Disclaimer: Harry Potter is owned by J.K. Rowling.

Chapter 3:

A Whacking Stick?

It was final, her boyfriend was a dolt. Neville and Luna had found a nice straight branch for her to play with, and with madam Pomfrey's permission, Hermione had sat in her bed, carving runes and enchanting the thing. Most importantly it was supposed to be white and uniformly straight, or at least that was the colour most blind people she had seen used. She hadn't let Harry touch it before she was done. The reasoning she gave him was because she was carving runes, and until they were ready, touching them could ruin the magic. The actual reason was because she didn't want him swinging the thing around just yet.

Once she had enchanted it to be unbreakable and impervious to damage by water or fire, she came up with a rather ingenious plan. It took a while to get the runes right but when she was done, the cane was essentially telescopic. If you held it by the handle and sent a flicker of magic in to it, the remainder of the cane would shrink in a way that looked like it was going in to itself. The process was equally reversed. And she just hoped he wouldn't find idiotic ways to abuse his new power.

She needn't have worried, for the moment Neville and Luna entered the wing, Harry stepped out in to their path declaring, "You shalt not harm the injured princess! Fear my whacking stick and tremble!"

And he pulled the cane from his pocket while it extended, as if he was drawing a sword. Then with his new weapon he struck a pitiful attempt at a warrior's pose.

The pain and sound of a smack processed in her brain before she even realized she had relocated her palm to the apparently more appropriate location of her forehead.

"Boys."

At least he hadn't taken anyone's eye out or anything. Yet.

Thankfully while they were laughing they were distracted enough that Harry didn't notice madam Pomfrey come up behind him. She took his new cane away and lightly rapped him on the head with it before handing it over to Hermione.

"No whacking sticks in the hospital wing."

God Hermione loved that woman. She understood the horror of boys. She couldn't understand why no one else appreciated madam Pomfrey for the wonder she was.

**GITLOH**

Harry was glad to be able to spend the remainder of term in the hospital wing. Not only for the time to relearn his most basic skills, but for the freedom from the stares. After the ministry, and of course the subsequent article that had been written about the entire incident, his fame was even more pronounced because of course not only was he Harry Potter; he was also now apparently the ringleader of the newly dubbed Death Munchers. Apparently that was funny and apparently he and his five comrades in arms were supposed to take down the dark lord all on their own. Idiots.

Needless to say, a short stint in the domain of disgustingly downed draughts was welcome in this instance. But before long the calm was over and it was time to return to the real world with his whacking stick along for the ride.

The train ride home wouldn't have been the same without a visit from Draco Malfoy. It did feel strange though for Ron not to be there, but hopefully he would recover soon and write. Harry, Hermione, Luna and Neville had a compartment that was being routinely assaulted by people wanting to see the amazingly blind Harry Potter, because naturally news spread like the plague. Besides, even if someone hadn't told everyone, it was rather hard to miss Harry walking arm in arm with Hermione while holding a white stick. Yeah, loads of their classmates were thick, but not that thick. The young Malfoy of course thought it an opportune time to be more confrontational than usual since his primary target seemed weaker than ever.

"Well well well, look what we have here. You know scar head, it is well known amongst the civilized families that if you spend all your days staring at a mud-blood, you could go blind. At least now we have actual proof."

Harry, already strained from everyone focusing so much attention on him wasn't having any of it. Knowing there was no way he could aim properly he instead used a different tactic. His wand came out in a flash, a cry of "Protego!" and a shield charm burst to life before him. The only difference was that he was leaping through the air at Malfoy as he did so.

This new and admittedly rather childish determination to harm his foe created a battering ram out of a charm which had initially been intended to be a stationary defense. Had it merely been a wall of magic, it would have hit Draco, Crabbe and Coyle with the same force as Harry moved forward. As it were, the charm was designed to repel what it came in contact with. Therefore when Harry jumped forward and the shield held out before him struck the three Slytherins, it not only hit them hard, but determined that they were objects that had to move far away from the caster.

Harry, still falling was pushed backward, landing on his feet. His unprepared opponents received the full force of the charm however, along with Harry's initial momentum, which, deservedly hurled them in to the closed door of the compartment across the aisle. Or at least that was what he figured happened since he heard three heavy thuds and then their own door being slammed shut while Hermione muttered a locking spell.

"Bloody hell mate," Neville breathed, "Pretty sure I haven't heard of anyone corrupting the use of the shield charm in to a battering ram before."

"Yeah well," Harry said as he fumbled for his seat, "They should've, and it was all I could think of really since I figured I wouldn't be able to hit them with anything else reliably."

A warm and soft hand Harry was now well familiar with cupped his cheek and turned him to the side. "You, sir, are becoming rather naughty, wouldn't you say?"

For some reason, words were failing him and Harry couldn't breathe through the wave of sexual energy that was flooding through him at the moment. Hermione should never be allowed to talk like that, ever.

Unless it was in private.

Yes, she absolutely should talk like that only in private.

Her lips found his and fire bloomed inside him. When she took her lips away he was left trembling and breathing hard. "I suppose I will accept it as cute for now until we determine how to tame you again. But," those fingers trailed down his cheek, "Thank you regardless for saving me from the evil Malfoy child."

There should be a law against treating a boyfriend like this in public. Could he please just bed her right now?

Neville cleared his throat across the room, "Anyway, good show Harry. Maybe this will be a great opportunity to see how you reinvent spells for new purposes."

"Ooh, you should spend more time with the twins Harry, maybe their tendencies are rubbing off on you."

"Yeah, that's exactly what I need," he managed, "to be more like Fred and George."

"I like him just as he is thank you very much." Hermione said, kissing him before returning to her book.

Harry scooted closer to her and leaned his head back, closing his eyes. As if it mattered anymore. It was odd in a way how things seemed to happen to him. He had been freed of some curse that Voldemort had placed on him, and regained some of his magic apparently. Before the incident his spells had been much more effective and natural. But now, casting with a wand would be difficult. He couldn't aim, he couldn't dodge. Harry couldn't even play quidditch now. That wasn't really as much of a shock considering Umbridge's ban on flying for him, for life, but it still stung. Harry would never be able to soar through the skies again, never catch another snitch, never dodge another bludger. He would never see the beauty of the castle or the enchanted ceiling.

But he had discovered his love for Hermione, his freedom from the connection with Voldemort, and his ease with academics. Harry would never match Hermione, but at least it wasn't like trying to pull a boot out of the mud.

Had those gains been worth it? Yeah probably, it just felt like it was more difficult to figure out than that. The fear at having to confront Voldemort was balanced by the love Hermione shared with him. His worry about her getting hurt in the conflict was tempered by her determination to stick by him.

Yes, Harry had joked around at first, but at night, the day she had made his cane for him, he had cried and clung to her for dear life. Hermione had both given him a tool of freedom, and terrifyingly given him the tool that would bring him forth in to the newly terrifying world around him. She was his savior and his pain. And Harry loved her like never before.

But now he had to survive her parents. Bloody hell. Out of the frying pan and in to the fire indeed. Now he really understood what that expression meant.

There was plenty to worry about and consider, but thankfully he had the summer to do it. A summer with Hermione. Probably the first one in his life he had not truly dreaded.

With that thought in mind and her hand in his, Harry drifted off, relaxing in to a dreamless doze until he felt the train beginning to slow beneath him. Now it was time to step out of the Hogwarts bubble. Out in to the world. With Hermione and his whacking stick by his side.

Saying their farewells to Neville and Luna, Harry and Hermione made their way off the train, Harry towing his trunk while holding on to Hermione's elbow with the other hand, his cane tucked in his armpit. If anything he was getting used to having to manage multiple objects at once. She hurried them through the crowd but halted before the barrier saying, "Hullo Professor Moody."

"Not yer professor anymore girlie, you can call me Alastor. Potter, good ta see ye've joined the club. All the best aurors have lost some amount of vision or other."

Harry couldn't help himself, "Is that mostly yourself sir? I mean, considering you're the best and have lost an entire eye?"

The man laughed. "Ha! Yer alright Potter. Anyway, I'm here ta tell yeh that I'll be one o' the people guardin' yeh while yer at the Grangers' house. We've already installed wards, but we just want ta be sure."

"Well, thanks I guess. As long as Mr. Fletcher isn't a guard, especially after what happened with the dementors."

"Aye. No need to worry, he's no guard of ours anymore. Ye'll be safe with the rest o' us. Ye all set from here lassie?"

Hermione giggled. "Yes sir, thank you."

Moving on they passed in to Muggle London and she began leading him over to the side. "My parents are over here. I've sent them a letter explaining and they were happy to have you. I hope you're not too worried, they're going to love you Harry."

"Not at all love, As long as you are around I'll be fine."

Another squeeze of the hand. "They'll love you Harry. Not as much as I do of course. Hi Mum, hi Daddy."

She let him go for a minute to hug her parents then took his hand again, pulling him forward. Harry extended his other and clasped hands with someone who seemed to be reaching down to do so. "Nice to meet you Harry, Simon Granger."

"Its nice to meet you too sir, and thank you both for letting me visit for the summer. Really it means loads."

"No worries at all dear. I'm Ruth, but you can call me mum."

He was enveloped by a full hug he was only used to getting from Hermione and a blush stole over his face at the words.

"Muuuum."

"What dear? He's already stolen your hand, how long before we lose the rest of you?"

Harry's eyes widened. "Uh, ma'am, we haven't uh, that is to say…"

Simon laughed and patted Harry's shoulder. "No worries lad, she likes to make people uncomfortable for some reason. Might have something to do with most of her patients being entirely helpless while in the dentist's chair."

"That's torture sweetie, not humor."

"Yes, I'm sure they care loads about the difference darling."

Harry relaxed and laughed along with the rest of them. Maybe they wouldn't kill him this summer for dating their daughter. And they seemed rather likable. After a few more pleasantries, they began to walk out of the station. Simon and Ruth took the laden carts from the teens which allowed Harry to walk arm in arm with Hermione. God how was he supposed to survive any amount of time without being in contact with her? They talked while they stood on the sidewalk near the car while her parents loaded their trunks and pets, but just as they prepared to get in the car, the one voice he had hoped not to hear came rolling over the crowd.

"Oy, Potter! Where do you think you're going. Leave those people alone."

He and Hermione turned to face his uncle Vernon as he pushed through passers-by. Once he was closer, his voice lowered by got no more pleasant. "You don't need to put your freakishness on these people. What do you think you're doing?" Then as Simon and Ruth came from the boot he continued in a much more pleasant tone, "Ah, I'm sorry about this. The boy forgets where he should be once and a while. I hope he hasn't caused any trouble."

His meaty hand gripped Harry's shoulder painfully and Harry couldn't hide the wince.

"Come with me boy, these people have much better business to attend to I'm sure."

"Actually," Hermione snapped, "He is supposed to be with us, and his name is Harry. But I'm sure you must be his uncle Vernon."

He couldn't see his uncle but Harry felt the hand on his shoulder tighten. "Whatever he has told you I'm sure it was a lovely story. Come boy."

"Harry," Hermione almost yelled, "Is coming with us for the summer. Sorry the headmaster didn't tell you, but we thought you'd be glad for a break from tormenting him."

"How dare you!"

"You have no need to yell at my daughter sir." Simon came up beside Harry speaking rather calmly Harry thought given the situation. "And it is true, Harry is spending the summer with us. I do not see why you feel the need to be hurting him right now however. My name is Simon Granger, and you are?"

"Vernon Dursley. Fine, if you want him, he's yours. Good luck with the freak."

And with a jab at the pained shoulder, his uncle released him and stomped off, muttering about freaks and their ilk.

"Well," Harry said, "That was my uncle. I don't think he likes me much do you?" He chuckled, meaning it as a joke but none of the others joined him. Instead, Hermione folded him in to a hug, trembling. "You alright love?"

She was clinging tightly to him and he could hear the beginnings of tears. "Hermione, why don't we grab a seat in the car and we can talk about it alright?"

They seated themselves and immediately Hermione ignored her own spot for his lap, arms wrapped about his neck and forehead pressed to the top of his head as she cried.

"You've said they're awful, but it's just so, so wrong. How can they treat you like that?"

"Its okay love, they just don't care about me that's all."

Ruth started up the car and they began to drive. "Harry, would you mind explaining a bit. What ever you are comfortable with."

"Yeah, I don't know. They just never loved me really. Aunt Petunia is my mum's sister and so that's why I was placed with them in the first place. They never wanted me and they hate magic."

"if they treat you like that, what were your living conditions like?"

"Well, I slept in a cupboard under the stairs until I got my Hogwarts letter, then they gave me my cousin's second bedroom since they thought people knew. It had loads of his old broken toys in it."

No one said anything, but he felt the car pulling over and Ruth turned the key. A hand took one of his that was wrapped around Hermione's back and he thought it must be her mother. Ruth squeezed the hand she held and spoke slowly and very seriously. He thought it rather sad that the joviality that had existed only ten minutes before was gone.

"You, no one, should ever be treated like that. Ever. You did not deserve that Harry."

"Thank you ma'am, but I kind of figured that out recently."

"Did, did they ever hurt you?"

He took his time to answer that one, Hermione still refusing to sit properly in the car, be he was okay with that. Could he ever really complain about having her on his lap?

"I suppose. I mean, belts and things. They didn't always let me eat and once or twice I had to stay home from school because they didn't want anyone knowing how badly I was hurt."

Ruth's hand was shaking as it held his and Hermione was faring no better. "We can talk more about this later if you are comfortable with that, but for now Harry, know that you will be safe with us, and we will do everything we can to make you at home. Hermione has told us much about you, so we feel we already know you rather well. Please, please don't ever worry about asking for something with us alright?"

He had to swallow before answering. "Y, yes, thank you ma'am."

"Simon you alright sweetie?" Ruth asked, taking back her hand.

Hermione's father hadn't made a sound once they had started talking about the Dursleys and when he did speak Harry could hear the calm fury inside him.

"No dear, I'm not alright but we can do nothing right now. I am just glad that Harry is safe with us now."

"Me too love. Hermione, dear, I'm sorry but you're going to have to sit in your own spot since we're heading on to the main road."

Sniffling and with lingering kisses, Hermione slid from his lap and buckled in to the seat beside him, still holding Harry tightly.

"I'm not letting him talk to you like that ever again, you hear me?"

He smiled and kissed her. It was sweet, but Harry didn't see much point in fighting back against his uncle, or aunt for that matter. They weren't likely to change how they felt about him in any way whatsoever. Why bother?

He knew now that he didn't deserve it, which was an improvement from the year before, but pushing back was another step entirely that Harry didn't feel he had reached yet. It was enough that he had found people who wouldn't let him get stepped on. That would have to do for now.

**GITLOH**

They pulled in to the drive and Hermione determined right then and there that her home was going to be Harry's sanctuary, his safe harbor, whatever she had to do. No matter what. She guided him out of the car and up the short walk to the front door, making sure to tell him that there were three steps up before the door. They entered in to an entryway that opened on to the sitting room, the kitchen and dining room off to the left, the stairs up to the second floor to the right. Hand in hand, his other trailing the wall, Hermione showed Harry the house, using words to describe all she could, sharing memories and stories, sharing her life with him. They passed briefly through the kitchen itself but left quickly so her parents could make dinner. Upstairs she took him through the hall, and in to the guest room with the accompanying washroom, then orienting him to where the toilet was, further down the hall.

Finally, and with a blush upon her cheeks, and his, Hermione showed the boy she loved her bedroom. His hands, so recently used to being gentle with everything, passed along her wall and over her bureau, her closet, and around the perimeter of her bed with such tenderness that it all might as well have been her. She loved him, so much. She loved how he only touched her with a reverent caress that while she felt undeserving of it, it displayed well his depth of feeling for her. He cared about her. He cared about her home. He cared about her space, her past, her history. And all the while they talked, a smile on his face as he learned stories she had never shared before, a tapestry of words and memories that Hermione had never dared to unravel for anyone else.

She loved him.

While they waited for dinner, Hermione helped Harry unpack his things in the guest room, the anger she had felt before resurfacing when she saw how little he actually owned, and how pitiful the things he did have were.

"Tell me you will go shopping with mum and I soon?"

He grinned. "yes dear."

Her parents were downstairs but she figured they might be able to hear the giggles and shrieks that came from the tickle war she initiated for his cheek. But adorable cheek it was. And when she was out of breath with Harry on top of her, the comforting embrace of the bed beneath her, Hermione knew this summer was going to be a game of resistance and frustration. If the wetness between her legs was anything to speak of, then yes, it was going to be a very frustrating summer. And if the bulge against her thigh was anything to speak of, well, at least she wasn't alone in her frustration.

Why wasn't there some kind of marriage law they could invoke so she could just get in bed with him already?

When the call for dinner came up the stairs, they took a moment to compose themselves before making their way to the table, following the smell of lasagna and asparagus. They were home.

Dinner conversation was light that evening, something Hermione was glad for. Why talk about all of the serious matters right away? She had grown up under the philosophy of not rushing the important discussions. Make it work as soon as possible, but do not force it. Important topics always came up and always would. They didn't need fanfare. Instead they talked about basic plans for the summer, Homework, the upcoming shopping trip for Harry, studying, a visit or twelve to the beach, more studying, and preemptive swimming lessons for him in their pool; the last of which Hermione was rather excited for if she did say so herself. Harry on the other hand only grimaced and blushed. Good, boys should be terrified of women in bikinis, that was the natural order of things.

In an attempt to be as objective as possible, Hermione tried to detach her emotions from the scene, just to see how everything fit. Even doing so, it all felt right. Harry's sense of humor and banter fit right in with her parents and they seemed to really enjoy talking with him. His nervousness had disappeared and the only thing about dinner that frustrated him was the damn asparagus; which as Hermione attempted for herself, was rather a pain in the neck to cut when you couldn't see it. So they all made a joke of it and experimented with various strategies, making Harry the guinea pig to test each hypothesis. As hoped, his frustration evaporated and Hermione relaxed, glad that not only did her parents like Harry, but her love seemed comfortable with her parents. What more could she ask for?

After supper Harry admitted to being rather drained, so Hermione brought him upstairs and settled him in to bed. As he curled up beneath the sheets he thanked her for the welcome and said how wonderful her parents were. Hermione knelt by the bedside kissing him and not wanting to let go of his hands. In one sense they would be so close, only a room apart, and in her home no less. But in others, they had slept together for the last days of term, so sleeping separately would be a change. How was she supposed to handle the world of dreams without him by her side? But she kept her tears silent as he drifted off, fingers going slack and his face softening. God, Merlin, whoever, he was so handsome and precious. She rubbed her forehead to his, allowing a single tear to land on the pillow by his nose and then forced herself to stand, letting his hand rest on the bed beside him. Why did leaving him have to be so hard? Hermione closed the door softly behind her and returned to the sitting room where she found her parents sitting and talking quietly together over a last cup of tea before bed. They looked up when she stood in the opening at the bottom of the steps, quiet tears, both happy and sad still slowly trickling down her cheeks.

"I love him."

No words greeted her proclamation. Her daddy stood, setting down his cup and walked over to her, folding her in to his arms saying, "Its about time someone did. I'm glad its you pumpkin."

Why did everything have to make her cry recently?

**GITLOH**

*Chapter Updated: 3rd December, 2018

Elise