Disclaimer: No, I do not own Harry Potter and probably couldn't even afford to rent it for a day.
AN: For those of you who are familiar with my stories, this one is definitely different. I have been on a Steve Winwood kick for about a week now and this is the result. It came around as a story made up of many ideas and inspirations I've had and you may see these ideas again whenever I get around to writing them. I wrote this in honor of who earned the right to be Harry's partner in life.
Harry Potter came out of the pensieve in Dumbledore's office with tears streaming down his face. The things just revealed to him left him so stunned that he sat heavily in the leather chair that his mentor had sat in for many years. He had to die. It was the only interpretation that Dumbledore had come up with. There was no other way around it if he wanted Voldemort gone. He, Harry Potter, had to die.
He wiped the tears from his eyes and thought back on the people in his life that had influenced it the most with their deaths. He found it odd that so many people played such an important role in his life because they died. The parents he never really knew who gave him life twice over by sacrificing themselves. The older boy who was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Harry snorted at that because he found himself in exactly the same position quite often. The insane godfather who died protecting him like he should have from the beginning. The red headed twin who had always been the older brother Harry needed. The werewolf who was the last remaining link to his parents. The so called grandfather who lied to him. The man who treated him like dirt but protected him just so he could die at the right time. His beloved owl Hedwig. If there was one thing Harry Potter knew, it was death. He had faced death enough times to be very familiar with it.
These truths and manipulations revealed to him were enough to make any man falter and for a brief moment, he considered just getting the hell out of there and leaving the magical world behind. There was only one thing that stopped him. It was the thought that he would be leaving the one person that meant to most to him. The one person he loved beyond compare and who had always stood with him. For quite a while now, she had been his reason for living. She would now be his reason for dying if only to protect her and make sure she would live.
He pulled on his invisibility cloak and made his way into the Forbidden Forest. He avoided everyone, especially her, along the way so that he wouldn't lose his nerve. His fears resurfaced when he spoke with the spirits of his parents along with Sirius and Remus. Their conversation helped him realize that they were alright with what they had done and they had no regret in dying for someone they loved. Harry's resolve was now reaffirmed as he knew he could do this for the person who meant the most to him.
Harry Potter had died and then lived and in the process killed the most evil man to have surfaced in the wizarding world in the last fifty years. It was like he was cursed and everyone knew it when no one ran to him in celebration. His former girlfriend ran into the arms of the one who had been there for her this last year while Harry had been gone. She and Harry would always be connected but in truth, Harry was happy for her.
His eyes moved around the room and took in the survivors until they landed on another scene. His heart shattered when he saw the girl he suffered and died for kissing his once best friend. There was nothing left for him to say or do. He quietly turned and walked from the Great Hall.
While the loss of Remus was hard, it was the loss of his hope that finally told him it was time to move on. Harry had been in love with Hermione ever since their second year at school and always told himself that once Tom was dealt with and the war was over, he would tell her how he felt. Again, another thing had been ripped from him as his heart broke when he watched her kiss Ron Weasley. Maybe it was jealousy or maybe it was something deep inside but he didn't think Ron was good enough for his Hermione.
Harry was worried about the relationship and didn't want to see her get hurt. He worried that Ron could not be the man someone like Hermione needed. Ron's insecurities ruled him often and it was these times when he hurt the people closest to him the most. His thoughts wandered back to their fourth year together and the fiasco that was his name coming out of the Goblet. His thoughts latched on the many times Ron had upset Hermione over the years. The Yule Ball and other moments should have been treasured forever by Hermione if not for the mouth of Ron. His thoughts then got stuck on Ron's abandonment of them while on the Horcrux search. Yes he had come back but Harry always felt that it was because he really had nowhere else to go. He could have gone home and in fact did go to his brother's house but from the looks Ron received there, it was more out of necessity as he was probably being berated and called a coward for not staying.
Harry knew he wasn't perfect either. He had dealt his share of pain to her but he never thought he was as bad as Ron. He always tried to show her how much he cared but all he could assume now was that she missed the signs.
Harry was now walking across the grounds and along a familiar path. If anyone other than the person watching him were observing his actions, they would have thought that he had finally lost it. Harry Potter was holding a conversation with himself out loud.
"So what do you do now?"
"I don't know but we need to get out of here."
"Going to run?"
"Why not? Its not like there's anything holding me here anymore."
"They'll all be hurt."
"They'll get over it. They get their happily ever after while I get nothing. They owe me that at least."
"Yes I suppose but is that really why you want to run?"
"NO! I just can't sit back and watch that. I know it's my fault. I should have told her but I wanted her above everyone else safe. She's already risked enough for me."
"So what do you do now?"
"I don't know but I can't stay here."
"Can't or won't?"
"What's the difference at this point? I can't stay here and pretend to be happy that she chose the one that can't be trusted."
"Again can't or won't?"
"Both. I can admit that I am jealous of him but he left me too many times. He hurt her too many times. How can I just ignore all that?"
A dreamy voice said "Hello Harry."
Harry stopped dead in his tracks. "Oh Hey Luna. Are you sure you should be out here alone?"
"I'm not alone Harry, you're here too. In fact it sounds like there are two of you right now. If you're not careful, people will think you been infected by me."
Harry blushed but chuckled. "You're probably right about that."
"What's troubling you?"
"To be honest, I did everything they asked and even though I won, I lost everything that mattered. What's left for me now? What do I do now?"
"I ask myself the same question most days. I guess you're just going to have to see what else is out there."
After her vague comment, Luna just walked away but Harry thought he saw her wipe her face as she left.
It was several days later and the Harry Potter who now roamed around the castle alone and in silence was not the same one who once thought of this school as his home. The loss of Hermione added to his burden and was the thing that pushed Harry over the edge. In the past, it was always Hermione that he talked to when things were stressful only now she was constantly at Ron's side and never sought him out.
The loss of his rock caused Harry's lack of a sense of worth to flare back up and the grief over the death of his parents, Cedric, Sirius, and now Remus and Tonks was starting to overwhelm him. They were all he had left and now they were even gone. Harry was fighting the demons inside him as he started blaming himself for causing all those deaths because he wasn't strong or fast enough.
It had always been Hermione who kept these demons at bay and now he had lost her too. He knew she was in the Great Hail with everyone else but he was too afraid that their eyes would reflect accusation and blame and he wouldn't be able to handle it. They were too engaged in their own grief to help him now. They offered each other comfort and huddled together with their families but no one remembered Harry had no family of his own and he had no one left to turn to.
It amazed him that while the rest of the magical world was in shambles, the Daily Prophet was back in business after a day. The stories of the valiant and powerful Harry Potter and how he had saved them once again were sickening to him and he knew that more than before, he had to get out of here before the fans started pressing in on him. It was why he avoided everyone now as he couldn't bear the looks of hope when he had none himself. He also detested the looks of adoration for an action that he did only because he was the only one who could. An action he was never supposed to survive.
Harry Potter walked into the Great Hall under his invisibility cloak. There huddled together in grief was the majority of the wizarding world. The Weasleys were making a good show over the loss of Fred and acted as if they had lost more than anyone else. He saw her right in the middle of it already acting the part of the dutiful girlfriend.
Harry was sickened by the show. Sure he loved Fred but they lost one person and were this distraught. Harry had lost everyone and was never given comfort in those cases. Whenever he was allowed contact with the magical world once again, everyone acted as if nothing had happened and that Harry was just supposed to get over it and pretend it never happened. The only person who ever treated him any differently was Hermione. And now she was fully integrated with the sheep.
Harry wasn't an idiot and knew that once the initial shock was over; they would be clamoring for their savior once again and would try to pull him in whatever direction they felt best. Even though he hated his fame, he was smart enough to know it was time to use it before anyone could catch on to what he was doing. He made a request of Kingsley who ordered a few people in the Ministry to sort out any issues Harry might have with Gringotts.
A package was delivered this morning containing a letter announcing the results of his request. He would retain the inheritance from his parents and Sirius but the Goblins refused to do business with him again. To further stress the point that they never wanted to see him again, they arranged to transfer the vaults to the Gnomes of Switzerland with the exception of the package that had been left specifically for him. As he opened the package, he took out a few vials of what looked like memories, some keys, various documents, and a few notes from his parents
He went through everything and smiled for the first time in a long time. He finally had everything he needed to escape England. He was thrilled with some of the documents his mother had left for him and at the explanations surrounding them. She had long ago seen the stagnation that was the wizarding world and managed to convince the Potters to allow her to invest some of their money in the non magical world. They found her results amazing and gradually more money was funneled to her for investment. In the end, she had moved three fourths of their wealth from the goblins and into muggle banks where the investments had continued since her death. The results of those investments meant Harry would never have to work again in his life. The other thing he found would give him the freedom he desired along with what he felt would be a peaceful existence where he would no longer have to deal with people very often.
Harry sat back against a tree and pulled his moleskin bag from around his neck. He reached in among his most treasured possessions and pulled out the elder wand. He had long since repaired his holly wand but something told him that this wand would always be safer with him. Especially once he carried out his plans. He then gathered up his papers and put them in side as well. It wouldn't do for anyone to figure out his plan to leave them behind or how he was going to do it.
The wand went back into its hiding place and he pulled out a gift Hermione had given him back during fifth year to help calm his troubled mind. The walkman CD player had been charmed to never need batteries and had been a source of companionship for two years now. Between help from Dudley and trips to the local music store in Little Whinging, he had added to the collection she gave him and now had a CD case that had been expanded to fit the massive collection he had acquired. After flipping through the selections, he finally pulled out one of his favorites and placed it in the device.
He laid his head back against the tree as the haunting melody began and the sound of Steve Winwood's Can't Find My Way Home echoed through his head.
Harry set the player to repeat and the song kept playing over and over. The song described his feelings perfectly. He was adrift as he would no longer endure the company of Vernon and Petunia and he had no where else to go. He and Dudley had put their childhood behind them and were closer than ever. He might have been able to tolerate the Dursley's household again if Dudley was there but he knew that his cousin was just as anxious to get out as he was.
The documents he received had told a story of Potter Manor being destroyed and the cottage in Godric's Hollow now being owned by the Ministry. He opened his eyes to look at the castle but it no longer had the same feel of home to him as it did in the past. The castle was now the embodiment of the pain, death, and misery he had been subjected to over the last seven years and he didn't want or need that reminder. It was this thought that convinced him his plan was sound and was what he needed to do for himself. He rose from his place on the ground and made his way to the gates of the grounds before looking at the address on one of his papers and then turning on his heel.
He landed in Kings Cross station where the Hogwarts Express stood silently awaiting to be recalled into service. His mood was lightened just slightly as at least there was one thing that had come through the war unscathed.
Harry made his way outside and headed towards his first destination. As his plan was to disappear into the non-magical world, he decided it would be best to get a post office box for his mail. Once he had purchased his post box, he made his way to his next destination. He approached a teller at the bank indicated in his papers and requested a meeting with the bank manager. After presenting his identification and the papers to the teller, he maybe waited ten minutes before an older lady escorted him to her office.
"Mr. Potter, it seems everything is in order and we are working to set everything up in your name as well as give you the methods to access your accounts. Do you have a preferred address that we could send your cards to?"
"Yes ma'am. I just purchased a post box so we could use that. May I ask how long this will take? I am planning on leaving the country for a while would like to get started soon?"
"I think we can have everything to you in a matter of days. It would not do to allow someone of your status with our bank to be unable to access his funds."
"Thank you for your time ma'am."
"You're welcome Mr. Potter. May I ask, do you wish to alter the investments or would you rather leave them as they are? They have performed very well but there are some markets that have recently started paying handsomely."
"I really don't know. I think I would have to learn a lot more before I could make an informed decision. Who is managing it now?"
"Honestly, no one. Our instructions on this account have been to let it stand until you came in and claimed it."
"Please excuse my ignorance but are you qualified to do it?"
"No Mr. Potter. I'm sorry but I don't have enough experience with that to feel comfortable filling that role for you."
"In that case, let's just leave them as they are for now. I'll start learning more about the subject and then use my mother's investment notes to form a plan."
The meeting ended and he made his way to the last destination in his papers. He found an empty alley and turned on his heel once again and then found himself standing at Pwllheli Marina on the coast of Wales. He looked around for a few minutes before locating the office and making his way there. Once inside, he handed his ownership papers over to the receptionist who quickly set up a meeting with the site manager.
"What may I do for you Mr. Potter?"
"My parents left me papers saying that something they had left me was stored here and I would like to inquire about it and its condition."
"Aye they did, and can I say she's a real beauty. I was a young crewman here at the time and once the bank informed us about your parents' accident, we pulled her out of the water and sealed her up until the day you came to reclaim her."
"I would like to have her placed back in the water and have her modernized and updated to today's sailing standards. If it is possible, I'd like to have all licenses or anything else along those lines updated and renewed. Do you have any idea how much this would cost and if I owe anything for the time she has been in storage?"
The man chuckled "Don't worry about that. The expenses have always been paid through your mother's bank and we will just submit the bill to them as we have always done. May I ask what you intend to do with her?"
Harry smiled "I plan to make her my home as I travel a bit."
"Can you handle a ship that large?"
"Yes Sir and before you ask, I plan to take my master's license as soon as she's ready."
"Very well. I'll see to it that she is opened up and cleaned from top to bottom. May I ask when you plan on boarding her?"
"As soon as possible but I think it will be several days before I can as I still have some things to settle before I start. How long will it take your crew?"
"Well that depends. We thoroughly cleaned her before we sealed her up but she has remained that way for seventeen years. If you can give us five days, I can assure you that she will be in pristine condition and ready for you. I happen to hold a master's certificate and am fully licensed to give you the test so I can help you with that as well as you get accustomed to her."
Harry stood and held out his hand. "Thank you Mr. Donovan. I guess I'll see you in a week."
Harry returned to Hogwarts and soon found himself approaching the Headmistress' office. When he was invited in, McGonagall asked "What can I do for you Mr. Potter?"
"I have special request."
She chuckled but said "I think any reasonable request you make would be granted. How can I help you?"
"I need to use Professor Dumbledore's pensieve for a little while if that would be possible."
She smiled "The truth is Albus left it to you so it is yours for the taking."
"Thank you ma'am but I just need to borrow it for a bit. It should remain here as I don't think I will have any use for it."
Her eyes narrowed. "May I ask what you are up to? You still have a year of schooling left to finish before you can become a fully qualified wizard."
Harry thought for a minute that it would not be a good idea to reveal his plans as those remaining would do everything in their power to stop him from leaving their world. "Yes ma'am. I am aware of that. My mum left me some memories and I would like to view them. She said something about insuring my future and I would like to hear her thoughts on the matter."
Harry knew he had played the trump card when she said "Oh! Well then in that case, by all means. Lily was a meticulous planner. She even rivaled Miss Granger in that respect so you should definitely listen to what she has to say."
"Thank you Professor."
He took the pensive and made his way to the Room of Requirement. He dumped the one marked "Watch first" into the bowl and quickly followed suit. Once out, he grinned as he placed his wand into the next vial and pulled out the memory strand. This was something his mother had tested and created and was not known to the wizarding world at large. He placed his wand to his temple and muttered 'accept'. Once he had done this, the strand inserted itself into his mind.
He repeated the process nine more times with the knowledge and information his mother wanted him to have. In the end, he was wiped out and used the couch he had the room form to take a quick nap. As he slept, his mind began rearranging itself as the knowledge and skills his mother had given him started to assert itself.
By the next morning, he had occlumency barriers as well as a host of other knowledge including her investment practices. The memory strands had even started the sorting process for his thoughts and memories. According to what he learned, this would be going on for several days depending on when he actually absorbed the memories. What he found the most exciting was that he had gained his mother and fathers' knowledge and skill with sailing the boat he had just had put back in the water.
After returning the pensieve, he left the castle again and used the next few days to disappear into London where he sat in a library studying investments and any changes that may have occurred during the skip in time. By the time his debit and credit cards arrived, he was already using the banking services to change some of his investments. Some were no longer performing as well as they once had and were transferred to new investments which had a high potential of return but also a lot of risk. Harry had never played it completely safe so he just went with his gut feelings. He smiled at the thought that his mother was the same way and it was her bravery in taking risks that made her the perfect Gryffindor. The one thing he did do was unload all the stock his mother held in Grunning Drills. He absolutely refused to deal with or support his uncle in any way.
Hermione Granger was getting worried. She hadn't spoken to Harry in days and could never find him when she was allowed to leave the presence of the Weasley family. She could tell that Molly was worried about Harry as well but with the changes in relationships amongst the friends, she never said a word. It then hit Hermione that they had done it again. Harry was alone as he dealt with all the death. It had to be especially hard for him to deal with Moony and Tonks death but she also knew that Fred's would have been just as hard on him.
She got up and Ron immediately asked "Where are you going?"
"To find Harry. He's been alone this whole time dealing with all this while we just sat here."
"We've had to deal with it too. We lost Fred ya know."
"Yes Ronald, I do know. But Harry has lost everybody. Remus was the last of his parents' friends and you know Fred's death wouldn't be easy on him either."
"Then why didn't he come join us?"
It was Ginny who answered "Because you idiot, he doesn't know how to. Not to mention seeing the four of us together."
Hermione said "How could I have abandoned him again? I promised to never do that."
Ron hugged her and led her back to her seat. "He'll be alright. Harry always lands on his feet."
Ginny thought to herself that it was only because Hermione was always there to keep him from falling too badly. She knew she should do something but to react too much would put a wedge between her and Neville. Her former relationship with Harry was already a touchy subject as Neville still felt he could never measure up to Harry. She knew she was more infatuated with Harry than in love with him and she also knew that what she had with Neville was what she had been seeking the whole time. She also knew that Harry would never give her his heart. It belonged to someone else who was too blind to see it.
Harry was once again leaning against his tree and patiently waiting for the next day when he would have a home once again. He had pulled out his CD player and was relaxing to the sounds of one of his favorite artists. He thought about how he had come to like him so much and it all went back to Hermione. He smiled as the song Valerie came on and remembered how he used to sing Hermione instead of Valerie. The first time he did it was after a DA meeting in the Room of Requirement. Harry was just glad they weren't dancing close as he was sure she would have felt the pounding in his chest.
His happy thoughts were soon brushed away by the next song. It was the first song they had ever danced closely too and it held a lot of meaning for Harry. A tear ran down his cheek at the thought of how he had lost her, his everything.
Harry turned off the CD player and laid his head back. He could still hear the song playing in his head. A few minutes later he felt someone sit down beside him and take his hand. Her other hand came up to his face and wiped the tears away. He then heard the dreamy voice from his chest as she hugged herself to his body.
"I wanted to tell you goodbye before you left. You've been a good friend and I will miss you."
Harry looked at the small blond and said "How did you figure it out?"
"It's not a hard thing to do if you pay attention. I can see the pain you are in and while I may not like it, I do understand and will always be here for you if you need me."
"Thanks Luna. I'm gonna miss you too."
"Do you know where you are going?"
Harry chuckled "Everywhere."
"I think the freedom of the sea will be good for you. I hope it will be as cathartic for you as your broom."
Nothing Luna did shocked him anymore and he chuckled when she had just named his escape route. "I hope so too. I just can't do this anymore Luna. Everywhere I look, I see death. I've got to get away from it or…"
"You've already done enough of that Harry. Its time for you to finally start living. For what it's worth, I love you Harry Potter."
Harry leaned down and kissed her gently on the lips. "I love you too Luna."
She smiled up at him. "I'm sorry I'm not the one who should be here but if you ever decide to get over her, I'll be waiting."
Harry kissed her cheek again. "I'm not worth you doing that for Luna. If things change, we may see each other again and see where we both are but I doubt I'll ever be back here again."
"I hope you find what you are looking for Harry Potter."
He gave her a pained smile. "I don't see that happening. The best I can hope for now is a life of peace and tranquility. I doubt there will ever be anyone else who holds my heart the way she does and I won't stay around here and watch it."
"You could fight for her."
"I've fought enough and I won't drag her down with me. Maybe this is all for the best."
"When will you be leaving?"
"Before breakfast. I've done my part so I can do what I should have done a few years ago and made a new life for myself."
She kissed him one last time before leaving him to his thoughts. As she walked through the castle, she overheard a conversation and couldn't help listening in. She finally just walked away as she felt like Harry and didn't have the energy or desire to say anything to the one could have everything she ever wanted but was too blind to see what she really had.
That evening in the Great Hall, Hermione looked up and saw a shadow pass by the entrance. She knew it was Harry and made for the door only to see no trace of him. With a sigh, she returned to her seat and listened to the endless droning of Molly and the other adults.
The conversation then turned to Harry Potter and what they could do to get him interacting with the world again. She listened as Minerva talked about her short conversation with him the other night and how she said that he was working on his future and that it revolved around something Lily had left for him. She suddenly had a sharp pain in her chest as she realized she knew nothing about this and Harry was making plans without her. It was also obvious that whatever these plans were, they would pull him away from the magical world. It then hit her than Harry Potter was planning an escape. She should have seen it coming and would have if she had stayed by his side. The articles in the Prophet would have scared him to death as they were focused on all he had done. She knew the first thing Harry would think was that he would never be Harry and would never be left alone.
It then hit her that her choice in boyfriends had made Harry choose a new path and drove him away. She never said anything but she knew things were not the same between Harry and Ron after he had returned from abandoning him. It was obvious to her that Harry no longer trusted Ron and since she chose him, he no longer trusted her. Her heart cracked at that thought. If Harry had lost his trust in them then he had chosen a path that would lead him away from her and the rest of the magical world.
The next blow came to her emotions when Kingsley joined them in the Great Hall looking for Harry. He spoke of a deal with the Goblins that she knew nothing about. She listened intently as he said he found part of the deal troubling as the transfer of his accounts to the Gnomes of Switzerland was for far less than what was believed to be in the Potter vaults. Kingsley admitted he suspected foul play and wanted to discuss it with Harry before launching an investigation and approaching Gringotts. In the end, he had to return to his duties since no one had any idea where Harry could be and the one who did didn't offer any hints. As she sat there listening to the conversation, the knot in Hermione's stomach was growing at a fast rate. Her heart was screaming in pain at the thought of not having Harry in her life anymore.
The next morning at breakfast, everyone was surprised to see Luna sitting alone at the Ravenclaw table. When Hermione approached her, she saw the tears running down her cheeks and immediately asked what was wrong.
Luna brushed her off and then stood and walked out of the Great Hall. No one had ever seen Luna like that and they were concerned that something bad had happened. Her friends went and looked for her but she was like Harry and nowhere to be found.
When lunch time came and she slipped in to eat a bite, she was confronted by her friends. "What's wrong Luna? Please let us help you."
"How can you help when you are the problem? Not that you care but it won't do any good to look for him. He's gone."
Hermione's stomach clinched. "Who? What are you talking about?"
"Harry. He left this morning. From what I can tell, he's spent the last week preparing everything and now that it's ready, he left to find a new life."
"What is so hard to understand? Harry didn't feel like there was anything here for him anymore and he left."
"But we were here."
"Were you Hermione? You know Harry better than anyone. When he started pulling away, did you go drag him back like you've always done or did you just let him go so that you and Ginny could get some snogging time?"
She turned to Molly and said "And I'm really ashamed that you who claim to love him like your own son would allow it to happen. He just lost the last of his father's friends along with his brother and no one cared enough to ask him if he was okay. Isn't that the same thing that happened with Cedric and Sirius?"
Molly sputtered. Luna added with cold voice "Let me tell you one thing about Harry Potter. He didn't go through all he did to get revenge for his parents or Sirius or out of some ridiculous sense of duty to our world that you people tried to force on him. He doesn't give a damn about our world. The way he's been treated made sure of that. The only reason he stayed as long as he did and fought and died only to come back to fight again was for her." (She ended with her finger pointing at Hermione.)
Hermione asked "What are you talking about? Harry and I were never like that."
"Only because you were too blind to see it." She turned and looked at McGonagall and asked "Professor, out of all the students you had recently, who was the most obvious couple?"
Minerva smiled and said "I would have to say Mr. Potter and Miss Granger. Their affection for each other is legendary. They defended each other with their very lives and quite honestly, he went after the basilisk not only to try and save his best friend's sister but mainly because the creature had hurt Miss Granger. We always speculated that Mr. Potter's nobility was all that kept him from ever revealing his true feelings for Miss Granger because he knew the fate that awaited him and didn't want to add romantic feelings to the pain that Miss Granger would have to go through when it did happen."
Hermione gurgled out "He never said anything."
Luna said "Yes he did. You just never listened nor paid attention. Harry isn't like everyone else and you should know that. He expressed his feelings through his actions. His love was shown by his protectiveness and the fact that he would never turn his back on someone he cared about even when they treated him like the dirt beneath his feet."
Hermione looked at her dumbfounded. Minerva smirked and said "I would be willing to wager that Miss Granger also held her feelings back because she did not want to put any more pressure on Mr. Potter. If I could pinpoint the first time I saw it, I would say that things changed for Mr. Potter while Miss Granger was petrified in second year and Miss Granger had the same revelation at the end of third year."
Hermione asked "If you are so sure, then why didn't he ask me to the Yule Ball?"
Neville laughed "I can answer that. He was too scared to do it and by the time he got up the courage, you had already announced that you had a date."
Hermione sat down with her head in her hands as sobs began to come out of her. Ginny came around and put her arms around Hermione as Ron finally caught up to the conversation and stormed out of the Great Hall.
Molly waited until she calmed before placing her hand on Hermione's shoulder. She said "I always knew you would end up with one of my boys so I really can't complain. Now, what can we do to help you?"
Hermione shrieked "Help me what?"
Minerva answered "Help you to find your young man."
With tears running down her face, she replied "I can't right now. I was going to go find my parents and then bring them back. I can't go running after Harry right now. I've put too much on hold already for that man."
Neville asked "And hasn't he done the same for you? Didn't he jump on a troll's back and stick his wand up its nose to save you? Did you know that he never slept in his bed the whole time you were petrified? I asked him about where he was once and he told me that he cared too much for you to let you lie there alone. I was the last one standing with him at the Ministry. You never had to see his face and the utter despair that showed when you went down from that curse."
Arthur knelt in front of her and said "Hermione, if you give us the details, we can have our contacts in Australia track them down and then check on them. If needed, I will personally go and get them for you since they know me. Right now, Harry needs you and we need to know that he is okay even if he decides to leave our world. We owe him too much."
"You would do that for me?"
Arthur pulled her into a hug. "You hold the same place in our hearts as Harry does. You are part of our family."
She returned the hug with gusto. She looked to Luna and begged "Will you tell me what you know?"
"I don't know much. I know he plans on leaving by the sea and it has something to with his heritage."
Hermione sat there in thought for a minute before turning to Minerva. "The only ones who would know for sure are…"
Minerva placed her hand on Hermione's shoulder and said "Yes they would have known for sure but Lily always dreamed of having a sailboat and knowing James the way I did, he wouldn't deny her anything. He loved her that much."
Hermione rose from her seat and started out of the Great Hall. Minerva asked "Hermione, where are you going?"
She snickered and then said "To the library of course."
"Ours still hasn't been repaired."
Hermione did something very unlikely and giggled. "I know that. I meant one of the public ones. I need a computer so I can search sailboat registrations."
Arthur looked at her inquisitively and asked "You can do that?"
"Yes but I need someone who can help me get into the mindset of a Marauder. Hmm…Ginny, would you come with me?"
"Me? Why would you need me?"
"You've dealt with pranksters your whole life and you know as much or more as I do about Harry's family. I think you would be helpful in spotting possible names."
"I get that part but as far as Harry is concerned, wouldn't you fell better with someone else?"
Hermione walked over and put her arms around Ginny. "What are your feelings toward Harry?"
"I love him but not like that, not anymore. Harry needs someone special. He needs you. You just fit together and if I had been real friend, I would have seen that earlier."
Hermione snorted "Yeah, well you don't have the market cornered on blindness."
They left the grounds and apparated to London. Once in the main branch of the public library, Hermione went straight to the section with the public records and asked the attendant for assistance. Within minutes, she had Hermione set up and scrolling through the records. After about an hour, she found a record for a reactivated license that was submitted last week. When she saw the name and then showed it to Ginny, they both knew they had found him. A further search into the records showed that the owner was scheduled to be tested this week before a scheduled departure of this weekend.
As it was Monday, she knew she had a little bit of time to get some matters settled before she left with Harry. She knew she was being optimistic but she was not going to let Harry leave without her.
The evening she was leaving, Hermione received an answer to the letter she had sent to her mother. As she unfolded the letter, a credit card dropped out. In it her mother told her they were well and loved living in Australia. They has decided that since Hermione was grown now, there was really nothing holding them to England and that they were contacting their barristers and making arrangements to sell the house and the practice as they planned on staying. She urged Hermione to go by and get what ever she needed from the house before they arranged for everything to be packed up and moved. At the end, she told Hermione to go find her love while she still could and that they would always be there for her whenever she needed them. A fact she made clear with the credit card so that she could always go to visit them.
Hermione had settled things at Hogwarts and with Ron especially. Instead of the normal outburst of 'Harry always gets everything', she heard "You two have always shared something that we never did. I…I just want you to be happy so if this is something you need to do then go do it but if it doesn't work out, I'll be here waiting."
She gave him one last tender kiss before she walked out of the castle and his life. Despite his brave face, Ron was crumbling inside and was instantly supported by Luna. She said "Come on Ronald, we can commiserate with each other."
"Let's go get a butterbeer and drown our sorrows."
Hermione apparated to her parents' back yard and used her key to get into the house. Her shrunken trunk was pulled out and with a wave of her wand; clothes and books were flying from their places and were packed into her newly expanded trunk. She took a stroll through the house to see if there was anything else she wanted as well as taking one last look around at what remained of her childhood. She had no tears as she learned that life was constantly changing. The only difference was that this new adventure with Harry would hopefully last a lifetime.
With the packing done, she shrunk her trunk and slipped it into the pocket of the shorts she was wearing. She locked the door on her way out and with one last glance at her former life, she turned on her heel and once again apparated into the unknown. She appeared in a secluded area outside the marina and made her way to the gate.
The guard asked "Hello young lady, may I ask your business here today?"
"Yes Sir, I was looking for Harry Potter. I was told he was here on board the Prankster's Lady."
"Yes ma'am that he is but I'm afraid you may in for a little wait."
She deflated "Please tell me he hasn't already left. I thought he wasn't leaving until the weekend."
The man smiled and said "Oh no my dear, he's out with Mr. Donovan. They are doing a master's testing and shakedown at the same time. The lovely lady has been in storage for a long time and we need to make sure she is seaworthy before he sets off."
"Oh thank goodness. I really needed to talk to him before he left."
"Mr. Potter doesn't talk much but I can tell from the look in his eye that someone hurt him. I hope it wasn't such a lovely young lady as you."
She frowned "It was but not intentionally. I was hoping to get a chance to make it right with him."
He looked at her for minute before saying "Slip 60. There are some chairs down there you can relax in while you wait."
She was sitting there for a while before she saw a beautiful sailboat coming into the harbor. The hull was long and sleek looking and painted a deep blue with red and gold striping. She had never studied or read up on sailboats but from what she saw, the sailboat appeared to be fashioned along the lines of some of the racing boats she had seen in movies. Leave it to James to buy a racing boat but the more she thought about it, it suited Lily's competitive spirit to have such a thing. As she thought about the name of the boat, she couldn't decide if it referred to Lily or the boat. She was sure that James would be as taken with it as Lily if he was as much like Harry as everyone said.
As the boat slipped into its berth, she overheard the conversation from on board. At first it an unfamiliar voice "I don't know Harry. I thought I heard a loud pop on that last tack. The wooden masts are good but the new aluminum ones are much better and lighter as well. I'd feel much better knowing that you have a good one."
Harry laughed "Alright Jason. How long will it take to get one? I'd like to leave Saturday if you pass me."
She heard another laugh "That's a good one. I'd pass you now if I could get away with it. You're a natural just like your mother but regulations have to be followed which means you'll have to drive me around another ten hours before I can sign off on it."
"Yeah, you just like riding around sitting on your ass drinking beer while I do all the work."
Jason laughed again "How else you gonna learn anything?"
"Thought you said I was a natural."
"Regulations and all that you know. Anyway, I've got a mast the right size since ordered it the other day when you arrived. I saw that same glint in your mum's eyes and knew you would be making her dance just like Lily did. I'll send the boys down to pull this one and then install the new one. It shouldn't take long if you have the rigging down already. If you do that, I'll even have them help you put it back on."
"Alright, I'll get to it. Hey, is there an electronics shop in town? I want to add a CD player to the sound system."
"Don't bother, I ordered that too the last time you said something about it. It should be here already. If it is, I'll send it down with the boys."
Jason Donovan jumped down from the deck to the dock and started walking towards the offices when he saw Hermione standing there. With a smirk, he yelled "Hey Harry, I think you got company."
He turned to her and said "If you are the one I think you are, don't you dare step off that boat until he listens to you."
She nodded as she looked up and caught Harry's eye. They held gazes for a minute before her eyes wandered down his bare chest and strong legs that were sticking out under a pair of khaki shorts.
"You might as well come onboard but if you try anything, I swear I'll dump you over the side myself."
She started to climb on board when Harry held out his hand to her. Before she could grasp it, he asked "Are you here to take me back? Do you have any portkeys on you?"
She looked him in the eyes and said "No Harry, I just came here to talk."
He reached out and pulled her on board. She looked around and said "This is a beautiful boat Harry."
She could see the excitement in his eyes as he spoke. "Yeah she is isn't she? I still can't believe Mum and Dad left her for me. It's actually good that they did since the Potter houses were all destroyed. This is the only place I have left unless I want to rebuild and I'm not sure that's what I really want right now. Come on, let me show you around and then we can settle down to talk."
He walked her around the deck of the boat before taking her below. The boat was designed with a master's bedroom along with a smaller bedroom. When she commented on it, Harry told her that Dad had it customized for them and that the smaller bedroom was intended for him. According to what Jason had told him, the boat had only been sailed once before the accident. He went on to explain everything he knew about the boat saying it was built in the style of a classic yacht which is why it had the lines of a racer. She was also very stable and fast even in rough seas. She sat there stunned as he just went on and on about what obviously had become a passion for him.
She finally asked "Harry, where did all this come from? I mean, as long as I've known you, you've never said anything about sailing and you've always maintained that you've never even seen the sea except that one time before first year."
Harry laughed "Well, to be quite honest, you're right. Mum left me something special in where she gave me all hers and dad's knowledge about sailing along with several other subjects. She planned for a future in both worlds for me. As far as I'm concerned, I'm trading my Firebolt for this even though I'll keep it handy in case of trouble."
"So you're just leaving?"
Harry sighed "What choice do I have now Hermione? I can never be normal in that world again. Everywhere I go, I'll have gawkers and other people trying to hang on for whatever they can get from me. Hell Hermione, you've been with me for seven years now. Surely you've seen it."
"I guess when I stop and think back, I can see your point. The only thing is, we need you back there Harry. You give everyone hope."
Harry stood and started pacing. "Okay fine, I give them hope. What do they give me? The only thing I can think of is a headache and a bad case of paranoia. I should have left after Sirius died but I couldn't and now that doesn't even matter anymore."
"But you have a duty there."
"I DID MY DUTY HERMIONE! I don't owe them a damn thing anymore. They have controlled my life long enough."
"What about your education? You'll need it to get a good job."
Harry started laughing and walked over to a cabinet where he pulled out a small fire safe. "I've taken my OWLS and have fulfilled the requirement. If I want to learn more then I will. As far as a job (He pulled out a bank statement.) I really don't need one. As far as I see it, my job will be managing my investments. I don't plan to live extravagantly so it shouldn't be too hard to make my assets grow."
Hermione read the statement and her eyes widened at the balance. "That's a lot of money Harry."
Harry chuckled "That's just one of the smaller accounts. Most is tied up in investments and the rest is sitting in Switzerland with the Gnomes."
She forced a smile and said. "That's nice Harry. I'm happy for you."
"Come back up on deck, I've got to get that rigging down before the crew shows up and it'll give you time to come up with your next argument."
As she followed him, she noticed how light he seemed compared to last week and how his skin had taken on a healthier shade by being out in the sun. "I hate to admit it Harry but this life does seem to agree with you."
"Why shouldn't it? No pressure to save the world. No one wanting anything from me. I can just be me."
"Won't you get lonely?"
"Yeah, I guess I will but life at the Dursleys left me well prepared to be on my own. I guess it comes down to the fact that we've all got our own lives to lead and choices to make so it was coming eventually anyway."
It was about this time that the crew showed up and started taking down the mast, it was interesting for Hermione to watch as they were quickly swapped out and then Harry was helping them reattach everything. A few minutes later and another of the crew climbed out of the cabin and said "CD player is in Cap'n Sparrow, I just added it as another component since a lot of people still got cassettes."
"Thanks Sloth. Thanks guys, you think this will make much of a difference?"
The crew leader said "The way you drive this thing, you was gonna snap the mast one day."
Hermione asked "Is he that bad of a driver?"
"No ma'am but he should be a racer with some of the tactics he pulls. It was almost like he knows what the wind is gonna do and just ends up attacking the whole time. Craziest thing I've ever seen. Mr. Donovan said it was better than a roller coaster."
She smiled and said "He was like that at home too. He did all kinds of crazy things that scared us mere mortals half to death."
Another said "Yeah, the last of the pirates he is."
Hermione started laughing at that statement as the guys headed back to the shop. Harry got up and went downstairs and not a minute later, music was being piped through the speakers in the deck's seating area and she smiled as she heard songs that she was intimately familiar with. When Harry returned, he was carrying two cans of Foster's. As he sat down, he handed her one. As he took a sip, she could see him relaxing to the music.
She said "You already look like you're living island life. What's next? Jimmy Buffett and Margaritaville?
"Maybe. It would be a damn site more peaceful than the life I've led up till now. I've known you for too long Mi. Why did you really come here?"
"To talk like I said. I couldn't let you get away without a goodbye and at least a reason for disappearing."
"What does it matter? I'm gone now and you won't have me interfering with your life anymore. You and Ron can live in peace and Ginny won't have to worry about whether she's hurt me and can finally have someone who will give her the attention she deserves. I'm damaged Mi. I will never be normal so I'm going away so I won't drag any of you down with me."
She huffed "You are no more damaged than the rest of us. As far as Ginny, she knows she couldn't be what you needed either."
"That still leaves me as a hanger on for you and Ron."
"You forget who you're talking to. You know I can read you just as well as you can read me. I want you to tell me the real reason why you left and then I'll tell you the real reason why I'm here."
"Okay, you want the truth? I'll give it to you but you may not like it."
"Harry, I've been with you for seven years. There is nothing you can say to me that will change the way I feel about you."
Harry sat there for a few minutes. "The truth is that I couldn't stand seeing you and Ron together."
She smiled "Why?"
"Because I don't trust him to do right by you. You don't belong with him and should be with me. I've loved you since second year and I never said anything because of Tom and the stupid war. I couldn't allow you to tie yourself to someone who was going to die. Don't you remember last year?"
"How could I forget the stupidest thing I ever did? Harry, I convinced myself that you were going to die and the only way I could survive it is if I pushed you away. It was stupid and there's no way I can apologize to you enough for it."
"Why should you apologize? I've treated you poorly since day one."
"Yes, we had our little moments but you always made up for them. I may not have seen it before but after having my eyes opened, it is quite clear to me that you have always showed me how you felt. I figured out your childhood a long time ago and I knew you were emotionally stunted but never have I thought you didn't care. I just never really saw that you showed your feelings through your actions. Maybe it was my own insecurities coming into play. So what happened to decide on this?"
Harry sighed "It was always my plan to tell you how I felt once I had dealt with Tom. At the moment when everything I was trying to accomplish was done, I turned around and you were kissing Ron. It was then that I realized that I had waited too long and if you were happy then I was happy for you but that didn't mean I wanted to stay around and watch. I started making plans."
"Plans which included leaving me behind?"
"You are with Ron. I was not about to interfere. Remember when you cried for weeks after he left?"
"Remember how we danced and laughed? I ended it with Ron before I came here."
"Because, I've loved you since the first time we met but even more so after we saved Sirius that night."
Harry rubbed the back of his head. He looked over at her and asked "Is this a plot to get me to come back?"
"Not at all as this is a whole different kind of plot. This plot sees you taking me with you."
He looked up at her wide eyed. "What about school?"
"What about it? We can self study and take the NEWTS later if we decide to. Harry, I love you and I figured out something."
"My life has no meaning without you in it. I think the reason we are stuck on this one CD is because it's been speaking to us the whole time but we wouldn't listen. I've got an idea."
She stood and reached out for his hand. As she pulled him to his feet, she led him below the deck and said "Lock the door Harry. It's time we found our way home."
The two young adults were at first shy and nervous to take their relationship to the next stage. Both being virgins, their first time was extremely awkward but had improved by the morning and their third attempt. They fell asleep snuggled in each others arms and for the first time in their lives, they knew they were exactly where they should be.
Morning came early as Jason came by and told Harry that they would be going out after lunch. Harry got up and made them breakfast as he thought of last night and how peaceful he felt. When Hermione climbed out of bed, she pulled on one of his shirts and made her way into the galley where she wrapped her arms around his waist.
"Will you marry me?"
"Shouldn't I be asking you?"
"Well, I kind of instigated this and I wouldn't want you to think I was going to take advantage of you then leave. I wouldn't want you to think me one of the fan girls like Romilda who was plotting to trap you with a love child."
Harry chuckled. "I won't have to become Mr. Granger will I?"
"Nice idea but no. I've got my heart set on being Mrs. Potter."
"Well, I would hate to deny such a beautiful young woman who makes my shirt look that good."
"I'm sure we could go into town and find a magistrate. No sense in alerting the whole world."
You don't want a big wedding?"
"As long as I say I do to you and vice versa, I'll be happy."
"What about your parents?"
"Well, they already gave me permissions as long as it wasn't with that Weasel boy."
Harry laughed "Your parents are smart people. You should listen to them."
"I'm here aren't I?"
The next few days became a flurry of activity as Hermione made lists of things they needed to do before leaving and then dragged him off to get them accomplished. The morning after there first night together saw them speaking to the magistrate in town as well as updating her passport. When she turned to look at him and ask if he had even thought about it, he pulled his out and gave her a smirk. They walked to an alley and apparated to his bank where Harry had her added to the account.
Once that was done, they were in a mall once she had determined that she did not have clothes suited for boat life as well as bathing suits that fit anymore. Harry had to endure a glare from her when he suggested she didn't need clothes on the boat and just settled down and let her go. He had to smile as she went about buying whatever she thought they needed. She wasn't about to let her husband go about life looking like a bum. The trip to the mall wasn't complete without a trip to the book store for Hermione to buy everything they had on sailing.
That afternoon, Hermione was sitting with Jason as Harry took pulled the boat out of the slip and headed out to see. Harry had to hide his amusement as Hermione was asking a million question at an astounding rate. When they got into open sea and Harry started cutting loose, he was surprised to see Hermione enjoying every minute of it. When he gave her a questioning glance, she replied "It's not a broom and if I fall off, the landing won't be so hard."
Minerva McGonagall was sitting at her place at the head table during dinner on Saturday evening when an owl landed before her and held out his leg. When she removed the letter, she recognized the handwriting and quickly tore open the envelope. A grin formed on her face as she read.
Dear Professor McGonagall,
I regret to inform you that I will not be attending Hogwarts during the next session as my husband and I have decided to pursue our NEWTS through self study at this point. We both wanted to thank you for all you have done for us over the years.
After a long and painful negotiation, Harry bowed to my wishes and agreed to marry me. I have chosen to agree to the self imposed exile after he convinced me his reasons for leaving were justified. As I listened to his reasons, I found myself agreeing that he would never be able to live his own life in England and therefore would never truly be happy. I have thought about this over the last few days and realized that Harry is a creature of the air and as such, needs to be free to move unencumbered. The demands our society was placing on him would have been more successful than Tom was in killing him.
Harry has informed me that I have a unique opportunity in front of me as I will be free to pursue academic interests to my hearts' content as we travel the world. After participating in a war based on blood purity, I find it hilarious that Lily Potter had the intelligence and drive to move the Potters from a moderately wealthy family to an incredibly wealthy family. I find the legacy she left me to be somewhat overwhelming but plan to follow in her footsteps and make an equally great contribution to the Potter family. In that regard, I have to agree with my husband that together we can accomplish anything.
From the discussions I shared with you over the years during our Sunday tea, I know you grew up near the sea and will be able to appreciate this little tidbit. The Prankster's Lady is a fifty-seven foot traditional yacht that has sleek running lines and according to my husband can make ten plus knots with good wind. At present, we are loading her to begin our new adventure and life together...
Our first destination will eventually lead us to my parents but our course is undecided as there are so many places to see and so much to learn. Harry is laughing at my excitement and being very vague. I think he knows which way he plans on taking us but is keeping very quiet about it. He said something about the groom was supposed to surprise the bride with the destination so I guess I'll just have to trust in him.
With Love and Respect and Best Wished for the Future,
Hermione Jane Potter
PS: It has such a nice ring to it doesn't it.
Minerva had tears of happiness running down her face when she finished the letter. She rose and faced the people in the Great Hall who all grew concerned at the tears on her face.
"I have an announcement to make. Hermione found Harry and well, she asked him to marry her. According to her, they were married yesterday and have left for their honeymoon."