Disclaimer: I hold no ownership over the original source material with which my fanfiction is based on. Those who do own it are much, much wealthier than I am.

Author's Note: This chapter was hard to write. Then again anytime I introduce characters who have not actually spoken or been introduced before is always hard. Hermione's parents were a conundrum to write. I wasn't sure how to handle the whole "Our daughter has almost died multiple times" deal, but I believe I've found a nice approach. The Goblins in this story will be stoic and very reserved for the most part. These will be adressed in the next two chapters.

In this chapter I hope to show that Harry is essentially still just a young man, despite the sudden burst in maturity he has been showing in previous chapters.

I hope you all enjoy my inclusion of what I believe to be humorous interludes with a few 'secondary' characters.

For dates and events I'm using the calendar at HP Lexicon. I am using the book as my reference, but there may be one or two scenes that are influenced by the movie.

Many thanks to my Beta Rimtuuk. He has to put up with my procrastinating ways.

UPDATE 3-5-13: Chapter re-edited and small amount added to dialogue and story.

Suggested Read:

War Widow by anthfan.

This is a great story that deals the trio after the battle but without the epilogue. Remarkably well written and the character development is phenomenal. It is most certainly on my favorites list, and should be on yours too.

Warning though does have an M rating.

Shifting Winds

Chapter4: Riding the Upstream

Worries, Gift, and Blurring Faces

Harry woke up in the early morning hours, only six hours since returning from the ball, to the 'what would normally be' annoying sound of snores coming from his best mate's bed. A smile wound its way onto his face and Harry could feel himself nearly glide from his four-poster bed into the communal bathroom.

After he finished his morning ablutions, he stepped into the steady stream of a warm shower. With the water running over him, Harry started to replay the night over and over in his head. He had kissed Hermione. Hermione had kissed him back. The Fat Lady had sung.

Harry found himself chuckling at the memory of the portrait's affronted sniff and dismissal. He then thought about the dances he had enjoyed; all the different girls from Gryffindor, Padma, Fleur, and of course the odd dance with Luna. He couldn't help but marvel at how much his life had turned towards the better. The downside was that he quite literally had to die for it to happen, but he felt that splitting hairs was not too good a thing to do during happy times.

His next train of thought led him back to Hermione. They hadn't had time to talk about what happened the night before. It was probably best that they hadn't, but Harry began to wonder on what they were exactly. He wondered if there would be titles to them now, other than Harry and Hermione. Boyfriend and girlfriend sounded odd to him. Those words didn't seem to fit either of them. Dating…Harry could say that word. He could be happy 'dating' Hermione. He could date his best friend.

It was with that final thought that Harry finally finished brushing his teeth and started back to his trunk.

Inside the room he saw the other boys were up and slowly getting ready to head to the bathroom, except for the still sleeping Ron. Harry felt a sense of mischievousness creep over him as he caught the other's eyes and held up his hand to stall them. He watched as each of their faces broke into wide grins as they followed his exaggerated sneaking motions toward Ron's four-poster bed.

As he reached Ron's bed he massaged his throat and prepared to shriek as highly as his voice would allow.

"RONALD BILIUS WEASLEY!" He felt himself nearly fall to the floor in laughter at Ron's reaction. The boy had gone from sleeping to standing on the bed wide-eyed in the blink of an eye.

"It was twins mum! I swear!" Ron's cried loudly, but was still drowned by the raucous laughter of the others. "What?" The boy feebly asked as he took in his surroundings.

Harry himself had given up trying to stand on his own and took to leaning on one of the post at the foot of Ron's bed. He enjoyed the beet-red face that Ron began to sport as the boy tried in vain to fight a smile.

"Oh bloody funny was, was it?" Ron shook his head in embarrassment. "Hell Harry, I nearly shat my pants." The other boy huffed before dropping down to the floor and opening his trunk for clothes. "You know mate I will say it is scary that you sounded just like mum then."

"Yeah well I've heard her yell at your brother enough to get decent at it I guess." Harry smiled. "You know I could tell the twins about how the first words were that they were guilty." Harry smirked.

"Who do you think I learned that from?" Ron smiled back, still a bit red in face. "They use to blame everything on Charlie and even Bill when he was still at the Burrow." Ron gave him a grin, "They learned not to blame things on Percy really fast." With that Ron made to the bathroom, but stopped at the entryway. "You know mate, it would have been good if you could have come to the Burrow for Christmas." Ron gave him a sincere look, before he grinned impishly. "If only so the Twins could go on and on about how they caught you snogging Hermione in front of the portrait last night."

"What?!" Harry exclaimed.

"Oh yeah. Right after you and Hermione left they told me all about how you and Hermione were so wrapped up you didn't notice them standing there…apparently Angelina, Alicia, and Katie couldn't stop talking about how proud they were of you." Ron gave a laugh as he shook his head. "Well…I'm…happy…for you two." Ron met his eyes. "Really." Harry could only feel himself nod to his friend. "Then again, I do feel sorry for ya mate." Ron smiled at him. "I mean now you have to go meet her parents." With that Ron disappeared into the bathroom apparently not knowing what weight he had just dropped on Harry.

Harry moved to his bed and sat. His mind reeled over what he knew about Hermione's parents. They were muggles…obviously. They were dentists. They vacationed in France. Given the fact that Hermione always had nice clothes, new supplies, and enjoyed a modest amount of spending money he knew they were at least comfortable in terms of money. He had only met them once, and it had only been for a brief few moments. What they looked like eluded his memory. He just remembered that they seemed kind.

His thoughts began to race in earnest as he began the methodical placement of the last few objects he was bringing with him into his trunk.

At first he began with the broad worry of if they would like him.

Then he wondered if he should dress more appropriately than the old jumper from Dudley and his 'torn around the cuffs' denims. In the middle of slipping on his nicest jumper (his new Molly-made) his thoughts turned to even more frightening worries.

Hermione's parents may not want her to even be friends with someone like him. Harry was a threat to other's safety. He had proved that time and time again by landing himself or a friend (Hermione) in the Hospital Wing.

He was halfway through pulling up his pants when he began to feel lightheaded and his breathing became hard. He fell back onto his bed and struggled to even out his breaths. Then he felt something.

There pawing at his shoulder was Crookshanks. The feline's yellow eyes acted as a focal point for all of Harry's attention.

The half-kneazle nuzzled his head gently against Harry's before moving off the bed and towards the crease in the door where he had arrived from.

His worry soothed slightly by the odd appearance and acceptance from the familiar Harry moved mechanically as he closed his trunk and made to the stairs.

As soon as he reached the bottom all thoughts of worry and fear vanished. Hermione was squeezed in between Ginny and Katie in the loveseat nearest to the fireplace. She looked to be chatting with Angelina who sat in a similar situation on the large couch. He watched as her nose crinkled a sure sign of a proper laugh about to come from her. The soprano lilt of her voice washed over him as he stood.

As soon as the poetic thoughts crept into his head he knew he was in trouble. He didn't speak that way, and he most certainly did think like that…usually.

Then she noticed him, and he watched her smile a shy smile as she shimmied her way out from Ginny and Katie's sides. As she stepped over to him he vaguely noted the distinct halt in conversation.

"Happy Boxing Day Harry," She gave him a wide smile, "We'll have to consider this our actual Christmas day…even though most of it will be spent on the express I'm afraid." She took his hand and pulled him towards the side table next to the largest window. "I'm sorry I didn't really give you any presents yesterday," She held up a hand stopping him from saying anything, "I figured we could exchange things at my parents' house…but this…I can't wait to give you this." She held out a paper package.

Harry smiled as he tore the top from the package. Inside was a pile of pictures tied together with a bow. As he undid the bow he saw that the first one was of Harry during what was clearly one of their first days of school that year. He stood with his head thrown back laughing at something Ron had said.

"That's one of my favorites." Hermione's voice came from next to him.

The next picture was of him and Hermione the day after the champion announcement. It was a wizarding photograph. The picture started with him looking solemn and walking alone. Then something caught his photo-self's attention. Harry watched as relief flooded the photo version's face and then a brief smile as a bushy head of hair entered the frame.

"Colin's been experimenting with wizarding photography apparently…these are all from him." He looked to her as she said this. "Apparently the charms involved are extremely complex, and he's doing after class tutoring with Flitwick…and Dennis seems to have the same fascination…" Hermione looked to keep going. Harry could see how things like this were hard for her. He knew that her brain wouldn't allow her to stop talking until he said something. She was never one for quiet during an intimate moment like this…especially when she was invested in the moment.

"Hermione." He stopped her. "I love it." He flipped to the next photo and moved them both to lean on the edge of the table. He could feel the smile she was giving him.

He moved through the pile. Each one of him and usually Hermione huddled next to each other looking over a book or parchment. The gap was noticeable when it came around the first task. Then he saw the automatic change in himself when he reached the weeks leading up to where he stood at that moment. He was taller in those pictures, fuller. He reached a photo that must have been taken the day he asked Hermione to the Yule Ball given the dazed grin on his face and the way he kept looking across the Gryffindor table to Hermione.

There was a picture of the snowball fight they had been a part of yesterday. He was dodging incoming snowballs all the while laughing. It was not something Harry was used to. Watching himself. He actually looked like a normal teenager at those moments.

Then he reached the last picture. It was of Hermione; from last night. She stood there with a blush warming her cheeks. The blue, which he now knew as periwinkle, highlighted the soft tone of her skin and the deep color of her hair. She looked gorgeous.

"Colin took one for all of us before we went down." Hermione said next to him. "He gave them to Ginny last night after we went to sleep. He made me two of mine. One for you and one for my parents." Harry turned to her as she blushed. "I figured you could put those in the scrapbook Hagrid gave you."

"Brilliant you are," Harry felt himself say, "beautiful and brilliant."

She blushed harder even though a smile crept onto her face.

"Oh…well…thank you." She whispered silently while taking his free hand in hers.

He squeezed her hand and tilted his head to the picture.

"This one is definitely my favorite." He enjoyed the way she tried to shy away from the compliment. "Whatever this periwinkle color is...it looks really, really good on you."

"Oh...well...it's actually in the pale blue and light indigo color range and..." She began only to be cut off.

"Oh darling just snog the boy already!" Lavender's voice rang out reminding Harry that for the second day he had forgotten he had an audience...of females.

He gave a quick look and noticed Alicia and Parvati lightly smacking Lavender's shoulder. Ginny and the other girls were sending apologetic looks to Hermione.

Harry couldn't help but smile; though he hid it as well as he could by ducking his head. When he looked to Hermione he saw the beet-red hue her face had taken as she tried to keep her chin up at the attention.

Thankfully McGonagall chose that moment to walk in and break the awkward tension that had descended on the room.

"Ah ladies...and Mr. Potter. I'm glad to note that at least some of my students understand the importance of punctuality." She turned a stern eye to Harry. "Mr. Potter I hope that you at least saw fit to wake the other young men in your dorm before leaving."

"Yes professor. They were getting ready when I left." Harry said as quickly as he could.

The professor nodded in appreciation. Then Harry saw her eyes briefly shift to his hand holding Hermione's and their close proximity. He then watched her raise an eyebrow ever-so-slightly before the corner of her mouth turned slightly upward in a grin. She then rushed towards the boy's dormitory no doubt to make sure the rest of the years were up and packed.

As Harry turned back to rest of the girls he noticed that any compunction they had, had about trying to be subtle about watching them was thoroughly gone. Hermione, it seemed, noticed as well.

"Harry…we should talk." She whispered to him.

"Yeah…how about a last look at the castle before we leave?" He offered.

She smiled in response and pulled him towards the portrait hole.

They made it all the way to the snow-covered transfiguration courtyard. On the bench he had spoken to her just a few weeks earlier they sat.

"I had fun last night." Hermione supplied first.

"So did I." Harry said back with a smile as he gave a squeeze to her hand. "It was more…well more than I could have ever thought."

"Same for me." Hermione laid her head on his shoulder.

They sat in silence for a few moments until Harry had collected enough courage to voice his question.

"Could…could we do that again?" Harry asked as she lifted her head to meet his eyes. He felt a bit of constriction in his stomach as she looked at him with open eyes. "I mean…over the holiday...go out again? You and me. Not with all the fanciness, but…just us." He felt the awkward angle of his smile as he said this.

"That would be lovely Harry." She said softly before she gave a small kiss to his lips. She smiled to him as she pulled him from the bench, "Good talk Harry, but we should get back to the common room."

"Lovely." He said contently as he put his arm around her shoulder and they made their way back to the common room.

When they reached the common room the entirety of Gryffindor House was congregated in the small room. Harry could feel the gaze shift from whatever McGonagall had been talking about to them. After a few moments their Head of House resumed her usual words of holiday well-wishing.

He then noted an odd occurrence. McGonagall moved next to the Twins, but instead of her stern expression she wore a smirk. The Twins then passed a small pouch to the woman before she moved to help the first years. The Twins moved towards Harry and he caught a bit of the conversation.

"Old bat knew somehow." One had said.

"But how?" The other had asked.

"Doesn't matter at this moment." The other cut the conversation short as they reached Harry and Hermione. "Harry! Hermione! Oh what a wondrous day this is!"

"That our favorite 'non-blood' siblings would find love!" The one Harry was sure was Fred said.

"And with each other no doubt!" George said.

Harry knew that Hermione was both blushing and rolling her eyes at the two.

"You two…cut…it…out!" Angelina ground out through her teeth. She then turned to Harry and Hermione, "Congrats on…whatever this is though." She whispered to them with a wink.

From that point Harry felt the rush that usually accompanied the preparations for leaving Hogwarts during the holidays. This time though he was a bit lost, as it was the first time he actually left for Christmas.

The short breakfast was staggering in its speed. Ron looked to set a personal record for eating his bacon. Hermione and Ginny were the only girls not completely disgusted by the display.

Before they left the hall Hermione deemed it necessary to properly introduced him to Professors Vector and Babbling.

Professor Vector spoke kindly, but Harry knew her reputation as being the 'next McGonagall' when it came to the classroom etiquette. The woman was one of the youngest staff members, and judging by the way Hermione spoke of the woman she was extremely intelligent. She was also quiet beautiful. She requested a meeting with him during the spring.

Professor Babbling was, despite her name, very well spoken as well. She was close to Mrs. Weasley's age. Her face was kind and friendly. The only thing she asked of Harry was to make sure he had his own personal rune-etching kit for practice. Then she gave Hermione a wink before moving from the entrance hall.

Outside Hedwig had landed on his shoulder and nudged his head with hers before taking off in the direction of what he hoped was Hermione's house.

On the way to the carriages Harry noticed both Krum and Fleur standing by Cedric. They had waved him over. They explained that they wanted, in the interest of sportsmanship, to wish their fellow champions a safe journey. They would both be taking international portkeys to their respective homes for the holidays. Harry also noticed Katie walking up to Viktor as they made their way to the carriages.

In the carriages Harry enjoyed the small space that he had to share next to Hermione as the Twins decided to join in the ride to the train. Hagrid had almost looked to say something before he boomed a laugh and shut the door.

Aboard the Hogwarts Express in Winter

Inside the compartment Harry watched as the last bit of Hogsmeade station faded from view.

He felt odd leaving during winter. He had never seen the countryside incased in snow before. Hermione was close next to him, though not exactly leaning on him as he saw Alicia and Angelina doing to the Twins in their compartment, but it was nice all the same. Crookshanks was in her lap and purring as Hermione spoke to Ginny and Ron about their eldest brothers.

Harry turned to watch people pass by their compartments. He noticed Katie walk by with a small smile on her face. She caught his eye and paused to give him a wider smile and a wink. After she walked on he noticed someone else pass by, Luna. She looked to be carrying her bag still. Without thinking on it too much Harry quickly moved out of their compartment, ignoring the questions the others threw him. She was only a few steps past their compartment.

"Hey Luna!" Harry called.

He watched her turn and smile serenely at him.

"Hello Harry…wonderful day." She said softly as she turned back around. Harry couldn't help but feel the girl, odd as she may be, was special in some way.

"Luna?" He waited as she turned back to him. "If you want…you can sit with us." He smiled when she gave one of her own.

"That would be nice Harry." She tilted her head to the side, "I'll just go and tell Padma where I'm sitting…she likes to make sure I'm okay." With that the girl turned and skipped (surprisingly well on a moving train) down the cramped hallway.

Harry turned back into his compartment.

"Luna's going to join us in a few minutes." Harry said as he took his seat again.

"Why did you invite Looney to sit with us?" Ron asked only to be answered by the smack of the Daily Prophet Ginny had been reading.

"Ronald that is no way to refer to her!" Hermione said sharply. "She may be a bit…off, but still…it's rude." She finished as Crookshanks seemed to give Ron the evil eye.

"If you say one word that hurts her feelings I'll be telling mum…and you know how she'll react." Ginny warned harshly.

Harry had felt a bit of ire rise up as well at Ron's comment, but he knew his friend hadn't meant to be mean. It was just the fact that Ron had never developed a filter for his reactions. He also knew how Ron had a hard time understanding others, just look at their friendship. A quick thought, more of a memory from last night popped into his head. He motioned for Ron to lean in.

"Well Ron…you might want to take Ginny's advice." Harry grinned as mischievously as he could, "Cause if you don't…I might just have to remind the Twins and possibly tell all the other blokes in the dorm how you used to where big floppy hats for tea when you were little."

"No…mate…you wouldn't." Ron said with a look of horror on his face. "Who told you?"

As if she heard the question Luna knocked on the compartment door. Ginny rose and quickly pulled the other girl inside.

As the two girls exchanged pleasantries Harry watched as Ron sulked slightly in the corner. He then felt Hermione's hand in his; she gave it a quick squeeze. She smiled when he caught her eye. He watched as she began to speak with the other two girls.

The conversation seemed to flow effortlessly between the three. Even when Luna began speaking about creatures and Harry could tell Hermione didn't believe what the girl was saying. Ron spoke in clipped phrases with a red face. Luna seemed undeterred by this as she constantly made sure to speak directly to him every few minutes.

It was in the second hour of the ride when Padma came into the compartment and sat down next to Hermione. Ron shyly tried to catch the girl's attention to no avail.

"Luna how are you? Do you have all your things?" The Indian-born girl asked.

Harry noticed that he wasn't the only one to perk up at these questions.

"I'm fine Padma…you are kind to ask." Luna replied in a meek voice, so unlike the tone Harry had heard the girl speak in up until that point. "My things will turn up…they always do."

"Luna…we need to speak with…" Padma began only to be cut off by Luna.

"No Padma…It will be fine…" Luna said.

"Luna?" Ginny reached across to touch the girl's shoulder. "What's going on?"

"Nothing Ginny." Luna replied.

Harry watched the interplay between the four girls in the room. He could tell that something was causing problems for the younger Ravenclaw. Ron seemed to pick up on the fact that the girls were having silent conversations as well. Just before Harry could ask them to explain Padma requested Hermione and Ginny outside to talk. Luna looked to protest, but Ginny placed a hand on the shoulder of the girl and made her stay sitting.

An awkward silence settled over the compartment as the three girls left. Crookshanks seemed to have the right idea as he slept. Harry watched as Hermione and Ginny disappeared with Padma. He also noticed that the formerly talkative girl had her head down in an upside-down magazine. He was about to ask her if she was okay when something surprising happened.

"Hey mate…you know...the only person who ever beat me at chess is Luna?" Ron's voice was cheerful as was his smile. "Yeah…she seemed to be the only one that ever figured out my strategy." Ron shook his head, but Harry caught his eye for a moment. He personally had never felt more proud of Ron. "You know Luna…it's been a while since I've had any good competition…what do you say to a go of it?" Ron asked as he dug around his bag for his chess set.

Harry turned his head and watched as the girl lifted her head and smiled brightly before moving to sit next to Ron.

As he watched them play his mind began to drift again. He thought about the holidays. His first one with an actual family that wasn't the Dursleys. He felt a bit of guilt that he might be disturbing a tradition amongst the Granger family. He knew that they were a small family, and given the way Hermione spoke about them he knew they were close-knit.

He felt a white-hot coil of fear take over as he thought about her parents. He had only met them once! Two unassuming non-magical dentist. Two loving parents (on all accounts from what he could tell) who literally let their daughter go to another world for ten months out of the year. Parents of a girl he was…well…he might as well say dating. An amazingly, brilliant girl who had personally made sure he lived through all of the ridiculous things he had been a part of in the past four years.

He then began to worry again about how much her parents actually knew about what their daughter had been through. The incident with the troll in their first year alone would have more than made any caring parent worry he was sure of it. Add to that the fact that she was petrified in their second year and he was amazed that they would have allowed her to stay. Why would her parents ever let her stay? His only conclusion was that they must not have known.

Then anger started to settle into stomach. They probably didn't know anything. His anger shifted when he thought of all the people who would have been lying to them. Predominately his anger situated towards Dumbledore and McGonagall. They were the ones in charge. They were the ones who should have made sure that the Grangers were informed as to their daughters health. He felt anger at Hermione then as she would have been lying to them for four years. How could she do that to them?

He shook his head. Hermione wouldn't do that. She wouldn't. Hermione knows how important things like this are. But Harry was confused. Her parents were good people from what he could tell. But why would they let her stay at Hogwarts?

"Harry, be careful with your thoughts…wrackspurts are in the room." Luna's normal voice brought him from his angry place. For a second the thoughts were gone. Then Hermione and Ginny re-entered the compartment. He could tell that whatever they had been talking about left the two Gryffindor girls angry if Ginny's red face and Hermione's frown was anything to go by.

He watched as the two sat and observed Luna.

This went on for all six games that Ron and Luna played, which Luna beat Ron for four of the games. The entire time Harry felt his anger fume back up. They were halfway to London, judging by the country out the window, when Harry felt himself boil over with need to know the answer. Hermione must have finally noticed given the way he saw her face finally turn to his for more than a few seconds and an eyebrow quirk up in question.

"I need to talk with you." He felt himself say through gritted teeth. He stood and walked out the compartment. As he waited outside he watched as the others traded glances with her before she stood and followed.

"Harry is something the…" She started.

"Not here." He cut her off and took her hand. He could feel the tension and indignation emanate from her at his tone, but he was too confused at the moment. As soon as he found an empty compartment he pulled her into it.

"Harry what…" She tried to start again.

"What do your parents know?" He asked. He watched as she blinked in confusion.

"You mean…" She shook her head. "Harry, what are you talking about?" She asked as she touched his arm.

"Have you been lying to them…all of you…McGonagall…Dumbledore?" He asked with a worried brow.

"Harry?" She asked with concern.

"Why would they let you come back? You all must have been lying about what's been happening. That's the only explanation for it." He moved away from her and ran his hand through his hair roughly. "Hermione…you've nearly died…how could you not tell them?" He felt his voice break at the end. "They're you parents…they have a right to know." He could no longer process his anger and he just felt himself fall back into the seat behind him as he closed his eyes. He felt her sit next to him.

"Harry…" She said softly, "Harry!" She said louder when he didn't meet her eyes at first. Looking towards her she put a hand on his cheek. "They know everything." She replied.

He felt his mouth flop open. He tried to gain his bearings in the conversation, but his ship had lost its wind.

"Harry, after I went home first year…McGonagall…well McGonagall visited and told them everything." She said, "Apparently she didn't agree with Dumbledore on the subject, and well let's just say my parents weren't too thrilled at the news." She gave him a small smile. "It took a lot of convincing and compromise, but they agreed to let me return." She took his hand. "McGonagall owls them every month, and she visits for tea every two months." She laughed slightly and gave her head a shake. "I think the visit to Diagon alley for a second time made them rethink removing me. They saw how happy I felt."

"Then after I was petrified they said I wouldn't be able to come back. Mum says those were the hardest weeks of her life. I know McGonagall visited nearly every day for at least a few minutes to update them. She also tried multiple times to get special privileges for them to visit me, but with something petrifying muggleborns in the castle two non-magicals would be targets…at least that's what the governor's board said." She paused as she looked to him. Harry just felt himself nod. He couldn't think of anything to say.

"I was so scared after that. They were adamant about me not coming back…that's why we went to France that summer." She said meeting his eyes. "McGonagall tried…she really did. But my parents said that if I was going to stay in the magical world…it wouldn't be at Hogwarts. So they tried to make me go see Beauxbatons…but I refused." She shrugged her shoulders. "My father was…well he was angry at the entire situation. But mum. She knew there was something else." Hermione turned away from him, but he could see a blush start in her cheek and extend to her neck. "She sat me down in the hotel and asked me about the boys I wrote home about…particularly 'this Harry Potter boy' I referred to so often."

Harry knew his eyebrows were somewhere in his hairline at that moment.

"I…I told her about you." He saw the smile "I told her more than I had before." She turned to him, but her smile was gone and replaced with a worried look. "I told her everything…about your parents…about the whole blood movement. She then told my father." Hermione shook her head again. "Then we argued…but mum…she was already a bit more open." She took her hand from his and ran them through her hair. "Let's just say that there is a reason I write them so often. After last year…and the World Cup…they've been open to everything. But at the same time I can see how it affects them."

He watched as she closed her eyes.

"Hermione…" He started, "I'm…I'm sorry."

"No Harry." She said with a smile. "You're the only reason my mum agreed for me to come back." He knew he had to once again resemble a fish gasping for air. "Daddy on more than a few occasions during our second year made note of how being friends with you was something he didn't like." Harry felt a pang of guilt as she said this, but she continued, "But mum shut him up quickly, and when this tournament happened…and you were entered…both of them were upset. Not for me, but for you." She smiled proudly as she said, "They both wrote the Minister's office, Dumbledore, the ICW, and just about any organization I told them had a hand in the competition. And after the first task…well their letters were harsh…from what Dumbledore told me." She smiled again.

Harry smiled himself at the thought of two people caring that much without really knowing him.

"They know everything Harry. I have an honest relationship with them." She smiled. "We've had troubles in the past over the fact that I'm so removed from them…so we talk honestly to keep ourselves connected."

He felt himself breathe deeply.

"I'm sorry I…I'm sorry I reacted like that…I didn't think." Harry said as he felt ashamed of his lapse of faith in her. "I know you wouldn't do something like that…"

"Harry it is okay…I understand." Hermione took his hand again. "Just make sure you don't make the mistake again." She gave him a smirk.

He nodded his head in answer. Then he thought about his other worry.

"Hermione?" He started as he watched her. "Will…will they like me?"

"Harry…of course…they've wanted to actually be able to speak to you for a long time…mum especially." She gave him a questioning look. "Why wouldn't they like you?"

He gave a scoff.

"Why?...Why?" He shook his head. "Other than the previously mentioned events…how about the fact that you and I…" He felt his throat constrict, "…you and I…are…" He fruitless tried to make her understand with a wild hand gesture.

"You and I are what Harry?" Hermione asked him. Her face was wide with anticipation.

"Uhh…we're…" Harry took a breath in, "Together?"

"Was that an answer or a question?" She asked with a nervous smile.

Harry stared at her for a few moments. He considered everything he had been through in the past few months. He considered who had been beside him. Then with a courage he thought only resided in his fantasies he answered.

"Answer." He smiled.

"Answer." She smiled back. "Good." She took his hand and led him back to their compartment.

The rest of the trip passed by quickly for Harry. He was in a daze for most of it, although he made note to ask Hermione about Luna.

They had a slew of visitors when they neared London. The Twins and the chaser girls, Dean and Seamus, Parvati and Lavender, and even Cedric and Cho stopped in for a few moments. The only one to stay was Neville.

When they reached London Harry and Hermione were the last ones out of the compartment.

She stopped him from following the others. Crookshanks was moving in his carrying case trying to find a comfortable spot as Hermione wound her arms around Harry's neck.

"My parents are going to love you Harry…It's very easy to love you." She said as she leaned in and kissed him.

Then once again, just as he felt the night before, there was a pulse from within him. This time though it was rushing past him in tidal waves. They were moving faster by the moment. The kissed ended, but Hermione stayed on her tip-toes and rested her forehead against his. He felt like she should have felt the waves to at this point.

Then she moved her face slightly to nuzzle his cheek, before placing a small kiss on it.

"Come on Harry. Let's go." She said with a shy smile as she grabbed Crookshanks carrying case and held a hand towards him.

As he looked down to her hand he felt the pulse shatter whatever barrier had been placed on it. There was a flash of something…he couldn't explain it, but it made him smile. The only remnant of the pulse was the slight tingle in his limbs. He took her hand and allowed her to pull him from the train.

Outside on the platform his high was paused by the air removing hug of Molly Weasley. The woman had tutted and fretted for a good five minutes before the others were allowed to say goodbye. Harry did notice the way the woman was nearly vibrating when she saw that Hermione had his hand in hers. Arthur had simply held the woman as she smiled and got teary eyed. Percy gave both of them firm handshakes and a smile. Charlie had done the same as his younger brother but added a rough, manly hug to Harry. Bill had laughed and told Harry to take care of himself. The family had left after that.

The Grangers and Indian Takeout

As they passed the barrier to the non-magical side of Kings Cross Harry saw a different side of Hermione.

"MUM! DADDY!" She left Crookshanks and Harry behind as she ran across the crowded station to the couple who were very clearly her parents. Her mum was Hermione in her late thirties or early forties. Her father looked kind. They both had the same dark eyes as Hermione. Her mum had the same bushy mass as her daughter, though her father had a slightly messy head of hair to him.

"Happy belated Christmas Kitten!" Hermione's Father said as he caught her in a lifting hug.

"Richard share!" Her mum exclaimed as she swatted the man's hands away and hugging her daughter. "Happy belated Christmas darling." The woman said as Harry pushed their shared luggage trolley to the family.

"Happy belated Christmas Mum, Dad!" Hermione said smiling. She moved away from her parents and pulled Harry in front of them. Her hand firmly in his left one. "Mum, Dad. I know you've met him once before, but this is Harry Potter."

Harry could feel the hawk-like stare that Mr. Granger was giving their entwined hands.

Mrs. Granger conversely was looking to her daughter with a knowing smile. A quick grip from Hermione broke Harry's frozen mind. He held out his right hand.

"Mr. Granger…Mrs. Granger…It's a pleasure to properly meet you." Harry said as steady as he could. He swallowed audibly as Mr. Granger took his hand and began to slowly shake it. The man's eyes left where the hand of his daughter was with Harry's and moved to Harry's eyes.

"Richard." Harry heard Hermione's mum say in a warning tone. Hermione huffed next to him.

"Oh come on!" The man's voice was sudden and held a bit of a whine to it. "I should at least be able to scare the boy a bit shouldn't I?" The man asked. Harry watched as the two seemed to have a conversation with their eyes. Then Hermione's father seemed to try and reason with his wife. "Oh come on darling…he's going to be in our house…with our fifteen year old daughter…I know what I would have wanted to do."

"Daddy!...I…You…" Hermione was red in the face and Harry could see the vein in her neck pulsate. "Harry is NOT some…randy pervert…" Harry felt his eyes widen as he looked around to make sure people were not listening. "Who's only thought is to…get in your daughter's knickers." Hermione lifted her nose in the air. "Harry…" Hermione began to say something before her mother interrupted.

"Does not need to be embarrassed any further." The woman said giving Harry and apologetic smile. "Sorry there Harry. I'm Helen and this is Richard." She motioned towards her husband. "I hope you'll call us by our given names. I'm sorry for the commotion these two seemed hell bent on creating." She smiled. "She gets her stubbornness from him." The two gave affronted noises. "I know my husband will sulk all tomorrow if we don't get his favorite take-out while we're in London. He can help you with the bags while Hermione and I catch up."

Harry felt himself elated at 'Helen's' acceptance of him. Even with the grumbling of both Hermione and 'Richard' he smiled.

As they lifted the bags into the boot of the family's modest sedan 'Richard' turned to him.

"I was only joking in there Harry…and please call me Richard." The man grasped Harry hand and gave it a good shake. "I'm still going to do the watchful father thing though." The man said with a smile as he took the driver's seat.

Inside of the restaurant Harry was treated to smells he never knew existed.

"This is my father's favorite place…they lived in London when mum was pregnant with me and she developed a certain affinity for Indian food. Daddy apparently hated it at first, but after so many months of it he finally found this place. Its family owned and a local favorite. This has been the only place he'll order from since then." Hermione said as her head rested on his shoulder. "Plus their samosas are delicious."

'Helen' watched them as 'Richard' excitedly spoke with the lady at the counter in familiar tones. Hermione's Mother gave him a kind smile. Harry smiled back to her.

Once the food was in the car and Hermione's gave Harry the important job of keeping Crookshanks away from the food they were off to Hertfordshire.

In Dumbledore's office at the same moment Harry felt the Pulse, the silver instruments that had sped up the night before shattered from their speed.

The old man and the phoenix that occupied the office both watched the event unfold with happiness.

"Fawkes, I believe it is time I spoke with old friends." Dumbledore said to his companion.

Inside the dilapidated home of the Black family an old elf was crying as the locket his dear 'Master Regulus' had died for finally split in two and expelled a wretched shriek. The old elf didn't know what was responsible for it, but he was happy none the less.

The piece of soul inside the locket had sensed one of its brothers, but the moment it reached out to garner information something peculiar happened. It felt an odd feeling wash over it, with images that made no sense. Then there was a boiling ache at its center. It tried to escape from its host, but it was too late.

Outside the dilapidated home of the Black family a modest sedan passed by carrying a fourteen year old boy who was protecting a large bag of food from a half-kneazle's gaze.

From the Author: As always I hope you've enjoyed this chapter.

Next time on Shifting Winds: A car ride, A nice dinner, A belated Christmas morning, Obligatory Gringotts trip, Obligatory shopping, Talking, and a Surprise Visit.

~A Vagrant Boy~