AN: I had thought of splitting this chapter into two different ones but rather decided that 10 was a good number to end the story on. For those of you that dislike long chapters, my apologies in advance.
. . .
The first couple of days Hermione had been understanding and remained hopeful, even optimistic. The next stage, which lasted several days as well, she had been angered. The timing was actually fairly advantageous and highly beneficial as TASS was working to clean up the remaining SOS members that had been left behind in the wake of Davis' demise. The fact that they were unable to locate the SOS member responsible for nearly killing Jess only fueled her boiling temper. People learned to quickly find some other place to be when they saw her walking through the halls rather than risk her sharp tongue.
Chief Inspector Edward Barns had to finally call the witch into his office, telling her that she had exactly five minutes to get out of his sight as well as out of the building or she would being spending the next week within a Ministry containment cell. A number of other department heads had already contacted him about their people being chewed out or having their heads bit off by the irate woman stalking the hallways. While Ed Barns may not know what exactly what the cause of Hermione's wrath was, he hadn't gotten to where he was without being able to tell when a break was needed for one of his people.
Hermione toddled down the stairs from her bedroom at the Wilkins house, still in her pajamas and with her hair pulled back into a loose ponytail. It was the third day of her forced two week vacation assigned to her by her boss. The young witch's anger had finally burned itself out only to be replaced by dejection, which was ever so slowly giving way to acceptance. Replaying the events over and over within her head didn't seem to help, as it just left her as confused as she had been before.
It had already been ten days since the last time she had seen Harry and twelve since he had told her that he loved her. So why? Why did he leave? Being one of the brightest witches of her age she did not like to not understand something, especially when that something involved herself. Making her way to the couch, she sat and curled her legs beneath her, before pulling the afghan laying there over her lower extremities, just as she had done the previous day and would probably do tomorrow.
So he had to return with Smith and Willis, she tried to reason it out to herself, just as she had done several time previously. That still doesn't explain why he couldn't have come himself and say goodbye? Hermione's mind returned to the last time she had seen the Hit Wizard. Harry had been severally injured and probably couldn't get out of bed, she reminded herself, realizing they must have had to transport him back to the States. Still, he could have at least sent word or had someone else do it if he wasn't able to!
There in was the crux of the matter as she saw it. She really didn't know what was going on and the not knowing was eating away at her. Lost in thought Hermione absently began to chew upon her lower lip. Harry did say he loved me, she pondered that fact as she continued to nibble. There had been several times now, their occurrence happening more frequently as the days passed without word from Harry, where she began to doubt what he had imparted to her. Perhaps I heard him wrong or misinterpreted his meaning, she would tell herself.
No, Hermione thought with a slight shake of her head. Harry told me that he loved me and had for some time. He may be several things but Harry has never been one to saying something like that without meaning it. The Harry I knew wouldn't have lied to me! Though the witch could tell herself this is was becoming increasingly hard to believe in her thoughts. But is he still the Harry that I knew?, she asked herself.
Monica Wilkins walked into the living room carrying a hot cup of tea which she placed on the end table next to her daughter before taking a seat in the armchair near at hand. Turning her eyes towards the young woman seated on the couch she saw Hermione's head give a small shake as if she was denying something that only she knew of. A gentle disapproving smile graced the older woman's lips as she saw Hermione was once again chewing upon her lower lip. "Please stop chewing on your lip, Dear" she scolded gently.
"Sorry, Mum," came the automatic response from the young woman who was to lost in her own thoughts to pay much attention to anything else.
"I guess there are just some habits that can't be broken," Hermione's mother stated wistfully, with a soft sigh of disappointment. "Lord knows you've done it ever since you were a little child."
"Was she chewing on her lip again?" Hermione's father asked with a humorous twinkle in his eyes as he entered the room from the kitchen carrying a tray with a small tea pot and settings for him and his wife. "Nasty habit that," he agreed upon sitting the tray down gently. "How do expect a man to kiss you if your lips are all chewed up, Dear?" Nigel Granger teased Hermione. "Maybe she picked it up from one of the other children in primary school?" he asked, looking towards his wife.
"It's not that bad of a habit!" Hermione replied defensively while looking plaintively at them both. The young witch none the less stopped chewing on her lip. Her parents, for as long as she could recall had pestered her to stop chewing on her lip. The truth of the matter was that she never actually realized that she was doing it till one of them pointed it out to her. Not being something done intentionally made it all the harder of a habit to break. Hermione opened her mouth to defend herself when realization fell on her like a ton of bricks. "What did you say?" she asked looking at her father in disbelief.
"I said you probably picked it up from one of the kids at your primary school," he replied with a soft smile at the dawning look upon his daughter's face.
"How…how would you know about my primary school?" Hermione asked in utter confusion.
"Why we are your parents, Hermione dear," Abigail Granger replied to her daughter's question. "I should think we would recall something like that."
Hermione turned towards her mother only to see the elder Granger smiling brightly with watery brown eyes. "You've got your memories back?" Hermione asked in the barest of whispers. "But how?" Not waiting for an answer, the young witch launched herself across the small distance and into her mother's expectant arms. It wasn't but a moment more before she felt her father's arms wrap around the two of them from behind her in what then became a family hug. It was some time and many tears later before they were all once again seated, though this time Hermione found herself in the middle of the couch with a parent on either side of her. "How…how did this happen?" Hermione asked once again as she struggled to reign in her emotions and happiness at having her parents back.
"It was the strangest thing," Nigel Granger answered. "That young man of yours, the one from before, showed up just as your Mum and I was sitting down for breakfast. The next thing I knew I couldn't move and then…," the witch's father had to blink a few times and clear his throat before he could continue, "well, I'm not certain what happened next to tell you the truth. I felt a pain in the back of my head as if I had just awaken from spending the better part of the night down at the local pub and had three too many pints to boot. Then just like that it was gone and I suddenly remembered I had a beautiful daughter that was a witch," Nigel chuckled in a slightly disbelieving tone as his eyes sprung a small leak. "I think it was more of a shock this time around than before. At least then we knew there was something different about you due to all the happenings when you were a little one."
"You're…not mad at me are you?" Hermione asked hesitantly, glance between her parents apprehensively. She had always feared that when she found her parents and restored their memories that they would be furious with her for what she had done to them without their consent.
"Your young gentlemen explained it to us," Abigail replied, giving her daughter's hand a gentle squeeze. "I can't say I'm thrilled with what you did Dear, but we're alive and I'm certain you did what you thought you had to."
"I thought I had lost you guys forever," Hermione confessed as she turned into her mother's shoulder only to feel the older woman's arm slip around her and hold her protectively in a loving embrace, rocking her back and forth ever so slightly. Nigel stood and slipped out of the room and into the kitchen for a second to allow the two women a moment of privacy. "Wait!" Hermione exclaimed, sitting back to eye her mother intensely, "You said it was the same man from before?"
Abigail nodded slowly, "Yes Dear. It was your friend Harry," she confirmed before her expression changed to one of concern tinged with sorrow. "Are you certain the poor boy is eating correctly? He looked terrible pale and thin."
"Harry was here?" Hermione asked, once again in utter belief. Seems to be my mode of operation for the day, she thought absently to herself.
"I doubt it could have been anyone else," Nigel replied as he walked back into the room carrying a gift wrapped box in his hands. "I can't imagine many others with a scar such as that as well as that eye patch!"
"The poor boy," Abigail added, agreeing with her husband. "I don't even want to think about what might have befallen him to cause that scar and the loss of his eye," she said with a slight shudder.
Nigel simply nodded in agreement before thrusting out the box towards Hermione. "Here you are, Dear."
"What's this?" Hermione asked as she set the box down upon the coffee table and stared at the big red bow on the top of it. Tucked under the bow and the ribbon that surrounded the box was an envelope with her name written on it.
"We've been sort of wondering as well," Nigel confessed with a small chuckle. "He asked that we give it to you when you woke up."
Hermione slowly reached out and retrieved the envelope from its resting place. Opening it she slipped out the single piece of folded parchment and read it.
I hope you are not mad with me. I wanted to get you something special and thought what could be more special than your parents? As it was for you, I was certain there would be no problem removing the memory charms. I have faith that had you attempted it you would have accomplished the same results I did. There is nothing you can't do when you put that fabulous mind of yours to it. I'll explain to them as best I can about the war, Voldemort and what happened back in England.
The first item in the box is for you. Being the bright witch that you are I'm certain you'll know what to do with it. The second item is for your parents, though you may enjoy it as well. At least I hope so. If you are not too angry with me I would love the pleasure of your company tonight at 9 please. Dress in what we muggles would equate to 'Formal Attire', please.
Hermione's brows creased in confusion as she turned the short letter over to see if there was anything on the backside of it or not only to see that it was blank. Carefully refolding the letter she set it aside before turning and untying the red ribbon. Gingerly the young witch wiggled the lid off the square box and peeked inside. What the?, was her first thought as she reached in and drew out the item.
The Grangers glances at each other for a moment before Nigel asked the question they were both thinking. "A basketball?"
Sudden understanding dawned upon the witch as she recalled the last time she had seen a basketball. It must be a portkey that will activate tonight at nine o'clock to take me to wherever Harry is, she silently reasoned. Hermione tossed the ball up slightly before letting it settle in the palm of her hand once again. "It's a little inside joke from Harry," she explained to her parents, "So that I'll know it is really from him."
"There's something else in there," Mr. Granger stated as he was leaning over the top of the box and peered down into it.
Hermione set the ball aside, uncertain just yet if she was going to go or not. He's left me hanging all this time without even a peep and then all of sudden he expects me to drop everything and meet him, she growled to herself silently. And he expects me to dress up as well! Reaching into the box she extracted the last item which increased in size and thickness as soon as it left the top of the container.
It was a book, bound in expensive dark brown leather. In brass letters on the front of the book was her name 'Hermione'. The letters, she could tell, were tarnished as well as slightly worn as if someone had brushed their fingertips across them countless times. Being no stranger to books, it was apparent to Hermione that whoever had owned this book had taken care of it much as someone would a treasured possession. Though the edges and corners showed signs of repeated use, as well as slight wear, it was over all in wonderful condition.
The rectangular book was larger than the box itself, which accounted for the fact that it had expanded once past the top of the box the way it had, she reasoned. Hermione didn't even notice her parents take seats, flanking her closely on either side, as she opened the front cover to reveal the first page. The initial page held a wizarding photo in that the occupant of the image actually moved. Hermione's breath caught in her throat as she suddenly recognized the image.
"Hermione, Dear. Is that you?" the witch's father asked as he peered at the small girl with bushy brown hair that walked up to a door and after sliding it open began to speak.
"Turn it up, dear," Nigel suggested. "I can't hear what you're saying."
There is no sound, Dad," Hermione informed him of, drawing a disappointed frown from the man. Hermione didn't need sound to know what the girl in the image was saying "Have either of you seen a toad? Apparently a boy named Neville has lost his," she repeated softly in time with the image. It was the first time she had meet Ron and Harry on the Hogwarts Express at the start of her first year.
Turning the page there was an image showing her seated upon a stool with the Sorting Hat upon her head. "That was the Sorting Hat in my first year," she explained to her parents as she reached out and gently touched the surface of the image causing her younger self to laugh and shy away from her finger tip. "It wasn't certain if it should place me in Ravenclaw or not but finally settled on Gryffindor," she told them both as she removed her hand from the image.
The next several pages held images of Hermione in her many classes at Hogwarts. The young witch pointed out the various teachers, allowing her parents to finally place faces to names they had until then only heard of in letters. Professor Dumbledore, his eyes twinkling merrily, was giving a speech in the great hall before all the students. Professor McGonagall, Hermione's head of house, leapt from her desk and transformed from a tabby feline to a human right before a gobsmacked Ronald Weasley.
As she flipped through her first year, pausing long enough to show her parents what a mountain troll, unconscious upon the girls' bathroom floor looked like, she couldn't help but be touched. Second year flew past with an assortment images of her including her seated in the stands for a Quidditch match and many of her with her head buried in a one large tome or another in the library. These were all taken as profile shots as if whoever had taken them had been right there with her and had simply glanced over, capturing the moment in time.
Turning the page towards the end of her second year Hermione suddenly felt as if she had been kicked in the chest. Her breath froze in her lungs and it was as if she had forgotten how to breathe. The page before her eyes had far more considerable wear than any of the previous ones or ones to come she would soon discover. There were spots that looked surprisingly as if someone had allowed water to drip upon the page, which was in stark contrast to all the other pages. They look like tear drops marks, a back corner of her mind speculated. It was not the condition of the page itself that had stolen her breath but rather the image on the page.
I've seen this before, she thought even as she recalled it was the very same image that Sara had shown to her. It's Harry's reason for continuing on! The image before her showed the large wooden double doors of the Great Hall of Hogwarts. As she watch, one of the doors opened and a much shorter as well as younger version of herself stepped through them. That must have been directly after Madam Pomfrey released from the infirmary after I had been petrified.
The young witch's eyes in the photo seemed to scan the room, as if looking for something or someone, before zeroing in on one person in particular. Even as TASS agent watched she saw her younger self run across the intervening space, bushy hair blowing behind her in the wake of her passage, and launch herself into the arms of none other than her best friend, Harry Potter.
"Oh, Harry," Hermione breathed softly, unaware of having spoken aloud or of the amount of love in her voice as she did so. In the photo before her the smile on Harry's face was one that she had never seen before. It was filled with such joy and happiness that it nearly brought the now twenty-eight year old witch to tears just seeing it. The stunned witch felt her mother's arm slip around her shoulders supportively.
"I think he may have started loving you right at that moment, Dear," Abigail said thoughtfully, turning to watch the scene play out once again.
"I…I never realized," Hermione replied slowly, unable to take her eyes from the image and Harry's smile as the two of them hugged each other there in the middle of the Great Hall in front of everyone at Hogwarts in their second year. "I…I never knew," she mumbled, echoing again what she had told Sara that night in the hospital room.
Eventually Nigel had to reach out and turn the page for he feared that his daughter would never be able to do so. At least not on her own. The majority of the day was spent going through the remaining years at Hogwarts as well as their hunt for the Horcruxs, accumulating with the final defeat of Voldemort. There were several pages with images of the different funerals they had attended before they came to an image Hermione recalled all too well.
"That is the plane that I boarded to fly from London to Perth," she told her parents. "Harry and Ron were both there to see me off. I thought I would just be gone for a week or so and then be back and we'd all be together like old times," Hermione confessed with a sad chuckle at her naivety. Turning the page it showed a photo of her disembarking a different plane. "That's me arriving here at Sydney," Hermione explained only to pause. "How would Harry have that image?" she mumbled to herself.
Quickly looking through the next several images they showed various scenes from the first two years when she was hunting for her parents. There was even an image of when she had final found the Wilkins. Hermione turned the page in disbelief, wondering how Harry had gotten the photos only to pause yet once again. The image was of her and Jess. Her blonde friend Jess was seated in a booth with her 'pursuit of the week' date beside her and next to Jess Hermione saw herself. She was seated next to one of the guys that had gone through training with them. From the looks of it they were at a club celebrating. In the image she could see herself laughing and having a good time as she casually slung her leg over the leg of the guy next to her.
"David," Hermione said, recalling the man's name. It wasn't really that hard to do as he would be the one she lost her virginity to later that night. You never forget your first, she thought to herself only to quickly follow it up with, no matter how much you wish you could!
"Who is the bloke with the military style haircut and his arm draped around you?" Nigel asked curiously.
"No one of importance," Hermione replied honestly as she hastily turned the page. The remaining photos covered her graduation from training as well as the years she had spent working her way up through the ranks of Magical Law Enforcement. Once the pictures ran out there were numerous newspaper clippings and articles which all pertained to her. How did he get these?, she wondered for about the hundredth time since opening the book. There are photos in here that I know for a fact there were no cameras around for! Hell our first meeting on the Express it was just the three of us! Hermione tried to puzzle it all out but couldn't figure out how Harry could possibly have some of the images. He wasn't even there for the ones that took place here in Australia!
With a resigned sigh the only witch in the room closed the book and set it aside before rising to her feet. "If I'm going to see him, I had best get ready," she told her parents. I guess the only way I'm going to get the answers I need is to play along and meet him tonight. Hermione couldn't help but wonder if Harry had actually planned it that way. Turning she gave her father and mother brief hugs and a peck upon the cheek. "I'll probably be home late so don't wait up for me," she said over her shoulder as she started up the stairs so she could get dolled up. Damn, when was the last time I shaved?
The man sat at the airport in Perth and fingered the slip of paper in his hand once again, reading the words and information printed on the boarding pass. It was still another hour till they would begin the boarding process of the British Airways flight scheduled for non-stop service to London. It will be good to be back home finally, Bernard thought to himself. It had been far longer than he cared to recall since last he was there, having left when Trent Davis had.
Glancing about, he scowled in displeasure at all the Muggles rushing from place to place like disgusting cockroaches. The man detested using any Muggle means of transportation almost as much as he detested the Muggles themselves. "No pureblood would be caught dead associating with Muggles," he grumbled softly under his breath as if repeating a mantra. Of course this was the very reason he was there after all. No one will be looking for me here.
As the time ticketed away, the fugitive kept an eye out for anyone that might possibly be with the Australian Magical Law Enforcement. When they announced that they begin boarding in just a few moments Bernard realized that he had outsmarted them yet once again. "Ignorant Half-bloods and worthless mud-bloods!" he grunted as he got to his feet and made his way to the nearest loo.
Bernard smiled to himself at his own luck as the men's loo was apparently empty, which was a rarity at airports. A fact he had learned while traveling with Davis, who had thought that they needed to be able to blend in with the muggles and hence had used their modes of transportation frequently. An ice cold chill traversed the man's spine while he was in the midst of doing his business, as the tip of a wand touched him upon the back of his neck.
"Hello Bernard," Harry greeted the SOS member with. "It's amazing what a few low powered Muggle Repellant charms can accomplish isn't it?" Harry chuckled though his tone help very little humor to it. "Now I believe there was a certain question about if the Cruciatus Curse, applied in short burst could kill a man, and if so just how long would it take?" Bernard opened his mouth to say something but instead heard the last thing he ever wanted to hear from Harry, "Stupefy!"
Hermione stood and looked in the full length mirror that hung upon the back of her closet door. What she saw was a woman with a nice figure, long of leg, slender of hip but with enough curve to be almost called shapely. A flat stomach beneath more than an ample bust line, certain to draw a few stares as well as a couple of double takes on occasions. The black lacy pushup bra she had on wasn't really needed, but certainly added a little extra something to the overall image.
The little black dress she wore was formfitting and hugged her body in all the right places as it stretched to nearly the floor. Unlike the black one-piece suit she had worn to rescue Harry, her dress did not fit like a second skin but rather in such a manner as to draw a man's attention and then keep him guessing as to the possible forbidden treasure that was certainly just beneath its fabric. Hermione had bought the thing a while ago at Jess' urging, but had never really found the right opportunity to wear it, till now. The slit up the left side allowed a goodly amount of shapely leg to peek out as she turned to see how her bum looked in the mirror.
Leave me alone and wondering for nearly two weeks, the young woman seethed silently to herself as she turned to regard her other side in the mirror as well. I'll let him see just what he's been missing, she planned with an evil smirk. "Maybe then he'll be a little more considerate of how I feel!" she said aloud to herself. For the moment she allowed her bravado to carry her forward with her preparations for the evening.
In truth, the witch's mind was in turmoil. All during the time she busied herself with getting ready, she had puzzled over the photo album and as yet hadn't come to any satisfactory conclusion to the conundrum. It just wasn't possible for Harry, who lived under close supervision thousands of miles away, to have photos of those events. Even as a small child she had never liked not knowing something. It vexed her as nearly nothing else in the world could. One way or another she planned to get answers to her questions tonight.
At precisely 9 o'clock she felt the sensation of a hook pulling her just behind her navel and she couldn't breathe. It seemed to go on for far longer than it should have to deliver her to the basketball court behind the school. When the portkey finally did release her she couldn't keep herself from staggering, only to be steadied by a strong arm around her waist.
"Alright there, Granger?" Harry asked humorously as he caught her with one arm and waited the second it took for her to gain her balance before he released her. He hated magical travel, having spent far too much time on his arse or picking himself up off the floor due to it. Still he wasn't above finding humor in others who reminded him of himself. The fact that she was his friend and dressed to the hilt certainly didn't hurt either. Harry found it very difficult to take his eyes off of his best friend.
"I'm fine, Potter!" Hermione spat out a tad bit harsher than she had initially intended to. She, like most people, didn't like making a fool of themselves, especially in front of the person they loved. "Sorry," she quickly added abashedly as she took in the black tuxedo he was wearing, thinking that he still cleaned up very nicely. "It's been an interesting day," she offered in way of excuse to which he simply gave a brief nod of understanding. It wasn't often that you got your parents back after all. "Where are we, Harry?" Hermione finally asked as she looked about at the furnishing, having taken longer than she would like to admit to pull her eyes from the dashing wizard with her.
"Home," Harry simply replied to her question as he gestured to the modestly furnished living room they were standing in. It was only then that she looked over his shoulder and out the large windows behind him. In the bright sunshine of midday she could see the very distinct panoramic skyline of Washington D.C. complete with the White House in the distance. "My home, actually," he added with a mischievous grin that set her pulse to racing.
The witch's jaw nearly hit the floor. No wonder the portkey took so long, she reasoned, considering the distance it had to take me. "You do know you've just broken about a dozen foreign and domestic laws and violated several treaties concerning international travel between Australia and the United States, right?"
Harry gave her a roguish grin and rubbed his hands together as he answered her. "Rather invigorating, isn't it?"
Hermione found herself grinning, the wizard's youthful exuberance rubbing off on her as well, not to mention that grin of his! "So you had me get all dolled up just to show me where you live?" she asked with one arched brow, determined not to be distracted by Harry's clothes and good looks. He's the one who left me without a word, she reminded herself.
"No. Certainly not," Harry assured her. "I have an entire night planned for you, Ms. Granger."
"You do realize it is noon here in Washington, right?" she asked, having quickly done the math in her head for the fifteen hour time difference.
"Really?" was Harry's shocked reply that was so over the top and exaggerated that Hermione knew instantly it had to be contrived. "Imagine that? I guess we'll need to do something about that," he said, as he raised his arm in an exaggerated gesture to glance at his wristwatch as if he was checking the time.
"Harry James Potter, what have you got up your sleeve?" Hermione asked with a smirk as her eyes danced merrily at his antics. She just couldn't help herself as she was pulled in by his playful manner. This was a side of Harry that she rarely got to see, even back at Hogwarts.
Harry seemed to fiddle with his watch as if he was setting the time. Once satisfied with the device he offered her his arm. "If you'll do me the honor, Ms. Granger?" Hermione realized that she wasn't going to get any answers unless she played along and so she dutifully stepped to his side, slipping her hand into the crook of Harry's elbow as if he were escorting her. "You may want to hold on tightly," he warned her before pushing in the pin on the side of his watch.
There was a blur of colors and sensations all at the same time. It felt like they were falling but upwards instead of downwards. Almost as quickly as it had started it stopped and the startled witch glanced about them only to see they were in the exact same place they had started. It wasn't till she opened her mouth to ask what that had been about about that she noticed that outside the windows the sun had just apparently set, leaving a blushing swath of pink and orange across the lower edge of the horizon. "Your watch is a time turner?" she asked, having deduced the fact of it in an instant.
"Right in one, Ms. Granger," Harry said with an appreciative smile for her intelligence.
Behind them a door opened and then closed. "Oh I see you've made it?" Harry said only it wasn't the Harry standing beside her that had spoken but rather the one that had just entered through the door. The new Harry was wearing a form fitting workout outfit with a towel draped about his neck hanging down across his chest on either side. Given the perspiration on his brow and body it was evident that he had been doing something rather strenuous just prior to joining them. "Hello Hermione, Harry," the new Harry said with a grin that stretched from ear to ear.
"Hey, Harry," the Harry next to Hermione said as he turned to regard her. "Merlin, I think we've managed to break her," he added upon seeing Hermione's mouth opening and closing but nothing coming out of it.
"Relax, Hermione," the Harry with the towel told her as he wiped his face. "I know all about the time paradox and meeting yourself or in this case, myself. The theory is that that if your past self, saw your future self, that your past self's mind wouldn't be able to handle it and you'd have a melt down on the spot or shortly thereafter thus by making it impossible for your future self to come back in time to see you."
"H…how…?" Hermione stammered looking from one Harry to other and back again. "How is this possible?"
Both Harrys gave an identical chuckle, earning them both a glare from the only witch currently present. "Why don't you explain it to her, Harry," the one with the towel suggested. "I need a shower really bad." Just before exiting through a different door than the one he had entered from that Harry turned and offered them both a smile. "Have fun you two and don't do anything I wouldn't do!" Having said that, the towel wearing Harry turned and stepped through the door, closing it quickly behind him. They could both hear his hysterical laughter even through the closed door for some time.
"You know that sounded a lot funnier in my own head when I first thought it up," Harry offered her apologetically.
"I want answers, Potter!" Hermione barked rounding on the remaining Harry and waging a threatening finger at him. The young witch had finally regained control of her faculties once again now that the distraction of a sweaty Harry wearing skin tight gym shorts and a sweat wet tank plastered to his body was gone. "Explain to me what just happened."
"Alright," Harry acquiesced to her request as he held up his hands as if to fend off an attack. Given that he was the world's most feared hit wizard, it would have been comical under other circumstances; however the look in Hermione's eyes left no doubt to just how serious the young witch was at that moment. "It's fairly simple actually. That Harry," he said with a gesture to the one who had left and who they could still hear offering a barking laugh now and then through the closed door, "thought up the idea that I would be here at this moment."
"But that doesn't make sense," Hermione said as her brow creased in thought and she began to chew upon her bottom lips. "It can't be that simple," she said as she went over it in her head.
"Look," Harry said with an edge of excitement in his voice, "magic is all about intent. If his intent is that I'm here now then there is no reason it shouldn't work. When you conjure an item it is your intent that it should appear in front of you. You fully expect it to be there and so it is. I simply took that principle and applied it to time travel,' Harry offered with a dismissive shrug.
"So you convinced yourself that you would travel back in time to this very point and that you would see yourself with me?" Hermione enquired as the puzzle pieces slowly began to fall into place.
"Almost," Harry said. "I didn't want to freak you out so I convinced myself that my future self would appear in here with you while I was doing my daily workout in there."
"Because seeing two of you would freak me out so much less if one of you entered from another door?" Hermione huffed. "Why the portkey? Why not just come and get me and bring me back here? You could have explained it on the way even."
Harry's brow creased in thought for a long moment before he admitted a bit abashed by what he was about to confess, "Hadn't thought of that actually." The hit wizard tried not to cringe at the glare she directed at him. "Well, now that we've taken care of that shall we get on with our date?" he asked in a hopeful tone while glancing at his watch as if just now noticing what time it was.
"Date? So this is supposed to be a date then, Harry?" Hermione asked suddenly finding herself more than a little nervously. The young witch couldn't seem to find the righteous anger she had felt just days before. Gone to were her plans to make him suffer and drool over her for the entire evening. Instead she found that once again she was hopeful that Harry really did truly love her as she loved him. Looking back it had almost always been that way between the two of them though. I never could stay angry with him for long. "What about him?" she asked gesturing towards the closed door behind which they had just heard another peel of laughter.
"Oh, good point, nearly forgot," the Harry with her said before he reached into his tuxedo and through an opening to beneath his shirt. A short moment and a flinch later he withdrew his hand and set a small pill shape item on the counter. "Tracking device," Harry explained upon noticing her quizzical look.
"So you can remove it whenever you want?" Hermione asked without thinking.
"I am a wizard after all," Harry replied in a slightly hurt tone of voice as if he couldn't believe she had even asked him that question.
"I take it your other self is here so that it appears that you haven't gone anywhere?" Hermione asked.
"Right in one!" a grinning Harry replied before taking on a more serious expression and addressing her in a formal tone of voice. "Ms. Granger, will you do me the pleasure of accompanying me this evening?" Harry asked as he proffered his hand towards her.
Hermione resisted the urge to make a comment about having finally learned proper manners someplace. Instead the young witch merely smiled softly, accepting his hand with a small curtsy. "I would be delighted, Mr. Potter."
Harry returned her smile while transferring her hand to the crock of his elbow before he side-along apparated the stunning witch and himself to their first destination. Hermione didn't need to be told where they were at. The building's distinctive white walls and curved architecture made it easy to tell. The Guggenheim Museum, in New York City. Feeling Hermione's hands clutching his arm in excitement brought a wide smile to the wizards face. Not waiting to be led, Hermione tugged on Harry's captured arm, dragging him towards the museum's entrance.
The evening was not done there. They visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art as well. After that they had a late dinner at the Ritz-Carlton followed by a night of dancing at one of the local clubs that catered more to adults their own age rather than the younger crowd. As the night wound down and the hours slipped from evening to early morning the pair found themselves walking through Central Park. A few Muggle-repelling charms and they didn't have to worry about the late night life in the park.
"The Met was absolutely amazing, Harry!" Hermione raved, leaning in and resting her head against his shoulder as she slipped her arms around his pulling them closer together. "Not that the Guggenheim wasn't spectacular in its own right," she was quick to clarify.
Harry chuckled softly at her words, happy that he could have done this for her. "There's one more thing I'd like to show you," Harry said as he slipped her hand from his arm and into his, entwining their fingers.
"Please don't say breakfast at Tiffany's, Harry," Hermione said in a petulant tone. "That's so cliché!"
"I would never do something such as that to you," Harry said with a look of utmost sincerity. "Merlin forbid and perish the very thought of it!" he teased theatrically, earning himself a swat upon his shoulder from the witch with her free hand.
"See that you never do, Mr. Potter!" Hermione told him in mock sternness as her almond eyes danced merrily. It had been a wonderful night, perhaps the best of her entire life. She truly didn't want it to end. Harry's hand in hers felt so wonderfully warm. There had been a couple of occasions throughout the night when she thought Harry was going to lean in and actually kiss her, but he hadn't, much to her disappointment. "So what now?"
"One last stop before I need to return you to your life," Harry told her just before he disapparated them away with only a faint pop to mark their going.
Hermione gasped and instinctually grasped ahold of the wizard's arm with her free hand as her eyes threatened to bug out of her head. A cold wind blew causing her to shiver in the early morning air. The wizard beside her gestured once and a warming spell settled over her body allowing her to enjoy the spectacular view unimpeded. The New York City skyline stretched out below them, the bright canopy of sparkling lights, sights and sounds of the city that never slept on display as if it was there for them alone. In the east the first signs of light touched the horizon as day tentatively encroached upon the realm of night.
"It's gorgeous, Harry," Hermione said appreciatively as she stepped to the railing, unafraid of the heights due to the additional screening that was in place. "Are we on…," she started to ask.
"The top of the Empire State Building," Harry finished for her as he stepped around behind her and slipped his arms around her petite waist.
Hermione leaned back into his embrace contentedly as she watched the distant Eastern horizon. Harry had held her many times that evening while they had dance. He'd even held her hand as they walked through Central Park, but this was somehow different. It was almost magical! Here perched upon the top of the Empire State Building, watching the sunrise, the young witch could almost believe that they were the only two people in the entire world. Somehow she knew that were that to happen, as long as she had Harry next to her she'd be alright.
"Harry?" Hermione asked with the back of her head resting against his shoulder. "Whatever happened to those hit wizards in Miami?" She wasn't sure why that had just suddenly popped into her head but now that it had she couldn't help but ask.
Harry chuckled softly, his breath moist and warm across her ear. "It's just the two of us here all alone and that's what you want to know?" he queried, his tone humorous and disbelieving.
"I don't think we have enough time this morning for you to answer everything I want to know, Mr. Potter," Hermione replied in an equally humorous voice. "Agent Smith told me about them sending those hit wizards after you and no one has seen them since," she stated softly. "You didn't…kill them?"
"No," Harry answered. "I didn't kill them," he added. "I sent them someplace…," the wizard paused and when he finally continued Hermione could hear the laughter in his voice, almost as if he was recalling some kind of private joke, "…magical."
Hermione knew that he wouldn't lie to her so she chose not to pursue the matter. If he said he didn't kill them then he didn't kill them. Feeling slightly better, her mind turned to a new problem, namely to one holding her tightly. Where do we go from here?, she couldn't help but wonder.
"I meant what I said before," Harry suddenly said softly, his eyes fixed upon the brightening horizon. The sky was like a painter's blank canvas, there were now however the faintest shades of pink slowly beginning to appear. "I love you, Hermione," he clarified as if sensing her confusion at his initial ambiguous comment.
"I love you too, Harry," Hermione was quick to confirm even as her heart seemed to do a summersault within her chest. Before her eyes the sky seemed to blush as the darkened distant horizon gave way to the encroachment of day. Night, the dark mistress who ever bowed and surrendered herself to the fiery heat of her lover, the day. "So, what happens now?" Hermione hazard to ask, feeling more like the darkness than the blossom dawn at that moment.
"I don't really know," Harry replied honestly after a heavy silence that hung between them for several long moments. The world's most feared Hit Wizard sighed heavily with regret and sorrow which were only coverings for the larger and more tangible emotion that he currently felt, fear. Harry had lost everyone he had ever allowed to get close to him. It was for that very reason that he had started to keep everyone at arm's length. If he didn't let them in they wouldn't get killed.
Luna had once told him that as he possessed the three Hollows that he was the Master of Death itself, a fact she had learned from her father. While he didn't believe that for a second, he soon came to believe that Death did follow him wherever he went. Even before the attack on the Weasleys he had begun to feel that he was not only a magnet for trouble but also for Death, no matter how much he wished he wasn't. Here in his arms was not only the one last good thing left in his life but the very best of everything he had ever known.
"Will you come back to Australia with me?" Hermione asked, already guessing what his answer would be.
"I can't," Harry replied in a thick voice. "Not yet," he added softly.
"When?" she dared to ask, hoping all the while that there would be a when. Before their eyes the blush of pink was being pushed back to be replaced by soft subtle shades of magenta and orange as the dawn pushed back the night.
"When it's finally over," he told her, wishing fervently that he had something more definitive to give her.
Hermione turned in his embrace to face him, her arms folded between them with her hands splayed across his chest as she stared into his eye. "There will be an end to it?" she asked almost beseechingly, desperate for an answer that would give her some hope of a future with the man she loved.
Harry nodded slightly, finding himself getting lost in the large watery almond eyes before him. "There are only two left," he told her, not feeling it was important that she know their names. She doesn't need to know that it's Yaxley and Dolohov. The important thing is that of the twelve, ten have been dealt with already, he thought to himself.
"And then?" Hermione pressed, her eyes hungrily searching his face for a favorable answer.
"I'll find you," he told her. "No matter where you are I'll find you. I will come for you, Hermione," he tried to assure her with his words as well as the feelings he held for her in his heart. Desperately he fought to keep the gnawing fear at bay that something terrible would happen to her just as it had with everyone else. While he believed that he should have kept his distance, with her there in his arms he couldn't bring himself to do it. Harry realized that he needed her.
"Promise me, Harry," Hermione asked in barely a whisper. "Promise me you'll come back to me," she asked. She needed to hear him say it. She needed to know that he would. The logical side of her could understand how he was honor, as well as magically, bound to fulfill the requirements of the unbreakable vow he had made to Dean Thomas, however the part of her that was her emotional side, that of her heart, needed to know that should she let him go he would in fact come back to her.
Harry stared into her eyes for a long moment before giving her everything she needed, everything he could at that point in time. "I promise," he whispered to her just before his lips captured hers in a tender kiss. Behind them the first rays of the sun broke the horizon and shown upon the lone witch and wizard locked in love's tender embrace as they shared their first kiss.
How long they stood there oblivious to all else but each other neither knew or cared. Eventually though, almost by mutual agreement, their lips parted leaving them both panting heavily but smiling happily at finally having achieved what they had both wanted for some time. The two of them turned slightly and stared at the risen sun, neither sorry for having missed the sunrise Harry had brought them there to see. There was a promise of a future that would hold other sunrises which they could share together. It was a promise of something they both knew they would fight to keep.
The two of them went and ate breakfast together, talking mostly about their time at Hogwarts. While they walked once more through Central Park, arm in arm this time, they spoke about the Weasleys and shed tears for their missing friend Ronald as well as their adopted second family. As the time approached noon Harry apparated them back to his place where he picked up the forgotten basketball and led her into a room that was clearly his bedroom. "It's timed to return you to your home," he informed her of upon seeing her eye the basketball in his hand.
Hermione glanced about before turning back to face Harry with a coy smile on her face. "Presumptuous of you, Potter?" she asked implying playfully that he brought her there to his room to bed her on their first date.
"Better that than risk harming that wonderfully brilliant mind of yours should you happen to see yourself in the other room right about now," Harry told her, even though his cheeks brightened slightly at her words. "I really would prefer not to come back to a vegetable if at all possible."
"I'm going to hold you to your promise, Mr. Potter," Hermione told him as she slipped her arms around his neck and kissed him one last time.
"You wouldn't be the woman I love if you didn't," Harry replied after the kiss ended, a small crooked smile appearing upon his lips.
"You say that like it's a good thing," Hermione teased.
"It is!" Harry replied as the smile spread across his face. "A very good thing!"
Hermione accepted the basketball from him, almost reluctantly when a sudden thought occurred to her. "Harry, how did you manage to get all those photos of me? I'm fairly certain that there was no camera present when we first met on the Hogwarts Express."
Harry chuckled before he replied. "Think about it. I'm sure you'll figure it out, Hermione."
The witch in question opened her mouth to speak but before she could she felt the all too familiar sensation of the portkey activating. When the world had righted itself once more she was once again within her room. Downstairs she could hear her parents talking softly. With a heavy heart she started to get ready for bed, all the while thinking about what Harry had said to her.
"The only ones present that first year when I opened the door to the last compartment was Harry, Ron and myself," she said aloud, hoping that by hearing herself say it she might jog something loose. "By rights then only the three of us would know what actually happened and what was said." The bright witch clearly recalled that the image of her in the moving photo had acted and mouthed the exact same words as she had that day.
"But how can that be?" she asked herself yet again. "None of us had a camera so there shouldn't even be a picture of it. That image shouldn't exist anyplace other than….," it was as if a light bulb as radiant as the sun had suddenly lit up above her head, "…in our memories!" she finally finished after a long pause. "Harry has figured out how to transpose memories into moving images," she realized, taking the next logical leap with her current train of thought.
Hermione's knees suddenly felt week, causing her to drop heavily upon her bed. "That's bloody brilliant!" she said in a tone filled with awe and wonder. Her bright mind already had any number of applications within law enforcement for such a breakthrough. "Think of the testimony that can be taken as a moving picture rather than a memory strand!" Pensieves were still, even after all this time, extremely rare, very expensive as well as hard to come by.
Hermione's thoughts suddenly froze as she thought of all of the photos within the book that Harry had given to her and her parents. "H…he was there," she realized as her bottom lip started to quiver and her eyes filled with tears. "He's always been there," her mind balked at that revelation as it tried to process it and failed miserably. "Harry was with me all this time. My own personal Guardian Angel. Harry never left me," she said in the softest of whispers. "Oh Harry," she breathed out ethereally even as the first teardrop fell from her eyes and her heart ached for the wizard she loved dearly.
"Alright you lot," Dave Howards yelled to get everyone's attention in the meeting room. "Now management expects this year to be even busier than last year," he told them earnestly. They are a good lot, he realized, many have been working here for nearly a decade without a lick of trouble from any of them. Most had families and little ones which they brought to work every now and then. Their good lads, Dave thought with pride.
"Does that mean more hours?" called out one of the men in the back. "Bobby is taking up baseball this year and the equipment costs are just outrageous. I could use a bit of overtime, mate!" Several others in the room murmured and nodded their heads in agreement, being in similar situations.
Howards held up his hands to quiet them down. "I can't make any promises now as you know, however," he quickly added to forestall the groans, "If you get in a pickle you can always come to me and I'll do what I can for you." Dave saw a few nods of appreciation and waited a minute before he continued.
"As you all know, Smythe will be moving up into a new management position in a few months," the group's manager had to pause again for a good-natured round of applause and several shouts to 'not forget the little man when he was running the place'. Jacob Smythe, for his part took it all in stride, a bit embarrassed by all the attention and fuss.
"Human Resources has seen fit to send us over a replacement," Dave continued with once they had settled down again. "I'd like to introduce you to Bernard. He'll be starting with us as of today," Howards informed them of as he motioned to a guy sitting up front who stood and gave them a friendly nod and smile. "Smythe, I'd like you to take him under your wing and show him the ropes."
The meeting soon broke up and Smythe came over to collect the new guy. "Where ya from?" he asked as he led Bernard to the employee locker room to show him where everything was.
"London," was Bernard's quick reply with the expected accent as well. "Think I prefer the weather here in Orlando though," he added with a grin.
"Well, if you have any questions, my name's Jacob. You can call me Smythe as well, I answer to either of them."
"You'll have to call him Sir, soon enough," one of the others called out with a grin. "Now that he's going to be management and all."
"No, just you Renalds!" Smythe shot back good naturedly, earning a round of laughter from the others present. The senior employee led Bernard out through the employees gate and maneuvered his way through the massive crowds like a pro.
Bernard found it hard to keep up with Smythe without jostling the customers. In the distance he could hear the beginnings of a catchy tune that was being played. It was childish but had a nice sound to it. "Nice tune," he ventured to say.
Jacobs laughed upon hearing his words. "You say that now but just wait till you've heard it a few thousand times!" Seeing the look of disbelief on Bernard's face the senior man added, "Just wait till you awake in the middle of the night with 'It's a small world after all' echoing nonstop in your head!"
Well, there you have it. I realize that some (many?) may not like the ending exactly as Hermione and Harry aren't exactly 'together' together. I wanted to leave it open for the possibility of a follow-on story, maybe even two, considering there are still two people on Harry's list. That's my reasoning so I would really appreciate if someone can remove this. The noose is really starting to chafe the sides of my neck and the chair doesn't look all that sturdy now that I'm up here!
I would really like to thank everyone who has stuck with the story. Your following, favoring and reviews have really meant a great deal to me. I'm still stretching my legs in the Harry Potter fandom so your encouragement is greatly appreciated! I do have a few other projects (I, Alone comes to mind) I'll probably work on before attempting a sequel to this piece so please don't expect anything soon.
As always, I continue to look forward to reading your reviews and opinions of Angels in Australia!
All characters within this story, unless otherwise stated are the sole property of J. K. Rowling the original writer of the Harry Potter series. I own nothing and get nothing…sadly.
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