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Chapter 7 : White Sands
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It was obvious. The retreat, though small, was nothing short of magical. It radiated with the touch of a certain witch he knew. Harry flashed a knowing smile at Hermione as his eyes took in the beautiful scene.
"What..? They deserved it," Hermione shrugged, smirking back at him.
The resort was tucked away within a large oasis of palms and colorful, flowering shrubs that stood in the shadow of a large outcrop of granite to the north. Harry could smell the alluring scent of salt in the air and hear the gentle roar of the waves beyond.
'This is going to be terrific!' Harry shared zero of Hermione's reservations. With the Prince's antidote, this was going to be sinch, a vacation – a much, much needed vacation!
The cab taxied them to the largest of the grouped huts. They were all built of local, rich wood and thatch and their roofs were nothing more than the palms of the trees. It was absolutely splendid! Their own Garden of Eden.
A maze of narrow stone pathways cut through green vines, budding flowers, and flowering bushes, connecting the six smaller bungalows to the main building. The gravel lane looped beneath a covered portico where their cab finally came to a halt. Harry looked to Hermione as she sat as still as stone, looking nowhere other than straight.
"Take your time," Harry said tenderly, "I'll unload our things."
He understood. He understood why she did it, of course, and also the gravity of having to confront them and admit what she had done. She had played, albeit with good intentions, with the fabrics of their lives. She had changed their lives without their knowledge or consent. Harry was confident that they could restore them, but what then? They were her parents. They would forgive her.
Harry stalled for as long as he could, taking their luggage from the trunk of the cab and loading it onto a cart. He made idle talk with the cabbie, asking for recommendations on restaurants and local attractions. He even got a few good tips, but ultimately, after having paid the man and the driver got back into his vehicle, Harry had to tap at Hermione's window to beckon her on.
It stressed Harry to see her like this. Hermione took small, stiff steps towards the entry, as if marching to her own execution. Harry paved the way, leading her into the resort she had left her parents in charge of, one year ago.
"Hello and good morning! Welcome to the White Sands!" a slim and pretty woman greeted them from behind the check-in counter.
"Thank you, and good morning," Harry said as he rolled in the cart, but as the woman glanced back past him, looking concerned, Harry stopped. Following her sight back, Harry had already made it half-way to the counter, but Hermione was still at the door, frozen, fidgeting, and looked half a mind like she might turn and run back out. Harry left the cart to retrieve her, grasping her hand he pulled her the rest of the way in.
"What are you doing?" Harry mumbled under his breath to her as the woman, though still smiling warmly, now eyed them more carefully at Hermione's odd behavior. Once Harry got a good look at the woman, he understood why.
The woman was older, nearing middle age. She had fair skin with a small nose, brown eyes and a full set of brown bushy hair. Though only briefly, Harry had even met her before. There was no mistaking it, this was Hermione's mum.
"You two must be James and Anna?!" the woman clapped her hands together excitedly. Harry almost corrected her before reminding himself of the names on their passports. "We are so happy to have you! My name is Monica Wilkins. Welcome, welcome!" she waved them forward.
"Thank you," Harry said politely. "It's a pleasure to meet you."
"Oh, thank you sweetie, but the pleasure is all mine! And let me guess-" Mrs Granger, believing her name to be Monica, looked between the two nearly bubbling over with excitement, "a little newly wed jitters? We've got you for your honeymoon, don't we?!" she clapped her hands again.
Harry shifted a little uneasily, scratching at the back of his head. "W-well... actually... y-you see..."
"Yes," Hermione croaked from out of nowhere. Harry practically fell over with shock.
"Ah ha! I knew it!" Monica squealed. "And just look at the two of you, I've never seen a more perfect couple!" Both Harry and Hermione turned a beet red, neither possessing the courage to look at the other. "Don't worry darling, I've seen this a hundred times before!"
Harry was startled and almost pulled away as his new bride took his hand. He glanced over to her and she mouthed the word "sorry” to him.
Then, as if only to add to the perplexity of the situation, a large ball of orange fur suddenly lept up into Hermione's arms.
“Crookshanks!” Hermione gasped involuntarily. Her strange kneazle of a cat had found her right off, purring loudly all the while. It had been a year since she'd left him as well and she'd really been the only person he'd ever taken to. Guess he hadn't forgotten her.
“Crookshanks?” Harry heard Monica ask with astonishment. Hermione froze. “But, how do you..?
'Not as easy as I had thought...' Harry ran his hand down his face.
“The couple back in England who recommended this place to us...” Harry was quick on his feet, “they told us about this huge cat you had, like a little, miniature tiger!” Harry laughed alone. “But they told us he was a fierce little booger, what's this?” he jerked his thumb towards Hermione, playing it all off well.
“Huh?” Monica put her hand on her hip. “I don't know? I've never seen him like this before. He's usually very... well, ornery.”
“Yeah, well, Anna has always had a way with the outcasts,” Harry winked at his new bride.
"Well I'll be, wait until I tell my husband about this!” she laughed aloud. “You say a couple from England? May I ask who, I must send them a thank you card! We're such a small operation here, we certainly appreciate the recommendation."
“Yeah, er...” Harry scratched awkwardly at the back of his head. The web we weave! What could he say now? He couldn't just make up a name. “I don't... Anna, do you remember their names, they were friends of your parents?”
"Oh... uh, er..." Hermione stumbled, her eyes cutting at Harry like daggers. "I didn't know them that well... I can't seem to recall their names right now..." she shifted Crookshanks' weight in her arms uneasily.
"Oh don't worry about it, I'm sure it will come to you," her unknowing mum let her off the hook. Hermione smiled back feebly. "Anyways, lets get you two settled in. There's so much to see! So much to do!"
. . . .
"Honeymoon?!" Harry immediately turned on Hermione as soon as Monica had finished giving them the tour and left them to unpack. Crookshanks hissed at Harry defensively from his mistress's side, still the faithful pet. Monica couldn't understand it, but Hermione assured her it was okay and that she'd keep an eye on him.
"I-I..." Hermione looked to the floor, wringing her hands.
"I... she was already suspicious and I just panicked!" Hermione flung her arms out in dramatic fashion.
"Suspicious?!" Harry blurted out with astonishment.
"Well... this is a remote getaway... a kinda romantic place... What would two kids our age be doing here otherwise?!"
“Oh, I don't know, how about two friends on a plain old vacation?" Harry said flabbergasted. "Did you stop to think how suspicious we'll look if they don't see us acting like a newly married couple?!" he was growing impatient.
The truth of Harry's statement suddenly dawned on Hermione and settled on top of her like a ton of bricks. Harry could see it and it softened him.
"I... I-I was just scared and... I panicked," Hermione whimpered as she nervously bit at the nail of her thumb.
"Don't..." Harry quickly stepped forward, closing the distance between them and grasped her hand, pulling it from her lips. "It's okay. We'll figure it out. The most important thing is that we're here and-" a knock came from the door, interrupting them. Harry looked back to Hermione one last time, forgiving her with his eyes before he let her go and answered the door.
"Good'ay!" a middle aged man cheered them from the porch. His features seemed oddly familiar. "I'm Wendell Wilkins. Just passed my wife, Monica, and she told me our newest guests had arrived. Wanted to drop by, introduce myself and welcome you good people to the White Sands!"
"Thank you," Harry said, shaking Hermione's father's hand. "I'm James, and this pretty lady is my wife, Anna," Harry winked back at her. Hermione blushed, just as Harry was hoping. She had dug the hole after all! "It's quite an amazing place you have here!" Harry said, turning back to Mr. Granger - Wendell.
"Oh, thank you! It's all thanks to my pretty wife Monica, though. She's the one who makes it what it is!" Harry was struck by the genuineness of Mr. Granger and the love he radiated out for his wife. What a family! Harry envied Hermione, and cursed himself for having been the cause that had wrecked their lives. He wouldn't rest until he put it all back in order.
"I'm told we've got you for your honeymoon?”
“Er, yeah... that's right,” Harry played his part.
“Congratulations! But what are you two doing locked up in here? Beach is gorgeous today, I was just headed down to catch a little surf. Ever surfed before?” he asked both of them. They each shook their heads no in turn.
“Good, no bad habits! Come on, I'll get you two started!”
"Yeah, well..." Harry ran his fingers through his hair.
"You boys go on, I'll get us all unpacked, James," Hermione said jovially. Harry flashed her a glance and saw that she had that coy smile back on her face. Hermione duelly winked back at him, returning the favor. Harry smiled.
'Good one,' he thought to himself.
. . . .
Hermione enjoyed herself a shower before attending to their trunks, emptying each into the chest-of-drawers and closet. She had only just begun to settle in to come up with some kind of plan when another knock came at the door.
"Yes?" Hermione beckoned.
The door slid open and Hermione's unknowing mum, Monica, slipped her head in. "There you are! What are you doing? You're going to miss your whole first day here!" she protested.
"I, um..." Hermione struggled to come up with some excuse.
"Do you mind if we come in?" Monica opened the door wider, revealing another young woman right behind her. "This is Joyce. She and her husband came here for their honeymoon just last year! Joyce, I'd like you to meet Anna, our newest bride!" Monica introduced them.
"Hello," Hermione croaked as she got up off the bed to properly greet Joyce. Joyce was a young red-head that uneasily reminded her of Ginny, though she seemed very sweet.
"Hello," Joyce said, "It's a pleasure, and congratulations!"
“Thanks..." Hermione blushed while kicking herself mentally. What had she done?!
"All the boys are down at the beach, we were about to make some daiquiris, care to join?" Monica asked her.
"Er, I don't kn-"
"Oh stop it, you silly girl! This is your honeymoon! Come on, get changed into your swimsuit. We'll have a couple of drinks then meet the boys down at the beach!"
"O-okay..." Hermione gave in, seeing the determination on each of their faces. She fished out her beach wear and excused herself for a minute to change. When she came back out, she was greeted with teasing faces.
"You're not wearing that, are you?!" Monica guffawed and Joyce giggled.
"What?" Hermione asked, confused as she turned in circles, thinking that there was something on her.
"That bathing suit... you look like my grandmother!" Joyce teased her. Hermione blushed in her full, one piece, dull navy-blue swimsuit.
"If you're going to keep a hunk like that around, you're going to need a little something more - I think we're about the same size..." Joyce mulled her observation over a moment. "Wait here, I'll be right back!" And with that, Joyce was out the door. Hermione awaited with her mum uneasily. 'Hunk? Was she talking about Harry?!' Hermione flushed. 'What's wrong with this bathing suit?!'
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