Disclaimer: All characters belong to JK Rowling. No infringement intended.
Of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these, 'It might have been.'
― John Greenleaf Whittier, Maud Muller - Pamphlet
Chapter 13: In Another Universe
Hermione was holding onto the small, black handbag with an engraved P on it, artistically being surrounded by and entwined with strong deer antlers and beautiful lilies. Harry had given it to her after they had gotten ready for their next mission in his chambers, wordlessly and slowly pulling it out of one of his cupboard's drawers and letting its handle fall into her soft hands, the weight of the bag only slightly causing her hands to lower. She did not need him to say it to know that it was something special and significant to him, and she accepted it with a small, sad smile and a welcoming touch on his bare forearm; he did not return it, and yet his bright green eyes told her enough.
Currently, the two of them were standing in front of a large manor with many thick trees in its large front yard and an impressive silvery gate that had the twisted shape of nine majestic letters, revealing the house's owners: Lestrange.
Her heart sinking, she turned her head to meet his lingering gaze. 'Don't tell me we are here to visit that lunatic.'
'No, we are not,' Harry said, not smirking at her words –she knew he would have done it if Bellatrix Lestrange hadn't almost succeeded at killing her –, and instead he nodded towards the black handbag she was carrying. 'You will find some apples, bread and water inside of that bag. Do me the favour, rest for a while and eat something. It will take me some time.'
'What will take you some time, Harry?' Hermione demanded to know, her delicate eyebrows furrowed and a frown on her face.
His emerald eyes left her brown ones, and he pulled the phoenix wand out of his dark, left sleeve. He took one more step forward and positioned himself closely in front of the gate before him, staring at it for a short moment before taking a deep breath and starting to mutter some incantations that she thought she might know, and yet never having heard them in reality, probably only having read about them in one of her many old library books.
Having realized that Harry wasn't going to explain his actions any further, Hermione sighed in defeat and moved to get an apple. In her utter astonishment, her left hand didn't just touch the food Harry had mentioned earlier, but also several other things like clothes and books. She looked down at the antlers and lilies and froze; he hadn't...
'An Undectable Extension Charm?' she said loudly and suddenly, the words slipping out of her mouth without any control. 'That's advanced magic, Harry...'
His raised, shaking arms ceased for a second and his muttering stopped as well. 'Is that so? Well, I actually got that idea from you. In our sixth year, I caught you practicing this very charm in the Common Room at night. I believe it was winter. You were all alone and deep into your work, not noticing me at all as I admired your mere beauty and astonishing skills; it only took you three tiny attempts before eventually managing it perfectly. You really are an inspiration, do you know that, Hermione?' She felt him grinning proudly, and she couldn't help but softly smile to herself, remembering that night quite well.
'I was just lucky,' she whispered with a shrug, gripping one of the red apples and pulling it out of the bag with a somewhat pleasant feeling inside of her.
As she took a first bite, Harry answered, 'No, you weren't. Luck has nothing to do with your determination, hard work, and dedication. You truly are one of a kind, love.' After that, he went back to work, whispering charms in the shadows of the old trees, oblivious to Hermione's wide eyes and blushed cheeks as she stared at the young man's back in both silent surprise and gracious gratitude.
After half an hour, Harry lowered his arms and let out a deep breath. He turned back to Hermione, who was sitting on the ground, her head resting on her palm as she watched her lover's movements in awe. She stood up the second he winked at her with a victorious expression and took the hand that he offered her politely, helping her stand.
'So, what exactly did you do now? Break the terrorist's doors?'
'I granted us free entry, without the potential danger of drawing attention to ourselves,' he answered calmly, walking ahead and opening the silvery gates with a fast swing of his wand. 'Tag along, darling, we shall not waste any more precious time in this cold, wouldn't you agree?'
The warm fire that flickered in the fireplace of the salon cast a sparse light on dozens of old paintings of grim-looking wizards with pointed beards and snooty witches with dark eyes and a treacherous smile. The estate of the Lestrange family was reminiscent of that of its related Black family in elegance, perseverance and statement: we are proud and show just this with our raised heads.
The grand floor in that gigantic room was endowed with a carpet as an heirloom, so it seemed: it took in its complete size and age, posing as a sign of constancy and tradition.
Hermione had not dared to settle on one of the many armchairs and sofas; instead, she wandered through the drawing-room both uneasily and curiously, her vigilant eyes constantly following her surroundings.
Harry, on the other hand, had been sitting on the dark blue, handsome armchair near the burning flames for a long time already, his green eyes fixed on the girl's slow movements, with every step and every breath. His face did not reveal any potential thoughts that might tumble around inside his head at that moment. Perhaps the fact that he was watching her was a pure coincidence, a simple side effect of his deeply closed and intricate thoughts that grew in his soul and had the momentary upper hand.
When, after a while, their eyes finally locked from across the room, he seemed to, at first, only return to the present piece by piece, but then entirely, the emptiness leaving his eyes and being replaced by a cheeky sparkle.
She sighed, conscious of what memory was taking his head right now, with its complete force and strength. 'We haven't talked about what happened yet,' she whispered softly, but hesitantly, still uncertain as to whether it had been a good decision to jump into the devil's open arms and give herself completely to him. She would be a liar if she said it had been wrong or unpleasant in that situation, but the other possibility – that she in fact did not regret any second of his lips brushing against her neck or his skin rubbing against her own – was equally painful.
Harry smirked and cocked his head, eyeing her with a self-satisfied expression. 'Talking about what happened? To me, that sounds as if it had been a mere coincidence, something completely out of our control and without any consent on either of our sides.'
'Perhaps it was out of our control,' Hermione replied, returning his glance. 'In that moment.'
'In that moment?' Harry repeated silently and calmly. His fingers flexed into a fist, resting beside him. 'Do you believe it won't happen again? Ever?'
Hermione hesitated at that, her lips opening without a single word slipping out of her usually prepared mouth.
Watching her struggle, he looked down at the floor for a very short second before elegantly pushing himself out of the pretty armchair and walking over towards her in a fast pace, only stopping when standing one feet away from her.
'You do not trust me,' he said after a few moments of agony. He pronounced those words with such ease that they signaled complete indifference and invulnerability. And yet there was something in his face, which told her that this was not the case. At least not entirely.
'Do I have a reason to trust you? Should I?' she replied, letting her shoulders fall, defeated. 'I haven't forgotten what you have done. To yourself, to me. To people who were important to me and to you, once upon a time. I haven't forgotten anything about that. Even if I would like to.'
'You are absolutely right, Hermione, dear,' he whispered with caution and harshness. One of his hands moved toward her face and with wary eyes she watched as his index finger traced the length of her jaw. Her skin began to tingle painfully pleasant under his touch, electricity sparking. 'You cannot trust me. You should not trust me. Even though I hardly wish for anything more.'
And almost immediately after that, he leaned forward and bridged the last few inches seperating them from one another. His warm lips found hers and kissed them with such softness that her heart threatened to start beating wings and flutter out of her chest. He interrupted the kiss for a moment and stroked her flushed cheeks, his eyes fixed on her half-open mouth. 'My desire for control seems to leave me in your immediate vicinity, every single time. What hold do you have over me, Hermione?' He muttered against her lips. She felt his hot breath and without complementing or even realizing it, she reached for the collar of Harry's black cloak and pulled him closer to her again, resuming the kiss with an eager lust.
Harry's hands reached over and gripped both sides of her delicate hips, carrying her urgently over to the nearest free wall, pushing her against it and himself closer to her warm body.
Her hands buried themselves hungrily in his black, already messy hair, massaging his scalp. His own inquisited her bodies with wild tenderness, stroking her bare arms, caressing her breasts with a deep growl.
Lips sucked and kissed and licked and bit, and Hermione found herself repeatedly moaning into their hot kisses, begging for more.
She felt him grin into the kiss, before both of his hands went further down and began to work on opening her pants.
Suddenly, a loud noise erupted out of nowhere and the next thing Hermione noticed was that they were no longer alone.
Hermione heard a loud laugh, dark and heavy, in the direction of the entrance to the Lestranges' salon. 'Seriously, mate? In my estate? In my salon? Against my wall?'
The strange voice sighed heavily while Harry's lips and hands left her shaking body, but the warmth of his skin was still as close as before.
'Do not tell me that you slept with this girl in my own bed. That's disgusting, pal, and here I always reckoned you were this listless, psychopathic gentleman.'
Hermione watched with a deep red head and violent breathing as Harry turned to the unknown man and smirked at him. He smoothed his cloak with one hand and touched his lips with the other one; the memory of the last action burned into his mind, a pleasant fire of salvation. 'It's a pleasure to see you again, my friend.'
'Yeah, yeah, stop it with your polite, noble nonsense. After all, there's no excuse for trespassing on my property. All these fucking protecting spells on my manor that my paranoid, crazy wife made up, and you just simply walk into my living quarters and screw your girl here?'
'If it pleases you, it wasn't that simple. It took me some time.'
'Well, obviously not enough, eh?' The older man muttered, shaking his long, dark brown hair. 'So, tell me, what do you want from me? Again? Besides shagging your sidekick on my carpet?'
Harry let out a short, cold laugh. 'I can assure you, Rodolphus, Miss Granger did not allow to misbehave like that in here.'
'Ah, in here? Meaning the two of you did already consummate your weird, obsessive, mind-playing relationship?' He cocked his head with a dirty grin, and Hermione, who had quickly adjusted her clothes and appearance, flinched a little. 'It was about time, actually. You know, girl, he used to have this even more sinister-looking countenance. Thanks for granting him some relief, it's a real improvement. Tell me, lass, did he made you do some crazy stuff with–'
'Rodolphus,' Harry said with a sigh, certainly rolling his green eyes. 'Enough. You know precisely why I am here. I heard you are finished with your work for tonight? You've got some time for your friend?'
Rodolphus Lestrange sneered, the same grin still on his thin lips, his twisted face turning into a filthy expression. 'Naturally, my friend.'
The bar of the Leaky Cauldron was nearly deserted. Tom, the stooped and toothless landlord, was polishing glasses behind the bar counter; a couple of warlocks having a muttered conversation in the far corner glanced first at Rodophus, then at Hermione, and eventually at Harry, their eyes growing big before turning their heads away from the trio, drawing back into the shadows.
Tom nodded into Harry's and Rodolphus's direction, but merely eyeing Hermione with a curious look, possibly remembering her from the time when Ron and his family, and Harry and Hermione had stayed in the Leaky Cauldron for a few days before their third year at Hogwarts. If he did remember her, he hid it well, as he looked down again, trying to ignore the newly arrived guests, only just inclining his head subserviently as they passed him.
Harry drew out his phoenix wand and rapped a brick in the nondescript wall in front of them. At once, the bricks began to whirl and spin how they always did when being rapped by wizards' and witches' wands: a hole appeared there in the middle of them and started to grow wider and wider, until finally forming an archway onto the narrow cobbled street that was Diagon Alley, the first magical place Hermione had ever visited. She attempted to suppress all the happy memories that she connected this place with –buying her wand, spending hours in Flourish & Blotts, eating ice-cream with Ron and Harry, meeting Crookshanks– and instead raised her head a little higher.
It was quiet, even though it already was time for the shops to open. There were hardly any shoppers abroad, only some lost souls that hid in the shadows or were bold enough to walk past Harry and his two followers.
The crooked, cobbled street was much altered now from the bustling place both Harry and Hermione had visited before their first time at Hogwarts so many years before. More shops than ever were boarded up, though several new establishments dedicated to the Dark Arts had been created since Hermione's last visit. Harry, who had already witnessed the new and different atmosphere in the Diagon Alley, calmly kept walking, ignoring the many posters of known allies of the Order and Muggle-born wizards and witches; and yet, here she was, a Muggle-born witch herself, being being flanked by two Death Eaters, the first of them being one of the two Dark Lord's right hands and the second one being the other right hand's husband and a maybe equally savage follower.
Hermione tried her best to not look at the ragged people who were sitting huddled in doorways, moaning to the few passersby, pleading for gold, insisting that they were really wizards and not scum like herself–one man had a bloody bandage over his eye and another missed a leg and an arm. The two wounded men seemed to fade into the darkness as Harry passed them, avoiding any potential eye-contact. Rodolphus, who did not seem as upset about the poor people as Hermione was, laughed and made a threatening gesture with his wand, looking at the beggars with maniac-like eyes.
'Stop that!' Hermione hissed, glaring furiously at him but Rodolphus only shrugged with an obnoxious grin.
Her brown eyes left the Death Eater's face, and found two that she thought she would never see again.
She stopped suddenly, lingering to take in the sight of two of her former friends: Neville Longbottom and Luna Lovegood.
The Gryffindor boy and the Ravenclaw girl were standing in front of Florean Fortescue's Ice Cream Parlour, their backs turned to Hermione and the others, ordering some ice cream despite the cold temperatures of winter. Hermione guessed with a soft smile that it had been Luna's idea and Neville hadn't been able to resist her innocent-looking, big eyes.
Unconsciously, she was starting to walk towards them, a nostalgic feeling forming inside of her, before two familiar hands pulled her back, keeping her back close to his chest.
'Please, let me talk to them. Just for a minute!' she said, her eyes still fixed on the two Hogwarts students who were probably spending their Christmas holidays together. 'I assumed... I assumed they were dead.' Her eyes started wartering and she quickly brushed the tears away, avoiding Harry's intense gaze.
He was still for a moment after her comment. 'Dead?'
'I thought you had killed them.'
Harry fell silent, then sighing and saying, 'No, I apparently did not.' If he was honest with himself, he had forgotten about their existence in the last few months–he hadn't spent one tiny thought on the remaining people at Hogwarts. 'Forgive me, dear, but we don't have any time for this. Come on, we shall not waste any more time.'
She lingered just for a few more moments, watching her two friends with love and yearning, trying to mesmorize their smiling profiles as well as she could, seconds before they arrived at the foot of the marble steps leading up to the great bronze doors. Hermione frowned: instead of the liveried goblings who usually flanked the entrance, there stood two wizards, both of whom were clutching long thin golden robs.
'Probity Probes,' Harry explained to Hermione when he saw her expression. 'Crude but effective.'
'Just like us, eh, Potter?' Rodolphus said, laughing to himself.
Harry ignored him. 'But they won't be necessary for us.' He set off up the steps, nodding left and right to the wizards who recognized him at the spot.
'Mr. Potter, hello!' one of the two said. His partner made a welcoming gesture towards the bronze doors. 'Please, enter.'
And they did, meeting two goblins that stood before the inner doors, which were made of silver and which carried the poem warning of dire retribution to potential thieves. Hermione looked up at it, feeling like her eleven-year-old-self, staring at the poem warning in awe and respect.
The long counter was as usually manned by goblins sitting on high stools who served some customers already. Harry, Rodolphus, and Hermione headed toward an old goblin who was examining a thick gold coin through an eyeglass. He tossed the coin he was holding aside, murmured something to himself, and finally greeted Rodolphus and Harry politely, only shortly eyeing Hermione with suspicion. 'I wish to enter my vault,' said Rodolphus and he passed over a tiny golden key and his wand for identification, which were then examined and given back to him shortly after.
Without having noticed it, a younger goblin approached the old one serving them and handed him a leather bag that seemed to be full of jangling metal, the Clankers Hermione knew.
'If you will follow me, Mr. Lestrange, Mr. Potter,' said the old goblin, hopping down off his stool and vanishing from sight due to his limited height. 'I shall take you to your vault!' He appeared around the end of the counter, walking toward them with a serious facial expression.
As they hurried toward one of the many doors leading off the hall, the goblin was greeted by another one and Hermione learned that his name was Bogrod. Together, the four of them reached the door and passed into the rough stone passageway beyond, which was lit with flaming torches.
Bogrod wisthled to summon a little cart that came trundling along the tracks towards them out of the darkness; the goblin sat in the front, followed by Rodolphus who was grinning as if he had the time of his life, and Harry politely helped Hermione into the back, cramming himself there as well.
'What a gentleman you've got there, girl!' Rodolphus shouted with a laugh as the cart moved off with a jerk, fastly garthering speed. The cart began twisting and turning through the labyrinthine passages, sloping downward all the time. The cart's rattling was overwhelmingly loud and the wind that forced her bushy hair out of her face was cold. They passed several stalactites and got much deeper into the earth; surely only the old, powerful wizarding houses earned a place as deep into the earth as the Lestranges did.
Suddenly, they halted, and Hermione felt herself being pressed against Harry's side. He touched her hand for a brief moment before following Bogrod and Rodolphus out of the cart.
Hermione heard something clanking and moving around nearby as she pulled herself out of the cart and stepping next to the goblin that was already waiting for all of them. With a nod, he started to lead the way, and they turned a corner and saw something that Hermione had only seen once in her life–a gigantic dragon that was tethered to the ground in front of them, barring access to four or five of the deepest vaults in the place. Hermione tried her best to contain her cool, swallowing.
On a closer look, she realized that the beast's scales had turned pale and flaky during its long incarceration under the ground, its eyes were milkily pink; both rear legs bore heavy cuffs from which chains led to enormous pegs driven deep into the rocky floor, ensuring that the dragon was controlled and tamed during its time protecting the bank's oldest few banks. Hermione's heart ached at the poor creature's appearance, pressing her lips tightly together.
'It is partially blind, the dragon,' Bogrod said, 'but even more savage for that. However, we have the means to control it. It has learned what to expect when the Clankers come.' He pulled out a number of small metal instruments that when shaken made a long ringing noise like miniature hammers on anvils. Bogrod gave one pair to the person standing closest to him, Rodolphus, who accepted them with a knowing expression.
They advanced around the corner again, constantly shaking the Clankers, and the noise echoed off the rocky walls, a horrifying sound to experience; the dragon let out a hoarse roar, before retreating submissively. It was obviously trembling and Hermione felt herself starting to shake, too, seeing the vicious and violent slashes across its face.
Bogrod handed his pair of Clankers to Harry, who started shaking it like Bogrod had and Rodolphus did, even though his facial expression wasn't as joyful as the latter one's while using it. The goblin now pressed his palm to the Lestrange vault's door; it melted away to reveal a cavelike opening crammed from floor to ceiling with golden coins and goblets, silver armor, the skins of strange creatures–some with long spines, other with drooping wings–, potions in jeweled flasks, and a skull still wearing an ancient crown.
'I will await you outside, Mr. Rodolphus, Mr. Potter. Take your time,' Bogrod said with a bow, and he watched them as the three of them stepped inside the vault before there was a muffled clunk and the door reappeared, sealing Harry, Hermione and Rodolphus inside the vault, now being plunged into total darkness.
'Lumos!' both men muttered under their breath.
'So, what exactly do you want from my vault's treasures, now, Potter?' Rodolphus said with raised eyebrows. He eyed his fellow Death Eater with cautious eyes and an odd smile.
'An ancient object, I already told you so,' Harry answered, his eyes roaming the vast vault with a great concentration. 'I will know it when I see it.'
'Yeah, yeah, I get,' Rodolphus said, making a random hand movement. 'You should just know that Bella made them add Geminio and Flagrante curses. Everything you touch will burn you and multiply but the copies are worthless–and if you continue to handle the treasure you will eventually be crushed by the weight of the expanding gold. Sounds fun, doesn't it?'
Harry stopped for a second, before smiling to himself. 'Sounds just like Bella.'
Hermione watched his dimly-lit face; there was no affection in his expression as he said the woman's name. A weight was lifted from her heart that she hadn't even been aware of having.
'Yeah, it does sound like my wife,' Rodolphus said. 'Merlin, I haven't been down here for years. Well, Potty-boy, I would say you look around without touching anything and then tell me when you find what you are looking for and I get it for you, right?'
'So, you can touch everything without getting burns and multiplying anything?' Harry whispered to himself, still looking around, his eyes darting around as fast as lightning bolts.
'Of course. This is the Lestrange vault, and I am a Lestrange.'
Harry smirked at him and to himself–probably pleased with himself for bringing Rodolphus along with them, enjoying its advantages. A break-in would have been much more difficult, surely.
The young man took a few steps, careful not to touch anything, and stopped in front of a bronze figure of a bald, tall man; its arms were directed towards the sky–or rather towards the vault's ceiling–and it had big wings on its back, obviously too heavy for him to carry, and yet the figure was standing tall and proud. Something about this artefact was magically drawing him to it, its aura a seducing danger that he was surprisingly willing to enter. He lowered his wand to see the figure better, and suddenly stared into dark blue-ish eyes that pulled him into utter but warm darkness.
'We are going to call him Harry, Harry James Potter,' the exhausted, but still beautiful figure of Lily Potter whispered to her favourite people surrounding here: her silently crying husband James who was hugging his wife's free arm while staring at their newborn son in her other one, then Sirius who was not only James's best friend but in another way also hers and who couldn't take his grey eyes off of the young child that already had a big spot in his heart, Remus who she had spent so much time with during their school years and whose scars looked less nasty at that moment of love and friendship and life, Peter who was nervously hopping behind the tall figure of Sirius to try and get a proper glance at the little one he was going to call Littlest Stag, Mary Macdonald who was her best friend and grinning as she took pictures over pictures, her and James's parents who were silent but proud and happy as they took in the beauty of their children together with their new grandson, and Petunia who had grow to be quite close to her little sister again and who was carrying her own son Dudley as she smiled and congratulated the new parents.
Aunt Mary, his mother's best friend, was holding three-year-old Harry, cuddling and stroking the crying boy after he had fallen from his first broomstick. 'I know what will make you cheer up!' Little Harry ceased, glancing at the pretty woman's warm blue eyes, waiting for something to happen. She was smiling happily, knowing something that the boy did not. 'You're going to be a big brother, Harry!' At that, his father came and took the boy out of Mary's arms and carried him over to Lily who was following the green eyes that looked just like hers. James settled Harry into Lily's lap, careful not to hurt her swollen stomach. 'But, mummy, why did you eat my sister?' And Lily laughed, as did James who stroke the boy's black hair with affectionate hazel eyes. 'It's not a sister, sweetheart. You're going to have a little brother. And I didn't eat him–I ate a special kind of peanut, and then your father kissed me, and the peanut is now in my stomach and grows into a boy. Are you happy about a brother?' And Harry, who had listened to her with big eyes and an open mouth, now nodded quickly and his small hand touched his mother's stomach. 'Let's name him Graham, mummy, daddy!'
'Hey, Uncle Remus, do you want to hear a joke?' 6-year-old Harry asked the brown-haired man with a wide smile that reminded him of the boy's father. 'Sure, Harry, shoot!' he answered watching the kid's tiny face brighten up and his mouth opening, 'What happened to the dog that swallowed a firefly?' Remus felt a familiar scent creeping up on him, as he answered, 'I don't know, what happened to the dog?' – 'It barked with de-light!' Harry laughed before even Remus did and the latter knew exactly where the boy got the joke from. 'So, I guess your godfather passed on his humour onto you?' Harry's eyebrows furrowed in confusion. 'A godfather? I don't have a godfather. I only have a...' And suddenly, Sirius jumped next to the little boy, the both of them grinning and shouting in unison, '...dogfather!' Amd at that, Sirius turned into the big, black dog and licked Harry's face.
The nine-year-old boy with the messy, black hair and the sparkling green eyes sat on the floor of his bedroom, both sad and mad that he wasn't allowed to eat any more sweets for today. He was about to open the door and try to pursuade his mother in changing her mind, when it was instead opened by someone else: his Uncle Peter. He had a guilty but kind smile on his round face, holding out Harry's favourite lollipop and putting a finger to his mouth, asking him to keep quiet. 'Or I will get worse punishment than no more candy!' Uncle Peter said, his cheeks red. Harry took the lollipop with a tiny chuckle.
Eleven-year-old Harry came running into the Potters' living room in Godric's Hollow, a special letter in his hands and an equally special smile on his lips. He ran over to his father who was trying to teach Harry's eight-year-old brother Graham how to ride a broomstick; but the auburn-haired boy with the hazel eyes had never been as good as Harry at it, and now the other two male Potters were looking up at Harry. 'Dad! It came! It finally came!' he shouted loudly and presenting the letter proudly, his green eyes glowing at the thought of being a student at Hogwarts: he had had dreams of Gryffindor and the Quidditch pitch and the vast castle, and now it had finally become reality. 'That's fantastic! Oh, Harry! You definitely need a new broomstick now, of course my son is going to break the rules and become part of the Quidditch team in his first year, there is no other way–' A female voice erupted from upstairs. 'James, stop shouting, you know that Phoebe is sick and she just finally fell asleep!' But it was too late; the three-year-old girl was wide-awake again, and seconds later both mother and daughter came down the stairs, the girl's brown hair as thick as her mother's but the nose and smile of her father who now took her from Lily, and into his own arms, kissing her reddend cheeks. 'Mummy, Harry got his letter!' Graham said with big eyes, jumping around to celebrate his big brother's news. At that, Lily quickly went over to her eldest child, pressing him against her chest and kissing every inch she could reach. 'Oh, my boy... How wonderful! We have to celebrate it–I'm going to invite everyone, Remus and Sirius and Peter and Mary and Hagrid and–' Harry tried to break free, telling his excited mother to stop. 'And Ron too, right, Mum? He got his letter yesterday!' Lily smiled, stroking the eldest Potter child's black hair. 'Of course, Harry, of course! The whole Weasley family and Minerva of course, she just adores you, even if she wouldn't admit it! She can tell you so much more about Hogwarts–and about your father and his friends! They used to be quite some troublemakers, isn't that right, James?' She turned to her husband who was rocking Phoebe and now grinned widely. 'Sirius already told Harry everything. Oh, my, that reminds me of something–it's time to pass on the Marauder's Map!' His face turned pale, running up the stairs with Phoebe in his arms, the two boys and their mother looking after them, laughing.
Harry stared at the girl with the bushy-brown hair and large front teeth who was carrying some books in her arms and standing alone on the platform, only a few metres away from the Potters and the Weasleys and their friends who had come to see Harry, Ron and Ron's older brothers off. She looked shy and insecure, but also somehow interesting. Harry turned to face his best friend Ron, whose parents were in the same organisation that fought for peace as his, and pushed him into the side, nodding into the girl's direction. 'Let's say hi, she looks lonely!' Ron was reluctant to talk to someone strange–and a girl who looked like a nerd at that–but he followed his friend as he strode over to the girl. 'Hey, my name is Harry!' he introduced himself upon locking eyes with her. She smiled friendly. 'And this is Ron, but you can also call him Ronald, just like his mum does when he fails to clean his room,' Harry said with his father's mischevious grin, pointing at his ginger-haired friend who rolled his blue eyes at the comment. 'No, call me Ron. What's your name?' – 'It's Hermione. Hermione Granger,' she answered, her chin high. 'Nice to meet you, Hermione. Where are your parents?' Harry asked, looking around. Hermione shrugged, her eyes darting to the large, scarlet Hogwarts Express for a fleeting moment. 'They wanted to look around, maybe get to talk to the driver. They are quite nervous and want to make sure I will be absolutely fine, you know?' Harry smiled. 'Ah, so you are a Muggle-born witch?' Hermione nodded, her cheeks reddend, insecure about how to act. 'There's nothing to worry about. My mother is also a Muggle-born witch, and she is awesome, and great at Potions and Charms, I bet you'll be just as brilliant as she was!' Hermione's cheeks turned into an even darker red. Realising what he just said, Harry blushed too, but still stood by his words. 'Harry,' Hermione said, silently. 'Can I join you and Ronald in the train?' Harry laughed at the fact that she used his friend's full name with a grin into Ron's direction, before nodding. 'Sure! I was just about to ask you! Now, come on, I want to introduce you to my family, and my dogfather–I mean godfather–and my Uncle Remus, and all the others! And then we can go find your parents and I can tell them that I will take great care of you!' And he took her hand, pulling her with him as he ran over to his family, the girl blushing even harder at his last words, but quietly smiling to herself.
'Oi, Potter, how's it going with your little girlfriend Granger?' Malfoy's voice echoed across the Great Hall, the Slytherin table laughing at his words as they waited for Harry's reaction. Sixteen-year-old Harry looked and smiled at them before turning to Hermione who was sitting right next to him and taking her face into his hands, kissing her on her soft lips, causing her to sqeual in surprise before returning the kiss, her cheeks flushing a deep, red colour. Harry pulled slowly away from her, his thump stroking her jaw, and smirking at her with his Marauder-smirk. 'It's going great, thanks for asking, Malfoy!' he shouted back, leaving not only the Slytherin table but the whole Great Hall silent, until the Gryffindors started applauding, roaring in joy. The Weasley boys and Graham clapped Harry's back and he was certain their little sister Ginny was staring at him with sad eyes, and for a second he felt bad for her, but then he saw Hermione's brown eyes again and all he could think about was how lucky he was to find someone so perfect. 'That's what I call good luck for tomorrow's match, Captain Potter!' Ron yelled through the noise, and Phoebe winked at him, 'Dad and Mum are going to be so happy about their little versions finally taking a step closer to tying the knot!'
Twenty-year-old Harry was lying next to the sleeping figure of his newly married wife, studying all of her tiny features und habits–the way her nose would wrinkle when she was asleep, her lips moving without any words coming out, her bushy but beautiful brown hair falling into her face. His hand moved to put some strands behind her ear, remembering last night with a smile–the first night they had spent together as a married couple. Suddenly, she opened her eyes, brown meeting green, and she returned his smile with a sleepy gaze. 'Good morning, my handsome husband,' she muttered, her voice still a little hoarse from screaming out his name over and over again last night. 'Good morning, my beautiful wife,' he retorted with a grin, leaning into her to kiss her. 'I still can't believe you persuaded me into marrying at twenty years old,' she whispered against his lips, shaking her head with laughter. 'Well, everyone kept on telling us how we were just like my parents, isn't that right?' – 'Hmm... that's quite right, Mr. Granger.' – 'Mr. Granger? I'm sorry, but I will have to keep my name, or the Potter name will die out.' – 'What about Graham?' – 'Hermione, it's very optimistic that you think anyone would want to marry my little brother, but I think you forgot that he still asks my mum to cut his steak because it allegedly tastes better that way.' – 'And? Does it taste better that way?' – 'It does, actually,' Harry said after thinking for a while, joining into his wife's laughter and going back to kissing her.
'Good evening, Professor Potter,' the brown-haired, female teacher for Charms said with a smug smile. 'Oh, good evening, Professor Granger,' the black-haired man replied, returning her smile with a wink. 'How is your wonderful husband?' he added, following her through one of Hogwarts' corridors after dinner. 'Oh, you know, quite busy with preparing his Defence Against the Dark Arts classes, but I heard he looks just wonderful in his teacher-attire. How is your amazing wife?' – 'Oh, is that so? Well, I heard that my wife recently got a boy detention who was her own son. Shocking, right? But I suppose that Dean Potter just deserved it. He's just like his father, isn't he? Typical Gryffindor.' – 'And his grandfather James, and his father's godfather Sirius, and his father's mentor Remus, and...' – 'Oh, I get it. All his father's fault! But what about Dean's little twin sisters Jane and Macie Potter? They're both proud Ravenclaws and sharp as a knife! I suppose that is also thanks to their father?' – 'Oh, either that, or due to their brilliant mother who just didn't end up in Ravenclaw herself because she wanted to be in the same House as that cute boy that had talked to her on the platform.' Harry leaned closer at that, 'Oh, you thought I was cute?' – 'Terribly cute,' she corrected, kissing her husband.
His sister Phoebe was sitting next to Neville Longbottom, her husband for five years, craddling their newborn daughter Grace; his brother Graham was playing with his oldest son Duncan wizarding chess as Ron gave some tips while letting his twelve-year-old daughter Rose put make-up on his face, ignoring Luna's, his wife, comments how pink just wasn't his colour. Graham's wife Ginny was teaching both her eight-year-old daughter Mairead and Ron and Luna's seven-year-old son Christopher how to bake the most delicious chocolate cookies ever created. His own children, Dean and the twins Jane and Macie, were laughing at the Potters' pool, listening to old stores told by their grandfather James and his best friends Sirius and Remus. Their grandmother Lily was standing next to Hermione and Harry, smiling and feeling the most peaceful and happiest she ever had since her wedding and children's births. 'I am so glad that you two found your way to each other,' she said, her green eyes meeting her eldest son's that were identical to hers before pulling her daughter-in-law into a hug. 'I am so glad that we are all here together.'
It was time for him to go. Hermione, his beautiful, brilliant Hermione had passed away one month ago. He hadn't been the same since–there was no longer someone waking up next to him, no longer someone cooking his favourite food for him, no longer someone taking his typical morning walks with him. His heart was broken, as he looked down at the wizarding pictures of his wife, his children, his parents, his godfather and mentor, his grandchildren, his siblings, his nieces and nephews, his friends and colleagues–he longed for his wife's warm touch on his shoulder when she knew he was sad, her kiss when she knew he needed one, her laugh when she knew he was happy. He had spent eighty years by her side, from eleven-year-old students at Hogwarts to teenagers in love for the first time to newly married couple to parents of a beautiful baby boy and two sweet girls to an older couple watching their last child leave their home to growing old side by side. She was gone, now, and he knew that meant it was his time, too–his time to go. His children would cry, his grandchildren would cry, his siblings would cry, but their pain would cease, and now it was time for his own pain to cease as well. He lay down at night, falling asleep with a soft smile and a tear running down his face, knowing fate was going to finish its work and keep him sleeping; not only until the morning, but until the end of time.
A voice echoed through mist and dust and fog, and it grew louder and louder until he knew it was his wife's, the mother of his children's voice. The voice that was his favourite sound.
His mind returned to where it truly belonged; stepping back from the winged-figure, its dark blue eyes going back to stony grey again, he turned to face the source of the voice.
'Harry? What is it, Harry? Are you alright? What have you seen?' she asked, looking both worried and upset with him, and that was the moment he realized she wasn't his wife nor the mother of his children. He didn't have parents, or a godfather, or a mentor, or siblings. She was the only one he had left, the only one he ever had. She was his lover, perhaps. A lover that did not trust nor like him, a lover that would only stay by his side until she noticed how poisonous and unhealthly he indeed was for her–better for her, leaving him...
He muttered, tired and defeated and overwhelmed with both foreign and nostalgic sensations, 'Another universe, another chance, another life. But certainly not mine.'