And it all starts to come together.
Edited and Updated October 19, 2013.
… . … . …
Harry noticed it right away—how could he miss it? It was himself. He blinked and stood still, little Hermione hanging onto his hand as she looked up at him. Harry had never known how small she was until he'd come back.
And it was even more obvious now—staring at younger Harry. Even he was bigger than the little Granger girl. Mini-Hermione shyly clasped his hand with both of hers, hiding her face slightly against his arm.
Little Harry blinked from behind glasses that actually fit his face, his magnified green eyes slowly drifting from the little girl to the huge black dog to travel up older Harry's tall length.
The little boy gulped visibly.
"JP!" sounded a frantically relieved shout, and Harry felt his blood rush along his veins at the familiar and often missed voice.
A young woman quickly grasped little Harry by the hand, worriedly looking over him to see if he had any injuries. Older Harry shook himself and slowly let his eyes travel from brown leather boots up dark jeans to the light green blouse. The woman huffed out a relieved breath before turning to look at him, her jaw dropping and her lips rounding.
The two adults stared at each other for a silent moment, their respective children hiding behind their legs. Padfoot sniffed obviously and looked between the four with a strange expression. Then a slow smile spread across Hermione's face and an incredulous laugh echoed up from her throat.
Mini Harry slowly emerged from behind her pant legs, his face twitching to a grin as he looked up to the curly haired brunette. Older Harry twitched his lips into a smile—little Harry was just as enamoured with Hermione's laugh as he had been.
It was such a rare thing—where she threw back her head and let out the rich sound.
She gasped as she tried to calm herself, her eyes tearing with laughter as her smile fought her lips. Harry was too shocked to do more than smile crookedly, gently pushing miniature Hermione in front of him and putting his hands on her shoulders.
Hermione, the older one he had missed so often, caught him in one of her hugs—one of her real Hermione hugs that he had missed so much. Harry swallowed a lump in his throat and hugged her back.
Padfoot woofed and Hermione drew back, her eyes sparkling with happy tears as she caught little Harry's hand—Harry swallowed.
"You changed your hair," was all he could manage.
Hermione blushed, absently reaching a hand up to brush the fringe of bangs that somehow made her eyes larger. "Yeah, it's more professional for my job."
"Ah," Harry responded, staring at this living ghost. "I couldn't find you for so long."
Hermione winced and chuckled wetly. "It couldn't be helped. I never expected to see you again either." She swallowed and looked up at him shyly, "But I really missed you."
Minnie was quiet as she usually was when around other people. Harry still hadn't managed to help her with that habit.
But mini Harry glowered up at him and then hugged older Hermione's leg. Harry blinked down at the little boy clutching onto her, recognizing that possessive and yet shy stance as one mini-Hermione often took…the one she was in right now. As if Harry, he Harry not the little one, would be torn away from her with the slightest aggression.
He swallowed heavily as he looked into older Hermione's eyes, entranced with the set and amused way she eyed him as little Harry clutched onto her like Mini-Mione held onto him.
Her lips even quirked when she saw Padfoot—but Harry admired her restraint. She knew this animangus didn't know her. Harry would have to explain that to the old dog tonight when they talked.
So the pair of time travelers exchanged contact information with the promise to get in touch right away. Hermione and Harry desperately needed that contact, after everything they had gone through, it was almost too good to be true.
Harry clutched the number in his pocket. Hermione's handwriting was familiar, and surely Padfoot and Minnie would not have shared a hallucination, right?
Sirius and he murmured a conversation in the garden that night. And yes, both Minnie and Hermione had the same genetic scent.
Harry closed his eyes and leaned back, swallowing as a smile stretched his lips. He didn't know whether to laugh or cry. He had his Hermione back, and Minnie would have little Harry.
The older pair had a few conversations over the phone, discreet conversations when everyone else was busy. They had plans to meet up for coffee, to share and touch and confirm that this was all real.
Days later, Minnie got her first letter through the owl post. Harry was surprised to note that she had a year before she had to attend, a year to explore the world through books and Diagon Alley. She struggled with her pronunciation of such foreign words until Harry quietly helped her. It was oddly reminiscent of that charms class when she'd paid such close attention to Flitwick in order to do the levitation charm. Understanding why, now, made his throat close up. He couldn't stand it if Minnie went to Hogwarts only to experience the same first few months Hermione did.
But Minnie was ecstatic—she was magic.
It was rather strange, Hermione supposed. She had come back into the past with the intention of expanding little Harry's life so that he would never be isolated and alone and ignorant.
And instead she had created a little safe haven for JP and her.
Having Harry and the mini-Hermione and Sirius suddenly thrust into that world called attention to her gross actions. This was not what she had planned.
In her original plans, counting first on the earth magic to recognize her plea, she would have gone back and made the world see what a little wonder Harry was. She would have put him in clubs to build his confidence and reputation and helped him in school so that he'd have an easier time of it in Hogwarts.
She would have made him aware of how the world works, and how to get around the rules that merely existed for history's sake.
He would have been aware of…of how to live his life and ask questions, the right questions, so he wouldn't have the same Hogwarts the original trio did.
(Hermione sometimes wondered if a Harry like that would have even needed a friend like her.)
But suddenly Hermione was desperate to talk to Harry, to be around Harry like they were old friends. Well, because they were, as strange and unreal as time travel made that.
She sighed and turned from the sink, wiping her hands off and eyeing the drying dishes. JP came charging through the room, his recovered yoyo swinging about haphazardly and a towel tied around him like a cape.
Hermione laughed and shook her head.
Because it didn't matter.
She had JP, and, previous good intentions aside, she'd learned enough about time travel to know that things always happened for a reason, there were certain pivotal events that only skewed but never diverged from their original happenings.
Though they had created a small little haven for the two of them, it was expanding for Harry and Minnie—Time and Earth were making sure things were going the way they were supposed to.
Hermione didn't have to worry.
Monica Granger called him down just minutes after the phone rang, and Harry awkwardly took the phone from her under her knowing, catlike gaze. He blinked as he greeted whoever was on the line as the woman hummed and made her way back into the den.
"Harry!" came a familiar voice, garbled only slightly by electronics.
"Hermione!" Harry lit up, his eyes briefly catching Monica's bewildered peek back into the room and Minnie's inquiring glance up. Harry laughed before pulling the receiver away from his mouth, "Minnie, it's the lady from the park, with the little boy remember?"
Minnie looked slightly unsure, but nodded her head and pretended to return to her book. Harry smiled, keen to her interest and not having any plans to make her doubt what could be the most wonderful relationship in both of their lives.
Laughter greeted him from the receiver, "It's a good thing you already have a nickname for me!"
"And you and JP?" he inquired jokingly, some part recognizing that they'd both been unable to see each other in their childish counterparts and had to rename them, another part recognizing that the kids were entirely separate from them and needed to be known as independent persons.
No matter how wonderful their predecessors were.
She laughed again, "Speaking of the children, I was wondering if they could get together on a play date? Maybe we could even have more time to catch up?"
Harry licked his lips and smiled. It was hard to arrange a time to meet—with their responsibilities and the secrecy around their new lives. Leave it to Hermione to think around all of that. "That sounds like fun, but I'll have to ask the Grangers and Minnie."
Hermione's breath caught, and Harry felt himself in some strange position. Older Hermione had lost her parents, how would she be able to deal with this without breaking down or touching them as had once been her right?
"That sounds fine; do you think you could call back later?"
Harry, desperate from the tone of her voice, rushed to stop her from hanging up—"No need. I'll just be a minute—we're all home tonight."
"Oh? Okay," came softly over the line.
Harry swallowed and slowly pulled the receiver away. First, he turned to Minnie: "Did you want to go play with that young boy?" he covered the receiver, just in case.
Minnie's eyes darted up to him, fast and searching. She quickly looked back down at her book, "I'm reading," she said softly.
Harry cleared his throat and crouched down in front of her, careful of the phone cord. "I promise he'll be nothing like those kids at school, and if he is, I assure you that the other Hermione will very readily take him to task for it. I knew her in school see? And she always hated bullying. It's also why I know the other Harry won't be mean, because if she's had a hand in raising him then he has to be a kind little boy."
Minnie glanced up at him, her eyes doubtful, but Harry had caught the snitch and she sighed before shyly nodding her head, a hopeful light entering her eyes and a timid grin concealing her front teeth.
Harry smiled at her and brushed her curls back with his free hand before standing and turning to face Monica. The woman was gazing at him in curiosity, but there was also trust. Harry felt winded by this very real reminder that he was part of the family.
"Why don't you all go to the park down the way?" The mother smiled at her daughter.
Harry grinned as Minnie closed her book.
Turning back to the phone he could scarcely conceal his excitement—"The park just out of Chelsea okay with you two?"
Hermione hesitated, an audible silence, before she assented. They made plans to meet at the end of the hour, and Harry grinned at an equally excited Minnie before they both rushed around the house to get ready for their excursion.
They made it just within the hour—what with: "I forgot my wallet!" Harry, and "I need a book! Just in case!" Minnie. Still, they made it.
Harry could spot Hermione walking with little Harry from the car park. It was strange to see an expression so like Minnie's on his young face: at once hopeful yet also dreadful.
Hermione grinned, glancing uneasily around the park, before she crouched in front of Minnie. "Hello, my name's Hermione."
Harry marvelled at his old friend, once again struck by her brilliance even though this was, well, herself, and she should know exactly how to do it. Minnie's shyness lifted slightly and she reached out a hand, "My name's Hermione too," she said firmly.
Hermione grinned. "It's a beautiful name."
Minnie blushed and smiled as she ducked her head into Harry's side.
Harry snorted out a laugh and then knelt down to the two girls and the little boy who was gazing at them both in curiosity while clinging to Hermione's sleeve. "And this is another Harry?" he half-inquired.
Little Harry made a funny face, one that made Minnie twitch (though she didn't laugh), and pouted, "I'm JP!"
Hermione grinned at the child and gave him a loud kiss on the cheek. JP, unlike other young boys, didn't blush and wipe off his cheek immediately. Instead he grinned and tucked himself more into the woman who was so affectionate with him.
Harry swallowed and offered Hermione a wobbly smile.
"Well," Hermione said briskly, "I see a few empty swings, how about it?"
JP cheered and dragged her off, Minnie and Harry following at a more sedate, cautious pace.
Harry and Hermione played with the kids, both still too shy to actually leave their respective adults to conversation. So they pushed them on the swings and helped them across the monkey bars. It wasn't an instant friendship for the kids, but it also wasn't an instant hate.
Harry quietly noted both children's relieved expressions when neither were teased, even when Minnie settled and pulled out her book and little Harry sat in Hermione's lap to get help braiding some grass.
While JP was doing exceptionally better in school, now that he didn't have to worry about bullying children and biased adults, there were still days when he came home rather subdued. Such a day was today.
Hermione had set aside all her work for Gringott's on her oak desk and immediately turned her attention to the little man who was her brother in heart. And legally too, she thought with a subdued but sly grin. But then a sigh escaped her lips and she opened the oven. With care she retrieved a tray of cookies and set them to cool before carefully filling up two glasses of milk.
A few moments later, she was taking the snack tray up the stairs and to the library that she and JP were finishing homework in. Though getting the homework done straight off was part of their usual routine, JP's sullen mood added a different tension to their study time.
That was the reason for (surprise!) peanut butter cookies.
Hermione smiled as she opened the door with her hip, JP's head darting up to her when he smelled the cookies.
A grin split his face, and was reflected on hers, and then they were settling onto another couch (homework forgotten on the table!) as Hermione opened up a book about fantasy and magic.
The duo was engrossed in the tale for a while, until there was only one cookie left on the tray and maybe a sip of milk between their two glasses.
JP stared at the cookie before reaching for it, breaking it in half and looking up at her when he offered her one side.
Hermione smiled and kissed his head as she took it, pulling him into her body so that he curled into her and she could give him a sideways hug.
"So, how was your class?"
JP scrunched up his face and then buried it in her neck.
Hermione twitched, still slightly ticklish from her childhood, but curled herself more around the child that was now hers. She'd braved the police and social services and several nosy teachers to keep him—and she'd keep him happy.
She sighed and started humming; remembering her mother's heat and scent from the rare times they'd shared a hug in her childhood. She almost wished JP could also experience the presence of a father like she had—the sweet cherry pipe smoke and reassuring presence of a man that, though distant, was solid and steady.
"Do you think Minnie would want to play again?" JP asked tentatively.
Hermione inhaled slowly, "I think she would very much like that. She's rather shy isn't she? Maybe she doesn't have many friends."
JP took in a big breath that fully expanded his rib cage against her. "Yeah," he paused and looked up at her, big green eyes between sooty lashes and wire frames (Hermione, even after three years, still melted when he looked at her like that). "But do you think she wants to be my friend?"
"Oh, of course she does!" Hermione exclaimed with her eyes wide as she hurriedly snuggled her boy. "You are a wonderful little man, JP, and I doubt she didn't notice."
"But they haven't called…"
Hermione sighed and kissed his head. "It's only been a few days. We have to give things time. Minnie might be just as unsure as you, imagine that."
JP pursed his lips and nodded his head, tenderly laying it back down against her collarbone as she resumed her humming, the nostalgic lyrics slipping from between her lips as she gave in to the comfort for both of them.
No matter the day JP had at school, they had each other.
And Hermione was sure Minnie or Harry would call soon.
They were fated to be friends.
After that mostly successful first play date, Harry contemplated setting up another one. It had been enjoyable, but it didn't exactly create an opportunity for the two older versions of themselves to sit and have that much needed chat. Harry thought they needed that. They had always been friends who were honest with each other, who had no secrets or questions between them. He wanted that now.
Still, Hermione lived in Little Whinging, such a strange thought of the neighbourhood he'd previously found nothing worthwhile in, so they had to take care about transport—though Hermione confessed an adept knowledge of the underground.
Harry didn't want to always make her go too far out of her way in order to keep in touch. He desperately wanted to keep in touch and re-establish that camaraderie that had once been theirs—but he also couldn't find the bravery to go to Privet Drive again.
Then Minnie quietly approached, and, as was her way, stood beside him until he realized she was there (he was getting quicker at it). She swallowed and looked up at him shyly, big hopeful brown eyes wide over her freckles. "Harry, can we…see JP and Hermione again?" she asked softly.
And Harry found he would do anything for that little girl that had finally outright asked something of him. "Sure, let me just call her up and we can set up another time."
Minnie flushed, "There's a long weekend coming up, we won't have to get in early."
Harry sat back slightly, but then swallowed and smoothed her hair back before going to make the call.
Hermione was delighted, and, despite Harry's misgivings, this coming Friday break they'd be going to the park just outside Privet Drive.
That Friday a near pale Harry found himself once again in the little satellite town south of London proper and swallowed heavily as he went to that dreadfully familiar park. He could all too easily remember Dudley chasing him up that tree, or pushing him off that piece of equipment, and smacking him down so hard—just right there—so that the blood in his mouth also tasted like the sand from the impact.
He took in a deep breath and closed his eyes, Minnie tightly clutching to his fingers in this strange new park with all the kids.
Padfoot trotted along rather sedately, but his eyes were sharp and bright as he looked up and down the area and almost bumped against Harry every time they stepped. It was in no way possible to hide his real emotions from the animangus' nose, and Harry was very thankful for the support.
And then Hermione was walking up the street, laughing and roughing around with JP before waving at the three stolid figures standing in the park. Harry's breath caught—his eyes sparkling when Hermione grinned and JP laughed.
He watched the very happy pair make their way to them, and he noted the way the parents didn't draw their children away, and the way the children didn't give any sign of negative tendencies towards younger Harry.
Their play date was quite the same as the last one, even ending up with a book and grass-plaiting, but the children were more at ease with each other, and Hermione was much happier.
Harry, despite being in Little Whinging and without any real answers, was strangely content.
After a few more park play dates, trading between ones close to either of their homes, Mrs. Granger got curious enough to inquire about Hermione and JP, and then tentatively offer a lunch date at their home.
Despite being wary, both Harry and Hermione had agreed to set up a luncheon for the kids' sake. Minnie was very excited to share her swing, and JP wanted to go to someone's house.
(And, because they were themselves and not themselves, both understood the need for the children to have this. Even if it hurt Hermione to see her parents and yet not be with them and even if it scared Harry to be so much a part of this family though his friend wasn't.)
So on a Saturday, when the kids promised to complete their homework the Friday night before, their date was set. Minnie practically vibrated with excitement, watching the front walk.
When she squealed and a bell rang through the hall Harry could only shake his head and get up from the couch. Wendell folded down one corner of the paper, eyes twinkling at his daughter before he curiously looked towards the foyer. Monica peaked out of the kitchen with a grin, wiping off her hands on her apron.
At the opening of the door, and the entrance of the two new strangers, Harry watched Monica's face go slack with surprise and Wendell firmly place the paper down as he stood and gaped at the newcomers.
"Hello Harry," Hermione said softly, self-consciously glancing at the two adults before Minnie greeted JP and turned to the woman. Hermione grinned down at the mini-her, crouching and tucking some curls behind her ear. "And hello to you too princess. How are things?"
Minnie beamed. (Nothing seemed to have stopped her enthusiasm since she'd been told she was magic, and, somehow, she seemed to think Hermione was magic too—she'd voiced these suspicions to Harry with a little bit of awe in her voice for the older woman.) "Hello Miss Hermione. I think things are simply wonderful!"
Hermione laughed lowly, gently caressing Minnie's curls before straightening, smiling at the two kids.
Hermione blinked, and Harry turned his attention to the two adults that were now so much closer than they had been.
"Ah, excuse my manners," Hermione blushed, ducking her head slightly and bringing up her shoulders.
Harry's breath caught. That was the curious ritual Minnie had when she blushed, in an attempt to hide behind her hair she'd use her shoulders to push the wayward curls in front of her face.
Wendell swallowed visibly and smiled wobbly. "No harm done, poppet. I'm Wendell Granger, and this is my wife Monica."
"Pleased to meet you," Hermione said softly, reaching out her small right hand. Just as Wendell was reaching out his hand to politely shake hers she added, "My name is Hermione Granger."
The man froze just inches from her outstretched palm.
Hermione grinned uneasily. "I know this is rather unusual, but I find it rather quaint that your daughter has my name." She blinked as Wendell weakly shook her hand, and Monica followed suit with a curious tilt to her head. "And this is JP," Hermione added softly.
Harry shook his head with a smile.
JP stepped forward with a big grin, though his eyes glanced up at Hermione worriedly. "Hi!" he waved tightly, and then tucked himself into Hermione, seemingly overcome by shyness.
Monica emitted a soft delighted sound, and Wendell visibly softened.
"Well then," the matron said, with that same matronly knowledge that had so felled Harry in his first week at their home, "I just have to get the lemonade and everything is set, and do come into the kitchen dears."
Minnie immediately followed her mom, dragging JP along behind her. Wendell blinked at the duo with a strange smile overtaking his face.
"They're very good friends," he said softly.
"Yes," Hermione replied as Harry grinned. "They will probably be the best of friends for a very long time."
Wendell nodded his head and made his way to the kitchen.
Hermione and Harry stayed behind just slightly, exchanging questioning looks. Her eyes softened and she nodded her head, Harry grinned and nodded his back. They would do their best to talk later.
Though lunch started out quiet, the two elder Grangers eyeing Hermione oddly and she in turn unobtrusively eyeing them, with the kids chatting excitedly it couldn't be helped that they were all drawn into the conversation. At the end of their meal the Grangers were relaxed…and Hermione was as well.
Harry, his shoulders tingling from being tense so long, watched a smiling Hermione as she watched her parents interact with the kids.
If he saw a few tears in her eyes he wouldn't mention it, ever.
With the kids tucked away to read some fantasy novel upstairs and the adults milling in the lounge Harry took Hermione out back to see Padfoot.
Hermione gave her parent's a strange look when they encouraged them to sit on the porch but Harry thought nothing of it. Padfoot bounded up to them, and they walked together to the little gazebo hidden by the willow.
There the dog transformed.
Hermione's breath caught. Sirius was a sight—healthy and well dressed and more of a true whole man than they'd ever known him in their time. "Sirius," she whispered in a choked voice.
Sirius quirked a smile. "From what Harry tells me you save my life and his. Feels odd to feel indebted to you when it hasn't really happened yet."
She laughed, but her eyes were pained as she looked up at this tall stranger.
Then Sirius barked out a laugh and grabbed her up in a hug. Harry watched with narrowed eyes as he caught her quick defensive flick for a weapon before Hermione was laughing and hugging him back as he spun her around.
The duo finally settled. And then Hermione was hugging Harry and he finally got to hug her back for as long as he wanted without any audience or concerns to break them apart. The kids were safe and they were hidden.
And Padfoot was there to watch their backs.
Hermione smiled as she watched JP run around the yard. Minnie was coming over to visit, and even the older girl couldn't contain her own excitement. There were cookies in the oven, of course, and Hermione had cleaned the house top to bottom with her own nervous energy.
JP had done his part collecting all his toys and books, even scouting the back yard for potential hazards with the most adorably serious face she'd ever seen on him.
Hermione rather felt touched that he was so protective of Minnie, because it was a side she'd so often doubted in her Harry. He had his saving people thing of course, but she'd always wondered if she was really worth the saving—beyond a few tidbits of information they could all find out for themselves if they'd put in the effort.
JP broke her thoughts when he came in from the backyard, some leaves in his hair and his face flushed with exhilaration—the expectant smile when he looked at her made her laugh.
"They're still not here, and the cookies aren't done yet."
JP sighed and rolled his eyes, making Hermione laugh, but he grinned at her (not truly upset at all) and turned a little chair so that he could sit and watch the cookies bake.
Hermione ran her fingers through his hair when she passed him while cleaning up from cooking, and he always leaned back into her touch. She smiled fondly at him just before the doorbell rang and he was darting away.
Of course, that would be the moment the timer went off for the cookies—and it wouldn't do to have them burn on this prodigious day.
Hermione laughed as she set them out to cool, hearing the excited jabbering of JP through the house.
Harry swallowed as he looked down at the address on her card, double checking even while feeling those familiar eyes against his back. Minnie switched her weight from foot to foot before leaning completely into him and turning pleading eyes up to him. Harry smiled lightly as he leaned down to give her a hug then set to walking with his arm around her, letting her settle against him and turn her face into his side.
Padfoot plodded along right behind them, his head nudging into their free hands alternately.
Even while they were meeting JP and Hermione, Minnie was still shy with strangers. Their other meetings had gone so splendidly and she was very excited to visit JP at his house. Still, being on the street unnerved her.
Harry wondered how Hermione and JP dealt with all the neighbours visibly peering through their curtains.
When he finally got to the right house, dangerously close to Number 4 Privet Drive, he was startled at his own stupidity. How could he have not guessed this one house was Hermione's out of all the others on the block? Even though he'd never really learned his neighbours in his original timeline, her yard didn't quite fit.
Harry laughed and pointed out the garden to Minnie. "Look, isn't that perfect for hiding to read a book?"
She peeked out and grinned, nodding against his arm and laughing quietly.
Amidst the trimmed hedges and precise edges of all the other gardens, Hermione's yard was full of blooming plants and expansive shrubs and small trees, a little Eden that had no defined edges or cuts.
As different as it was, it was still obviously well tended—enough that it fit into the precise neighbourhood just enough.
He grinned as he rang the doorbell.
JP's exuberant face was quick to answer the door, peeking around the jamb and quickly grabbing Minnie before they could even greet him. "The cookies are done!" he exclaimed quickly, trying to explain his rush.
Harry blinked as the two kids were suddenly down the hall, turning into the kitchen so that the only thing he could see was a part of the table and the colourful fridge. He blinked again and chuckled, entering the house, tapping and removing his shoes as living with Monica Granger had taught him. Padfoot shook himself off and entered too—inching his way carefully in case Hermione threw as big a fit as her mother about fur in the house.
Belatedly following the kids down the hall his breath caught when he entered the kitchen. Hermione was grinning, a kid under each arm as she closed the oven door with her hip and laughed.
There was flour on her face, and her apron was well worn around her hips, but the two kids were still excitedly jabbering about chocolate chips and macaroons. JP was gesticulating rather wildly, but the grinning Hermione dodged him with an absent practiced ease.
Minnie's eyes were shining, and she was looking up at Hermione with that pleased smile that she had worn the first time Harry had quietly confirmed his connection to the magic that Minnie had. (The young genius had figured it out on her own, of course, but had wanted the confirmation and his guidance in her new world.)
Hermione caught his eye and smiled wider (if that was at all possible. Harry had never, ever, seen her so jubilant). "They just need to cool, but I do have some lemonade for all of us. Just sit at the table."
Harry carefully took his seat, eyeing the capable Hermione that he had never seen around children. Sure, she and Teddy had gotten along splendidly, but never had they interacted so intimately—nothing like what he was seeing now.
Hermione adeptly directed each child to their own chairs, swinging around in the same movement to open the fridge and take out a pitcher, circles of lemons floating in it while the ice clinked against the glass.
Moments later the children cheered before they took their first bites of cookies, smiling at each other around crumby faces with hands that were somehow already chocolate smeared.
Hermione sighed quietly as she took her seat, and Harry turned slightly to see the absolutely content smile she wore as she watched the two kids. He relaxed his tense shoulders as he eyed the loose way she leaned her chin in one hand and held her glass in the other.
This wasn't entirely familiar territory for him, but Hermione, who he had always trusted, was his guiding force. And she appeared to be entirely happy with the way of things right now.
Like usual he took his cue from her; even the skittering of leaves against the window in this new house on the old hated street didn't make him reach for his wand. He enjoyed their time with the kids and Padfoot, and then later enjoyed their enlightening conversation as the children ran about the backyard.
It was a Friday, family night, but all games and snacks were set aside when their little girl came home.
Minnie did so in tears, absolutely inconsolable in her misery.
The only thing Harry could do was hold her and rock her, and her parents watched worriedly from the couch across from them. Padfoot snuffled around the younger pair, licking at Minnie and trying to comfort her too.
When her sobs finally calmed down enough to make her words semi-intelligible, the only thing they could make out was that she wanted "JP" and that "her homework was ruined!"
Harry looked pleadingly up at the Grangers, and Monica nodded before moving to the phone. She carefully put in the numbers Harry told her, wrapping the cord in her hand as she waited for the ring, and her conversation was quiet and quick as she stared sorrowfully at her very small and very distraught daughter.
Not half an hour later the doorbell rang.
Wendell answered, and JP immediately ran right into the living room, climbed onto the couch with Harry, and started petting Minnie's curls.
The little girl's sobs caught, and she turned a curious blotchy face to JP.
He grinned crookedly at her, worriedly at her, and she bawled before launching herself into him. He caught her with a little jostle, and Harry (despite once being that boy) knew he would never have had the skill to handle this situation at that age. But JP did.
His little face set into determination and he hugged his friend, slowly starting to rock back and forth with her.
Hermione entered the room, quietly taking off her scarf and coat. Her eyes remained on the two children as she adeptly set her gear on the hooks at the door, the action telling enough to startle Harry. It was always strange to remember the older Hermione was just as familiar with this house as the younger Minnie—he was glad the two older Grangers hadn't witnessed the revealing habit.
Harry swallowed and smiled wobbly at his old friend.
Her eyes darted to him quickly, her body moving much slower as she lowered herself to the couch on the other side of JP.
A few minutes, ones that were quiet but not awkward, were shared before the two children drew slightly away from each other. Minnie was snuffling, scrubbing her face with her hands in embarrassment. JP still had his arms about her, and he was looking at her with a worried face rather than a weary one.
(At that age Harry was sure he wouldn't have been able to stand someone's tears for so long—he rather admired this little him that wasn't him at all now.)
"Sorry," Minnie whispered quietly.
JP's face scrunched up, "Nope." He hesitated again before tilting his head and looking up into Minnie's downturned face, "Bad day at school?"
Minnie hesitated before she nodded.
JP just stared at her.
A slow flush spread onto her cheeks, "A couple of kids tore up my homework," she offered.
JP's eyebrows furrowed, moving his hair comically (and it was such a surprise that this different little boy still had that scar). "And?"
Hermione leaned around JP and looked at Minnie with soft eyes.
"And they told me that they didn't want to be my friend anymore if I wasn't going to share the answers," she whispered quietly. "They said that I'd always be friendless because I was so selfish and wanted the teacher's attention all to myself."
"But you have me!" JP said firmly, a hellish light behind his green eyes.
"Did you tell them that?" Hermione asked carefully.
"I did! I told them that JP was my very best friend and he wouldn't care what they said! But they laughed," her breath caught as she soldiered on, "and told me to stop doing freaky things. And imaginary friends named JP counted as freaky things!"
JP's little face scrunched up into a scowl.
"You're not a freak, and you don't do freaky things!" he exclaimed irately, his face turning slightly red and his ears burning.
Harry felt his breath catch and his heart clench—it hurt.
Hermione sighed as she watched the two kids trek down the sidewalk, absently wondering when the park had become the answer for everything. When she had been a child, it had always been the place of a reoccurring problem. But now the children were determined to go there to help Minnie recover from her horrid day, and the adults had allowed it only if both Hermione and Harry (the older ones) would chaperone (and "take Padfoot out of the house," Mrs. Granger had added while eyeing the shaggy dog).
Hermione had agreed of course. The two kids now always went to the swings for comfort, and she couldn't fault them for a habit she was partially responsible for.
So they made their way to the swings, but didn't want to be pushed by Harry or Hermione. Instead Harry drifted off with Padfoot to scout the area (and probably chat somewhere discreetly) and Hermione wandered to that old isolated park bench under the willow—where she used to sit and read books while hidden away from the other children.
Gently, she caressed the younger wood and looked out between shorter branches—this was strangely surreal right here. But she and Harry had talked about that. They started to get together for coffee on her days off while JP and Minnie were off at school, as Harry didn't work a full time job but got paid for odd jobs around the neighborhood. It had been awkward at first and they had felt vulnerable, sitting together without the kids or Sirius there to buffer them, to hide behind, but they managed.
Hermione had confessed her confusion, the sense of unreality that had followed her since the night of her attack and betrayal. She hadn't really wanted to talk and risk testing the fabric of this universe.
Harry had confessed that his paranoia had almost made him a social leper, except she'd gone missing. He'd half thought everything was a trick of his mind…sometimes still thought he was insane and dreaming this all up.
Hermione had held his hand and quietly started talking about how she and JP became a little family. Harry had explained Minnie, his tale interrupted by random questions for her (And goodness! Harry knew she was scared of storms! How embarrassing was that?).
Sirius joined a few of these excursions—but sometimes they couldn't make an excuse to bring him and the Grangers volunteered to watch him. So Harry and she tentatively hinted at the story there but both decided that Sirius would be the one to tell it all. Hermione felt a little relief to think that her Harry hadn't changed so much—he still did ridiculously heroic things.
And he would understand her own missions, hopefully. But she hadn't the courage to bring them up just yet.
So they also talked about normal mundane things.
It was good for them to talk without the kids or the Grangers being able to walk in on them—it was nice to be Harry and Hermione again.
Now they were Harry and Hermione and Minnie and JP. That was still surreal, but now she was grounded enough that she could go about living instead of hyper-focusing on one thing. JP was what had kept her going since her bout of time travel, and she was so glad to have him. But now they had Minnie and Harry and Sirius, and Hermione wasn't so stressed about everything else that could happen.
Harry was always there for her when it counted.
She kept a close eye on the kids as her mind wandered, watching her younger self and wondering.
Hermione had always pondered what it would be like to go back in time, with all her acquired knowledge, and relive her life. But that was entirely impossible, even with magic. Certainly there were theories in runes and arithmancy, but nothing so concrete as to be viable. Time travel always added age to the user; at least time travel that wasn't divinely commanded by the Magic.
So Hermione had spent most of her life dreaming about how she could have made more friends, been a better person, more amicable or at least reacted better and shown the better side of her. Or, in her more angry moods, she found memories where she could have gained the upper hand, come-backs that would have left her tormenters dumbfounded and humiliated, pithy remarks that would have shamed her parents into loving her...
Hermione shook her head.
On another glance towards her charges she narrowed her eyes. She knew those boys, and at one time in her life she had absolutely hated them. She stood abruptly as they walked closer to her miniature-duo. When the verbal exchange started, Hermione was already well on her way across the sand. She was just close enough when JP glared at Taylor O'Shea.
JP shoved the bigger kid away from Minnie, scowling darkly. "My name's JP! And stay away from my friend!"
The trio laughed
While Hermione manoeuvred her way around the park equipment and got the attention of other parents JP and Minnie were jostled to the ground, laughter ringing as more kids surrounded them.
Hermione abruptly froze as the familiar tingle of magic rushed along her limbs, and the ringleader was harshly shoved out of the circle so that he landed on his arse in the sand.
He abruptly teared up, his face blotching as a satisfied Hermione got to her own two kids and pulled them out of the mess. With a particularly scathing glare in the brute's direction, she walked to the lonely park bench by the willow.
Minnie was teary eyed, but staring in amazement at the petulant JP.
"I didn't do nothing," he exclaimed defensively as soon as she looked at him.
Minnie's doe eyes immediately snapped to her, "He just shoved the boy! But Taylor was being mean in the first place, he started it!"
Hermione shushed the two, fondly eyeing them. "I know you did magic."
Minnie drew in a sharp breath, eyes wide and excited.
"I think it's wonderful that you defended Minnie like that, and, Minnie, thank you for trying to cover for JP even if he wasn't going to get into trouble anyway. You make a very good friend."
Minnie blushed and then her unsure smile turned into a veritable beam of light.
A confused Harry made his way to them, a worried look on his face as he checked Minnie over and carefully pulled her into a hug. Minnie murmured into his ear and he carefully let her go, drawing back to look into her face and then glance at JP. Padfoot sat on his rump and his tail swept over the grass—his tongue hung out in a doggy grin.
Hermione sucked on her lower lip and stood, "Well, I think this trip is cut short."
And yet, despite ending on that sour note, Minnie was skipping on the way home and JP was watching her with a grin.
Hermione didn't quite get it until they walked into the foyer at the doctors' house.
"We're all magic!" Minnie exclaimed before laughing and twirling around the hall.
Both Monica and Wendell looked at them in surprise.
"I think this might require an explanation," Wendell quipped with a quirky uncertain smile.