“Happy Birthday Harry!” said Hermione, squeezing Harry tightly, unable to resist giving him a perfectly chaste kiss on the lips despite the near vicinity of her mother. Harry turned beet red when he spotted Hermione’s mother smiling at them.
“It’s good to see you again dear,” said Mrs Granger, beaming at Harry. “Maybe I should just leave you both to it for the afternoon then. I’ll look after Crookshanks and your things until you return to the Leaky Cauldron, Hermione...” she continued. “You can leave your things with me too Harry. Where’s your lovely owl by the way?”
“Oh... er... I just let her fly up here. Hedwig’s going to meet me at my godfather’s,” Harry replied.
Hermione couldn’t have been happier to spend the rest of the bright summer day in Diagon Alley just with Harry. After leaving their things with her mother, Hermione grabbed Harry’s hand and made a beeline for the rear of the Leaky Cauldron.
Harry bought them both ice-cream sundaes at Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlour when they had finished visiting Gringotts and purchasing their quills, parchments, and potions supplies. Though it would be more accurate to say that Harry had attempted to pay for the sundaes, as Mr Fortescue had once more refused to accept even a knut from his two favourite customers.
“Is your scar bothering you again?” Hermione asked Harry with a concerned look in her eyes when she noticed him rubbing at it absentmindedly.
“Er...” Harry began haltingly; he had hoped to not spoil his afternoon with Hermione. “Yeah... I suppose so,” he sighed. “I was going to tell you and Sirius and Lupin later. I didn’t want to worry you just yet...”
“But that means that something’s happening with Voldemort then, doesn’t it?” Hermione gave Harry a hard stare.
Finally Harry relented and he revealed the dream that he’d had the night before. He told her about Wormtail and Voldemort, the snake and the old man, the old man's murder and the plot to kill someone else... but she could sense there was something about the dream he was still holding back.
“Harry...it’s not a dream, is it!? He’s come back... and he’s plotting to kill you, isn’t he?”
Slowly, unwillingly, Harry nodded, unable to refuse those big brown eyes; despite the warmth of the sunny day, a little shiver ran up his spine. Hermione squeezed Harry’s hand and peered at him pleadingly.
“Harry, you’ve got to tell Dumbledore...”
“Yeah... I know! I promise I will Hermione,” Harry swallowed uncomfortably. “After I get home - to Sirius’s I mean. I... I just wanted to have a nice time with you today.”
Hating to see Harry looking so anxious, Hermione bit her lip glancing up and down the street, and decided to risk it. Pulling her chair a bit closer to Harry’s, she leaned in and gave him a kiss, allowing their lips to mingle as long as she dared in public. Hermione spied a witch smiling at them as she pulled away, and turned pink. But seeing Harry’s happy, dazed expression, she decided it was well worth the price of embarrassment.
Harry felt much more relaxed after Hermione kissed him, and the burning in his scar faded until it was barely an itch. The grin on his face was infectious, and Hermione beamed back at him as they carried on with their afternoon in Diagon Alley. They were both a bit puzzled when they spotted the next item on their lists.
“Dress robes? That’s weird! What d’you reckon that’s all about?” asked Harry.
“They must be for some sort of formal event,” Hermione replied. “It looks like we’ll have to pay a visit to Madam Malkin’s.”
“Er... formal event?” Harry squeaked anxiously.
“A fancy dinner with guests...” Hermione began.
Harry started to relax. That didn’t sound so bad; dressing up for the posh restaurant at Easter had been fun really, and Hermione had been a vision to behold in that dress. As long as nobody fussed him about what sort of cutlery to use, he’d be alright.
“...or some sort of ball perhaps,” Hermione finished.
“Wait... you mean a ball - as in dancing? ...in front of other people?” Harry started to panic. He didn’t know how dance. This was a disaster in the making.
“Oh Harry!” Hermione peered at him sympathetically when she saw that he looked far more nervous about dancing than he had been about his paining scar and his horrible dream. “It’s alright... really! I can teach you how to dance - you’ll be fine!”
“I dunno Hermione...”
But then Harry had a sudden memory of another dream from months ago - a dream in which he had been dancing with Hermione under stars and moonlight. If he could dance in a dream, perhaps he could manage it... maybe! If everyone else looked the other way.
“Harry... I’ve seen you do all sorts of amazing manoeuvres on your broom! You’ll be brilliant at dancing...”
“You really think so?” Harry swallowed as he looked Hermione in the eye.
“Yes Harry... you can do this... trust me!”
She really did seem to think he could do it. She had said that he could pass Arithmancy. And he had. Barely... but he’d managed it. As Harry continued to gaze into Hermione’s eyes he knew he trusted her with every fibre of his being. If she thought he could really do it...
“I do...” Harry whispered. “I trust you!”
Hermione beamed at Harry and hugged him. Five minutes later, they were both in Madam Malkin’s looking at dress robes.
“What about these?” Harry pointed out a set of iridescent green robes which matched his eyes.
“I’m not so sure Harry,” Hermione replied pensively. “They’re quite handsome, but that might be a bit much. What about those?”
Harry looked at the robes which Hermione seemed to like best and grinned. They were black like his normal school robes, but its elegant cut and stylish lapels gave it a similar appearance to the muggle tuxedo which he had worn at Easter. Perfect!
Harry had been thinking about what to get Hermione for her birthday, and the no longer daunting prospect of a formal event at Hogwarts had given him an idea for a gift. While Hermione was getting fitted for her own robes, he slipped out of Madam Malkin’s and returned just before her fitting was finished.
The last thing on their list was new schoolbooks. Unbidden, images of Harry's nightmare flickered in his mind again while they shopped in Flourish and Blotts. Harry suddenly knew what he had to do - something he knew he should have done a long time ago, but hadn't been able to face up to. He browsed through the history section and spied several books with familiar titles.
“You don’t have to buy those Harry; you can read my copies,” said Hermione when she saw that he was peering at three books: Modern Magical History, The Rise and Fall of the Dark Arts, and Great Wizarding Events of the 20th Century.
“Oh yeah... that’s why I feel like I’ve seen them before,” Harry murmured. “These are the ones you told me about when I first met you on the Hogwarts Express - the ones which have me in them - aren’t they!?”
“That’s right...” Hermione replied, “though now that I know you so well - and with what Dumbledore told you at the end of First Year - I’m not so sure that they’re entirely accurate in regards to how the wizard war ended. They all presume that Voldemort died that night, and none of them have any information about your life after...”
“What about the rest of it though - about what happened during the war I mean?”
“Well, they appear to have a reasonable summation of events as far as I know,” Hermione responded with a pensive expression. “They’re well worth reading, even if only to get an understanding of what the history books have to say about you and Voldemort.”
“Right, I will then,” Harry said firmly as Hermione beamed at him radiantly. “If he really is back again, I ought to bone up on as much information as I can get.”
When they had finished shopping and returned to the Leaky Cauldron, Harry was thrilled to discover that Sirius and Lupin had arrived, and were chatting with Hermione’s mother.
“Hello Harry... Happy Birthday!” said Lupin with a smile.
“Ah... there you are,” grinned Sirius. “Happy Birthday Harry! I was thinking we should all go to tea together in muggle London - that way Hermione’s aunt can join us as well...”
“Brilliant... That sounds great!” Harry replied, grinning back at Sirius as Hermione bounced happily on her toes beside him.
“Oh... thank you Sirius! Really, you’re too kind!” said Hermione’s mother.
“Not at all Jean - I’m delighted to...”
The five of them left the Leaky Cauldron and met Hermione’s aunt who had been doing a bit of shopping in Muggle London nearby. Harry thought that Sirius had something fancy planned, but he relaxed when he saw where they were headed. Sirius, Lupin, and Hermione all grinned at the excitement on Harry’s face when they arrived at the Burgers, Fish, and Chips shop they had all been to over the Easter Holidays.
All in all, by the end of the day, Harry decided that despite his trepidation over his dream and the probable return of Voldemort, it had to be his best birthday in his memory, perhaps beating out the day that he’d discovered that he was a wizard, and even the day that he’d been emancipated. For the first time ever in his life, Harry was having what felt like a proper birthday party with family - with people he loved.
After tea, they all ended up at Number 12 Grimmauld Place, which seemed even brighter and more cheerful than when Harry and Hermione had departed at the end of the Easter Holidays. Not only had Sirius and Lupin thoroughly finished cleaning, apparently they had redecorated many of the rooms as well. Though most of the furnishings were still the same, the walls had fresh coats of brightly coloured paint and new wallpaper, and the ornamentation was more inviting and homey. There were even freshly cut flowers in the crystal vases in the parlour.
“Remus’s touch,” said Sirius, giving Harry a wink.
Cake and ice cream was served with fizzy drinks, and as Harry's birthday celebration rolled into the evening, trays full of snacks and butterbeers were brought up to the parlour. Mrs Granger and her sister were introduced to the dubious delights of Exploding Snap. Crookshanks and Hedwig, who had been over-the-moon to see each other again, quickly exited the parlour after the first loud bang.
“Don’t worry if your eyebrows get singed,” Sirius chortled, “Remus is good at sorting out that sort of thing.”
Then came time for presents. The first Birthday Gift that Harry opened was from Hermione: a leather bound edition of Lord of the Rings.
“Thanks Hermione,” Harry croaked tearily, “I only ever managed to finish The Hobbit before Uncle Vernon caught me reading the books and took them away from me. He made me...” Harry trailed off, flushing at the horrified look on Mrs Granger’s and her sister’s face.
“...take them back to the school library,” Hermione sadly finished for Harry. “I remembered you telling me last year.”
Harry received a brand new pair of jeans and several t-shirts which were just the right size for him from Hermione’s mother, and Mrs Granger gave her sister a mock glare when she presented Harry with an enormous box of chocolates.
“This one is from both of us - me and Remus,” said Sirius as he passed Harry a rectangular package wrapped in shiny red and gold paper. “It was his suggestion... and a jolly good one I might add!”
“Is... is this a wand holster?” asked Harry, his eyes widening when he opened the box and saw what was inside.
“Yes indeed,” Lupin replied, his face crinkling as he smiled. “It’s enchanted so that only you shall be able to remove your wand...”
“Much safer than keeping it in the back pocket of your jeans!” Sirius added wryly.
But the best birthday gift of all, after Hermione’s mother and aunt had departed for their hotel and Harry had got ready for bed, was when Hermione entered his room through the door adjoining hers, dressed in her nightgown, and snuggled next to him. After a long minty kiss, Hermione curled her arm around Harry and lay her tawny head on his shoulder, sighing contentedly.
The residual itching of Harry’s scar vanished nearly completely in Hermione’s warm embrace, and Harry knew that no nightmarish visions of Voldemort and Wormtail would keep him awake that night.
The weeks leading up to the World Cup passed far too quickly, but very cheerfully for Harry and Hermione. Harry got the worst bit out of the way the morning following his birthday when he told Sirius and Lupin about his scar hurting again and the “dream.”
“...There’s some bits I don’t quite remember, and I couldn’t really make out what Voldemort looked like. I know that I ought to tell Dumbledore, but I’m not sure what to put in a letter,” Harry muttered.
“Very sensible Harry,” said Lupin, nodding as he stroked his chin and peered at Sirius’s worried features. “You’re right of course - Dumbledore needs to know straight away, and it’s not entirely safe to put that sort of information in a letter.”
“Perhaps Harry should pay him a visit...” began Sirius.
“Not necessary,” Lupin interjected. “I’ll go... As long as I’ve got all the key bits of information, I can relay it to Dumbledore for now. Harry should just try his best to get on with his holiday. Why don’t you all go and do something nice - I’ll be back later this afternoon.”
After that first morning, Harry and Hermione spent most of their days exploring muggle London with the grown-ups, and occasionally without them. Evenings were spent reading their new school books and studying together in Number 12’s library. Hermione had dug into her trunk for her modern wizarding history books as well, because Harry was particularly keen to find out more about what they said about him and Voldemort. Of all of the history books, The Rise and Fall of the Dark Arts turned out to be the most comprehensive.
“You were right Hermione - the information about me is pretty sparse actually... Nothing about me with the Dursleys at all, and only a bit about how my parents fought against Voldemort and that he killed them. All they really say about me is that when I was one year old I somehow survived Voldemort’s killing curse and that I have a lightning bolt shaped scar...”
“...and that they think you might have killed Voldemort with a really powerful burst of accidental magic,” said Hermione. “That book you’re looking at right now is the only one which also suggests the possibility that Voldemort might not actually be dead, but could have been badly injured, lost his powers, and gone into hiding. They obviously don’t really know what happened that night.”
“No wonder Dumbledore’s so cautious and secretive - I suppose he doesn’t know who to trust - so he couldn’t tell the Ministry everything,” Harry's brows knitted in a frown as he continued scanning the text. “Looks like a whole load of Voldemort’s supporters got off by claiming they were victims of some sort of mind-control - something called the Imperius Curse...”
“A lot of them were in the Ministry and the Wizengamot... and some still are! ” Harry gasped, his eyes popping in shock. “How much do you want to bet that Lucius Malfoy was one of those? Blimey! That’s a really creepy name for their group...”
“Yes,” Hermione nodded, feeling a little shiver even though it wasn’t cold. “Death Eaters they called themselves.”
“Hmmm... so that’s a picture of Voldemort’s insignia then,” said Harry, still looking pale. “A skull with a serpent in its mouth...”
“...the Dark Mark!” Hermione murmured, peering at Harry anxiously, hoping he wasn’t too upset.
Harry shut the book when he’d finished reading and pushed it away from himself as if it were diseased, almost wishing that he hadn’t read it, a look of revulsion twisting his features. He couldn’t believe that so many of Voldemort’s supporters were still in positions of power. It was almost too horrible to contemplate, but Harry instinctively knew that many of those who had claimed to be Imperiused were lying. And there was no doubt in his mind that Mr Malfoy was one of them,
Hermione shifted on the settee, moving closer to cuddle Harry. With Hermione’s arms around him, Harry began to feel a bit better. But after he had gone to bed that night, he still lay awake feeling unsettled for a good long while, his thoughts racing and scar itching, even with Hermione sleeping beside him. Harry couldn't get it out of his mind that once Voldemort had found some way to restore himself from whatever form he was in now, he was sure to seek out his former supporters.
Harry felt Hermione stirring next to him and tried his best to put it out of his head. He put his arm around her and breathed in her fragrance, gently stroking her hair and kissing her forehead. A little smile crept to Hermione’s slumbering lips and Harry finally began to settle.
The days that followed were sweltering in London, and finally the day came when Hermione’s mother and aunt were due to return to Bournemouth. It was breakfast time at Number 12, and Mrs Granger and her sister were sitting in the dining room eating with the others before they said goodbye and drove back.
“You both look like you’re melting already. Either of you fancy a dip after we see your mum off, Hermione?” Sirius asked Harry and Hermione as they buttered their crumpets. “There’s a nice public swimming pool nearby.”
Jean Granger glanced at her sister questioningly; Joanne smiled and nodded.
“It’s really not that long of a drive to Bournemouth, and it’s got a lovely sandy seashore,” said Mrs Granger. “Why not come down with us and spend a day at the beach?”
“Oh Mum... that’s a brilliant idea!” Hermione exclaimed excitedly. “Harry’s never actually been for a day at the beach - we can bring a picnic...”
Sirius and Lupin peered at Harry, who looked quite eager.
“Er... yeah, that sounds great!” Harry grinned. “Besides going on the ferry to Corfe Castle with Hermione, the closest I ever got to the beach was when the Dursleys tried to escape all the owls Hogwarts was sending me. We took a boat out to a dinky little island in the middle of the sea.”
“And I daresay I could use a bit of sun myself,” Lupin admitted dryly.
“Splendid!” Sirius beamed, “We can stop in a shop and pick you up some swimming trunks on the way, Harry.”
Including shopping for the picnic lunch and for Harry’s trunks, the drive back to Bournemouth took a bit longer than usual but they arrived by midday. Soon enough, the grown-ups were lounging in beach-chairs slathering themselves with sunscreen while Harry and Hermione sat on beach towels nearby in the sand. There wasn’t a single cloud in the bright blue sky; the sun sparkled on the water, and the beach wasn’t too crowded as it was the middle of the week.
As Hermione sunned herself in a two piece bikini on the sandy beach, Harry found himself feeling much hotter than seemed reasonable. It wasn’t nearly as warm as it had been in London, but his face was blazing.
It suddenly struck him that this was the most he’d ever seen of Hermione. Harry couldn’t help but be reminded of the way the pearly evening-gown had clung to her at Easter, and struggled valiantly to keep his eyes off her curves, glancing away every time she looked at him. Finally she managed to catch his eye.
“You alright Harry?” Hermione grinned as she regarded Harry’s red face and flustered expression.
“Er... yeah! Never better...” he lied in a rather squeaky voice, strategically repositioning the picnic basket to hide the growing bulge in his swimming trunks..
For some reason that seemed to send Hermione into a fit of giggles. Wickedly, Hermione snatched the basket away and flung a handful of golden sand at Harry.
“Oi... what the...?” Harry peered at Hermione with a half-amused, half bewildered expression. Then she leapt up from her beach towel, sending another shower of sand his direction.
“I am so getting you back for that!” Harry chortled, jumping up himself.
“You have to catch me first Harry...” Hermione giggled gleefully as she ran towards the water.
Harry splashed into the chilly waves after her with a huge grin plastered on his face, his anxiety vanishing as he cooled down and engaged in a water fight with Hermione. Jean Granger opened her eyes and peered at the waterline when she heard Hermione’s shrieks of laughter. She sighed happily to see her daughter enjoying herself so much with Harry; it was nice to see Hermione just relaxing and cutting loose for once.
Jean realised that she wasn’t the only one finding wistful joy watching the teens playing in the sea when she saw Sirius’s expression out of the corner of her eye. Sirius caught Jean looking at him and quickly rubbed his eye with his forefinger.
“Er... just got some sand in my eye,” he said with a slightly hoarse tone before grinning and giving her a roguish wink.
Jean could have sworn she heard Remus issue a mild snort of mirth. She was surprised, as she had thought he was dozing behind those sunglasses as her sister Joanne was.
Hermione woke up very early on the morning that they were to leave for the Quidditch World Cup with her arm across Harry’s chest and her head resting on his shoulder. Her own heart raced as she snuggled closer to Harry and felt his heart beating slowly under the palm of her hand. She was surprised that he wasn’t awake himself yet, as Harry’s excitement about the upcoming match had been catching.
But then she realised that Harry must have lain awake until very late, unable to sleep from the anticipation. Hermione lay beside Harry, pressed up against him, feeling and hearing his gentle breathing for what felt like an hour until she was unable to resist any longer.
This would probably be their last proper moment alone to cuddle like this for some time to come, as they had both been invited to visit with the Weasleys for the few days between the closing of the Quidditch Final and the trip to King’s Cross to catch the Hogwarts Express. Hermione leaned over Harry, tenderly stroking his messy black fringe with her fingers, and pressed her lips softly against his.
Harry wasn’t certain if he was asleep or awake as the reality seemed so like his dream. Instinctively, his arms wrapped around the affectionate girl with tawny tresses and pulled her closer as their kiss deepened.
“Time to wake up, Sleeping Beauty...” said Harry’s girlfriend as their lips wetly parted and a beam of early morning sunlight streamed through his window.
Harry’s eyelids fluttered open and he gazed into those brown eyes which always seemed to shine like gold ingots at moments such as this, as did the mane of hair framing his girlfriend’s face.
“Morning Hermione,” he said with a grin.
Feeling a soaring tingle of elation, Harry gently pulled Hermione back towards him for another lengthy kiss, entwining his fingers in her messy golden ringlets now that he was properly awake. When it was finished, Hermione sighed happily and leaned back against the pillow, savouring the moment.
Harry inhaled her minty aroma as he waited patiently for Hermione to get up and return to her own room. Crookshanks yawned and blinked at Harry, appearing to grin, his bushy orange tail coiled around Hedwig who had opened one eye.
“Er...” Harry said after a few minutes passed, starting to grow a bit anxious. Hermione sat up a bit and peered at Harry quizzically, seeing a reddening flustered expression on his face.
“I... er... I need to get up Hermione...” Harry stammered, smiling awkwardly at her.
“Er... maybe you could... erm... get up first?” Harry gave Hermione a pleading look. When her eyes caught the tent in the bedcovers and widened in understanding, he blushed like a ripe tomato.
“Oh... of course Harry! I’m sorry!” Hermione bit her lip hard to stop herself from giggling nervously as she also began to turn pink.
Harry breathed a sigh of relief when Hermione departed his bedroom and Crookshanks jumped off the wardrobe to follow her. Hedwig peered at Harry for a moment, then with a flap of her wings the snowy owl dove out of the open window to give him some privacy. Harry reached his hand under the covers and slipped it under the waistband of his pyjama bottoms to sort out his problem.
Hermione had been drinking orange juice in the kitchen, sitting with Lupin and Sirius and waiting to eat breakfast when Harry finally arrived. She struggled mightily not to snort the juice out of her nose with laughter when Harry wouldn’t meet her eye and his Adam’s apple bobbed as he gulped guiltily.
“Morning Harry!” said Lupin loudly, as if he hadn’t seen a thing. Harry glanced at him gratefully, glad of the distraction.
“Good thing we’re wizards - the bacon and eggs are still piping hot,” said Sirius, lifting the silver cover from the platter as he gave Harry a grin and a wink.
Lupin rolled his eyes at Sirius when Harry flushed. Lupin quickly piled scrambled eggs, sausages, and bacon onto Harry’s plate, passed him a stack of toast, and poured him a large glass of orange juice. Harry had never been more happy to dig into his breakfast and focus intently on his food. Harry was still eating when Sirius had finished and began to reveal the itinerary.
“Right then...” said Sirius, “we’ll be meeting your friend Neville at the Leaky Cauldron at 9 am, picking him up in a muggle limousine. Your friend Luna will be meeting us at the campground with her father. I upgraded both of their tickets to box seats next to ours when he replied that he had been planning on taking Luna anyway. So you’ll still all be able to enjoy the match together...”
“The match isn’t until tomorrow evening, but I figured there’s not much point in having a splendid tent if we don’t put it to good use. So that’s why we’re going a day ahead. Arthur - your friend Ron’s father - sent me an owl yesterday to tell me that they won’t be arriving at the campsite until the crack of dawn tomorrow morning.”
“Then you’ll be leaving with the Weasleys the following morning, so you can enjoy the last few days of the summer holidays with them. Arthur and Molly are quite fond of you two... and are very much looking forward to seeing you both again.”
Sirius swallowed, looking like he was already missing Harry and Hermione. With a sigh, he passed them both what appeared to be little mirrors.
“What’s this for?” Harry asked curiously, wiping his bacony fingers on a napkin before picking up the mirror.
“Communication!” Sirius replied hoarsely. “It’s a two-way mirror. Just say the name of those who you wish to speak to while touching or holding the mirror, and anyone who has another mirror like it will answer or receive the message when they’re holding or touching it themselves.”
“Oh!” gasped Hermione, her eyes widening. “They’re a bit like mobile-phones then!”
“Pardon?” Sirius lifted his eyebrows questioningly at Hermione.
“It’s a muggle communication technology,” Lupin responded, answering for Hermione. “They were only just starting to catch on when you were imprisoned - too expensive for most muggles at the time, and quite bulky. But they’ve become fairly ubiquitous during your incarceration, and are growing smaller with each new model. They don’t have the visual capabilities of the mirrors - but I expect that it’s only a matter of time before they do.”
“Remarkable!” said Sirius, looking very impressed. “...In any case, these are actually quite rare in the wizard world. I have another one, and Lupin has one too - the ones I just gave to you two originally belonged to your mum and dad, Harry. At first there was only one for each Marauder, and Peter broke his. We often used them to chat when we were serving separate detentions - not that Remus was ever in detention mind you...”
“Though I no doubt deserved to be!” Lupin interjected
“Nonsense! You did your utmost to keep James and me out of trouble...” Sirius protested. “In any case, Lily was absolutely brilliant - gifted like Hermione...” Hermione blushed furiously at Sirius’s high praise, and Harry grinned at her as Sirius continued.
“...and after she became James’s girlfriend, she worked out how to Charm a mirror - all by herself - more or less reinventing whatever spell was used to create the original mirrors. As far as I’m concerned, those two belong to you both - were meant for you! I gave Lily’s to Hermione...”
“If either of you want or need to speak with me or Remus for any reason - any at all - please don’t hesitate to call us. You’ll be able to use them to keep in touch with each other too.”
Harry and Hermione peered at their mirrors, and then at each other in perplex, their hearts racing as they began to sense the deeper implications. Speechlessly, they both turned their gazes back to Sirius and Lupin, not knowing what to say, as “thank you” didn’t even begin to cover it.
Sign up to rate and review this story