More Important Things
Disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter otherwise I wouldn't need to go to work tomorrow.
Harry and Hermione had a full compartment to themselves on the London bound express as it sped along the tracks towards their destination and the decision that would change both their lives. They were passing the time browsing through a photo album that Hagrid had presented Harry with just before they boarded the train; this actually seemed to harden Harry's resolve to carry out their plan.
He indicated a photo featuring his parents wedding, "look at all the people in this photograph with my mum and dad, they seem like the best of friends yet not one of them came forward to take me when they were murdered. I not only don't know any of their names I don't even know if their alive or dead. Why are none of these people now part of my life?"
Hermione held her boyfriend as the tears slowly rolled down her cheeks, he'd had such a crappy life and even a gift that obviously meant so much to him still possessed the power to hurt. She was letting the tears flow now because she was going to have to put on a brave face when they reached Kings Cross and had to leave the train by herself while trying not to draw attention to the fact that Harry wasn't accompanying her.
Harry put his new album into his girlfriend's trunk for safe keeping then shrunk his own before shoving it out the window of the moving train, leaving his trunk in the compartment would cause questions to be asked when it was found. They wanted the discovery that Harry had disappeared to be delayed as long as possible, he was certain the Dursleys wouldn't report him missing as they were far more likely to hold a celebration.
He had no need of clothes that didn't fit and Hermione had taken anything useful before the trunk was ditched, he wasn't sure if this was burning bridges but it felt good as it seemed like finally he had some control over his life.
They were undisturbed for the whole journey before inevitably it was time, they kissed before Harry said goodbye to Hedwig and disappeared under his cloak. Hermione opened the compartment door and allowed her boyfriend to slip passed, ready to disembark as soon as the train ground to a halt.
She sat back down and tried to compose herself before having to face people without the boy who'd not only saved but changed her life, letting most of the students leave the train first she began to drag her trunk and Hedwig's cage off the train.
With her trunk now loaded onto a trolley and Hedwig's cage perched on top she was one of the last students to make her way through the barrier and began looking around for her parents. Hermione found her way blocked by a large obese man whose face was an unusual shade of puce, "That bloody bird belongs to the freak, where is the little shit?"
Hermione could only assume this was the fabled Vernon Dursley and neither she nor Harry had expected or planned for this, she decided to play dumb but polite. "I'm sorry sir; I have no idea what you're talking about. If you'll excuse me I need to find my parents."
Dursley's colour actually deepened as the veins in his enormous neck pulsated at an alarming rate, "You're one of those freaks! I drive all the way out here and the ungrateful little shit thinks he can play games does he?" Vernon then grabbed Hermione by the shoulders and began to shake her, "Tell me where he is, the freak is going to be sorry when I get my hands on him."
Unfortunately for Vernon, Dan Granger started speeding towards Hermione when he first spied the stranger approaching his daughter, when the bastard laid hands on his little princess then Dan lost his temper for the first time in many years.
Dan Granger had been a very talented rugby player in his youth but dentistry paid the bills and was a far more stable career for raising a family, he'd had to give the game up because broken fingers didn't exactly help with his daily occupation. A gym built into their home kept him in tip-top shape though and his six-foot-two, one hundred and eighty pounds cannoned into Vernon with a force that must have felt like he'd just been hit by the Hogwarts express.
Dan's shoulder sank deep into his victim's flab but the laws of physics dictated that the amount of force generated was way more than enough to move the mountain of lard, Vernon was lifted off his feet before hitting the station platform hard with a very irate father of the girl he'd just been shouting at landing on top of him.
Emma Granger now had her arms around her crying daughter after following behind the swathe her husband had cut through the crowd, they both watched as Dan tried to question the very fat man lying on the ground.
"Just what the hell were you playing at, grabbing my daughter like that? Who the bloody hell are you anyway?"
There was no answer from the tub of lard other than wheezing that would be more appropriate from an asthmatic octogenarian climbing stairs, Vernon physically had the wind knocked out his sails.
"Leave my husband alone you freak," said a horsed faced woman who made Olive Oyl seem overweight though there was no way her accompanying child could be called 'sweet pea'. "How dare you lay hands on him you ruffian, we shall be taking this matter further and involving the constabulary."
"That sounds like a great idea," said Dan as two railway police made their way towards the disturbance.
They eyed Dan warily while asking what the problem was; both relaxed when he introduced himself.
"Good afternoon gentlemen I'm Dr Daniel Granger, this is my wife Dr Emma Granger and our daughter Hermione. We were collecting our daughter when this man who we've never seen before suddenly starts shouting at her then grabs her with both hands and begins shaking her like some kind of rag doll."
"He's lying!" proclaimed the long-faced mare so Dan casually produced his wallet to confirm his identification, meanwhile three separate people approached the officials and authenticated the Granger's version of events.
Vernon was still on the ground struggling for breath but receiving no sympathy whatsoever, the railway policeman apologised to Dan and asked if he wanted to press charges.
One look at his daughter shaking her head made his mind up, she obviously just wanted to get out of here and Dan couldn't wait to find out what the hell was going on.
"No, I'm going to assume he made a mistake," he then glared at the prone man, "A mistake he won't make again." Dan was certain he had at least cracked a couple of the fat mans ribs and was keen to avoid awkward questions like 'what train did your daughter get off?' so didn't want to hang about.
Dan shook hands with the railway policemen and led his family out of the station towards their car.
They made it out to the car as Hermione spoke to a clearly trembling snowy owl while placing the cage beside her in the back seat, "Its ok Hedwig, this is my mum and dad and you'll be staying with us for a while until Harry contacts us girl. That bad man and his family won't get to hurt you or Harry anymore."
"Is that Harry's pet and why do you have her?" asked Emma, Dan was going to let her ask the questions as his job was to scare the boyfriend who didn't even turn up.
"Hedwig is not a pet mum; she's Harry's familiar and a very clever post owl. She understands everything you say and why she's with me is complicated."
The parents plan went out the window as Dan just couldn't help himself, "Hermione your mother and me went through years of university and now run our own dentistry practice, trust me when I say we can do complicated."
"That man you hit in the station was Harry's uncle and no dad, Harry is nothing like him. He's actually quite like you in many ways, sweet, gentle and kind but didn't hesitate for a second when jumping onto the back of a twelve foot mountain troll that was trying to hurt me."
Dan was worried now at this amount of buttering him up, whatever it was she had to tell them must be bad. "And he's your boyfriend? Just how serious a boyfriend are we talking here?"
Hermione had at least hoped they would have made it home before she had to answer that particular question and just prayed Harry's luck was better than hers. Her mother was half turned round in her seat awaiting an answer while her dad kept glancing in the mirror. She had the same determined expression on her face as when she stood up to McGonagall, "Mum, Dad, Harry is a very serious boyfriend."
An exasperated Dan replied, "Hermione you're still only twelve, it's not normal to have a 'very serious' boyfriend at twelve."
Hermione had tears running down her cheeks, "You're forgetting dad, I'm not normal – I'm a witch!"
Emma gave her husband the look that would have been recognised by married men the world over; it meant that Dan was dangerously close to sleeping alone tonight and the next 'look' in the series simply indicated 'sofa!'
"Honey ignore the big scary man behind the wheel, his testosterone levels are still sky high from the station, could you explain to me what is different with you being a witch?"
"Harry and I spent days exploring our relationship," Hermione let out a scream as her father momentarily lost control of the car. "DAD! Not like that. We hold hands all the time, hug a lot and kiss, nothing more than that for a long time."
Dan would normally be ready to snap in two any boy who'd kissed his daughter but after where his thoughts went a second ago kissing didn't seem too bad at all – he especially liked the 'long time' remark.
"We read every book in the library about relationships between magical couples and made some startling discoveries, when Harry saved my life from the troll it created a magical bond called a life debt. Then when I saved Harry's life as his broom was being hexed they should have cancelled each other out but the fact that we both really liked each other brought our magic into play and we think it amplified the effects."
A bemused Emma was still none the wiser, "Hermione, in muggle English please."
"Harry and I are both quite quiet and private people; we knew that to be hugging each other in front of others wasn't behaviour that we'd usually be comfortable with so we think our magic gave us a little push."
"You're being forced into being this boy's girlfriend?" growled Dan.
She shook her head fervently, "No dad, I've really liked Harry since I met him but couldn't believe he liked me back."
"What's not to like?" her father asked.
Hermione gave a weak smile, "I knew you were both alike because that's exactly what Harry said."
"You still haven't told us where Harry is or why he couldn't meet with us in the station?" Emma asked.
The amount of tears cascading down his daughter's cheeks had Dan pulling over to the side of the road as he realised they'd now got to the bad bit.
"You both saw those people he's forced to live with and believe me when I say first impressions didn't do them justice; they're a lot worse than that. Until he got his Hogwarts letter they made him live in a cupboard under the stairs, he does most of the cooking but gets fed on scraps, forced to work like a slave while wearing his huge cousin's cast off clothes. Told all his life he was a worthless freak whose drunken parents died in a car crash. Can you imagine his surprise and shock when he gets to Hogwarts and discovers he's famous, wealthy and his parents died heroes."
Emma and Dan didn't know how to answer their daughter, who would?
"Harry sneaked passed his relatives using his father's invisibility cloak and was heading towards Gringotts to try and find some answers to the riddles in his life."
Emma had her hand over her mouth, "Hermione are you telling us Harry is running away? And you're helping him!"
"The short answer is yes, when I found out the full story I just had to."
"You will be telling us the full story young lady and we need to report that young boy as missing."
"I have to say no to both of those mum, there's a lot you need to understand first. When I said Harry was famous I don't just mean like some minor celebrity always trying to promote their latest project, it's more in line with Prince William famous. Now can you imagine HIS mother would want her son dropped off on the Dursley's doorstep to be abused and lied to for the rest of his life. For that to happen in our world would be unthinkable but that's exactly what happened in the magical world so to use a quote 'something is rotten in the state of Denmark' and Harry's trying to discover what is going on."
Dan was in danger of loosing his temper for the second time today, "Hermione, just because you were named after a Shakespearian character doesn't turn you and Harry into Romeo and Juliet."
"I know that dad, Harry and I are actually hoping for an ending where neither of us dies of anything but old age." Hermione burst into tears that quickly became sobs as Emma rushed out her seat to join her distraught daughter in the back of the car.
"Honey what is it?" Emma asked while comforting the crying witch.
"Harry was nearly killed again just after asking me to be his girlfriend, he was unconscious for two days in the infirmary and I was so worried. That was the third time an attempt was made on his life since going to Hogwarts."
"Well Hogwarts will be missing a certain Miss Granger this September."
"Dad neither Harry nor I want to go back but we may not have a choice, we both have magical guardians and suspect that it may be Dumbledore. He will never let Harry leave and will want me there to threaten Harry with my expulsion if he doesn't do as he's told. We can't even transfer to another magical school without his permission."
Dan lost it, "Who do these bastards think they are, going to tell us what we can and can't do with our daughter's future. If necessary we'll leave the country, false passports, whatever it takes but you are not going back to that nuthouse of a school."
"Does this mean we're running away?" Hermione asked sweetly.
This was like being hit by a bucket full of ice water for Dan Granger, had he just been played by his not yet thirteen year old daughter? They knew she was intelligent, scarily so sometimes but this was a new development.
She tried to explain, "Harry is at the bank trying to discover if there is anything we can do about the magical guardian issue, one glance at the Dursleys was enough to tell you that they couldn't care less if Harry left. If that can be done then I've invited Harry to stay with us as our guest while you get to know him and we can all look through the other schools prospectus to find one that fits what we want. Failing that the next best option is to disappear until we're seventeen while employing private tutors to teach us magic, if the goblins won't help then he's going to empty his vault, change it to sterling and hide in the muggle world."
Her parents couldn't believe this was the same girl they had last seen at Christmas.
Hermione continued displaying her new found confidence, "Harry and I have had a few days to sort all this information out, once we made the decision that we didn't want to return to Hogwarts our choices were severely limited which is why Harry couldn't meet you in the station."
"Why do I feel we're not being told the full story," asked Dan.
"Because I can't, some powerful magical people can read your thoughts straight out your head. There are also potions that make you tell the truth but you can't tell what you don't know, when Harry contacts me he will only say he's safe not where he is."
If anything Hermione grew even more serious, "This isn't some playground game dad, the magical world holds many wonders but it can be an exceedingly dangerous place. There's a whole class war going on where people get murdered because they don't have the right parents, Harry's famous because he ended the last war when the leader killed his parents but his curse bounced back off baby Harry and hit the evil wizard. There has been relative peace for almost ten years but it's starting again, Harry is in the middle of it but so are we. As a witch of non-magical parents I'm considered the lowest of the low but the fact that I'm top student of our year blows their stupid blood purity ramblings out the water so we would be pretty near the top of their hate list even without Harry's involvement."
Dan was appalled, "It sounds like Hitler and his whole eugenics program, 'life unworthy of life' and where does Harry fit into all this class bull?"
Hermione had no problem imagining Draco and his ilk in Hitler youth uniforms and designing armbands for those less pure than themselves to wear, "Harry's father was one of the purebloods who apparently didn't believe this rubbish either because his mother was like me, a first-generation witch. Harry would be classed as a half-blood but his status as the boy-who-lived and being the last of the Potter line kind of negates that. He's been kept totally in the dark about everything relating to the Potters and hopes the goblins will help with that as well. The information is all there in the school library on how a war was fought at the same time as our WWII quickly followed by another one that baby Harry ended but it all seems to be happening again."
Neither parent knew what to say, this was so new and over their heads that they just didn't have a Scooby what to do next.
"We have a list of books that Harry's going to try and get sent to us and as of tomorrow the wizarding newspaper will be delivered every day. The press seems to be controlled by whoever pays the most gold but the people believe everything printed an apparently there are no libel laws so they can print anything they want regardless of the facts."
"Is there a new leader or something, how can it start up again if he's dead?
"He's not dead mum, he's actually more like a wraith or spirit. He possessed one of our professors this year and that's who let the troll into the school and tried to kill Harry three times."
Both parents spoke in unison, "you're not going back to that nuthouse!"
Hedwig was moved into the front seat so Emma could travel the rest of the journey with Hermione in the back of the car, "Hermione there must be something good about the wizarding world?" her daughter's instant smile almost had Emma laughing, "apart from Harry, what about that other boy you wrote about?"
Hermione's demeanour changed back just as quickly, "He's no longer our friend, he said some awful things to Harry about me and it took three other boys to pull Harry off him. Ron spent the night in the infirmary but I think that was more to give Harry time to cool down than to treat his injures though he did have at least a broken nose."
Emma hugged her daughter, "Sounds more like your father all the time."
Emma and Dan had both felt they were losing their daughter to a world they could never be part of and then the revelation that the girl who'd hardly made a friend wanted them to meet her boyfriend had her father polishing his shotgun ready for action. Sitting in the car with her arm round Hermione as they discussed her first boyfriend while Dan pretended not to be hanging on every word felt wonderful and, apart from the snowy owl in the front seat, about as normal as life was going to get for the Grangers.
Both parents actually felt as if they'd stumbled into some Robert Ludlum novel and were worried about what the future held for their family but they were all together now and that was all that mattered for the moment.
Ronald Bilius Weasley heard his full name bouncing of the Burrow walls as his mother's dulcet tones demanded his immediate attendance in the kitchen downstairs, like a condemned man he slowly made his way down the rickety staircase to discover what he was in trouble for this time. Greeting him on the table, laid out like exhibit A, was an emerald green knitted jumper with an H in the centre of it. He had meant to chuck it away but had forgotten so was now trying to come up with a story his mother would believe and yet would not get him into to much trouble.
"Explain!" was all she said, or should that be demanded.
"Harry and I had a fight and he no longer speaks to me; I found that folded on my bed so could only think he didn't want it anymore."
Molly Weasley was building up a good head of steam, "What happened and why were you fighting?"
"Harry got a girlfriend and when I asked for his help to find me one he attacked me. I spent the night in the infirmary while he cost Gryffindor fifty points; he also missed the leaving feast and lost his place on the Quidditch team."
"The ignorant little toe-rag, after everything you've done for him he dumps you as soon as a girl comes on the scene. I spent hours knitting that and he chucks it back in my face, Albus will hear about this!"
She stormed off to make an irate floo call questioning if Dumbledore knew just what was happening at his school, Ron headed back up to his bedroom relieved at how lightly he'd escaped while congratulating himself on not even having resorted to telling lies.
Nobody paid any attention to the youngest Weasley as she reverently picked up Harry Potter's jumper and retreated in the direction of her room while carrying the priceless possession, but then again nobody ever paid any attention to the youngest Weasley.
Minerva McGonagall left the headmasters office shaking her head, she hated when Albus simply refused to believe even in the possibility that he was wrong.
She was there when Molly Weasley called to tell them that Harry had returned his Christmas present from her and the overbearing Weasley matriarch was not best pleased, considering she'd never met the lad Minerva couldn't really understand why she was getting so upset never mind sending him a present in the first place.
The Weasley family now considered Harry persona-non-grata to the full tribe of red heads because of his insult. When she said that Ginny had been so looking forward to meeting the boy-who-lived but now wouldn't, the depute didn't understand why but for some reason this upset Albus more than anything else she said.
Minerva McGonagall hated divination with a passion and felt it shouldn't even be considered a branch of magic but something inside her was screaming that Albus was making an even bigger mistake than he made that night in Privet Drive, only this time it wasn't just Harry that was going to suffer.
She'd tried to talk to Dumbledore but had to admit she would have had more luck teaching Hippogriffs to waltz, at least she tried. The Scotswoman was aware of her limitations, a superb teacher and deputy but never a leader. Albus Dumbledore was the most powerful and respected wizard in the world so she would just have to hope that he was right, even though she knew he wasn't.
On reaching home the Grangers decided they needed some cheering-up so the take-away menus came out the drawer with curries winning the day, they were clearing up the resulting carnage of the meal when a box just appeared in the middle of the table, drawing a shriek from Emma.
Hermione recognised the handwriting instantly, "It's from Harry!"
She opened the box extracting a lot of the books on their list but also found a small mirror that had a note stuck to it, 'say your boyfriends name.'
After a few seconds Harry's face appeared in the mirror, "Oh Hermione am I glad to see you, did everything go Ok at the station?"
"Not really, your uncle recognised Hedwig and grabbed me trying to find out where you were."
Harry's shock was plain for her to see, "He actually physically grabbed you?" Hermione's nod caused an explosion at the other end, "The fat bastard! Griphook, I've changed my mind and want to hit the Dursleys with everything we can, nobody touches Hermione."
"Harry calm down, my dad was there and flattened him. He was still lying on the deck when we left, I thought you were joking when you said your cousin was the size of a baby whale but I saw it for myself today."
"He won't be so fat for much longer, turns out I own that house and the company he works for, Vernon just found himself homeless and jobless, I was prepared to forgive his treatment of me but he crossed the line today grabbing you. Please say thanks to you dad and I just wish I could have seen it."
"Tell him yourself, their both here listening."
"Aw shit Potter, way to go in making a good first impression. Mr and Mrs Granger please excuse my earlier language, it's not my normal as Hermione would thump me but I've had one hell of a day."
Dan's head appeared over Hermione's right shoulder, "Son at this moment in time your use of language is the least of my worries, I really want to know what the bloody hell is going on here."
"Perfectly understandable sir, can you give me a minute to check with Hermione so I don't have to go over stuff she's already told you."
"I told them almost everything Harry so you can pick up from when you left me today, what are these mirrors?"
"Something my father and his friends invented and they were in my family vault along with letters from my parents, are you sitting down Hermione?"
"Yes Harry, and If you don't tell me what happened pretty soon you'll be earning that thumping you were talking about."
"Hermione, is that any way to talk to a lord? Yes I'm actually lord Potter but you can still call me Harry. Now apparently this should all have been explained to me on my eleventh birthday, kind of makes me wonder why you got a visit from McGonagall and I got landed with Hagrid. Anyway the goblins are seriously pissed at this deliberate oversight and other irregularities in my accounts so are going to help me as much as possible. I'm safe in Gringotts and will be staying the night as there are some potions to help reverse the damage done by my childhood diet and a couple of monitoring charms that Dumbledore appears to have placed on me need removing."
"That's brilliant about the goblins helping and you know to me you'll always be 'just Harry', what about the magical guardian thing?"
"Well at fourteen I can claim my head of house status and put you and your parents under its protection, at the moment there isn't anything the ministry or Dumbledore can do about that. The goblins reckon there's a good chance I could pull off my emancipation now but if it failed I'd be stuck at Hogwarts for another two year by which time our headmaster would probably have had the law changed to prevent me leaving at all so I think the best option for me is to disappear."
It was in a tentative voice that Hermione asked, "What about me Harry?"
"We may have come up with a plan that can get you the freedom to go wherever you want…"
"Harry James Potter don't even think about it, you can take that nobility streak of yours and ram it up your lordy arse! I know exactly what I'm getting myself into and if you try and break up with me over this I will hunt you down and hurt you bad." A furious Hermione had tears flowing down her cheeks.
"Hermione I just want you to have other options available to you. I know you were quite excited over some of those European schools and I would hate to deprive you of that opportunity because I couldn't go for at least another two years."
"Don't you get it Harry, it wouldn't be an opportunity if you weren't there, it would feel like a punishment that I don't deserve. That night in the bathroom I had made up my mind to leave as I didn't fit in at Hogwarts any better than my muggle school, you not only saved my life that night but changed it forever by becoming my friend – don't ask me to give that up to attend somewhere else I wouldn't fit in because the price is too high."
"Hermione I have no intention of breaking up with you, I might not be as smart as you are but even I know you don't throw away the best thing in your life. Let's try and do this legally first then the world is your oyster, if you and your parents think what I can offer is the best option I would be more than happy for you to come with me."
Emma's face appeared over Hermione's left shoulder, "Harry, just what is it that you can offer?"
"I have a large residence and the goblins will provide some excellent tutors in what ever subjects we wish, they will come and go like that parcel appeared in your house tonight without ever knowing the location of where we actually are. You and Mr Granger would be able to contact or visit Hermione at any time using the same means and conditions – unless you wanted to stay in which case all restrictions would be removed and we would have no need for secrets. I hate keeping secrets from you but we discovered while researching in the library different means where that information could be gotten without your consent, they're all illegal but that wouldn't stop them being used."
Dan again appeared in the picture, "Harry, if there's a chance of getting my daughter legally out from under these people I want to take it no matter what she says, we can then look at all the options we have available including yours."
Hermione wanted to argue but her dad agreeing with Harry was also something she was very keen on, she decided to concede this battle and save her arguments for winning the war. She was not being parted from Harry under any circumstances.
"Sir the goblins tell me the headmaster must have some devices monitoring me and we plan on setting them all off tomorrow morning about nine, you can bet it won't be much later than that when he pays a visit to Hermione. With a bit of luck on our side we might be able to catch him off guard, sir do you think you would be able to act angry towards him?"
Dan practically growled, "Believe me Harry, there won't be any acting required. Now what's this plan?"
When Harry told him Dan couldn't help but laugh. "Bloody hell Emma, how are we going to cope if these two team up against us, our daughter already stitched us up today and now her boyfriend's taking on the government."
Emma's comment, "Yes they do make quite the pair," had both Harry and Hermione blushing.
Albus was getting ready to head off for his summer holidays before owls started arriving from parents demanding to know why he'd employed Voldemort to teach defence, Potter and Granger had confirmed all the rumours that evening in the Gryffindor dorm.
He was alarmed at the change in Harry since his latest adventure but he had yet to ascertain whether it was the result of his revelations in the infirmary or acquiring a girlfriend in the shape of Miss Granger. He would watch the situation closely and take action if required, his thoughts were instantly focused by every alarm he had linked to the boy suddenly going mental. He quickly called Minerva and both of them raced towards Privet Drive.
A/N thanks for reading and especially those who reviewed. I deliberately didn't include a 'Harry meets the goblins' scene and won't be including the obligatory shopping trip either.