Snow was gently falling as the pair arrived back in the Granger backyard. Nodding to each other, they walked towards the house.
Smiling, Hermione stopped them as they reached the steps to the house. “Harry?”
Wrapping his arm around her, Harry smiled, knowing what was coming. “Yes?”
Looking thoughtful, and a touch worried, Hermione nodded back the way they had come. “Do you think they approve?”
Grinning, Harry shook his head at her predictability at times. “I know they not only approve, but I certain that they’re very relieved that we’re finally getting things straightened around.” Leaning in, he placed a kiss on her cheek, fully aware that her parents were watching them from the library window.
Smiling, she shook her head slightly. “And just how do you know that, Mr. Potter?”
Pulling her closer to him, he smiled and kissed her again. “You were there; you could feel the aura of serenity and love that surrounded the stone from the first moment we knelt down there together.” Waiting, he watched as she nodded slowly, tears forming in her eyes. “They know everything that’s happened to us, and can see much clearer than we could, apparently, how we truly feel about each other. If they would have had doubts or concerns, we wouldn’t have felt that acceptance and joy from the moment we arrived tonight.”
Smiling at the blush on her cheeks, Harry continued. “According to the letters I’ve read from her friends, if my Mum had one serious flaw, it was that she was pants at masking how she felt about things. Rather like someone I know very well.” Seeing the blush that graced Hermione’s cheeks, Harry nodded and grinned. “If she were unhappy about us being together, I’m rather certain that we would have known it tonight.”
As the two of them started up the steps, Hermione nodded her head and the door clicked and swung open. Smiling impishly at him, she chuckled. “Since Mum and Dad are so busy upstairs in the library watching us, no sense on waiting to unlock the door, is there?”
Glancing up as they entered the kitchen, Harry could see a flash of movement in the window as they crossed the threshold of the house. Shutting the door behind them with a nod, he sighed. “At least we didn’t do anything totally inappropriate while they were watching us.”
Giggling, Hermione began taking off her coat and placing it on the back of a chair. “After this afternoon, I doubt that we’ll be able to shock them with too much, though it might be a bit fun to try.”
“What might be fun, Poppet?” Alex Granger entered the kitchen and nodded to the two. “Everything go fine visiting Harry’s parents?”
Blushing slightly, Hermione nodded to her father. “Everything was fine Daddy. Harry and I want to take you and Mum to visit sometime; I’m looking at a couple of spells that will allow the two of you to see the monument and the cottage where Harry was born.”
Smiling tolerantly at his daughter, Alex nodded and winked at Harry. “You’ll find she does that, from time to time. When she doesn’t want to answer part of a question, she goes on and on about something else, hoping I’ll either overlook it or forget what I asked her.” Grinning at the exasperated look his daughter gave him, Alex sighed. “Definitely takes after her mother, she does.”
Entering the kitchen, carrying her coat, Helen Granger smiled. “You say that as if it’s a bad thing, dear. How is Hermione taking after me now?”
Kissing his wife on the cheek, Alex smiled. “She has a tendency to avoid answering subjects she’d rather not talk about by going on a bit about something else to take your mind off the question you originally asked. Something you would know about, correct dear?”
Smiling, Helen rolled her eyes. “Don’t be silly, Alex. But we really should be heading out to the square if we’re going to enjoy the entire spectacle that makes up Christmas Eve in Oxford.” Turning towards her daughter, she winked conspiratorially. “Did you and Harry find an appropriate spot for us to appear out of thin air in?”
Blushing a bit, Hermione nodded. “Yes Mum, there’s an approved apparition spot near the square. It’s setup for all of the students who are attending courses here to come and go without having to have anything inside the colleges proper.” Shaking her head, Hermione smiled apologetically at Harry before turning back to her father. “Daddy, Harry was relieved that we hadn’t done anything inappropriate while you and Mum were spying on us, I mean while you were watching the moonlight in the yard, and I was just suggesting that it might have been fun to have been mildly inappropriate before we came into the house.”
Laughing, Alex shook his head. “Poppet, I wasn’t criticizing, I was merely warning Harry. And it’s much too chill a night for anything more than the mildest inappropriate behavior.”
Looking at the two of them blushing, he sighed. “Your mother and I trust the two of your and we most heartily approve of you being together. Your little performance this afternoon notwithstanding, I’m certain that the two of you are exploring your new relationship very carefully and we have no fears about the two of you.” Smiling at the disbelieving cough from his wife, he nodded. “Well, none other than the normal fears a father has about his only daughter’s happiness.”
Shaking her head, Hermione walked over and kissed her father on the cheek. “Daddy, the only person that worries more about my happiness than you is Harry. While we wouldn’t dream of depriving you of your right to worry about me, you can relax, just a bit. It’s not like the time Grandmother Jane walked in on you and Mum doing ‘laundry’ that one Easter break, is it?”
Watching Alex Granger blush and Helen look positively scandalized, Harry smiled and shook his head. While not knowing the particulars, Harry knew that Hermione had just played a rather remarkable trump card.
Shaking her head, Helen rolled her eyes. “I can’t believe my mother told you that story. You were only seven when she passed. You were much too young to hear that tale.”
Putting her coat back on, Hermione smiled knowingly. “Grandmother wrote me quite a long series of letters before she passed. She left them with her solicitor, with instructions to see that I received them after I turned eighteen, but that you and Daddy weren’t to know about the letters and the other items. Jane Martin was quite a remarkable woman, and she left me a great deal of insight, not only into my parents, but into life in general.”
Looking at Harry, she smiled. “I really wish I had seen them earlier. Her stories of wartime Britain and her meeting my grandfather would have helped us during that year we were on the run, and if I’d had read them before the fact, rather than after, I would have realized exactly which wizard in that ratty old tent I was in love with the night Ron pushed me to make a choice.”
Clearing his throat, Alex smiled as his daughter and her chosen looked up and blushed. “Hermione, if it isn’t too much trouble, I’m certain your mother would love to read some of those letters. But tonight, we have Christmas Eve to attend to, and from what I understand this will be quite an experience for Harry.” Nodding to his daughter, Alex smiled. “Poppet, why don’t I go with you and your mother will go with Harry?”
Seeing her nod, he walked over to her and waited for her to take his arm. Turning to Harry, Alex nodded. “We’ll meet you there in the square.”
As Hermione and her father exited the kitchen, Helen Granger put her coat on and smiled at Harry. “Not very subtle, but this should give us a chance to talk without my daughter overhearing us. Do you mind?” Indicating the chair in front of Harry, Helen seated herself at the table and waited.
Looking at her curiously, Harry smiled, pulled out the chair, and sat. “Is this a ‘Helen, what is it we need to talk about?’ moment or a ‘Mrs. Granger, what would you like to tell me?’ moment?”
Laughing, Helen shook her head. “Harry, every time we speak, I’m more and more certain of my daughter’s judgment regarding you. This is definitely a ‘Helen’ moment, if you will.”
Laughing along with her, Harry sighed. “All right, Helen, what is it that we don’t what Hermione to know?” Putting his hand up, Harry stopped her when she was going to begin. “Just one thing, I’m not clearly certain why, but most everything one of us knows, the other does eventually, usually without having to be told. It’s not that we go rummaging around in each other’s heads; it’s more that we seem to share things on a level that neither of us seems to totally understand, at the moment. I’ll try to keep any confidences you want, as long as they won’t harm her, but I can’t guarantee she won’t suss out anything you tell me on her own.”
Smiling, Helen nodded. “Fair enough, and that confirms one of the things I’ve suspected about you two for years now. But what I wanted to tell you is that you need to take a firm hand with my daughter on one subject.” Seeing the look on his face, she shook her head. “I’m totally serious here. Hermione feels dreadfully guilty about how things happened during her childhood, and since the two of you found us in Canberra, she’s gone to great lengths to include us in all aspects of her life.”
Nodding, Harry smiled. “She mentioned that earlier, and she was worried that I would have a problem with that. I told her that I have no reservations about the two of you being involved in our lives.”
Smiling sadly, Helen shook her head. “Harry, you’re going to have to help Alex and I draw boundaries with Hermione. The last thing the two of you need is the two of us living in your back pockets. We’re thrilled to know more of what she’s doing, and we really do enjoy her friends and their perspectives on life, but her father and I want the two of you to be happy, and you need space to build your own life together. The two of us are going to rely upon you to set limits, because Hermione is very determined to compensate for how things were when she was younger.”
Looking serious, Harry nodded. “Helen, I understand, but I hope you understand my dilemma. Your daughter, my girlfriend, is very determined to ‘make up’ to you and Alex for what she sees as you two missing out on her life growing up. While there isn’t anything in this world or the next that I wouldn’t brave for her sake, I’m very bad at telling her ‘no’ on things she has her mind and heart set on.”
Shaking her head, Helen sighed. “She’s more than made up for our inability to connect with her when she was growing up over the past several years. We understand her world and her place in it, and we’ve met friends and colleagues of hers.” Reaching across the table, Helen placed her hand on top of Harry’s and squeezed it gently. “She’s loved and loves and that’s in no small part thanks to you. We were very concerned about her up until we received those first letters from school from her.”
Smiling, Helen shook her head. “I really don’t know if I should tell you t his, but you were in every letter she sent home, from the very first one explaining she had met a very interesting boy on the train who seemed willing to be friends with her through the last one she wrote after your Headmaster’s death. She spent almost four pages writing about how you were holding up and her fears for you.”
Shaking his head, Harry smiled ruefully. “You knew then, didn’t you?”
Smiling, Helen stood and walked around the table towards the door. Waiting for Harry to join her, she slid her arm into his and nodded to him. “Harry, would it distress you if I told you that I knew that day in Diagon Alley, all those years ago?” Seeing the look of amazement on his face, she laughed as they exited the house into the snowy night. “Harry, the look on her face when she saw you told me everything I needed to know about what was going to happen in your future. I didn’t realize all of the things that were swirling around you then, if I did I would have been scared to death for the both of you, but at that moment I knew that I’d be seeing a good deal of you in the future.”
Blushing, Harry shook his head as they stopped on the four flagstones that marked the apparition point. “Was there anyone besides the two of us who didn’t see it?”
Shaking her head, Helen smiled. “Anyone who really cared about either of you could see it, if they looked. I imagine that most of your classmates wondered what the two of you were playing at, denying your relationship all those years.” Watching Harry out of the corner of her eye, Helen gave him a second to compose himself before she spoke. “Well Harry, we have a Christmas Eve to attend. Do whatever it is you do and let’s get there. Hopefully Alex and my daughter have gotten us a good place to stand and watch.”
Nodding, Harry tightened his grip on Helen’s arm. “Just hold on, and don’t let go until I tell you we’re there.” Looking at the look of grim determination on her face, he laughed. “It’s not that bad. You look just like Hermione’s does when I take her flying. Relax; I haven’t lost anyone in almost a year.”
Waiting until she turned to look at him, with shock in her eyes, Harry smirked and twisted in place, taking both of them to the apparition point in the back courtyard of the small wizarding pub that served as the hub for Oxford’s magical community. Shaking her head, she glared at him. “You did that on purpose.”
Nodding, Harry grinned. “Yep. That way you weren’t worrying about it and tensing up. If you were annoyed with me, you weren’t thinking about being magically popped across the city, so you didn’t have time to worry about it.”
As they made their way through Fris’ Flagon, the pub they found themselves in, Harry nodding absentmindedly to a couple of holiday well-wishers who greeted him with a bit of surprise in their voices. Shaking her head as they exited into the wintery night, Helen finally spoke. “Harry, if my daughter is ever stubborn enough to stay mad at you for more than twenty-four hours, tell me so I can explain to her exactly how foolish she’s being.”
Laughing, Harry grimaced. “Helen, if I ever am foolhardy enough to cause her to be mad at me, I’ll deserve whatever I get, but I appreciate the thought.”
Walking up the narrow street towards the square, the two came out into the lights and looked around. Seeing Alex and Hermione standing a quarter of the way around, they crossed to them amidst the holiday celebrants that were moving about, looking for a place to observe and participate in the evening’s celebrations.
Looking up as soon as Harry and Helen got within twenty feet, Hermione’s face lit up with a smile and she ran across the intervening distance and threw her arms around Harry. Kissing him on the lips, she smiled. “Took you two long enough. What are you and my mother up to?”
Shaking her head, Helen looked shocked. “Hermione Jane, what makes you think the two of us have been up to anything? Did you and your father stop and pick up the chestnuts you two are so fond of?”
Shaking her head in exasperation, Hermione took Harry’s arm and snuggled close to him. Rising up to kiss him again, she murmured, “We’ll talk later about you and my mother plotting behind my back. But I still love you.” Kissing him tenderly, she smiled as he rolled his eyes and returned the kiss.
The evening began shortly with a procession by the Bishop and the members of the choir from the cathedral entering the square. A number of carols were sung, both by the choir and the assembled crowd, and the bishop began to give a rousing message regarding the spirit of the season and the meaning of Christmas and Christmas Eve.
While he was speaking, a brief flash of yellow light caught Hermione’s attention and she turned to look. Down a darkened alleyway near where they were standing, Hermione could briefly see a panic stricken face that looked like Susan Bones down the way. Looking up and seeing Harry’s attention firmly on the events transpiring in the square as the Bishop was expounding upon the appearance of the angels to the shepherds outside the village of Bethlehem, Hermione murmured in his ear, “Be back in a second”, slid her wand into her hand and carefully stepped towards the alleyway. Looking around she could see a figure slumped against a wall, about twenty feet into the alley, but no other apparent figures. Stepping out of sight of the crowd, she cast a silent Homenum Revelio, and saw that the slumping figure of a young woman or witch was the only occupant of the alley other than herself.
Moving cautiously towards her, she could see the bloody features of Susan Bones in the moonlight that filtered into the alleyway. As she approached, the witch’s eyes fluttered open, and she whispered, “Hermione?”
Looking around once more, Hermione recast the Homenum Revelio. Assured that they were alone, she closed the distance between them and knelt down beside the injured witch. “Susan, don’t try to talk. I’ll just get Harry and we’ll take you to St. Mungo’s.” Looking up the alleyway to where Harry was standing with her parents, Hermione sensed rather than saw Susan move beside her. Turning, she vainly tried to dodge the unexpected attack she sensed too late as a bolt of red light struck her on the shoulder and she lost consciousness.
Consciousness returned, the throbbing pain in her head was overwhelmed by the stiffness in her shoulder and a sharp pain in her wrists and ankles. Realizing she was laying in just her jeans and top on the wet snowy ground, she opened her eyes to see what she could ascertain about her situation.
Standing over her, pointing her own wand at her was Gregory Goyle. Towering in the moonlight, the look on his face was one of rage, loathing, disgust and something else, something the chilled her to the bone. Standing a bit behind him, was one of the other two she had seen him with earlier, whom she now recognized as Cecil Warrington, a Slytherin from Umbridge’s Inquistorial Squad. A scrapping footstep behind her alerted her to where the third member of Goyle’s coterie was. The name Mordred Montague attached itself to the remembered face.
Shaking his head, Goyle focused his attention on her and spat. “Well if it isn’t Potter’s mudblood slag. Isn’t it amazing what one can find lying in gutters in the muggle world?” Grinning ominously, Goyle looked up and nodded to the person behind Hermione. As she tried to raise her hands, she realized they were held to the ground by a pair of bracers that were attached around her wrists. A sharp pain in the side of her head, as a booted foot connected, caused the scene in front of her to jar as stars shot across her vision from the cowardly blow.
Looking up at Goyle, she tried to reach out with her thoughts for Harry. Something was blocking her perceptions in all directions. Shaking her head to clear it, she was aware of a warm weight resting against her chest. Whatever else they took beside her wand, the thuggish trio had missed her DA medallion.
Goyle noisily spat on her again. “Look at me when you’re being addressed by your betters. Thanks to you and Potter, my father died in Azkaban last week. I’ve decided I’m going to take that out of your hide before we send you back to him, like we did with Padma.” Grinning, he nodded to Warrington. “I’m certain he won’t mind if his slag is just a bit shopworn and worse for wear when he gets you back, will he.”
Keeping her voice calm, Hermione stared up at him. “You do realize that there’s no where you’ll be able to hide from Harry and Ron. Hell itself won’t shield you from them. Not to mention the rest of Dumbledore’s Army and the Order when they find out what you’re doing.”
Laughing cruelly, Goyle slipped his robes back and shook his head. “Those bracers were activated before you woke up. Every memory you have from that point forward will be sucked into them after we put you back to sleep. You won’t remember a thing, just like Padma and all the others. And we’ll have the memories to savor, just like all the others.”
Staring at Goyle and Warrington, as if memorizing every feature, Hermione shook her head just enough to see the rune covered bracers glowing with a faint silver sheen. Shaking her head, she smiled coldly. “Well, are you going to just stand there and talk me to death, or are you going to do something? It’s generally considered impolite to keep a lady waiting.”
Smiling in anticipation, Goyle knelt on the ground in front of her and placed his large, hamlike hands on her knees. “Any last words before we begin, Miss Know-it-all? “
Nodding, Hermione smiled, the sight of which unnerved Goyle and caused Warrington to take an involuntary step back. “Just two.”
Willing her power into the medallion she was wearing, she closed her eyes and shouted, “Broken Arrow!” in a clear, ringing voice.
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