The End of the Beginning

By Andrew Crawford

Drama / Romance

Chapter 15

Volume Two

It was one of the worst rainstorms Harry had ever seen. Rain fell in sheets that blew over the bay, reminding him forcefully of the flailing limbs of the Whomping Willow. The thunder was a constant low rumbling that never seemed to relent. Nothing within a hundred yards of the hotel window could be discerned with any real credibility.

Ron and Hermione were sharing the small couch in the sitting area of their hotel room pouring over the final details of the plan. Hermione had confirmed the day before that her parents were indeed here in Sydney, running a small practice out of a medical pavilion not far from where they were. They lived in a modest condo overlooking the bay directly across from them.

"Okay, let's go over it one last time." Hermione was jittery and had gone over the plan with them at least a dozen times since they had arrived in Australia two days previously.

"Give it a rest Hermione, we know the plan. You need to relax." Ron whined next to her.

"Relax?! How exactly am I supposed to relax Ronald!" she snapped back.

"Okay, okay, one last time, where do we start?" Harry attempted to defuse the situation by giving Hermione one last time to go through the plan.

"Okay. We're going to take a bus to their condo tomorrow when the Wilkins' have returned from work." She had taken to calling them by the fake names she herself had provided them. Harry thought it helped her focus without reminding herself that it was her own parents she was talking about.

"Ron, you and Harry are going to pretend to work for the company that they bought the condo from checking up on their satisfaction. I will be with you under the Invisibility Cloak. Hopefully, knowing the Wilkins', they will invite you inside. This will allow me to slip in unnoticed. All you have to do at that point is to get them both seated and facing you. I will then lift the memory charm. Then, well, we play it by ear."

Hermione hadn't lost the manic look in her eyes. Harry felt so powerless to help her; he had rarely seen her this way, like she was about to come apart at the seams and explode.

It was then that he had an idea. Ron would have to be quick on the uptake, but he trusted his friend to be up to the task.

"Hey Ron, maybe you should take her out for some fresh air and I'll brew some tea. You do need to at least try to relax Hermione."

While Hermione didn't seem to register how ridiculous a notion going outside in this storm was, Ron certainly did. Harry shot Ron a meaningful look, moving his eyes from his face to Hermione's handbag and back. His friend was not one to disappoint, picking up on Harry's plan beautifully.

"Come on Hermione, up you get." Ron placed an arm under Hermione and tried to get her standing up. Hermione stood like a zombie and followed Ron's prodding out the door and towards the elevator.

With them gone, Harry took out his wand and pointed it to her handbag. "Accio potions!"

Four different vials flew from Hermione's bag towards Harry who, with the true talent of Hogwarts' youngest seeker in a century, caught them effortlessly. Harry recognized the purple liquid of dreamless sleep potion in a larger vial that was nearly empty. She had clearly used most of her stock during their holiday on the Continent.

Harry took the vial to the small kitchen in the lobby downstairs and spiked Hermione's tea with the last portion. He knew what she needed more than anything was some rest for her mind.

Returning to the room he only waited for about five minutes before Ron and Hermione returned in the midst of a heated argument.

"They may never get their memories back Ron! What if I mess up the spell?! What if they get their memories back and hate me! That might even be worse! So STOP telling me to calm down! I will not calm down! Just because they won't be your in-laws doesn't mean that you should be so flippant about their fate! What about me Ron! How do you think I feel?!"

"Just stop! I care about you and your parents and you know it! I'm trying to help you! You're so scared of messing up the counter spell, but if you stay like this until the time comes then you are not going to be in a right state to cast it anyways!"

Ron's ears were the color of his hair and Hermione's hair looked like it had an electric charge.

Harry walked to Hermione and slid his hand into hers, gently rubbing her fingers with his thumb.

"Hermione?" he kept his voice as calm as possible, "Would you please sit here and drink some tea? I really think it will help."

She briefly looked like she might breathe fire in his direction, but his calm demeanor seemed to disarm her. Wordlessly she took a seat on the edge of the king sized bed and took a deep gulp from the teacup. Before she had even finished setting the cup back on the trey her eyes closed and she fell asleep.

Ron caught her before she hit the ground and Harry pushed the blankets back on the bed. Once she was situated both boys watched her sleep for a few moments.

"Do you really think this is going to work?" Ron was looking at Harry with a worried expression. Secretly, they were both as concerned as Hermione was, but they had kept that to themselves for her sake.

"I think if anyone can set this right she can." Harry tried to make his voice sound confident, but he wasn't sure Ron was convinced. He hadn't convinced himself either.

"You know she didn't mean that right?" Harry thought Hermione had gone a bit far by insinuating Ron had only cared about her parents as potential in-laws.

"I know, but she does know how to get under my skin." Ron sighed mightily.

"Will you keep an eye on her? I'm going to sit in the lobby a bit." Ron nodded and Harry made his way downstairs to the main lobby.

Finding a seat with a view of a small park that lead to the water's edge, Harry watched the rain pound the window.

It hadn't occurred to Harry before they reached Australia, but he had serious concerns about what was going to happen once the Grangers realized who they really were. If they realized who they were. As much as Hermione needed them there, he thought that his presence might complicate things once they realize that it was primarily his fault that she had done what she did.

He was so tired of dealing with the aftermath of the war with Voldemort. The first month after the Battle of Hogwarts had been spent going from funeral to funeral, family to family, letting them know how much Harry thought of them. How they: Remus, Tonks, Fred, Colin, and so many others, were the real heroes. Harry had never been given a choice to fight Voldemort, they had had every opportunity to run or hide, yet they stood anyways.

He had been grateful for a week at the Burrow before spending three solid weeks on holiday with his two closest friends. It had been great to get away and process things, but he had known that there was still unfinished business. All the loose ends hadn't been taken care of yet.

Once Hermione had her family back, Harry thought that maybe it would give him the closure he needed. The assurance he so desperately wanted that the war was indeed over and that they could get to some sense of normalcy. However normal things could be in this new world.

Harry placed his head against the cool glass. The rhythm of the rain was soothing to his mounting headache. He was very worried about Hermione. This trip had been hard on her and they hadn't even seen the Grangers yet. He hoped beyond hope that they could forgive her. She had done it to protect them, to keep them safe so that she could go with him.

It hadn't really sunk in what Hermione had given up to be with him last year until their plane had landed here in Sydney. It hit him all at once when the wheels hit ground that his friend had given up her entire life in order to stand by his side. She erased herself from her own parents, the only family she had, for him.

Every day since they had left England, he seemed to learn yet another way in which she had gone above and beyond the reasonable for him. A strange warm feeling settled in Harry's chest. He had only had brief glimpses of what it was like to be truly loved. The Weasleys certainly did, but he had never been able to spend enough time with them and Sirius….Sirius had died before Harry got much of a chance to be with him either.

Hermione however, had followed him to the very depths of hell and back. She had stood by his side, helped him solve the mystery of the horcruxes and Hallows, healed his wounds, protected him, visited his parents graves with him, and been willing to walk into his own grave with him.

She loved him. He had never truly appreciated it until very recently, during a conversation they had while in Greece, but it was still sinking into him. It made him appreciate her all the more.

And he loved her. He had said it once before, when he told Ron that he loved her like a sister, but that had been something said at the spur of the moment to a boy who desperately needed to hear it.

He knew now that he loved her. Not that he was in love with her. But he cared for her more than he cared about life itself. He was determined to do everything he could to help her put her life straight.

He would start by helping piece together her family again and nothing would stop him. They wouldn't hate Hermione because he wouldn't let them, he had formed a plan in his mind and he was now determined to follow through with it.

He hoped more than anything that Hermione would understand.

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