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Chapter 20 : Chapter20 - Questions of the Heart
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Stepping beside him, Hermione led the way into the cottage. As they crossed the threshold, Harry stared as he realized there was much more to this simple cottage than the exterior would indicate. The ceiling of the entrance area was much higher than the apparent roof of the exterior.
Smiling up at him, Hermione nodded. “I think this is much like the tent, but on a grander scale.” Watching his gaze drawn to the stairwell sweeping upstairs, she put her hand on his cheek and turned his face back to hers. “Before we go upstairs so I can collect on our wager, we need to talk.” Taking his hand, she started guiding him through the house.
Passing down a long hallway, they entered a kitchen that was reminiscent of the one at the Burrow, but on a grander scale. Off to the side, a small alcove next to the chimney contained a table with a pair of chairs. A teapot was warming in a niche beside the table built into the side of the chimney. Kissing Harry on the cheek, she nodded at one chair while she gracefully folded herself into the other.
Pouring him a cup of tea, she refilled her cup and snagged a scone from a plate that sat between them. Looking at him, mischievously, she smiled as Harry cautiously sipped his tea. Shaking his head, Harry cocked his head to the side and looked at her. “You do realize that blokes usually panic when they hear the words ‘we need to talk’. Most of the time it’s not something we really are looking forward to hearing.”
Smiling, Hermione arched an eyebrow at him. “Worried? You shouldn’t be.”
Smiling, Harry leaned back in his chair, reaching out his hand to cover hers. “And just why not? “
Leaning forward, Hermione placed her other hand on his, clasping it between her two. “Firstly, you’re not ‘most blokes’, you’re very special. And secondly, apparently, I’m not ‘most witches’.” Shaking her head at the puzzled look on his face, she smiled. “Just exactly who am I, Harry? I used to know, but now I’m not certain.”
Shaking his head, Harry smiled at her. “You’re Hermione Granger, witch extraordinaire. Who do you think you are?”
Sighing, Hermione brought his hand up to her lips and gently kissed it. Harry could feel the passion in that simple act transfer to him. “Until I woke up last Monday morning, that’s who I was. Of course, instead of ‘witch extraordinaire’, I would have said pushy bookworm know-it-all who was the best mate of Harry Potter and Ron Weasley. I was also snogging the daylights out of Ron when I wasn’t being with you to attend functions, memorials and funerals. And then, I end up becoming a mum, with you being the dad, to Teddy, without benefit of ever even snogging you, much less anything else, a former student at Hogwarts because I couldn’t see either of us coming back after everything that happened, and I was fine with all that.”
Smiling at the incredulous look on Harry’s face, she chuckled. “Really, I’m fine with all that. I love being Teddy’s godmother, and I couldn’t think of anyone I’d rather share that with. It felt right to turn Minerva down, we’ve both moved on and we need to find a place where we can be ourselves. Then I spend a very confusing week because I find myself being drawn even closer to someone whom I’ve spent almost every waking hour for the last seven years with. On top of that, I go to sleep one night and awaken to find myself running for my life through a strange forest, being chased by who knows what, and I’m totally over the moon in love with my best mate, and I have been for years.”
Shaking her head, she smiled at Harry and nodded. “And then, I go from realizing I’ve been your bloody girlfriend for seven years without even knowing it, to our first real kiss, which was mind blowing, thank you very much, to what should be officially declared the best sex in the history of the known world in less time than it takes Lavender Brown to say ‘Hello sailor’ and I’m still ok with that.”
Shaking his head, Harry grimaced. “It wasn’t quite like that.”
Smiling wickedly, Hermione winked at him. “Harry, I’m shocked. Are you saying that wasn’t the best sex in the history of the known wizarding world?”
Blushing, Harry shrugged. “The sex was legendary. I meant the how we got there.”
Squeezing his hand, Hermione laughed. “Harry, it was less than fifteen minutes from the time we hit the Common Room floor until my knickers were flying across the bedroom.”
Still blushing, Harry smiled. “But it was a very romantic fifteen minutes.”
“You really need to stop taking romance advice from your godfather. Sirius thinks it’s romantic if he finds out her name before he starts kissing her.”
Sighing, Harry nodded. “He’s really not that bad, he’s simply not as lucky as I am to have found the perfect witch. But this isn’t what you wanted to talk about, is it?” Looking concerned, Harry was afraid he’d gotten Hermione off the track of whatever it was she needed to talk to him about.
Smiling, Hermione leaned over the table and kissed him gently on the lips. “You’re sweet when you worry about me.” Settling back in her chair, she bit her lower lip. “As soon as we’re together, we find out the world needs saving from another megalomaniac with bad social skills, except this time we have to do it without knowing what we’re going to be doing and we can’t be together to do it. That I don’t like, but I can accept since we’re both too bloody noble to just tell everyone to sod off and find another pair of idiots to save them, we’ve done our bit.”
Shaking her head and smiling wistfully, Hermione interlaces her fingers with Harry’s. “I even find out that I’ve got a fairy godmother who’s really an elf who’s meddling as shamelessly in my life as Albus does in yours, except mine seems to be actually interested in my well-being, unlike some wizards who will remain nameless. That, I can handle.” Tightening her grip on Harry’s fingers, she gave him a very serious look, as if she’s trying to peer into his soul.
“ ‘Mione, I think we’re getting to the heart of the discussion.” Trying not to wince from the pressure on his hand, Harry kept his gaze fixed on Hermione’s eyes.
“Harry, just who am I? Or what am I? How does this Maeve figure into this?“ Tears glistened in her eyes. “Harry, you said ‘I’m her human’. I trust you, but I’m scared. I don’t know what’s happening to me.”
Harry slid out of his chair and knelt beside Hermione’s. Wrapping his arms around her, he guided her head to his shoulder. “I’ve been trying to figure out a way to tell all of this to you, but I’ve hurt you by waiting.” Kissing her gently on the cheek, he brushed her skin with the tip of his tongue. “Maeve is several things. She’s the Queen of the Elves, which doesn’t seem to mean she’s totally in charge, but it does mean they listen to her until they all stop. She’s also you ‘fairy godmother’ in that she’s taken a very personal interest in your family and specifically you.” Hermione looked up at Harry at that, and shook her head.
“Harry, you’ve said that before, but I can’t think of any reason why she would do that.”
Smiling at her inability to see herself, Harry kissed her again. “Well, to start off you’ve more talent in your pinky than most Ministry experts have in their entire bodies. You’re the smartest witch anyone has seen in generations; you care enough to try to reform the entire world on behalf of her elves.” Breaking off, Harry watched her as she smiled slowly.
“Harry, I can hear an ‘and’ in there. What else is there?”
Shaking his head, Harry put his hand on her cheek and turned her face towards him. “Well luv, I suppose the fact she’s your great-great-great-great grandmother might have something to do with it.” Holding her gaze with his, he could see her eyes go wide.
“Harry, that’s not possible. That would mean…”
Smiling at her reaction, Harry nodded. “If you read the old stories, it appears that it happened quite often in those days. It’s quite far back in your family, so in our world, it’s something that would be an oddity, a bit of family history that would make for a bit of cachet, but nothing major. But here, to the elves, you’re either an elf or you’re not. Apparently you are. Those that care to look, see it. And the longer we stay, the easier it will be to be seen.”
Shaking her head, she wrapped her arms around Harry and hugged him to her tightly. “It’s scary, because I don’t know what this means for me, for us.”
Gently stroking her hair, Harry smiled at her frustration. “There’s nothing to know, really. You’ve always been you, and this is just part of it. Nothing has really changed, but this might explain you affinity for the house elves and their plight. You might have a similar affinity for elven magic, I’m definitely getting you those books for Christmas, maybe your birthday, so you can read them and see if they spark any other insights.” Looking thoughtful, Harry kissed her forehead. “Did you ever try to disapperate at school?”
Looking up, with a scandalized expression on her face, Hermione glared at him. “Harry, don’t be ridiculous. It clearly points out in ‘Hogwarts: A History’ that it’s impossible unless the Headmaster or Headmistress lowers the prohibitions against it.”
Smiling at her predictable response, Harry shook his head. “House elves do it all the time. You might be able to do it instinctively, or if you talk to one of the elves, you might be able to figure out how they do it and copy it. Remember to talk to Kreacher about it when we get back.” Putting a subtle emphasis on ‘remember’, Harry smiled as Hermione bit her lower lip and began thinking about the possibilities.
“And if I don’t ‘remember’ anything about all of this, what am I supposed to tell Kreacher? How am I supposed to explain my interest in elven magical techniques?” Looking amused at the paradoxes they were setting up for themselves with their selective memories they were planning, she attempted a smile.
Rolling his eyes, Harry chuckled. “Let me see, Hermione Granger needing to justify wanting to know something? How could we ever explain that?”
“Well, yes, I suppose that my past history could explain my wanting to know about almost anything. But still, won’t Kreacher think it odd if I can pull off a supposedly elf only technique?”
Smiling again, Harry put on a mock thinking face. “Let’s see, do we think that Kreacher, who caters to your every whim for some strange reason, might find it unsurprising if you were able to perform elven magic? Could it be that Kreacher might just know exactly who you are? Is it possible that the Queen of the Elves might have had enough forethought to inform one of her elves that he was housekeeping for a member of her family? Is Lucius Malfoy a Death Eater?”
Gritting her teeth in frustration, Hermione glared at Harry for several seconds before beginning to chuckle. “I think it’s a very good thing for me that you’re extremely adorable when you’re being an arse.” Shaking her head at the smug expression on his face, she sighed. “Of course you’re right Harry.” Looking at him, she smiled. “Harry, tell me you don’t mind that I’m not who you thought I was.”
Grinning like a madman, Harry shook his head. “On the contrary, you are exactly who I thought you were.”
“Don’t be daft, Harry. Even you can’t sell me on the idea that you thought I had an ancestor who was not only an elf, but queen of the bloody elves.”
Kissing her tenderly, Harry cradled her face with his hands. “Hermione Jean Granger, you are exactly the person I fell in love with that day on the train. Kind, loving, intelligent, warm, and caring. Everything I couldn’t imagine because I had never known anyone remotely like you. I saw the real you that day and it’s the same person I’m looking at now. You’ve grown up into an extraordinary woman, but the essence of who you are and how you make me feel hasn’t changed. Mere details like the fact that your great-great-great-great grandmother has the power to drag us out of our dreams and drop us in the middle of paradise are totally irrelevant.” Kissing her again, Harry ran his hands through her hair.
Looking at her, with a gleam in his eye, Harry smiled mischievously. Seeing the look in his eyes, Hermione smiled warily. “Harry, what are you plotting?”
Feigning innocence, Harry put a mock hurt look on his face. “I’m cut to the quick. What makes you think I’m plotting something? “
Smiling, she caressed his cheek gently as she kissed him on the tip of his nose. “Because you’re awake, thinking, and you have that look on your face that usually means a surprise for someone.”
“And since when don’t you like surprises?”
Shaking her head, she rolled her eyes at him. “Honestly, Harry. You know that I’m your overly planned, borderline controlling girlfriend who likes surprises after all the dust settles but generally while they’re happening I’m a bit uncomfortable.” Kissing him again, she sighed. “You’ve cured me of a bunch of that, over the years, but I still don’t take surprises well.”
Smiling, he took her hand and shrugged. “Well, if you don’t want me to tell you where and when we’re going to find your parents?” Turning and standing, he tugged gently on her hand. “Want to go upstairs so you can collect on your wager since we’re alone?”
Leaping to her feet, she wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed him fiercely. “Harry, this is wonderful. Where? When? I mean I know they’re in Australia, but where?” Pausing for breath, she looked at him curiously. “Harry, how in Merlin’s name do you know where they are?”
Shaking his head, he grinned. “I never said I know where they are.” Holding up a hand at the dangerous glint in her eyes, he smiled. “I do know where they will be.”
Shaking her head, Hermione scowled at him. “Not another bloody prophecy? Who do you think you are, Sybill ‘You’re all going to die horrible deaths’ Trelawney?”
Smiling mischievously, Harry shook his head. “Careful now, she’s family.”
“What?” Shaking her head, Hermione leaned back against the table and pulled Harry close to her. “What in the world do you think you’re playing at?”
“I can see why cousin Sybill always said you were cut off from the influences of the future.” Grinning at the look of utter disbelief on her face, Harry leaned forward to kiss her, but she turned her face and scowled. “If you keep this up, I won’t tell you what I know.”
“Harry, I can’t believe you’re teasing me about something like this. You know how worried I am about them and here you are playing games like this.” Stopped in mid-rant by the look in Harry’s eyes, she immediately fell silent.
“Hermione, I would never play like that. You know how I feel about family and there’s nothing that will keep us from finding your folks. I’m sorry if my little joke fell flat, but I was trying to tell you that I do know where they will be so you might be able to enjoy yourself when we go to Australia to look for them.”
Taking her hand, Harry knelt before her, and kissed it gently. “Hermione Jean Granger, you’re the most important person in the world to me. For seven years, I’ve loved you, but I never let myself realize until recently. There is nothing I wouldn’t do to make you happy, but it seems that I’m an idiot so you’re just going to have to make allowances for me.”
Taking a deep breath, he looked into her eyes, which were swimming with tears. “Your parents will be at Ayer’s Rock on noon on Midsummer’s Day here in England, around the Winter Solstice down under. If there were any justice in the world, one of the first things we’d be telling them, after their memories were restored, is that I’m going to marry their daughter. But that can’t happen because yet another crusty old wanker wants to conquer the world.” Hermione’s free hand flew up to cover her mouth and tears were freely rolling down her cheeks. “I shouldn’t ask you to marry me, because we don’t know what’s going to happen, or how long we’re going to be apart. But I can promise you that I’ll love you forever, totally and completely. I’m asking you to marry me when we’re free to live our lives for ourselves. I ask you to do me the honor of becoming my wife and making me the most fortunate of wizards for all eternity.” Shyly bending his head, Harry placed another tender kiss on the back of her had.
Taking her free hand, and putting it under his chin, she raised his head until she was staring into his emerald-green eyes. “Yes, Harry. A thousand times yes. I’ll marry you and nothing will ever come between us, not where it matters. For now and forever, I’m yours.” Smiling radiantly, she blinked in surprise when a series of chimes rang out joyously; forming two chords that resolved in the ages old plagal cadence and a golden glow manifested itself around their joined hands. Pulling Harry to his feet, she wrapped her arms around him and kissed him soundly. As they finally broke apart, she murmured in Harry’s ear. “I hope that Sirius didn’t hear that, but I really don’t care if he did.”
Miles away, a romantic interlude in a small secluded pond was going on. Laughing, Sirius was locked in a heated embrace with an auburn haired beauty while lazily floating in the cool water. As he was kissing her deeply, a series of chimes was heard, and Maeve pulled away from him. Staring at the disturbed look on her face, he laughed. “That’s just Harry and Hermione, sounds as if they got more bells to ring this time.”
Pulling herself up onto the bank in a graceful move that revealed the strength that was inherent in her lithe form, she returned Sirius’ appreciative gaze with one of concern. Shaking her head, she sighed. “Remember when you asked me if they could get into any trouble here, and I mistakenly told you nothing they couldn’t handle?”
Swimming over to her and wrapping his arms around her naked form, he smiled. “Yes, though I hardly think manifesting their soul bond could be considered something they couldn’t handle”
Shaking her head in disbelief, she put her hand on the side of his face and kissed him tenderly. “The one thing I didn’t consider is that those two would go and marry each other by oath.” Looking at the dawning comprehension in his eyes, she was prepared for any sort of reaction but the one she got.
“His mother is so going to kill me.”
A/N - The Plagal, or IV-I cadence, is usually associated in western classical music and hymnody with an affirmation. Traditionally, it’s called the ‘Amen’ cadence.
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