go to St. Mungo's, the maternity ward.”

“How'd you convince her?”

“Well of course, St. Mungo's does water births, they're so much easier on the mother and the child. We did a lot of research on Muggle hospitals, how they deal with births. They actually lay the women flat on their backs and have them push with no gravity assist, of all the ridiculous things. And then, I dunno if this applies to the UK or not, but apparently in many Western Muggle hospitals, if a baby is born with unusual bits between their legs, the doctors will operate on their bits without even asking permission from the parents, or even informing them. They do a similar thing if the baby is a boy, something called circumcision, sounds painful. Believe me, you don't want to know what that entails. And again, without the parents' permission or awareness.”

“That's terrible!”

“Exactly. And I'm glad that was sufficient to get her to change her mind, because I imagine a witch trying to give birth the Muggle way would result in the hospital's electronics burning out, maybe even causing a blackout. We watched some on video, it looked incredibly painful. Not that water births are a walk in the park either, but those are still a lot easier than the way Western Muggles do it.”

Remus shook his head disapprovingly. Then he paused. “Wait... we got off on a tangent, what were we discussing?”

“Harry's appointment with the psychiatrist.”

“Oh yes, that. Anyway, I'm not sure a psychiatrist's office is going to be the same as a hospital. I believe some hospitals have psychiatrists, but others have their own offices.”

“You sure you're not thinking about psychologists?”

“Possible. But I think they can both have their own offices. Well, I suppose they do have all sorts of specialists with their own offices outside of a hospital, so that would make sense.”

“Well I can tell you for a fact that psychiatrists do sometimes have their own offices. The one we're going to does, anyway.”

“I see. Well Sirius, do try to behave while you're there, won't you?”

“Yes yes, I will. I don't want the Ministry to have to arrive to clean up any messes.”

“Good. Now, do you have the necessary paperwork from Gringotts and the Ministry? Muggles are fond of paperwork, you know. And theirs are on actual paper, too.”

“Yes, Moony, I got everything I need. I checked with Dumbledore and with Charity Burbage as well just to be sure.”

“Ah yes, Professor Burbage. Lovely woman. Well it does sound like you've done the thing properly. All the same, I think I'll double-check your work.”

Sirius sighed. “If you want to go to the extra work, then do so. Not like I've ever been able to stop you.”

“Yes, well this is rather more important than schoolwork, Padfoot old pal.”

“It may come as a shock to you, Moony, but I am a responsible adult now.”

Lupin raised an eyebrow like an expert. Sirius barked with laughter in response.

“Okay, fine, so I'm not. But I do know how to fake it, and how to ask others – like my solicitor – for help.”

“He can be taught! I may die of shock!”

Sirius punched him in the arm and the two men laughed over their tea.

~

Harry received an owl from Draco over the weekend, and they exchanged a few more owl letters nailing down a time for Draco to come visit, and after checking with their guardians, decided on the Tuesday before Harry's appointment.

So, on Tuesday morning after breakfast, Sirius was pacing around the kitchen as Remus and Harry sat at the table waiting. When the fire in the hearth turned green, Sirius stopped and straightened, turning to face the fire. His face was thus the first Draco saw as he popped out of the fire and into the kitchen, exiting the Floo as gracefully as though he were stepping down from a horse-drawn carriage.

Draco froze on seeing Sirius, then bowed, taking Sirius by surprise.

“Thank you, Lord Black, for your hospitality. I am most grateful.”

Sirius blinked. “Er... okay. Um... you can just call me Sirius.”

Now Draco blinked. “Oh. Thank you, Sirius.” Draco turned. “Ah, Harry. There you are. And... Professor Lupin?”

“Just Mister Lupin now, Mr. Malfoy.”

“Ah. I see why you wish to be called Sirius, now. Mr. Lupin, you and Sirius can call me Draco.”

Lupin smiled. “And you may call me either Lupin or Remus, whichever you prefer, Draco.”

“Thank you, sir. I still think of you like a teacher, though, so I suppose I'll call you Lupin, in that case.”

Lupin sipped his tea. Beside him, Harry had stood up and went to Draco's side.

“How 'bout I show you around the place, Draco?”

“Oh, yes. That sounds lovely. Hmm... I remember this place, somewhat. It looks very different now.”

“You've been here before?” Sirius asked.

“If I was, it was right before great-aunt Walburga died. I don't remember much, just that it's familiar, but different.”

“Well yeah, I had to hire professionals to clean this place out, it was a death trap crossed with a pigsty in here. Kreacher had stopped cleaning years ago. I think I know why that was now. He was pining for my brother.”

“Kreacher is still here?”

“Did Master call Kreacher?” came a croaky voice from the kitchen entrance. Kreacher was there, walking in.

“Kreacher thought he heard Master say Kreacher's name. Did Master want something of Kreacher?”

“Sorry, Kreacher, we were just talking about you. But since you're here, meet Draco Malfoy, a friend of Harry's.”

“Malfoy? Master Malfoy? Begging your pardon, young master, but are you Narcissa's son, by chance?”

“Hello, Kreacher,” Draco said. “Yes, my mother is Narcissa Malfoy nee Black. Mother still talks of you fondly, Kreacher.”

Kreacher's eyes went wide and watery. Some tears rolled down his cheeks, and he wiped them off. “Mistress Narcissa still speaks fondly of Kreacher? Kreacher is touched. If you would be so kind, master Draco, would you tell mistress Narcissa that Kreacher sends his fond regards to her in turn?”

Draco smiled. “I will gladly relay the message, Kreacher.”

“Um... 'master'? Does that mean Kreacher takes orders from the Malfoys as well?”

“I don't think so, Harry,” Sirius said. “If he did, I think he would have gone to the Malfoys when my mother died. Am I correct about that, Kreacher?”

Kreacher nodded. “Yes, Master Sirius. Kreacher was very lonely when Mistress Walburga died. If Kreacher could have gone to mistress Narcissa, Kreacher would have done so.”

“Well, maybe we can arrange a reunion sometime,” Sirius said without enthusiasm. “She and I are at least on speaking terms again now, even if it isn't exactly amicable.”

“Master would do that for Kreacher?” Kreacher said, his voice breaking with emotion.

“I would try, at least,” Sirius said. “And if you're going to cry loudly, Kreacher, please do it elsewhere. That's not an order, just a request.”

Kreacher wiped his eyes again. “Kreacher will not weep tears of joy just yet, Master. Kreacher has masters to serve now, because Master has a guest. Would young master Malfoy like anything to eat or drink?”

Draco looked to Harry and the two adults as though seeking permission. Sirius gave a 'go ahead' gesture, and Draco asked, “Do you have any biscuits, Kreacher?”

“Yes, master Malfoy. Several kinds. There is chocolate chip, peanut butter, snickerdoodles...” he went on, listing more than he could count on two hands.

“Merlin's pants!” Sirius said. “We have that many kinds of biscuits in the house?”

“Yes, Master. Dobby started making biscuits during his turns in the kitchen, then Kreacher made better biscuits, Dobby tried to outdo Kreacher and so Kreacher made better ones still--”

“Are you telling me that you and Dobby have gotten into a biscuit-making contest with each other?” Sirius asked.

“Yes, Master, you could call it that. We compete for your favor.”

Lupin chuckled. “I'd wondered why there have been so many biscuits around here the last few days. They've been offered at every meal, Sirius, or hadn't you noticed?”

“Kreacher, I won't order you to cut down on the biscuit-making, at least until after I've talked with Dobby. But it sounds like you've made more biscuits than we could possibly eat before they go bad.”

“Oh no, Master. Kreacher and Dobby both know how to keep food fresh. All of the biscuits are under charms, as fresh and warm as they were when they came out of the oven. Which kind can Kreacher get for you, young master Malfoy?”

“Well, with so many options, I'll take one of each of the first five you listed, Kreacher.”

“Right away, master Malfoy.” Kreacher bowed, then with a crack, he disapparated.

Another voice spoke up then, higher-pitched. “M-master S-sirius? Dobby's ears is burning.”

“WHAT?” Sirius shouted, spinning around with his wand already in his hand. “Here, I'll put them out for you!”

Dobby jumped back with alarm, his hands up in the air defensively as Sirius brandished his wand at him.

“Sirius, I don't think he meant it literally,” Harry said.

“What? Oh. Sorry Dobby. I... Dobby? Dobby, it's okay, I wasn't going to hurt you. I thought you were hurt, and I was going to help.”

Dobby peeked out from behind his arms. Then he looked thoughtful, probably reviewing the recent conversation. After a few moments, he relaxed, chuckling nervously.

“Sorry, Master Sirius. Dobby is only meaning people is talking about---”

CRACK!

Dobby jumped back in alarm again, but it was just Kreacher with a tray of biscuits.

“Would Master Harry or master Lupin like any biscuits too? There is being plenty for everyone.” Kreacher asked.

“Sure, I'll have a chocolate-chip one or three. Dobby, Kreacher? Do you want any biscuits?”

Both elves looked in astonishment at Harry.

“Master Harry is offering biscuits to... Kreacher?” Kreacher said.

“And Dobby?” Dobby added.

“Well, yes. This is your house, too, both of you. And you said there's plenty for everyone.”

The two elves looked at one another, confused.

“Dobby... Dobby will have one later, Master Harry.”

“Kreacher will as well, Master Harry. It is not proper for elves to eat in front of masters.”

“Why not? Why can't you eat at the table with us for meals?”

“Harry, it just isn't done,” Draco whispered gently. “I mean, if you want to invite them, go ahead. But don't be surprised if neither of them want to.”

Dobby finally seemed to realize that Draco was in the room. He backed up a few paces, his back against the door to the kitchen, wringing his hands and looking nervously from Sirius to Draco to Harry and back again.

Draco, too, noticed Dobby, his face falling when he did. He set his biscuits down on the table, and slowly walked a couple paces toward the cowering elf. Dobby started shivering against the door, but didn't move. Then, to everyone's astonishment, Draco got down on one knee and bowed to the elf.

“Dobby,” Draco said, “I offer my humble apologies for my own role in your abuse when you lived in our home. I hope you can find it in your heart to forgive me. I will understand if you can't. The way you were treated was truly terrible. I'm sorry, Dobby.”

The moment seemed to freeze like that, everyone – Harry, Sirius, even Kreacher – completely at a loss for words. Most with surprise bordering on shock, though in Harry's case, he was waiting to see what Dobby would do or say.

“Young master Malfoy is...” his throat seemed unable to form the words 'asking forgiveness.' “Is... is... to Dobby?” Dobby finally said, a distinct note of awe and bewilderment in his voice.

Harry didn't know how long it had been, but Draco's head was still nearly touching the floor. Finally, though, he looked up at Dobby, though he was still bowing and kneeling before the elf.

“Yes, I am. And you needn't say anything yet, Dobby. I... I guess this must be a lot to process, for you. I'll... is it okay by you if I stand up again? I'll back off when I do.”

Still looking stunned, Dobby nodded. Draco stood up in a way that took him no closer to Dobby, and went back to his biscuits once he was up.

“Master Sirius?” Dobby asked, finally.

“What is it, Dobby?”

“May Dobby please be excused?”

“Of course, Dobby.”

“Thank you.”

And, so stunned he apparently forgot about apparating, Dobby walked out the kitchen door with one or two glances back at Draco before leaving.

“Well, that was certainly unexpected,” Lupin said, taking a biscuit for himself from the still-confused looking Kreacher. This seemed to wake Kreacher out of his state of confusion. He walked over to Sirius, mutely offering some biscuits – Sirius taking a few – before leaving the room himself.

The rest of Draco's visit went a lot more normally, Harry showing Draco around the house, the two boys playing some card games and talking in the sitting room until lunchtime.

For dinner, Harry did in fact invite the two elves to join them. Kreacher refused, saying he was still serving people and thus was busy. But Dobby tentatively took Harry up on the offer, looking positively gleeful to be sitting with wizards like an equal at their dinner table, even though Draco was there. In fact, Dobby kept looking at Draco, and didn't seem afraid anymore. He didn't say whether he forgave Draco or not, but his behavior seemed to indicate he was at least being open-minded about Draco.

“Oh Remus,” Harry said halfway through dinner. “I just remembered. You helped me with stuff about the Old Ways before. Do you know somewhere good to buy stuff for an altar?”

“Ah yes, I remember Sirius mentioning that before. Yes, I do happen to know an excellent place in Diagon Alley. What time is Harry's psychiatrist appointment tomorrow, Sirius?”

“It's 8:30 am. Should only take a couple hours at most, from what I understand. But we've got plenty of time. Why do you ask, Moony?”

“Because I want to take Harry to the store I mentioned after his appointment, if he's up for it.”

“Oooh! Can I, Sirius?”

“Sounds good to me.”

“Excuse me, Mr. Lupin,” Draco said. “Do you, by chance, mean Moonrise Supplies?”

“Why yes, Draco, I do. Are you of one of the old faiths, too?”

“Yes and no. I believe in magic, and nature. Beyond that, I don't know, and personally find it pointless to speculate. And I don't worship either one. But Father goes to druid circles often, and Mother has an altar to Aradia. So I've been to Moonrise Supplies before. They're quite good.”

“Excellent, I have something to look forward to after my appointment.”

“Do you think I could join you?” Draco asked, curiosity in his voice. “I've never been inside a Muggle hospital before.”

“We won't be in a hospital, but a clinic. They're a lot smaller than a hospital. And since it's dedicated to the psychiatrist, there's not going to be physically sick people there. It's just going to be a lot of waiting and boredom for anyone who goes with Harry.”

Draco's face fell somewhat then. “Oh. Never mind, then.”

“Curiosity is a good thing, Draco,” Remus said.

Draco nodded, going back to his food. “Thank you. But if it's going to be boring, I'll just stay home.”

~

Harry was nervous the next morning, but not so badly he couldn't still enjoy his breakfast. After breakfast, he and Sirius got into their dragon-hide bike leathers and took the motorbike to the psychiatrist's office.

“You know,” Harry said when he got off the motorbike. “I just noticed that this bike looks kind of... old fashioned. Why is that?”

“That, Harry, is because it's a classic. It's an American bike, the Indian Sport Scout. It was made back during World War II. They don't even make these anymore, but they're the best motorbike in the world, even now. Their name is a bit unfortunate, but they're excellent motorbikes.”

“Wow. A motorbike they don't even make anymore? It must have cost a fortune!”

“It was a bit pricey, yeah. An uncle gave me some money when my family disowned me, and he gave me enough I had some leftover after rent on a flat to treat myself to this beauty. Naturally, it has a few enchantments on it now, so those would have to be removed first if I ever wanted to sell it to a Muggle. But I have no desire to do that, and no need, now that I have my family's money.”

“If you were disowned, how do you have the house and money and a house elf?”

“According to my solicitor, it's because after Regulus died, they changed their mind about disowning me. They may not have liked me at all, but I was their only heir at that point.”

“What about Narcissa?”

“If it was just about the money and property, they would have given it all to her, I'm sure of that. But if they'd done that, then all that stuff would belong to a Malfoy and not a Black. Unless I have children of my own, the Black name will go extinct in the male line. Meaning the surname – at least the one associated with my family – will be gone forever. They wouldn't want that to happen. As much as they hated me, I'm their only hope for their family name continuing, now.”

“Ah, okay. That makes sense.”

They checked in at the front desk, and then sat down to wait. Harry got out a Muggle novel to read, while Sirius picked up an out-of-date magazine to read, a magazine about motorbikes. He made a lot of scoffing noises as he did, which was a little distracting.

After half an hour, Harry was called into the office, and Sirius waited out in the waiting room for him.

When Harry came out again, so did the psychiatrist, who went over the results with the two of them. Harry had gone into great detail about the experiences and perceptions of his that were relevant to a diagnosis. Given what Harry had described to her, and the results of some written tests she'd had him do, she'd declared that Asperger's Syndrome best fit Harry's symptoms, and so she agreed officially with his self-diagnosis.

With official papers now showing Harry's diagnosis of Asperger's Syndrome, Harry and Sirius secured everything and rode the motorbike to The Leaky Cauldron. Remus was, of course, waiting for them inside, and the three of them went together into Diagon Alley to go shopping for altar items.

Endnotes: So there we are. Luna is an Aspie, too, not that Xeno will ever acknowledge that particular label. His label is suitably weird, and takes a negative (“changeling baby,” which a lot of historians are certain really was a reference to autistic kids) and turns it around to a positive, in his own weird way. (I have decided I headcanon that explanation into the canon story as well.)

Also, given that I wasn't diagnosed until my 20's, my parents are artistic creative types, and Mom is a New Ager, I can relate to Luna's experience, even if it's still very different from my own in other ways.

Just as there are many different kinds of neopaganism, the Lovegoods help show there are many different ways to do The Old Ways, by worshiping the Fair Folk instead of gods and goddesses.

Writing the Malfoys for this chapter was a lot of fun! And yes, I know in a previous chapter (of the third year's fic) I misidentified Narcissa as being a sibling of Sirius, rather than a cousin. That was a mistake, one I'll fix before I post this chapter.

It seems that I never mentioned Danzia's school year, unless I'm just being forgetful again, even though the file with my notes about the OC's in this fic has always said she's a year ahead of Harry. Whereas Antigone and Angela are two years ahead of Harry. So here, in Harry's year 4, Danzia is in her fifth year, Antigone and Angela in their sixth year. Or will be, that is, when school starts again. Sadly, none of them is old enough to try out for the Triwizard Tournament.

The things Sirius says in this chapter about intersex babies being operated on (including circumcision for non-intersex infants designated boys) without asking or even informing the parents is true in the US at least. Like Sirius, I don't know if it happens in the UK or not, and it was easier to have Sirius be ignorant than to waste hours going off on another research tangent. (Seriously, I think I may have ADD in addition to autism.)

Harry's experience with the psychiatrist might be a little inaccurate, I dunno. I don't remember any psychiatrist trips when I was a minor; I was an adult when I got my own diagnosis. I tried looking up if guardians had to go with minors into the office for the appointment itself, but the Internet wasn't cooperating.

But yeah, getting a diagnosis was, for me, pretty much go in, describe my experiences and the reasons I thought it was Asperger's, do some tests, and then I got the diagnosis. I gather it's that way for a lot of people, too. But not everyone, of course. Not everyone knows what they have when they go in, so for them there would be a lot of the psychiatrist going “Well it might be this, or this” and reading the diagnosis criteria off, which could take a dozen or more appointments before they find one that fits, or they might get the wrong one, try a medicine, find it doesn't work right, and keep trying other stuff til they find something that fits.

Assuming, of course, that your shrink isn't an arse or arrogant. Some really not-good psychiatrists will be like “Oh you have this. If you disagree, well that's tough turds because I know better than you, nyeh!” Which is silly, because it's not like physical illnesses, where you can look in someone's throat or whatnot and say for sure “Oh looks like you have whooping cough” or “I'm afraid you have a terminal case of brain weasels.” With mental illnesses, pretty much all the shrink has to go on is what the patient tells them, and the results of written tests, or studying someone's behavior. There's a lot of uncertainty in the field, as it's practically a brand new field. Conventional medicine has been around for thousands of years, and look how long it took us to get out of the “four humours” and bloodletting and other nonsense: hundreds, thousands of years. Whereas psychiatry/psychology as a field is what, 100 or so years old? And there are still people who take Freud seriously! Sure, he was the founder of the field, but his theories are the equivalent of the “four humours” thing.

Not that modern psychology is much better, of course. Sure, scans of patients who are pretty securely diagnosed as one thing or another can show differences in brain scans from able-minded people, but it's still early days yet. It's going to take a few hundred more years at least before there might be enough certainty in the field for a psychiatrist to be able to scan your brain and say with certainty “You have X, because of these bits here in the scan.”

Autistic rant over with now.



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