Harry Potter and all associated characters, locations and what not belong to J.K. Rowling and whoever she sells the rights to. I have borrowed these characters, locations and what not in order to mess around with them. In some cases I have lifted a piece of dialogue or scene directly from the books as a touchstone. I do not own anything except the plot and I am not making any money from this endeavor. This applies to the whole story.
This is a story featuring Harry Potter and Hermione Granger which bashes Ron Weasley. If this is not your cup of tea then please don't read it.
Hermione stiffened as she heard a loud crash behind her. Please, not again. She was attending the annual Easter Neighbourhood Barbecue. The Barbecue was a tradition in their neighbourhood. They all took turns hosting it and everyone contributed to it. It was, as her father had once put it, an example of how people can come together without negativity. This year it happened to coincide with Hogwarts' Easter break and her parents were hosting. Traditionally the hosts also invited their families and particularly good friends. Hermione's parents had invited her aunt and uncle and her two cousins. In Hermione's case it had meant inviting her boyfriend.
Ron had been nervous about meeting her parents and she had tried to reassure him. I wish I'd understood exactly how nervous he would be before thinking of inviting him. Ron had arrived late. That wouldn't normally have been a problem if Ron hadn't chosen to wear his best guess at a muggle suit. The monstrosity was bright Chudley Cannon orange and looked like it had been made from carpet. Ron had chosen to pair this with a maroon shirt and a lime-green tie. The result was almost painful to look at. I even explained to him what to wear. I know Harry loaned him a suit. How on earth did it come to this? If he had at least shown up on time I would have been able to transfigure his outfit into something more normal, but there's no way I could explain that now. The other problem with Ron's tardiness was its cause. Apparently he had tried to imbibe some liquid courage and now he was falling all over the place. Hermione turned away from the elderly couple she had been talking to and saw her worst fears confirmed. Ron was lying in a tangle of folding chairs, cursing loudly as he tried to extricate himself. Hermione tried to contain her sigh of frustration.
"Excuse me please, Mr. and Mrs. Williams. I need to go help him." Hermione said to the shocked looking pensioners who had occasionally been her baby-sitters when she was younger. Mrs. Williams barely managed a nod. Hermione hurried over to where Ron was still fighting mightily with and losing to the rented garden furniture. She made quick work of getting the offending chairs out of his reach and within a minute had him clear of the table that was in real danger of falling over. That would be a disaster. The food everyone contributed would be ruined if he knocked the table over. I'm not sure Dad would be able to restrain himself if that happened; he's about ready to throw Ron in the pool already. As it was, Hermione could feel her father's glare at Ron boring into her back. She knew that her parents were upset with Ron and the way he was acting. I think we can safely say that Ron hasn't made a stellar first impression. Hermione almost cringed at her own understatement. I need help. I'm not going to be able to corral Ron on my own and talk with everyone I haven't seen in ages like my parents want me to.
If I need help, I think I know where to turn. Putting aside her thoughts for a moment, Hermione heaved Ron into a more or less vertical position.
"Hermsh! Shtupid shairsh was inna way." Ron slurred happily at her. "Wha' shay we ditsh t' muggulsh and have shome fun?"
"Ron. Control yourself." Hermione hissed through clenched teeth as she half dragged him to the fence that separated her family's garden from the neighbour's. She lowered him down and watched his head roll. "Stay here, okay? I'll go get someone you can talk Quidditch to." A happy grin stretched across Ron's face as he dropped his head back against the fence with a loud crack that made Hermione want to wince. Once she was sure that Ron was unlikely to be making any sudden detours Hermione hurried over to her mother. "Mum, can you keep an eye on Ron for a minute? I'm going to call in some reinforcements." Hermione's mother gave her a narrow-eyed stare that Hermione couldn't quite manage to interpret as an approbation of her idea. She ignored that for now and simply called out "Thanks!" before rushing inside. Hermione hurried up the stairs to her room and immediately started rummaging through her beaded bag, which had replaced her school trunk in short order after Voldemort's defeat. When she couldn't find what she was looking for, Hermione drew her wand from her wrist holster and pointed it into her bag.
"Accio Mirror!" She quickly reached out and snatched up the mirror that flew out of her bag. "Harry Potter." The mirror clouded over and a moment later Hermione was looking at the slightly confused face of her best friend.
"Hermione? Aren't you supposed to be at that barbecue thing your parents are holding?"
"I am. I just-... I need your help, Harry."
"My help? What for?"
"Ron's completely plastered. I know he said he was nervous, but I never imagined that he would try to resolve it like this."
"How plastered are we talking?"
"He can barely walk and it's only a matter of time before he breaks the Statute. Please, Harry, I really need you." Harry gave a sigh and pinched the bridge of his nose.
"Right. Let me just say goodbye to Andi and Teddy and I'll pop over to my place. Your parents had a dress code, right?"
"Oh, Harry, you are an absolute life saver!" Hermione gasped out. "It's not so much a dress code, really. Just dress smart, okay?"
"Yeah, yeah. You owe me, Granger." Harry said with a rueful smile.
"I do. I know I do. Thank you so much." Hermione gave Harry her address and watched the ceiling of Andromeda Tonks' house as Harry took a moment to write it down. When he picked the mirror up again Hermione thanked him again.
"It's fine. I'll see you in a bit." The mirror clouded over again and Hermione felt a powerful urge to just flop on her bed in relief. I don't know where we'd be without Harry. It wasn't just the fact that he'd destroyed the most feared Dark Lord in known history roughly a year ago, it was the fact that Hermione couldn't imagine a truer friend. She took a deep breath and squared her shoulders. Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more.
If anyone had asked Helen Granger what she was doing in her kitchen, she would have told them that she was making a salad and it would be perfectly true. She would deny, if asked, that she was hiding from the embarrassment of having a drunk wizard in her home and that would be a bald faced lie. I swear, there must be something wrong with those people. Hermione has managed to learn about their world and doesn't constantly muck up their basic concepts. I'll grant that Hermione is a damn sight more intelligent than most, but this lout doesn't even seem to be making an effort. His father was at least as bad. For someone who claims to be interested in our world he's either thick as a brick sandwich or lying. I know I didn't stutter when I corrected his pronunciation of 'electricity' but he couldn't seem to catch on. He wasn't even consistent in his mistakes. In the privacy of her own mind Helen could admit that wizarding terminology still confused her as well and that the father might be similarly confused by their world, or she would have if her mind hadn't been busy venting her irritation. The worst part may be that he was introduced to everyone as Hermione's boyfriend. Penny's never going to let this rest.
Helen's sister Penelope was very focused on status and appearances. Normally Helen could ignore Penny's bragging about how popular her two daughters were, but she didn't think she would be able to ignore her sister's words about Ronald Weasley. It's really hard to ignore someone you essentially agree with while she's rubbishing your daughter. For the next few minutes vegetables were cut and shredded with undue vehemence. Once she had the salad arranged Helen looked around her kitchen hoping rather desperately that she could find something else to do. As she cast about, her eyes were drawn out of the window. Just outside her house a motorbike was pulling up. Helen guessed that it might be a classic. I can at least give the excuse that I was trying to determine if it was one that Richard might be interested in. Not that Helen's husband was interested in motorbikes in general, but he could appreciate classic cars, bikes, trains… actually, he likes anything that has a combustion engine and is at least twenty years old.
As she watched the rider pulled something from his jacket pocket and looked at it before looking back up at her house. Apparently satisfied, he then got off and turned off his motor. Despite herself, Helen was getting interested in who this person was and what they were doing here. When he took his helmet off Helen could see that he had black hair. Unfortunately when he went to put his helmet and his leather jacket in his saddlebags Helen could see his arm disappearing up to the shoulder as he rooted around for something else. She could feel her heart lodge around her ankles. Another one. Hermione did say something about calling in reinforcements, but did she really have to invite another one over? While Helen Granger was cursing her luck and her daughter's judgement she had missed the man walking up to her door. The sound of the doorbell ringing brought her out of her thoughts. Can I get away with ignoring his presence? No, Hermione specifically called him. Drat, drat, drat. Might as well get this over with.
Squaring her shoulders, Helen walked to her front door and opened it. She felt oddly surprised by the fact that the young man in front of her looked... normal. He was wearing a pair of jeans and an untucked black shirt with a purple tie. His trouser legs covered what would appear to be a pair of leather boots. On one wrist sat a watch and on the other a leather bracelet that looked familiar for some reason. She noticed that his eyes had been scanning her as well and Helen even thought that she could see a little relief in them.
"Excuse me, but are you Mrs. Granger? Hermione asked me to come over."
"Yes, I'm Helen Granger."
"A pleasure to meet you, Mrs. Granger. My name is Harry Potter." Hmph. Well, at least this one has better manners than the other; and he's not drunk as a sailor on shore leave. Helen took the hand the young man was holding out to her and shook it gingerly.
"Won't you come in?" she asked turning so he could enter. It took some effort to get her manners to work. I don't care what Hermione thinks, I've yet to see a single one that can actually act like a normal human being. Shortly after he had stepped through the doorway, Harry turned around to face her and offered what he was holding in his hands.
"This is just a little thank you for your hospitality." he said with a small smile as Helen took the bottle of wine he was holding out to her. She didn't bother to actually look at it. Teenagers don't have the faintest idea of what constitutes a good bottle of wine anyway. With the way the day's going so far we may just need the extra alcohol though.
"Thank you. Please, follow me." Helen led her unwelcome guest through the house, only pausing in the kitchen to put the bottle on the counter. She showed him through the sliding doors and out into the garden trying to mentally prepare herself for further humiliation. Might as well get the worst ones over with first. Helen started leading Harry over to her sister who was standing with the rest of her family.
"Harry!" Helen blinked in surprise at the happy squeal and watched as her daughter physically flung herself at the young man at a dead sprint. Potter just swung her around to dissipate her momentum while she laughed happily. "You're here! Thank you so much for coming." Harry was grinning at her fondly.
"Yeah well, you were practically begging. What was I going to do?" Hermione huffed and slapped his chest without any heat. "You look good, Mi." Helen blinked in surprise when Hermione didn't eviscerate him for shortening her name. Instead she flashed him one of the most beautiful smiles Helen had ever seen on her. What on earth? Hermione hates having her name shortened, but she didn't even seem to notice.
"Thank you, Harry." Hermione said as she twirled around for him to inspect her outfit from every angle. Helen had to admit that her daughter looked very well put together wearing white capri shorts, a light blue blouse left mostly open over a white tanktop and brown woven leather sandals, belt and bracelet. Her bracelet! It's just like his. That's where I've seen it before. I think Hermione mentioned that it's a camouflaged way to carry her wand.
"Hermione, darling, who is this?" Helen could hear the unbridled curiosity in her sister's voice. Obviously the teens' joyful reunion had not gone unnoticed and Penny and her family had drifted over.
"Oh. This is Harry Potter my best friend from school. Harry these are my Aunt Penelope, Uncle Eustace and my cousins Veronique and Angelique." I still don't understand why she chose those names for the poor girls. I suppose she's made it clear enough over the years that she feels the same way about Hermione's name. Helen's brother-in-law had stepped forward in the meantime and offered his hand.
"Eustace Masterson, MBE." he declared while pumping Potter's hand.
"A pleasure to meet you, sir."
"Now, now, the knighthood's no reason to call me 'sir', lad. Mr. Masterson will do." Eustace responded with his usual enthusiasm for talking about his his Membership of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire. The whole romanticism of chivalry goes down the drain when you realise that he got it for owning the largest pavement producing company in Europe. Judging by the quickly hidden look of confusion on Harry's face he had simply been polite, rather than trying to use the form of address Eustace had chosen to hear. Helen could see the embarrassed blush taking over Hermione's face. She opened her mouth, no doubt to rubbish her uncle's claim that an MBE came with accolades of knighthood and that he shouldn't be addressed as 'sir' in the first place. She was stopped by Harry grabbing her hand and the two of them sharing a look. As Hermione subsided Penelope took the chance to introduce herself.
"It's nice to meet you as well, Harry. I'm Penelope Masterson, Helen's sister." Their mother had barely stepped out of the way when Veronique and Angelique draped themselves all over the poor boy. I didn't imagine that I would be feeling sympathy for him when he rang the bell, but dear me, his face looks like it might explode. Helen wouldn't say it in front of her guests but she didn't really approve of the way her nieces dressed. They each had on a shiny, strapless dress that seemed to have been painted on them to achieve only the bare minimum of coverage that decency required. It's to that young man's credit that he's not taking advantage of such a blatant opportunity. What surprised Helen was the barely controlled anger visible on Hermione's face. She poked her daughter in the side and gave her a questioning look. Hermione took a deep breath and shook her head. Helen resolved to simply bring it up later, when they had some privacy and turned her attention back to Harry and her nieces.
"So you go to school with Hermy? She never tells us what it's like." Harry gave a chuckle which actually sounded quite natural despite the lingering discomfort on his face.
"Well, we're not supposed to. Security is pretty strict since there are a lot of students with parents in the government or significant positions in business. We're not supposed to do or say anything that'll make it easier to find. It's really quite amazing that Hermione was offered a spot based on her personal merits." The two girls gaped up at him for a moment before Angelique turned to Hermione.
"Why didn't you ever tell us?"
"Because we're not supposed to." Hermione said, staying just barely on the civil side of snapping. Helen could understand her daughter's tone a little bit. There had been very few family gatherings where the three girls had managed to avoid being at odds and it had usually been Hermione who ended up in tears from her cousins' barbs. In fact, I'm having trouble remembering a single get together where that didn't happen.
"Harry didn't seem to have a problem telling us."
"Yes, but that's why I'm the one who regularly gets in trouble." Harry jumped back into the conversation. "Hermione's always been less of a headache for our teachers than I was."
"Oh, you don't have to tell us how boring she is, we know." Veronique said dismissively.
"I never said boring." Harry was quick to respond, his eyes alight with mischief. "She just got in less trouble than I did."
"Harry, no one manages to get in your kind of trouble." Hermione said with fond exasperation.
"I suppose, but they made you prefect and Head Girl for a reason." Harry replied easily.
"Mm-hmm. And who did they name Head Boy?"
"I maintain that the Headmistress got her paperwork mixed up, but I'll take the private dorm." Hermione just huffed playfully at Harry's response. Helen could see that not only her nieces, but Eustace and Penelope as well, were seeing Hermione in a whole new light. I think that I may have to do something nice for that young man. They've been going after Hermione for years and only a few words from him shut them up. If you remember that he's talking about the magical government he's probably not even lying. It doesn't hurt that a good looking boy is paying more attention to Hermione than to Veronique and Angelique for once either.
"Does that mean that Hermione's boyfriend has parents in the government as well?" Penelope asked in a musing tone.
"Ron? Yeah, his dad's one of the most important men in the country. Where is he anyway?" Hermione's face clearly broadcast her embarrassment as she pointed at the fence just beyond where the younger children were playing. The blob of eye-watering orange was hard to miss. "Ah. Of course. I would like to mention that despite sharing a dorm with him for years I still don't understand his fascination with that colour." Veronique and Angelique took the opportunity to giggle loudly and shift up against Harry.
"So what about you? What do your parents do?" Helen could instantly see that this was the wrong question to ask. Harry's eyes grew sad and Hermione looked ready to slap her cousin.
"My parents died when I was very young." Harry admitted in a low voice. "I know that they worked on matters of national security, but pretty much all of the details are still classified." He pulled away from the two girls clinging to him. "I think I should probably go and say hi to Ron." he said by way of excuse as he turned to walk away. As Helen watched him go she felt her heart ache for him. And how on earth did he change my mind so quickly? Helen noticed that Hermione was tensing up to give her cousins a piece of her mind. Luckily Penny was already dragging the girls of for a talk. Eustace excused himself when he realised that he had been left with only Helen and Hermione for company.
"So, want to tell what had you riled this time?" Helen asked Hermione casually.
"Huh? What are you talking about?"
"Actually I'll take an explanation for either Harry stopping you from pointing out that Uncle Eustace doesn't rate a 'sir' in the first place or when Angelique and Veronique decided to drape themselves all over Harry."
"Hmph. Harry gets enough of that nonsense in the-... at school. He shouldn't have to put up with it here." I think that you're not being entirely honest with yourself, dear; unfortunately. "As for Uncle Eustace, how do you think he would respond to finding out that Harry does have a knighthood?"
"What?" Helen barely managed to keep from yelling out her question. Hermione grinned at her mother.
"Her Majesty created him a Knight Bachelor as it's one of the few honours left that she can bestow at her pleasure."
"I thought you and Harry had that Order of Merlin?"
"He holds the Order of Merlin, First Class, and Ron and I have received Orders of Merlin, Second Class, but Her Majesty felt that Harry had provided services to the realm as a whole and that his reward should reflect that. If it didn't have to go through a committee that isn't allowed to know we exist I'm sure he would have gotten a George Cross." Helen blinked a few times to work through that.
"And why aren't we rubbing Eustace's nose in this?"
"Because Harry refuses to use the prefix most of the time. He hates being the centre of attention."
"Oh well. Let me know if he ever changes his mind. I would love to be there when Eustace and Penny find out." Hermione shot her mother a grin and waded back into the throng of guests eager to tell her how much she had grown since the last time they saw her. I think I'll go and talk to Richard for a moment. He could probably do with a warning that we have a normal wizard in our midst.
"So, is that black-haired young man your beau?" yet another neighbour asked. Hermione fought to keep from rolling her eyes. Why are they all asking that? It's not enough that all of magical Britain seems to want to think that Harry and I are secretly dating, my muggle neighbours have to get in on the act as well?
"No, Mrs. Wellbeck. I'm actually going out with Ron, the redhead next to him." Mrs. Wellbeck actually looked mildly offended at her answer. It could just be down to Ron's suit.
"Well, you'd know them best I suppose, dear." Mrs. Wellbeck's tone of voice clearly indicated her opinion of Hermione's judgement though. When Mrs. Wellbeck left, Hermione was about ready to scream. I think I need to spend some time with people who don't constantly tell me I should be dating Harry. Hermione quickly scanned the crowd and saw her targets heading towards the barbecue where her father and some of the other men were talking over beers while keeping an eye on the grilling meat. Oh dear, I hope that Harry'll be able to help Ron improve on the impression he's made so far. Hermione hurried over to add her own support to that goal.
"I'm telling you Arsenal are a cert for the title!" she heard one of the men proclaiming. "Wenger's got 'em purring along like nobody's business." Great. If it's not Quidditch, it's football.
"I don't know. I like the look of Chelsea to finish strong." one of the others said. "What about you, lads? Who do you fancy to win the league?" Hermione was horrified to realise that the friendly neighbour was trying to draw her two friends into the conversation.
"Chudley'sh g'nna winnit f'sure thish year." Ron slurred happily at the man who blinked in confusion.
"Sorry about that. Ron's pretty taken with his local team and focuses a lot more on their league than the top flight." Harry cut in seamlessly. Hermione was surprised to see the men around her friend nod in understanding.
"What about you then?"
"I think that Man United will be eager to pay Arsenal back for what happened last year and you can never rule out a team under Ferguson."
"Hah. Too right you are. Won four of the last five titles, didn't they? They've invested something fierce after last year too and I like their front two." Harry knows enough about football to talk with this lot? How did this happen? "Fancy a beer, lad?"
"Yesh!" Ron responded enthusiastically enough that he unbalanced himself. He would have probably landed on the barbecue if Harry's hand hadn't shot out and dragged him back by the collar.
"No thank you, sir. Ron here's had enough and I still have to drive home tonight." Harry responded pleasantly to a strong nod from the man who had offered.
"Good to see a young man using his head like that, son."
"What do you drive?" another interrupted with a look in his eye that reminded Hermione of Ron talking about Quidditch.
"A Triumph Bonneville, sir." The man looked impressed.
"A classic bike, lad. You've got good taste. Who're you here with then?"
"Hermione invited me, sir."
"Ah, you're the boyfriend!" another of the men exclaimed with glee. Harry's face changed slightly into something Hermione couldn't quite read. He's probably just as tired of hearing that as I am.
"Actually, sir, I'm just the best friend. Ron here is the boyfriend." Hermione suddenly noticed that her father was starting to scowl and he turned some of the burgers on the grill with more force than strictly necessary. Time to intervene I think.
"Harry! Ron!" she called out as she quickly made her way over from where she had been listening. It's not really eavesdropping if they're having a conversation out in the open, now is it? "How are you two enjoying yourselves so far?" Harry looked over at her and gave her a lopsided smile.
"It's great, Mi. I can certainly see why the neighbourhood keeps this tradition alive." Hermione noticed the proud smiles on the faces of the men surrounding them even if Harry probably missed them with the direction he was looking in.
"Hermsh! Cou-...couldn't get'sh a Butterbeer, could ya?" Ron called out with what was probably supposed to be a winning smile. At least he's a happy drunk. It's a good thing that the others all think he's simply talking nonsense because of the alcohol.
"I think you've had enough, Ron."
"Datsh wha' 'Arry keepsh shaying, but I'm shtill thirshty. Hungry too. Oi, Dick! Whensh food?" Hermione could see her father stiffening in rage as he whirled around and she decided to try and save her boyfriend. She shot Harry a desperate look as she started tugging Ron away from the group. Thankfully Harry seemed to understand her and started trying to distract the men around them by asking them what they thought of the situation in Yugoslavia. Thankfully two or three seemed to be willing to help or at least took the bait and drew the rest of the group into a discussion about the unstable country. Hermione dragged Ron towards the pool since that was where the lowest concentration of people was. When she was as far away from everyone as she could get without leaving completely she whirled around to face her boyfriend.
"What was that?!" she hissed at him. "Did you already forget how angry Dad got the last time you shortened his name to 'Dick'? He can barely tolerate you calling him 'Richard'. Why would you actively try to antagonise him?"
"Who caresh? If he'sh dat mad jush 'bliviate him."
"Ron! We are not Obliviating my father if you annoy him. What possessed you to show up here drunk and why couldn't you just wear the suit Harry loaned you?"
"I'm not drunk." Ron proclaimed indignantly as he swayed on the spot. "An' dish ish 'Arry'sh suit."
"Somehow I don't believe that Harry owns a suit in those colours any more than I believe you're sober."
"Well, de suit wash boring sho I fixed it." Hermione closed her eyes as she tried to fight of the urge to scream at Ron. Well, I need to at least not scream anything about magic. When she opened them she could see Harry was making his way over to them with a worried look on his face. If anyone can spot one of our arguments coming, it'd be Harry. Hermione's attention was drawn back to Ron when she heard a small voice call out.
"Tag! You're it!"
"So, Helen, have you met any other parents from Hermione's school?" Helen had to restrain a sigh. She had gotten caught up in conversations with several neighbours who wanted to know who the new arrival at the party was. Harry is really helping Hermione with her reputation in the neighbourhood, just by being here and not looking like a recently fired circus-clown. Unfortunately she had forgotten all about her salad until Bertrand O'Connor had started asking about vegetarian options while his wife was trying to find gossip on Harry. Helen had quickly excused herself and headed into the house to not only grab the salad, but also the various sauces that would be expected to be present at a barbecue. Unfortunately for Helen, her sister had decided that this was the perfect time to have a private conversation. I don't know how I didn't see this coming.
"Some of them. Ron's parents of course and a few others when we pick Hermione up from the train." Penny's brow furrowed.
"Isn't it a bit risky to have children taking the train up to Scotland? What happens if one of them gets lost?"
"I believe the train goes directly up to the town the school is in and only the students can get on." As soon as she finished speaking Helen understood her mistake.
"The school has a train all to themselves?" Penny's wildest dreams and hopes seemed realised about Hermione's school. "That's very impressive. What do you know about this Harry?" And there we go: the real reason she's followed me in here.
"I know he's been Hermione's best friend at school since they were eleven. Apparently he came to find her after a bully told her something hurtful and stopped another bully from making it worse. He's a talented athlete, Head Boy, his marks are good and he's generally admired from what Hermione tells me." Now just don't ask me what he's admired for or what sport he's so good at.
"Sounds like a wonderful young man. I suppose he has a girlfriend?"
"You'd have to ask Hermione. I don't really keep up on her friends' love lives."
"Of course not, dear. It's a shame she chose the other one though isn't it?" Helen knew that tone of voice. It was the tone Penny used whenever she thought she was getting one over on her sister. Combined with the direction the questioning had taken Helen was sure one of her nieces would be all over Harry before the end of the night. She very carefully said nothing to Penny's taunts. It would be nice if she'd chosen Harry instead of that other one.
"Penelope, do you think you could do me favour and carry the sauces out?" Helen asked as she picked up the salad. Her sister nodded and moved into the kitchen to collect the bottles from the counter. Helen heard a gasp and turned around to find Penelope staring at the bottle of wine Harry had brought along.
"H-helen? Where did you get a 1961 Petrus?" Penny asked in a trembling voice.
"A what?" Penelope shot Helen a glare and stabbed her finger at the wine.
"Oh that. Harry brought it as a token of his appreciation of our hospitality." Penny looked ready to faint.
"He just gives away £5000 bottles of wine? How rich is this boy?" What now?! £5000? Helen saw something harden in her sister's face. Penny quickly gathered the bottles of sauce, shot the wine one last look and hurried out of the kitchen. Helen followed her with the salad and had barely made it out the doors when she saw Penny already walking away from the table and towards Veronique and Angelique. I'm sorry, Harry. Nothing's going to stop them now.
Helen set the salad bowl down and arranged the sauce bottles neatly before stepping back and deciding that this would do. Her brow frowned when raised voices drew her attention. The source was quickly located. Over by the swimming pool Hermione looked to be locked in an argument with her boyfriend. About time. I was wondering how long she was going to put up with his atrocious behaviour. Most of their guests seemed to have noticed the argument as well and one of them was even moving over to them. Oh, please don't stop them, Harry. This could be just what Hermione needs. Helen heard the lull in the argument and saw Hermione looking around. Probably just realised that she's airing her dirty laundry for everyone to enjoy. Into the sudden silence everyone heard a clear, childlike voice.
"Tag! You're it." Little Kelly Miller lived across the street from the Grangers with her mother Shannon. Whoever the father was had left them before Kelly had been born and Helen had played babysitter on occasion when she had a day off from the practice and Shannon had to travel for her own job as a photographer. The four-year-old had just tagged Hermione's boyfriend and was now running away laughing. Helen saw Weasley lunge forward to give chase. He hadn't taken three steps before he either dove for Kelly or simply lost his balance. Either way the result was the same. Weasley hit Kelly with enough force that the little girl was flung out into the pool. Kelly's scream of terror was cut off by her sudden contact with the still very cold water of the pool.
Everyone froze where they were as they tried to come to grips with what they had just seen; everyone except one person. Harry Potter had changed his hurried walk into a flat out sprint the moment he'd seen Weasley make contact with Kelly. When he reached the edge of the pool he didn't hesitate but jumped straight in. The splash of a second body hitting the water within seconds brought people out of their stupor and started a rush for the pool. Harry had popped back up with a loudly crying Kelly in his arms before anyone got near to them. Helen noticed that Harry's right arm was moving behind the little girl's back. He must be using magic to make sure she's alright. I hope he doesn't get caught for doing the right thing. By the time they had reached the pool Harry had turned around and there was no sign of a wand anywhere. Helen could see Kelly's arms wrapped tightly around Harry's neck. Harry was rubbing the girl's back as he carried her to the side of the pool, whispering in her ear. Kelly's sobs were slowly calming down to hiccuping sniffles.
"Oh my god. Oh my god. Kelly! Is she alright?!" Helen realised that she was standing next to a hyperventilating Shannon. Harry's eyes found them and he gave a slight nod without breaking the stream of comforting words he was saying to Kelly. Helen found herself supporting a profoundly relieved Shannon as they watched Harry try to lift Kelly out of the water. He was having some trouble as she was not letting go of his neck. Harry stopped trying and simply put his free hand on the side of the pool and with a powerful jump and a twist was sitting with only his legs dangling in the pool. From there he managed to scramble up somehow while still keeping a close hold of Kelly. He made his way over to where Helen and Shannon were standing as applause broke out among the neighbours. It turned out that even handing Kelly off to her mother was a bit of an undertaking. The four year-old seemed to want to hold on to both her mother and her rescuer. Shannon took advantage of the transfer to hug Harry as hard as she could with one hand. "Thank you. Thank you so much."
"It's alright, ma'am. I just happened to get there first." Harry was looking awkward under all the attention he was getting. Shannon responded by giving him a kiss on the cheek which saw Harry blushing up a storm. Heh. I wonder if Hermione's ever teased him about how shy he is? Eventually Shannon managed to step back with Kelly in her arms.
"I'm sorry, Helen, but I'm going to have to go home and get Kelly into some dry clothes."
"Of course, Shannon. We'll make sure to save some food. I'll bring it over if you and Kelly decide to stay in." Helen's voice was filled with understanding. I would have been in a blind panic if it had been Hermione at that age. Shannon turned around and made her way out of the Grangers' garden through the side gate. Helen turned back to Harry. "We should get you showered too, Harry. You can borrow some of Richard's clothes for now and I'll give yours a wash."
"Thank you, Mrs. Granger." he responded. Helen just smiled and started leading him towards the house.
"Harry! You were- aaahhh!" Helen whipped around just in time to see Angelique falling forward with a gleam in her eye. Harry tried to catch her, but was unable to stop her from grabbing his shirt on either side of the buttons. Angelique's momentum caused the shirt to rip open more than halfway as she fell into Harry's arms. Helen felt a wave of embarrassment hit her. There's no way that wasn't on purpose. Surprisingly Angelique recoiled almost as soon as she touched Harry's chest.
"Eeeww! Oh god, that's disgusting!" Helen picked out what she was referring to rather easily. Harry's torso was covered with scars. "I guess that explains why Hermy went for the idiot instead." Disgust dripped from every syllable. Harry's face was twisted into an expression of deep shame as he pulled the sides of his shirt closed with his hands and seemed to shrink in on himself. Helen was about to let fly a reprimand at her niece but never got the chance as Hermione seemed to appear from nowhere and slapped her cousin hard enough to knock her back a step.
"How dare you?!" Helen had never heard such unbridled fury in Hermione's voice. "You miserable bitch! Harry's the kindest, bravest, most selfless man I know and you think that he's not good enough for you because of some scars?! I always knew you were a shallow, little cesspool of a human being, but this takes the cake! I hope you die unloved and alone like you deserve!" Helen watched her daughter standing in front of Harry, her chest heaving with the exertion of screaming at a now white-faced Angelique. I'm going to have the world's wartiest toad for a niece, I just know it. Helen managed to catch Penny's eye and with a curt head movement managed to make her suggestion clear. Penny nodded and grabbed Angelique pulling her away from a crowd that was murmuring a general agreement with Hermione.
"Come on, girls. It's time we were going. It's a long drive home." Angelique was still looking a little shell-shocked as Penny pulled her towards the house. Veronique was already hurrying after them while Eustace said some rather quick goodbyes. It might be a poor thing to think of my own family, but dinner is going to be so much more pleasant like this. Well, if we can get Harry dry and smiling again at least. Hermione had turned around and seemed to be asking Harry if he was alright, but it was a bit too soft for Helen to make out. Whatever Hermione was saying, she was soon interrupted.
"Oi! Where d'you get off shaying dat 'bout 'Arry?" Helen didn't like the look in Weasley's eyes. She could see anger warring with jealousy and it seemed to be directed at Hermione. "Talkin' like dat 'bout a man who'sh not your boyfriend makesh you look like a whore." There were sounds of outrage from the assembled neighbours; Hermione was ready to defend herself though.
"I only said what was true. Harry doesn't deserve to be treated like that after rescuing a little girl that you threw into a pool. That does not make me a whore." she snarled out in a scathing tone.
"Shut up! You shouldn't be talking to me like that."
"I'll talk to you as I please!"
"The hell you will!" Weasley was raising an arm with a clear goal in mind. Helen felt horror wash over her and moved forward in a desperate attempt to stop him from hitting her baby girl. Once again she was preempted, this time by Harry Potter's fist striking Weasley on the jaw hard enough to drop the drunk redhead like a sack of potatoes. A sudden hush fell over the group. Seeing an angry Harry Potter standing over a downed man, his torn shirt forgotten and his scars on display for all to see, made Helen very aware of the fact that this man had apparently ended a civil war nearly single-handedly. And for once I don't think that Hermione was exaggerating when she told me that.
Helen could see the moment Harry realised that he had once again become the centre of attention as his shoulders hunched and he grabbed his shirt to keep it closed again. It brought a reaction from Hermione who gently placed a hand on his arm. The two teens locked eyes and something passed between them that Helen couldn't quite understand. It ended with Harry relaxing just a little and Hermione smiling a little sadly. Annoying though it is to admit Penny is right about anything, it really is a shame that Hermione chose the other one. Helen watched as Harry crouched down next to Weasley and peeled back an eyelid.
"He's going to be out of it for a while. I'll call the school's chauffeur service and ask them to pick him up." Harry said with a sigh. Grabbing one of Weasley's arms Harry hauled him over his shoulders in a fireman's carry. "Excuse me." he said politely to the small crowd around them and started walking back to the house.
"Wait, Harry! I'll get you some towels and you can ask the service to bring you something to wear." Harry's definitely the better of the two at making up cover stories. Hermione darted into the house ahead of the two boys. Slowly the tension seemed to ebb out of the air. Helen could see parents talking to the younger children, especially the ones about Kelly's age. Other adults were clearly discussing what had just happened. Helen was happy to hear that no one seemed to blame Harry for his actions and that Hermione was only blamed for having a poor taste in men. Maybe we can salvage this barbecue yet.
"Sh- I mean: Oh no! The meat!" Richard's cry drew her attention to the barbecue and the thoroughly charred pieces of meat lying on the grill. Or not. Thank heavens we thought to buy some extra meat just in case. As Richard went to salvage what he could at the grill, Helen started directing people towards the table. We can get started on the salads and the bread while Richard grills the spare stuff. The speed with which people settled at the table made Emma suspect that she had correctly estimated how hungry they would be by now. The children were gathered at one end of the table while the adults gathered at the other. Helen was about to sit down herself when she saw Hermione coming out of the house with a preoccupied look on her face.
"How's Harry doing, dear?" Helen asked.
"Hm? Oh, he's fine. We put Ron in the guest room for now and Harry's taking a quick shower while they wait for the service to come pick Ron up. There was a car at Gatwick, so if they manage to find him some clothes quickly at one of the stores there, they should be here in about half an hour to forty-five minutes." Of course, she can't tell me what's really happening. I wonder if she came up with that explanation on her own or with Harry's help? Doesn't really matter either way I suppose. Around her Helen could hear whispered speculation about who that car might have been dropping off. I doubt anyone will question Hermione's education anymore after today. Helen couldn't help but feel some relief as it had been difficult through the years to not be able to tell people about her daughter's academic achievements. Harry and Hermione had given her a ready made excuse for why she couldn't go into greater detail on what Hermione was doing that would even extend to her professional life if it became necessary.
"Well, sit down and Harry can join us when he gets changed." Hermione sat down and Helen couldn't help but notice that her guests had left two places open next to each other for Hermione and Harry. Which is quite something considering how interested everyone suddenly is in the lad. Richard was soon bringing the first plates of meat to the table. Their guests had clearly worked up an appetite with all the excitement earlier and the grill was having trouble keeping up with demand. Richard's second visit to the table coincided with the garden gate opening and the Miller girls returning. There were cries of welcome from several of the people there. Helen got up to greet the pair. She could already see Kelly looking around eagerly, her little face slowly slipping into disappointment.
"Shannon, Kelly, I was worried you wouldn't want to come back after what happened." Shannon gave her a tired smile.
"Oh no, you wouldn't believe how motivated Kelly was to shower and get changed so she could see Harry again." Kelly was definitely looking disappointed now so Helen turned her next words to the little girl.
"Don't worry, Kelly. He's just babysitting the naughty boy who knocked you into the water until he gets picked up. Once that boy's gone and Harry's put on some dry clothes he'll be right back."
"'kay." came the morose answer. Shannon shot Helen an apologetic look and got an understanding smile in return. Heaven knows Hermione had some moods around that age. Helen led them back to the table and found Shannon sitting down beside her with Kelly on her other side. Poor Richard. At this rate he's going to have to sit at the kiddie table. Conversation flowed easily around the table as the neighbourhood ate together. There was laughter involved in a lot of the conversations, much to Helen's relief. I still don't know if I'd class this barbecue as a success, but at least people are enjoying themselves. After a while Helen noticed that conversations seemed to be abruptly stopping and looked around to find the cause. She easily identified it as Harry walking towards them from the house. He was wearing a black suit and a crisp white shirt that looked like they might have been tailored to fit him. Oh my. That's quite the impression to make. While the adults were busy staring, and trying to guess where Harry might have bought that suit, one little body was hurtling towards him at high speed.
"You're here!" Kelly squealed as she hit Harry around the knees with a tight hug. Helen couldn't quite stop a grin as she saw him fling his arms out to preserve his balance.
"Hello, Kelly. Are you feeling alright?" Harry asked once he'd identified his assailant.
"You know my name?" Kelly gasped.
"I do." By this time Hermione had also made her way over.
"Don't be rude, Harry. Introduce yourself." Helen could hear the teasing tone from where she was sitting at the table.
"Oh, of course. My name is Harry Potter, my lady. It is a pleasure to meet you." Harry spoke in exaggerated tones while bowing deeply and kissing a giggling Kelly's hand.
"Come on. We should still have some meat left, unless you feel like a vegetarian meal today?" Hermione smiled at her friend. Harry nodded and started walking towards the table. Kelly had immediately grabbed on to his hand and was skipping along beside him. Harry just smiled at her and started heading towards the kiddie table when she pulled on the hand she was holding.
"I'm sitting with Mummy." she told Harry seriously who nodded back gravely and turned back to his original destination. He dropped Kelly off with Shannon who took the opportunity to thank him again. Harry just waved her off and told her again that he had simply been the first one to get there. Helen watched as Harry walked around the table and sat down next to Hermione without even considering any other spots. He was sitting for less than a minute when Kelly crawled under the table and clambered into his lap.
"Kelly, stop bothering Harry and let him eat." Shannon scolded her daughter in exasperation.
"But I wanna sit with Harry." Kelly pouted. Helen made sure to cover her smile, while Hermione made no effort to hide her amusement.
"It's fine, ma'am." Harry said softly. "Kelly and I can share." Kelly beamed up at him while Shannon looked torn between relief and frustration; Helen could empathise. Harry both prevented an argument and undercut her authority. It shouldn't matter for this one time though. Apparently Shannon had reached the same conclusion as Helen saw the tension leave her shoulders.
"Call me 'Shannon', Harry."
"Alright, Shannon." Harry answered with a shy smile.
"I have to ask, Harry: where did you buy that suit?" Helen felt herself blanch at Shannon's innocent question. Please have an answer for that Harry.
"I have no idea actually. One of the chauffeurs from the service associated with our school bought this for me. I told them that it was a casual occasion, but some of the chauffeurs have strange ideas about what constitutes appropriate clothing. This one just left out the tie." Harry actually sounded embarrassed that he was so overdressed. Which makes no sense. He must have used magic of some sort, so how is it that he didn't choose his own...it's part of the ruse! Damn, he is good. If this is what the 'chauffeurs' think students at that school mean when they say casual...I am impressed.
"Well if they have to buy clothes for that other boy, I can understand that." Shannon said shaking her head. Conversation was interrupted for a moment when a plate was put in front of Harry with a relatively large steak on it.
"The Hero's Portion, lad." Richard proclaimed with a grin. Helen almost groaned at her husband's love for Irish mythology. Trust Richard to inflict his tastes on everyone like this. Hermione looked a little uncomfortable as well. Harry just looked confused and Helen doubted that he was alone in that sentiment. Harry apparently decided not to make an issue of Richard's strange proclamation and simply thanked him. "I don't think we've been properly introduced yet. Richard Granger."
"Harry Potter. A pleasure to meet you, sir." Harry shook Richard's hand and Richard gave Harry an approving nod before heading back over to the grill.
"Harry, you should have some salad as well." Hermione said passing him one of the bowls.
"Eww. Salads are yucky." Kelly broke in. Harry considered the little girl in his lap for a moment.
"Hermione, could you pass the cucumber and the tomatoes?" Hermione looked at Harry and then Kelly before nodding and passing Harry a bowl of cherry tomatoes and some cucumber slices. Harry loaded several of each onto his plate before picking up two cucumber slices and offering one to Kelly.
"No. Green things are yucky." Kelly said as she turned her nose up at the slice of cucumber.
"But you said we'd share." Harry said sounding a little sad. "Are you going to make me eat the green things all by myself?" Kelly seemed to waver at that argument. Finally she snatched the cucumber from Harry's hand and stuffed it in her mouth. Harry just smiled and ate his own slice. Next came a cherry tomato that Kelly ate just as quickly and with the same grimace.
"Do you not like red things either, Kelly?" Harry asked sounding concerned. Kelly had to think about that one for a moment.
"Red things aren't so bad." she allowed carefully. Harry nodded in understanding and handed her another tomato while taking one for himself. Next he started cutting up his steak. He carefully shared bites of his meat with Kelly as well. As the two worked their way through the plate Helen heard a soft clicking noise next to her. A quick look confirmed that Shannon had brought her camera along.
"What?" Shannon asked a little defensively. "I've never seen her eat her vegetables like this. Usually it's a fight to get her to eat a leaf of lettuce." Helen just smiled and held up her hands in surrender. Across from them Kelly was frowning at Harry's empty plate in consternation.
"Now we can't share anymore." she pouted. Harry just winked at her and quickly put some more cucumber and tomatoes on his plate. Kelly happily started sharing out the new food. It wasn't until she had handed Harry several things that she noticed that he had slipped in some carrot sticks this time. She only hesitated for a moment before handing Harry one and taking one of her own gingerly. The carrot was clearly not as well liked as the rest of the food she had eaten. "Carrots are yucky too." Kelly proclaimed after swallowing.
"That's too bad. I hoped you might like them because they're friendship food."
"Friendship food?" Kelly asked a little suspiciously. Harry nodded and picked up another carrot stick and held it out to Hermione. Hermione cocked an eyebrow at her friend but took hold of the bit of carrot anyway. The moment she had a hold of it Harry snapped it with a quick move. The two friends smiled at each other and ate their bits of carrot at the same time.
"See?" Harry asked Kelly. Kelly seemed to be deep in thought for a moment before she grabbed another carrot stick and held it out to Harry. Harry smiled at her and repeated the ritual he and Hermione had just demonstrated. Helen noticed that Shannon was outright gaping at the spectacle in front of her. Many of the rest of the guests had caught on to what was happening. There was a multitude of indulgent smiles directed at Harry, Hermione and Kelly. Once the plate was empty again Harry and Hermione leant back while Kelly curled up on Harry's lap almost like a cat. The two teens managed to split their attention between the adults surrounding them and Kelly and Helen watched with pride as Hermione charmed the neighbours. And without using a wand. The evening progressed easily and happily. Helen kept half an eye on Hermione the whole time, grateful to be able to observe her daughter like this for once. She seems happy. That's all I ever really hoped for.
"Helen, I think I should get Kelly home. Poor Harry's been turned into a bed." Helen looked over at Shannon's words and sure enough Harry was talking quietly with Hermione while he kept one arm wrapped around Kelly who was sleeping against his chest.
"He doesn't seem to mind." Helen answered with a smile. "Looking at them kind of makes me want to get my own camera."
"I'll get you an extra print." Shannon assured her. The two mothers got up and walked around the table to the teens. Shannon leant over them and brushed some of her daughter's hair back. "I need to get this little one to her bed. I want to thank you again, Harry. Not just for the incident with the pool." Harry's mouth closed as he had been about to refute that he had done anything worth thanking. "You didn't have to put up with her like you did for the rest of the night. It made me feel very happy watching you with my daughter."
"It was no problem, Shannon. Kelly's a sweet little girl." Harry answered with a fond smile at the little bundle in his lap.
"I think so too." Shannon said softly before leaning over and gathering her daughter in her arms. Kelly gave out a little moan as she cuddled into her mother, but didn't wake. "We'd both be happy if you would visit some time." Shannon said before pressing a quick kiss to Harry's cheek which clearly took him by surprise. "Goodbye." Shannon's departure was the signal for a lot of other parents to take their children home as well. Helen was happy that everyone seemed pleased with the way the barbecue had turned out. It didn't take long for all the neighbours to disperse and Helen was left with her husband, her daughter and a young man who wasn't her daughter's boyfriend.
"Would you like some help clearing up?" Harry asked them.
"It's sweet of you to offer, but that won't be necessary." Helen assured him.
"Are you sure?"
"Yes, Harry." Hermione said in a tone of someone who had known this discussion was coming.
"If you don't need me to help you clear up I'll just get out of your hair." Hermione slipped an arm through Harry's.
"Come on, let's show Dad your motorbike. He likes the old ones." she said as she started pulling Harry around to the front of the house.
"That's right. You mentioned that you had a Triumph." Richard broke in looking eager. Helen followed them shaking her head in amusement.
"Yes, sir. It's just out front."
"Do you think I could have a go on it?"
"I think that we may want to wait until I have my broom close to hand."
"The bike can fly and I don't want something to happen to you if you hit the wrong button. If I have my broom I can fly alongside you."
"Ah. So when do you think we can do that?"
"Richard! I thought you said that it was almost criminal to tamper with old bikes and cars because they are 'marvels of engineering'?" Richard shot her look that told Helen that this was something she was destined to never understand.
"Yes, but this is a marvel of engineering and a marvel of enchanting." Helen saw Harry nodding to Richard's proclamation and decided that this wasn't worth getting in an argument over. Harry patiently explained the specifications of his bike to Richard as he oo-ed and ah-ed over it. Eventually Richard managed to get his enthusiasm back under control and stepped back from the bike. He held out his hand to Harry. "It was good of you to come today, Harry. I hope we'll see you again some time." Harry gripped Richard's hand.
"It was wonderful of you to have me and I think I'd like that, sir." Helen was next and pulled Harry into a hug.
"I quite agree, it was a pleasure to have you here." Helen noticed that Harry seemed a little uncomfortable and let him go.
"Thank you, ma'am." Finally it was Hermione's turn to say goodbye. She threw her arms around him and hugged him tightly.
"Thank you so much for coming. You really saved the day." Harry certainly doesn't seem to mind being hugged by Hermione, Helen thought to herself with wry amusement.
"I think I owed you this much at least." Harry told her. Hermione snorted at that but let it go. She gave Harry a quick kiss on the cheek.
"I'll call you on the mirrors tomorrow?"
"Sure. I'll be at Andi's again tomorrow and I'm sure that Teddy would be happy to talk to you."
"I'll bet. Thank you again, Harry. You really are a great friend." Harry seemed stuck for anything to say and simply mounted his bike. The helmet and leather jacket were taken out of the impossible saddlebags again. Harry carefully put on his safety gear and, with a final wave to the Grangers, drove away from the house and out of sight.
"Right, let's get to it then." Helen said briskly after Harry had disappeared from view. "If we clear up now we won't have a mess to deal with tomorrow."
"Agreed. Afterwards I vote we have a nice cup of tea and a...discussion." Judging by the way Hermione's face just went carefully neutral she's guessed the topic of the discussion Richard wants to have. The family walked back into their garden with the youngest dragging her feet.
AN: This was planned as a one-shot, but it became just slightly longer than is comfortable on a single scrollbar. The rest of the story will be shown in chapter two.
"Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more." Is the start of King Henry's famous rallying speech in Shakepeare's Henry V.
A Knight Bachelor is the lowest knightly rank (meaning the lowest rank that is allowed to style themselves 'sir') and is not part of any Chivalric Order. It still outranks the non-knightly ranks of the Chivalric Orders though. It's the oldest from of knighthood in Britain dating back to the 13th century.
For those of you wondering: the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia had started breaking up in the early nineties, but the resulting wars were still raging and would for more than a year. Harry is referring to the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia which NATO had started bombing the week before as part of it's intervention in the Kosovo War which would last until the summer of 2000.
The Hero's Portion, or Curadmir, is a tradition found in Irish mythology. The largest and best cut of meat is given to the bravest and greatest warrior at the feast. It was an honour that was fought and killed over.
As always thank you for reading.
Update: Thanks to some reviewers I noticed that the italics in my piece hadn't made it through the upload process. Hopefully got all of them now.