Chapter 1: Three Minutes
******Edge of the Forbidden Forest, 2215 June 09, 1994******
Harry sat next to his best friend, Hermione, on the edge of the Forbidden Forest, quite possibly the happiest he had ever been in his life. He was going to live with his Godfather, finally able to escape the hell on earth that was his relatives' house that he had been forced to live in all his life.
Harry frowned as his thoughts left the giddy focus of departing from the loving confines of his relatives' home. Something about his Aunt, Uncle and Cousin was nagging at the back of his mind. Glancing around and checking his watch, he saw that their past selves wouldn't be emerging from the Whomping Willow for a good thirty minutes or so. He leaned back on the pine tree behind him and looked to his right, at his best friend.
Hermione was looking down on the lawn, toward the Willow, with a serene look on her face. The light of the stars was the only illumination until the moon rose and it cast a beautiful glow on her face. Harry's breath caught in his throat as the nagging feeling came back and he began to make the connection that he had missed before.
His relatives had bullied, derided, starved and even beaten him most of his life. Hermione had been friendless most of her life before that Halloween day during first year when she had become friends with Harry and Ron. Ron. The connection became clearer, and the giddy feeling of joy that Harry had been feeling not even five minutes before became a swooping feeling in his belly; as if he had just been kicked in the stomach.
This school year, Harry had acted like his relatives. He had ignored this young woman, his best friend who had saved his life on more than one occasion. He had hurt her with his silence and his coldness. He had pushed her away. Distinctly, he remembered an afternoon right after Christmas when she had tried to apologize for going behind his back to the Deputy Headmistress regarding his new broom. He had stared at her lifelessly and walked away. To his newfound eternal shame, he had heard her sob and he still continued to walk away.
A very new feeling began to envelop Harry. For many years as he grew up, Harry had been bullied into accepting responsibility for things that were not his fault. He knew how that guilt felt. Now, he saw with honest, open eyes, a harm he truly had done to someone. A harm to someone who was probably the most important person in the world to him.
Amidst the crushing guilt, he felt a howl spring up in his soul. Why? Why did he treat this precious person so badly? Why did he act almost exactly like his despised relatives?
Because he had followed his other best friend. Ron had been so infuriated, so implacable in his resentment against this beautiful person in front of Harry, demanding that Harry go along with him and snub her in the most hurtful ways possible. Even Hagrid, easygoing, pleasant Hagrid had seen this bad behavior and tried to reprimand the boys – in his own way. Nevertheless, Harry had followed Ron's lead, just like Pier Polkiss followed Dudley's.
This thought made Harry physically ill, and his stomach rebelled as if he were about to vomit. He sat there, in disgusted transfixion as this revelation washed over him like waves of fetid cess. Suddenly, something happened to Harry that had never happened to him before. At least not in his memory.
He began to cry.
The silent tears began to track down his smooth, pale face. His remorse and self-loathing at its apogee, he couldn't even make a noise to let out the screaming of his soul. He had done to her what they had done to him. Because he didn't have the courage to stand up to Ron Weasley.
"Harry? What's wrong?" and her strong, warm arms enveloped him. He wanted to sink into her embrace. He wanted to find solace in her comfort. But he couldn't. He'd wronged her in the worst way possible. He had withheld his friendship to hurt her. Over a broomstick and a rat.
In a very small voice, he choked out through his tears "I'm so sorry, I'm so very sorry" and completely broke down sobbing.
A bewildered Hermione sat there holding her best friend as he sobbed his heart out, sporadically apologizing to her. In truth, she was becoming quite frightened, Harry never displayed this much emotion around anyone. After a few minutes, he began to quiet and then gently disengaged himself from her to wipe his face. She dug in her pocket and pulled out the handkerchief that her mother always insisted she carry. Even here at school, she always wore clean knickers and carried a handkerchief. She felt like her mother would know if she didn't.
Handing over the handkerchief to a muttered "Thanks" from Harry, she waited patiently for him to collect himself. Finally, he had fixed himself up and she just looked at him. He checked his watch and saw that only three minutes had passed since he last checked. Three minutes and his whole outlook on the world had changed.
Staring at the square of white cloth in his hands, for he didn't have enough courage to look her in the face, he began. "I'm sorry I treated you so badly this year Hermione." The tears sprung up again, but he plowed on resolutely. "I treated you horribly, and I wouldn't blame you if you hated me and never wanted to see me again."
Hermione was stunned, but put her hand on Harry's arm as she twisted to face him. "Harry, you don't have to..." she started to say before he cut her off.
"Yes I do!" he said in an earnest anger. Not anger at her, never that. Anger at himself. For his sins.
She nodded in acknowledgement, beginning to see what he was saying and rubbed his arm in encouragement. "Ok, Harry. Ok."
Harry turned to her, fresh silent tears tracking down his face "Hermione, you're my best friend, and I treated you like the Dursley's treat me." He looked down at the ground between his knees again and said "I'm so, so sorry, I swear I won't do it again."
Hermione couldn't take much more of this. Here was her best friend, who had been a git on and off this year, tearing himself apart over his treatment of her. Ignoring those funny feelings in her stomach that had started earlier this year when she was around the dark haired seeker, she took her Harry in her arms again and said "I forgive you" and gently rocked him while he leaned into her embrace, finally able to find a bit of solace in her arms.
Three more minutes passed. Harry sat up again and used the handkerchief one more time. He turned to her, a little lighter in his heart now. "Thank you" he whispered to her. As he looked in her eyes, he felt a swooping sensation in his stomach that was very different than the one before and was overwhelmed with the urge to kiss her. She was so beautiful, so caring, so…Hermione. He looked at her lips and she licked them, almost as if responding to his glance. Looking back in her eyes, he saw her looking at his own lips. Gryffindors Charge Potter.
He leaned in and kissed her.
And she kissed him back.
They nibbled at each other's lips for a moment and then he ran his tongue across her lips and she eagerly opened them for his questing tongue and they deepened their kiss. Shocked at the sudden passion she was feeling, Hermione ran her hands through his hair as Harry pulled her close. She ended up straddling his lap, remarkably comfortable about the situation.
They broke for air a moment later, both of them panting and Harry looked in her eyes and said "Be mine."
She looked at him with shining eyes and smiled broadly. She kissed him softly and from two inches away she whispered "I've always been yours, Harry" and kissed him again.
Harry kissed her back and then hugged her tightly and let out a soft laugh. He didn't know how it happened, didn't care how it happened, but Hermione Granger was his girlfriend now and he had never been happier. Even the thought of living with Sirius was incomparable to this feeling: a light bulb's light washed out by the light of the noonday sun.
He leaned back against he pine tree again and she snuggled up to his side, his arm around her slim shoulders. Through her face-cracking smile, she said "What brought this on?"
Harry smiled in return as his eyes took up the task of watching the Willow again, while his mind and heart focused on the slim girl at his side. "I'm not sure. I realized how badly I'd behaved this year and how important you were to me." He pulled away from her so that he could look her in the eye and said "You do realize that you are the most important person in the world to me?" and got a kiss in return.
Settling back down, he continued "I watched you in the starlight and it was like blinders came off and I could see how beautiful you are, inside and out and I just had to kiss you." He smiled again "Glad you didn't smack me."
She laughed into his shoulder, "So am I."
They sat there comfortably close for a bit, just enjoying the feel of each other when Hermione gave Harry a brief squeeze before she stood. She brushed the leaves and dirt off her jeans before saying "I'm going to check on Buckbeak, our past selves will be coming out of the Willow soon."
Harry nodded and watched her walk back into the Forest where they had tethered the Hippogriff and smiled to himself. Man, she has a great bum. Harry stood to shake out his limbs and get his circulation going again, no telling what they might have to do when their past selves showed up and Lupin became Moony. He was watching the Willow when he heard her coming up behind him and then felt her arms encircle his waist. He leaned back into her as she propped her head on his shoulder. "I like this" he said.
She smiled again and held him tightly. Kissing him softly on the cheek, she said "So do I."
Movement at the Willow brought them back to the present and they broke their embrace, but continued to hold hands. Repositioning themselves so they could see better, they got closer to the Willow.
Harry saw himself and Sirius talking and he said wistfully to his new girlfriend "See me and Sirius over there? He's asking me to live with him."
She squeezed his hand and said "We'll figure it out. Somehow."
He nodded and they watched the play unfold before them, as they knew it would. The moon rose and Lupin became Moony while Pettigrew became Wormtail and then disappeared. Harry almost growled as his parents' betrayer vanished and Hermione wrapped an arm around his in comfort.
Sirius became Padfoot and drove Moony off from the students and the unconscious Snape. Harry started walking down toward the lake, skirting the edge of the forest as they went. Hermione said "Harry, where are we going" as they walked.
He didn't pause and said "I just want to see the castor of the Patronus, Hermione. If I didn't know better, I'd swear it was my Dad who I saw before I passed out."
Hermione said "Ok, but we can't interfere." She then furrowed her brow in thought as they walked. They took up position near the lake; they had beaten Sirius to the lake by a few minutes. Harry turned to her and said "The castor was roughly over there" and he waved his hand in the direction of the edge of the lake ten yards away.
Hermione's brow cleared and she almost laughed outright. "Harry, do you know why you think you saw your Dad?" Harry's blank face almost made her laugh again and she said in a leading tone of voice "Who does everyone say that you look like and what have you been practicing all year?"
Harry's blank face cleared and he said with a half smile "My Dad and the Patronus charm."
She smiled at him and then got a half-shy expression. "I guess you must have a new memory that's pretty strong to power your Patronus now."
Harry smiled broadly at her and said "You bet" and kissed her soundly. They broke apart as the feeling of Dementor coldness washed over them. On the other side of the lake, they saw the Dementors congregating around Sirius and Harry as wisps of white came out of Harry's wand. Harry leaned in to Hermione, said "One more for luck", and gave her a quick kiss before he jumped out from behind the bush they were hiding behind, leveled his wand and shouted "EXPECTO PATRONUM!"
Prongs charged across the lake to the rescue.
******Edge of the Forbidden Forest, 2330 June 09, 1994******
Sirius, Harry and Hermione had just got off Buckbeak and Sirius said "Thank you, you two. I owe you my life." Seeing the sadness in his Godson's eyes, the half-starved man said to the last Potter "Harry, I'm not going to leave you for good. For right now I'm going to escape with Buckbeak, but I'll get in touch with you this summer and we can meet up on holiday somewhere, Ok?"
Harry nodded, feeling much better when he got an elbow in the ribs. Turning to Hermione he saw an expectant look on her face which he didn't understand. She looked from Harry to Sirius and back and then finally, gave up and in exasperation said "Harry, would you please introduce me to your Godfather?"
Sirius laughed a hoarse barking laugh and Harry sheepishly said "Sirius, this is Hermione Granger, my best friend and girlfriend."
Harry had a big goofy grin on his face and Sirius raised his eyebrows at the 'girlfriend' moniker saying in a playfully polite tone "I'm exceedingly pleased to meet you Miss Granger," dramatically kissing her hand
Hermione smiled back at the scruffy looking Marauder, bobbed a short curtsey and said "I'm pleased to meet you too, Mr. Padfoot" causing Sirius to laugh again.
Sirius looked at Harry fondly and said "I am so proud of you Harry, you seem to be a good sort, and I've missed this" and he waved his hand at the three of them. "Look, I've got to go, but like I said, I'll be in touch soon." At this, he jumped up on Buckbeak's back and with a last fond look, the two fugitives winged away in the night.
Harry took Hermione's hand and they started to walk back to the Infirmary, keeping a close look out for any stray Dementors. After a few moments, Hermione said "I like him," gave Harry a big smile and leaned into him while Harry loosed her hand and wrapped his arm around his girlfriend.
As they passed the Quidditch pitch, she let out a low groan "Oh, no."
Harry looked around for a Dementor or other threat and said "What?"
Hermione stopped and looked at the ground saying "We're going to have to tell Ron about us."
Harry nodded and said "Yeah, so what's wrong?" A spasm of fear grabbed his heart that she might fancy Ron more than him.
Hermione kept looking down and said in an undertone "He's going to be furious – again – and be really mean – again."
Flooded with relief and understanding, Harry wrapped his arm around her again and pulled her close and they restarted their walk to the Infirmary. Harry thought for a minute before speaking "If he starts in on us or just you, it tells us what kind of friend he really is after all." He sighed loudly "I realized tonight that Ron's a bit of a bully, and I followed him this year." At Hermione's objections, he said "No, I did, and he was." After a moment, she nodded, dejectedly.
As he held the front door open for her, he whispered to her "If he starts up again, well, we'll have to reconsider our friendship with him."
Hermione looked at her boyfriend with wide eyes and said "You'd do that for me?"
Harry gave her a soft kiss and said "I'd do that for us."
******Hogwarts, Infirmary 0830 June 10, 1994******
Harry and Hermione returned to the Infirmary without incident and had the amusing misfortune of seeing an enraged Severus Snape accuse Harry of somehow appropriating Sirius Black.
After everyone settled down, and the visitors departed, Madam Pomfrey shooed Harry and Hermione into bed before going into her office cot for the evening.
Harry waited a few moments in the semi-quiet of the Infirmary and said softly "Hermione, you awake?"
Hermione rolled on her side, toward her boyfriend and propped her head on her hand. She snorted in an unladylike manner and said "How can anyone sleep with Ron snoring like a chainsaw over there. Honestly, how do you and the other boys sleep with that racket?" and she waved her hand at the offending red-head.
Harry rolled toward her in his bed and smiled, "Guess I just got used to it."
Hermione mumbled something and reached up to the nightstand, grabbing her wand. She tiptoed across the ward, pointed her wand at Ron muttering "Silencio", and tiptoed back across the now-silent ward.
Harry smiled widely and said "Brilliant." Looking around, he slid out of bed and sat on her bed, next to her. He looked into her face for a moment, then leaned down and kissed her goodnight. "Goodnight, my Hermione."
She smiled at him and sat up, giving him a big hug whispering in his ear "Good night, boyfriend."
In the morning, Harry awoke to the sound of Madam Pomfrey scolding Hermione. "You should not have silenced the young man, Miss Granger." Muttering under her breath, the Nurse went on "You should have woken me and I would have done it for you."
Hermione's surprised expression caused an amused one on the Nurse's face. "Don't act so surprised young lady, I was married for quite a while and my man snored to beat the band. On many a night I silenced him, just to get a bit of sleep."
The Nurse walked over to a now purple-faced, fuming Ron Weasley, ended the Silencing charm on him and he immediately started in on Hermione. "What the bloody hell do you think you're doing Hermione? Who do you think you are, casting spells at me like that? Huh? Huh?"
Harry stood quickly, as Ron was beginning a hobbling advance on Hermione and she backed away, with a bit of fear on her face. Pomfrey interposed herself between the teens said "Mr. Weasley that will be quite enough! Get back in your bed so I can evaluate your leg." When the youngest male Weasley didn't move, she gave him a shove on to the bed and barked "Lie down."
After a few moments of waving her wand over Ron's leg, during which time he glowered at Hermione, Madam Pomfrey said "You will have to stay here in the ward one more day, Mr. Weasley. Your leg isn't healing as well as I would like."
After he muttered, "Great, just great" Pomfrey turned to Harry and Hermione and checked them out. After pronouncing them fit to leave they went behind their privacy curtains to change into their clothes.
When Harry was dressed, he went to Hermione's changing area and said softly, "Are you decent?" She told him to come on in and he entered, seeing her tying her shoes.
She looked up at him with a worried expression and said "Should we tell him now? He's so mad."
Harry frowned and said "Yeah, let's tell him now. He's stuck here for another day and it will give him some time to cool off." He held out his hand to her and helped her up after she finished tying her shoes. "Come on, I'll tell him."
They walked over to Ron's bed, his face was still red, and he said "Harry, mate, do you believe what she did to me last night?"
Harry tilted his head to one side and said "Yeah, Ron, I do. I thought it was pretty brilliant myself. Wish I had done it years ago, I might have gotten more sleep the last three years." At Ron's stunned face, Harry waved his hand impatiently. "Look Ron, there's something important we need to tell you." He glanced at Hermione, who was watching her boyfriend with an attentive look. "Hermione and I are dating now. She's my girlfriend and I'm her boyfriend."
Ron's face paled even further and his mouth opened a bit farther. Finally, the paleness flashed to red and the blankness was replaced by a scowl. He waved his hands in an exasperated gesture saying "Of course you're dating!" in a sarcastic tone. Zeroing in on Harry, Ron's eyes narrowed and he said "Of course Harry-bloody-fucking-Potter gets the girl." Turning his attention to Hermione he said "And you!"
At this point his voice stopped working despite the repeated movement of his mouth. Looking around in shock, he saw Harry's wand in his hand and the dark haired boy said with quiet menace "Don't talk to her that way ever again, if you know what's good for you."
Ron shot Harry the two-fingered salute and the couple shook their heads and walked out of the infirmary, back to Gryffindor Tower.
******Platform 9 ¾, London 1345 June 18, 1994******
It had been a trying week and a half since Sirius had escaped. Ron still wasn't talking to Harry and Hermione, but they found it quite liberating after they got over the initial guilt. Most of Gryffindor house took the new aspect of their relationship as a matter of course. Fred Weasley had even said "Hold on, I thought you already were dating?"
Professor Lupin had resigned due to the 'unfortunate slip' by Professor Snape that Remus was a werewolf. As he and Harry talked that Saturday as the Marauder packed, Remus had silenced the room and said "I got an owl today from a common friend of ours" and he had raised his eyebrows to convey his meaning Sirius. When Harry had nodded his understanding, Remus said "He said he'll meet you near where you first met at sunset two weeks after you get back."
Harry nodded his understanding, and did something neither of them expected and gave the grey haired main a hug. Returning to his girlfriend, they took a walk and talked about this new development. Hesitantly, Harry said "Would you like to Holiday with us?"
The massive, rib-crushing hug wasn't unexpected, but the follow on toe curling kiss was very welcome. Breathing a little heavily, she said "I'd love to, let me clear it with my Mum and Dad. That shouldn't be a problem." Harry smiled broadly and they walked on down to the lake to enjoy the day.
Soon enough, they got their exam results back and they were on the way home. As they picked up their belongings in their compartment, Harry pulled out a piece of parchment and a muggle pen saying "What's your address?"
Hermione smiled and said "Why on Earth would you want to know my address, Hedwig can deliver your mail just fine?"
Harry smiled at her and said "I don't want it for mail." He waited while she tried to puzzle it out and he laughed. Finally, after repeated swats on the arm from his girlfriend, Harry embraced her and kissed her softly. When they parted, he said "You are currently dating a guy who not only has the fastest broom made, but an excellent invisibility cloak." He then smiled broadly and said "So what's your address?"
Hermione laughed and covered her mouth in surprise. "Harry James…" and attacked him once more. After a moment she pulled back, gave him her address and said "Come on, I want you to meet my parents" and they trundled their luggage out of the car. Harry had let Hedwig fly home on her own, so that was one less thing to worry about.
They were some of the last kids off the train, and quite a few of the reunited families had already left, including the Weasleys. Hermione pointed to a couple at the end of the platform and said "There they are." As they walked up, Harry saw William and Elizabeth Granger for the first time since the brief meeting before Second Year. They were a nicely dressed couple, fit and standing there very still, as if afraid to catch anyone's attention.
When they got close enough, Hermione gingerly approached her mother, gave her a gentle hug saying "Hello Mum", and repeated the process with her father saying "Hello Dad." Both parents smiled and greeted their daughter in the same manner. There was a small awkward silence, and then the elder Grangers looked to Hermione expectantly with plastered on smiles. Hermione half turned to Harry and said "Mum, Dad, this is Harry Potter, my best friend and my boyfriend."
Harry was somewhat terrified that her father was going to pull out a gun and shoot him right there when he found out Harry was Hermione's boyfriend. The pleasant smile and the limp handshake from both parents was baffling. Hermione was so full of life and energetic, these almost automatons that were her parents were very confusing.
Hermione then said "Mum, Dad, Harry's Godfather has invited me to go on Holiday with them this summer. They haven't decided where or when they are going, but Harry will find out in the next few weeks and let me know. Would that be Ok?"
Harry held his breath, but all his worrying had been for naught when Hermione's mother said "Of course dear. Just let us know when and where." Turning to Harry she said "Harry, dear, let your Godfather know that we insist on paying for Hermione's expenses for the trip."
Harry shrugged and said "Well, ma'am, Sirius is independently wealthy. It isn't a problem at all."
Her parents nodded, almost in sync and said "Ah" actually in sync. There was another awkward silence and it seemed that the elder Grangers fidgeted a bit, not knowing what to do or say to their daughter and her boyfriend.
Finally, her father said "Well, we must be off. Will we be seeing you this summer, Harry?" At Harry's affirmative response, Mr. Granger smiled woodenly and said "Good, good. Hermione won't be so lonely then." He shook Harry's hand and said to Hermione "We'll just load up your luggage while you say goodbye, sweetheart."
Hermione's parents walked away and the couple turned to each other, Harry with a quizzical look on his face. Hermione said in response "They aren't the most demonstrative people in the world. They love me, so that's good." She paused and took his hand in hers. She chewed her lip and said "I'll miss you."
Harry chuckled and said "Just for that, I'll be at your house tomorrow before noon, Ok?" and pulled her into a hug.
She whispered in his ear "I'll still miss you, boyfriend."
Harry pulled back, caressed her cheek that she leaned into. Looking into her eyes he said "And I'll miss you this evening, my Hermione." They kissed long and hard and when they finally broke apart, they realized the platform was empty.
They trundled out and saw that the Dursley's were not around and Hermione became insistent that her parents give him a ride home "Honestly, Harry, we aren't that far from Little Whinging." Harry capitulated and they loaded up his trunk into the boot of her parents Mercedes sedan.
An hour and a half later, they arrived at the Dursley's house, Harry and Mr. Granger unloaded his trunk, and he escorted Harry as he carried his trunk up to the porch. Harry knocked on the door that Aunt Petunia opened a few moments later. She had an obvious conflict on her face. On the one hand, the Freak was back, but on the other was a nicely dressed man and when she checked, she saw the silver Mercedes in the drive.
Harry swallowed his laughter and said "Hello Aunt Petunia, this is Dr. Granger, my best friend Hermione's father. He and his wife are dentists." Now the conflict was worse as she saw that this person and his family were not only respectable, and probably wealthy, but also the parents of another Freak.
Harry said his thanks to Mr. Granger and then lugged his trunk up to his room thanking the stars and Merlin that Hermione had reminded him to cast the Featherlight charm on his trunk before they left school. He set it down, saw his room was untouched from last fall and opened the window for Hedwig, when she arrived.
He then went downstairs and found his Aunt in the kitchen. Before she could begin a diatribe against him, he said "Aunt Petunia, I've found out that I have a Godfather and he wants me to spend the bulk of the summer with him. I will probably be leaving in two weeks or so, so you don't have to worry about me. If you'd like, I'll stay out of the house all day and only eat one or less meals here a day."
Harry had decided that he was going to hop on the Knight bus when he was done talking to his Aunt and go to Gringotts to find out exactly how much money he had. He knew he was well off, and by the discussions at school, apparently his family had been rich. Malfoy rich. Before he started spending indiscriminately though, he wanted to find out exactly how much he really did have available to him. Regardless, he figured he could buy some burgers and fish and chips for a few weeks until Sirius arranged his escape from Durzkaban.
Petunia regarded the boy with what she thought to be a withering eye. Harry merely thought that she must have a neck cramp. Anyone who had been subjected to a McGonagall glare and survived knew that everything else was second best. Finally, she said "Very well, boy. Stay out of sight. The only meal you will get is breakfast and you won't have to do any chores."
Harry was stunned and stood there as if he had sunk roots. He had been prepared to argue with his Aunt for an hour if necessary. Shaking himself out of his stupor, he nodded and ran up to his room to grab a cloak and his wand.
******Gringotts Bank, Diagon Alley London 1830 18 June 1994******
Harry walked out of Gringotts in a daze. Millions. He would have millions of Galleons when he turned seventeen and came of age. As it stood, he had fifty thousand Galleons in his trust vault, minus the hefty withdrawal today along with the Gringotts Visa Black card that they had given him for use in the non-magical world.
He ambled down Diagon Alley with the hood of his cloak pulled forward and decided to get some food at the Leaky Cauldron before returning to Privet Drive for the evening. The Alley was busy, Harry had not realized that the shops stayed open into the evening. Doing a little window shopping as he made his way to the Cauldron, he stopped and smiled as he saw a little gift for his girlfriend. He thought she might really like it.
Later, after he had made a few purchases for himself he ate a hearty Shepard's pie and washed it down with a butterbeer, he sat there thinking. Life is pretty good. He went out on Charing Cross road and caught the Knight Bus to the Dursleys for the night. Tomorrow, he'd see his Hermione.
1) I own nothing
2) This idea has been bothering me for a few months and I had to get the first chapter down, hopefully it will leave me alone long enough to let me finish "To Stand Against the Darkness", we are almost home with that one. "Hippogriff" will also be a good 150K-200K words, but expect slow updates until I can get "Stand" done. Thanks for all your patience.