Any hard feelings between the Grangers and the Potters didn’t last long. Considering how often Hermione was over, it was hard for her parents to hold a grudge. By mid-November, the argument was all but forgotten.
In fact, when James came home one autumn evening he was shocked into silence by his wife jumping into his arms, “You’ll never guess what happened today! Marcia called. She and Robert just won four tickets to see a performance of Swan Lake on Saturday. She invited us as a thank-you for all the times we’ve had Hermione over.”
“We’re going to watch swans swim in a lake?”
“No, of course not, it’s a ballet about a princess who’s been turned into a swan.”
James groaned, “Oh, are you sure it’s a thank-you rather than her subtle way of getting back at us for the stunt Neville pulled the last time the boys were over? Because, it sounds torturously lame…”
He didn’t see the slap coming.
“While you’re out of the house all day, I’ve been at home with a baby that never sleeps and two hooligans who can’t sit still for ten minutes at a time. We’re going to the ballet because I need a break, and Swan Lake was my favourite ballet as a child. Remus can watch the children.”
After her reaction to his comments about the ballet, it was with reluctance that he pointed out, “Lily dear, you do realize that Friday is the full moon… Remus won’t be in any condition to baby-sit on Saturday.”
It was a sure sign of how excited she was — or how badly she needed a break — that she merely sighed and responded, “Then we’ll have to ask the mangy mutt to watch to kids.”
James tried not to let his shock at the suggestion show; the boys had never been left alone with Sirius before, anytime Lily had any say in the matter. She’d even been reluctant to let him hold Harry when he’d been Heather’s age.
Her newfound tolerance for Sirius had its limits though. When, by some stroke of misfortune, the Grangers’ baby-sitter cancelled at the last minute on Saturday, it was with great reluctance that Lily suggested exposing her to Sirius.
He certainly didn’t make much of an effort to prove her reluctance unfounded. In fact, despite Lily’s vehement objections, he waited by the door in dog form and greeted Hermione with a big slobbery lick when she came in the door. His actions left Lily fuming and fumbling for an explanation of the dog’s presence. With barely veiled anger — it wouldn’t do to appear angry at the dog — she said, “Padfoot, go get Sirius. The Grangers want to meet the babysitter.”
That he somehow managed to appear presentable when he sauntered back into the room as a human — in form anyway — did not go very far to placate Lily. But Sirius was nothing if not a charmer and the Grangers, at least, were reassured. Their hurry to get going prevented Lily from having a final private word with him about being on his best behaviour. A glare his way and a comment seemingly directed at Harry and Neville, “We’re off. I expect you boys to be on best behaviour,” had to suffice.
Dense though he might pretend to be, her message wasn’t lost on Sirius. He turned to the three children gathered before him, “Well, you heard the woman, go have fun — but don’t wake the baby, please.”
Moments later a shaggy black dog was chasing them up the stairs to the room the boys shared. He probably would have kept chasing them, but Heather, hearing the commotion, decided it was time to wake up.
So Hermione and the boys were left to their own devices once more. “So…” began Harry, “what should we play?”
It was Hermione that answered first. “Let’s play house.” The boys just groaned. “Come on, please. I brought Annie and everything. I’ll be the Mummy. Neville, you can be the Daddy. And Harry, you can be the unemployed, bachelor uncle.”
“Do I have to?” whined Harry. He didn’t know what an unemployed bachelor was, but it didn’t sound fun. “How about we play Aurors and Dark wizards? I can be the evil Dark wizard and kidnap you and the baby. And Neville can be the Auror that comes to the rescue.”
Hermione shook her head, “No! We always play what you want. I’m tired of being kidnapped… Tonight we play house, and that’s final!”
“Fine! But I’m not being an unployed batlor!”
“Unemployed bachelor, honestly! You really have to work on your vocabulary… What would you rather be then? The dog?”
“I can be the Dark Lord Baldiewort who wants to kill the baby.”
“Fine! I’ll be Padfoot then…”
So they played house. Mostly, it comprised of Hermione ordering the boys around and them rolling their eyes and complying, though Harry had some definite ideas of what Padfoot’s role in the game should be and Neville firmly refused to take part in any baby care activities.
Finally, about an hour later, the sound of a real baby shrieking interrupted their game. They’d heard Heather cry plenty often since she’d joined the household and while they weren’t happy with it — especially when she woke the house asking to be fed — Lily had explained why babies cried and they’d learnt to ignore it. Besides, the grown-ups usually calmed her down in no time.
Unfortunately, she didn’t seem to be calming down this time. Her screams were getting louder and harder to ignore. More to the point, the boys were aching for an excuse to abandon the imposed game. So, deciding that Sirius obviously didn’t know how to make her quiet they trekked downstairs to find out what the problem was.
What they found when they reached the kitchen would probably have been funny if not for the screaming. Sirius stood by the kitchen sink, holding the screeching baby at arms’ length. Both were thoroughly drenched and covered in suds — the result of a cleaning spell gone awry. A clearly soiled nappy lay nearby and the contents of Lily’s nappy bag were spread out in disarray on the table.
Taking in the scene, Hermione brought her hands to her hips and, in a tone that would have done her mother proud, exclaimed, “What is going on down here?” though she already had a fairly good idea of what his answer would be.
Not expecting such a tone from one of his charges, Sirius’ exasperated response was harsher than strictly necessary, “What does it look like I’m doing? Trying to change the little brat’s nappy. Only she won’t stop yelling.”
Hermione continued to direct him a look that clearly asked, “What are you, an idiot?” before finally asking, “Haven’t you ever changed a nappy before?”
Sirius, feeling rather inadequate at the moment, replied testily, “No, have you?”
She just smiled at him, that superior grin still on her face, “No, of course not, I’m only six. But I’ve seen it done. You’re doing it all wrong. How do you expect her to feel safe if you hold her like that? And why is she all wet?”
She didn’t wait for an answer, instead she turned to the boys and said, “One of you go get a towel.” She then turned to the table and plucked the changing pad from the disorderly pile Sirius had made. She laid it flat on the table and turned to Sirius, “Put her down here, gently.” As he did so, she grabbed a toy out the pile as well and handed it to the crying baby, tickling her belly as she did so, “Here you go. There, there, no need to cry. We’ll have you all dried and clean in no time.”
By the time she quieted Heather down, the boys had returned with the towel. Hermione handed it to Sirius, “Dry her off, gently.” Once he had done that she continued, “Okay, now according to You and Your Baby: A Step-by-step Guide to Good Parenting and Brighter Babies by J. W. Staines and Margery J. Mitchell, you have to start by…” She droned on for quite a while longer, but eventually Sirius did manage to get Heather changed and back to bed.
As he shooed the trio out once more — a little more quietly this time — he said a silent prayer that Lily would never hear of the incident… That she never let him baby-sit again for a very long time is evidence enough that his prayers were in vain… Though he really should have known that five-year-olds weren’t very good at keeping secrets…
A.N. Here you go folks… I apologize tremendously for the delay. It’s inexcusable. Hopefully this chapter makes up for things. Many thanks to my beta, Arnel, who suggested the whole nappy change fiasco. Thanks also to Mistri, Tonks’ Admirer who helped me work out the details and edited this chapter for you all.
You and Your Baby: A Step-by-step Guide to Good Parenting and Brighter Babies by J. W. Staines and Margery J. Mitchell is a real book. I haven’t read it myself so I can’t vouch for what it actually contains, but it was published August 2nd, 1979 — about a month before Hermione was born — so it’s perfectly reasonable that her parents might have had it lying around the house.
Okay, that’s enough of my rambling. Now it’s time for my favourite part: your reviews.