Summary: A final conversation with certain dearly departed souls. A meeting that heals old wounds.
...ooO Last Words Ooo...
Hermione smiled as she looked down upon two well-tended gravestones in a deserted cemetery. Accommodating her shifting center of gravity, she carefully pushed herself off her knees and dusted the leaves and dirt from her long skirts. Bruce made it a ritual to visit his parents' graves at least once a month and on their anniversaries, he would try to reserve the whole day to remember and mourn. But Hermione wasn't here to mourn. She was here to celebrate life.
"What are you doing here? You told Alfred you were staying at Penthouse for the night." The harsh raspy growl of the Dark Knight broke the late night quiet.
Hermione stared up at the cowled, stern visage but did not flinch from Batman's looming presence. "I made some plans. I want to tell your parents what is happening in your life, in our lives." She patted her rounded waist.
Batman frowned. "But why tonight?"
The answer was short and succinct. "Samhain."
His eyes widened in comprehension. "Day of the Dead. The night when the Veil separating this world and the next is thinnest."
She nodded. "Yes. I set up alarm wards around the cemetery and stronger ones around the Wayne Family plot. There are several notice-me-nots and obscuring charms around us. No one will see what happens tonight. I will take them down in a few days; in the daytime, with Alfred around."
After some hesitation, he relaxed and moved closer to her. "I wondered why you wanted to attend the City Halloween bash. Dressed as a witch of all things." He added indicating the long black silk-blend robes that flowed over the cream linen tunic-style top and burgundy ankle-length woollen skirts. In addition, she carried a gnarled staff capped by a large fake white crystal and wore a wide-brimmed pointed black hat set on top of her loose brown curls.
She wrapped her hand around his gloved one and drew him closer. "Tonight is the perfect night to speak to them. If the dead ever hear us, they do on Samhain."
He hesitated. "Could you start?"
She was startled for an instant. "Of course." She moved to stand at the foot of the pair of graves before she focused her magic. There was no spell for what she wanted, just her heart's desire. 'Please work.' She squeezed her eyes shut. 'Please work.'
A soft silver shimmer surrounded her. Batman watched. He did not recognize what she was doing but he knew better than to interrupt.
The glow faded and Hermione began to talk.
"Hello. I'm not sure if you know of me, but my name is Hermione. My parents were dentists, Dan and Jane Granger. They are dead now, so if you meet them please tell them I love them and I am sorry for obliviating their memories. I don't know if you know, but I am married to your son Bruce. We are expecting our first child in the New Year. If I ramble or repeat what you already know, just bear with me. I don't know what Bruce has told you about his life but I'm certain he has hidden a lot. He is a very proud man. Not the sort to trumpet his achievements; so I will for him.
"I've known Bruce for years. I even saw the both of you once or twice. He was a happy boy so I didn't want to mess things up by interfering so I kept my distance. But when both of you died I knew I couldn't keep silent. I broke the unspoken rule of all Guardians and revealed myself. It surprised me that Bruce accepted me as well as he did, but I suppose he was young— his mind did not have the same self-imposed limits as most adults or mundanes. If you don't know, mundanes are humans without metapowers or magic. Just ordinary folk.
"If you are wondering how a Guardian ended up returning to life and marrying your son talk to Severus Snape or Nicholas Flamel. Ask around for the Hogwarts Founders and they'll be able to tell you all. I'm not the perfect debutante you would have wanted for your son. I am a witch, a magic-user who primarily uses wands to channel magic. I fought in a war and I have killed. I broke a lot of big rules and little ones to defend my beliefs and loved ones. It didn't matter in the end because I died. I was fortunate enough to be offered a position as a Guardian-trainee instead of moving onto my final reward or reincarnation.
"My first and most important charge was your son. I didn't quite see why until I watched him find his calling and grow into his destiny. He chose to act when the law didn't or couldn't, to challenge the corruption and moral decay in Gotham City. It is a battle I don't see an end to, not in my lifetime, but if we fight there will be an end, hopefully in the lifetime of our children or grandchildren. In case you are wondering he did not choose to work within the system by studying law to become a DA, a judge, a legislator, or even a policeman. He works outside the law. The public and the press either hate or love him. The politicians and law are wary of his tactics. The criminals fear him. Most would call him a vigilante but to me he will always be a hero… My Dark Knight.
"Batman is important to Gotham and the world. I know he risks injury and death every time he dons the suit and cape and goes out; but I also know how important it is to him to stop those the police cannot. And he is not alone. There are several costumed vigilantes all over the world. They formed a group called the Justice League and share resources. In his solo-days, I was terrified whenever he went out but now I feel more comfortable. He has a team: partners he trained to his exact standards. He has outside backup he can call in if he needs help.
"But Batman is not all there is to him. There is Bruce. He is my friend, my confidant. Even when he knew nothing of magic, he listened to my theories on spell-craft and made valid, insightful observations. He is the humanitarian who donates millions every year to various foundations and charities to make the lives of ordinary people better. He is the business man who is willing to risk fortunes for new scientific discoveries and development that could benefit all of mankind. The philanthropist willing to throw it all behind what he believes in. There was a period of time when the United States abandoned Gotham City; it became No Man's Land. But Bruce refused to abandon his home. He worked as Batman and Bruce Wayne to bring order and government back to Gotham City.
"He has spent nearly all his life mourning the both of you. If there is ever a time he needs to hear you it is now, when he is about to move to a new phase of his life… fatherhood. He has been a big brother, an uncle, a guardian, a godfather, a fosterer. He has raised four troubled teens, lost one of them to violence, but he has never been father to a baby. He doesn't tell me but I know he is worried about the first months, the early years, the terrible twos. He is worried about being responsible for someone so completely dependent upon his care. He wants to be a good father, one who will be there each evening to help his own son or daughter with homework, to explore museums and go on camping and fishing trips, like you did for him Doctor Wayne.
"Some nights he asks me if I want him to hang up the cape and each time I give him the same answer. No. There are no guarantees in life. The two of you were innocent bystanders and it didn't keep you from being killed. Besides, it would destroy something in him to read the news and find out about something he could have prevented if he had gone out, if those he trained and fought besides were injured seriously and he was not there. Now when that happens he still hurts but it is easier to remind him that he is only one man; that he is doing what he can one case at a time. That all I want for him is to do the best he can and to return to me each night. The crime fighter is just as important as the businessman, the philanthropist, the humanitarian, the son, the father, the husband.
"He is a good man, Mr and Mrs Wayne. He might have made a few choices you may not approve but he did the best he could. He is someone you would be proud of." She concluded fiercely.
"You are right. I am proud of him. I am so proud of my boy." A husky female voice spoke unsteadily, slightly choked to control her emotions.
Batman and Hermione turned in unison in the direction of the teary female voice. An ancient yew tree. Beneath it stood four translucent figures, two men and two women. One couple were dressed in clothing three decades out of fashion. The man looked like an older version of Bruce Wayne with a moustache dressed in an old-fashioned dinner suit. He was stern-looking though he clearly was making a lot of effort to control himself. The woman had light brown hair and dark blue eyes and was dressed in a modest tailored suit and pearls. She was visibly crying soundlessly. The other man and women were dressed in more modern clothes. The woman had curly dark brown hair and a slim athletic figure clad in fitted jeans and a suede vest over a long-sleeved t-shirt. The second man had light blonde hair cropped short, and was dressed in khaki slacks and a tailored shirt. He was slightly shorter than his companion in her wedge suede heels.
Hermiones eyes went wide. "Mummy? Daddy?"
"Mother? Father?" Then Batman caught himself and tensed.
As though understanding Thomas Wayne spoke. "We can't stay for long. This is a one time opportunity to say goodbye properly." He looked at Hermione. "We know it all. Our only regret is we never got the chance to meet you in the flesh, to watch Bruce grow up, to get to know you in person." He stared his son straight in the eye. "Bruce, I might disagree with you at times, but you are your own man. You are not my duplicate. I never wanted you to match my footsteps exactly. I always wanted you to grow into your own man. Be someone who we could be proud of. And you have."
Batman reached up and pulled his cowl off. He could not stop the tears that escaped his eyes. "Thank you Father."
"Hermione? We completely understand and forgive your actions. You were trying to keep us safe. You made the best decision you could based on what information you had." Jane Granger spoke reassuringly. "You were just a child. It was criminal that you and poor Harry had to fight for adults who persisted in remaining blind. But we raised you to follow your conscience, to stand up for what you believe in. How could we fault you for doing just that?" Jane Granger smiled through her tears. "Your father and I are proud of what you've accomplished. I only regret I will never get to hold my grandchildren."
Dan Granger stared at the costumed and caped man standing next to his daughter.
"Your mother said everything I wanted to say so I won't bother repeating her. I only have one thing to say to your husband." He glared at Bruce Wayne. "You'd better treat her right of I'll find some way to haunt you."
"Daddy!" Hermione was mortified.
He ignored her protest and continued. "Your friends back home are doing fine. Last we saw, Harry Potter was dating Tracey Davis and enjoying the chaos he was creating, and Luna Lovegood was engaged to Marius Wayne. I didn't bother looking in on the red-heads. Their youngest children caused you too much grief."
A faint smile stretched Bruce Wayne's lips. "Mr. Granger, I vowed to love, honour, and cherish her and all that we share. And I will."
Dan stared hard before giving a grudging nod of acknowledgement.
Then the elder Waynes turned to Hermione who had to resist the urge to step back and away from the intensity of their stares. Martha Wayne was openly crying insubstantial tears at this point.
"Thank you. Thank you for all you did for our son. You saved his spirit. You made him happy. You're making us grand-parents!" The last was a wail.
"Martha! Stop crying. You're making the poor girl uncomfortable with all of your carrying on." Thomas Wayne rumbled.
Martha Wayne produced a handkerchief and wiped away her tears. "Okay. Okay. I'm calm." Her eyes were very intense as they bored into Hermione. "I know how loyal and protective you are of those you care for, and all you did for Bruce, so I won't bother with any of that. I want you to do something else for me.
"I want all the children to get a chance to read all the first-edition classics Thomas bought for me; the collection that is currently on display. Books are meant to be read, not kept in a museum glass case. I'm not sure if they survived, but Alfred might know about my old sewing kit with my knitting and crochet needles and patterns. I want them to be given to the first child to take an interest in crafts. I also had several sets of jewellery. I don't know how many girls you'll have but I'd like each one to get one set of semi-precious stones on her twelfth birthday; the blue topaz to the eldest, the garnets to the second, the citrines to the third. The pearls will go to the eldest girl on her sixteenth birthday, opals to the second, amethyst to the third. The diamonds, rubies, sapphires, emeralds will go to the wives of the boys and I am including your wards Richard and Timothy among them. If they don't settle down just split them between the daughters or any grandchildren. Give Cassandra my amber and jade sets as soon as you get back. I don't want any jewellery to sit in a museum or some vault gathering dust." She glared at Bruce.
Bruce choked on the litany of orders and gaped helplessly at his father who shrugged in commiseration but said nothing.
Hermione smiled brilliantly. "You knit? I'll probably get use out of the needles then." She confided. "I knitted a lot of hats and scarves when I was in school."
Martha Wayne smiled warmly. "I know dear. We saw what you were trying to do in your school days." She shuddered slightly. "What a horrible society. To openly condone slavery and do nothing to stop the mistreatment of sentient beings."
Hermione sobered. "I know, Mrs. Wayne."
"But you did not let it suck you in. You remained true to your principles." Martha Wayne nodded firmly. "You are a loyal friend and a wonderful wife. You'll be a good mother as well. Just remain true to yourself."
Then they started fading.
"We'll always be proud of you Bruce. Don't be afraid to let others into your heart. Life is risk." Martha Wayne spoke in a trembling voice.
"Do the best you can. It is all any father can ask of his son."
"We love you Hermione. Try not to get caught up handling everything by yourself. You can ask others for help." Daniel Granger's voice sounded hollow and distant.
"And remember to teach your kids good dental hygiene. Brush and floss after meals. Try to avoid sticky sweets." Jane Granger's voice was teary and teasing.
And with that, all four spirits faded into non-existence.
Hermione burst into tears as she buried her face in her husband's spandex clad chest. "She would always tell me that whenever I left on an overnight trip. When I was in Hogwarts, they would always send care packages and letters. Mum would always add that reminder as a post script." She explained.
Bruce wrapped his arms around her tightly. "I got to see them. They are proud of me." He whispered.
They stood like that for several minutes, remembering the experience and words, and mourning the dead and lost.
"If you want you can add a marker for your parents in the Wayne family plot."
She tightened her grip around him. "Thank you." He felt the child within her shift and kick against him. Then she laughed.
"How many children does your mother expect us to have?"
Bruce winced. "I don't know. She seemed to look forward to granddaughters."
"Probably because she didn't get to have daughters of her own." Hermione speculated. Then she glanced up through thick lashes. "Do you wish to fulfill her fond desires?"
He swooped down and captured her mouth in a thorough kiss. When he finally lifted his head, he smirked.
Alfred Pennyworth smiled when the doctors announced the arrival of Hermione and Bruce's child and invited the crowd of eagerly waiting friends and family to join the new parents.
It was not a usual procedure to invite such a large crowd of well-wishers to meet a new mother and child but this was not a typical case. Bruce Wayne had practically financed the expansion and upgrading of Gotham General's maternity, neo-natal and pediatric units when he and his wife announced they were expecting a child.
"Minerva." Hermione Wayne announced sweaty and tired from the birthing but absolutely radiant. "Minerva Joycelyn Wayne. Our little Joy."
Alfred nodded once. "Miss Joycelyn. I am certain your mother and father would be pleased at being grandparents to such a wonderful little girl."
To his surprise, the reference to his parents did not make Master Bruce subdued and broody. Instead, he smiled and nodded his agreement.
"You know what, Alfred, I'm absolutely certain you are right." He looked down at the small blanket-swathed form of his daughter and felt his heart swell with pride and love. "Mother would have been thrilled to have a granddaughter."
Hermione laughed softly. "I'm sure she is. Both of your parents and mine are probably celebrating wherever they are right now." A more thoughtful expression crossed her face. "I wonder if Severus will call me Hermione if we ever see him."
Then they were distracted by the well-wishers and inquiries from the nursing staff.
Somewhere else, two sets of deceased parents toasted the arrival of a new baby girl, a shared granddaughter named Minerva Joycelyn Wayne. With them was one particular spirit, a deceased Potions Master and old mentor of their daughter and daughter-in-law.
Severus Snape raised a glass and smiled faintly.
"I don't see any need for us to ever meet in person but if we do I will definitely offer my congratulations, Hermione. You've more than Exceeded Expectations. Outstanding."
AN: That is it! Absolutely no plans for a prequel/sequel/backstory. I have other Hermione/Bruce fics I'm working on and I'm determined to finish them before I start posting.