A/N – Don't hate me because this is not an update of Oxford undercover. Believe me the next update of that is coming very soon. This is something that has been in progress on my computer for ages and that I've come back to every few months and done a little bit more to. Finally it is now finished. I know Hermione is again a student at Oxford... please excuse the repetition of theme, nothing else is the same. It's just that whenever I think about what Hermione would do after Hogwarts I always see her wanting to go to University/College and the only one I can see her attending is Oxford. I'm also loving the Harry has a telephone and gets an unexpected phone call thing, I've got several WIPs on my hard drive that use that too and which will probably be posted here one of these days. You'll just have to forgive me. Anyway enough of my lengthy Author Note, on with the show.
Harry was sitting in his living room watching television on a boring Sunday afternoon when unexpectedly his telephone rang. He had a telephone so that he could call out for pizza on the occasional Saturday night when he was at home, or so he could call a taxi without having to walk to a telephone booth. There was only one person who had his phone number, mainly because all of his friends were wizards and few of them knew what a telephone was much less how to use one, and he had long since stopped expecting her to call him. Hermione was the person who had his number, but aside from the odd annual or bi-annual reunion he rarely saw her and though she still sent cards for his birthday and at Christmas she never wrote. He didn't think it was because she didn't care and he hoped it wasn't because he had done something wrong, as far as he was aware it was simply because they had drifted.
After Hogwarts he'd gone into the Ministries Auror training program and Hermione had gone to Oxford to study law, she said it was important for her to understand how muggle law operated so that she could effectively lobby for change to wizarding law. Harry understood what she was doing but between their respective very busy schedules it wasn't long before they hardly ever saw each other anymore. So although Harry was pleasantly surprised at just hearing the phone ring, because he knew it was her, he was nonetheless surprised. He picked up the phone and put the receiver to his ear.
'Hello?' he asked, he supposed it might not be Hermione, it might be a telemarketer.
'Harry!' Hermione's voice sounded excited over the phone.
'Hermione!' He responded instinctively to the happiness in her voice, smiling automatically.
'Gosh it's so good to hear your voice, I'm so glad you're home.'
'Yeah, I wasn't supposed to be, I was supposed to be playing a game of Quidditch with the boys at the Burrow… but it's raining and I couldn't be bothered so we rescheduled.'
'Oh well, I've never been so happy for rain.' Hermione gushed happily
'Why? What's going on Hermione.' Harry asked confused.
He was happy to hear from Hermione there was no doubt about that, but he was starting to become a little curious as to why she had called.
'Oh well, you'll probably think it's silly but I need a favour.' She gushed now sounding a little breathless.
'Yeah I was starting to think that might be the case,' Harry teased her gently, 'what can I do for you?'
'Well, look it is silly but, for my psychology class we had to write a paper about one person in our life that we respected more than anyone else, they said that before we got stuck into the worst of human nature we should remind ourselves of the best, and they then gave everyone a copy of everyone else's essay.'
'Are you saying you wrote about me?' Harry asked incredulous.
'Well honestly Harry who else was I supposed to write about?' she sounded impatient with his question.
'Well I don't know, McGonagall? Dumbledore? Your Mum?' he snapped defensively.
'Fine, I could have written about someone else, but I didn't I wrote about you and they were so impressed with my stupid essay that they wanted me to ask you to come into the school and talk to them.'
'WHAT!' Harry bellowed, 'Hermione you know what I'm like with public speaking I can't do that!'
'I know, I told them that you wouldn't agree to speaking with a large group and they said they'd be happy with doing it in small groups, I told them that you work full time, they said they would be happy to arrange it for a weekend or after hours.' Hermione let out an exasperated sigh that told Harry far more eloquently than any words ever could how frustrated she was, 'in fact I told them anything I could think of to try and get you out of this but for every objection I came up with they came up with a solution.'
Harry dropped his head in resignation, 'What if you told them I suddenly became very ill or something?' he asked knowing it was useless.
'I don't think they'd believe me at this point Harry, they may even start to think I'd made you up.' Her voice sounding just as hopeless as he was feeling.
'Why are you even doing psychology anyway Hermione? What happened to law?' Harry knew he was whining now but he couldn't help it.
'It's an elective, I thought it would be fun. I'm sorry, I had no idea they would do this.'
Harry sighed and said what he'd known he'd say ever since he'd first got an inkling that she was calling because she needed him to do something for her, 'Alright Hermione I'll do it, but only cause it's you okay.'
'Thank you Harry, you're the best!' the relief in her voice was evident.
'When am I supposed to be doing this anyway?'
'Well,' Hermione sounded nervous again, 'Now actually, that's kind of why I'm so glad you're at home.'
'Now?' Harry asked incredulously.
'I was hoping I'd be able to get you out of it,' she said miserably.
Harry didn't have the heart to make her feel any worse than she obviously did already and besides, now that it'd had time to sink in a little, he was feeling rather flattered that of all the people in her life she'd chosen to write about him.
'It's fine but how am I going to get there?' he asked, but all he heard was dial tone. He put the phone down and stared at it in amazement, then before he even had time to say "she hung up on me" (which would have been his next act) he heard the distinctive crack of apparition from his entryway.
'Harry?' he heard Hermione call out.
He went into the entryway leaned against the door with arms folded and an eyebrow raised, 'side along apparition then?' he asked.
Hermione smiled and nodded, 'you ready?'
Harry smiled and shook his head in exasperation, 'Do I have time to get changed?'
Less than ten minutes later they were walking through the campus towards the lecture theatre where this was all going to be done.
'So how is this going to work then, you told them I don't like speaking to crowds' right?'
'Yeah, I'll be there with you and my professor is just going to ask you some questions and it'll all be recorded.'
'Right, you'll make sure this doesn't get into the hands of any daily prophet reporters won't you?'
'Of course Harry.'
'What about magic and stuff, are there any lies I should know?' He asked suddenly realising that there was a lot of his history with Hermione that he couldn't tell them.
'I didn't tell any lies, I just omitted a lot of stuff, the only thing you probably do need to know is that I told them you now work in secret services.'
'Right, well I suppose that's not too far from the truth.'
'Yeah, they were all so surprised I was friends with someone in the secret services. Here we are.' She said pushing open a classroom door.
The classroom was empty except for an older lady sitting at a desk, she looked up and Harry was strongly reminded of McGonagall. This impression didn't entirely put him at ease. But then she smiled and any trace of resemblance vanished. She had short grey hair but rather than being pulled up in a bun, like McGonagall wore hers, it was curled and softly framed her face. Her clothes were prim and proper, a slim dark grey skirt and a white button up blouse, and her face was lined but something about her seemed much softer than their former professor. She stood up and stretched out her hand, 'you must be Harry,' she said and smiled.
Harry smiled in return and shook her hand, 'I'm sorry I don't know your name.'
'Oh I'm sorry, Harry, this is Professor Milhane.' Hermione said apologetically.
The professor smiled fondly at Hermione and Harry could tell that even here Hermione was a favourite of her teachers, 'I keep trying to get her to call me Mary, but she just won't.' she said shaking her head.
'Well Professor I suppose it's a throwback from our high school days.' Harry explained.
'Ah and you suffer the same affliction I see, oh well, we have her for another few years yet perhaps I can break her of it.'
'I wish you the best of luck with that.' Harry said sincerely liking the Professor more and more with each passing minute.
'Well shall we get started then?' she asked clapping her hands together.
Harry felt suddenly uncomfortable and unsure of himself, 'Er, right, um, where do you want me?' He asked
'Just take a seat on this stool here Harry.' She said indicating a stool while taking a seat herself on another stool next to it. The two stools were set up in front of camera on a tripod which Hermione went over to and turned on.
'It's ok Harry I'll be sitting just here if you need anything.' Hermione reassured him.
'Right' he said and sat down on the stool provided, 'So what did you want to ask me professor?' he asked turning his attention to the woman across from him.
'Well firstly Harry, when did Hermione tell you about this?'
'Today,' Harry replied without hesitation.
'That's what I thought,' she replied shooting an amused look at Hermione.
'But,' Harry qualified guessing the professors thoughts, 'I know she wouldn't have asked me to do this if there was anyway she could've gotten me out of it, she knows that I do this with great reluctance.'
The professor smiled at him, 'of course, and so you do her a great favour on a moments notice.'
Harry flushed feeling as though his words had been somehow turned around on him, 'well, I don't know about that.'
'Do you know why Hermione nominated you as the person she most admires Harry?'
He shook his head realising somewhat belatedly that it was one question he had omitted to ask her about all of this.
'She nominated you because of your great strength of character.'
'My strength of character?' Harry asked uncertain as to what that really meant or how it applied to him.
'Yes and she cited an incident that occurred when you were 11 years old in which you saved her life, despite the fact that you weren't even friends at the time. In fact she seemed to think you may have even disliked her at the time. What can you tell us about that.'
Harry snuck a glance at Hermione, she obviously hadn't told them anything specific about the incident because she said she hadn't lied, so choosing his words carefully he tried to keep his answer as general as possible.
'Well firstly, I never disliked her.' He looked directly at Hermione who was hiding behind the camera, 'I can't believe you thought that,' then he turned back to the professor, 'she needed help and I was in a position to help, what can I say? I think I did what anyone would've done. Besides, she's told me off more than once for my "saving people thing" and rightly so, it's gotten me and my friends into danger'
'She also talked about your incredible modesty, she seemed to think you were a pretty special sportsman, could have played professionally?'
'I'm not modest, not really, I know I could have played professionally and I suppose it would have been fun but I just thought that there were other things that are more important.'
The professor allowed herself a small smile, 'is that the reason you entered the secret services?'
'I guess so. I can't really talk about my work.' Harry answered.
'It's ok Harry, we know there's a lot you won't want to talk about, we're more interested in how you think and feel.'
The professor laughed, 'Does that make you uncomfortable?'
'A little, I don't know you and you want me to tell you how I feel about things.'
'You like to keep your feelings to yourself do you?'
'I wouldn't say that.'
'What would you say?'
'I don't know, I guess I just prefer to keep it to myself unless it's important.'
'You don't think your feelings are important.'
'Not unless they actually are I suppose,'
'Can you elaborate on what you mean by that?'
Harry thought for a second about how to explain it, 'Ok so if I'm in a life or death situation and I've got a bad feeling about going through that door, then I think that 'feeling' is important. Or if someone I've met expresses an opinion that I find extremely distasteful that feeling might be important but you have to wait and see if their actions back it up. But like today when someone asks you to do something that's inconvenient but doesn't really impact on you in a negative way then my feelings aren't important then. Does that answer your question?'
'Very well.' The professor responded, she smiled at Hermione and then looked back at her notes.
A few moments of silence passed while the professor shuffled her cards around, Harry squirmed uncomfortably.
'Harry the next topic that I'd like to broach with you might be understandably a bit difficult for you to talk about, but it is the main reason that we wanted so much to talk to you.'
Harry glanced uneasily at Hermione but she remained hidden behind the camcorder, 'ok'
'I understand that it might be a difficult topic for you to discuss with a virtual stranger but we would consider it a great favour if you would be as open as you can.'
Harry's feeling of dread increased, 'right'
'I want to talk to you about your family.'
Harry didn't respond verbally but glared in Hermione's direction.
'I understand that you're an orphan and you were raised by your mother's sister and her husband.'
Harry simply nodded.
'Harry, I want you to tell me about the cupboard under the stairs.'
'It was my bedroom until I was 11.'
'Is that all you can tell me about it?'
'What else is there to tell?'
'How did you feel about having a bedroom that was only a cupboard under the stairs?'
'I never really thought about it, that was just the way things were. I was jealous I guess, because my cousin had a nice room and I fantasised about my parents being alive. I guess as I got older I just kind of got over it. These kinds of feelings are fairly common in orphans I guess and after I started high-school, I made some great friends and that really helped a lot.'
The professor nodded and smiled at him, 'So your friends became a kind of substitute family for you?'
'Yeah, I guess that's why I'm willing to do stuff for them that I'd really prefer not to do. My friends mean a lot to me.' He glanced at Hermione and smiled.
'I understand that your cousin also bullied you quite badly, is that true?'
'Well Dudley's a jerk so what can you expect?'
'Hermione noted in her essay that when you went to high you were quite popular.'
Harry scratched that back of his neck and glanced at Hermione again, 'I don't know about that, sometimes I was really popular and sometimes I really wasn't. One of my professors once told me "Fame is a fickle friend Harry". I was certainly very well known at school.' Hermione snorted with laughter, obviously realising which professor Harry was quoting.
'During your periods of high popularity you didn't ever turn your back on your friends or turn to bullying behaviour?'
'Of course not, I've already said how important my friends were to me and as if I would turn into a bully, I'd been on the receiving end of it too much.'
'I can appreciate that, but it's a much more common reaction to popularity than the one you had.'
Harry only raised an eyebrow in response, he was beginning to wonder what the purpose of all of this was.
'Can I ask you a question now?'
The professor smiled at him as though she'd been expecting this, 'of course.'
He leaned forward slightly, 'why are you asking me all these questions?'
The professor looked confused, 'I thought Hermione told you?'
'She told me about an essay that everyone had to write, but that doesn't explain to me why I am here? I assume that you have interviewed every other person that an essay was written about.'
'No of course not, in fact this is the first time we have done it.'
'Ok, so, the question remains. Why?'
'Well surely you can appreciate how extraordinary you are?'
'In some communities maybe, but I never thought a University psychology class would be one of them, and from what Hermione told me you were pretty insistent on getting me here. Despite the fact that she told you, quite correctly, that I wouldn't want to do it.'
The professor looked uncomfortable now, 'You're a fascinating character study, your orphaned but unlike most orphans you aren't a loner, you were abused as a child but never became an abuser in fact the exact opposite. You grew up without anything but offered the chance for fame and fortune you turned it down to go into law enforcement. You were never given anything and had to do everything for yourself but instead of it making you bitter, it made you generous. You've achieved an awful lot for someone so young and yet you're still genuinely modest. We thought it was impossible for what Hermione had said about you to be true, so we wanted to meet you and judge for ourselves.'
The professor paused and glanced in Hermione's direction, 'To be perfectly honest I had rather expected to find that Hermione's description of you was rather rose tinted. But I guess I should have known better.'
'Hermione's the smartest person I've ever known and I've never known her to write anything in an essay that wasn't true. Still I think she's probably been a little generous with me.'
'What would you say your flaws are then?'
'Well, I tend to be a bit rash sometimes, jump to conclusions, act first think later. I've been known to hold a grudge. I haven't been able to forgive my Aunt and Uncle and I never see them even though they're the only blood relatives I've got. I have trouble opening up, especially to new people. Hermione maybe doesn't see any of that stuff, probably cause we've been friends for so long and it's never been directed at her.'
The professor smiled, 'Thank you for your time Harry, you've been very generous.'
The professor nodded and Harry smiled at her in relief.
Harry stood up and looked over at Hermione, 'Want to get some lunch?'
Hermione just smiled at him and nodded and they headed toward the door, they were just about to leave when the professor called out.
'Harry could I just have one moment of your time before you leave?'
Hermione gestured at the door, 'I'll wait outside.'
'I'm sorry to keep you, I know you're eager to get out of here.'
'I just thought you might like a copy of Hermione's essay, maybe it'll help you understand how special you are.'
'Oh, ah, okay.' Harry took the essay hesitantly and glanced at the front page.
"Defining Harry; An Essay by Hermione Granger"
'Your welcome Harry, it was a real pleasure to meet you.'
Harry smiled at her feeling a bit shy and practically ran from the room.
When he got outside he saw that it had stopped raining and the sun had come out, Hermione was standing by the windows that lined one side of the long corridor, looking out over the campus green. Harry went up behind her and put an arm around her shoulders.
'It's a lovely campus, you must love it here.'
Hermione sighed and leaned her head back up against his broad chest.
'Yeah, it's a bit lonely sometimes, but I do love it.'
'Well I guess now that I've been I could come up and visit you whenever you've got time.'
Hermione turned her head to look at him bringing their faces much closer together.
'I've always got time for you Harry.'
'Really?' he asked feeling unsure, 'it just seems like lately you haven't really wanted to hang out with me, I was beginning to feel like I'd done something wrong.'
Hermione smiled at him and leaned up to kiss his cheek, 'No, I've just been busy and trying to sort out some issues that I've had,' seeing Harry's concerned look she hastened to add, 'it was nothing to worry about really, just some things I've had to work out for myself.'
Harry nodded and then asked the question he really wanted answered, 'Why did you choose me to write about?'
Hermione shrugged, 'they told us to write about the person we admired most and you were the first person who came to mind. Not that I don't admire those other people you mentioned, I just admire you more, a lot more in fact.'
'Because of what I did?'
'No, because of who you are, because of the thousand and one little things that you do everyday in the most ordinary way... that just add up to make you extraordinary.'
'You think I'm extraordinary?'
Hermione nodded and Harry, unable to resist any longer, gave into the temptation he'd been fighting for a long time. He kissed her. He kissed her until her toes curled and she was plastered against him and breathless. And when he finished kissing her she kissed him right back.