Gifts That Keep on Giving
a/n – Not only don't I own anything regarding the Harry Potter universe since all of that belongs to JK Rowling and her various and sundry corporate partners, but I also don't own anything else you might or might not recognize in this story.
Chapter One – Just Between Us Girls
9:30 a.m., Thursday 19 September, 1996, 6th Years Witches Dorm, Gryffindor Tower
Hermione Granger came storming into her dorm, her bad day going steadily downhill as she'd managed to get to her Ancient Runes class without her books. It was bad enough that her seventeenth birthday, one that was supposed to be a major event in a witch's life, was going to pass unnoticed, but she was forced to miss class so she could return to her dorm for one of her books was just the 'arsenic frosting on the hemlock cake' as her aunt was wont to say.
As she came bustling through the door, a familiar barking sound drew her attention to her four-poster bed. Stopping just inside the door, Hermione stared in disbelief at the sight before her eyes.
There was Hedwig, Harry's owl, and familiar Hermione had always suspected, sitting on top of her Ancient Runes tome, with a small stack of cards and a box sitting beside her. When the snowy owl hadn't appeared at breakfast this morning, Hermione had just assumed that she'd been delayed coming from her parents' home in Oxford.
Scowling at the thought of her parents' card, particularly the inevitable note from her mother Helen regarding her concerns about the path Hermione's love life was taking, or not taking to be more precise; Hermione shook her head and took one step forward.
Just as she started to ask the normally affectionate owl how she'd ended up with her text, Hermione was stunned by the look of malevolence in the owl's eyes as she launched herself from the bed towards her.
As the outraged familiar crossed the half-dozen steps between them, it appeared to Hermione that the owl started to … shift for lack of a better word as she neared. Hermione got the fleeting impression of a rather impressive and statuesque blonde standing there before all of her focus was on the deafening 'smack' that rang out in the room and the incredible amount of pain the seemed to explode from the left side of her face.
That and the discomfort of finding herself sprawled on the floor at the feet of an enraged, raving, woman she'd never seen before.
"Who the Holy Hell do you think you are?" the silver-haired beauty ranted. "Just where do you get off treating my Harry like this?"
Sprawled on the floor, gingerly rubbing her jaw which felt as if she'd walked in front of a bludger launched by one of the Twins, Hermione stared up in disbelief at the woman who, apparently, was also Harry's familiar. Her eyes darkened at just one more thing added to the list of things that Harry had kept from her.
"Honestly, if you didn't know familiars could do this, how in the name of Circe's garters would Harry know?" Hedwig continued ranting. Seeing the horrified look on Hermione's face as she realized that the owl/woman/witch knew what she was thinking, Hedwig laughed.
"Of course I do. All familiars know what their bonded are thinking. Crooks knows exactly what you're thinking, and he knows what Harry's thinking. That's why he's as disgusted with you as I am."
A rumbling sound off to her left drew her attention. As Hermione looked up, she could see her normally affection, at least to her and Harry, familiar Crookshanks glaring at her, his bottlebrush tail lashing back and forth in agitation perched on the end of Parvati's bed.
The sheer intensity of the look on the half-kneazel's face reminded her of the looks the ginger cat had given Ron's hapless pet Scabbers. The fact that Scabbers was actually the animagus Peter Pettigrew who betrayed Harry's parents wasn't lost on Hermione.
Turning her attention back to the woman who was, apparently, Hedwig, Hermione rubbed her jaw gingerly as she struggled to a seated position. A million questions were rocketing around inside her mind, but she decided to go for the obvious one for starters.
Rolling her eyes, the blonde put her hands on her hips and stared at her.
"Is that the best you can do? I launch myself at you, wasted one of the three times I'm permitted to change into this form for you, bitchslap your puritanical, prissy arse into the next millennium for treating our Harry like shite and all you can focus on is the very obvious fact that your familiars are bonded to you?"
Shaking her head, and immediately regretting it as the pain from her abused jaw went lancing through her head in response, Hermione decided that while getting back up might simply enable the enraged blonde to return her to a seated position, painfully, being able to come a bit closer to looking her in the eye might be of some benefit in the upcoming conversation.
"And stop playing cheap dominance games, you're going to get up and sit your arse on your bed, you're going to listen to me explain the facts of life to you, and then you're going to open that box."
Standing up a bit unsteadily, but managing it without any assistance, Hermione gave both the blonde and Crookshanks a look and then gingerly made her way over to her bed. Seating herself, she glanced down at the items on her bed.
Besides the not so missing Runes text, there were a pair of cards from her parents, and the one was thick enough that she was certain that it contained something other than the usual card and letter.
Since she had started Hogwarts, back before her twelfth birthday, Hermione and her family had taken to celebrating her birthday either before she left for school or during the Christmas hols, although a couple of years that didn't work out and they still managed to send her presents via Hedwig.
Apparently, that might be coming to a screeching halt.
"Not unless Harry tells me not to, it won't," Hedwig huffed in annoyance. "Just because you're able to turn your regard for the boy on and off like a cheap hand torch doesn't mean that he would."
"Will you stop that?" Glancing over at Crookshanks when he made a sound suspiciously like the one a normal cat would make when divesting themselves of a hairball, she turned her attention back to Hedwig.
"In case you haven't realized it, it's considered rude to go rooting around in someone else's head without a by your leave."
"You've never minded before when I've shown up out of the blue to take a letter to someone," Hedwig snarked. "Only now it's a problem anticipating what you're thinking?"
Staring at the blonde in disbelief, Hermione tried to collect her thoughts into some sort of pattern. Trying to organize the hundreds of questions into something rational, she hadn't realized that Crookshanks had crossed the room to her bed until she was shocked out of her reverie by two and a half stone of kneazel landing beside her.
Looking down, she could see that Crookshanks had his paw on the box. Paying attention to it for the first time, she could see that it had her name written on it in Harry's messy scrawl.
As she reached for it, Crooks batted her hand away. While his claws were sheathed, the power behind the slap kept her from reaching for the box.
"What do you want from me?"
"What do I want?" Hedwig replied in a snippy tone. "Nothing. It's what Harry wants, what he needs from you."
Before Hermione could ask the obvious, Hedwig continued.
"He needs something more than you judging him. He needs something more than your disbelief simply because it disrupts your tidy little world-view that one of your classmates is a stone cold killer. He needs something other than your bitterness and jealousy simply because he was given a marked up textbook out of the supply closet so he could take a class to try and make you happy."
"Wait. What?" Holding up her hand, Hermione narrowed her eyes and stared at the blonde. "Harry's taking Potions because he wants to be an auror."
Starting with a snicker, Hedwig started laughing at Hermione and shaking her head in disbelief. Looking at the younger woman as if she'd lost her mind, Hedwig wiped her eyes on the back of her hand and sighed.
"Harry hasn't really wanted to be an auror since fourth year. Pretty much seeing what a mess the Ministry made out of anything it touched killed that dream. He told Minerva that last year simply because he had to say something and he figured it would annoy Umbitch more than anything else he could come up with. You want him to be an auror, and he's taking the class with a professor that creeps him out simply trying to make you happy."
Pausing for a moment, Hedwig added in a droll tone, "Which he's quickly giving up as a bad job all round since you're quickly convincing him that you'd rather believe in Draco bloody Malfoy than believe him."
"Harry doesn't have any proof; all he has is five years of conflict with …"
"The bloody little sociopath is a bloody Death Eater!" Hedwig thundered at the top of her lungs. "Harry knows it. I know it. Crooks knows it. Any familiar in the building knows it. Albus 'too many names and titles' Dumbledore knows it. Every house elf in Hogwarts knows it. Aunt Muriel's pet hinkypunk knows it." Throwing her hands up in exasperation, Hedwig stared at Hermione in disbelief.
"Why would you disbelieve Harry?"
"Draco's just a boy."
"By your reckoning, Harry's just a boy. A boy who killed Quirrelmort to save the Philosopher's Stone. A boy who killed a basilisk to save that ginger bint who couldn't keep her hands off an enchanted diary. A boy that faced down a Hungarian Horntail in a competition for adults. A boy who would have gladly killed that pervert that almost killed you last spring. A boy who chased down that sociopath Bellatrix. A boy who threw Voldemort out of his head using the love he had for you to anchor him. A boy who destroyed the Headmaster's office less than an hour after watching his Godfather die and then being told about a bloody prophecy that has dogged his life since before his birth."
Pausing and taking a deep breath Hedwig lowered her voice and said, in way too calm a manner, "If all that's true, why is it so difficult to believe that Draco Malfoy, that little sociopathic piece of shite would quibble at torturing and murdering some helpless muggle to suck up to that insane Dark Lord that he's been raised to worship since he was old enough to crawl? Especially since Harry told you about that conversation in Knockturn Alley. There's only one thing that incompetent little inbred piece of offal could show Borgin that would cause him to kowtow to a sixteen year old and that would be a Dark Mark."
"We're still children, we don't …"
"Quit channeling Molly Bloody Weasley!" Hedwig thundered at the top of her voice. "He hasn't been a child since the night the two of you rescued his Godfather. Anyone who can drive off a hundred dementors, destroying a dozen of them by the way, isn't a child." Pausing for a moment, Hedwig gave Hermione an appraising look and smiled coldly. "And neither are you, though for some reason you seem to be holding onto that designation tooth and nail."
"I've come of age …"
"It's not a bloody date on a calendar," Hedwig shot back. "Do you honestly think that Dumbledore or Molly will be all smiles and pat Harry on the head and send him off to get his stupid Gryffindor arse killed by Voldemort next August?" Didn't the Department of Mysteries teach you anything?"
Seeing the pained look on Hermione's face, Hedwig smirked. "It taught you something, but you learned the wrong thing." Seeing the disbelieving look on her face, Hedwig laughed.
"What it should have told you was that Harry's your wizard, he's going to be your only wizard and you should have grabbed his skinny arse and shagged him senseless just as soon as Poppy cleared you for 'strenuous activities', Albus' restrictions be damned. Leaving him to stew in his own guilt and insecurities worked so well the summer after that damned tournament that you just had to give it another go after his godfather died in front of him."
"The Headmaster …"
"Is so intent upon his 'Greater Good' that he couldn't see anything that doesn't fit his plans for Harry. He has plans for your wizard and they're not the '…and they lived happily ever after' sort."
"What do you want from me!?" Hermione screamed in frustration. "I love Harry, I'd die for him, but I can't just sit here and watch him go to his death!"
Launching herself from the bed, Hermione was standing toe-to-toe with Hedwig, eyes flashing and shouting, her wand in hand and pointed between the familiar's eyes. "I can't do this, I can't lose him. I want him so bad, but it'll …."
"You're scared," Hedwig replied in a quiet voice. Reaching up with her hand, she gently moved Hermione's wand to the side, once it was away from her face Hermione's arm just dropped and the wand clattered noisily to the floor.
As the younger witch broken into heart-rending sobs, Hedwig wrapped her arms around her and gathered her in a gentle hug. Holding her close, she whispered soothing words in Hermione's ear as she gently rubbed her back and let her cry herself out.
Gently moving Hermione back towards the bed, they both sat on the edge of the four-poster as Hermione continued to cry, putting her arms around Hedwig and letting five years of frustration, fear, and pain out. When she finally started sobbing, "What do you want from me?" over and over, Hedwig sat back and lowered Hermione until she had her head in her lap as she pulled her legs up on the bed.
"Hermione, all I want is for you to be honest with Harry. Tell him how much you love him and just follow your heart. Stop these games, you can't leave him behind, you can't distance yourself from him." Pausing for a moment, Hedwig chuckled and added, "And while you can try, you really shouldn't move forward with your plan to 'fall in love' with Ron Weasley. That has all the makings of a fair disaster to it and will bring nothing but heartache for both you and Harry."
Smiling as Hermione stared up at her in disbelief, Hedwig shrugged. "If I know exactly when you want to send a letter to your mother, who by the way isn't quite as clueless as you think she is, why wouldn't I know you're thinking of settling for Ron in an attempt to keep yourself from being broken hearted if Harry doesn't survive?"
"If I lose him, it'll crush me. If he's Ginny's …"
"The day he marries Ginevra Weasley is the day your heart will turn to stone, little one," Hedwig said soothingly. "If he even lives that long without you. You need him, he needs you. Even for an owl, it seems rather simple."
Snorting through her tears, Hermione rolled her eyes. "He doesn't see me like that. Look at the witches he's gone for. Cho. Parvati. Ginny."
"Oh please. He had a crush on Cho, mainly because of quidditch. Once he got her, he didn't have a clue what she was about. Parvati? Last minute desperation date mainly because she came as a package deal with her sister and he could guilt her into going with Bilius. And the only way he was getting a date to the Ball was if Harry gift-wrapped the poor witch for him."
"Potions," Hedwig replied in a flat voice. Seeing the disbelieving look on Hermione's face, she sighed. "I know I'm destroying your neat and tidy little world, but when a boy just suddenly notices a girl and starts obsessing over her out of the clear blue sky, in the wizarding world think potions. She went from being annoying fangirl and Ron's little sister to noticing her in the blink of an eye. Doesn't that seem a bit strange to you?"
"That still doesn't mean …" Trailing off, Hermione sat bolt upright. "That stupid cow is feeding him potions?"
"With her mother's help and the Headmaster's blessings," Hedwig replied as she started to smile. "It's not working very well, since the boy's very in love with you, but she's probably going to try to up the dosage, again, in a week or so."
"Up the dosage? Again!?" Her voice starting to take on a shrill note, Hermione's eyes started flashing in anger. "You can kill someone with some of those."
"Someone's been doing her potions homework," Hedwig snickered.
"I've been Harry's best friend for years now. I've seen how some of those witches look at him. I decided to …" Blushing, she shook her head. "Sweet Merlin on a broom, I'm such an idiot."
"No, you're in love and you've had a bit of a sheltered life so it didn't occur to you to watch the fangirl up close while you've been watching out for the fangirls in the distance."
"When her mother told that story …"
"Note to self, have someone check Mr. Weasley for potions," Hedwig quipped, smirking at the look Hermione gave her. "Please, you were thinking it, I simply said it aloud." Pausing for a moment, Hedwig looked a bit unsure of herself for the first time.
"I think it's time you open your package."
"And the cards?"
"Alex and Helen both send you their best, your father is worried that you're growing up on him and Helen included a three page letter about your lack of nerve regarding Harry and a flat-out warning that if you ever think about dating Bilius she'll have you committed."
Smiling innocently, Hedwig ignored Hermione's muttered comment about reading over peoples' shoulders and tapped the box. "Harry had me bring this up here for you to see after classes."
"And the Runes text?"
"Crooks is still complaining about the taste of that one's binding," Hedwig explained as Hermione moved the box closer to her, keeping a watchful eye on Crookshanks.
As she pulled it into her lap, she was a bit mystified at the heft of the box. Taking her wand, keeping one eye on Hedwig in case she took exception to her using magic, ran the tip of the wand over the seams.
As the box fell open, Hermione stared in disbelief. While her first inclination was a bit of disappointment that Harry had gone for the obvious cliché and gotten her a book, her eyes widened in disbelief when she saw the small jewelry box attached to the center of the front cover with cellotape and the note sticking out from the book. And when she realized exactly which book this was, she was gobsmacked.
Sitting in her lap was the bone of contention between them, the potions text belonging to the mysterious 'Half-Blood Prince'.
Looking up at Hedwig, she quirked an eyebrow, causing the older woman/witch/familiar to chuckle.
"He bribed Tonks to pick it up for him this past summer from a jeweler's shop in London. He'd called them on the phone from Privet Drive and then paid her back once he got to Number 12."
Sliding the note out of the book, she held it in her hands for a moment before unfolding it and settling back to read.
19 September, 1996
I'm sorry that this has come between us. Once I came to my senses after the fiasco at the Department of Mysteries last term, I realized that I regretted you getting hurt more than anything. The thought of losing you, not having you in my life was and is terrifying.
I'm determined not to make the same mistake I made over the hols our third year. You're opinion is more important than anything to me, more important than that broom and certainly more important than this book.
While I still think that we can explore the notes and suggestions in the book, I'm relinquishing it to your control. I'll get another one from Slughorn; there were two others in the cabinet when I got this one.
You research the changes and let me know when you feel it's appropriate, if ever, to use them. But one thing I'd like to stress, Hermione, this book could never replace you. Without your help, I'd have flunked out years ago.
Without this book, I'm an average potions student. Without you, I'm nothing.
I hope you like the gift; I thought it would be appropriate. Apparently there's a tradition in the wizarding world to give a timepiece for when a witch or wizard comes of age. I had Tonks cast some spells on this one so it'll survive the adventures you get up to on my behalf.
I hope you forgive me for being a prat and have an enjoyable birthday.
Blinking back the tears, Hermione just hung her head and whispered, "Oh Harry," over and over as she wept. Almost afraid to open the box, she finally tugged on the ribbon holding it shut.
As she lifted the lid, her eyes widened in shock at what she saw.
Nestled in blue velvet, a watch in a stainless steel casing gleamed in the morning light streaming in through the windows. Not just any watch.
A vintage Rolex from the '30s if the styling of the case were any indication.
"Harry found some papers while cleaning the attic at his relative's house this summer that belonged to his mother," Hedwig explained. "One of them was a receipt from a jeweler's in London for a watch that had been put in for repair and adjustment in September of the year they died. Harry called; found out that the jeweler had been associated with the Potter family for a very long time and had held the watch until someone from the family could pick it up. Tonks got the receipt from Harry, paid them for the engraving he'd asked them to put on the back, and he's had it waiting for today."
As Hermione lifted the watch up, she noted that the vintage Rolex was in very good condition. As she flipped it over, her breath caught in her throat as she saw that upon the back of the gold accented bracelet that held it, was an engraved stag facing an otter, both of them looking over their shoulders and away from the viewer, as if they were watching something only they could see.
"That foolish boy," Hermione whispered.
"It belonged to his mother, a gift from her parents when she turned seventeen and he knew that there was only one thing he could do with it," Hedwig explained, her voice barely above a whisper.
"What can I do?"
"Wear it." Smiling at the gobsmacked look on Hermione's face, Hedwig patted her gently on the back of her had. "Wearing it will say everything that needs to be said."
"But I've got to …" Looking around, Hermione suddenly saw the book that she had laid on her nightstand last night, the book she started to read every September and she suddenly knew what she needed to do.
Chuckling, she picked up her well used and much loved copy of "The Fellowship of the Ring" and pulled a piece of parchment out and quickly penned a note.
"Once you change back, can you deliver this to Harry for me?"
Looking at the parchment, and then at the book, Hedwig began to smirk as she read "Tonight – Room of Requirement 8 p.m. Bring your map and cloak – your Hermione"
8 p.m. Seventh floor corridor outside the Room of Requirement
Hurrying along, Harry was extremely nervous. Though Hermione had appeared wearing the watch he had given her, and she'd been all smiles with him, she really hadn't said anything of substance other than to inquire if Hedwig had delivered her note.
When he had told her so at lunch, she merely smiled and said that they'd 'discuss it then'.
'Then' was, apparently, now.
As Harry approached the tapestry, he could see that Hermione must be already there, but the door that appeared from across the dancing trolls gave him pause.
In the middle of the wall, directly across from the tapestry where the entrance to the Room of Requirement usually appeared, there was a circular wooden door that was painted a bright and cheery shade of green with a doorknob smack in the middle of it.
As Harry stood there, knowing that this seemed familiar but not quite being able to place it, the door swung open revealing Hermione, standing there waiting on him.
"Hello, Harry," she said as she stepped out from the circular entranceway. Not dressed in school robes, Harry immediately noticed that she was dressed in a white blouse that was open at the collar and untucked over the simple skirt she wore. Other than his watch, she wasn't wearing anything else since she was standing there in her bare feet.
"Harry, did you ever finish those books I loaned you after third year?"
Smiling impishly, Hermione waited for Harry to hesitantly nod before seeing that he'd finally realized that he was standing in front of the door described as belonging to Bilbo Baggins in the books written by JRR Tolkien. Looking at her quizzically, he was surprised when she stepped forward and took his hand.
"Harry, this is going to be the best birthday I've ever had," she began with a smile on her face. As she drew him into the entranceway, and the door began to close, she whispered to him.
"Harry, consider this my birthday party and I'm your hobbit for today and always."
And then she kissed him as the door closed and then disappeared.