A/N: This story is in response to Chapter five (A challenge), in the late broomstick flyer's collection, All sorts. A significant amount is taken verbatim from that chapter. Those will be bolded.
As always, it is an honor to create my own world in the reality of Harry Potter. What you recognize is JKR's, the rest is mine (and broomstick flyer's).
Hermione Granger was a very worried witch on a mission. She knew she'd been on a mission ever since 1 September, 1991 when she had barged into a compartment on the Hogwarts Express, asking if anyone had seen a toad and met Harry Potter. Somehow, he had managed not to be put off by her need to show everyone how much she knew and how much she could do with magic. He even didn't seem to mind (too much) her jones for authority figures.
And then on that first Halloween, his concern for her hurt feelings, his bravery in facing a troll to save her (yes, she knew Ron had been there too, but only because Harry had made him) had captured her heart and soul. She knew now that was the point she had fallen totally and forever in love with him. It took a couple of years for her to realize her feelings. It took longer for her to decide how to react to them and how to relate to Harry.
By then she knew enough and had experienced enough to know what being with Harry meant it meant that you had to support him on his mission a mission that he'd never volunteered for, one forced on him by a madman wizard who called himself Voldemort. She knew that to tell him her feelings would only place another burden upon him, one she'd never be selfish enough to give him. She'd resolved to only tell him when it was all over and free to live a real life. She only hoped he'd return her feelings—she thought he did, but couldn't be sure, couldn't dare hope.
Then came this year. The weight of the world came crashing down on Harry. To find the horcruxes and destroy them, all without enough knowledge, enough training, enough support. Really, how could Dumbledore ever expect Harry to do this with only the help of two others? And two who really knew hardly more than he, even less in many respects. And then having one turn out to be a broken reed. Ron's desertion hit them hard, almost too hard. They were so shocked that they didn't think about Obliviating him until it was too late. Thankfully, he hadn't been captured and hadn't spilled all their secrets.
They had been far more lucky than any two people could hope to have been. That fiasco in Godric's Hollow. Nagini should have killed them, but they managed to hit her with the Killing Curse (destroying the horcrux) and escape Voldemort too. Then for them to have found the Sword of Gryffindor and destroy the soul shard in the locket.
They figured out that if there had been a horcrux entrusted to one Death Eater, there might be others. It had been hellishly hard, but they had gotten into Gringotts and found the Goblin Nation held no truck with such objects. They had been ferociously happy to search all the vaults of Death Eaters and found the Cup of Hufflepuff in the Lestrange vault. They also obliterated any other dark object in any of those Death Eater vaults, confiscated all their wealth, keeping one third for themselves, holding one third for the Ministry for when Voldemort was defeated and one third added to Harry's vaults for a finder's fee.
Now they knew that five horcruxes were accounted for. The diary, the ring, the locket, Nagini, the cup. That meant that only one was left, then Voldemort would be mortal!
Her Harry had a brainstorm. He remembered the tiara they'd seen in the version of the Room of Requirement in which they'd discarded the Half Blood Prince's book. He realized that could be the last Horcrux. The Goblins were quick to gift them with a reusable portkey to take them inside Hogwarts' seventh floor and back out, it need be.
When they arrived in the castle, under the cloak, they found Snape confronting Neville Longbottom. Simultaneous stunning spells put him under, then they tied him up. A quick talk with their friend and he opened the Room of Requirement for them. They had a joyful reunion with their friends in the Resistance. They explained they needed to find the diadem and to everyone's amazement a new door opened at Harry's command. He found the diadem, and finished it with the Sword.
"OK, listen up. It's only 2:45 in the morning. We have the advantage. We can take the castle. Who's with me?" The whoops of mixed joy and anger were all the answer Harry needed. "Then we plan. How many Death Eaters are still in the castle?"
Happily, the only Death Eaters besides Snape in Hogwarts were the Carrows. "Very well. We have students from all four houses here. First, we need to get the heads of house alerted. Daphne, Tracey, Blaise, Astoria, I'm glad to see the Slytherin opposition! Your job is to rouse Professor Slughorn. We're going to need him to get us some Veritaserum and any other potions he thinks would be useful.
"Susan, Hannah, Ernie, Zach, you get Professor Sprout up and moving. Cho, Marietta, Luna, Terry, do the same for Professor Flitwick. Me, Hermione, Neville and Ginny will get Professor McGonagall and we'll take Snape with us. Any of the rest of you know where the entrance to the Slytherin house is? Great, I want six of you to watch that entrance. Anyone who tries to leave, stun them into next year.
"The rest of you, go to the entrance to the rest of the common rooms, watch them and handle anyone who tries to leave. All groups, watch your backs, particularly for Filch and Mrs. Norris. Stun them and restrain them. Keep to the task until you are relieved or given a new assignment by me, Hermione, Neville or a professor. Hermione, have I missed anything?"
Hermione needed barely a moment's worth of thought. Her heart swelled with pride and love for her Harry, for his insight and leadership. "You've covered it all, I think. One thing to emphasize. None of our lives are expendable. Make sure that if you have to, you put them down for the count."
"OK, its 3:00 am. Let's go. And hey, hey, hey, let's be careful out there!" Harry warned, then led them out into the castle.
The plan went like clockwork. By 4:00 am, the entire castle was secured. Hermione was over the moon with joy. There would still be a fight, but they had the edge now; anyone could kill Voldemort! Neville told them of the connection between the Room of Requirement and the Hog's Head tavern in Hogsmeade. Resistance members staffed the room, Neville alerted Aberforth and a Patronus message to the twins started them to alert an army to head to the castle for the final battle. Then, it all went pear-shaped.
One or another of them had restunned Snape each time he began to revive. After they could be spared, McGonagall led Harry, Hermione and Snape to the Headmaster's office. Professor Slughorn had given Minerva a phial of Veritaserum and they intended to get some answers out of Dumbledore's murderer.
They rebound Snape to the chair behind the desk and rennervated him. "Well, 'Professor', it seems your term as headmaster is over. We need answers."
Snape sneered at the three. "What are you going to do, Potter? Torture me? Kill me? Face it, you don't have it in you to do that."
"I'm not a DeathEater. Torture and killing aren't my first choice. But, this is a war, and I will do what I must to protect my friends and the innocent. I've killed once in self-defense and I need to kill 'V' to finish this. But I'm not like you, DeathEater. I don't like the feeling of blood on my hands. I don't like the idea of torture. I'll do what I must, but unlike you, I won't revel in it."
"Harry, there is no need for any of that," came a new voice. The three looked at the portrait of Albus Dumbledore in shock. "Severus, it is time for Harry to know everything. Harry, you know where my pensieve is. Severus has memories you, Miss Granger and Minerva must see, to understand what has happened and to know what you must do."
Harry retrieved the pensieve and placed it on the desk. "I trust you, headmaster, but not him. Severus Snape, you will now swear on your life and magic that you will give us the memories the headmaster has asked of you, complete and untampered."
"Trust me, do you Potter?"
"Just as far as you trusted my father."
Snape bowed at the riposte. "I, Severus Snape swear on my life and magic, that the memories I am about to give to Harry James Potter are complete and untampered. As I have said, so mote it be!"
After the flash of light, indicating that the oath had been accepted by magic, Harry drew forth the memories and after stunning Snape again, the three dipped into the pensieve.
They emerged from the pensieve shocked and blown out of the water. Hermione couldn't stop her tears, no matter how tightly an ashen-faced Harry held her. McGonagall stood, white as a sheet. Finally, Hermione's tears subsided. Harry faced the portrait. "Headmaster, your addiction to keeping secrets means there is no way I can live through this. Maybe, had I known, the goblins might have found a way, but we won't know, not now. So, I'll die, hoping someone else will get lucky and finish him. Better hope we don't meet in the 'next great adventure', for I'll try my best to kill the dead. I think my parents and Sirius will help too."
Harry revived Snape and forced some Draught of Living Death down his throat. Then they left the office, with Snape still trussed up. When they reached the Great Hall, Harry spoke to Professor McGonagall. "Headmistress, I know it is still very early, but you should have the elves prepare breakfast and the heads of house bring down the students. Every underage student must be evacuated and any student of age who does not want to fight as well. Any student with Deathater connections though, must be locked in the dungeons. This is iffy enough without the enemy getting early word."
"As you say, Harry. As you say." Minerva left. Harry and Hermione found themselves at the Gryffindor table, embracing, trying to keep the sobs at bay.
Harry looked at his best friend, his mind awhirl. Their eyes locked upon each other, green looking into brown and back again. Both of them caught up in their thoughts, both wanting to expose their hearts, both thinking there wasn't ever going to be a 'right time'. Harry's whisper was hoarse, rough, yet tender. "Hermione, I want you to know that I've been blessed these seven years by your friendship. Without you, my story would have ended a long time ago. All I regret is that our friendship ends far too soon. Thank you, dearest and best of friends."
Somehow, Hermione managed to hold herself of a single, dry sob. "Harry, it's me who's been blessed. Being your friend is more than this bushy-haired know-it-all has ever deserved. Whatever happens, you will live in my memories, ever green, so long as I live."
They just hugged all the tighter. As time passed, the hall filled with students, teachers, and the assembling fighters. Soon the table filled with food and they sat. "I never thought I'd ever eat another meal at this table again, did you?" Hermione shook her head but once, but it was enough for an oration. Neither could voice their thought. The condemned should eat a hearty last meal.
Harry finished, kissed the top of Hermione's head and stood to a thunderous ovation. He held up his hand and the tumult stilled. "This is not the end. This is the beginning." Beckoning to Neville, he left the Great Hall. They walked up to the Gryffindor portrait. He turned to the god-brother he'd not known he had until that Christmas in their fifth year. "Nev, do me a favor, will you? Keep everyone out of the Common Room for me? I need to think a while." Neville, nodded, they shared a brotherly hug. Then, the portrait opened without a password and Harry went in.
And so, Hermione was a very worried witch on a mission. She'd waited until 9:45 am for Harry's return and now sought him out. All the other plans were in action, none needed her. But her Harry needed her; more, she needed him. She knew where he must be. She saw Neville guarding the entry to Gryffindor and smiled. Of course and who else but Neville, so brave and loyal? He saw her and moved to block her.
'I'm sorry Hermione, but..."
"Harry asked you to keep others out. I understand, but I have things to tell Harry. He doesn't know it, but he has things to say to me also. Please let me through, don't tell him. Please."
Neville took no more than an instant of thought and stepped away. She stepped to the portrait. "Please open, but silently." A tear fell from the Fat Lady's cheek; she nodded and the door opened without sound. She slipped in noiselessly, saw Harry sitting on 'their' loveseat, then sat on a chair nearby.
Harry Potter was sitting quietly in the common room... Tomorrow was to be the day. Harry knew it in his bones. Tomorrow he would have to finally face Voldemort for the last time. He could not put it off; this war needed to end because there had been far too many lives lost already. He knew there was little chance of him surviving the encounter; that was the only reason he had never told Hermione how he felt about her.
Resigned to the facts as he saw them Harry looked around the room; thinking he was alone he began very quietly talking out loud. "Mum, Dad, Sirius too, I don't know if you can hear me, I don't think it will be much longer before we are together, maybe tomorrow or the day after at the latest. 'V' (Voldemort) is coming to try and kill me, I'm sorry that the Potter and Black lines will end dad, Sirius. I'll be the last one. I hope you can forgive me for that, but I'll be taking him with me when I die, I promise all of you that."
Harry then fell silent as he stared into the fire and wondered if his dead parents and god father could hear him. Then he heard a slight rustling from behind him, turning around he saw his best friend Hermione sit up in the armchair behind his. She stood up and walked around to him with a rather sad smile on her face. She knew as well as he did that he had little chance of surviving.
Standing right in front of him Hermione leaned forward and took his face in her hands, as she cupped his cheeks he could not believe what she said.
"Harry, I couldn't help over hearing what you said to your mum, dad and Sirius; I'd like to help keep the Potter and Black lines alive for you if you'll have me. If I can't have you, if I can't be with you… if you… if you don't survive… I would be honoured to have your child.
"I'll have a baby for you Harry if you think you could like me enough to make me pregnant. I'm about at my most fertile right about now; I can also get a male fertility potion to make sure we have a boy, I'll get it from Madam Pomfrey. So today would be a good day to get me pregnant and we have all night to make sure it works." Hermione held on to him looking directly into his eyes letting him know she meant every word she said, "Please Harry, make love to me, make me pregnant, let me have your child and fulfill at least one of my dreams, please."
Harry looked at her, stunned. Am I hallucinating? Did she just say what I thought I heard? Or have I gone around the twist, I've loved her for so long... "Hermione, did I really hear you rightly? I know you are the kindest person I've ever met, the smartest, bravest and most loyal, but I can't, not if it isn't for the right reasons; I'd rather die the last of my lines than that."
"Harry, dear man, can't you guess my other dreams? I've dreamt of being your wife and having your children for so long. Do you believe in love at first sight? That is what happened to me, even though it took me three years to understand what my feelings were. I was going to tell you in our fourth year, then the Triwizard happened and 'V's' revival. I felt I couldn't tell you, not until the war was over. But now, I need to seize what we can. Please make a baby with me, make me a mother."
Hermione was confused when Harry stated laughing. "A fine pair of Gryffindor lions we make! I've been in love with you since our fourth year. I was so upset I couldn't take you to the ball, I didn't understand until I saw you with Krum. I knew then I could never abide your being with anyone other than me. But with the tournament, I felt I had to wait. And then the third task. After that, I knew I couldn't be so cruel as to tell you until 'V' was gone. So darling Hermione, yes I will fulfill both your dreams. We'll marry today, I hope in the hour. Tonight will be our wedding night and then, what happens afterwards happens. If there is a chance in a thousand thousand to survive, I'll take it. I wish to rear the child we conceive, and hopefully his or her siblings." Harry found a Galleon in his cloak and transfigured it into a lovely engagement ring. Harry knelt. "Darling, wonderful Hermione Jane Granger, will you marry me, take my name and houses, bear and rear all the children fate gives us?"
Hermione's "YES" might have been heard in Hogsmeade. After Harry placed the ring on her finger, she drew him into their first kiss, a kiss sealing their feelings, love's first kiss.
When they came up for air, they smiled dazzlingly at one another. They exited the common room and past a gobsmacked Neville. Harry turned and shouted, "Come with us, Nev! We've a wedding to perform, and you'll be best man!"
A/N: First, a big shout out to my Beta, texan-muggle. Betas keep me on the straight and narrow, bless them all. Any goofs are on my dime. At this point, it seems as if we've finally sorted out all the revision problems.
Did any catch my use of Sgt. Phil Esterhaus' iconic catchphrase from Hill Street Blues?
The story recommendation for this chapter is Hermione's Offer by pakrat77 (id: 5379322). To my knowledge and broomstick flyer's, this is the only other story to take up the challenge. If anyone has run across another, let me know.
I've made a few minor edits to the challenge, removed a sentence (note the ellipses), I also added a word or three, which are in plain type.
In case anyone wonders, I assume for the story that the taboo on 'Voldemort' is still operative, therefore the circumlocutions. Harry wants the end to come on his terms, not on anyone else's.
I had intended to publish after I had finished the 4-5 chapters. but then, I learned of the sad passing on of the wonderful broomstick rider on the 22nd. I decided to publish this immediately, and hope this effort will be accepted as the tribute it is now intended to be. I hope that my admittedly inadequate attempt at channeling her stle will meet with some approval.
Once more, thanks to all of you who read my efforts. Visitors, hits, reviews, follows, favorites, C2s are my only payment. Believe me, they make me feel rich!
The Ghostly Minion, in mourning