The Great Escape
Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter, Hermione Granger or any part of the Wizarding World. They belong to J.K. Rowling, who has kindly consented to let us poor souls muck about in that great world she created.
Harry Potter, a 14 year old wizard who was also known to the general Wizarding public as the Boy-Who-Lived, sat at the Gryffindor table, staring despondently at his breakfast trying his best to ignore the mutterings and stares that were being directed at him. While this was commonplace, what was different was reason for and the tone of these whispers.
Only last night, Halloween, the contenders for the newly revived Triwizard tournament had been chosen. Cedric Diggory, seventh year Hufflepuff, was chosen as the Hogwarts Champion. Viktor Krum, International Quidditch star and Seeker for the Bulgarian national team was the Durmstrang Champion. Fleur Delacour, a Veela, and according to many, the most breathtakingly beautiful woman they had seen, was the Beauxbatons Champion.
The reason this affected him was because apart from the three regular champions, one for each school, one other name had emerged from the Goblet of Fire.
This Halloween too, like the previous ones at Hogwarts, something had gone horribly wrong for Harry again. During his First Year, there had been a Troll. During his Second Year, the Chamber of Secrets had been opened. During his Third Year, Sirius Black, the supposed mass murderer had slipped into Hogwarts. Now in his Fourth Year, something had again gone awry. The Goblet of Fire spat out a piece of parchment with his name on it, so he was now the Fourth Triwizard Champion, which was a contradiction in itself, he mused, as the Tournament was made for three wizards or witches only.
The organizer, that is the Ministry and the Hogwarts Headmaster, Albus too-many-names Dumbledore, in their infinite wisdom, had decided to force him to compete, even though he was underage, which was so clearly against their own set rules.
They had also neglected to inform the student body the reasons for him having to compete. As a result, they had collectively decided that since the Goblet was supposed to be a powerful and ancient magical artifact, and not something that could be fooled easily, he had used to have used powerful dark magic to hoodwink it into selecting him too. Within the space of a day, he had gone from savior to destroyer.
Durmstrang and Beauxbatons students were mad because Hogwarts had two champions which they perceived as an injustice to them, never mind that Harry was three years younger and had barely enough training.
The Hufflepuffs, especially, were raging mad, as they seemed to think he had stolen their chance to finally shine, what with Diggory being chosen. The Slytherins, hated him on principle and the Ravenclaws all followed public opinion.
Even his own house, Gryffindor, had refused to believe his claims of innocence and he was now shunned in the Tower as well as the rest of the school. What really hurt though was the betrayal of those he had considered his friends.
Ron had been at the forefront of those claiming Harry was a Dark Lord and was now glaring at him over his food, as though his sitting there had vilified the sanctity of the table. Neville didn't say anything but steadfastly ignored him. His other Year mates were all somewhere between the two. The Twins, usually jovial and chipper, were glaring at him because, he supposed, he hadn't told them about his 'entry'. The rest of his Quidditch team wasn't much better.
He viciously stabbed a mashed potato, imagining it to be the face of Draco Malfoy, who was taking great delight in shouting all manner of insults at him from the Slytherin table.
He cast a glance at the staff, wondering if any of them were going to step in. Snape had a look of undisguised glee upon his face, and Harry knew he was just waiting for him to take the bait so he could dish out point deductions and detentions. Dumbledore was just looking on as if he were enjoying a highly amusing play. McGonagall was casting disapproving glances but he knew he would be getting no help from her, just like always. Sprout, who was usually a jovial woman, was glaring at him like she would enjoy feeding him to one of her plants, bit by bit, which wasn't surprising seeing as she was Head of Hufflepuff. Flitwick was giving him disappointed looks. Surprisingly, so was Hagrid, which saddened Harry. Moody was looking distinctly amused, much like Dumbledore
There was only one person left who he sincerely hoped believed in his innocence. If even Hermione Granger refused to believe him, then he was finished. He had been hopelessly in love with the girl for over a year and had no idea what he would do without her support. Problem was he had no idea where she was. He had not seen her since the disaster the night before.
Quickly finishing his breakfast and heading out the Great Hall before he snapped and put Malfoy in St. Mungo's for life, Harry headed out of the castle towards the Black Lake.
At the end of the third year, when he and Hermione had gone back in time to save Sirius, they had found a small patch of trees from where they could observe the lake, a huge portion of the grounds and the school, but remain unseen themselves. He could use the peace and privacy right now.
He had barely been there for half an hour when Hermione found him, lying on his back and staring at clouds.
"Oh thank God I found you. I've been looking for you all over for a while, you know. Should have known you'd come here." she said, stretching out next to him.
"Hey Mione." he said, still not looking at her.
Hermione sighed and sat up, putting her hands on either side of his face, and forcing him to look her in the eye.
"Look Harry, the rest of those jerks may think you are turning dark, or just a show-off or whatever, but I know you, and I know that all this is not your fault. You're my best friend Harry, and I believe you about this. Besides, you've never been able to lie convincingly to me have you?" she finished, grinning at him.
Harry abruptly sat up and engulfed her in a tight hug, finally letting go of the frustration, pain, hurt and anger he'd been holding in since the night before.
Hermione let him pour out all his grief, rubbing his back soothingly and running a hand through his messy hair. After a while he stopped and pulled away, still sniffling a bit.
"Thank you Hermione. You have no idea how much it means that you're still with me. If even you'd refused to listen, I really don't know what I would have done." He said, looking at her gratefully.
She pulled him in a hug again before letting him lay back and smiled softly at him.
"You won't ever have to worry about me going anywhere and leaving you alone Harry. You'll always have me. And you're forgetting Sirius too. The man broke out of Azkaban, something never done before, just to see you safe. He's on your side too Harry." She said as she laid down resting her head on his shoulder as he wrapped an arm around her.
"Yeah I'll have to tell him about this soon. Which reminds me, you still don't know the whole story." Harry said, sighing, and proceeded to narrate the events as Hermione took everything in quietly.
"So where were you all this time?" Harry asked after a short, comfortable silence.
Hermione winced slightly before speaking "Oh I forgot to tell you about it before I ran off didn't I? Well I knew the moment I saw your face that you hadn't put your name in. So that meant it had to have something to do with the Goblet. So I went to the one person on the staff who could help and who I still trusted."
"McGonagall won't help Hermione, she's proved as much in the past. And Flitwick just follows her. Neither will Dumbledore, since it was his idea in the first place."
Hermione let him finish his miniature rant before starting again." As I was saying before you so rudely interrupted-" she paused to glower slightly at him as he smiled sheepishly " I went to someone I really trust, Septima Vector, my Arithmancy professor. I knew that neither Dumbledore nor McGonnagal would be much help, we have had plenty of evidence over the last three years. Before you ask, Septima has become like an older sibling and she has sort of taken me under her wing. She can be trusted completely."
"Yeah you told me about her last year and I like her too. But how can Septima help us here?" Harry asked her, puzzled.
"Well Harry, although Arithmancy is mostly theory, it does have its practical applications, such as spell-crafting. It is also heavily used in enchanting as it requires the sort of precision you can only get using Arithmancy." She said, rolling over on her stomach to look at him properly, as realization hit him.
"Enchanting. The Goblet is nothing more than a cleverly enchanted cup isn't it?" he asked, causing Hermione to nod with a smile.
"Very good. She's been teaching me little about it in her spare time when I told her I was interested. So I went to her with the idea of seeing if anybody had messed with its original enchantments, as there was no other way the Goblet would behave so erratically. Well we snuck into where it was being kept late at night, after everyone went to sleep, to check it out thouroughly." She said, smirking at the gob smacked look on his face.
"You-You actually – You, Hermione Granger, actually snuck around the castle, way after curfew, dragging a teacher with you?" he asked, still in shock.
"Well it isn't sneaking if I'm with a teacher, is it? And anyway it was supposed to be a 'late night extra-credit assignment' as she put it" Hermione replied, still smirking at him.
"Oh, don't look so shocked Harry, we've done the same loads of times." she said, as he was still looking at her with awe.
"Yeah, but I usually had to drag you along forcibly. You really have been corrupted horribly, you know. Not that I'm complaining, I like this carefree Hermione much better than Miss 'Or worse, Expelled'" Harry said, now smirking, as Hermione smacked his arm.
"I was twelve! Cut a girl some slack!" she said indignantly.
"And now you're fifteen. Not a lot of time has passed, you know? I still am thankful you were with me all the time. But never mind that now. So did you find anything?" Harry asked, shaking his head.
Hermione immediately sobered up at this.
"The thing about the Goblet is that it really is a powerful artifact. One of it's basic enchantments is the one that ensures there is only one competitor per school. There is another that allows only three schools. This one was corrupted so that the Goblet would accept students from more than three schools." she said, thinking over their findings.
"So if someone entered me under a fourth school, I would be the only student and would automatically be selected?" Harry asked.
Hermione nodded and continued her report.
"Pretty much, yeah. And there is one other thing Harry. You probably won't like it." she paused, looking at him apprehensively, biting her lip.
"Go on Hermione, I need the whole story." Harry said, sitting up to look at her properly.
"Well, you remember the age limiter that Professor Dumbledore said he would set?" she asked, continuing when he nodded.
"Well there was no trace of any such thing. If there was one that had later been removed, the magic would still have left traces. So we had to conclude that the only defence against an underage student was he or she couldn't physically get close to the Goblet because of that age line. Anyone could easily levitated their entry into it from across the room. Just like our first year all over again, Dumbledore assumed that everyone would happily comply with whatever he says!" she finished heatedly.
"That's it? That was all the safety precautions? What the hell was the old fool thinking?" Harry asked, his temper flaring at the callousness of the man who was supposed to ensure their safety.
"Oh that's not all Harry, I'll give you another reason to be mad. That so called magical contract he told you about? It didn't come into effect till 3 hours after your name came out." Hermione stated grimly, knowing this would infuriate him.
"WHAT? You mean I could have still backed out during the time he was harping on about how I had no choice but to compete?" Harry shouted, rising to his feet. He started pacing in the clearing so as to work his rage.
"Yes Harry, you remember that in earlier tournaments younger students were allowed right? Well they would have to get either their parent's or guardian's permission, wouldn't they? So there was a delay between when the name was chosen and when the contract came into effect. Anytime in those three hours, Dumbledore could have contacted Sirius and got him to declare that you did not have his permission to participate. That would effectively disqualify you from the tournament." Hermione said patiently, tracking him with her eyes.
She watched as he deflated after a minute and then went over and wrapped her arms around him.
"Why? Why would he do this? Don't I have enough to worry about with Voldemort trying to come back? Now he has me trapped in this godforsaken tournament too!" Harry said, his voice breaking, as he clutched Hermione tightly.
"Don't worry Harry. That's not all. I've got two pieces of good news too. I knew you would be feeling down, so I waited until after I finished with the bad stuff." she whispered soothingly.
Harry immediately sat up straight, a hopeful expression on his face.
"Firstly, you don't have to compete in the triwizard tournament." Hermione stated with a wide grin.
At his blank look, she elaborated her statement.
"I told you we checked how the Goblet enforced the magical contracts right? Well at the same time, we found out the four magical signatures which were tied to it. It is somewhat sentient in that the contract is created between the Goblet and the person who enters the name, not the person whose name is entered. If anyone's name could be entered by anyone, it would be a complete mess. So to conclude, while the name that was given was yours, you're not the one who is bound by the contract." Hermione finished happily.
She watched as Harry smiled wider and wider before he shot up, whooping with joy, and pulled Hermione up with him, twirling her around the clearing. She couldn't help joining in, his laughter was infectious. All of a sudden, he stopped and looked her dead in the eye before dipping his head down and kissing her passionately on the lips. Hermione was startled for a moment that Harry had done this, but responded immediately and started kissing him back just as passionately, with one hand coming up and fisting in his hair, the other cupping his cheek. She felt herself melt into his arms and her insides started to do a victory dance. Stars exploded across her closed eyelids and all the clichés she had read about when she had snuck a look at her mother's romance novels came true.
After a while, as breathing started to become an issue, she pulled back from him reluctantly to see a goofy smile plastered across Harry's face. However, his face immediately morphed to one of fear as what he just done sunk in properly.
Hermione immediately caught on to his thoughts and moved to stop his protests immediately, knowing he would start apologizing for kissing her without her permission, by pulling his down and giving him another long, passionate, searing kiss. She opened her mouth and ran her tongue along his lips asking for entrance, which he happily granted. She could taste the slight flavor of pumpkin juice and treacle tart that he had probably eaten for breakfast, as her tongue entwined with his, gently massaging it.
She pulled back again as she started feeling breathless, to see the goofy smile back on his face and his glazed over.
"I love you!" he blurted out, obviously still not in full control of himself.
She felt her eyes starting to tear up as he said the three words she had longed to him say to her ever since she had starting falling for him after he had jumped on the back of troll just to give her a chance at escape. The crush had eventually blossomed to fully fledged love as she got to know him better. She had so wanted to tell him at the end of the last year, but had chickened out at the last moment.
Hermione snapped back to the present as she saw an alarmed expression spreading across his face. She buried her face in the crook of his neck.
"I love you too, Harry. I've wanted to say that for so long. You have no idea how much hearing that you feel the same means to me." She whispered softly, clutching tightly to him.
Harry let out a sigh of relief as he buried his nose is her hair, inhaling deeply.
"Oh thank God! For a second I thought you were mad at me. You're almost all that I have left. I was worried I had messed up horribly. I really do love you Hermione. I've been in love with you for a while, I think. I just never had the courage to admit it until now. " He said just as softly as her, placing a soft kiss on top of her head.
"That's just fine Harry. Even I hadn't been able to you how I felt. Now that I did tell you I feel great. Euphoric, even." She said chuckling a bit.
After a moment's silence, they settled back on the grass and Hermione, not wanting to let go of him, cuddled into his side, resting her head on his shoulder as he wrapped an arm around her.
"You know, this makes the other part of my plan to keep you safe that much simpler." She said after a while.
He looked at her and she spoke on to clear up his confusion.
"After I realized that Dumbledore" she scowled at his name before continuing "was forcibly keeping you in this Tournament, I thought back on our years here to divine a reason for his behavior. And I found a pattern, Harry. If you think back to your time at Hogwarts, you'll see it too, I think."
Hermione stopped to give him time to think as she wanted him to get there on his own, as she had, or there would be no chance of convincing him to go along with her plan. She watched as his visage darkened and knew Harry had reached the same conclusion she had.
"You're right Hermione. The troll, Fluffy, the Philosophers Stone and Quirrel in first year, the diary, the Chamber of Secrets and the Basilisk in second year, the Dementors and the whole fiasco with Sirius last year. Every year, some or the other life-threatening events come along and I have to be the one to sort them out. Only one thing makes sense, Dumbledore is testing me for something. Either that or he wants me dead." he finished with a sad sigh.
"Precisely Harry. Despite all his protestations that this is the safest place in all of Britain, I find it hard to believe, what with everything that's happened to us. And I'm scared Harry, that if he doesn't stop, he's going to get you killed. And I can't lose you! No matter what, I can't lose you!" Hermione said, now sobbing into his shoulder as he rubbed her back soothingly.
She calmed down after a while and continued talking, her voice still shaking a bit.
"I feel that it would be best for your health, safety and peace of mind that you leave Hogwarts. Hear me out! Please listen to what I have to say and think about it before you say anything Harry. There are other magical schools other than Hogwarts where you won't have to worry about being killed or maimed time and again, or you could even get tutors. The other piece of good news that I had wanted to give you was that because Dumbledore, the Chief Warlock, and Crouch, a Ministry representative, tried force you into competing, they unknowingly recognized you as an adult. This means that you can claim your Lordship and Head of House Potter status, which emancipates you and whatever control Dumbledore would have over you is lost. This would easily allow you to withdraw yourself from Hogwarts and no one could tell you otherwise. All you would have to do is participate in the first task. You don't even have to win. Even if you just show up for it, that's enough. Magic would recognize you as an adult immediately, meaning you could leave the school the task is finished, as you don't even have to worry about the contract." Hermione finished, trying to judge his reaction. She could tell Harry was thinking hard but was still not ready to accept it fully.
"I would do it Hermione, but there is no way I'm leaving you here alone." He stated fiercely.
"Oh Harry did you really think I would let you go away alone. Let's face it, you wouldn't survive the week without me. I'm not leaving you now that I finally got you. I'll be coming with you of course. And I had thought that was going to be the hardest part." Hermione said chuckling.
"Then I have no problem with your plan whatsoever. We'll leave together, after the first task." Harry stated happily, leaning in and giving her a quick kiss.
"Not yet. There's one more thing. Since my parents are not magical, I have a separate guardian in the magical world, and I think it's Dumbledore. He wouldn't let me leave at all, so what you'll have to do is as soon as you claim Head of House, you will have to take me into your House in some way. Once we figure that out we're mostly set." Hermione said, biting her lip in thought.
After a minute, Harry's face lit up.
"There is might be a way to do that, but it will be a huge step for you. I don't know, you might even think it's too fast, but as far I'm concerned you're the only girl for me. I really hope you feel the same because if you do then I'd be really happy and-"
Harry was cut off abruptly as Hermione captured his mouth in a kiss.
"I love this new way to shut you up. And Harry calm down and ask me properly." Hermione said, hoping against hope that he really was suggesting what she thought he was.
"Hermione, will you marry me?" Harry asked her with a hopeful look on his face.
She shrieked right in his ear, as her head was on his shoulder, sat up, and proceeded to snog him thoroughly.
"Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Oh Harry of course I will! But Harry, aren't we a little too young?" Hermione asked, her face falling at the last part.
Harry, still wearing the shit-eating grin he had on his face since Hermione had said yes, shook his head.
"We might be too young to be married but we still can be betrothed. You know how Pansy is always hanging around Malfoy right? They were betrothed almost at birth, and as such, she now is Malfoy's responsibility. I'm pretty sure there would be a betrothal ring in the Potter Family Vaults that you told me about. That would even bypass any other contracts or stuff. Once the ring is on your hand you'll be perfectly safe since I would be your magical guardian as I would be the Head of House Potter and Dumbledore wont be able to do anything. So what do you say?" he asked her excitedly.
Grinning widely, Hermione nodded her rapidly, doing a perfect imitation of Dobby.
"Good that's another thing settled then. What about your parents? What about Sirius, Remus and Septima? And where will we go after this?" Harry asked, coming back to Earth.
"We'll be taking my parents with us; Septima will be arranging it with them so that they can sell their Dental Practice and be ready to leave at a moment's notice. Sirius can come with us as Padfoot, even Dumbledore doesn't know about his Animagus form. Remus can come too. As for where we would be going, what do you think about Australia?" Hermione asked, mentally ticking off the points.
"Australia's fine, not that I know much about it. But won't everyone just follow us there? And what about Voldemort?" Harry asked.
"They will try. But Australia is huge. They won't find us so easily. You don't owe them a damn thing. All those bigots and hypocrites can go screw themselves! Let's watch them run around like headless chickens when Volde- no , when Riddle comes back. Even if he comes after us, we'll make him regret it." Hermione said, eyes blazing.
Harry looked at her for a second, before pulling her in and giving her a long passionate kiss.
"Have I told you how hot you look when you get all passionate like that?" he said huskily, causing Hermione to blush before she decided to respond in kind and pushed him on his back before straddling him.
"If you think is passionate, wait till I get us in a proper bed." She whispered into his ear as she felt him shudder beneath her when she pressed herself onto him.
Hermione pulled away from him smirking.
"You really are a little minx you know that?" Harry said as he sat up.
"It's always the quiet ones Harry, bookworms even more so." Hermione said haughtily, before they both broke down laughing.
"Yes well, we'll see how much truth there is to it later. One thing left, what will they do with their time there? Money isn't an issue, I have way too much of it anyway, and with even Sirius along, it won't be a problem. We'll be in school, Sirius will be hiding, but what of your parents, Remus and Septima?" Harry asked.
"Mum and Dad can open a clinic there, Australia needs dentists as much as Britain and their license will be validated easily considering their experience and qualifications. Remus has a Defense and C.o.M.C Mastery and Australia does not have the same prejudices about werewolves as here. In fact, among the aboriginal community, they are actually respected members of society, but that happens after they are taught to control the beast. So it should be beneficial for him. Septima is an Arithmancy Master and a licensed Spellcrafter and Enchantress. She should easily get a job if she wants. Anything else?" Hermione said.
"That's it then. We lay low till the first task and then we leave." Harry said nodding, as they both got up and brushed themselves off.
As they made ready to leave the clearing, a loud roar stopped them in their tracks
/ Foolish Humans! Leave my children alone or you shall know the fires of hell! /
Hermione turned to Harry with a fearful expression on her face.
"What was that?" she asked in a whisper just as another roar was heard.
/ Leave them be! You mortals will know my wrath when I am unchained! This is I swear! Leave them be! /
"Harry we should get out of here." Hermione said to Harry, who stood transfixed, as she pulled on his arm.
/ Touch them again and I shall flay you alive! /
"Hermione wait! Can you hear it?" he said excitedly.
"Hear what Harry? Come on!" she said still looking around fearfully.
"No! Listen to me, Hermione. Wait a second. I can understand the animal, whatever it is!" Harry said.
Hermione still looked like she wanted to bolt.
"Don't worry, we'll just take a peek. Come with me!" Harry said, pulling her deeper into the forest.
"Harry, are you sure about this?" Hermione said still very uncertain.
"Very. Whatever it is, it's highly sentient, so as long as we pose no threat it should be safe. Come on, we are really close. It should be right-" at this moment he broke off because of the spectacle before him. Beside him, Hermione rapidly paled to completely white.
"Here." Harry said, in a whisper, as the head of the majestic beast swiveled to look at him.
In front of them was an enormously large, black Dragon which was chained to the ground by its feet. It had midnight black scales that shone in the sun and was fifty feet long excluding its tail which had long bronze spikes every few inches. Its yellow eyes, slit like a cats, were fixed on them.
/ More puny Humans! Do you come to mock me too? /
Hermione let out a squeak and hid behind Harry who was still looking at the dragon with awe.
/We do not come to mock you, Great Dragon. We only heard you shouting for your young and came to see if we could help. / Harry said to it, causing Hermione to grip tightly to him.
/ You speak the language Young one? / the dragon asked in a surprisingly softer tone.
/ The what? / Harry asked confused.
"Harry! You're speaking in Parseltongue!" Hermione hissed from behind.
/ How is it you speak, Young Human? How do you know our tongue? / the dragon asked in a curious sounding voice.
/ I was born with it, Great Dragon. I'm Harry and this is Hermione./ Harry said, pulling the terrified witch from behind him.
/ I am called Astarre, Young Human. You are different from those of your kind that would treat my brothers and sisters like mindless beasts. Tell me, does your mate speak the too? / the dragon asked, shifting her focus to Hermione who was shaking like a leaf. Harry blushed at the implications before responding.
/ She does not. Though Hermione does have a thing for rights of magical beings. / Harry said, now more relaxed once he realized that the dragon wouldn't roast him.
/ So she is different from others too. You are remarkably intriguing for a human. Tell your mate she has nothing to fear from me unless she threatens my children. / Astarre said in an amused voice.
Harry nodded and turned to Hermione who seemed calmer, even though he could tell she was still really scared.
"Don't worry Hermione. She says that so long as you stay away from the eggs, you'll be fine." Harry said reassuringly.
"She s-said that, d-did she? Oh w-wonderful! My f-fiancé is a d-dragon whisperer" she said still eyeing the spikes on its tail fearfully.
"Calm down Hermione. If she wanted to hurt us, she already would have. Besides, this is a once in a blue moon chance to interact with a dragon! Oh and her name is Astarre." Harry said, as bit by bit, the apprehension was replaced by the excitement of learning about a different species first hand, and calmed Hermione down.
She tentatively stepped forward and waved to the dragon.
"H-Hi, I'm H-Hermione. Um can you understand me really?" she asked.
Astarre nodded and let out a series of hisses and growls that had Hermione turning to Harry for his help.
"She says that she would like to let you know that you have her thanks for not treating her like a beast." He said.
"But you are sentient aren't you? Why would I treat you otherwise?" Hermione asked, a little confused.
Astarre let out another series of growls and hisses, which Harry promptly translated.
"She says most wizards and witches don't think like that. Quite true from what we've seen too Hermione."
Astarre seemed to perk up and looked around before she said something else to Harry, who nodded to her before grabbing Hermione's hand and tugging on it.
"Come on. She says her minders are returning. We don't want to get caught out here. She says to come back again at night when no one will be there to disturb us and that she'll be happy to tell you more about dragons and anything else." He said before waving to Astarre and pulling on Hermione's hand again.
Hermione smiled widely at the dragon before waving and taking off after Harry.
They returned to the castle as it was time for lunch and headed into the Great Hall to be met with a wave of hostility. Harry had already experienced this in the morning at breakfast, but it was completely new for Hermione. Even though she had known that every person in the Great Hall now loathed Harry despite fawning over him just the day before, it was still a shock to her system to see firsthand just how quickly their friends of a few years turned their backs on him, and since she was with him, by extension her too. Seeing that not one of the staff moved to help them destroyed all her belief in authority.
Even Septima, who looked about ready to spit fire, was restrained by the rest of the staff and the fact that she had to be in the castle to help Harry and Hermione escape. The pair quickly finished their lunch and headed out of the Great Hall, wondering if this was what life would be till the first task on November 24th.
Harry and Hermione spent their next few days counting down the days till the First task and developed a routine. In the morning after a quick breakfast, they would head to classes and sit at the very back. Hermione, who used to believe that not participating in class and not answering questions you knew the answer to was a virtual crime, stopped completely participating in any format. The result could be seen immediately as the rubies in the Gryffindor hourglass started a downward spiral, what with Snape being even more unbearable and taking points left, right and center from Harry. In just two weeks the hourglass was almost empty.
Hermione's homework too was not even close to her earlier level, barely approaching E's with Harry staying just above a fail grade. The Professors constantly berated her and advised her to stay away from Harry, but she studiously ignored all of them. As far as she was concerned, her loyalty lay with Harry, and she was not going to pander to people who had lost all her respect. The grades wouldn't matter as she was leaving Hogwarts soon anyway and she had much better things to do.
The reason for this apparent fall from grace was that any time apart from classes was spent by the two of them in the library copying the entire collection of books for their private use and spending time in the newly discovered Room Of Requirement either practicing magic or making out. This was another reason Hermione was no longer bothered by her falling grades, as she was learning a lot more advanced magic with Harry than in any of her classes.
Over the few weeks students and staff often wondered where the two kept disappearing to, and decided that they were probably engaged in Dark Magic Rituals, and that Hermione was the new Dark Lady.
They had not spent single night since Halloween apart and usually used the Room of Requirements to sleep. This was facilitated by Dobby and Winky who Harry and Hermione had bonded to.
Astarre had told Hermione of the true nature of the House-Elf bond and that the elves needed a master or they would lose their magic. Hermione was horrified that her planned campaign to free the elves would have actually harmed them. She accepted her suggestion to bond with Dobby and the recently freed Winky as long as Winky remained happy, since Dobby's happiness on bonding to Harry was unquestionable.
The two elves were a boon as they would pop them to or from their beds as required, helping to avoid suspicion. Their dorm mates did think the lack of noise from the beds was suspicious and had tried to investigate only to receive nasty shocks on touching the curtains around the beds for their troubles. They soon lost any interest altogether.
Harry and Hermione usually spent a few hours before dinner sleeping as they would sneak out, after everyone had gone to bed, to visit Astarre, who they soon developed a friendship with and from whom they learnt that the first task would be facing a dragon, which wasn't much of a problem for Harry anymore.
Hermione was fascinated with what the dragon, who was quite a few centuries old, could teach her. Harry learnt just as much with all the translating he did for them. They let her in on their plans for escape, which she helped to tweak a little. Once they realized that she was as much a victim as they were, they gave her the chance to escape with them. She accepted and they factored that into their plans as well. When asked about the other dragons she told them that they disgusted her as they were happy to play along for their minders as long as they were fed
A week before the task, Hermione got word from their parents that their dental practice had been sold and that they had got her a new puppy and seen a wolf up close. While this was most inconspicuous to just about everyone, she knew that this meant that all their plans were set and could be executed at a moment's notice.
Remus had gotten in touch and was staying with her parents along with Sirius, who was posing as the stray they had taken in. The passports had been arranged by Remus after meeting with the goblins, who were only too happy to help them stick it to the Ministry and Dumbledore. He also had them arrange things so that Harry could pop in with Hermione to get her the Potter betrothal ring, a development her mother was ecstatic with but her father was only grudgingly agreed to. Harry would also claim Head of House status at the same time before immediately leaving for Heathrow where they would meet up with the Grangers, Remus and Septima along with Sirius who would be travelling as Padfoot. They would then board a plane to Sidney, the tickets for which had been arranged by the Grangers.
Finally the day for the task had arrived. Harry and Hermione awoke in the Room of Requirements and had Dobby and Winky pop them back to their respective beds. The elves had instructions to remove all their possessions as soon as everyone was at the Arena prepared for the task. Harry and Hermione's trunks would be sent directly to a shipping container the Grangers were using to transport their property to Ausralia, along with Septima's. Any essentials they might require were in a purse Hermione carried that Septima had enchanted to be large on the inside. The elves themselves would then be waiting to pop them to Gringotts after returning from dropping Septima off as soon as the first task started..
Harry and Hermione looked around their respective dormitories one last time before meeting up in the Common Room and heading down to breakfast together. They had decided to spend what would be their last morning in the castle, if everything went according plan, just roaming the halls of the place they had called home for most of the last few years of their lives.
For the first few days after Halloween they had had to take shortcuts to avoid the random jinx or hex sent their way, before Hermione managed to create bracelets that had extremely strong shield charms on them that would stop anything short of Unforgivables, an achievement she was rightly proud of.
The students, however, immediately put their newfound invulnerability down to Dark Magic. Of course, neither Harry nor Hermione bothered to correct their delusions.
Now, they walked the corridors with no one bothering to interrupt them as they knew it would be futile, although the mutterings and glares were still present.
They entered the Great Hall holding hands and moved to their now customary spot at the end of the Gryffindor table, around which there was a wide space lacking any students.
They finished their lunch at a leisurely pace, talking in whispers.
"Everything set?" Harry asked.
"Yeah. Our travelling kit is stuffed inside my jeans. Dobby and Winky are standing by. Septima got in touch with the Marauders' mirrors last night after you fell asleep. She'll be waiting under the stands for Dobby and Winky after we make our escape." Hermione answered.
"Alright. I'll make sure I select Astarre. After becoming so familiar with the real deal, her miniature shouldn't be much of a problem." Harry answered, smirking.
"Enough, Harry. Concentrate for now. I know you're excited by what's coming but if you don't focus it could still go pear shaped. I'll be seated right behind her; you make sure her restraints are destroyed. " Hermione admonished him as she finished her food and sat back, pushing her plate away.
Dumbledore stood up a few moments later and the growing noise in the Great Hall dropped abruptly.
"It is now time for the First Task of the Triwizard Tournament. Champions, if you would head down to the tent prepared for you?" Dumbledore said in a magnified voice.
Hermione nodded to Harry and tapped her ear. Harry smiled back, tapped his ear and nodded before kissing her deeply and moving to follow the other three champions who were being led by McGonagall.
She could hear the speech and the instructions the woman was giving Harry and the others through the communication buds she had created for situations like these when they had to be apart. They were stuck in their right ears, let them listen and talk to each other over any range, just like the Marauders' mirrors, only these were less conspicuous.
Hermione watched him go and waited in place looking around dispassionately till the students were told to move to the stands prepared for them. She stood immediately and started walking, pointedly ignoring the rest of the students, a feat made easier by the wide berth they gave her.
As she got into the stands, she headed to the seats directly above the location where the dragons would be chained. She could hear the inane prattling of Bagman as he explained what they had to do for the Task. She had to stifle a snort at the various curses Harry was muttering under his breath at the man.
She sat down, again with a large open space around her, as she heard the Champions being told to choose their Dragons, again praying that Harry got Astarre as that was a vital part of their plan.
Hermione heard as the Veela complained about Harry moving in to select a dragon before she could get one and then Harry telling her to sod off. She also clearly heard Bagman exclaim that Harry had gotten the worst dragon, the Horntail. If only the idiots knew.
Unfortunately Harry would be going fourth so they would have a long wait yet. She watched as the other three champions came in and faced their respective dragons, with Cedric Diggory transfiguring a dog of all things to distract his dragon, Fleur Delacour trying to charm her dragon into sleeping and Viktor Krum trying to hex it outright.
Finally, it was Harry's turn and she watched as Astarre was led in followed by a few dragon handlers, who were also carrying her eggs. Or rather, what would have been her eggs had Harry not switched them with fakes the night before for Astarre's peace of mind. The real eggs, with Astarre's permission, had been placed with Dobby and Winky for the time it would take her to get to her native lands, which were somewhere in Europe.
The dragon handlers fixed Astarre's bindings to the same chains they had used before. The dragon meanwhile was roaring and breathing fire and generally showing of for the crowd.
Hermione could hear Harry sniggering in the tent.
"What did she say Harry?" Hermione asked, her voice smothered by the Dragon's roars.
"Oh she's just using very colorful language which is being directed at our beloved Headmaster and company. It's almost as vicious as her fire." Harry replied, chuckling.
"And now, time for our fourth Champion! Harry Potter!" Bagman announced, as loud jeering and booing erupted from the gathered crowd, the reaction completely opposite to what it had been for the first three Champions.
Hermione watched as Harry stepped out of the tent in skin-tight full body Basilisk Hide armor, with the black scales gleaming just as brightly as Astarre's, albeit with a slightly greenish tint and the entire crowd fell silent. She watched with a satisfied smirk on her face as Dumbledore's and Snape's jaws dropped in shock as they recognized the material for what it was. She had harvested the carcass with Harry's help after a suggestion made by Astarre, and had had Remus sell of the parts via the goblins. They had kept a portion of the hide and had the goblins create ten suits of armor, seven for each of them and three extra, in return for the goblins getting the rest of the skin for free. She was wearing her own suit under her jeans and shirt.
Harry had just stepped out of the tent and was looking around. He spotted her sitting directly above Astarre with a smirk on her face that he knew was because of the reactions to his armor. He nodded to her and she nodded back as they both pulled out their wands.
"Time to get on the soap box." He muttered, much to Hermione's amusement.
/Let's start the show Harry! / Astarre said.
Harry nodded and ducked behind a large boulder as Astarre blew a torrent of fire in his direction.
"I really don't get why you have to throw fire at me." Harry muttered.
"That's because I need time to set the wards for when we deliver our message." Hermione said.
"Alright, alright." Harry muttered as he continued dodging and weaving between bouts of fire, sometimes creating stone walls, water spouts, and other obstacles to stop the fire.
Then Harry started transfiguring two nearby rocks into humanoid figures, which he then proceeded to animate. The figures rushed off to the side trying to flank Astarre, who obliterated one with her tail and the other with fire.
/ Come on Harry, you can do better than that!/ she taunted him.
"Harry, wards are in place, Septima is gone, and now no one can leave the stands till they take these wards down. It should take even Dumbledore up to an hour." Hermione said in his ear, effectively cutting off his reply.
Harry straightened up immediately and hissed.
/ Astarre, it's time. /
The dragon immediately stopped breathing fire.
"See? There's the proof that he's a dark wizard! He's speaking Parseltongue!" Ron Weasley shouted, breaking the silence that had descended since Harry had stepped out of the tent.
Harry turned to face his ex-'best mate' and glared at him.
"Weasley don't talk about things you have no idea about. It's embarrassing. You would do better to make sure that hole of yours stays shut, or I'll make sure I do it myself." Harry sneered.
Ron paled and clamped his jaws shut immediately as Harry turned to look at the rest of the spectators who had remained quiet.
"Hermione care to join me?" he said looking at her.
Hermione nodded and vaulted over the railing, falling quite a distance but landing lightly on her feet.
"Now see here Potter, you can't do-" Karkaroff started angrily.
"Silence! I'll do whatever the bloody hell I want!" Harry roared at him.
"Harry, my boy, you can't-" Dumbledore began in a patronizing tone.
"Shut the hell up, Dumbledore. And I'm NOT your boy." Harry sneered at him before turning to Astarre, ignoring cries of outrage at his disrespect.
He sent an overpowered Reductor at her bindings, obliterating them and causing almost the entire audience to shriek in fear.
"Quiet!" he roared again "Astarre if anyone makes a sound, roast them."
"Harry! You know she doesn't like fried human! She prefers uncooked, don't you?" Hermione said with a devilish smirk as she turned to pat Astarre, who had walked up behind them, on the snout.
"Potter! What do you think you are doing you arrogant brat!" Snape shouted, trying to get up, but failing.
"Ignore Snivellous, he'll give you indigestion." Hermione whispered to Astarre, who shot a fireball at the man, almost setting his robes on fire.
"Now see what happens if you interrupt? I will talk, and you people will listen. That means you too Dumbledore!" Harry said to the Headmaster, who looked like he was about to interrupt again. No one else made a sound, they were frozen in place by the fear of the newly freed dragon in front of them, and the wards Hermione had put up to avoid escape.
"So here's the deal. For the last few weeks, you called me dark, berated me, tried to curse me, so on and so forth. You did the same to Hermione too, for that matter. So I came to a… conclusion, if you will. You lot, all of Britain, apparently want me gone. I hereby grant your wish. I will be leaving these shores soon, never to return, and I will be taking Hermione with me. No dark lord to worry about anymore then, yeah?" Harry asked sarcastically.
"Harry! What about Voldemort? You can't forget him, you know?" Hermione said in a mock stern tone.
"Oh right! Tommy Boy! How could I forget? I've got a message for him. I know he has a spy here, so Mr. Bond, kindly deliver this to M. I'll be leaving here, so you have free reign to all of Britain. I don't care what you do with it, burn it to the ground, paint it pink, whatever, you have my blessing. But, don't come after me or mine. I will tear you apart if you do. Live and let live, yeah? Got that, 007?" Harry called, looking around at the face which had paled at the knowledge that Voldemort would be returning
"You've been watching too many Bond movies, Harry. I'll have to have a talk with daddy about the kind of stuff he sends you. Oh, and Dumbledore? That warning extends to you too. Leave. Us. Alone. Or we will make you regret it." Hermione said, glaring at the man, who was trying to fight her wards with all his might.
"I think that about covers it, don't you love?" Harry asked, looking around.
"Oh yes, Astarre will be coming with us too. For you dragon handlers, contact your bosses. I bought her from the preserve, fair and square. And be thankful that she is leaving, she doesn't think much of you manhandling her babies." Harry said to the men who were now looking at the dragon fearfully.
"Alright then! Let's go Harry. Mum and Daddy are waiting." Hermione said as she stepped towards Astarre who lowered her front and extended her front leg, allowing Hermione to clamber up on her back. Harry followed and got into place behind her.
"This is goodbye then! Pray we never meet again, because you won't like it!" Harry said, waving at the dumbstruck crowd causing Hermione to roll her eyes.
/Hold on tight!/Astarre hissed before she launched herself in the air, before flapping her huge wings and heading away from the Arena and Hogwarts, leaving a bewildered and confused group behind.
Of all the people there, Dumbledore alone knew how bad this could be. Harry Potter, the Chosen One, had left Britain, and had declared to Voldemort that he was welcome to it.
He wondered how it could all have gone so wrong. The boy's first three years had gone off almost perfectly as planned. This year, the boy should have been alone and friendless. He would have come to Dumbledore for advice. After this task his friends would have gone flocking back to him, and he would have welcomed them back with open arms. After Tom's resurrection he would let the world turn against the boy again next year, only to swoop in and save the day again. The boy would fall in love with the Weasley girl, and bear a son, just as Molly wanted. Then they would die fighting Tom, and he would finish Tom off, claiming all the glory and the Potter Fortunes through the boy's son.
But that thrice damned Granger girl had gotten in the way. He couldn't believe she still stayed with him all these years, especially after the Halloween fiasco. The fact that she had planned all this under his nose meant he had seriously underestimated her.
This was going to be disastrous. At least he could use his authority over her as her magical guardian to bring the boy back under his control. Oh well!
He would learn hours later, when he finally managed to get past whatever Hermione had done, that he couldn't even do that much and that Harry Potter and Hermione Granger were lost to him forever.
While Dumbledore was contemplating his failed plans, meanwhile a few miles away, Astarre landed near a lake and allowed Harry and Hermione to slip off her back.
"Take care Astarre, we'll miss you." Hermione said, eyes brimming with tears.
/Do not worry young one, I shall find you in time, after my own children are grown / Astarre said, bumping snout against Hermione's head. She had grown fond of the young human female, and the male to a lesser extent.
"Alright then Astarre, you know where to find us. Take care." Harry said quietly, rubbing her neck.
/ I will. Take care of each other. We will meet again. / she said before she took off again.
"Dobby! Winky!" Harry called putting his arms around Hermione.
The two elves popped in.
With that, Harry and Hermione were popped to Gringotts where Remus was waiting for them. After a quick trip down to the Potter Family Vault, which was in the process of being relocated to the Australian branch of Gringotts, Harry found the Potter Betrothal ring, which signified a contract between the one giving the ring and the one accepting it.
After reciting the appropriate vows, Harry placed the ring on Hermione's finger, where it resized itself after a brief flash of light. Hermione squealed in delight, and jumped on Harry, costing them some time.
After that was done they returned to the main floor of the bank where Harry carried out the procedures to become Head of House Potter, making him Hermione's magical guardian and removing the last vestiges of Dumbledore's control. They met up with Remus who side-apparated them both to Heathrow. The three of them met up with the Grangers, who were waiting for them with Septima. To the teens' surprise, Septima greeted Remus with a chaste kiss. They found out that the two had been dating since the past year, but had kept in quiet due to the stigma that Septima would be faced with for associating with a known werewolf. Now however it didn't make a difference. They shared a laugh with Remus at Sirius' plight, as he was curled up in a pet carrier along with Crookshanks, looking thoroughly miserable.
They boarded their flight minutes later and left England for good, never looking back.
It was now 17 years since the time Harry and Hermione had left Britain and both were enjoying happy lives. After they reached Australia they spent the first month adjusting to their new lives. They had joined the Australian Institute for Magical Arts after Christmas as Fourth Years students starting the year anew. They had found that unlike Hogwarts, AIMA provided ten years of education, the last three of which were for specialized studies.
Hermione had immediately signed on for all the same courses she had at Hogwarts, but dropped Muggle Studies, which was called Non-Magical Interaction here, and picked up Technomancy. Harry dropped Divination and picked up Technomancy, Arithmancy and Ancient Runes, which he had taken an immediate liking to when Hermione explained the subject to him. He had found that he was exceptionally good at Runes and had taken up Curse-Breaking and Warding as specializations, giving Hermione ample opportunities to say ' I told you so'. Hermione had taken up Enchanting as a specialization, following in Septima's footsteps.
Harry and Hermione had gotten married right out of school in a private ceremony and settled in Brisbane beside Hermione's parents, Remus and Septima, and Sirius.
Harry had been snapped up by Gringotts immediately after graduation and he now worked for them on a contractual basis. He also worked independently, trying to incorporate Parselmagic into Wards, which earned him his Mastery.
Hermione worked much the same way from home and now was a fully fledged Enchantress who occasionally dabbled in Spell Crafting. She earned a Mastery in Arithmancy when she broke down the components of the Killing Curse and developed a working shield for it. She had Harry as a very willing test subject, helping her study the remnants of the curse which were embedded within his scar. This had been impossible before as no one could see how the curse actually worked, making it impossible to break it down enough to develop a counter. The magic remnants in Harry's scar gave her the first ever chance to see the killing curse in action. This hadn't killed him because his magic had formed a permanent shield around the curse, keeping it bound. She used this version of the shield to form one you could form with a wand that would stop one Killing Curse per casting.
This discovery earned her international acclaim, much to her consternation and Harry's amusement, because she was now much more famous than he had ever been.
After three years of marriage, they had decided it was time to start a family. Less than year later, Hermione gave birth to twins Sirius James Potter and Astarre Emma Potter. The former was named after Harry's godfather and father and latter was named after the dragon that had become a permanent fixture in their lives and Hermione's mother.
Harry had bought a considerable area of land and turned it into his very own dragon preserve. Astarre had found them about two years after they left Britain and dropped in unannounced in the middle of their Care of Magical Creatures class, causing widespread panic across the campus until Harry and Hermione got them to calm down. After that, however, Astarre became a regular at the school and even consented to help for a lesson on dragons.
Hermione's parents had opened up their own Dental Clinic on the lines of the one back in Britain and were now moderately successful.
Remus and Septima had gotten work together in AIMA by pure chance. Remus now taught Advanced Defense and Septima taught Enchanting, both specialized courses. Within a few months Remus' furry little problem had been resolved, after he spent some time with a local Aboriginal tribe learning to control his inner beast. Now when he transformed, it was into full wolf, although said wolf was seven feet in length and four feet tall and he also was in perfect control without needing Wolfsbane. He and Septima got married the immediately after he returned from the journey and Septima gave birth to Lily Marie Lupin, named in honor of the woman who had never treated him any differently than anyone else, even after she had figured out in her very first year at Hogwarts what he was, and who had become almost like sister to him over the years, the Marauder's antics notwithstanding.
Sirius on the other hand, had been arrested minutes after he landed. It turned out the Australian Ministry of Magic had sensors at airports to detect wizards and witches trying something precisely like this. However, Harry had intervened and explained the situation, providing memories of the events in the Shrieking Shack. Sirius was immediately provided a trial under Veritaserum and was declared innocent. The Australian Ministry granted him immediate asylum, making it impossible for the British Ministry to touch him. He had written a book, to the total astonishment of those who knew him, named 'Your Inner Animal' which was a step-by-step guide to becoming an Animagus by using the accelerated method developed by the Marauders. The book was a bestseller for years and eventually became THE book when it came to the Animagus Transformation.
The Sirius Black fiasco had been a slap to the face of Dumbledore and the British Ministry of Magic and Dumbledore had been thrown out of the ICW due to his inability to ensure justice was carried out. He barely managed to hang on as Chief Warlock.
Days later however, the Australian media reported the full story of Harry's time at Hogwarts, which was backed up by Veritaserum testimony and memories provided by Harry and Hermione. This immediately saw Dumbledore thrown out of Hogwarts for child endangerment. Britain and Hogwarts in particular, along with those of Beauxbatons and Durmstrang who were present, were very publicly shamed for their treatment of Harry and Hermione.
At the end of the Triwizard Tournament, the winner, Cedric Diggory, was kidnapped by means of a portkey and forced to participate in a ritual for the return of Voldemort.
Diggory was never found and Voldemort's return had been ignored by Ministry due to the lack of any incidents. Not even Muggle families had been attacked.
A year later, Voldemort had walked in the front door and declared himself Minister for Magic. Not even Dumbledore had been able to stop him and was killed in battle. Voldemort's first act had been the dissolution of the Wizengamot and declaring himself ruler of Magical Britain.
Completely unknown to any inside Britain however, the ICW was prepared for just such an eventuality and deployed a task force to reclaim Britain. Voldemort's regime fell within days due to the coordinated and simultaneous assault upon all his major supporters. Every last Death Eater fell in combat, whether voluntary or not. Voldemort himself was killed in a 30-1 firefight in the Atrium of the Ministry, although he did manage to take half his opponents with him.
Britain came under ICW control and they started a complete restructuring of the government. As an added insult to Britain, they offered the post to Sirius, but he declined politely, saying that he had sworn never to step back in the country, although he did agree that it would be an incredible prank.
Over the years, British magical society improved by leaps and bounds. Although a few remaining Pureblood Supremacists, led by Draco Malfoy, tried for a return, it was immediately and utterly crushed.
Harry and Hermione never bothered to check up on things 'back home', although several of the people they had once called friends did try to contact them over the years. They never forgot the insults and humiliation they had been put through and refused any and all overtures of friendship.
It was Halloween night and Harry had been sitting and reminiscing over his past on the balcony of his home, the place he lived in with Hermione, his partner of seventeen years.
He turned around to see his wife framed in the light from their bedroom window, smiling softly at him.
"You're thinking about Halloween."
It was a statement, not a question. Hermione knew her best friend well enough that she could tell what he was thinking without needing to ask.
Harry mutely nodded his head and turned around again. Hermione padded forward and wrapped her arms around his neck before placing a kiss on top his head.
"Budge over. I wanna sit." She said.
Harry obliged and let Hermione sit before he put his arm around her and pulled her close.
"I was just wondering about how differently it all might have played out if my name hadn't come out of the Goblet all those years ago. We would have stayed in Britain with the rest of the sheep. I would have been sacrificed to Dumbledore's Greater Good, bloody awful reason for his actions by the way. You would probably have fallen prey to the Pureblood philosophy. Sirius would have been killed in an 'unfortunate encounter'. Remus would still be living in those rags he used to wear. Astarre would still be in captivity. Septima would probably be the only one even remotely happy. I wonder if they found out who did that anyway. I'd probably send them flowers for making my life turn out the way it did." Harry said.
"They did do us all a favor, didn't they?" Hermione mused.
Harry laughed as he pulled Hermione onto his lap.
"Yes. Yes they did." He said, kissing Hermione passionately.
"Mmmm. Maybe we should get a room. And some whipped cream." She said.
"Always the quiet ones?"
"Get to it mister."
They both burst out laughing as they headed back to the bedroom, intent on enjoying life as much as possible.
A/N: So this is one of the first stories I ever wrote. What would happen if Harry got fed up with the antics of British Wizarding Soceity and Hermione gave him a way out. If you find mistakes, send me a PM. I don't have a beta so some errors are unavoidable.