Disclaimer: Nope, don't own a bit of it.
AN: Just another idea that popped out as I work on other stuff. This is a Horcrux free story. I hope you enjoy!
It was two days after the announcement of the Yule Ball and Harry gathered his courage as he approached Hermione. Over the last three years, he had grown close to the girl and after the ride on Buckbeak last year; his affection for Hermione had begun to change and he started seeing her as something more than friend. He felt his feelings were justified when she had been the only one to stand with him after his name came out of the Goblet of Fire. It was his hope that attending the ball together would open her eyes to the possibility of their being more than friends.
Harry's heart told him that they shared something very special that he doubted he would ever find with anyone else. There were times he would catch himself staring at her and when her eyes met his, she would just smile. Since Harry was so socially inept, it never occurred to him that it was in a condescending manner.
As Harry walked into the common room, his eyes sought out Hermione who he found sitting in a corner reading. In his heart, he knew he had to ask her quickly as she was turning out to be one of the most beautiful girls in the school in Harry's eyes. He couldn't help but notice that others were beginning to come to this realization as well and he knew he must act before anyone else beat him to it.
He made it over to her and stopped in front of her. "Can I talk to you for a minute Hermione?"
Her eyes darted up to his and tried to keep the annoyance out of her voice as she asked "Sure, what is it Harry?"
"Um…I was wondering if you would go to the ball with me?"
Her eyes caught his and he felt relieved as she was smiling. That relief soon turned to something else as the smile turned to laughter. When she calmed down enough to speak, she said "Me…go with you? Are you kidding?"
Harry quietly said "Yes Hermione, I thought we would have a good time together."
"As in a date?"
"Well yeah, that is the general idea."
She looked at him and then started laughing again. She sounds of her laughing caught a lot of attention in the common room as it was a rare occurrence and soon a crowd began to form making Harry even more uncomfortable.
Pavarti asked "What's so funny Hermione?"
"Harry just asked me to go to the ball with him."
Harry softly said "I don't think it's so funny."
Hermione chuckled again. "Oh Harry, your so well…you. I could never go to the ball with someone like you. I like you as a friend but it could never be more than that. I mean…look at how you're dressed. It's okay if you like the grunge look but my parents taught me better than that and I would never go out with someone who dressed like that. What would people think?"
"I understand Hermione. Just forget I asked." Once he said that, he turned and walked away without a look back as the rest of the girls and a few guys, including Ron, around her continued to laugh.
As Harry walked out of the common room, he suddenly had the realization that Hermione Granger was just as much of a snob as Draco Malfoy and his relatives were. Harry disliked his relatives a lot and wanted nothing to do with them and now that he had seen Hermione in the same light, he felt that the friendship could not stand any longer.
With the way Ron had turned on him earlier in the year as well added to his standing there laughing at Harry, it was enough to make him feel the same about that friendship as well. He walked the hallways in deep thought as he decided that it was best to cut his ties with the two. He considered trying to make new friends but with the rest of the school being against him, that possibility wasn't available. As he continued to think about it, he came to the realization that next year wouldn't be any better. If they had been against him this year, how could he trust them to be his friend? As he walked and thought, he thought it would be less painful as it was a lesson he learned well while he was growing up.
It was then that Harry began to isolate himself from everyone in the castle. With the aid of the cloak and the map, Harry began to avoid everyone and would wait until his dorm mates were in bed before showing up for bed. In the same manner, he was long gone before anyone else got up in the morning. The only person who even worried over Harry was Professor Dumbledore who began to pay attention to the fact that Harry never showed up at meals. In order to avoid everyone, Harry had taken to eating in the kitchen for the peace and quiet it afforded him as well as to avoid the constant stares.
For Albus, the supposed isolation was a two edged sword, the drawback was that he no longer had insight in Harry's thought processes as he no longer hung around with Miss Granger or Mr. Weasley but on the other hand, Harry should be easier to deal with as he was all alone. Surely by now he would be craving human companionship. Unknown to Albus, his sentence of Harry to be raised at his relatives had the opposite effect on Harry. For Harry, to be alone was bliss as he found the silence peaceful
As far as classes went, he would wait until everyone was seated and then slip into the back of the classroom and take a seat right before classes started therefore causing anyone who tried to move to sit with him to receive a point deduction for disturbing the class. As soon as the class was over, he would slip out the door and don his cloak so that he didn't have to deal with those who he really didn't want to be around anymore.
Without Harry around, the arguments increased between Ron and Hermione until they were no longer speaking to each other. It was obvious to the rest of the school that the 'Golden Trio' was no longer together and this led to more problems. Unknown to the once powerful trio, their presence did a lot to stop the harassment by other houses. While it was mainly Harry who everyone held a respectful fear of, his being backed up by two fairly powerful students did much to keep the taunting at bay. With the trio split and no sign of Harry, the other houses swooped in like vultures and the House of Gryffindor now felt what it was like to be on the bottom of the pile.
For all their bluster about being the bravest house, most of the Gryffindors were sheep and the rest of the school knew it. The only reason they had been left alone for the last few years was because of Harry. The children of the old families knew about Harry's bloodlines and titles and were respectful of that. For them, the political and financial power he possessed but never seemed to use was enough to give them pause. No one wanted to make an enemy of Harry Potter unless you were a pampered ponce who was too dimwitted to see the truth. If his place in society was not enough, the magical power that seemed to radiate from the boy was just incredible.
On the day the badges appeared, many of the students were smiling until the second phrase appeared once Draco activated it. Quite a few of them tried to remove the badges only to find out that they had a sticking charm on them. What started out as a good idea to support Cedric had morphed into shame and horror at how they had offended the remaining member of a Most Ancient House. Since Harry was only seen inside the classrooms, they had to live with the frowns he cast at them. For those that made it to him to apologize before he disappeared, they were met with cold eyes and silence. It also didn't go unnoticed by Harry that many in his house were wearing the badges as well including Ron and Hermione.
Of the children from prominent houses who were caught with them on, only Hannah Abbott and Ernie MacMillan were proud to wear them and used them to taunt Harry as much as they could verbally. In years to come, many would pay for their mistakes and none more so than Neville Longbottom. While he never did anything to Harry, by the same token, he never did anything for Harry either. Once Harry learned of the millennia old pact between the Potters and Longbottoms, the pact between the families began to unravel. On the day that Neville chose to marry Hannah, Harry stepped into Gringotts and completely disbanded the treaty claiming irreconcilable differences. Many would laugh at Harry's words but the pact was in effect a marriage between their houses so the term was accepted as valid. Harry never spoke to Neville again after doing this.
Susan Bones did not follow her best friend of many years and immediately sought out Harry. After begging him to forgive her for her mistake, he looked at her strangely and then said "There is nothing to forgive. You like the rest of the school have made your choice."
When the night of the Yule Ball arrived, Harry Potter was nowhere to be found. When all attempts to locate him failed, the ball proceeded but there was a shadow hanging over the event. It wasn't until classes restarted after the Christmas holidays that he was seen again and all attempts to talk with him failed. The staff also tried to pull him into a conference with the Headmaster but it proved fruitless since Harry would not show up.
Since he could not be found, the Headmaster attempted to corner him at his classes but that too was doomed to failure since as soon as Harry saw Dumbledore's name in his classroom on the map, he decided to skip. The best part about it was that since he was a champion, they couldn't do anything about it as he was excused from his classes at his discretion.
February rolled around and it was time for the second task. On the morning of the task, Harry approached the platform much like he did classes and arrived at the last possible second. When told what the task was and who he had to rescue, a smirk formed on Harry's face. When the cannon went off, he jumped into the water therefore fulfilling his participation requirement and then climbed back onto the platform and pulled his robes back on.
Dumbledore came down from the judges platform and said "Mr. Potter, you must rescue Mr. Weasley."
"Why? I got into the water and seeing as I can't swim, I would only be placing mine and Mr. Weasley's life in danger."
"Well, you're going to have to try and retrieve what you'll sorely miss."
Harry snorted. "Just so you know Headmaster, there is no one at the school who I would sorely miss. In fact, I would have to say that at this point, there are only two people that fit into that category. Before you try and figure out who they are, it would be my mum and dad and seeing how they can't come back from the dead, that would leave no one for me to rescue."
Dumbledore quietly asked "What about your godfather Harry?"
"What godfather? He's made no attempt to contact me since I saved him last June. As far as I'm concerned, he died the same night as my parents."
That comment alone stunned Dumbledore into silence as he knew how much Harry wanted to live with Sirius at the end of the last school year. With that said Harry turned away and walked back up to the castle to the outrage of everyone in the stands. Halfway across the lawn, he disappeared from view. The spectators sat and watched the lake for a few minutes before a bloody and bruised Fleur Delacour was pulled from the water. Her shrieking was the only sound heard until the other two champions arrived with their hostages. It was another fifteen minutes before the merchief appeared and passed the final two hostages over to Dumbledore.
After the slap to the face at the second task, his 'friends' realized how wrong they had been and beefed up their attempts to get back in Harry's good graces although it took Ron a little while to figure it out. They had even sat in the back of the classrooms in order to sit with Harry. Their attempts were met by his walking to the other side of the back of the classroom and conjuring his own desk to sit in. The advanced nature of his spellwork did not go unnoticed by the professors who would made general comments about it in the staff meetings.
The months between tasks followed with Harry remaining isolated. What everyone didn't know was that without the influence of his friends, Harry didn't hold himself back and pushed hard to learn everything he could as it would help him with his plans for the future.
The day of the third task, the Weasleys along with Remus and Sirius in dog form showed up to act as Harry's family. Ron, Hermione, and the rest of the Weasley kids were excused from classes so that they may use this attempt to speak with him. They waited for him to show for quite some time before finally leaving feeling dejected as he never did. The only time he was seen that day was when he arrived scant minutes before the task and just stood silently waiting for his turn.
Once inside, he strolled through the maze as if it were the park. The whole time, he walked right through the obstacles or past the creatures without a second glance as if they were no concern of his. When the hedges fell indicating one of the champions had touched the cup, they found an again bloody and battered Fleur lying on the ground while Victor stood over her as he zipped up his pants. As their eyes traveled to the center of the maze, they saw Harry sitting cross legged on the ground chatting comfortably with the sphinx while the pedestal that once held the cup sat empty along with no sign of Cedric Diggory.
Dumbledore asked "Harry, why were you just sitting there talking to the sphinx? You could have won the tournament."
Harry looked at him blankly and said "She was nice to me and I haven't had much of that this year." As soon as he said it, he slipped on the cloak and walked away.
Most of the school remained in mourning weeks later as there had been no word of Cedric and his body was never found.
As the NEWT testing was beginning to start, Harry approached the door and presented a letter to Madam Marshbanks. Seeing this, Minerva and Albus swept in to see what was going on as they were standing there wishing the students luck.
"Harry, these tests are not for you."
Harry looked at Madam Marshbanks who said "It is unusual but Mr. Potter petitioned our department to be able to take his exams and I saw no reason to deny him the attempt."
Albus said "I'm sorry but as his magical guardian, I cannot allow it. Harry still has three years left to complete at Hogwarts."
Madam Marshbanks snorted "You are no longer his magical guardian Albus. When you forced him into this tournament, you forced his emancipation so that he could participate. Since he is legally 'of age', he is more than welcome to make the attempt and there is nothing you can do about it."
Albus said "I'm sorry but I forbid it Harry!"
Harry looked up at him and then shrugged his shoulders before walking into the Great Hall to begin testing. When Albus stepped forward to pull him back, Madam Marshbanks stepped in front of him and said "You know very well that once he crossed that threshold, he was under our purview."
"Mr. Potter is a special case and needs to remain at Hogwarts. I demand his immediate return to my custody."
Madam Marshbanks eyes narrowed at Albus and then turned to Harry. "I apologize for not believing you Mr. Potter. Your request is granted."
McGonagall's Scottish brogue came out when she asked "And what may that be?"
"Mr. Potter chose the Gauntlet for his method of testing."
McGonagall's hand went to her mouth as she said "No! He's fifteen years old, he'll be killed."
In the next minute, all the seventh years were ushered back out of the Great Hall and once the doors slammed, the locks clicked into place.
A curious seventh year asked "Just what is the gauntlet?"
Professor McGonagall answered "It is a completely practical exam where the person being tested has to duel the entire examination staff at one time. During the course of the duel, they have to show mastery level command of their magic in the wanded subjects including Runes. Only the defeat of the entire examination board constitutes a pass which will also grant the petitioner a mastery in each subject."
The doors became a curiosity as the students stood outside and heard the loud booms and screams along with periods of dead quiet. At five o'clock, the locks clicked on the doors and a bloody and battered Madam Marshbanks stuck her head out the door. Once she spotted Filius Flitwick, she said "Please have Madam Pomfrey come here directly. I'm afraid we need her services desperately."
When they returned, Filius knocked on the door and was invited to join the others inside. Once inside, Filius saw Harry lying on his back on the floor with his arms above his head as he tried to catch his breath. Another look around the room showed that the examiners all had varying degrees of injuries and were scattered around the room in various positions.
"Are you alright Mr. Potter?"
"Just a little winded. Thank you for asking."
"So how'd you do?"
"Don't know…I think Madam Marshbanks is waiting for all of them to wake up before assigning a grade."
Filius chuckled "I'd bet that will qualify as a pass. What are your plans now?"
"I think I'll go make a life for myself somewhere else that's away from all this."
"Smart boy. Always said you should've been in my house."
"I wish I would have been."
In the next year, the wizarding world and especially Hogwarts felt the absence of Harry Potter. The once powerful and arrogant House of Gryffindor became the subject of jokes and taunts for the next few years. The house was on the bottom of the pecking order and suffered the same taunts that they had thrown at the other houses. Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley quickly became the bottom feeders of the house for their part in running chasing Harry off. The other members of House Gryffindor would never admit to their part in it so Ron and Hermione became the scapegoats for the house's lot in life. For the first time in his life, Ron couldn't be jealous anymore as he had gained all that Harry had in life. Everyone in the school treated him like crap and when he thought that going home would make it better, he found that even his family blamed him for the loss of Harry as well.
Over the next year, Ron and Hermione established a relationship because quite frankly, no one else wanted anything to do with them and only had each other to talk to. With no one willing to date either of them, they had no choice but to settle for each other. Hermione Granger had fallen a long way when Ron Weasley was the best she could hope for.
The reported loss of Harry Potter to the magical world emboldened Voldemort to strike fast. A year after the disappearance of Cedric Diggory and Harry Potter, Voldemort and his supporters marched onto the grounds of Hogwarts and blasted the doors to the Great Hall off its hinges as the Leaving Feast had just gotten underway.
In the resulting confusion, quite a few of the pureblood children moved to join his ranks as they faced off across from the teachers and their fellow students. As Albus stood and stepped around the head table, a full out battle began. Dumbledore faced Voldemort as the rest of the staff held the Death Eaters off long enough to allow the younger students to escape. After the initial volley, many of the students lay dying and bleeding on the floor of the Great Hall as they were cut down by fellow students. Sadly, only about a quarter of the student population managed to flee. To McGonagall's eternal shame, the house of the brave was the first to cut and run. As Professor McGonagall watched as her lions fled in fear, a killing curse struck her in the chest. Her last thought was that at least she wouldn't have to live with the shame.
Filius battled on until he was the last of the staff remaining. The last thing he saw was Albus on his hands and knees as Voldemort stood over him and cast the killing curse. Seeing there was no honor in remaining to die, Filius used his Goblin magic to fade from the Great Hall. His next stop would be to join his cousins at Gringotts.
Word spread quickly in the magical world of the fall of Hogwarts. Voldemort made a statement in the Daily Prophet that Dumbledore and his staff had been killed, defiled, and then gutted before being hung from the battlements of the castle. At the end of his statement, he said that the rest of magical Britain would suffer the same fate unless they capitulated to him.
A week later, Voldemort walked into the ministry of Magic and took over without a spell being fired. By the end of the day, the entire Ministry's focus was on capturing Dumbledore's Order of the Phoenix as well as finding out where Harry Potter disappeared to.
With information provided by Snape, the Death Eaters managed to sweep up most of the members of the Order. In an attempt to show the futility of opposing him, Voldemort summoned the full compliment ministry workers and many reporters to the atrium where he lined up the prisoners and set Dementors on them. Once the prisoners were dead, the Death Eaters defiled the bodies in front of the audience before throwing the empty husks through
Voldemort was not satisfied with any members of the Order having escaped his justice and sought a way to get to the ones who were hiding under a Fidelis charm. The problem was that it was one of the houses of the Black family which were known to have lethal wards. With the head of the family under those wards, the house would be impregnable and all that could be done was to watch the house and capture anyone that came out.
It was six months later before Voldemort became bored with his toys and his eyes started looking toward the non-magical world. Not understanding the way modern government worked, Voldemort decided to take out the Queen in an attempt to have complete control over England. Voldemort made a big show out of the attack he was about to initiate and had many well wishers in the atrium as he departed. It was the last time they would ever see him and his inner circle again.
Ten years later, Hermione sat at the table of an upscale restaurant in London. It was a real treat for her as she hadn't eaten at a place like this in a long time since her and her husband Ron couldn't afford to waste their meager earnings on a meal as extravagant as this one. The only reason she was here now was due to her parents taking her out for her twenty-fifth birthday.
Her eyes rose only to see the disappointment in her parents' eyes. She got her first indication of how this meal was going to go when she and Ron showed up in their absolute best which was barely better than the clothes Professor Lupin wore on his trip to Hogwarts in their third year. Hermione was now being subjected to a look of disapproval that was a clear indication of how far she had fallen.
Of course, in the eyes of her parents, she felt nothing she did was good enough anymore. If she was to be honest with herself, and what witch or wizard ever was, her relationship with her parents were the results of her own actions. She had cited love and ignored her parents' protests about marrying Ron. When the protests wouldn't cease, she ran off with Ron and got married in the wizarding world when she was eighteen.
Hermione' arguments were that they were being snobbish and petty and couldn't see the true worth of her chosen mate because of their prejudices. It irked them to no end that those were the same words spoken to their daughter after learning about what had caused her friendship with Harry to fracture.
Hermione wondered why she ever accepted their invitation with their disappointment in her choices in life ever since she graduated. She glanced up at her parents to see if there was anything they wanted to say and tracked their eyes as they watched in disgust and embarrassment as Ron ate with his usual atrocious manners. The look on her parents' faces caused her face to flush and made her want to climb under the table. With the way things were going, she became even more nervous over her intentions of telling them the news that she was pregnant with their third child.
Hermione was brought out of her thoughts as she heard what sounded like a familiar voice from behind her. "Good evening Dr.'s Granger. I can't thank you enough for the time you have put in to help with my little project."
Richard stood and bowed as Jane's eyes danced. She replied "It was our pleasure Sir James. Please feel free to call on us anytime you need."
"Thank you. I might have to take you up on your offer. I am trying to gain funding for a much more comprehensive medical and dental program for the orphanages as it is a subject I hold close to my heart due to my upbringing. For now, I am funding it myself until I can gain more backing."
Richard said "That's a very noble cause Milord. I speak for both of us when I say we will gladly donate any time you need to your project."
Jane added "With your permission, I would like to speak with our colleagues. I know many of them would find your project as rewarding as we have and might even contribute to the funding or at the least, contribute some of their time."
"I would appreciate it. Again, I thank you for your efforts."
Jane spoke up again. "Sir James, I was thinking that maybe your project could be expanded a little more. Richard and I would like to take several of the children out shopping for clothes in honor of an orphan who never had clothes of his own either."
A glance at her daughter confirmed that her daughter was turning red from embarrassment while her daughter's husband was grumbling about how they never took their grandchildren out and bought them anything. Jane's eyes narrowed at her son-in-law as her daughter turned an even deeper shade of red. Ron may be oblivious to the world but Hermione knew it was her parents that kept their children dressed in decent clothing. It was also not lost on her that the clothes her children had were much better than the rags Harry had been forced to wear and her mother never let her forget it.
There was silence for a minute before the man responded "That would be very thoughtful Jane. I'm sure the children would love it and that young man would be honored by it."
Richard sat down and said "He's such a nice fellow considering all he's been through."
Jane replied "Yes he is."
Hermione turned and watched as the man walked away. He was dressed in an extremely expensive dark suit and from what she could tell; he had a well built body that was topped off with raven hair.
Finally Hermione asked "Mum, who was that?"
Jane smiled and said "Oh, I'm sorry I didn't introduce you. That was Sir James Windsor. He is the Queen's second cousin and was named the Duke of Wight about seven years ago. Such a nice young man."
Richard said "Yes he is. It's a pity about his upbringing but he really has strived to make something of himself."
Hermione asked "Why have I never heard of him?"
Jane scathingly said "If you paid attention to the real world, you would have read all about his story. It seems his parents died when he was a baby and was placed in an abusive environment where he was kept ignorant about his heritage. When he got away from those controlling him at fifteen, he learned of his heritage and presented himself to the Queen. Once it was proven who he was, she did everything she could to help him which included military service even at that young age. Within a year, he had proven himself so well that he joined your father's old unit in the SAS. We met him at one of their socials and learned his whole story."
Richard took up the story. "During his training, he was summoned by the Queen and was in a meeting with her when some of your lot attacked Buckingham Palace. Luckily for them, he hadn't had time to change uniforms and was still in his combat gear and armed to the teeth. That young man defended the Queen when everyone else had been killed. He fought so well that he managed to kill off the head of the terrorists…some guy named Voldidork or something like that. After that, it was just a matter of mopping up when support arrived."
Jane added "During his knighting ceremony, he chose to go by Sir James out of respect for one of the Princes since he shared the same first name with one of them."
Hermione's eyes grew wide and she asked "Mum, what is his full name?"
Jane smirked. "Oh I think you know that already Hermione."
"Mum, please tell me."
Richard said "Well his full name now is Sir Harry James Potter-Windsor."
Jane gave her a smirk and said "Say, isn't that the name of that boy who was in love with you while you were at school? You know, the one you told wasn't good enough for you?"
Hermione's face turned pale.
Richard replied. "You know it is darling. Sir James told us the whole story that night we met once he realized we were your parents. Of course we had to apologize on behalf of the Granger family for your treatment of him."
Jane asked "Do you know the one thing that surprises me?"
Hermione could only shake her head.
"It's the fact that I know for a fact that we didn't raise you that way. Your father and I came from humble roots and worked very hard for everything we had and what we provided for you. You can imagine how embarrassed we were when he told us that you said we wouldn't find him acceptable enough for our daughter."
Hermione only sat there and stared blankly at them.
Richard finally said "Yes, it's even more embarrassing to know that you married this pillock after finding Sir James unworthy of you."
Hermione just sat there in silence as she looked between her husband and the man she had run off.
It wasn't long before Hermione noticed Harry making his way towards their table with a lovely brunette on his arm. Just as they stepped past, Hermione's arm shot out as she laid her hand on Harry's other arm.
"I'm so sorry Harry…for everything."
Harry looked over at Ron and smirked. "I bet you are."
Harry turned to the Grangers and said "Richard and Jane, I'd like to introduce you to a good friend of mine. Kate Middleton."
Jane said "It's nice to finally see you dating."
Harry smiled "Oh no, Kate is dating a very good friend of mine. We went to college together and she wanted some insight into his family since they are getting serious."
Kate said "It's so nice to meet you. James has told me all about some of your efforts."
Richard replied "We've really enjoyed it."
Harry said "Oh, where are my manners Kate. I'd like to introduce you to Ron and Hermione Weasley."
Her eyes grew wide and she giggled. "You don't mean that Hermione?"
"She threw you aside for…that?"
Harry just shrugged his shoulders. Kate grabbed his arm and as she started leading him away she said "It was nice meeting you Richard and Jane." The obvious snub was not lost on Hermione.
As they walked away, they could hear Kate saying "Now James, I know you don't like blind dates but I have a friend named Georgina. She's quite lovely and is an actress. Now don't give me that look, she's quite smart and I think you'd get along great with her. We could even double. It's not like you're not going to be there anyway."
Jane looked at her husband and asked "Oh, don't you think William and Kate will make a lovely couple?"
Hermione asked "William who?"
"Prince William dear, he and James are practically inseparable."
Richard smirked at the incredulous expression on his daughters face. A glance at his son-in-law told him all he needed to know as he had a 'couldn't care less' look on his face. "Isn't it funny how a few insensitive words can change your life."