More Important Things
This is my attempt at a challenge set by witowsmp where 'Dumbledore Answers Harry' when he asks at the end of first year why Voldemort is after him. My intentions are the story will be in two distinct parts (below is chapter 1 of part 1) as I might need to raise the rating on part two due to the body count I'm planning. Trying not to bash anyone in this fic except the bad guys. (Ron bashing doesn't count!)
Disclaimer: you may recognise a phrase or two from the first book at the beginning of this story, I don't own them or any of the characters – it all belongs to JKR.
4th June 1992 – Chasing the Stone.
"But Harry – What if you-know-who is with him?"
"Well – I was lucky once wasn't I?" said Harry, pointing to his scar. "I might get lucky again."
Hermione's lip trembled as she suddenly dashed at Harry and threw her arms around him.
"Harry you're a great wizard you know."
"I'm not as good as you," said Harry, very embarrassed, as she pulled away.
"Me!" said Hermione "Books! And Cleverness! There are more important things friendship and bravery and…Oh Harry, please be careful!"
Hermione had her arms once more around Harry and didn't want to ever let him go while berating herself for not saying the one word she was desperate to tell him – love.
Harry was sure she nearly said love and, while he had no recollection of ever receiving any, knew he felt something different for Hermione than anyone else in his life. His Gryffindor courage had failed him a moment ago yet here he was being given a second chance, considering what might be waiting for him on the other side of the flames, perhaps a last chance. He placed both his hands on Hermione's head and gently moved it into a position where he had access to her lips, if he was going to face death he was at least going to experience his first kiss with the girl he really liked.
This action was so unexpected that Hermione only sussed what Harry was doing seconds before he kissed her. 'Oh my God, Harry likes me!' was screaming through her brain before being mercilessly bludgeoned into silence by her awakening hormones that changed the broadcast message to 'Kiss him back so he knows you like him!' Hermione was used to doing what her mind told her and this was one command she was delighted to put her heart and soul into.
There were no flashes, bangs or earth shattering tremors but both thought that the kiss was magical and glad that they were each other's first.
Harry and Hermione were instantly aware that the kiss had blasted their relationship out of the friends bracket and onto another level entirely, neither had held back and both had poured their feelings for the other into their kiss.
"Wow! I want to do that again, and again."
Hermione smiled, "As long as it's with me I don't see that as a problem."
Considering how Harry had felt moments ago his mood had done a polar flip and was now off the scale on his rarely used happiness meter, "I won't be kissing anyone other than my girlfriend ever again."
Hermione's smile now had an output measured in megawatts as she kissed Harry this time before saying, "You just make sure you stay safe and bring that cute butt back to me."
One final kiss and Harry watched as his new girlfriend drank from the round bottle and headed off through the flames to raise the alarm, he couldn't help but ponder that if she thought his butt was cute then hers was simply beautiful.
These were his last pleasant thoughts as he drank his potion and passed through the flames to discover what awaited him on the other side.
Harry slowly surfaced from the darkness and his first thought was for his girlfriend's safety, he sat straight up. "Hermione!"
A throaty chuckle greeted his proclamation, Harry discovered he was in the Hogwarts infirmary and had the headmaster for company.
"Miss Granger is fine Harry, well she will be when Madam Pomfrey relents and allows her in to see you. She is a formidable young witch when she sets her mind to something and is slowly wearing down Poppy's resistance, I couldn't of course comment on someone using a certain cloak to sneak in here out of hours."
Harry relaxed, smiling at the thought of Hermione breaking the rules to sneak in here to see him. "Sir, Voldemort and the stone?"
"Professor Quirrell died when Voldemort left his body to make his escape and the stone was recovered before being destroyed."
"But what about your friend Nicolas Flamel, won't he die?"
"Well done Harry, you did your homework."
"Sir with Hermione involved there's no other option."
Albus nodded in agreement, "The Flamels have enough elixir stored to allow them time to set their affairs in order before embarking on the next great adventure. The risk of Voldemort gaining that amount of power proved just to great a risk to allow the stone's continued existence."
Harry thought for a moment, "He's not gone is he sir?"
"Alas I fear not, we can only hope that his next attempt meets with as spirited a resistance as this last one."
"Sir, there is something I'd like to know the truth about, can you tell me?"
"The truth is a beautiful yet terrifying thing, and therefore should be treated with great caution. I shall answer your question unless of course I have a very good reason not to, in which case I beg your forgiveness. I shall not, of course, lie."
"Well Voldemort told me he only killed my mother because she tried to stop him killing me, why did he want to kill me in the first place?"
"Alas the first thing you ask me I cannot tell you, you will know one day but not today, not now. I know you don't want to hear it but you're too young for such a burden. When you are older I will of course answer the question then."
Harry was starting to get angry, "With respect sir, Voldemort has just tried to kill me for the forth time. You yourself just admitted that he's not dead so will return and you don't need to be Hermione to work out he'll be coming after me when he does. Already having the knowledge that he will come after me until one of us is dead is the burden, knowing why he's obsessed with me could only help."
Albus could see Harry was deadly serious and the old wizard couldn't fault the young lad's logic so, against his better judgement, decided to tell him at least some of what he wanted to hear.
"Harry please understand that this information must be kept secret, if the dark side discovers it the consequences could be dire." Having delivered his warning Dumbledore answered Harry, "Before you were born a prophecy was made that a child would be born with the power to defeat the dark lord. I will not disclose the whole thing but the child mentioned is you and Voldemort is desperate to end that threat before you get too powerful. The prophecy doesn't say who will win, only that one must die at the hand of the other."
Harry already knew that Voldemort wanted him dead so that revelation wasn't much of a shock, the fact that he might have the power to defeat him was and led directly to another question.
"Sir if I have the power to defeat him then why have I spent ten of the last eleven years locked in a cupboard without even knowing that magic existed instead of being in training?"
Albus sighed, "I'm sorry my boy, I thought it was important that you have as near normal a childhood as possible."
Harry was ready to rant and rave but his conscience, which seemed to have acquired Hermione's voice, shouted NO! Stay calm and work out what to do next.
Harry simply said, "Thanks for trusting me with this information sir," while his brain was yelling 'normal childhood?'
They chatted for a few minutes more but Albus could see the lad's heart wasn't in it, his mind was still digesting the information he'd just been told.
Dumbledore's leaving was the signal for Hermione and Ron to enter the ward, Hermione raced towards Harry and having him open his arms for her was all the encouragement the young witch needed. She pounced on him, and as his arms circled around her back, began kissing her boyfriend.
Ron stood transfixed, mouth open and eyes almost bulging out his head. What, where and why were the questions he wanted answered but he would have to get his mouth to work first.
When they showed no sign of stopping Ron finally got his vocal chords to vibrate with something resembling English, "Hermione, what in the name of Merlin are you doing?"
Harry and Hermione's eyes never left each other, "I thought that would be obvious even to you Ron, I'm kissing my boyfriend."
Ron was forced to repeat her last comment just in case there was something lost in the translation from Hermione speaking to his ears picking up the signal, "You're kissing your boyfriend?"
"Yes Ron, Harry's my boyfriend. Surely you didn't think I would go around kissing just anybody."
"When did this happen?"
Both were still wrapped up in each other's arms, unable to believe their luck that the person they liked actually liked them back. Harry answered Ron, "We made the decision before I went in to face Voldemort."
If Harry or Hermione had been looking at Ron they would have seen that he was building himself up towards an explosion, "So let me see if I've got my facts right here, I sacrificed myself so you two could continue and you were so concerned about me you both immediately began snogging."
Hermione frowned, "Not immediately, but yes that's pretty much describes what happened."
"Well don't let me interrupt your snogging."
"You won't," said Harry kissing Hermione again.
Ron stormed out the infirmary, his face contorted to resemble that of a dragon suffering from haemorrhoids and making so much noise that Madam Pomfrey appeared, chasing a now very unhappy Hermione out. Before leaving she whispered into Harry's ear, "I've got your cloak and will be back later."
This left Harry with the time needed to figure out what he was going to tell Hermione and what to do with the information that he had to kill Voldemort or be killed by him. He quickly decided to tell Hermione everything because if she was going to be his girlfriend then she needed to know what that meant. At the moment only Ron knew about the couple but if she still wanted him after hearing what he had to say then Harry intended to shout it off the top of the astronomy tower that Hermione Granger was his girlfriend. There was no way they could hide this even if they wanted to, Harry couldn't remember ever being hugged or kissed but Hermione approached the subjects with even more enthusiasm than she did her studies, considering she was easily the best student in their year that was really saying something.
He also needed her support for what he was planning at the end of term; convincing her this was his best option was going to be the most difficult part.
Harry felt her weight settle on his bed before Hermione's face poked out the cloak hood and gave him a quick kiss, he pulled her down beside him and whispered in her ear that she should get herself comfortable as he had a lot to tell her and would understand if she didn't want to date him after hearing his tale.
Harry was worried and kissed her again before starting, just in case things went badly.
Hermione clung to him as she heard about life with the Dursleys and finally what Dumbledore had told him this afternoon.
Hermione was aghast as the questions flowed, "Why haven't you been receiving special lessons? Hell why were you placed with those monsters in the first place?"
"Dumbledore said he wanted me to have a normal childhood."
All Harry's fears of loosing Hermione over this evaporated as she flung off the invisibility cloak and, with wand drawn was ready to go looking for the headmaster.
He managed to pull her to him and calm her down enough to replace the cloak before she was caught, "Hermione I want you to listen to me but first I need your promise that if you disagree with my plan that you won't go running to McGonagall or Dumbledore for help."
"Harry I could never do that to you!"
"Hermione love, if you thought my plan was dangerous or reckless then you would do anything to keep me safe, even informing a professor."
"Is it dangerous or reckless?"
"Hermione I've nearly been killed by Voldemort three times since coming to Hogwarts and not once was my life saved by a professor, what could be more dangerous than that?"
Hermione knew he was leaving out Trolls, three-headed dogs and baby dragons so conceded his point and promised.
"Hermione I need to find out who I am, I spent ten years living in a cupboard being called a freak and told my parents were worthless drunks who died in a car crash. Since discovering that I'm a wizard I've continually been told how good my parents were and, judging by my vault in Gringotts wealthy as well. Now here's my problem, how is it possible that my good, wealthy parents arranged for me to be left on the Dursley's doorstep like a morning newspaper?"
Hermione had her face uncovered and Harry's green eyes were melting into her brown ones as he presented his argument, "You're a first generation witch yet when I met you on the express you knew more about my life than I did, Dumbledore ordered me sent there and is trying to make sure I return again this summer. I need to know if this is what my parents wanted for me or if someone other than Voldemort also has plans for my life."
It was a very hesitant Hermione who asked the question she wasn't sure she wanted the answer to, "Harry what are you going to do?"
"I'm going to run away!"
Hermione held him tight and realised just how well Harry knew her, her instincts were screaming that she should inform an adult immediately but she pushed them aside because her boyfriend needed her. "Where will you go?"
"My first stop will be Gringotts and that's as far as I've got because everything depends on what I find there. My whole life feels like it's been contrived and controlled with what I wanted never being taken into consideration."
Hermione suddenly had an idea, "Harry you could stay with me, we've plenty of room and I'm sure my parents would love to meet you. I may have mentioned your name once or twice in my letters home." She was actually blushing now, "I wrote them that you were now my boyfriend and they want to meet you at the station."
"Hermione there's nothing I would like better but I don't think I would be there long before somebody magical turned up to return me to the Dursleys, your parents wouldn't have a clue what's going on or a chance against a witch or wizard who demanded I go with them. I won't be roughing it Hermione, there's more than enough gold in my vault for hotels while I work out my next move."
"Harry are you running away from the Dursleys, Hogwarts or something else?"
He thought for a minute, "Basically everything and everyone except you and Ron." When he saw the dark expression at the mention of Ron's name Harry knew this was bad news. "What's he done this time?"
"Oh he very publicly and rather loudly called me just about every name he could think of that had a 'scarlet woman' theme. I'm beginning to think he's jealous and wishes it was him kissing you."
Harry shuddered at the thought, "Think I'd rather kiss Fluffy."
"A giant three headed dog that slobbers or Ron Weasley is no contest for me either – it probably has better table manners and eats less than him as well."
"Well that's his name off the very short list, I'm sick of being the-boy-who-lived or Dursleys servant and can't see any other way to do this."
Taking a deep breath Hermione asked, "How can I help?"
Harry hugged her, knowing what this meant to the girl who hated breaking rules, "I plan to walk off the train wearing my father's cloak and leaving everything else behind, I need you to take care of Hedwig for me until I can sort something out."
"Can you do this Harry?"
"I have to Hermione, the idea that Hogwarts is the safest place in the country would be laughable if the situation wasn't life or death. Voldemort knows where I am ten months of the year and even managed to get a job here teaching defence against the dark arts, again laughable if it didn't nearly get me killed. Spending time in history of magic or having Snape sneer at me in potions class is not going to prepare me for what I need to do."
"You know of course I'm coming with you when you find a new school or private tutors, my parents wanted to pull me out of here after the troll incident so I would only be returning if you are forced to."
This was better than anything Harry could have hoped for, he spent the rest of the evening hugging and kissing as their plans got steadily more refined than just the basic 'running away' that Harry had envisioned earlier.
Harry eventually escaped from Pomfrey's prison by promising to do everything in his power to stay out of her tender clutches next term, it was a promise he had every intention of keeping. He and Hermione walked hand-in-hand around the lake enjoying the rare Scottish sunshine almost as much as each other's company, neither had experienced much in the way of companionship so their new relationship was a massive boost to their self-confidence.
"So what have I missed?"
"The whole school is buzzing with the fact that he-who-is-not-dead had been teaching them for a year, I've no idea how Dumbledore has managed to keep it out the Prophet. Ron is no longer speaking to me but keeps producing these strange looks when he thinks I can't see him, I think I preferred him shouting because he's starting to creep me out."
Harry put his arm comfortingly about her, "Don't worry, I will be having words with the prat and if he can't accept that we're boyfriend / girlfriend then he's really not our friend or worth bothering about."
They forgot about Ron and just enjoyed the fact that they were together on such a beautiful day.
Harry kissed Hermione goodnight and headed up to his dorm only to find Ron waiting to speak to him.
"Harry I want to say straight off that I'm sorry about my behaviour with you guys, when I calmed down and thought about it I think it's a bloody brilliant idea."
Harry let out the breath he wasn't even aware he'd been holding, he wasn't going to stand for anyone interfering between Hermione and him but didn't have that many friends that he could afford to casually throw one away.
"Thanks Ron, that means a lot."
"No problem mate I'm just sorry I couldn't figure it out sooner, using Hermione as a practice girlfriend so you know what you're doing when a good-looking witch comes along is inspired. Can you help me find one? Not too ugly mind!"
Harry's right fist broke Ron's nose quickly followed by his left that broke their friendship forever. The other three Gryffindor boy's couldn't help but overhear Ron digging his own grave, a mere glance at the couple was all that was necessary to see how much they cared for each other.
Harry was in a total rage as he silently pummelled a now squealing Ron, pounding his fists into his former friend's face before the combined efforts of Neville, Dean and Seamus managed to drag him off.
Ron's squeals had drawn a crowd and when the twins appeared they took one look at their bloodied brother before whirling round to confront his attacker. Faced with an enraged Harry Potter who, less than a week ago just defeated the dark lord again and anything they were going to say died in their throats.
Harry was still struggling to escape the grip of his three roommates when pompous Percy arrived and the prefect pointed his wand at his brother's assaulter only to be knocked flying by Hermione, who didn't care who's toes she trampled on in her battle to get to Harry.
Once she had her arms around him she felt her boyfriend relax, as the boys released their hold on Harry his arms snaked around Hermione, which calmed him down even more.
This was the scene McGonagall came upon, a bleeding Ron Weasley lying crying on his bed while her two star first years were comforting each other in the middle of the room.
"I want an explanation and I want it now!"
McGonagall's tone froze everyone in the dorm except Harry, Still holding onto Hermione he answered her question. "Professor, Mr Weasley made some extremely derogatory remarks concerning my girlfriend that were unacceptable to me."
"And you think this is acceptable behaviour Mr Potter?"
"It was my intention to challenge him to a wizard's duel."
"You're too young to issue such a challenge."
"That's what I thought professor so I just had to settle for punching his head in."
if anything McGonagall was getting angrier, "I will not have members of my house brawling like common muggles."
"Well since Professor Dumbledore took it upon himself to ensure I was raised by common muggles and denied contact with the wizarding world can I suggest you direct that complaint in his direction Professor."
This was like being slapped in the face by a flounder for the head of Gryffindor house, she'd tried to tell Albus what kind of people he was leaving James and Lily's son with but as usual he knew what was best for everyone. No matter she had to deal with the situation that faced her now.
"That will be fifty points from Gryffindor and your position on the Quidditch team will be up for review if I don't see a marked improvement in your behaviour Mr Potter."
"Professor please accept my resignation from the team here and now, the Nimbus is in the team Quidditch locker and can be passed on to the next seeker."
McGonagall was aghast at the behaviour of this boy she would have labelled quiet but apparently he wasn't finished with the shocks yet.
"Professor McGonagall, your next move should be to threaten me with expulsion from Hogwarts but, considering how many times I've almost been killed in this madhouse you call a school then you'd probably be doing me a favour. Since I got here I've been accused by staff and students of using my fame to my advantage so perhaps it's time I started, there has to be more than one magical school in the world. What do you think the chances are of the boy-who-lived and the witch set to shatter all Hogwarts academic records being accepted as students elsewhere?"
McGonagall had no sanctions left to threaten them with so had to resort to bluster, "Mr Potter if you insist on breaking the rules then you really can't complain when you find yourself in danger."
Hermione had held her tongue for too long, it was time McGonagall realised this was a partnership, "Excuse me professor, wasn't it you who assigned us detention in the FORBIDDEN forest at night? Leading directly to Harry having to confront Voldemort and it may have slipped your mind but we came to you with our information on the stone only to be dismissed out of hand. Had we not acted Voldemort would have returned yet we're standing here being disciplined because Ronald Bloody Weasley thinks the world revolves around him and goes ballistic every time his delusional theory is proved wrong."
It was at this point the headmaster made his presence known, "Mr Potter could you please inform us what Mr Weasley said that was so shocking to warrant such a response?"
Harry just held Hermione tight and refused to open his mouth, it was Neville who stepped up to the plate. "Ron told Harry that having Hermione as a practice girlfriend until something better looking came along was a great idea and wanted Harry's help in finding one for him though she couldn't be too ugly."
The silence in the room was deafening as every female present tried to kill the prat just by staring at him, Hermione's confidence, though growing wasn't strong enough to take a hit like that without some tears being shed. Harry holding her tight and seeing what his response had been to the suggestion helped her regain some composure.
Neville finished with a heartfelt remark that almost had her smiling, "If Hermione was my girlfriend I would have done the exact same, we pulled Harry off so he wouldn't be in too much trouble, not to save that prat."
With every girl in the packed dorm now glaring daggers at Ron, any guy who wanted a date during their Hogwarts years quickly and publicly agreed with Neville. The prat had stepped way over the line and when word of this got out the only female in the castle going anywhere near him would be Mrs Norris.
McGonagall privately agreed with Harry but had to regain control of the situation, "While I understand your motives Mr Potter I'm afraid I can't condone your methods so the punishment will stand."
"Fair enough professor but my decision also stands, I will no longer play Quidditch for Gryffindor. Anyone insulting Hermione will be met with an appropriate response so let's just call it quits now, save you banning me later."
Albus tried to intervene, "Are you really going to let Mr Malfoy's taunting of Miss Granger deprive you of playing Quidditch? That would be handing a victory to Slytherin."
Harry knew the only way he was returning to Hogwarts next term was with someone pointing a wand at his back and in the greater scheme of things who won the Quidittch cup wasn't even worthy of a footnote. "Well since it would appear that the staff of Hogwarts are aware of Draco's continual harassment of Hermione yet have never once acted to curtail it then yes, there are things a lot more important to me than Quidditch."
McGonagall was now pissed, "Mr Potter and Miss Granger, there are two days left of term so I suggest you use them to carefully consider your futures at this school, to avoid any distractions you shall both miss the leaving feast and I shall arrange for some food to be sent to the common room for you both."
The Weasleys were taking Ron to the infirmary as the dorm emptied, the entertainment was apparently over for the evening.
Harry called to the headmaster as he was about to exit the room, "Professor Dumbledore, the events here tonight had nothing to do with our discussions in the infirmary. I will always fight for what I believe to be right," with a rye smile he added, "It's my destiny."
Dumbledore left much happier than he'd been a few moments before.
McGonagall cleared the dorm but both Harry and Hermione were far to pumped up to consider sleep at the moment so headed back down to the common room and snagged a couch. They were sitting there leaning into one another when their head of house made her way passed, McGonagall wasn't able to leave without having the last word. "You both have an appointment in my office come September, I would suggest you leave the new attitudes on the train."
Neither replied because if they were here in September McGonagall would definitely be seeing them.
It was a worried McGonagall that entered Dumbledore's office, "Albus that pair have spent the whole of this lovely sunny day in the library, Irma has informed me they were researching other magical schools and wizarding law. Are you sure about sending Harry back to those muggles for the summer? We may just be adding fuel to what is already quite a blaze."
"Minerva, Harry has to go there for his own good. Both students also have to attend Hogwarts next session unless their magical guardian says otherwise, since that is me then they will be here in September. Both have had quite a year and their new relationship has their emotions flying rather high at the moment, they will calm down over the summer when they don't get to see each other everyday and will delighted to return here for that if no other reason. If their behaviour doesn't improve next term we will use the threat of expelling Miss Granger to bring them both into line."
"Would you actually do that Albus? I hate to think what his reaction would be if we sent Miss Granger away and you know Severus would be merciless on the boy."
"It builds character Minerva, I would hate to lose Miss Granger from the castle but it is imperative that Mr Potter remains here. If that means she has to be sacrificed while he's in detention every night then that will be up to them, they are the students and we are the professors and they have to realise that we know what's best for them."
Minerva privately thought their job was to provide education for the students, a task she was sure would prove to be impossible for Mr Potter if Miss Granger was expelled from the school. The worrying part was that Albus didn't seem to mind this as long as Harry remained here, that bright young mind could go to waste sweeping toilets or scrubbing cauldrons just as long as he was still in the castle. She recognised the signs that this was one of those times where Albus thought he knew what was best for everybody and she would be wasting her breath arguing. Minerva again thought he was wrong and she had found to her cost what underestimating those two brought, dismissing their claims that the stone was in danger could have cost them their lives or seen Voldemort return.
Harry and Hermione were trying hard but failing spectacularly not to laugh at their punishment from their head of house. While the rest of Gryffindor had to watch Ron eat, listen to Dumbledore drone and then witness Slytherin being presented with the house cup, Hogwarts newest couple were sharing a quiet candle-lit dinner for two.
Had they been a bit older they would have appreciated the romantic setting the castle was providing but they just seemed to find everything funny tonight, perhaps it was the uncertainty of tomorrow that had them determined to enjoy their last night in Hogwarts. No matter what happened both knew that parting on the train was going to be very hard, especially since they didn't know when they would see each other again.
A/N thanks for reading.
As someone with over 25 years experience working with children of this age plus having raised two of my own I am aware Harry and Hermione's behaviour is rather mature for their ages. This is deliberate and will be explained in the following chapters.