Author's Notes: Well, The Rotten Writer has returned. Again, it's been a while and I apologize once more but here we have a new chapter of A Fair Life. A little shorter than I'd usually prefer but it's really a bit more filler chapter to get us moving onto new parts and new ideas. So I hope everyone enjoys, yes I am still working on all of my other stories as well, just this was the first one where I reached a point that I felt I could call it a full chapter and upload.
Disclaimer: I still don't own jack.
Please enjoy Chapter Sixteen of A Fair Life
A Fair Life
A Meeting of Draconic and Lunar Minds
"Are you sure this is a good idea?"
Hermione allowed herself a small, exasperated sigh, and stopped walking before she turned to her girlfriend, the smaller girl giving her a worried look.
"Harleen, I promise you, this is the best option for us." She looked about, making sure they were alone before she stepped closer to Harleen and took the girl's hands in her own, holding them both gently. "I know how much you hate being in the papers and having everyone poking their noses into your life. Trust me, I'm not thrilled about the prospect either, but I knew what I was getting into when I agreed to go out with you. You are a public figure, Rita was right about that much, and people will always want to know what's going on with you. You said that much yourself. The best thing to do is get out ahead of any rumors or stories that might come out."
"By giving an interview?" Harleen appeared skeptical.
"You already made sure that Rita won't put her usual spin on things," Hermione pointed out. "She will only write the facts, but we can't be sure that some other reporter would do the same. Better the devil we know, right?"
Harleen sighed but gave a small nod and Hermione offered her a smile.
"It won't be easy," she admitted, "but Sirius will be there."
"Shouldn't we have asked Augusta to come as well? She is my guardian now."
Hermione shook her head and gently pulled her girlfriend along as they continued their interrupted walk toward Hogsmeade.
"Honestly, I'd say yes and no to that one. Yes, it might be a good idea to have her there as your guardian, but Sirius already got permission from her and from my parents as well. The 'no' is in regard to the issue that neither my parents nor Augusta know about 'us' and during an interview with a reporter is not really how I think either of us would like for them to find out. Don't you agree?"
Harleen's face twisted into a grimace at that and she nodded rapidly.
"Yeah, that's probably not a good idea," she quickly agreed.
"It'll be fine, love, I promise," Hermione murmured, giving Harleen's hand a quick squeeze before she reluctantly let go, just as they came within sight of the village.
The two girls walked in silence, both lost in their thoughts and walking a little closer together than they probably should have, neither wanting to put any further distance between them as the last two days had been slightly trying and they both drew some measure of comfort from the other's proximity.
"We should tell them," Harleen said quietly as they reached the edge of the village.
"My parents and..."
Harleen nodded. "Yes."
"We should," Hermione agreed, after giving the idea a moment's thought.
"Before the paper announces it, definitely."
"How... write a letter? You said before that you didn't want to tell your parents in a letter. Can we afford to wait until the Christmas Hols?"
"This would be better in person. Perhaps your godfather can arrange it?" Hermione asked, glancing at the girl beside her.
Harleen shrugged. "All we can do is ask him."
Silently, Hermione thanked everything she could think of for the godsend that was Sirius Black. He'd been of significant help in speaking to Rita and getting the woman to wait until this weekend for the promised discussion. Of course, being able to tell the woman that she would get an interview instead of just a chance to try to talk Harleen around on her stance regarding the press went a long way to soothing any ruffled feathers over not meeting the day after the first task, as Hermione had originally suggested. In her defense, she could only cite extreme worry for forgetting that they wouldn't really be able to speak to the woman when she'd said they would due to school obligations. It had still been the middle of the week and they'd had classes to attend and absolutely no desire to hold that discussion inside the castle.
Sirius had spoken to Hermione's parents and Augusta as well as Rita, and today, after the meeting with the reporter, they intended to set the old dog on the hunt for the locket. With any luck at all, he would be able to supply that when they sat down to talk with the interested parties that they needed to speak to, probably within the next week.
She found herself fervently hoping that he'd be able to get them a meeting with her parents before they were set to head home after the Yule Ball that Professor McGonagall had announced just the day before.
Hermione's thoughts ground to a halt at the thought of the Ball that would be happening this year. The thing that caught her attention was an issue with her plan for how to attempt to control how their story got out in the media.
Crap, she thought. Reaching out, she took hold of Harleen's hand, ignoring the startled noise the girl made as she took a sharp left, dragging her girlfriend along with her until they were out of sight around the corner of some random building.
"Hermione? What is it?" Harleen asked, confusion etched all over her face and laced through her voice. Her body was tense, eyes darting about as if searching for some sign of danger even as her wand slid into her hand and she took a steady grip on it.
Giving herself a mental slap for startling her girlfriend, Hermione placed one hand on Harleen's, causing the other girl to loosen the tight grip she had on her wand and turn her attention away from their surroundings and back to Hermione.
"Sorry," she muttered. "I didn't mean to worry you, just a thought occurred to me that I realized we needed to address before we go in there."
Slowly, Harleen nodded, giving Hermione her undivided attention.
Licking her lips in a sudden fit of nervousness, Hermione pushed forward. "I was wondering if you would be my date for the Yule Ball," she rushed out before she could second guess herself.
The shocked look on Harleen's face was worth every moment of anxiousness in Hermione's opinion.
"Wh- bu- but what about keeping us quiet? You remember what I told you about fourth year? Howlers and hate mail and all that rot?"
Hermione shook her head.
"It's all going to come out in this interview anyway, so why should we deny ourselves going to the Ball together? I don't want to go with anyone but you, and since hiding it will be pointless after that we shouldn't worry about it."
"I hadn't planned on saying anything about us in this interview at all," Harleen said with a scowl. "It's none of their business."
"Maybe not. But Skeeter is right that it's a fact that she did catch us kissing in public. She has every right to report what she saw and as she said, you can't blackmail every other reporter out there. If she doesn't write about it someone else eventually will and they might not be as much on our side as you've managed to get Rita."
Harleen looked worried, but Hermione could still see that the girl was very tempted, her lips pursed and her brow furrowed in thought for several long moments.
"Are you sure?" she finally asked in a soft voice. "I mean… I realize that I'm not going to be immune to any of the garbage people are going to fling our way, but you're going to be an even bigger target than I am. I don't want to put you through that if we can avoid it."
"But we can't avoid it," Hermione sighed. "Not forever. As much as I want to keep you all to myself, you and Rita are both right. You're a public figure and it's going to get out sooner or later. Probably sooner than later, if we're being completely honest." Hermione suddenly offered up a wry grin. "Neither of us really seem to be very good at acting like we're just friends in public and people are going to figure it out. That's when rumors start, and you know how most everyone in the wizarding world seems to believe rumors easier than almost anything else. It's better if we tell the story ourselves before anyone else can make up their own version of things.
"The only other option would be for us to go back to just being friends and end our relationship as a couple, and I don't know about you, but I'm not willing to do that just because people may not approve. Like you said, society doesn't get to decide who we love and whom we choose to spend our lives with. If people don't like it, that's their problem, not ours."
Harleen nodded her head slowly, thoughtfully, her gaze distant as she focused inward on her own thoughts, and Hermione did her level best not to fidget nervously while her girlfriend considered everything. Finally, Harleen's gaze focused back on her and a small, almost shy smile curled up one corner of her lips.
"If you're sure," she said softly. "Remember, the champions will have to open the Ball with a dance in front of everyone with their dates. That will put us center stage."
"I don't care."
Harleen nodded again, as if she had been expecting that response.
"Then I would absolutely love to be your date for the Ball, Hermione," she said. "I do have one question, though."
"What's that?" Hermione asked, wracking her brain for whatever issue Harleen seemed to have thought of that she apparently missed.
"Well, dancing has some fairly established rules between a man and a woman. Since we're both girls, who leads?"
For a moment Hermione could only gape as Harleen smirked impishly at her. Then she burst out into a brief fit of laughter.
"Since you're the champion, how about you lead for the opening dance?" she offered. "After that we can play it by ear."
Harleen grinned and tugged Hermione back toward the main street. "Sounds like a plan to me," she said. "Come on, let's get this over with. I want to see if I can talk Sirius into breaking some rules."
Hermione let herself be pulled along by the smaller girl even as she let out an indelicate snort. "Sirius Black? Marauder, scoundrel, general malcontent, not willing to break some rules? Are you sure we're thinking of the same Sirius? I don't think you'll have to try very hard to convince him."
After the interview, which Harleen reluctantly admitted was not nearly as painful as she'd expected it to be, the girls dragged Sirius aside and sat him down to talk.
"Okay, girls, what'd you need from me?" Sirius asked, looking back and forth between the two of them as they sat across from him at a small table in a dark corner of the Three Broomsticks, as far away from other patrons as they could get.
"Could you get permission for Hermione to leave school to go visit her parents?" Harleen asked without any preamble.
Sirius gave Hermione a questioning look.
"With that interview that we just gave I'd prefer to talk to them about the fact that Harleen and I are dating sooner rather than waiting to tell them the day before it appears in the paper." She turned a stern look in Harleen's direction. "Though we will both need to go, not just me."
"Wh-huh?" Harleen found herself stammering slightly in genuine surprise.
"You're a part of this discussion, Harleen," Hermione pointed out. "Were you honestly going to just duck out of meeting them? Leave me to have this discussion on my own without any support?"
At the hurt tone in her girlfriend's voice, Harleen's mouth dropped open even as her eyes widened dramatically in shock.
"No!" she blurted out. "No, I'd love to meet them, and I'm a little afraid to, to be honest, but I just…" She trailed off uncertainly. "I don't really know what to expect with parents. I mean… you're their family. They've raised you and loved you all this time. Me? I'm just the girl that's dating their daughter." Harleen shrugged her shoulders helplessly. "I don't know what's expected, if I had any part in this or if it was just a family thing or… I don't know." Reaching out she took hold of one of Hermione's hands.
"If you want me there as part of the conversation or to just sit quietly and be moral support I will. Happily. I just thought it wasn't exactly my place, if that makes any sense at all?"
"It does make some sense. And for the record, for now, to my parents, you're the girl that's dating their daughter, or you will be once we tell them. But to me you're my best friend, my girlfriend, and by far one of the most important people in my life. Having your support when I explain all of that to them would be really appreciated." Hermione paused for a moment before adding, "and besides, once they get to know you, I know my parents will absolutely love you. Then you won't just be 'the girl that's dating their daughter' anymore."
Harleen could feel herself flushing slightly in embarrassment even as a broad grin spread over her lips and she just restrained herself from pulling her girlfriend into a hug. Their conversation might have been kept private by Sirius' use of a muffliato, but they were still completely visible to anyone walking by their table.
Sirius chose that moment to speak up, drawing their attention away from each other and back to him as he quietly began musing, almost as if he was thinking out loud more than he was talking to them directly.
"It shouldn't be too hard, I don't think…" he muttered. "I'd just need them to sign a permission slip from the school allowing me to pull her from school for an afternoon. And even though Augusta is your guardian right now, I do still have some authority as your Godfather and can easily sign a slip for you myself," he added the last bit to Harleen directly. His brow furrowed for a moment in thought before suddenly smoothing out as a grin spread across his lips, dark eyes glinting with amusement.
"Give me ten minutes and I think I'll have something in place," he said, leaping to his feet and hurrying from the bar, leaving the two girls to give each other a bewildered look.
"I didn't even tell him about the rules I was hoping to talk him into breaking."
Hermione snorted out a laugh. "Pretty sure he's planning on breaking some rules on his own, Harleen," she said as she gently patted her girlfriend's arm. Leaning back in her seat, she lifted one arm to signal a nearby waitress. If Sirius was going to be a few minutes, then she decided that she wanted to enjoy a butterbeer while they waited.
Helen Granger hummed quietly to herself as she puttered her way around the kitchen of the home she shared with her husband and until four years ago, the daughter that she felt had been slipping away from them ever since. She paused in the act of putting together a light lunch and frowned at the various sandwich ingredients spread out on the counter. She had always been of mixed opinions when it came to sending their daughter to Hogwarts. On the one hand, learning that Hermione was a witch had explained so many things that they'd wondered about over the years.
The strange occurrences that sometimes happened around their brilliant little girl finally had an explanation to them and while it had been odd to think that magic was real, it was a part of Hermione, and they hadn't been afraid or weirded out by it. In fact, she and her husband had both found the whole concept fascinating, that there was an entire community so well hidden that the rest of the world hadn't a clue as to their existence. More so, in one way, sending Hermione to Hogwarts had been easy. Their daughter was a witch. It was a part of who she was and not letting her learn about that fundamental aspect of herself hadn't even been a question.
On the other hand, however, as the years went on they seemed to see their daughter slipping away from them, immersing herself more and more into a world they felt that they didn't fit into and where they couldn't follow her. They were just a couple of muggles. What did they know about transfiguration or charms?
Helen sighed in frustration and put the last few touches on their lunch, resolving to bring up the topic with her husband, again. Some small part of her worried that no matter what they tried, there was no way for two dentists from Crawley to stop their daughter from pulling further and further away from them. Putting the place settings, and condiments on their dining room table, Helen opened her mouth to call out to her husband to help her carry in the rest when she was interrupted by the sound of the doorbell ringing.
She frowned and wiped her hands on a dish rag as she tried to think if there was anyone they knew that would likely drop in on them without ringing ahead first.
She started moving toward the living room at the sound of Richard's voice. At least he doesn't sound upset, she thought.
"Helen, Sirius is here," Richard said, closing the door behind the tall wizard just as she came into the room.
Smiling broadly, Helen moved closer and enveloped the man in a tight hug.
"It's good to see you again, Sirius," she said as she released him.
"Good to see you both as well. I see now where your daughter gets her hugs from," he said with a smile that set Richard off chuckling quietly behind her.
Absently, she swung one hand back to swat at her husband. "I'm sorry," she said to Sirius, ignoring the chuckling that went on unabated despite her hand connecting with some part of her husband. "There was never a shortage of hugs in my parents' home as I was growing up. I can restrain myself if it bothers you, I know not everyone is the hugging type."
"Not at all!" Sirius said, grinning broadly. "There was a severe lack of hugs in the Black family home. I am way behind and I figure that between you, your daughter, and my goddaughter, I might just catch up in a decade or so."
Richard moved up to stand beside her and wrapped one arm around her shoulders. "What brings you by, Sirius?" he asked.
"Yes, did something happen? Today was the day that Hermione and her friend were supposed to talk to that reporter you mentioned, wasn't it? Though I'm still not sure what a reporter would find so interesting about a couple of teens," Helen added, frowning slightly by the time she finished.
"Everything is fine," Sirius assured them, though Helen thought she detected a hint of mischievousness in his eyes, "Well, no one is hurt or in trouble," he amended. "They actually wanted to talk to the two of you about that in person."
Holding up one finger, he rummaged around in his pocket for a moment with his free hand and came up with a scrap of parchment. "Here it is," he said, presenting it to Richard.
"What's this?" he asked, accepting the parchment and peering at it curiously.
"A permission slip," Sirius responded more for Helen's benefit, she thought, than Richard's. "One basically allowing me to collect your daughter from school and bring her here to talk to you and your husband in person."
"And you're sure nothing is wrong?" Helen asked even as Richard began searching his pockets for a pen.
"Not 'wrong', no. A number of things have happened at the school this year, though, and Hermione wanted to tell you in person rather than through a letter. Some of this will likely be in the paper the day after they come back for the holiday break, so Hermione also didn't want you to learn about it from that rather than from her."
"How long will it take you to get her and come back?" Richard asked, handing over the signed piece of parchment. The grin on Sirius' face as he glanced over the slip worried her for a moment, but before she could say anything Sirius tucked the parchment into his pocket and turned slightly away from the two Grangers.
"All right, girls," he said, "it's safe to come out now."
The air near the front door seemed to split apart, like a set of curtains opening, revealing two figures standing in their entryway. One, the shorter of the two, had black hair that was tied back in a loose ponytail and was in the process of bundling up a large piece of fabric when the second, instantly recognizable figure, darted toward them.
"Mum! Dad!" Hermione cried just before she crashed into both of her parents, one arm wrapping around each of them in a strong hug.
"Hermione?" Helen gasped out. "What is going on here? Oh, hang on, let me look at you."
Gently pushing her daughter back until she could hold her out at arm's length she took a moment to look the girl up and down, marveling at the small changes she could make out even after only a little less than three months away from them.
"More and more beautiful every time I see you," she murmured, pulling the girl close for a better hug.
"Mum, you say that every time," Hermione whined half-heartedly.
"And it's true every time," Richard added, smiling broadly at his family.
"What's all this about you needing to talk to us about something?" Helen asked, holding her daughter at arm's length again. "Oh! Wait, we're all just standing in the entryway, where did my manners go? Please, come in, we can sit in the dining room, we were just about to sit down for lunch, did the three of you want to join us? It wouldn't be much trouble to add on, we were just going to be making sandwiches."
The shorter, black haired girl suddenly started to snicker, one hand coming up to cover her mouth.
"And just what is so funny, Miss Potter?" Hermione asked, spinning around to face the other girl. Knowing her daughter, Helen was sure one brow was arched questioningly at her friend.
"I'm sorry," the girl, Potter, said. "It's just… I've only ever heard you rattle off something so fast before, switching through different topics like that, and all in one breath, too. I see now where you get it from."
Helen raised a brow of her own, sure that she and her daughter had identical haughty expressions on their faces as the girl broke down laughing again and even Sirius was snickering behind one hand.
Richard chuckling beside her had both Helen and Hermione rounding on him and he quickly held up both hands in a placating manner.
"I'm sorry, loves, but the girl has you both pegged," he said as he attempted to reign in his amusement. He turned back to the other girl and took a step toward her, holding out his hand.
"Richard Granger," he said. "Obviously, I'm Hermione's father. You must be her friend, Potter, correct?"
The girl smiled, bright green eyes twinkling behind her glasses as she accepted the offered hand in a firm shake.
"Harleen," she said. "Harleen Potter, but you're welcome to call me Harry if you like."
Helen greeted Harleen with a warm hug and found herself fighting off the urge to frown when the girl stiffened in her arms. She schooled her expression to something calm and welcoming as best she could and turned to her daughter.
"Hermione, why don't you come help me get some tea together and put everything for lunch in the dining room?"
"We already ate, but tea would be lovely," Sirius interjected and Helen found herself nodding, already planning in her head what she would need and how many trips it might take them.
While Sirius and Harleen joined her father in the dining room, Hermione followed her mother into the kitchen. Just before parting ways, Harleen discretely grabbed her arm and gave it a gentle squeeze in silent support.
"It's such a surprise to see you," her mother said as the two of them started putting together a proper tea service, rather than the few favorites she and her husband usually had when it was just the two of them. "A wonderful surprise, but still a surprise." With the kettle on the stove, Helen turned toward Hermione, a considering expression on her face.
Leaning closer, Helen asked in a soft tone, "is there anything you need to tell me that I should keep from your father?"
Hermione found herself smiling at the question. That was one of the things that she loved most about her parents, the fact that she'd never felt the need to hide anything from them. She had even been completely honest with them about all the danger she'd been in at school over the last three years. It'd taken more than a few long discussions to convince them not to try pulling her out of school, but as a family the Grangers were open and honest with each other, and it worked for them. Sometimes she didn't tell them something right away, such as her realization in regard to her sexuality, but that was only because she had needed time to wrap her own head around it, she had always had every intention of telling them.
That being said, there were some things that a young girl was just more comfortable discussing with her mother and would rather her father never knew of. Her parents were well aware of that fact and her dad never took offense. The two of them were a team and they each worked best in different areas.
"No, mum, not really. I had actually planned on talking to you both about this over Christmas but… well some things have changed and it became a little more… not urgent but… pressing, I guess?" Hermione frowned as she tried to find the right words to express the sentiment she was going for but her nerves had her far too rattled to spend much time on it so she shook her head. "Anyway, it's just become more important to talk to you sooner rather than later, as I don't want to spring anything on you."
"Well, that isn't exactly a statement that fills me with confidence, darling, but okay. If you're sure there's nothing else then let's start carrying everything out while the water warms up."
"Just give it a minute or so," Hermione muttered as she started pulling the extra cups and platters closer together on the counter. She had just stacked three small plates together when the door opened and a head, crowned with a messy mop of black hair, poked through into the room.
"Can I help with anything?" Harleen asked.
"If you could take these," Hermione said as she held out the stack of plates and one of the platters covered with various lunch meats, "that would be a big help. One of the plates for me, mum, and dad, please."
"Sure thing." Harleen came the rest of the way into the kitchen, took the offered items, and quickly left, offering Hermione's mother a small smile as she passed.
Soon enough they had everything moved into the dining room and set out on the table, and Hermione held the door as her mother walked through with a tray holding the hot water and everything else needed for tea, including a plate filled with biscuits that she was certain Sirius was going to overindulge in.
Sirius took one end of the rectangular table while Hermione's parents sat on one side, Harleen and Hermione on the other directly across from Helen and Richard, and for a few minutes little was said as individual sandwiches and cups of tea were prepared. Hermione noticed her mother watching her as she put together a ham sandwich and cut it into quarters, which she set on her plate and moved to the side so that it was between herself and Harleen. She smiled and winked at her mother who smiled back. It was clear to her that her mother wasn't sure exactly what she was doing, but it didn't look like she was going to ask.
"Okay," Richard finally said after he finished his first sandwich and started making another one. "So you've all made it clear that there's nothing wrong and no one is hurt or in trouble, as Sirius said. So what was so important that it required you girls leaving school to come see us?"
"And what exactly was going on with you two giving an interview to a reporter? I'm still a little fuzzy on what that was all about."
Hermione exchanged a look with her girlfriend, inwardly smiling as she noticed one of the sandwich triangles in the other girls' hand. Harleen had been absent mindedly nibbling at the sandwich while they waited. Some of the potions she was on had caused an increase in her appetite, but Harleen was used to ignoring hunger after her years at the Dursleys, and Hermione had taken it upon herself to provide small snacks in between meals whenever she could.
She was pretty certain that Harleen hadn't even noticed that Hermione seemed to always have a few apples or bananas or something else to snack on in her book bag these days.
"Has Hermione told you much about me?" Harleen finally asked. "I mean, about the fact that I'm considered extremely famous in the wizarding world?"
The adult Grangers shared a look for a moment before turning their attention back to Harleen.
"She told us the basics, I guess," Helen admitted. "The leader of a terrorist group targeted your family when you were still a baby and he attacked one night, which ended up with him and your parents dead, leaving you the only survivor."
Harleen nodded at the bluntly stated recap.
"Yeah, that's a real bare bones version of the history. In short, that night ended the war that was going on back then and overnight I became a household name." Harleen paused as a frown creased her forehead. "Of course back then most everyone thought I was a boy named Harry and now I'm a girl again so things are a little weird, but…" She shook her head.
"Anyway, I'm extremely famous in the wizarding world and people are constantly staring and talking about me. Everything I do, practically, is cause for rumor and discussion."
"Like celebrities in our world, we understand, dear," Helen offered, kindly.
"Right, well, a reporter caught me in a situation that I realized I won't be able to keep quiet forever. People are always going to want to pry into my life, so Hermione convinced me the best way to deal with that was to give an interview with a reporter that I trust." Harleen looked over at Hermione with a small smile. "I'm not entirely certain I agree, since I wish everyone would just leave me alone, but Hermione insisted it was the best way to control how the information got out and also to control how it was presented. Another reporter could put the worst possible spin on it and life could get very difficult if I didn't do something to control the media."
Richard was nodding his head. "Makes sense," he said, "but that still doesn't explain what made you need to come talk to us."
Hermione had been watching her mother as Harleen talked, and she had the distinct feeling that her mum had started to put two and two together and was very close to coming up with lesbian for an answer.
"Mum, Dad," Hermione cut in, "the reason I was part of the interview is because the reporter in question caught me kissing Harleen just before the first task of the tournament she's been forced into."
Her father had a stunned expression on his face while her mother's expression was fairly neutral as Hermione reached over and took Harleen's hand in her own.
"During the summer I came to realize that I'm not attracted to boys," she said, taking comfort as Harleen squeezed her hand in a silent show of support. "I didn't tell you at first because I wanted to take some time to wrap my head around the idea. I had planned to discuss it with you over the holiday break, but the interview sped that up. The story will be in the papers on Christmas day and I didn't want to get here on Christmas eve and spring this all on you the day before the story comes out."
"On top of that," Harleen said, "you invited me to come stay with you for the Holiday when you only knew me to be your daughter's friend, not her girlfriend. If you're not comfortable having me stay with you considering that, I'll stay at the castle over the break."
"That's not happening," Sirius interrupted. "If Richard and Helen are a little leery having you stay the whole time, you'll stay with me for part of it. We're family, and there's no way I'm letting you spend Christmas by yourself in the castle."
"I wouldn't be by my-"
The growing argument died down before it could really get started and everyone turned to face Helen who had stood, both hands flat on the table in front of her.
"Harleen, we invited you to spend the holiday with us because we wanted to get to know our daughter's friend. Over the years since you two met she has made it clear that you're very important to her, and finding out that you two are in a relationship only makes it more important that we get to know you. So no more talk of your invitation to spend Christmas with us being withdrawn."
Silently, Harleen nodded her head.
"Hermione…" Helen paused and let out a long sigh as she slowly dropped back into her chair. "Have you been worried about how we'd react to learning this about you?"
Oh, just a lot, she thought, but nodded without otherwise saying a word.
"I can't speak for your father, but it makes no difference to me, other than we won't really be able to sit and girl-talk about boys now that you're officially dating another girl," Helen said with a smile that had a lot of tension leaving Hermione's shoulders. "You can't help who you're attracted to and that doesn't change anything, you're still my daughter and I still love you just the same."
Hermione was out of her chair and around the table, hugging her mother for all she was worth in record time. Helen held her, rubbing her back and whispering quietly in her ear for a minute before both Granger women turned to the last Granger in the house, expectant expressions on their faces.
"Don't look at me like that," Richard grumbled, scowling lightly at them. "I'm not going to suddenly sprout horns and start hissing at you or something. You know full well I'm good friends with several people who are gay and I don't have any problem with any of them. I'll admit I'm surprised, and it might take me a little bit to get over that sense of being surprised, but your mother said it best. You're still our daughter and the fact that we love you is never going to change."
After Hermione hugged the stuffing out of her father and moved back to sit beside Harleen again, Helen leaned forward, elbows resting on the table.
"I still don't completely understand this interview," she admitted. "I get that it'll come out eventually, and with Harleen's fame it will be 'newsworthy', but why is this reporter waiting until Christmas day?"
"Because I have an arrangement with her, and Hermione asked if I would be her date for the Yule Ball that's being held on the twenty-third. The entire contingent at Hogwarts will know about us then, and instead of letting rumors spread, we get the story out ourselves. Rita agreed to wait until Christmas day so that we would be away and have the time of the break to let things cool down a little."
The adult Grangers found themselves nodding along as Harleen spoke and by the time she finished the two of them were leaning back in their seats, contemplative expressions on their faces.
"All our lives are going to get a little more complicated, aren't they?" Richard asked.
Harleen winced and glanced at her Godfather.
"Unfortunately, yes. I'm really sorry about that. Aside from our relationship being what it is, which is going to get a lot of attention in the wizarding world as same sex relationships are not looked on favorably, I'm also a person of interest for most of our society. Either people idolize me for one reason or another, or Voldemort's old followers that managed to avoid prison and people that think like them hate me on principle, just for what I represent."
"I will be coming back over tomorrow or the next day, whenever works for you, to discuss setting you up with some magical protections, wards that I can have the goblins put up and a few other things," Sirius interjected. "I understand that your daughter being in a relationship with Harleen changes things for your family and we don't want to see you guys having to put up with anything that we can avoid or mitigate. And since she is my goddaughter I will be taking care of security arrangements and the like."
He held up a hand when Richard opened his mouth to protest.
"Please, it's the least we can do. Your family wouldn't need these protections if it wasn't for the fact that she's dating Harleen. I can more than afford the protections I'm thinking of, plus it tickles me a little to use Black family gold to protect some non magical people as opposed to what most of my extended family would have done, but we can discuss it all later, after the girls are back at school."
"Well, I guess things wouldn't be any different if she was dating a celebrity from our world, or maybe the child of someone high up in government?" Richard admitted. "Some of those people have to have security details and such, and that would make life for the daughter of a couple of dentists just as complicated."
Hermione noticed the despondent expression growing on her girlfriend's face as the discussion went on. She realized that Harleen probably hadn't truly considered the extent of the effect that their relationship would have on her parents, and she decided to take action to head off the guilt trip she could see the girl working her way towards. Before she could, however, her mother beat her to the punch.
"Please don't take any of this the wrong way, Harleen," Helen said, reaching across the table to pat one of Harleen's hands. "We don't blame you in the slightest, but reality is what it is and we can't just ignore it."
"I understand," Harleen whispered.
"Enough of that, young lady. Do you two have to hurry back to school?"
Hermione and Harleen looked to Sirius who shrugged his shoulders.
"I figure I have to have you back at the castle by dinner, at the latest." He glanced at his watch. "At this point we've got a couple hours to kill, considering how fast apparating and floo travel is."
"Good. Then why don't you tell us a bit about yourself, Harleen? How about how you and Hermione became friends? She told us the story about that troll, but I'd love to hear it from your perspective."
"One of the dumbest, smartest decisions I've ever made," Harleen said, smiling softly. As she launched into the story, Hermione found herself smiling happily as she watched her girlfriend and her parents getting along and slowly building a rapport.
With half an hour still to go before dinner, Harleen and Hermione walked through the front gates leading up to the school, Sirius strolling along behind them with the permission slips in his pocket. As he'd explained before they left Hermione's house, he would have to hand those slips over to Professor McGonagall, and technically should have done so before taking the girls away from the school.
As it was, he was likely in for a telling off from the stern Scotswoman, but Sirius waved off the girls' concern as it being all worth it to help facilitate the necessary conversation that they'd had with Hermione's parents.
As Sirius started making his way toward the castle, Harleen looked around, taking in the view of the grounds while the two girls started slowly working their way along behind the incorrigible former escaped convict. A large shape near Hagrid's hut caught her attention and she broke out into a large beaming grin.
"Come on," she blurted out as she grabbed her girlfriend's hand and started dragging the other girl toward the hut.
"Harleen?" Hermione questioned, though she made no move to resist.
"I have someone very special that I want to introduce you to," Harleen said, excitedly. "Just… give her the benefit of the doubt, okay? She's treated badly enough as it is."
Hermione had a perplexed look on her face but refrained from commenting.
When they arrived at Hagrid's hut, Harleen couldn't hold back the beaming smile that spread across her lips even if she'd wanted to at the sight of the scene in front of them. In fact, she was so engrossed with what she saw that she didn't even notice Hermione's slack-jawed look of dumbfounded confusion.
Next to the familiar hut, in the large, open space where Hagrid typically held his classes, sat Lilliom, the Hungarian Horntail. She was lying on her belly with her forelegs folded under her, like a giant cat. Her left wing was stretched out and Hagrid stood beneath it, a stiff brush in each hand as he set about scrubbing away at Lilliom's scales, his massive beard doing little to hide his own beaming smile. Obviously the gentle giant was in his own personal heaven, getting to interact with one of his favorite creatures in the world.
All of this made a particular amount of sense if one were to stop and consider it. Lilliom was now a resident of the grounds and, of course, Hagrid was the Care of Magical Creatures professor. The part of the scene in front of them that had Harleen grinning like a loon, and Hermione attempting to catch flies with her mouth, was the sight of the waifish looking blond haired girl, casually chattering away as she sat, cross-legged, on the dragon's snout.
"The infestation here at Hogwarts is quite thick," the girl was saying as Harleen and Hermione finally came close enough to be able to hear. "I've been telling daddy that we should do a special issue about it for The Quibbler since my first week here back in first year, but he has been rather insistent on continuing his investigations into the rot-fang conspiracy instead."
"Having fun, are we?" Harleen asked, coming to a stop about a dozen feet away from the dragon.
"Little Witchling!" Lilliom said in an alarmed tone of voice, slowly turning her head toward the petite witch so that she did not unseat her passenger. "Little Witchling, what exactly is an… Umgubular Slashkilter? And are they common around here? How can I protect my eggs from the Nargles? Or these Wrackspurts this little one has been telling me about?"
Harleen struggled for a few moments to not burst out laughing. She'd seen a dragon angry before, she'd seen one being incredulous, confused, amused, and even mildly offended. Now she could add 'as nervous as a long tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs' to her list of emotional states that she'd witnessed from a dragon.
§Luna is a special and unique sort of girl,§ Harleen hissed in Parseltongue. §She believes in a great number of creatures that no one has ever proven actually exists. I don't know if I believe that the creatures she mentions are real or not, but at one time I didn't think that dragons and unicorns and phoenixes were real either, so I can't say for sure. If she wants to offer you some way to repel nargles or wrackspurts you can decline or accept, entirely up to you.§
Slowly, as Harleen spoke, tension drained from the dragon's large frame and she seemed to relax as she considered what Harleen was saying.
"Special and unique?" Lilliom questioned, her eyes crossing slightly to train them on the girl still seated calmly atop her snout. "I take it that most people do not understand or accept her for who she is?"
Sadly, Harleen shook her head.
§No, they often don't. But I intend to be her friend, and I'm certain that Hermione will want to be her friend as well, once she gets to know her.§
Lilliom lowered her head to the ground and, without being prompted, Luna stood up and jumped off. Once her feet were on the ground she spun about and hugged the Horntail, which is to say she leaned her upper body against the dragon's snout with her arms stretched out as wide as possible to either side of her in some sort of approximation of a hug for a creature that was some many times larger than she was.
"It is nearly time for dinner, I believe, Little Witchling," Lilliom said, leaning her head slightly into the tiny blond. "You should all head up to the castle."
"We'll make sure to come down and visit you, okay?" Harleen said in English and Lilliom gave a nod of her massive head before she laid her head down, resting her chin on her paws and rolled slightly, stretching her wing higher as Hagrid continued scrubbing away with his brushes. Harleen nearly broke out into a fit of giggles at the sight but managed to restrain herself.
"Harleen!" Hermione hissed from beside her. "What is going on?"
"Like I said, I want to introduce you to someone," Harleen murmured back, just as Luna came to a stop in front of them.
"You are Harleen Potter."
"And you are Luna Lovegood," Harleen said, giving a cheerful little wave with one hand. "Hermione, I'd like you to meet Luna Celeste Lovegood, third year Ravenclaw. Her father owns a publication called The Quibbler, and they live rather close to the Weasleys. She knows things."
"I do know things," Luna admitted in an airy tone, her slightly protuberant, silvery blue eyes regarding the two of them in a vaguely unfocused way, "but how do you know that, Harleen Potter?"
Harleen grinned again and leaned forward to whisper in a conspiratorial manner, "because I know things, too, Luna Lovegood."
Harleen and Luna stared at each other for a moment before they both turned toward Hermione, each throwing an arm around the other's shoulders and saying in an eerie unison:
"We know things."
For several seconds Hermione's mouth worked up and down as she attempted, but failed, to form any words. Finally, she managed to eke out a confused and slightly plaintive sounding, "what?"