Chapter 22

Hermione awoke to a note on the bedside table and the sun peeking through the corners of the tent. Her tousled hair was fanned in waves behind her and her lips swollen and pink from the feverish evening. She scanned the room and she sat up pulling the sheet with her and reached out for the scroll.

"I loved her not for the way she danced with my angels, but for the way her name could silence my demons." Don't go too far, I've gone to get breakfast.

Hermione couldn't help the smile that played at her lips and she fell back into the pillow sighing contentedly as she clutched the note in her hands. She bit her bottom lip as she remembered the previous night, the way his fingers had traced the curve of her back, his gentle lips on her stomach… it was mind-blowing. She had felt things with Harry that she had never felt with anybody, and throughout all of the twisted thoughts and confusion, things finally felt right, no matter how morally wrong they were.

A crack outside the tent pulled Hermione from her thoughts and she rose from the bunk reaching for Harry's flannel shirt draped lazily over the chair. Exiting the tent she smiled as the smell of coffee filled her nostrils and Harry grinned shyly at her ruffling his hair as he bent over a paper bag.

"I got some breakfast," He smiled crookedly passing her a cup of warm coffee.

Hermione smiled at him and reached up to place a tender kiss on his lips, "Thank, you," she whispered against his lips.

Harry sighed contentedly as he watched her rummage through the bag and pull out a slice of banana bread, "How did you know?" Hermione asked surprised, it was her absolute favorite.

"I didn't," Harry shrugged, "So I got a bunch of stuff. Figured there was something you were bound to be okay with."

Hermione looked in the bag and saw several freshly wrapped packages. "Harry," she laughed crouching over the bag, "This is enough to feed ten."

"Then we will have plenty of leftovers," he took a long sip of his coffee and leaned against a tree.

Hermione giggled and beckoned him forward with her outstretched hand, "Let's go eat by the river."

The duo sat on a mossy rock, enjoying several kinds of breakfast bread, pitching the ones they didn't enjoy into the river and watched as robins and blue-jays scooped them up greedily. Conversation flowed easily and smiles were scarcely missing on their faces and Hermione leaned her frame against Harry's her legs crossed basking in the morning sun.

"So I've been thinking," Harry murmured against her hair and he ran his fingers absent mindedly over the buttons on the flannel shirt she was wearing.

"Never thought you'd be a thinker," Hermione playfully turned her head towards his and he pinched her sides emitting a giggle.

"I'm serious," he continued, "I know our plan was to go straight to your parents when we find them, but I was wondering, if you wanted to maybe, go somewhere with me first."

"Where?" Hermione sat up curiously turning to face Harry, brushing a crumb from the corner of his mouth.

"You mean you'd go?" Harry seemed stunned.

Hermione's expression softened at his reaction, "Of course I would."

"Well," Harry continued placing his hands in hers, "I know a place, it's right off the coast of North Berwick."

"Scotland?"

"Andromeda's husband's family had a cottage right off the sea. She told me about it and it sounds really brilliant. I was just thinking, only if you want to, that maybe we could spend a few days there before we go to Australia…" Harry held his breath as he waited for her response.

Hermione leaned in and kissed him full on the lips, "I would love to," she murmured.

Harry couldn't help the infectious smile that fell easily across his lips and he pulled her flush against him causing a gasp to emit from Hermione's mouth. He kissed her until it hurt and scooted them forward so his legs were dangling off the edge of the rock over the river.

"Harry what're you-", but her words turned to a yelp as Harry tipped them backwards over the edge of the rock and crashing into the cool water. Hermione emerged with a gasp and found Harry bobbing up and down holding back fits of laughter and she sent a wave of water towards him. They spent the afternoon in the river, kissing, splashing and playing. Lunch time came around and they only left the water to indulge in more of the pastries that Harry had purchased and in the late afternoon made love on the mossy bed of rock. Their breathing was ragged and Hermione arched her back into Harry, the sun falling blissfully across her bare chest as the pleasure hit her in waves for the remainder of the afternoon, and the pair soon after fell asleep awakening to watch the sunset.

Harry let out a deep breath as he stared at Hermione her cheek pressed against his chest and he pulled her closer breathing in the sweet smell of her hair as dusk crept in.

She smiled lazily up at him and leaned in to kiss him tenderly rubbing her fingers through his unruly beard and down his chest. "What are you thinking?" she asked rolling over so she was lying in between his legs her chin pressed to his bare abdomen.

"I was thinking… about Teddy actually," Harry murmured resting his hands behind his head looking content, "thinking about how I'd like to see him before we go."

Hermione raised her eyebrows, "I think that's possible."

"I guess," Harry rolled his shoulders letting out a sigh, "Andromeda and I… left on strange pretenses. "

"Why?"

"She doesn't exactly approve of what we are doing."

Hermione leaned forward on her arms trying to mask her surprise, "You told her."

Harry shook his head judging her expression, "I couldn't lie to her."

Hermione nodded in understanding biting her lip.

"What?" Harry probed her eyes wearily, "I know that look."

"I was thinking that I'd like to talk to her," she stated calmly, "and that way you could see Teddy."

"…Okay…" Harry weighed the situation heavily in his mind. What did she possibly want to talk to Andromeda about?

"In fact," Hermione sat up in between his legs reaching for his flannel shirt that had been discarded hours earlier, "I think we should go tonight."

"Now?" Harry sat up quickly reaching for his own jeans. "Hermione we can't-"

"What, just drop in on her?" Hermione called over her shoulder she was already walking towards the campsite, "because of course you didn't just do that every day for the past month."

Harry groaned and tried to catch up with her, "Hermione-"

"Harry," she turned on her heel to face him, "get dressed."

He knew that tone and he groaned as Hermione rummaged around in her bag pulling out a simple white blouse and jeans. She raised her eyebrows towards him expectantly and he sighed turning to sift through his own clothes.

It was a quiet evening and Andromeda pointed her wand blindly at the kettle as it began to sing. The house had been quiet without Harry and she missed the constant company that he provided. Not to say she didn't have her hands full though, Teddy was growing every day and becoming more curious by the minute.

A knock on the door startled the older woman and she padded through the kitchen and was surprised to see Harry standing on her porch. "Harry? What're you doing here?"

"It's not just me," Harry side stepped revealing Hermione looking standing behind him. Andromeda looked wary and Harry fumbled out nervously, "May we join you?"

"Of course," she furrowed her brow and ushered them both inside. "Is everything alright?"

"Yeah, yeah," Harry said quickly, "everything is fine, we… just…"

"Harry wanted to see Teddy," Hermione cut him off and smiled a sideways at him a rare glint to her eyes, "and I wanted to speak with you."

Harry couldn't help his crooked grin and it didn't go unnoticed by Andromeda either. She had never seen that smile.

"Sorry to just drop in… unannounced," Harry quipped, but the older woman waved her hand at him.

"Nonsense my boy, I told you that you are always welcome. Ted is in the nursery."

Harry paid Hermione a lingering glance and pushed past the pair of women with a slight hop to his step as he ascended the stairs.

Hermione's eyes glowed after his retreating form and she finally turned to a curious stare from Andromeda, "Would you like a cup of tea?"

"Thank you. That would be nice."

Andromeda filled twin mugs and handed one to Hermione pointing towards the door, "I always prefer to drink my tea on the porch, I find it's much more private," and she couldn't help the smirk that played on her lips.

Andromeda sat comfortably on the swing and Hermione stood leaning against the pillar staring out across the yard, "What a beautiful place."

"It is quite lovely," Andromeda commented, "very peaceful."

"I can see why Harry loves it here."

"I think the reason that our friend Mr. Potter loves this place so much is right inside that house and I think the only thing that was able to pull him away from that is standing right on this porch."

Hermione turned to face Andromeda, "Harry told me this afternoon that he told you about us."

Andromeda nodded deep in thought and pressed her mug to her lips, "He did, after much harassment I might add."

"He told me that you didn't approve," Hermione continued hesitantly.

"I don't," Andromeda raised her eyebrows, "but not for the reasons you expect. I don't condone anything that involves lying and sneaking around."

Hermione paused leaning her back against the railing, "I'm in love with him," she whispered as if saying it to somebody besides Harry would cause the entire Weasley family to come running.

Andromeda nodded slowly taking in the girl in front of her.

"It's strange," Hermione murmured into the night air, "I know it's wrong, terribly wrong what we are doing, and I'm usually so cautious, but I don't know how to stop it. A part of me doesn't want to stop it."

"Then don't," Andromeda shrugged her shoulders shaking her head.

"But you just said-"

"Dear girl, just because I don't approve of something doesn't mean anything."

Hermione waited a look of confusion passing over her features.

"I know what love is," Andromeda stood slowly placing her mug down on the table beside her. "I know when it's there… and I know when it's not. I didn't approve of Nymphadora and Remus if I'm being perfectly honest, the idea of a werewolf, well it scared me. There was a night several months ago when we were standing on this exact porch and I saw the look in Remus's eyes when he saw my daughter and I knew."

"Knew what?" Hermione asked curiously.

"I knew that it was right," she turned to face Hermione, "I saw the way you look at him and I know you love him. My stance is this, if the two of you need to do this, go ahead, but don't forget about the love you left behind, the family who has treated you like their own, and the lifelong friends that you have made and eventually you are going to have to decide if this love is worth it."

"That's just it," Hermione shrugged anxiously fighting back doubtful tears, "I don't know-"

"Then find out."

"But-"

"Find out," and Andromeda said a little more forcefully. "Find out Hermione, not for Harry, or for Ron, but find out for yourself, what it is that you want. In this moment right now what do you want more than anything?"

"Him," Hermione answered breathlessly as if it were instinct.

"There's you're answer," Andromeda concluded, but Hermione continued to look uneasy. "What is it dear?"

"Is it okay to be selfish?" Hermione asked pressing her palm to her stomach as if to hold back her tea.

"I'm afraid I don't quite understand what you mean?"

Hermione took a breath and stared at the old woman and in this present moment missing her parents immensely. These were the conversations that eighteen year old girls were having with their mothers. "I've never been selfish to the point where it damages somebody else. For the first sixteen years of my life all I cared about was being brilliant at school, flawless even. I was so focused. Everything was so simple. I mean I had Harry and Ron, my parents and sure Voldemort was looming over all of our heads, but some reason being at Hogwarts, it just allowed us to hold on to being kids. It feels like just yesterday I was bickering with Ron about finishing his potions essays for him."

"Dreadful subject," Andromeda commented lightly emitting a chuckle from Hermione.

"And then we just didn't go back for our final year and I watched my friends grow up so fast. I watched Harry kill himself over those horcruxes for months and months. Ron left and Harry and I grew so much closer and then he came back and we all just picked up where we left off. It was easy to pretend he hadn't left, but Harry and I still had this… bond. In my ignorance I thought it was friendship and that he was just struggling like everybody else. I was wrong though. He was in agony, punishing himself for loving me. I mean he watched us for weeks and weeks and didn't do anything!" Hermione cried clutching at the railing her knuckles white.

Andromeda smiled to herself, "Dumbledore always said how Harry had the ability to love and feel like no other."

Hermione turned her eyes glassy in the moonlight. "Being with Ron is easy," she sighed, "It's comfortable and fun and when we're together it's wonderful, but with Harry, it's just…"

"Different," Andromeda murmured more to herself than to Hermione.

Hermione nodded. "It's hard, and messy, and in the past few days he's challenged me more than anybody ever has. I mean he just… drives me mad."

"Where there is love, there is madness."

"I don' t know how to explain it, but I just feel like the girl who was at Hogwarts a little over a year ago is so far from the person I've become. The war it just… I just feel like I've changed."

Andromeda gently placed a hand on her shoulder, "You know that's okay Hermione. Growing up and changing… its normal, especially after something so traumatizing. Please don't forget my dear girl that you are only eighteen. I think you three, Harry especially have been pretending to be adults for quite some time. That was one of the first things I noticed about him, not just how mature he was compared to other boys his age, but just… how he wasn't allowing himself to be… well frankly… just a teenager."

Hermione nodded her expression contemplative.

"Can I ask you something dear?" Andromeda pressed gently.

Hermione looked slightly confused, but waited.

"Where is your mother?"

Hermione couldn't help the tears that fell as she proceeded to tell Andromeda about wiping her parent's memories to keep them safe. As Hermione spoke Andromeda couldn't help the pang of empathy as she listened to Hermione retelling her heartbreaking story.

"So Harry and I, we are headed to Australia… to attempt to reverse the charm, but if I'm being honest I have no bloody clue where to start. I honestly didn't think very much about reversing it... because well… I didn't really know what was going to happen…"

A rap at the screen broke Hermione and Andromeda from their conversation and there stood Harry, a tired eyed Ted cradled in his arms.

"How is everything?" Harry directed his statement towards Hermione as he stepped out onto the porch bouncing the baby slightly as he walked

Andromeda reached for Ted who was now trying to eat his hands, "Somebody is getting a little hungry, I'll give you two a moment. I have something for you as well Hermione."

Harry watched Andromeda retreat nervously. "Are you okay?"

She didn't respond right away and looked at Harry her brown eyes searching. "I love you," she murmured softly and Harry couldn't help the crooked grin that crept around the corners of his mouth. He hadn't heard her say those exact words and he felt strangely elated.

"I love you too," he breathed out kissed her gently and pushed a strand of hair from her face as she relaxed into his palm. "Are you okay?"

"Yes," Hermione insisted and Harry wouldn't have believed her had she not sounded so certain. "You should go talk to Mrs. Tonks, I just need a few minutes."

"Okay," Harry kissed her lightly again, "Just come inside when you're ready."

Hermione nodded and dabbed at her eyes relishing in the evening air.

Harry pushed through the screen door and it shut with a bang behind him as he walked into the kitchen to find Andromeda feeding Teddy.

"Well?" Harry asked expectantly.

Andromeda watched him through worried eyes, "She's in love with you."

"Yes," Harry nodded solemnly.

"And you're in love with her."

"Irrevocably," Harry answered again, an accepting simplicity in his tone.

Andromeda walked to Harry and took his right hand and enclosed it over something small and cold. "Then go," she murmured quietly and leaned in closer, "go and be eighteen and in love."

Harry pulled back and opened his palm to find a single silver key and he stared incredulously at Andromeda at a loss for words.

"So does this mean you approve?" Harry smiled hesitantly placing the key in his back pocket.

"With the way you look at her Harry, I don't see how I couldn't."

Harry engulfed her in a hug that she returned gratefully and he pulled back to see Hermione watching from the hallway a small smile playing at her lips.

"Thank you," Harry kissed Andromeda sweetly on the cheek taking a few steps back.

"Thank you, Mrs. Tonks," Hermione stepped forward mimicking Harry. Andromeda pulled back placing a folded piece of parchment in her palm. "Restora memoria maxima," she whispered under her breath. "The directions are there." A look of bewildered gratitude fell across Hermione's features and she mouthed a silent thank you as Harry kissed Ted lovingly on the head.

"See you soon," he whispered to his godson tenderly. Stepping backwards the pair automatically interlaced their fingers with and with a parting glance at Andromeda rounded the corner.

As the rap of the screen door echoed throughout the kitchen Andromeda peeked sneakily through the curtain watching with a slight smile. Harry had grabbed Hermione by the hips and hoisted her into his arms playfully spinning her around. Their giddy laughter echoed throughout the valley and they kissed recklessly until the crack of apparation swallowed them into the night. The older woman wiped a stray tear from the corner of her eye as she smiled through her tears as she remembered a very similar picture of her own lost love.