Title: Keeping a Promise

By Maple Mountain

DISCLAIMER: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.

Besides, If I was Jo Rowling and these characters were mine, do you really think I'd be worried about my next mortgage payment being due? Just this plot is "mine…all mine!" All excerpts from JKR's Harry Potter book series in any chapter in this story are from the US Scholastic Editions, and any ideas that I can attribute to others in the greater Harry Potter community will be appropriately referenced. This is a repost of a story I originally posted on Portkey from December 2004 – July 2005. Rated T due to some violence and descriptions of torture, etc.

If you recognize this story from elsewhere, I originally posted this story on Portkey starting in December 2004, 7 years ago today. I have made some minor updates/formatting changes to meet FanFiction requirements were completed in December 2011. No RETCONNING WAS DONE, HOWEVER! :-)

Summary: Slightly AU with a time-travel theme. And, since I'm not JKR, all characters are, by definition, at least slightly OOC. Set immediately after the last page of OotP. Based on the following thought- What would happen if Vernon already had plans for Harry when they returned to Privet Drive?

Pairings: Harry/Hermione (of course…)

Spoilers: Books 1-5

(Author's Notes) My first fanfic, ever, of any kind. (Actually, it is the first piece of fiction that I have written since probably sometime in Junior High, which is more years ago than I care to remember.) I came across the Portkey website one day when I was taking a break from looking for a job, and one thing led to another. Eventually, this plot bunny came hopping into my head, and I had to either write it down or shoot it. This was written originally before Book 6 and 7 came out.

Please R&R, although I would appreciate you reading both Chapter 1 and 2 at least before you flame me! Also, I know that this story starts out somewhat slow…please read a while before you give up on it – I've been told it gets better as it goes along!

This first chapter is mostly Harry's random "stream of consciousness" thoughts, indicated like this Character thoughts, so it is somewhat disjointed (as I think Harry's thoughts would be at this time).

Chapter 1 – Return to Privet Drive

"Really soon, Harry," said Hermione earnestly. "We promise."

As Harry pushed his luggage trolley with Hedwig's cage perched on top the short distance from Platform 9 3/4 to the car park, he replayed in his mind the last pleasant voice he would be hearing for a while. How was he going to face going back to Privet Drive after all that had happened in the past few weeks? He had already started counting the days before he could escape the prison he was condemned to endure for – how long this time? I hope Hermione can keep her promise to see me soon. I just wish that I could have told her about everything I learned in Dumbledore's office that nightafter I just about killed –"

"I do not want to be stuck with the Dursleys right now," he muttered as his entire body tensed once again at the memories of the Department Of Mysteries. He remembered how hard it was last summer being kept in the dark at number four, Privet Drive after Cedric died. How much worse is it going to be this year with what has just happened? Sirius died because of my stupidity. Everyone else, including me, came pretty close to snuffing it too! Why didn't I listen to Hermione?

Hermione…Every time he had thought of her since that terrible night, he couldn't get the memory of a critical minute in the DOM out of his mind. One sequence of events played over and over…Hermione being hit by a purple flame from Dolohov's wand and falling, motionless, to the floor. At that very moment, he thought his life was over. Fortunately, Neville had the presence of mind to check for a pulse. One of these days I'm going to have to owl Neville and let him know how much what he did for me meant to our survival that night. And, I better write Hermione, too, and tell her–

"BOY!" Uncle Vernon bellowed, interrupting his train of thought. "WHERE DO YOU THINK YOU ARE GOING?"

Harry looked around, puzzled. The Dursleys were standing next to a different car than they had when he last saw them. Harry absentmindedly had walked to a car that looked like the one he remembered, the one that Vernon had driven when the Dursleys left for the All-England Best-Kept Suburban Lawn Competition that Tonks had "invented" the previous August. That was the last time I saw them he mused. So much has happened since then…

"GET OVER HERE!" Vernon yelled again.

The Dursleys were standing next to a very large, expensive car. He didn't recognize the make or model (it sure wasn't listed in Which Broomstick, which had been more on Harry's mind than the latest cars for the past few years) but he could tell from the chrome and the finish that this car was quite a step up for the Dursleys in the automobile pecking order that was Privet Drive. Hmm… Vernon must have gotten a promotion or bonus at Grunnings. Wonder who he had to cheat to get it?

Looking in the car, he saw that Petunia was already seated in front and Dudley was filling up nearly half the wide back seat, both of them staring at him as usual. Uncle Vernon had opened the boot, and was walking with a noticeable limp toward the front. "If you don't have your trunk and your bloody parrot put away by the time I get the car started, I'm leaving without you, boy!" he said as he reached for the door handle. "AND YOU BETTER NOT SCRATCH THE PAINT WHEN YOU DO IT!"

Fortunately, Harry was able to wrestle the trunk into the boot and get Hedwig's cage tied down in the back seat before Vernon forced his bulky body into the driver's seat and buckled his seatbelt around his belly. Vernon had started to look more and more like Dudley when it came to the girth department since he last saw him. Must have been eating well in my absence. Oh well, I'm sure I'll be back on the 'rabbit food' diet this year, if I'm even that lucky. Wonder if I can complain about the food situation to the Order when they visit me in a few days?

As Vernon revved up the engine and drove off with a roar and a squeal of tyres, Harry quickly buckled his seatbelt and checked the strap holding Hedwig's cage. With Vernon driving in as foul of a mood as he was, Harry wasn't taking any chances. Wouldn't that be ironic! The Boy-Who-Lived, killed in a Muggle car accident! Why worry about Voldemort when I have Uncle Vernon trying to kill me? He then noticed that the car was very new, since the smell of the leather upholstery was fresh in the air. He got the distinct impression that they had probably driven to King's Cross Station directly from the sales lot.

Dudley was sitting as far away from him and Hedwig as he could, which wasn't very easy because of his size. As he looked into Dudley's face, he saw an intense look of fear and hatred there. Harry stared at him for a minute, wondering what would cause Dudley to show such obvious loathing. But then, Harry saw a glimpse of something else in his eyes. It was a look that reminded him of Draco Malfoy at his most self-assured - when Draco knew something that Harry didn't. Wish I was a Legilimens right now! Wonder what's going on in that piggy little mind?He's probably got some torture lined up for me as soon as we get to the house. If Harry had noticed Vernon in the mirror right then, he would have been surprised that Mr. Dursley had exactly the same look on his face.

As they traveled the long road to Surrey, Harry realized that the prison sentence he was about to face was more than he could bear. He knew he had to return to re-establish the protections associated with this ancient magic that both Dumbledore and Voldemort had described. But, the more he thought about it, the more Order Headquarters was now home to him in his mind. That was where Sirius had lived. That was where he had felt as much happiness as he had anywhere lately. He also realized that neither Hogwarts nor The Burrow felt like home to him either. Thoughts of Hogwarts from this past year were so tied up with his unpleasant memories of '…that evil hag' as Hermione referred to her, not to mention his confusion about what he was feeling towards Albus Dumbledore.

Thinking of the Burrow reminded him once again of his mixed feelings about the Weasley family. They ranged from thinking about how Percy was continuing to be a complete, total, prat; to 'Gred and Forge' and their brilliant escape from HER clutches (he still couldn't bear to think of her name without cursing); to his frustration with Molly and her treatment of Sirius, not to mention how she treated him as a child. The rage that he felt at being left out of the loop because "…he's not an adult either!" started rising again. If only the Order had told me more, Sirius might still be alive. And ALBUS was KEEPING THINGS FROM ME BECAUSE HE SAYS HE LOVED ME TOO MUCH Just great!I've been back in the Muggle world for less than half an hour and I'm still 'The Boy Who Blows Up'! I have GOT to get a grip! I wish that Hermione were here, she'd calm me down.

For once, much more pleasant memories of Hermione came to Harry, as if something important was breaking through to his conscious mind. Instead of her falling in the Department of Mysteries there was Hermione, kissing him on the cheek at King's Cross Station last year after Cedric died; Hermione nearly tackling him in a hug in the bedroom at Sirius's and not letting go, as if she knew how much he needed a hug right then; Hermione trying so hard to consider his feelings when she proposed that he should teach DADA instead of the ….creature, then her face lighting up when she started describing why it was so important to learn from him; then, that same evening, as he started losing control again the simple but brave act of her saying Voldemort's name; Hermione, snow in her hair, cheeks pink with cold, knocking on the bedroom door at Grimmauld Place. Each of these times, she seemed to do just what was needed to calm him down, cheer him up, or help him out of a funk. At the same time, he also remembered how often he found himself losing his temper, loudly, with both Hermione and Ron this past year when they were only trying to help. Not for the first time, he was reminded of what a prat he had been.

Ron…Now, there was a real problem. What exactly were his feelings towards his best friend…well, his best MALE friend, anyway? Now, wait a minute. When exactly did I start thinking of Hermione as mymy best friend?

After reflecting for a moment, he remembered that it started during fourth year, when Ron was actively avoiding him after his name came out of the Goblet. Hermione was the only one who believed him. She not only believed me, she HELPED me…while Ron was off on his major jealousy and 'I hate being poor!' kicks. Ron was no better than Malfoy at that time, maybe even worse, because I never EXPECTED Malfoy to be supportive, but I sure did miss Ron. Sure, we patched things up, but my trust in him just isn't there as strongly as it had been. He's definitely NOT a Hufflepuff! Harry chuckled. Loyalty and hard work isn't his forte. Besides, I don't think we really did 'patch things up' after that– I guess we just decided to ignore what happened and move on. And, all through last year, Ron seemed to be more and more distant. Partly because he was prefect, and partly because of Ron's Quidditch practices without me after that…that…hag banned me… But, wait a minute – Hermione was prefect, too, and she spent a lot of time with me last year anyway. Hmm, maybe Ron was spending more time doing his prefect duties than she was – that's why he wasn't there as much. Fat chance of that! he laughed to himself.

Then, just a few weeks ago, when Ron and Ginny won the Quidditch Cup without me, did Ron really have to rub it in so much? Acting like a superstar, sitting under that tree, sweeping his hair back just like my dad did and making sure those Hufflepuffs noticed, and then, saying, 'Yeah, we won', so smugly. Ron might as well have added '…without your help'. Honestly, as much as I love Quidditch, I was almost glad I was with Hermione in the forest instead of having to watch that last match…WHAT AM I SAYING? I'D RATHER BE RUNNING AWAY FROM AN ANGRY GIANT AND EVEN ANGRIER CENTAURS THAN WATCHING QUIDDITCH? Immediately, he knew the answer to that question. Yes, as long as I was with Hermione.

What…?""Uh…Oh…!" "Potter, you've got it bad…" "No, it can't be!" "I don't… love her, do I?"And then, he heard her calm, rational, familiar voice in his head. And, why not, Harry? Why couldn't you be starting to feel that way about me? Let's start with the basics. What did you really mean when you said you didn't think I was ugly?

Harry didn't know exactly how to answer that. Thanks a lot, Hermione's voice, for bringing that up right now. He had found himself more and more frequently engaging in a pretend conversation with her voice in his head, and this time was no different. Just what DID I mean by that?, he asked himself. I mean, she isn't a Fleur Delacour, or even a Cho Chang, for that matter, when it comes to looks. But, what did Mr. Weasley say about the Veelas when they were attacking the leprechauns at the Quidditch World Cup?" 'And that, boys, is why you should never go for looks alone!' If only I had thought about that before I asked Cho out – it sure would have saved me a lot of problems. Now that I think about it, I have NEVER thought of Hermione as ugly, from when I first met her on the train. Besides, I KNOW Hermione can be very good looking when she makes an effort…I noticed that at the Yule Ball, didn't I?" When I saw her in that blue dress, she was so…

"BOY– WAKE UP, WE'RE HERE! WHAT ARE YOU DREAMING ABOUT?" Vernon roared, turning slowly purple as he built up steam with his diatribe. "Better not be that…that…girl I see you with at the station each year! I saw the look on your face just now – you were thinking of her, weren't you? Well, don't get thinking along those lines. Just what we need, you getting with one of those witches at your school and making even more of your kind – just like Petunia's sister and that layabout father of yours. Disgusting! Get your mind out of the gutter! I don't want you having funny dreams about ANY of your unnatural friends or that school of yours while you are with us this summer, DO YOU UNDERSTAND ME?

As Harry sat there silently, bracing himself against Vernon's verbal attack, his uncle continued with more and more volume. "After what happened to my son because of you last August, I'm not putting up with any of it, do you hear me? Dementoids, Lord Voldy-thingy, Ministry of Magic, bloody… effing… owls delivering letter bombs to my wife; I don't want any more of it! We're going to have some changes around here soon, mark my words!" As he opened the door and struggled to extricate himself from the seat, he finished his tirade. "Now, go get your unnatural bird and your precious trunk out of my car right away and get in the house – there's something you need to see."

Harry, somewhat embarrassed that Vernon was exactly right about who he was thinking about, looked around. He saw that he was alone in the car with Hedwig. Dudley and Petunia had gone into the house and he hadn't even noticed. Actually, he hadn't even noticed that they had arrived at the Dursley's house on Privet Drive. As he opened his door, though, he saw that the neighbors were peeking out between their curtains to see why Vernonwas yelling so loudly. Uh, oh…, Harry thought as he realized just what his uncle had been screaming at the top of his lungs, …he said a few things there he shouldn't have. Hmm, wonder if Vernon will get an owl from Mafalda Hopkirk citing him for violating the International Statute of Secrecy? Oh, well, I guess the neighbors are probably used to Vernon's tirades by now. Maybe they'll just ignore the details as usual.

Harry reached in, unstrapped Hedwig's cage, set it on the ground, then went around and unloaded the trunk from the boot of the car. Hedwig hooted at him as Harry walked towards the house from the driveway. He went back and opened her cage so she could stretch her wings for a while after such a long trip cooped up in a cage. So, Harry didn't notice that there was someone watching from the Dursley's window. As he trundled his trunk in the front door, he heard a strangely familiar voice say "PETRIFICUS TOTALUS!" and he fell to the floor, completely stiff.

(Author's Notes) – I know, I know, but PLEASE READ CHAPTER 2 before you complain about what you think is impossible…