"Death Chamber"
Department of Mysteries
Ministry of Magic
London England

Hermione Jane Granger, a young twenty two year old woman of remarkable intelligence, did not like to think of herself in terms of stereotypes. She did not like to think she was a stereotypical woman, or a stereotypical academic. In fact she just hated stereotyping in general, too often it led to flawed analysis and poor judgement calls. Not to mention the fact she'd been on the receiving end of negative bias and such more times than she cared to remember.

So, when she was sitting at a desk, in one of the study galleries set up around the periphery of the so called "Death Chamber" of the Department of Mysteries and she had her great epiphany, she really had to work hard to stifle the urge to shout Eureka as all her hard work and study came together in a wonderful discovery.

She was practically shaking with excitement as she realized the magnitude of what she'd just proven with all her hard work and cautiously looked around to check no one was watching her. It was a good thing she'd refrained from breaking the stifling silence of the Chamber with a jubilant cry, as that likely would have drawn the sector supervisor.

And she didn't want that; the man was notorious for his habit of claiming credit for the work of those within his domain. Not that it seemed to truly avail him of anything. The man had been trapped in his dead end position…She sighed as that unintended pun took form in her mind, and carefully did what she could to conceal what she'd found by tidying away her reference manuals into their shelf and her notes into her bag.

She needed to take this to her boss, the head of the Department. He was the only one who'd be able to confirm what she had found without risk of taking credit for her work. Saul Croaker was many things, but he'd never be accused of stealing credit from his subordinates.

She wrote up the critical points of her discovery and folded them before stowing them away in her bag with the rest, and getting up to leave. She nodded amiably to the hovering vulture and made her escape. It was good that it was about time to take her morning coffee break anyway.

She was confident she knew what the outcome of her meeting with her boss would be. Saul had been a very enthusiastic sponsor for her efforts thus far. If she were correct in her interpretations…which she was confident she was. Then she'd have a lot of work to do. She'd need to tell Harry! He'd be ecstatic she was sure. She could probably catch him at home sometime in the evening. Maybe he'd even be willing to help her?

At that notion she paused, She'd also need to tell Ron. That'd be a somewhat more tricky proposition she knew. Her…boyfriend, was always a touch volatile, she'd need to see about catching him when he was in a good mood. And Merlin knew she knew how to do that! Ask him during a meal. Maybe if his mood was good enough she could solicit his assistance too?"

She paced through the maze of corridors which constituted her work place eventually ending up at her superior's office door, hesitating briefly before knocking gently at the door. A moment later a voice called for her to enter, and she did so.

She steeled herself as she approached her boss' desk. This was it, show time.

Some Hours Later
Hermione's Apartment
Belsize park, London

Hermione flinched slightly as the door closed with a snap, and she flipped the lock. The deadbolt sliding into place and the wards activating with them. That flinch was soon followed by a wince as something bounced off the wards over the door with a dull gonging noise.

She couldn't help but tear up at what had just happened. Though she chastised herself that she should have known it was coming, should have expected it.

She'd truly done her best to ensure her boyfriend's good mood: invited him over for dinner after work and made him a decent meal.

She'd settled him down at the table, and let him get through his whole first course before she interrupted to talk about her discovery. Only to be hurt when he'd been less than interested in it. In fact his whole attitude towards the matter and her stated motivations was…cavalier. He'd even expressed skepticism about the accuracy of her findings.

Her! They'd known each other for years, and had she ever not done her work when it really mattered? Not only that, as she'd remonstrated him, she'd had her work checked by her superiors and they agreed with her conclusions.

They had even checked her translations themselves. He had merely dismissed it, stating that her superiors were barking mad anyways.

She had pressed on, ignoring his casual disdain for the academic for the moment. Explaining that they had granted permission for her to put together an expedition to confirm everything beyond a shadow of a doubt.

He had actually snorted in derision, spraying a bit of food across the table. She had thought they'd largely worked past that in her efforts to improve his table manners. His description of people who would even consider going on such a thing had been…less than complimentary. She recalled the word daft had been in there twice as well as bloody mental three times.

To say she was rather put out with him, considering she was the default lead for such an expedition, was a massive understatement. She wasn't certain if it was truly to his credit that he'd been embarrassed when she pointed out he'd just insulted her.

She'd noted, as she pushed away her own food, decidedly at a loss for appetite, that she had hoped her boyfriend would like to come with her.

He'd told her in no uncertain terms there was no way in hades that he'd be going on such a trip. She suspected this was largely due to her boyfriend's love of personal comforts, something such a trip would be lacking in.

He'd then had the audacity to try and talk her out of the expedition herself, calling it bloody stupid nonsense.

She had then explained, rather acidly that she couldn't in fact back out now, even if she wanted to. Largely due to the fact that she'd been the one pushing for it. And that if she backed out now, people would claim that she didn't really believe her own work, or that she was lazy for not following through because it wasn't personally convenient to subject herself to such a thing.

She'd then pointed out, that her bosses had no time for those working for them when they were not willing to take the risks associated with making discoveries. If she backed out there was a good chance she'd lose her job.

Ron had decided that then was a good time to revive an old argument. Stating that she was bloody mental to be wasting her time working there anyways.
She hadn't taken kindly to that assertion. But he'd rode over her stating that she shouldn't be an Unspeakable in the first place. She'd rather acidly asked him, what he in his oh so infinite wisdom, he believed she should do with her time instead.

Ron at least had the decency to frame it in less insulting terms, but his ideal vision for what his girlfriend - and future wife as he kept hinting - belonged only in a handful of places and two of those places were in the kitchen or the bedroom. She'd had to use all of her restraint not to fireball him right there in her dining room.

She'd glared at him for a solid minute in which time he'd wilted somewhat. She'd told him quite bluntly, that it was never going to happen.

Then his Weasley temper had come out to play. He'd actually been stupid enough to try and shout her down and dictate to her what she was going to do, prefacing it by stating that if she wanted them to stay together she'd comply.

At which point she'd had her second epiphany of the day. This was it, this was what her life would be like if she stayed with him. One long, argument over every little thing, with screaming rows any time she stood up to him. She realized quite suddenly that, no she really didn't want to stay with him.

"Get out then." She'd instructed plainly getting to her feet and indicating the door. He had blinked at her in confusion, apparently that had not been what his two speed grey matter had been expecting because he sort of stalled out and stared blankly at her for a minute. She'd had to reiterate the command before his brain seemed to reengage.

To which his response had been. "But I'm still eating. Come on Hermy, just calm down okay? We'll talk about this once I've finished—"

She had lost it at his insistence upon using that hated nickname. Needless to say within fifteen short seconds he'd found himself out the door in his socks, his belongings stacked in his arms, flabbergasted as she told him they were over and slammed the door in his face.

Which brought her to now, listening to him scream abuse as he threw things at the wards over the door. Maybe asking her…friends to come with her was a bad idea. Her own boyfrie—former boyfriend had turned her down, what hope did she have of convincing her best friend? Was she even right to ask him?

Oh, Harry had the skills needed to help in her little expedition, but that wasn't why she wanted him along. She wanted him for his company. He was her friend, and they'd been through so much together. It was only natural she thought to have him along.

She shook her head. No, one way or the other she needed to tell him she was leaving on this, possibly dangerous, adventure. Though she decided that she'd refrain from asking him along. After that latest humiliating exercise with Ron, she didn't feel like opening herself up to being hurt like that again.

She waited there in the entryway, just to be sure Ron didn't rub his braincells together enough to remember he actually had a key, watching the clock she'd had commissioned to keep track of the other members of the Golden Trio. It was very similar to the clock the Weasley clan kept in the kitchen at the Burrow. Except this one kept track of only three people. Herself, Harry and Ron. Though she was now seriously considering stalking over to the clock and ripping out the indicator for Ron. Soon enough the verbal bombardment from the other side of the door stopped and one last object bounced off the wards and the indicator turned to land on travelling and then "The Burrow". Figured he'd run to mummy after that little tantrum.

The teary eyed brunette pulled out her wand and adjusted the wards via the stone she kept concealed in the lockbox in the wall behind the clock. Ron, any Weasley in fact, were no longer allowed through her wards. She considered putting off going to see Harry, but decided against it. If she did the Weasley's would be all over him like white on rice soon enough.

She directed a spell to clean away the detritus of dinner, she'd deal with what was left when she got back, and pulled on her coat. She was glad now that she thought of it, that she'd changed the wards. It would be just like Ron to figure it out while she was gone and let himself in. She really did not wish to come home to find him waiting for another argument.

She locked the door behind her as she left and apparated away. She needed to see her best friend.

Harry Potter's Apartment
South Kensington, London

It was dark out when she left her apartment and arrived outside her friend's, considering it was autumn after all. She had apparated to the safe zone Harry had set up outside the building, so long as she appeared within it the muggles wouldn't notice a thing. Still she waited until she was certain that she wouldn't startle anyone before leaving the small warded space and approaching the building. Entering past the doorman, who she nodded to, before she headed up to her friend's flat. It said something that she visited enough that the doorman immediately recognized her and accepted she was always welcome.

Harry basically owned the top floor of the apartment building - excepting the service staircase which led up onto the roof - so she didn't have to look around for his door once she reached his floor. It was literally the only door on that level. Harry simply couldn't stand being at Grimmauld place after the war. He'd soon moved out and moved up as it were.

She paced up to the dark wooden door and knocked. There was a notable pause then a call of "I'll be right there, just a minute!" through the wood. She settled in to wait, and was gratified that it really was only a short time before the little light visible in the aperture of the door winked out and the door cracked open revealing her long time friend.

He was smiling, but he must have noticed her less than stellar appearance, tear stained and bleary eyed after her fight with Ron, as he sobered quickly. "Hey Mione, come on in." He instructed kindly stepping aside to permit her through.

The door closed with a click behind her and she heard to locks switching back as she undid her coat. Harry helped her out of her jacket and hung it up in the closet while she worked on her shoes.

Harry was good like that, if there was one benefit to be gained from his miserable years at Privet Drive it was his almost obsessive gentlemanly behaviour. Not that she would be thanking his relatives for it.

"You know, you don't need to knock right?" He teased, clearly hoping to lighten her mood somewhat. "I gave you that key for a reason."

She nodded, smiling slightly to herself as she nudged the shoes onto the mat by the door with her foot. "I know, but I don't like to intrude, and besides what if you and Ginny were occupied." Had she not been watching her shoes at the time she would have seen the slight frown that had generated.

But she continued on oblivious, she was surprised in all honesty, usually when she visited Harry, she ran into Ginny as well. The girl was rarely at her own place except to sleep and shower as she understood it.

She suspected she must have been fortunate enough to catch him on a night Ginny wasn't lurking if the red head wasn't already all over them, 'subtly' giving off an aura of "back off he's mine!" Well, subtle for Ginny that was. Which basically meant that the only person not aware of her behaviour was Harry. Bless his oblivious little heart.

"So, Ginny not around?" She asked finally looking up.

He rubbed uncomfortably at the back of his head. "Yeah, no, she's out of town on business last I heard."

Business, well that was one name for it she supposed. Ginny played seeker for the Holyhead Harpies. If she was out of town it was for another game, or an exhibition or another one of the thousand of fundraisers and society events they were expected to attend.

But her mind had caught onto that last little bit of what he'd said and she quirked an eyebrow at him. "The last you had heard?" She asked mildly baffled, had they had their own fight? Another one?

He sighed, "Yeah, me and Ginny had a fight, we're on a break right now. Haven't heard from her in weeks."

She wasn't sure how that made her feel and decided to ignore the question for the moment. Harry apparently was all too happy to exploit her silence and press onto another topic. "So, what's wrong Mione, you come to my door when you've clearly been crying…"

She waved that off, "It's nothing important…" She tried but stopped when he frowned.

"What did he do this time?" He asked in exasperation. He saw her slightly guilty look and he explained. "You and Ron fought again right? What did the berk do this time?"

She smirked a bit, he apparently knew her as well as she knew him. "Yes, we fought again. And yes it has to do with why I'm here." she admitted ruefully.

Hermione watched in interest as his face took on a slightly guarded cast. She suspected she had a reasonable notion of why he was suddenly on watch. Knowing Harry he was likely wondering if Ron was in one of his moods again, and demanding they not spend so much time together. It was a reasonable concern, Ron had done it before, though she'd ignored him. He was far too prone to jealousy, to indulging in his every insecurity or self-perceived inadequacies. If she did that she'd never get to do anything.

Harry shook his head tiredly. "Shouldn't be surprised I suppose, I don't know anybody who is as skilled at making you cry as Ron." He noted a touch bitterly.
She paused, considering the sad truth of that statement. Maybe that should have been your first warning sign Hermione? a little voice in the back of her head pointed out sternly.

Harry straightened up, seeming to realize something. "Oh, I'm sorry, would you like to come into the living room?" He offered, gesturing sheepishly through the doorway beside him.

She nodded thankfully, and he turned to lead the familiar way. Despite his not inconsiderable wealth, thanks to what he'd inherited from his parents and Godfather, Harry's house was not an overly lavish affair. What he had was well built and tasteful, but not extravagant. One might have expected someone who had lived most of their life in a state of pseudo-poverty to have gone a bit overboard when they finally found wealth, but not Harry.

On the on the rug in living room, in front of the small fireplace lay Harry's new familiar. It had taken him years to get over losing Hedwig in the last war, but he'd stumbled across Juno on one of his raids. Juno was already a bright animal, being a border collie, but with the familiar enchantments upon her she was probably smarter than Ron on a good day…

The dog shifted it's head to watch her enter the room and her tail thumped against the floor enthusiastically in greeting. "Hello Juno, you been looking after our friend here?" She asked rhetorically.

The dog raised an eyebrow at her and chuffed before allowing her tail to return to thumping happily. That was the equivalent of an of course, what else would I be doing? He's Harry!

Harry smiled at their antics and led her over to the couch and offered her a seat. She settled on the comfortable dark leather affair and smiled when Juno got up, stretched and shambled over, carefully climbing up to lay down on the cushion between herself and her friend.

"Would you like a drink?" Harry asked, indicating the small liquor cabinet off to the side. She wasn't certain why he offered, or why he had a liquor cabinet, neither he nor she drank. Perhaps it was because it was expected that one would keep drinks for their guests?

Harry sagged back into his seat and considered her. "So, what did you two argue about?" He asked gently.

She sighed, idly scratching Juno's head, the dog starting to doze under her fingers. "The usual really, he wants me to settle down, give up my job…"

Her friend nodded, they had discussed similar in the past. "What has him harping on that again?" Harry asked tiredly.

"You know Ron doesn't approve of my job. He thinks working as an Unspeakable is daft. But it turns out it's worse than that, he has a…vision of what our future together should have been like. It was not the kind of future I had envisioned for myself." She admitted. "It…involved me being a stay at home mother basically. But it was put in much less polite terms."

Harry grimaced, shaking his head. "I don't know how that git ever thought you'd accept that kind of life." He grumbled.

She nodded. "Yes, well, something else came up with my job and that set him off again…" Hermione paused, considering how she wanted to approach that issue. So she bought herself a little bit of time by redirecting them a bit. "How has your own work been going?"

He gave her a quizzical look and shrugged, likely suspecting on some level what she was doing and deciding to go along with it. "It's been okay. Just finished another training assignment, got my medic's license yesterday." He shrugged. "I'm sort of in between things for the moment. Until the board decides whether or not to accept my application to become a full time Auror." He admitted.

Silently she scoffed, the cynical part of her mind suspected that it had less to do with deciding if they'd let him in and more to do with deciding how much bootlicking they could manage whilst doing so. She suspected he'd find himself accepted into a very cushy position on one of their top squads, maybe even recommended for Hit Wizard.

"Now, what about your own work? How's it going down in The Department?" He asked, his tone conveying his mild discomfort with the Department of Mysteries.

She smiled thinly. After all this would lead into discussion of her problems again, but maybe that wasn't all bad. "I passed my exams adequately." She hedged, not wanting to boast about how well she'd done on those tests assigned to applicants to the department. "Unfortunately they failed to mention when advertising for applicants that the testing was only a small portion of what they needed to do to secure a permanent position in the Department." She grumbled lightly. "It turns out your first research project is as, if not more important than, the exams for placement into a research division. I admit I may have gotten a little carried away when dreaming up my first project…" She admitted sheepishly, blushing lightly.

He must have suspected what she'd done, at least in part, because he leaned back into his seat and groaned, rubbing tiredly at his eyes. This drew a concerned look from his familiar who then looked to her with an expression which clearly said. What's his problem?

"Don't tell me, you got a job in the Death Chamber." He growled, it was more of a statement than a question. She didn't hold his tone against him, Harry had a justifiable antipathy towards that room and more specifically the Arch inside it. Maybe she could change that?

She blushed slightly realizing just how well he knew her that he had accurately predicted her actions. "Yes well, sort of. I chose to investigate what it is the Arch actually does, for my project."

He gave her a skeptical look, one clearly asking why anyone in their right mind would want anything to do with the so called Veil of Death. An irony considering he himself had been almost morbidly fascinated with it prior to learning its believed purpose. An even bigger irony to her was that he'd come to be in possession of three objects which together had theoretically at least, seen him becoming the so called "Master of Death".

She opted to refrain from pointing that out to him and instead explain her reasoning. "You see, nobody actually knows what happens to those who pass through the Veil. We assume they die as those who pass through never come back. However, no one actually knows that it is in fact death to pass through it, for example, no ghosts return following a person's passage through it. Which considering the old policy of passing condemned criminals through it…"

He nodded his understanding, it was odd that if so many people had been killed by the arch that more of them hadn't returned in one form or another.

She then pressed on. "However if it is indeed a doorway to death. Well…knowing how it works would explain what happens to those who die." She admitted looking down at her hands. Had she been looking at her friend's face she would have seen his features soften and his eyes turn sympathetic; he knew full well why she would find that interesting.

She had gone in search of her family after the war. Traveling to Australia in the hopes of returning them to their old lives. Sadly things had not gone as she had hoped. Her father had been killed in a car accident whilst Obliviated and in hiding in Australia.

As if that were not heartbreaking enough, her mother, upon having her memories restored to her had been less than pleased with her daughter. She had been horrified her daughter would violate their minds in such a way as to erase their memories of her. Then compelling them to move around the world. That her husband had died as a result was added insult to injury. She had been disgusted by her daughter, and had in her anger decided she wanted nothing to do with her. She'd even gone so far as to demand she be returned to her previous, false memories, so she'd only have to mourn a lost husband and not think of how her daughter had betrayed her.

It hadn't mattered that she'd done what she'd done in an attempt to protect them, that it had been with the best of intentions. In the end her mother would not be swayed and she'd gone back to her previous self, blissfully unaware of anyone called Hermione Granger.

She'd taken years to get over that, and it still stung now and then when she thought about it. She did find herself wondering, upon occasion if her father was okay, if he was as mad at her as her Mother had been. "Yes, I have been wondering if the Arch could in some way tell me where my Father has gone…whether or not he's alright."

She didn't mention that she had spared a thought or two of curiosity to what had happened to Harry's own Godfather when he'd been lost through the Veil.
When she looked up, she found the still lingering look of sympathy on his face. "What did you find?" He asked kindly, he was clearly uncomfortable talking about the Veil, but he was willing to press on for her.

"It was actually a relatively easy job. Then again that may be because I applied some kind of method to my study as opposed to the slap dash approach most Wizards use in the place of the scientific method…" She grumbled mildly. Frustrated at finding that even in an institution devoted to study and discovery, the scientific method was a pipe dream in the distance. "I didn't read over the work of those who have looked at the Arch before, you see I didn't want to be influenced by any of their assumptions."

Harry nodded understanding. He may not have been as avid a learner as she, prior to Hogwarts or during, but he was familiar with the differences in the ways that mundanes and magical handled things. "I documented every rune I could find on the arch even a few that turned out to just be scratches…" She admitted in mild amusement. "As well as those on the platform it all stands on. From there it was just a case of finding out how it all fit together and…well, decoding it for lack of a better word. So I could tell what they all actually did."

She shrugged, continuing to scratch the dog's head. "The only real problem I ran into was this. While the runes on the Arch are relatively simple, arrays dealing with things like power flow, integrity and some sort of expanded coordinate system I haven't fully explored, the runes on the base were more of a conundrum. However they ended up being far more enlightening." Hermione explained a note of excitement entering her tone.

"It took a while to figure out why they wouldn't function right as action arrays, but after a bit of work I managed it. Most of the time runic arrays are solely used for the purpose of providing magic an anchor and a bit of form within the object they're carved into. But my colleagues, and nearly myself I must admit, almost overlooked something obvious. The most common use of runes is not actually in the magical world, it's in the mundane one as one of the very few areas of natural overlap." She explained wobbling her head uneasily as she tried to explain Runes as they stood for muggles, her excitement at her discovery infecting her voice. "Even in Muggle societies, runes were seen as ways to enhance or empower, but were never really considered a written alphabet. But that didn't mean that everything carved in the arch was a rune or symbol, something my predecessors never thought to question. I nearly fell victim to the same bias, the same lazy thinking and almost assumed there was nothing else but runes we couldn't identify. But when I saw the...uniformity in many of the carvings, I realized that even if we were dealing with several runic arrays, they were being used like an alphabet, a written language. Once we were able to differentiate between the runes themselves and the...spells they were connected to for lack of a better term, it was possible to use the runes as context to get the language. Well, when I say 'language', it was more of a symbolic protolanguage with more literal primitive script scattered throughout muddying the waters. But it could still be translated in that way and eventually came together in a fashion that made sense!" She declared.

"One area free of runes had no purpose beyond conveying information and I cracked it earlier this morning." He looked interested at least so she pressed on. "It's…well not an instruction manual so much as a warning sign or an informative notice. I had to wrestle with it a bit to translate it as anything legible in modern terms but basically it comes out as; "Warning: Destinations are fixed from this location, should it be desired that you return via this path, or that you desire this path's destination changed for all future transportation, please consult The Navigator at the Wandering Star." She relayed patiently.

"It was wrapped up in language a lot more metaphorical and flowery than that but that's the best translation I could come up with, and my superiors agreed." She reported happily, then sobered as she delivered her most important piece of news to her friend, grasping his hand in her free one and looking his carefully in the eye. "Harry, I—we think that the Arch does not in fact lead to death as originally thought."

That certainly caught his attention, not the least because of the utter sincerity in Hermione's declaration. Not that she would have been so cruel as to declare so were it not true. She could see it, the faint spark of hope igniting within him, she couldn't blame him. He'd lost his Godfather, the closest thing he had to family, through that Arch. She pressed on, fanning that spark. "I think, judging by that, that it is telling the user, or traveller if you will. That this…portal is one way in function, allowing travel between it and a fixed or relatively fixed point. That if someone who travelled through it wanted to change its destination or just return home they would need to….work, with this Navigator on something called the Wandering Star."

She needn't have explained it so bluntly, Harry was smart enough after all. But it helped clarify the message in his mind more quickly. "So, for someone like Sirius, they might not be able to come back after leaving because they didn't know they had to find this Navigator to get them a route home…"

She smiled, happy he'd understood. "Yes, I took my findings to my superiors and they concurred with my interpretations after double checking my work. They've agreed to send an expedition to the other side…" She admitted, trailing off. Uncertain how to tell him this next part. "Harry, I'll be leading the expedition."

Her friend froze as he considered the implications of that, his hand tightening over hers slightly as his eyes went distant while he thought that over, finally he asked a question. "Hermione, how certain of your results are you? Please, I'm begging you, don't sugar coat it, I need to know your honest opinion on this. Think about it carefully."

Had Ron asked her that she would have been offended, assuming (probably correctly) that he'd been casting aspirations on her work. This was Harry who was asking however so she gave his query serious consideration. She truly had given her project her all, and her superiors had agreed when they had looked it over. "I'm as certain as it is possible to be under these circumstances." She stated eventually.

He pondered that. "And you think there's a…a chance that there are others on the other end of that thing who don't know how to get home?" He asked, a slight pleading tone in his voice.

Hermione understood his need to confirm that last bit given Sirius. She nodded firmly in agreement. He sighed and leaned back into his seat, not letting go of her hand. Perhaps he was afraid on some primeval level that this hope, this dream would abandon him should he let go?

He sat there thinking for a few minutes in silence and she let him, merely holding his hand and idly petting Juno while he worked through it. It was important to her that he accepted all of this. That he accepted her mission. Finally he spoke again, "What are you hoping to find over there?" He asked, then clarified. "You, not the Ministry, they no doubt have their own agenda, what I want to know is what you are hoping is there."

Hermione understood, and shrugged. "Anything, anything at all, it could, and quite likely is, a whole different world on the other side. It could be one as strange and alien as Underhill, or it could be something as familiar as earth. Or anything in between."

Her friend nodded accepting that. "Okay, and how will this expedition work exactly?" He asked eventually. She was pleased he hadn't shut down like Ron had, and was instead asking questions, clearly hoping to understand and shore up any mistakes which might have been made.

"It is fairly straightforward actually." She began. "The expedition members will pass through the Arch, with all the kit necessary for it. Tents, food, medical supplies etc…From there we'll try and find any natives and then work to find this "Wandering Star", it will be our priority as it is our only certain way back."

He nodded, his eyes once more zeroing on hers. "How many people are going? When is this all scheduled for?"

She blew out a breath this was one of the hard parts, telling him how little time there was before she was expected to leave. "Four Days, the Minister is all for it, and so are the Department heads involved. But they are worried that if they wait too long the public will get spooked in regards to the costs of an expedition or about whether or not the mission is really viable. You know what they're like, someone would get up in arms about it and try to get the Wizengamot to shut it down, just because they could." She huffed a breath then offered a one armed shrug. "As to who's going, well— right now it's just me, but then again we've only had today to set this up."

Harry looked to her sharply. "They haven't assigned any others to go with you?"

She shook her head. "The Department heads and the Minister can't force people to go on a dangerous mission like this, and the other Department leaders are reluctant to post notice to their own staff."

Knowing Croaker and Kingsley as he did, he likely suspected they were genuine when they stated that as their concerns in the matter. It was the others he was probably less sanguine about. While there were a few sensible and decent people who ran departments within the Ministry, there were an awful lot of self serving jerks too. There were likely a few who were being obstructionist because they didn't want to lose any of their people or resources.

There were also likely a few who assumed this all to be a doomed venture and were hedging their bets, tacitly supporting the expedition on the off chance it worked out so they might reap any benefits. At the same time as taking no real risks which might actually improve the venture's likelihood of success. For them it was a case of "Well if it works, that's great. And if it doesn't, well only a few people lost."

A dark corner of her mind, she suspected that they were hoping they might lose an "Uppity" Muggleborn along the way.

She shook her head, this was typical Ministry idiocy, despite the new leadership. It was not lost on her that Harry and herself now worked for the Ministry and so were, distantly, part of any Ministry Idiocy that went on. "They really should be outfitting you better than this…" he noted sourly.

Harry smirked as something occurred to him, and Hermione watched his face shift with interest. She suspected he'd been thinking along similar lines to her. Finally he smiled properly and looked to her, a grin on his face. "Well, sign me up then!"

She felt like her brain had just suffered the same effect Ron's had a half hour before. Total brain pause. "You think I'm about to let you go alone?" Harry asked skeptically, mistaking her stunned expression. "Not to mention I'd be losing the chance to find Sirius."

Perhaps it was because of how confused she was but she found herself protesting. "I wasn't going to ask Harry, I don't want to put you in a tough position…" She started. Wondering what would happen with his job and with Ginny were he to come with her. Wait, why are we arguing? Part of her question asked incredulously.

He almost certainly knew what she was thinking as he raised his hand to stop her from asking. "My job can wait, and like I said, me and Ginny are on a break - a big break. I need to think things over before I even consider getting back together with her." Then he grinned roguishly at her. "Besides it'll be exciting won't it?" He saw she was uncertain, but slowly coming around to his way of thinking. "I'm coming along Hermione, don't think you can stop me!" He declared laughing.

She couldn't help but chuckle too, she felt some dampness prickling her eyes again, though this time it wasn't because she was upset, rather that she was happy. It was touching, how quickly he'd decided to join her. She knew he had mentioned his desire to find Sirius, but after all these years she knew him well enough that he had decided to come along for her benefit.

She got up on her haunches and Juno dutifully shifted out of the way as she leaned across to engulf her friend in a hug. She pointedly ignored the odd flipflop she got in her belly at holding her friend like this. For the moment that was too much to deal with, and would have to wait. She'd focus on the moment for now. "I'm am glad to have you along Harry," she growled happily.

Harry returned the hug, and they remained like that for a minute before he released her and they settled back. Harry smiled at her, then grew semi-serious again. "What will I need to do in regards to the preparations?" He asked.

She nodded thoughtfully as she considered that. "I'll send you a list for the necessary food allotment for you to come along. You'll also want to buy up a lot of food for Juno if you bring her along…"

Juno huffed indignantly and she chuckled. The likelihood of Harry leaving his familiar behind was nil. That'd be a lot of dog food.

Harry groaned. "I see myself being swallowed by a mountain of kibble in my future."

She snorted in amusement. "I'll be seeing to the rest, my own supplies and Crookshanks of course, as well as the tent and the—"

He shook his head in amusement. "You can't pay for all of it yourself Hermione, I'm sure the Department will cover some of it if you ask... Why don't you let me handle the potions, I've got a good idea what we'll be needing for a trip like this."

She was reluctant but had to concede it was good idea, first of all because he could better afford the costs than she could, and also because unlike her, he had real medical training to help him determine the necessities they'd require. Her fumbling attempts at triage during the Horcrux Hunt weren't exactly real healing.
Her reflections on that matter were interrupted by the chiming of the clock above the mantle piece. She sighed, her excitement bleeding away somewhat. Happy surprise that was Harry coming along aside, she needed to head home soon. Before it was too late. She needed her sleep, also planning and arranging things over the next few days was bound to take up a goodly portion of her time. "I'd better head home, I'm going to need my sleep over the next few days." She admitted.

He nodded accepting that, pushing to his feet and offering her a hand up. He led the way back to the door. "You be sure to send along a list of stuff you expect we'll need. I'll start looking through all my junk to see if I can find something helpful." He instructed gently as he helped her back into her jacket.

She nodded. "Will do, have a good night Harry, and…thanks again for all this, agreeing to come along I mean."

He nodded easily and she paused, kissing him briefly on the cheek as he opened the door. "Have a good evening Harry, see you soon."

He murmured an agreement pecking her on the cheek before letting her go her way, the door closing gently behind her.

Three Days Later

Hermione's Apartment
Belsize Park, London

Hermione was wondering if she'd have been better off increasing the intensity of her wards, as she tried to ignore the sound of Ronald Weasley once again bouncing off the barriers with a gonging noise.

She sighed in aggravation and gave up resting a bit longer as a lost cause, it was basically impossible to sleep in when you could hear you Ex standing out in the middle of the street shouting "Eat Slugs!" at your house, followed by gurgling for a minute before he managed the counter curse. She lamented the day he had ever learned how to do that little charm.

Besides, if she were being honest with herself, it was getting late anyways, and she might as well start the day. She was too excited for what was coming to actually get back to sleep, irate slug spewing ex-boyfriends aside.

She got up, at least they'd learned to stop sending the obliviators by now, the muggles just thought he was shooting fireworks at her house anyways, and they'd figured out that the only person setting off the monitors they'd installed out front her house was a certain redheaded idiot.

She shook her head in exasperation and went about getting showered. Getting out ten minutes later to get dressed, she had chosen something relatively rugged for the coming day. Leaving aside her unmentionables of course. Hermione had chosen a set of cargo pants as well as some sturdy boots, with a plain white t-shirt and a comfortable leather jacket over top.

She was on her way to the kitchen when she heard another owl bounce noisily off the wards with a disgruntled squawk, followed by a popping sound. It really was a good thing the Weasley clan had retired poor old Errol, that old bird would have finally packed it in and died after hitting the wards so many times she was sure.

In the first day and a half after her and Ron's relationship imploding, and the following announcement by some Ministry idiot that Harry would be on the expedition, she had received no less than twelve howlers from Molly and Ginny Weasley alone.

She didn't even need to ask where those two had learned how to charm an owl to get past basic mail wards, so she'd sent an owl of her own to Bill asking him not to help his mother and sister after she adjusted her wards to account for that trick.

She'd even included an adjustment to fry howlers so they wouldn't detonate upon being dropped by the owl.

Unfortunately her second owl to one Arthur Weasley hadn't had the effect she'd hoped. She suspected Molly hadn't heard her husband asking her to stop over the sound of making another of the dratted noise makers…

Although, judging by the way the flow had finally tapered off Molly had started running low on the supplies necessary to actually make the blasted things. That last howler a minute ago had likely been Molly's last salvo cursing her out for toying with her son's heart or some other such nonsense before bidding her a not so fond farewell as she left for her expedition.

Hermione paused upon finishing her meal sorting away the dishes and setting her fridge to vanish the little remaining food as it spoiled, then turned to look over her apartment. It was basically all put to rights now for her to leave, everything except her bedroom put up under enchanted dust sheets and such.
She made her way into her bedroom sorting that away too before finally pausing to coax a very displeased Crookshanks into his carrier, it was only after explaining that the Ministry wouldn't allow him loose in their building to walk through the portal under his own power, that he calmed down and finally acquiesced. Though she suspected he was plotting how to disembowel whoever had made up that rule, judging by the way he was sheathing and unseating his claws over and over again…

Casting only one last look at her apartment as she pulled on her shoes, she exited the building and locked it behind her. She made her way to the apparition point ignoring a twitching and unconscious Ron Weasley passed out in the bush as she passed. He must have gotten it into his fool head to try something a touch more serious and the wards had lashed out.

Oh well, she wasn't about to complain that he wasn't with it enough to start harassing her. In the end she had more important things to worry about than one Ronald Weasley.

Ministry of Magic
London, England

Hermione had hoped to avoid the worst of the crowds and gawkers by apparating to the safe area outside the Ministry and entering through the service entrance. And in truth she had moderate success in that regard.

She had known from the moment Harry signed on to the Expedition there would be a media firestorm. This was the wizarding world after all. If Harry was involved there would be media attention. Add to that the wizarding public's horror at realizing their favourite punching—er…hero, was leaving them on what some were calling a "mad expedition into certain doom!" and their reactions had been predictable.

On the one hand the public assumed that she must be wrong and that the Veil was indeed certain death. On the other hand…well there really wasn't another hand it was just more negativity the whole way through really. Wizards took a dim view of explorers, quite opposite to the position muggles took towards those who dared to reach beyond. Well, until they succeeded of course, at which time the Wizarding public would loudly declare to anyone with ears that they'd believed in the "brave adventurer" from the start. And even pitched in after some fashion or another!

She'd enjoy rubbing their doubts in their faces if she made it back. The newspapers in particular had been very scathing in their references to her person since this expedition became public. Pureblood bigotry was dead, oh yes, of course it was, they'd been paid to say it was, so it must be true! But that didn't stop them from casting thinly veiled aspirations on her because of her blood status.

She made it through the security checkpoint at the service entrance with minimal difficulties. Even with the enhanced measures put in place by the Minister and Auror Captain Tonks.

But she'd been unable to make it across the Atrium to the elevators without being spotted. The Atrium was, of course, a big open space right in the middle of the Ministry with a big golden monument right in the centre of everything.

She, loathed that statue. Almost as much as Harry did. He'd often note that the last thing he'd wanted upon beating Voldemort was a big old golden depiction of himself. Then mutter darkly about using it for target practice one day. At which point she'd try to comfort him by noting that at least they had refrained from making him bare chested as he held his wand aloft.

Ron naturally loved the thing, and had even requested that he be made to look more heroic when asked about it prior to construction. Ron's statue, she noted darkly, was bare chested for some reason. She was thankful now that the artist had refrained from giving her the same treatment they'd given Ginny.

She was standing tall and proud beside Harry, a determined look on her face, magic crackling from her fingers. Ginny…was not. In fact, she was depicted as a voluptuous bimbo who hung daintily from Harry's leg staring soulfully - at least that was the intent - up at Harry. Maybe it was her own perceptions but Hermione could have sworn the statue's eyes held the lust she saw too often in the red head's eyes when she was around Harry. That Ginny didn't see anything wrong with the statue and had publicly declared her love for it, wasn't surprising.

It was curious that Ginny had been depicted at all really. None of the others had been immortalized in polished naval brass. Not Luna, or the Twins…or even Neville, who had quite publicly chopped the head off that monster snake with a sword…it was very strange.

Regardless, she remained stoically silent, reflecting on this, as she pressed forward across the Atrium to the elevators. Pointedly ignoring the roughly phrased questions, and in some cases outright accusations, hurled at her by the churning masses of people gathering around.

She would later consider herself lucky to make it into the elevator without someone shooting a hex at her. After all this was the same wizarding public which had sent a fifteen year old girl a letter full of noxious chemicals in the hopes of horrifically injuring her, based solely on perjurious rumours in the newspaper about the girl toying with some celebrity's feelings.

That was one of the few advantages that came with being a part of the legendary Golden Trio. Few nowadays had the courage to try their luck against them lightly. Only Harry did really, and that was because he was regularly running into trouble makers desperate enough to take a shot; it was part of his job after all.

She descended in blissful silence after the elevator left the atrium before exiting into the quiet hallway outside the Department of Mysteries. Pacing across, she used her I.D to open the door; something else new to the Ministry. An addition which would have potentially saved them a lot of trouble in fifth year.

As Hermione stepped through the familiar entry chamber into the Department proper, she had to fight a smile that threatened to blossom at the sight which met her.

Rita Skeeter was sat on a conjured bench off to one side, cuffed, while she was interrogated by an Auror and an Unspeakable. Rita looked very pale, and Hermione had to fight the urge to gloat too hard. It had likely been her warning about Rita's abilities which now saw the reporter in such trouble.

She wave airily as she passed, "Hello Rita, Bye Rita." She could practically feel the ocular daggers digging into her back as she continued on deeper into the department. The imaginary knives fading away as she exited into the revolving ante-chamber. She was pleased to see that they had actually posted a door man of sorts here today, they couldn't have confused visitors who had come for the expedition's departure, wandering the department aimlessly after all. That was just asking for trouble.

"Miss Granger." The Unspeakable greeted, unfortunately difficult to identify under that deep grey cowl. "Where are you headed today, or is that a silly question?"

She smiled thinly. "Arch Chamber please."

He nodded, chuckling ruefully to himself. "That will take some getting used to. Not calling it the "Death Chamber" anymore." He said shaking his head. Then drawing his wand and making a silent incantation, the room rotated and a door popped open revealing her desired destination beyond.

"Thanks," She murmured before stepping through and allowing the door to close behind her. The Chamber, was…not quite as silent as it usually was, though it was indeed less noisy than one might expect from a room so full of people. Perhaps some of the Veil's lingering mystique? She wondered.

The balconies, and viewing galleries overlooking the chamber were packed, and she spotted Aurors present in abundance for crowd control. She made her way over to the stairs, ignoring the staring and muttering witches and wizards who were kept at bay by the Aurors, and made her way down onto the main floor.
She spotted Harry about halfway across the room between herself and the arch. She was about to make her way over to him, when a group just off to her left started waving excitedly in an attempt to catch her attention.

Hermione couldn't help but smile as she noted who it was. There, were some of their few supporters in recent days. Tonks, now a Captain in the Aurors, her mother Andromeda, her son Teddy, and Luna. "Well, hello you four!" She greeted smiling as she paced over.

"Wotcher, Hermione." Tonks greeted happily, brushing a bit of pink hair out of her face. It was good to see Tonks doing so much better these days. She'd been gutted by the loss of Remus during the battle at Hogwarts. But her mother, and more importantly her son had eventually brought her around. She'd even started to revert a bit to her old self, the happy, easy going and irreverent girl who she'd been before Tonks had married Lupin.

That had been a 'complicated' marriage, and she suspected that Tonks had curtailed some of her eccentricities in order to minimize the differences between herself and her spouse. Now he was gone…well Tonks had come out to play again.

Andromeda had relied on Tonks as much as Tonks had relied on her. After all she'd lost her husband during the war too. Though she had borne it a bit better than her daughter had.

Then of course there was Luna, who, looked both very happy, and very pregnant. Her husband Neville was soon going to be a proud father of twins, though they didn't know the gender yet. Luna would be hard pressed to find a better man for the job, Hermione thought, Neville was a good man. Luna leaned forward and pecked her on the cheek. "Hello Hermione, it's lovely to see you today. Neville wished he could be here, but his classes are keeping him busy. Minerva also sends her apologies." Blithely ignoring the flinch the others experienced at her casual use of Professor Mcgonagall's first name.

"That's okay Luna, I understand, please give them both my regards would you?" She requested getting a happy nod in return. She was pleased Luna was otherwise here by herself in a way. Luna still doted on her father, and loved him dearly, but she no longer worked with the man on the Quibbler. She simply couldn't bring herself to do so after learning what her father had done in his efforts to protect her during the war.

Hermione also suspected that Xeno had been denied access at the door on principal by the Unspeakables. He'd undoubtedly have gotten into a great deal of trouble in the department before they managed to evict him. They might have even needed to call in pest control…

"How are you all managing?" She asked, leaving those observations unvoiced.

"Well enough on my front." Tonks offered. "The tyke here keeps me busy even when work doesn't, thank Merlin for mum."

"And I'm doing well too dear, Teddy and Dora keep me from wallowing. We're very happy to be here to see you off." Andromeda offered.

" And I feel like a whale," Luna stated bluntly, patting her belly grimly. "But in a good way I think. Although I don't think whales have to go pee as often as I do…" She muttered darkly.

"I'm tired!" Teddy declared loudly, and his mother and grandmother rolled their eyes.

"Well, who knows with whales right Luna? I think you look wonderful. Tonks, Andy, look after yourselves, we'll try to say bye before we head out. You behave yourself Teddy." She instructed mock sternly to the yawning toddler. "See you later."

She turned to walk away and almost bumped head long into the Minister for Magic himself. Kingsley was smiling benignly, most likely enjoying her light banter with her friends. "Oh, sorry Minister." She apologized hurriedly.

The dark skinned man chuckled shaking his head. "I've told you Hermione, you can call me Kingsley. If anybody has earned it it's you lot. How are you managing?"

She smiled ruefully at his customary reminder to be less formal with him. Before returning her attention to his question. "I'm well, a little nervous I suppose. How have things been on your end, any troubles?"

He barked a quick laugh before schooling himself a little, when the reporters along the edge of the room perked up. "Plenty, but that is to be expected. The Prophet is doing its usual thing, causing trouble as only they know how to. The general public is upset their hero is doing something dangerous…or more accurately, is doing so in a way that will take him beyond their reach and powers of observation." He noted dryly. "I even had Molly Weasley try to personally browbeat me into cancelling the expedition." He paused looking thoughtful, "Actually I think of all the things that have happened that one did the most to ensure I went ahead with everything despite all the other troubles. I had to have her escorted out by Aurors."

He paused musing. "Lots of trouble that clan. Though in different ways generally. I heard a couple of my Aurors had trouble earlier this morning when Ginny tried to force her way into the department without an invite…"

Hermione gave him an apologetic look. "I'm sorry for all the fuss. If I'd known—"

He just waved that off. "Officially speaking this whole venture is a good chance to push the boundaries of magic, and so on and so forth. Personally however I find it all very exciting, and a good bit of fun too. I've gotten to tweak more noses with this mess than I have at any other time in my tenure in office." He noted winking.

She smiled and shook her head laughing. "I'm glad it's not all negative then Kingsley. Now I'd better head over to Harry and get some work done, or we'll be here all day." She pointed out cheerfully. He made his goodbyes as well, and she turned to begin heading over to her fellow explorer.

Harry was sorting some supplies between duffles as she approached. He'd even labeled them, the one he was extracting cans of food from was labeled UNSORTED in big block letters, while the one they were going into was labeled CANNED GOODS.

Juno was watching him idly surprisingly uninhibited by a cage or carrier of any kind. "You know the Ministry generally frowns on familiars being unconfined within the building." She stated dryly. Not really complaining, just noting the discrepancy more than anything.

He looked up startled by her apparently sudden arrival, before frowning as her words penetrated. "Oh, uh…nobody said anything?" He offered lamely, and Juno gave her a reproachful look.

She sighed then set down Crookshanks' carrier, and opened the door, the cat stalked out eyeing the room about him darkly before padding over to pointedly sit himself down beside the dog. He'd once tried to assert his dominance with the collie, by sitting himself on her head. A mistake when interacting with a free spirited female collie as most owners will tell you. She had simply tilted her head and dumped him off the side of the couch rather pointedly before woofing at him once and going back to sleep. Surprisingly he'd taken the message to heart and contented himself with being in her vicinity.

Juno noted Hermione's arrival then by simply chuffing and wagging her tail before returning to her silent sentinel gig.

She set down her duffle next to his pile, unzipping it and pulling out the two duffles she'd stowed inside the magically enlarged sack. Finally she pulled out the packed wizarding tent the department had provided her with and set it on the floor.

Harry nodded to her in thanks before getting to his feet and greeting her properly with a hug before backing off. "Anything we're waiting on or should we just get everything sorted into the tent and go from there?"

Hermione shrugged philosophically. "There was no set time for departure, and I'd be perfectly happy with getting this dog and pony show out of the way so we can focus on more important matters. I finally figured out how to make a temporary patch for the damaged sections of The Arch's rune arrays. It should make our trip a bit smoother."

Harry bobbed his head once in thought then gestured idly with his wand causing the Tent to slide from its sack and begin pitching itself on the ground next to them. "I'll just run this lot in shall I? You want to hold the vultures at bay?" He suggested.

She nodded, she had no greater love for the press than he did, but would not generate anywhere near the furor should she approach them. If Harry were to handle the questions, they'd be there all day. Or at least until the Minister took mercy on them and ordered the Aurors to intervene.

She patted him gently on the shoulder before pacing off again, this time towards the slowly gathering press representatives. "Alright, I suppose we're good to go. I'll answer a few questions before we go. Five's the limit, pick them well!" She announced sharply to the reporters as they gathered 'round.

"But where's Harry Potter?" One asked immediately staring around her hopefully.

"Is that one of your questions?" She asked sweetly and one of the other reporters elbowed him pointedly in the side, indicating he should shut his yap.

The first reporter to speak was one of the assistants from the Prophet, he looked somewhat shell shocked to find himself actually asking questions instead of Rita. "Er—Yes, Miss Granger, could you tell us what led to this expedition exactly?"

She briefly recounted her discovery whilst studying the rune arrays for the Arch and platform before rounding it off by fobbing any further interest along those lines to someone else. "I've fully documented my work and findings, copies should be available from the Department heads upon request. In addition I've had requests for copies from a number of sources such as Bathsheda Babbling of Hogwarts. Next Question?"

The follow up questions were mostly drivel. Where are you going? What do you expect to find there? What do you say to those who think you're insane? Are you and Harry a couple now? She had rolled her eyes at that, and gave a curt "Next question?"

The final question was somewhat easier. "Do you have an estimated time of return?"

She shook her head. "We are aware of what is required in order to return, however we do not know how long it will take to achieve that objective, or to successfully document all we wish to document. Hopefully we will be able to return fairly soon. However it may take longer…" She looked around at the dissatisfied faces around her and decided to call it a day. "Well that's all the time we have for questions. If you'll excuse me I have work to do. Good day."

She turned on her heel and marched back to the tent where Harry was just exiting one last time. He'd clearly taken the familiars inside and was now in the process of zipping the flap. "How'd it go?" He asked looking up as she approached.

"Fine, or well—as well as could be expected with that lot." She hedged.

He nodded understanding. "You ready to go then?" This time it was she who nodded. "Then let's go say goodbye to our friends and get this party started."

Hermione frowned as she drew the last rune patch onto the arch with magnetic chalk and infused it with magical energy. That should do it, she reflected. Each time she'd added her runes to the damaged Arch, the so called "Veil" had smoothed somewhat and darkened. Now it was nearly entirely calm, the ripples and fabric like flows all but gone now. An almost mirror smooth black surface across the gap within the Archway.

They'd said farewell to their friends, those who had been able to come that day, and had set to work on their final preparations. She put away her chalk within its case and dropped the lot into her purse. Turning back to Harry, only to sigh when she saw what was behind her.

Harry was there too, but so was the press, who had shuffled forward almost to the base of the platform despite the Auror's attempts to curtail them. Kingsley was stepping tentatively up beside Harry, clearly somewhat unnerved in the presence of the portal. "The Press would like a quick word from you two before you depart. Any thoughts?"

For a moment Hermione was tempted to take that request literally just to spite the lot of them. Something along the lines of "Velocity"…Or to rant at them about how they had treated her and Harry so poorly. But she decided to take a somewhat different tact instead when she glanced at Harry for advice and saw him roll his eyes in amusement.

His expression seemed to say. Forget them, let's have fun with this!

So she strode forward, striking a smart pose in front of the gathered reporters, smiling at them brightly. "This Veil represents a new frontier! Our mission: To explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no one has gone before!" She said pompously, before nodding in satisfaction, and spinning once again on her heel, ignoring the slack jawed confusion coming from the press and marching back to Harry, who was clearly struggling just as hard as she, to contain his mirth.

"Well, that'll amuse the other muggleborns out there, that's for sure." he murmured in an aside to her before turning to face the Minister. "We all good to go Kingsley?" He asked easily.

The dark skinned pureblood was, in all honesty, just as confused as the reporters. But he knew these two well enough to recognize a prank when he saw one, and was smiling. "No, I think we're all sorted here. Good luck you two. Hope to see you again soon." He offered, extending his hand to shake. They did so, and he stepped off the platform back onto the chamber floor as the Aurors pushed the press back to accommodate him.

"So, you ready to go?" Harry asked Hermione, who had begun to shift nervously from foot to foot in anticipation. She nodded stiffly, trying to look more certain than she felt. Looking at her work, and going over it with her bosses had instilled confidence within her. But, now that she stood here, in front of the eerie Archway she felt less certain. She wondered if all explorers felt thus?

He must have seen through her tough facade, because he clapped his hand on her shoulder reassuringly. "Hey, I trust you. I believe in you. You did it all right, we're going to be fine." He murmured, smiling. She softened somewhat at his words and smiled thinly back.

He offered his hand to her, "Come here, we'll go through together." he prompted and she took it and it's offer of support gratefully. "Now, most amazing last words for an expedition ever aside, I think we need to borrow a leaf out of someone else book as we step through, you up for that?"

She nodded, then cocked her head at him in question, curious what he'd come up with. "In the immortal words of Neil Armstrong…"

She smiled as they squared up on the portal, hand in hand. Tapping her finger on the back of the hand which held her own, a timer so they'd say it together. When it reached three, they spoke. "One small step for man…" They intoned together.

"And one giant leap for mankind." She murmured alone, smiling at him, as they rocked forward together to step into the darkness, and were swallowed up.