Characters belong to JK Rowling and slightly less to L Frank Baum

Part 12: The Part Where They go Home

When Hermione thought of home, she often thought of a 'place' where she was safe and happy. Not that she equated 'home' with one specific place, actually. No, home was more a frame of reference, or a matter of thought. It wasn't a PLACE anymore than 'love' was hearts and valentines; it was more abstract than that. It wasn't a thing. It wasn't a place to dwell, or a mere domicile. It was a feeling, someplace deep in her heart, minus the valentines. In other words, home was where the heart lies.

It was with her friends. It was with her family. Sure, it was the house she grew in, and at Hogwarts, the Burrow, and being with Harry and Ron. And although all of those things represented her home, and was sorely missed right now, it wasn't the only thing she ever wanted home to be.

Someday, she hoped home would represent a husband and children of her own, in her own house. A place of her own in the sense that there would be a house attached to that family, yes. But, more than a mere four walls, a floor, a ceiling, mortar and bricks…it would be love, happiness, harmony, togetherness, caring, forever and ever, amen.

Hermione had many quotes about 'home' at her beck and call, and she would spout them whenever she felt melancholy or reflective. Sayings such as: 'home sweet home' and 'home is a shelter against all storms', 'home is not where you live, but where they understand you', 'Our feet may leave our homes, but our hearts never do'…Hermione had memorized almost all of them. Memorizing quotes about home made her feel closer to home, no matter where she might be.

It was one of the first words she learned to spell when she was three years old, along with 'cat' and 'dog'. Everyone always assumed it was easy for her to leave home when she was a little girl, because she didn't cry the first time she went to school, and because she was so excited to go to Hogwarts. That was because she knew she was merely trading one home, (her parents' house), for another, (school).

But it was also because she knew she was waiting…waiting for the day when she would finally have a home of her own.

No one would look at her and think that she was a sensitive type, and certainly no one would ever call her a homebody. No one would deem her domesticated. Her aunt Eleanor once told her she didn't have a 'domestic' bone in her body. But everybody would be wrong. Hermione Granger, working woman, professional, wonderful friend, over-achiever, only ever dreamt of one thing: A home of her own. Not a house, she had a house, but a home, in every sense of the word.

The three men had nice little chats with the fake Snape before Hermione did. Their conversations were insightful and full of infinite wisdom. Snape told each of them exactly what they needed to hear, so in a very real way, they each got exactly what they needed by coming here.

Draco, the tin man, didn't need a heart. He needed someone to tell him that he really belonged, and that he always did. He needed to be reminded that he wasn't the spoiled boy that he once was. That he was a grown man, who had been redeemed of his sins, and that he was worthy of love.

Ron, the cowardly lion, didn't need courage. All he needed was forgiveness for sins that weren't as bad as some perceived, committed by a boy, sent to do the job of a man, at a time when the world was crazy. He lived in the shadow of so many people for so long that all he needed was to walk in the sunshine on his own, and courage would find its way to him on its own.

Harry, the lovable scarecrow, didn't need a brain. Harry had the best instincts, the best common sense, and the best moral compass of anyone Hermione had ever met. He practically raised himself, yet he knew right from wrong, up from down, good from bad, innately. Magic was instinctive and inherent in him. He didn't need to learn in from a book. It was merely a part of him. No one else would have been able to battle Voldemort and win. It wasn't because a prophecy deemed it so. That prophecy could have been written about anyone. It was SO because it was HARRY, because HARRY was the smartest person Hermione Granger knew.

Therefore, everyone got what they needed and wanted, nay, desired, when they came here. Snape pointed them all in the right direction. Hermione couldn't wait to hear what words of wisdom awaited her. Snape was bound to tell her how she could finally have her home, and how all her dreams were about to come true.

Harry stepped away from Snape, walked up to her, hugged her from behind and said, "It's your turn, Hermione."

Hermione stood, squared her shoulders, and walked toward the wizard waiting by the gates of the 'Ruby City'. Having already heard from Ron and Draco part of what the man had said to them, and having overheard most of what he had to say to Harry, she couldn't wait to hear what words of wisdom he wished to impart on her.

Snape was waiting for her, arms folded in front of him, hook nose slightly in the air. He seemed to be peeved that she was walking so slowly. She picked up the pace, stood beside him, smiled, and said, "Well? What words of wisdom do you have to tell me?"

"You, Miss Granger, are the most insufferable know-it-all I've ever had the misfortune of teaching in all my years as a teacher," Snape said plainly.

Hermione frowned. A true frown. With her whole face. "WHAT?"

"You have a habit of telling people what you think whether or not they want to know, merely to make yourself look more knowledgeable, often even more so than you are! You have an insupportable habit of talking out of turn, you're petulant, cranky, and irritable most of the time, as much as you are irritating."

Before he could say another word, she interrupted, as he took a breath. "WHAT?"

"I know the one thing you aren't is deaf, so you've heard every word I've said."

"But…" She pointed toward the three men, all three of whom were standing nearby, watching, listening, and waiting, as shocked as she. "You, you told them the all bloody profound things. Things that they needed to know! Things that were weighing heavily on their minds and hearts! Things they should have already known, but needed you to point out to them! And yet, all you have to say to me is that I'm a know-it-all, insufferable, irritable harpy! Hell, I know that! Tell me something I don't know! I hardly need you to tell me that!"

"EXACTLY!" Snape said, his hands now on his hips, a smile on his face. "I hardly needed to tell Draco that he was no longer the spoiled son of a Death Eater. I hardly needed to tell Mr. Weasley that he was more than a mere appendage to his friends and family. I didn't need to tell Mr. Potter that the weight of our world was no longer on his shoulders! Do you know why I didn't need to tell them these things, Miss Granger?" He stared at her coldly.

"BECAUSE THEY ALREADY KNEW IT?" she shouted. "I just said that! Because you're not real, but merely a fabrication from this joint hallucination, or spell, or whatever the hell Luna has us under. Because you aren't even really here! Because the things you said to them were things that they already knew down deep in their hearts! Is that why?" She was actually shrieking by the end of her diatribe, the audible tone so high that Draco thought his ears might bleed.

"EXACTLY!" Snape repeated for the second time.

Hermione took a step back, as if she was sucker-punched. "And that means the things you just said to me are true, and things I already know, and those are apparently the most profound things that I'm to learn from this odyssey, right?" She felt as if she might cry.

Snape sighed. "Truly, do you believe that? Is that really what you've gotten from all of this?"

"Well, excuse me," she offered, "but I've had a really rough couple of days. Draco Malfoy tried to have my cat killed, Ron and Harry were going to have me arrested, a rather large bookshelf fell on my head, and I ended up in a warped, LSD laced version of the Wizard of Oz. Also, I'm slightly premenstrual." She couldn't help it, she started to cry.

"What's LSD?" Draco asked. Ron shrugged.

Harry laughed and said, "In this case I think it stands for "Luna Sadistic Dream."

Hermione pointed to Harry and said, "He is smart, because that's exactly what it means in this instant!" She sniffled. Draco walked over to her, placed his arm around her and patted her shoulder.

"Really, Godfather, can't you impart some sort of words of wisdom to her?" Draco asked. He pulled her completely into his arms and stroked her hair.

"At least tell us how to get out of here," Ron imparted.

Snape looked bored with the whole thing. He snarled, opened the gate to the city, and when he was partly inside the gate, he turned around and said, "Miss Granger knew the way home the entire time. All she has to say is her favourite all time quote about home. It's all she's had to do all along."

Hermione pushed away from Draco's chest and pointed to Snape before he could close the gates to the city. "NO!" she barked. "I tried that in the beginning. I clicked my heels together, in these stupid sapphire slippers, and I said the phrase, 'there's no place like home' three times and nothing happened, so don't try to put all of this off on me! It's your fault, you benign, nonentity, counterfeit bogus, Snape! It's not my fault! I wish someone else had been the wizard, not you! Anyone but you! You were never helpful to me! You never gave me any answers! If I ever wanted to know something, I always had to find it out myself! You were never of any help to me growing up!"

Snape opened the door so quickly it shocked Hermione. He rushed her. She slipped and fell. He pointed his wand right at her chest. Draco stood by, shocked, unsure what to do, even if this wasn't real. Harry pulled out his wand, as did Ron. They both aimed their wands at Snape.

"Oh, really, Miss Granger? No help at all, you say? Perhaps that's your answer, then! And really, aren't you going to take any of the blame? Think very hard about this for a moment, before you start to blame me or anyone else. You're right. You usually got yourself out of scrapes. You usually got EVERYONE out of their odd predicaments and troubles, so you should be able to get yourself home! Stop feeling sorry for yourself and THINK!"

He started to turn away, but turned back quickly, and said, "And actually, I did help you. I told you to say your favourite quote about home. Is 'there's no place like home' really your favourite quote about home, Miss Granger? Really?" He snorted, put his wand in his long robes, and strolled back to the gates. He rushed inside and left them all standing outside the gate, dazed and confused, still in an LSD haze.

Draco walked over to Hermione and helped her to stand.

Harry helped her to brush off her clothing.

Ron said, "What's your favourite quote, Hermione? Think really hard."

She looked at the three men. She loved all three, two since childhood, one only very recently, and she felt slightly ashamed. She did have a favourite quote about home, and the truth of the matter was she was very, very tempted, right in the beginning of this mess, to click her heels together and say HER favourite quote, instead of the quote from the movie, but she didn't.

Did the power to go home, or rather, to leave this nightmare, really rest with her the entire time? If so, than she had been such a fool.

She looked at Harry. His intelligence awed her. She looked at Ron. His bravery and friendship overwhelmed her. She looked at Draco. Her love for him was vast and there was something in him that lured her to him, and to this place, and to this one conclusion.

She wanted a family. She wanted a home of her own. She wanted it with him. She reached out for him. He caressed her hand between both of his, and then caressed her arm. Her eyelids closed slowly. She felt mesmerized, under his touch. She wanted him. She had never wanted anything more.

She trusted him, which surprised even her. She wanted to marry him, which ASTONISHED her. He was looking at her hand, still gloved in one of his. Her fingertips of her other hand came over and drifted across his cheek and jaw. "I want to marry you, Draco. I want to have a family and a home with you." He looked her right in the eye, mouth agape, unsure what to say to that declaration.

She said, "Home is with the person that you love, and that's you, Draco. I've known it for a very long time. I wouldn't admit it, but it was so. I knew it in my heart, even if my brain resisted it. I even thought it earlier. Home is where the heart lies, and my heart lies with you."

A shimmer of shock, then hope, then recognition flashed in his eyes. He looked at her with the warmest eyes she had ever seen. Then suddenly, everything fell away, and she understood. She didn't need to say anything more. Her honest, clear, emotional admission was enough to end the nightmare, so that their dream could begin.

She closed her eyes. The weight of it all felt heavy on her. She felt as if she might collapse under the strain of it. The old memories were put in a corner of her mind, and she opened a new place in her heart, a place of peace, happiness, and a place that she could finally call home. "Take me home, Draco," she whispered. "Take me home."

He pulled her closely, into his arms, into his heart, her cheek to his chest. When she woke up, she was lying upon a pile of books in the archives of the Ministry. Draco was lying beside her, holding her tightly against his chest. Ron was sitting beside them. He moved some of the books from beside her. Harry sat at her feet. With his wand, he moved the bookshelf that had fallen on top of her. And Crookshanks mewed and curled into a ball, to lie next to her hip.

Draco pushed some of her hair away from her face. She opened her eyes. She looked up and touched Draco's face quickly, a fleeting touch. She said, "I just had the weirdest dream." She looked around her. She saw that she was back in reality, but she didn't know what was real and what wasn't. Did these three men really share her 'dream' or was it all merely that, a dream, and nothing more?

Trying to sit up, Draco held her against his chest. She said, "I was in a weird place, and it was like 'The Wizard of Oz', except it was all altered and confused. And you were there," she pointed at Harry, "and you," at Ron, "and you." She pointed to Draco last. "Oh please, tell me you all were really there. It would make everything so much easier."

"Sorry, Hermione, I really don't know what you're talking about," Harry said. He knelt beside her and said, "Perhaps you hit your head." He reached over and felt for a bump.

"Really?" She felt devastated. If none of this was shared by any of these men that meant Draco might not even love her, although he was holding her very tightly against his body. She looked over at Ron and said, "Ron, your family was the munchkins. Remember when I forced you to watch that movie? And you were the lion, Harry was the scarecrow and Draco was the tin man. Was it all really just a dream?"

Ron merely gave her a sad smile, and then looked at Harry, who looked at Draco.

She looked up at Draco. Her head was on his shoulder. "Weren't you at least there?" she asked.

He shook his head no.

She felt like crying again. "You weren't?" she asked sadly.

"No, sorry, Granger," he apologized. "Listen, you did hit your head really hard. That whole shelf fell on you. Let Pothead take you to St. Mungo's alright."

She pushed away from him, and started to cry. "But that means you're really going to take my cat away from me." She cried harder. Turning to Harry, she said, "And you're planning on helping him, and if I don't comply, you're going to arrest me." She struggled to stand.

"Don't stand yet," Ron urged.

She didn't heed his warning. She stood, though she stumbled slightly. She called for Crookshanks. He rubbed against her legs. She bent down and picked him up. "And that means," she began, tears still falling, "that I'll never have a real home."

"You have a house, Hermione," Ron said.

"I'll take you there, now," Harry promised.

"And you can keep your monster," Draco added, pointing to the cat in her arms.

She nodded slightly. She let Harry help her step over books and debris from the fallen bookshelf. She looked back once, and said, "Draco?"

"What, Granger?" he asked, while brushing off his trousers.

"Could you look at me for a moment?" she urged.

He looked up at her.

"I know this won't make sense, in view of the fact that nothing that I dreamt was real, but first…do you truly promise me that nothing I dreamt was real?"

"I promise, Granger, nothing was real," he said softly. He stepped closer. "Don't worry. Everything will be okay."

That was the worst thing he could have said. That was the one thing she didn't want to hear. If there was something he could have promised her, why did it have to be that NOTHING WAS REAL? That meant that he didn't love her.

Wait, that didn't mean that NOTHING was real. Something was real. Even if everything she experienced was due to a head injury, or a hallucination, it didn't mean that the things she felt weren't real. She walked away from Harry, handing him Crookshanks first, and stood in front of Draco.

"There's one thing that occurred while I was away that I know was real, Malfoy," she said so softly that only he could hear.

In fact, he had to lean closely to hear her. He looked at her earnestly, and asked, "What's that, Granger?"

"This." Her heart rose to soaring heights as her fingertips reached up to feather strands of his hair away from his face. Rising up on tiptoes, she placed her hands on his chest for support and kissed him. Her lips lingered against his, her heart leaping wildly in her chest. A jumble of emotions went through her. At first, he didn't respond, so she felt remorse and fear. Then he placed his arms around her waist, pulling her flush against his body, and she felt happiness and warmth.

Another kiss came right after the first, but this one was ruled by him, not her. He kissed her furiously, with determination, and clear possessiveness. She arched against him, and his hands caressed her back and hair.

They pulled away at the same time. They looked at each other, shocked. Harry stood behind her. He laughed and said, "God bless Luna's warped soul."

Ron said, "My eyes! I think I'm blind now, Harry. The image is burned in my retinas."

And Hermione Granger said, "The one thing that remains true in this world as in that world, even if you weren't really there, and even if you weren't aware of it, is that I love you, Draco Malfoy. I love you so very much."

"Damn, Granger. Right before you woke up Potter told us to deny that we were under Luna's spell with you, in case you thought it was all an illusion, but I should have listened to my heart, instead of listening to his head. Perhaps his head really is full of sawdust. Snape should have given him a brain after all. I already know that you love me, you ninny, and I love you, too."

She smiled and held him tightly. "Then it was all real? And you were all really there with me?" she asked.

"We were there," he agreed. "As to the real part, it was as real as Luna could make it, but I rather prefer being here to there, Granger. It's good to be home."

"Home is where the heart lies," she said against his chest. "That's my favourite phrase about home, did you know?"

"No, but it's a good one, and it's appropriate, because my heart lies with you. Why don't we go home and talk about hearts and things some more. Tell me Granger, does this home of yours have a bed?" Draco asked. He took Crookshanks from Harry, plopped him in the basket, handed the basket to Hermione, took Hermione's other hand in his, and they walked out of the archives, hand-in-hand.

Ron sighed. He looked at Harry and said, "I was hoping this story would have a happy ending, but it looks like we're stuck with Malfoy."

"It's a happy ending for them, Ron," Harry said, with a smile. "Now, I think I need to find Luna." He patted Ron's arm and walked away, whistling.

Ron looked around the mess in the archives and called out, "Who's going to clean up all these books?"

The End