A/N: It has been an incredibly long time since I posted anything. In fact, it's hard to believe that it's been nine years since I started coming to this site. I abandoned both this and Growing Up Granger over two years ago, but something has drawn me back to finish this story. I expect this to round out near 60k or 70k words. Take care everyone and thanks for reading over the years.
Chapter 10: Trio
The service for Minerva McGonagall was understated and elegant, much as she was in life. It was windy and cold, so everyone huddled into their coats or their families, but the audience was attentive. Professors Flitwick and Sprout, Hagrid, a number of McGonagall's former students, some other acquaintances, and finally the Minister for Magic all gave short speeches. Some were funny, others touching, a few sad, but all were respectful and full of the tangible presence of the late Headmistress. She had influenced so many throughout her long career, and her death signaled the true close of the eras of Grindelwald and Voldemort to a certain extent, that many felt the presence of history both being made and passing before them.
The final part of the ceremony was to lay her to rest, for which the throng of people stood from their chairs and made their way to the shore of the tumultuous, wavy Black Lake. Six pallbearers bore the coffin to the water's edge and set it into a second white tomb, next to Dumbledore's. It was meant to be a monument to the strength and sacrifices of the Light during the First and Second Wars, with the previous two Head's laid side-by-side. As the tomb slid shut and was magically sealed, there was a long final moment of silence. Eventually everyone started to turn away, some heading back toward the castle for more refreshments and others making their way toward the Hogwarts gates.
Harry stood between Ron and Hermione with Teddy directly in front of him, his hand on Teddy's shoulder, looking at the tombs. His eyes were drawn to the heaving waters of the Black Lake just as the first rain drops of the day started to fall. Magical Britain had come a long way since he had first set foot in Hogwarts, and McGonagall was the first professor he'd seen at the school that very first night. It was so far in the past that he didn't remember any details—just snippets of images.
Harry returned his attention to the present and cleared his throat. "How long are you both here?"
Hermione sniffled and wiped at her eyes. They could hear Ron swallow thickly.
"Just until tomorrow," Hermione replied, her voice throaty.
Ron nodded in agreement. "Same for me."
"Quick trip," Harry commented. "Shall we head into Hogsmeade for dinner?" Hermione and Ron looked at Harry for a long moment. Teddy said nothing, continuing to stare at the tombs. When they didn't immediately respond, Harry continued: "Or we could head back to Hope and I could make something for all of us. Teddy and I are staying at a small cottage there."
"I didn't really have any plans tonight," Ron indicated, spreading his arms wide. "I think dinner sounds great."
"Yes, it does," Hermione agreed.
With that, the four of them turned from the tombs and headed back toward the castle. Hermione, Harry, and Teddy let Ron go on ahead to say goodbye to his family. Harry cast a warming charm and an impervious charm over the three to cut the chill and the drizzle.
"Where are you staying?" Harry asked Hermione.
"Inverness," she replied. "I apparated up here to Hogsmeade from there." Harry made a noise of acknowledgement. "It was a little odd, apparating after so long," she continued. "I aimed for the outskirts of the town in case the layout had changed a lot since I was last here. I didn't want to end up splinched with the Three Broomstick," she said, smiling.
"Yes, that would be unfortunate," Harry responded, dryly.
"Did you apparate you and Teddy up here? I'm assuming that you're still living in London?"
"I do still live in London," Harry confirmed. "But Teddy and I drove up. We've wanted to see northern England and Scotland and a long drive seemed like a good idea."
"Oh, that does sound fun," Hermione agreed. "What did you think of it, Teddy?" she asked.
"It's all very different from London," he answered. He was looking at the two of them. "Riding in the Vantage was great, though!" he exclaimed.
Harry grinned at Teddy. Like his godson, he would never get enough of driving that car.
Hermione had cut her eyes sideways and was smirking a little bit. She had a playful look in her eyes.
Harry turned more fully toward her. "Oh? Something on your mind?" She broke into a grin and it was infectious, causing Teddy and Harry to grin as well. It reached all the way to her eyes and Harry couldn't help but think how beautiful she was. She'd always been pretty, but she had grown into her looks and now she was stunning.
"An Aston Martin? Did I hear Teddy right?" Harry nodded. "So do you like your martinis shaken or stirred?" Before Harry could respond, she had started laughing, having cracked herself up. It was like the Hermione of old; she often did that. He could remember countless times she would start giggling at her own jokes, even if no one else was laughing. He did chuckle a little, though.
"Bond. James Bond," Teddy deadpanned. Then he laughed too.
"Oh, I'm so glad you know Bond!" Hermione said. "Good work, dad," she continued, nodding in approval at Harry. For some reason, hearing that word come out of her mouth quickened his pulse.
They noticed Ron was on his way back then. The redhead's long strides covered the distance in no time and they all started toward the gates.
"How is your family doing?" Harry asked. "I only got a chance to talk to them briefly before the ceremony."
"They're all doing quite well," Ron said, contentment in his voice. "Especially mum and dad. I haven't ever seen them so at peace."
"Good to hear. And you, Hermione? How are your parents?"
"They're well," she answered. "Thriving, actually. They love Sydney and their practice is very successful."
"Good," was all Harry said.
They walked on in silence, simply existing in each other's company for the moment. Harry couldn't begin to imagine what Ron or Hermione were thinking—or Teddy for that matter—but he could feel how surreal all of this was starting to seem. In the story of their lives, this one day would be nothing but a small blip, but somehow at that moment it felt bigger than that, more monumental in an undefinable way. It had been eight and a half years since he'd last seen them, and it could very well be that long or longer until he saw them again. He was half-tempted to call all of this for what it was, but he didn't want to spoil what likely would be a peaceful dinner.
So as they crossed the Hogwarts gates and the ward boundary, he held out his arms to the three of them. "Come on, you lot, I'll take us all to Hope. We'll need to stop by the grocer to get some things for dinner."
He expected Hermione to say something about Side-Along apparating three people, but she didn't and suddenly they were gone.
Dinner was a delicious and boisterous affair. Harry made them all an Italian spread, with bread, pasta, caprese salad, and purchased wine for the three adults. Teddy stuck with sparkling grape juice. As they ate, they all regaled Teddy with some of the better stories from their school days, including the tamer adventures in which they'd found themselves. Teddy was clearly enjoying the history being told that day, and it was good for Harry, Hermione, and Ron to speak about the things that had tied them all together. It did serve to once again highlight how far they'd come since then, as well as far apart they'd grown. None of them voiced those thoughts during the meal.
As the food and the conversation wound down, Teddy started to yawn, so Harry sent him off to bed with a paternal smile and pat on the head. He loved his godson with all of his being and he was glad Teddy was so well-adjusted. Being a parent had been utterly terrifying at first.
As he, Hermione, and Ron settled into the living room of the cottage with their wine glasses in hand, he sent a silencing ward toward the hall where Teddy's bedroom was. It would let him hear if there was a problem with Teddy—not that he expected there to be—but would block the conversation from his godson. He didn't realize he hadn't used his wand for the ward until Hermione just about choked on her wine.
"Harry! Was that wandless magic?" She pierced him with her intelligent eyes, her eyebrow arched up in shock. Ron also looked a little surprised.
Harry just shrugged. "Yes, it was. I don't use my wand very much these days."
"You mean do most everything wandlessly?" Ron asked. Harry inclined his head. "Blimey! No one can really do any wandless magic except the most basic of spells. Not even Dumbledore could do much more than a Summoning spell."
Harry shrugged again, but he was reminded of his conversation all those years ago with Minerva and Dumbledore's portrait about his magical power. He had eventually come to terms with it and now he used it casually, effortlessly.
"You never cease to surprise me, Harry," Hermione said. She took another sip of her wine. "I knew you were powerful—how could I not after the Patronus in third year?—but wandless magic is a whole new level. No one's really ever figured out what the mechanism for it is."
Lest he get into a magical theory discussion with Hermione, he replied, "There is no mechanism. The wand is a mechanism. Wandless magic is just you and your magic, doing what you need it to do. As long as you have some control over your thoughts and your magic, it really isn't that hard. Magical people have become too dependent on their wands to realize that, though."
Hermione looked like she wanted to continue the discussion, but Harry held up his left hand, setting his wine glass down with his right hand at the same time. "But we didn't come here to discuss wandless magic. Since you're both here for only one night, I think we have other things to talk about." His meaning was not lost on Hermione or Ron.
"Suppose you're right," Ron sighed, swirling his wine in the glass and staring at it. He eventually raised his eyes and first met Hermione's before looking at Harry. "I'll start with a question," Ron continued. "Why do you think we lost touch so easily after that last lunch?"
Hermione and Harry knew what lunch Ron meant: in April of 1999, the three of them had met one last time after exchanging several letters. They'd had lunch at the Leaky Cauldron before Ron had to return to Romania and Hermione to Australia. Nothing was said of the one kiss HHarry and Hermione had shared in January of that year and Harry just watched them both leave. He hadn't expected it to be almost a decade before he would see them again.
"The most practical reason is distance," Hermione answered, though she didn't sound convinced. "Britain, Romania, and Australia are just so far apart," she continued, as if saying that would make it more meaningful.
"I could have apparated to Australia," Harry said, quietly. "Or Romania."
It something very few people really knew about him, except for his closest business associates and Teddy. He could instantaneously be anywhere else in the world at a moment's notice, though he chose not to do it very often. It was something that had been weighing on him since he'd received the letter about McGonagall's funeral and realized that both Ron and Hermione would probably attend. Why hadn't he just apparated to see them?
"Are you serious?" Hermione inquired.
"No, that's my godfather." Harry couldn't help himself and cracked a smile at the lame joke. Ron joined in with a smile of his own, but Hermione frowned instead.
"You mean to tell us all this time you could have apparated to either Romania or Australia, and you never did? Never mind the fact that it's supposed to be impossible, because I've seen you do impossible things…" He knew the question she was really asking. A long time ago they'd been on the cusp of something—a grand and glorious furthering of their friendship into something more—but distance among other things had prevented it from happening.
"I didn't know that I could do it until the summer of 2004 when I'd had a particularly bad day and just wished that I was on a beach somewhere for the afternoon. My magic apparently heard me and the next thing I knew, I was on a beautiful white beach with nothing around except deep blue water, sand dunes, and palm trees."
Ron snorted. "Only you, Harry. Where were you?"
"Barbados." Harry responded. "I was so surprised when I managed to find some locals and get the location that I immediately apparated back to London without thinking about it. I cleared 8500 miles in about ten minutes."
"How do you know you can make it to Australia?" Hermione asked.
"My business takes me all over. I've apparated to Tokyo, Singapore, New York, Cape Town, among others. Sydney would be no problem."
"I wonder if you could make it to the moon?" Ron asked, clearly joking. That got a smile from Hermione.
"I had that thought once," Harry responded. Ron and Hermione just looked at him, mouths slightly open.
"You didn't…" Ron said.
Harry shook his head. "I thought it was probably a fatally bad idea so never wanted to test my luck," he responded, cheekily. "But," he continued, sobering, "I think we're getting off track. Ron, you asked why we lost touch; and Hermione, you said one of the reasons was the distance."
They both nodded. "I agree, but that's also an excuse. We all kept up letters for a number of months. But then we didn't. And by the time I realized I could apparate anywhere, we hadn't seen each other in five years and, well, honestly it never occurred to me."
"Do you think it's normal?" Hermione wondered. Her eyes were unfocused. "For school friends to lose touch afterward? All of that feels so long ago and like yesterday at the same time. It's a little disorienting."
"I don't know about 'normal,' but I'm sure it happens all the time. People get jobs, get married, have kids, move away, become interested in other things and other people…" Harry responded, trailing off.
"True," Ron agreed. They all took sips of their wine at the same time, not realizing they were in sync. "But the end of the war for us was a pretty tough time too. Not many people end school in such a way."
Harry and Hermione looked at Ron. "Does it all go back to the war?" Hermione asked. She seemed to be asking a lot of questions this evening, as if Harry and Ron would have any of the answers. They were all asking the same questions, whether verbally or not.
How to make sense of a legendary friendship turning to dust so easily?
"We did what we had to do to survive," Harry told them. "We beat him and the world is a much better place for it. It took its toll on us, obviously, but I wouldn't change a thing about that. Teddy gets to grow up in a world without fear and tyranny."
This brought a soft smile to Hermione's a rather wistful look to Ron's.
"You really do love him, don't you, Harry?" she asked.
"Of course," he said.
"You're a bloody good dad from what I've seen," Ron added, unexpectedly making Harry's face heat up a little. The comment was uncharacteristic for Ron—or at least for who Ron had been. "I know it probably felt like a burden back when we left school, but Remus and Tonks knew what they were doing when they left him with you."
"Thanks, Ron," Harry eventually replied. "That means a lot to me."
He nodded in return; then he glanced at his watch. Harry and Hermione both noticed the action. Ron finished the rest of his wine in one gulp and set it on the side table.
"My return Portkey is at six tomorrow morning. I should probably be going," he said, albeit with some reluctance. As he stood from his chair, Harry and Hermione stood as well.
Ron reached over and pulled Hermione into a tight hug. They stood like that for a moment, with Harry watching them. He could feel the ghost of their past selves in the room watching as well.
"Take care of yourself, yeah?" he said to Hermione. She nodded and sniffled, backing out of his arms. As he turned to Harry, she wiped an arm across her eyes.
At first Ron held out his hand, but then he thought better of it, and the two men hugged each other tightly as well. It was quite cathartic and in the end Harry was glad to spend a little time with Ron. Both men cleared their throats as they stepped back.
"Now that we know you can apparate to us, I expect a visit from you every now and then. Letters would be nice too," he said, looking at both Harry and Hermione for the last part.
"Sounds about right," Harry said. Hermione just nodded once in agreement.
"Give my regards to Teddy," Ron said. With a final long look at both of them, he apparated out of the cottage to wherever he was staying with a low pop.
Harry couldn't meet Hermione's eyes for a moment. Never had he imagined that he would suddenly be alone with his once best female friend. The air was thick with the memory of what had happened the last time they were alone together. But they were different people now, right?
"Harry," she almost whispered.
He was a little startled to find her right in front of him when he looked up. At this close range, he could see everything about her features he once knew so well. From her high cheekbones which were slightly blushed at the moment, her jawline and chin, the pert nose leading up to a normally smooth forehead creased with worry lines, and finally her expressive eyes topped by thin brown eyebrows.
Harry could say only one thing, something he'd realized while scrutinizing her face. It hit like a hammer blow on his heart.
"I missed you, Hermione."