Wherein the Truth is Learned
He awoke the next morning to a somewhat insistent pressure, but it wasn't from his bladder. Heidi was cuddled against him, and he'd had his usual morning erection - right against her shapely bum. He tried to move away from her carefully.
"Going somewhere?" she asked with a voice filled with humour.
"Um," was all he could say.
"I'm not angry. Actually, I'm rather flattered by it. Especially since it seems to have clawed its way free of your boxers." He inhaled and she laughed, pressing back against him. "Don't apologise. You were asleep. Besides, I'm wearing more underwear than I was under that dress." She gave a throaty chuckle as he twitched against her. "I'm not trying to be a tease, but that does my ego no end of good to have you react like that,"
"I told you last night - my body was screaming to accept your offer, but my morals protested."
"And your body was screaming 'You idiot!', right?" she asked as she climbed from the bed and padded into the kitchen of her apartment. She was in a light blue camisole top that hugged her figure and stopped before it reached her navel and a pair of matching light blue thong panties.
"Merlin," he whispered in frustration, unable to tear his eyes away from her shapely rear until she had entered the kitchen. He climbed from the bed and carried his clothes with him into the bathroom, where he quickly washed up and got dressed.
"Pity," she said with a smile as he stepped out. "I was enjoying the view."
"I still am, which is why I needed to get your view of me safely hidden away." He sighed. "Heidi, you are really testing my willpower sorely, and that may have a more literal meaning in a while - sore, that is," he said with a very small laugh."We talked a lot, and you're someone I could probably fall for if I was going to be in town for a long time. But if we do what you're tempting me to do, I'm never going to want to leave, and I have to leave sometime soon." He thought for a moment. "Good lord, could I be more obvious that I'm a teenager?" he asked with a laugh. He copied her melodramatic hand to the forehead of the night before. "Oh woe is me!" he cried. "I have things to do, and I must leave the girl that might be my true love! I shall now write an overly depressing and extremely bad song about it!"
She was giggling madly as he finished. "You certainly have the angsty teen bit down, but you're not supposed to ridicule it!" she finally managed to gasp out. "You're supposed to be a tortured soul, yelling at everyone and brooding horribly."
"Oh. Well, I got that out of the way during this school year that just passed. Or did I miss the O.W.L. on that and have to keep going until I pass it?"
"I like you, Harry." She paused for a bit, during which time he enjoyed the way she looked as she stood at her stove scrambling some eggs. "Mind anything in your eggs?" she asked absently.
"As long as they're edible, feel free to add what you find tasty. Ham, bacon, cheese, cilantro, whatever."
She added some ham and white cheese to the eggs and cooked a while longer, obviously still thinking. As she brought them to the table, she said, "A warning - the cheese I used is a cheddar so sharp you can cut yourself."
"Ooo, sounds good!" he said. "Now, what were you thinking about so heavily? I can't believe that fixing scrambled eggs was using all your brain-power."
"I had an idea, but didn't know how you'd take it. I've been working the pros and cons in my head."
"Okay, shoot." He took a bite of his eggs, and smiled. "I love them," he said. "A good sharp cheese is excellent."
She smiled only momentarily. "I was wondering if you'd complain about me inviting myself along on your travels." She looked worried.
He stared at her for a long time before answering. "Hmm. I take it that you've thought about the fact that I've got two different sides chasing me to do what they want to me? One side wants to control me, and the other side wants to kill me, and will likely kill anyone with me?"
"No one can ever be completely prepared for that, I admit, but I've got to do something more with my life than sitting around here and nightclubbing. I've made myself wealthy by admittedly abusing the British banking system, and I've nothing to do that really interests me. I'm a skilled witch who can do what I want, and all I've been doing is hitting clubs and occasionally having sex with an interested partner."
"I think any man with a pulse is likely to be interested in you," he replied with a smile.
"Some of the women, too," she said simply. "And that means what you think it means."
He paused for a moment, then shrugged. It made no real difference to him. "Okay, so you're looking for something to do with your life, so you've decided that watching my back is that something?"
"It's a bit more than that," she answered him. "You intrigue me. Yes, you make me horny as well, but there are more guys than you that can get me wet. But you've got this sense of nobility, this attitude of - I honestly don't have a valid word for it - you make me realise that I can be better than I currently am, and I want to be better. If I stay here and do nothing, then I'll probably slip back into clubbing and fucking meaninglessly, but if I come with you, then maybe I can learn to be the better person I want to be."
"Okay," he said. "When does your lease run out, or do you own this place?"
She grinned. "I own the entire building. Got a landlord I trust to run the place. Comes back to that little bit of legal larceny I pulled in Britain. Converted a trust fund into Galleons and then sold them through a reputable dealer. Forty thousand Galleons brings a lot of real money in when sold."
He whistled. "Easy maths like that I can do. At the prices I got, I would have gotten ten million pounds, which I think comes out to about fifteen million US dollars."
"Roughly. I bought the building and had a lot left over. Hired a good administrator for the building, and keep money coming in through rents. Needless to say, I have the best apartment in the building."
"Penthouses are like that," he said with an amused shake of his head. "Whole floor?" She nodded.
"So what's your answer?" she asked him. "May I accompany you?" Her eyes sparkled. "I was going to ask if I can come with you, but that's for later in the relationship."
He snorted. "Wench," he said with a laugh. "I already answered you, though. It's why I asked about the apartment. If you're in no danger of losing the place, then I see no reason to prevent you from coming along."
She showed him around the city after they went to his hotel room and retrieved his few belongings.
They were walking around Munich on his third day when an owl began swooping down to him. "Don't touch the letter," he cautioned. "It's likely Dumbledore trying to contact me and Portkey me back to England against my will." He squinted. "There's either no magic on that letter, or he's gotten good about masking."
"You made a comment about me sparkling. You can see the aura around magical items?"
"Yes. The more powerful the spell or spells, the brighter the glow, it seems. I noticed it when I was looking right through invisibility cloaks."
"You can see through cloaks?" Her eyes sparkled. "Can you see through clothing?"
"Only if it's see-through," he responded as the owl landed in front of him. He looked at the handwriting and squinted at it again. "Hmm. I wonder how Hermione is chastising me now?"
I don't know what to tell you. I take full responsibility for my angry letter to you. I begin to understand now why you left, though.
I know that you might think this is an attempt to ask forgiveness, but it isn't. What I have written you is a letter to warn you that Dumbledore appears to be willing to throw around the Imperius to get his way. This is not to say that I am asking for forgiveness. Yes, I was under the Imperius, but an Imperius works much better if you are ordered to do something you want to anyway, and my order was to help protect you. In this case, by making sure that I was willing to tell you to stay at the Dursley home. Between that and my nearly slavish attention to the rules and to authority figures, it was easy to control me.
The fact that you've made no effort to contact me since leaving tends to point toward you no longer trusting me. KEEP THINKING THIS. I do not know when Dumbledore will realise that I've broken his hold. (Broken when he ordered me to nearly cripple you if you showed up to speak to me.)
While I would appreciate a response, you owe me nothing. In fact, I owe you a life debt, and will state that after what I have done to you, I will repay this debt, even to the cost of my own life, if necessary.
Please, no matter what, stay safe.
"Interesting," was all he said. "It explains a lot, though." He handed it to her. "I know that you don't know her, but maybe you can give me the female point of view, in case I missed something."
Hmm?" she asked, looking up from the letter. "Why didn't you tell me you had a girlfriend?"
"What?" he asked, startled. "What are you talking about?"
"Oh my," she said with a small laugh. "This girl is heartbroken that you think she's untrustworthy. I may be reading this wrong, but I think she's in love with you."
He blinked several times. "Oh boy," he finally said. "I learn this after getting intrigued by you. Wonderful."
"I share," she said softly. "I hope she does too."
He shook his head, thinking that too much more in this vein might make said head explode, as well as the one below his waist. It was as he was contemplating this that his 'beeper' began to vibrate on his belt. "How do you feel about Zurich?" he asked.
"It's a nice city. I could stand to stay there for a while. I assume we're heading there, then? Or are you hoping to give me whiplash from a high speed change of conversation direction."
"Leaving. Unless they're contacting me about an emergency meeting, I'm going to take the train. It will give me some time to think about how this changes things."
"I think you should give her a chance. Look carefully at this paper. She did her best to wipe them away, but I think she cried while writing this."
"I'll think about it. For now, let's get me to the Deutsche Bank."
Half an hour later, he was in Zurich with his gnome friend, Heidi, and an Unspeakable. "We've begun proceedings against the goblins, but that will go slowly. I note that you haven't touched the line of credit yet."
"Haven't needed it yet. I'll end up touching it eventually, but not right now."
"A smart man. Now to the reason that we asked you here. This is Unspeakable Morrison."
"Mr Potter. You and your team made a lot of work for us, and helped show the holes in our security. The Prophecy department isn't entirely happy with you, though." He laughed. "But that's why I'm here. Copies were made of the originals that were broken, and I have brought the copy with your name on it." He floated a small ball out of his bag. "No one but the people directly involved can touch one of these." It floated toward Harry. "It will start to play as soon as it touches your hand. I know what it says, since I have some serious connections within the department, as opposed to Rookwood. If you don't want them hearing it, we can use a small room outside."
"Let them hear it," Harry said.
"I think you'll like it," Morrison said. "The first half, at least, is good news for you."
The prophecy globe dropped the two inches it needed to fall into his hands, and the glass immediately began to mist away. Sybill Trelawney once more stood before Harry, but this time, she had much different words:
. . . the Dark Lord shall fall to the Marked One . . . beware, though, lest greater evil rise in his stead . . . the Dark Lord shall fall to the Marked One . . .
Harry looked at his hands for several seconds after the mist had faded. "That son of a bitch," he growled. "You'd swear that this is real - that this was in the globe that broke?" At Morrison's nod, he said, "Would you like to hear the one that Dumbledore fed to me, right after the battle at the Ministry?" The Unspeakable nodded.
". . . the one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches . . . born to those who have thrice defied him, born as the seventh month dies . . . and the Dark Lord will mark him as his equal, but he will have power the Dark Lord knows not . . . and either must die at the hand of the other for neither can live while the other survives . . . the one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord will be born as the seventh month dies . . ."
Morrison actually started to laugh. "You've not been paying attention in History of Magic, have you?"
"You must be Ravenclaw, since you're obviously not Hermione. Only Ravenclaws and Hermione can stay awake for Binns. Why?"
"Ever hear of the story of Beowulf? He was marked by the Dark Lady Wyetta, mother of the Dark Lord Grendel. That was the prophecy given to Beowulf."
Harry sat back and thought for a long moment. "I'm guaranteed to win, that's what the real prophecy reads to me. But the worry we have is that I might rise to be the new Dark Lord."
"Actually, given your moral code, that won't happen," Heidi said. "I wonder if the warning is to make sure that you do everything you can to stay alive, in order to keep Dumbledore from rising to take over."
Morrison cocked his head. "Believable. He likes to think that he's doing everything in the best interest of 'the greater good', but I can see him deciding that taking over is in the best interests of the wizarding world."
"Considering he's doing the Imperius on people to get them to get me back or keep me under control?" At Morrison's look, he said, "Hermione Granger states that he cast it on her to make her even more willing to help him."
"Can you get in touch with her?"
He thought for a moment. "How about this?" He looked to his gnome benefactor. "Can you send mail without using owls, Mr Hogunson? Muggle . . . non-magically? And make sure that it arrives before anything sent by an owl?"
"I'll write three letters on two sheets. One in lemon juice, which I expect them to read before she can, or over her shoulder. One that is the obvious message on that same sheet, and the third is to be sent to her and contains the real message."
"Write that one last."
I need time to think about things. My life has been a real LEMON so far, but this change to get away has left me JUICED. I think we've all got our own SECRETS to keep. I promise that I'll talk to you at some point before school starts.
Wizards tend to ignore logic, as you pointed out in our first year. Even with me stressing the words, I'm betting that no one figured out that I wrote a second message in lemon juice.
I hate to tell you this, but in order to get away from Dumbledore et al (see, I can use interesting phrases too!), I'll be heading to the Americas. To be honest, with everyone expecting me to fight Riddle, I've decided that I'm going to hold it off.
To let you understand why I'm running, though, let me tell you what was in that damned globe that broke. Dumbles heard it and showed it to me minutes after Sirius had died.
. . . THE ONE WITH THE POWER TO VANQUISH THE DARK LORD APPROACHES . . . BORN TO THOSE WHO HAVE THRICE DEFIED HIM, BORN AS THE SEVENTH MONTH DIES . . . AND THE DARK LORD WILL MARK HIM AS HIS EQUAL, BUT HE WILL HAVE POWER THE DARK LORD KNOWS NOT . . . AND EITHER MUST DIE AT THE HAND OF THE OTHER FOR NEITHER CAN LIVE WHILE THE OTHER SURVIVES . . . THE ONE WITH THE POWER TO VANQUISH THE DARK LORD WILL BE BORN AS THE SEVENTH MONTH DIES . . .
Think about that. I have some unknown power, and I'm Moldie's equal. I need to find this power and learn how to harness it. (Dumbles thinks it's love. Somehow I doubt I'm going to shag him to death. Ew.)
I'll try to stay in contact.
I'm sending you this letter via the gnomes of Zurich. Can you and your folks come to either Paris or Brussels? There will be another that follows with a different message. React to it, but don't believe it. I expect that even they'll recognise the code in it and read the letter underneath.
The truth will be found in Brussels or Paris - your choice. (The Euro Tunnel can get you to either in a couple hours, so it's not like it's a huge problem - make it a day trip, or a weekend with the folks.)
YOUR owls I will accept. Dumbledore's get sent right back without a reading.
"If I see an owl coming to me with her handwriting but with magic flowing off it, then it means that she's working with them, most likely, or is badly compromised. If not, then we're good. The other letter is for getting Dumbledore looking in a different direction."
He laughed suddenly. "Trust me, they still might not find the message in the one they're intended to find," he said with a laugh. "But they likely will find it and start looking at all the ways I can get to the United States, and likely spread their already useless team thin by sending some to New York and Washington, D.C. to stop me and send me back."
"I'll help you in any way I can, Mr Potter," Morrison said.
"Thank you. Thank you both for your help."
"It's quite worth it," Hogunson said. "We'll be wealthier than ever before, and you'll be living pleasantly yourself. When we finally get your vaults under your control, we'll have to decide how to properly liquidate the gold in them."
"Don't worry," Morrison said as he saw Harry look sideways at him. "I'm married to Triella Einarsdottar. Your friend is my father-in-law."
"If Hermione checks out as trustworthy, I'm going to tell her about this little manoeuvre. Get her folks to give her large sums to play with. Hell, to be honest, just a hundred Pounds converted that way would become five thousand in the course of a few days."
"Precisely. Turn back on the goblins the very methods that they use to make themselves rich."
"Is there much to be done right now?" Harry asked. "The process of getting my money free of the goblins and Dumbledore is not going to be finished soon, I know that."
"No, Mr Potter," Einar Hogunson told him. "You and your lady-friend are free for the time being."
"Thank you for all your help, sir."
"It's just good business sense," the gnome told him with a smile.
"Well then, thank you for doing business with me," Harry said with a small laugh.
"Trust me - it's our pleasure."
He spent the next few days in Zurich with Heidi. He was fast becoming aware that falling in love with this girl would likely be very easy. She was a good listener, and heard things from him that he had not yet told his friends at Hogwarts about his time with the Dursleys. She continued with her flirting, but toned it down considerably. She made it clear that he was welcome in her bed with or without clothes, but made no effort to get him unclothed herself.
It was on the fourth day that an owl made its way to them. Harry saw no magic on its letter, and the handwriting was Hermione's.
Received the Zurich letter, as well as the other one/two. They did read it. I took some heat from the conversation. Apparently, they didn't like you saying anything against the Headmaster. I'd suggest Brussels, to be honest, on the 29th, at the Atomium. Paris is too obvious.
He looked at the letter for a long moment. Something was wrong about it. Then he noticed her comment about 'taking heat' over his letter to her. He created a bluebell flame and held the letter up to it carefully.
I THINK THEY"RE READING ALL MY OWL MAIL. PARIS, ON YOUR BIRTHDAY. EIFFEL.
"I thought so. So do we do both?" Heidi asked.
"I think so. I can have you meet her. There are a couple phrases that I doubt others could finish, or would mean anything to anyone not Hermione. I wouldn't put it past them to try to pass someone off as her on the 29th. Probably Tonks."
The two of them continued their tour of Europe. From Zurich they headed to Italy, where they visited Milan for a few days, enjoying the beautiful architecture. Harry had to admit that he was preferring her architecture to the granite and marble stuff, and knew that this was going to be a problem. He was definitely falling for her. He still had feelings for Cho Chang, and there was a strong part of him that really wanted to find out that Hermione was not stringing him along.
Turin came next, and they visited the church where the famous Shroud had been for so many years. From there they headed to Genoa and then to Monaco, where Heidi decided that torturing Harry was the order of the days that they were there on the beach, given that nudity and going topless were quite common. From Monaco they headed to Nice and then Lyon, slowly making their way toward Belgium. They made it to Brussels on the 27th, and enjoyed a beautiful day on the 28th exploring, buying walkie-talkies to allow them to be a good distance apart, to make sure that they couldn't be easily traced.
On the 29th, Harry and Heidi made it to the Atomium. "If someone shows up that I say looks like Hermione, I want you to approach her. You can hold the walkie-talkie out to her so that I can ask her a couple questions. If she answers them to my satisfaction, then I'll come out." He was in quality clothes that no one from the Order would ever expect to see him in, and he wore a comfortable fedora on his head, placed somewhat jauntily, which helped to hide the scar on his forehead. She wore a simple blouse and skirt combination.
He tapped her shoulder about an hour into their wait, and pointed to the bushy-haired girl walking along the fence on the outside. She was not looking in their direction, so they separated, Harry heading around the circle a distance, where he would not easily be seen by either lady.
"Hermione Granger?" he heard over the walkie-talkie.
"Who are you? Where's Harry?" was the response. It sounded like Hermione, but Polyjuice and Tonks could both manage that trick.
Heidi held up the walkie-talkie and said, "I'm letting go of the button, Harry. You can speak now."
He waited for just a moment before saying, "I have a question for you, Hermione. You once said that, and I quote, 'You could be killed! Or worse . . .' What was the worse that you said?"
"When did I say that to you?" she asked. "I don't remember."
"I was going off to fight Draco Malfoy."
"I don't remember," she said.
"Okay, that's possible. Try this one on for size. You made a comment in first year in regards to yourself, and referring to me. 'Book! And cleverness! There are more important things, like . . .' Guess what? You get to answer that. The real Hermione knows, and the lady in front of you right now doesn't, so Legilimency won't work."
There was a long silence. "When did you get so canny, Potter?" the voice on the other end growled. It no longer sounded so much like Hermione.
"When the Order and Dumbledore decided that my being beaten was just fine with them. Tonks, I presume?"
"Yeah, it's me. You can't run forever, you know. You've got to return to Hogwarts to finish your education, and don't think that the year will be easy for you after this summer." She sounded happy at the thought of the kind of revenge Dumbledore might take at Harry's summer jaunt.
"Well, unless he's willing to intentionally go against the international police departments, he'll want to be careful. I believe that we're all being watched even now. I've friends in some interesting places - including a few of your bosses - and I think you'll find kidnapping me like I'm sure you planned will not go over terribly well."
"The nice thing is, you can't break the code that Hermione and I used. Do you really think that we'd go to either destination when we were sure you read the letters? I came here to let you know that we're a step ahead of you. Hermione is already at the place we're really going to meet. I'll give you a hint, though. Think Archimedes and where he's famous for."
"What's to keep me from grabbing the girl with the walkie-talkie and forcing you to come out?"
"Go ahead. Of course, you'll lose your badge when you return to the United Kingdom, because of those Belgian Aurors I mentioned. You might even be extradited to Belgium to stand trial. Yeah, I've got a 'saving people thing', but I'm also acting more Slytherin than I used to, thanks to Dumbledore. So, gonna kidnap and cause another international incident? How's Dumbles doing after grabbing Kaatje, anyway?" His only answer was a growl, and then a loud crack of Apparation.
"Well, that was interesting," Heidi finally said. "I wonder where she's gone to."
"Don't know. Thanks for doing this for me, by the way. If you want to get back to your boyfriend, you can. You can drop the walkie-talkie at our prearranged drop."
"It was fun," she replied as she walked toward him. "I've always wanted to be a spy." She shut it off and finished the walk to Harry.
"Now the question is to see if they bought my little ruse about where we're meeting."
"Sending them to Greece?" Heidi asking with amusement.
"Sicily, actually. Syracuse. He was involved in holding the Roman's off for quite some time. The Sicilians of the day lost because they got cocky and thought that they could all go off and party." He chuckled. "With luck, they'll decipher my message that I gave Tonks and go haring off to Italy and Greece for a few days." He snorted. "She got no time limit on it, either. She doesn't know when we're meeting. I'd imagine that they're firing people off to get there right now. They're probably worrying that I've got a Portkey or two, which is why I could be here."
"That now leaves us plenty of time to get where we want to go. Would you like to get there a day early?"
He chuckled. "I'd ask if you were planning to have your way with me in the City of Lights, but I already know the answer, considering how we met."
"I resent that!" she replied with an answering grin. "You make it sound like leaving you with a smile on your face that will need to be sand-blasted off is my only purpose for hanging out with you!" After a pause she added, "It's a good one, mind you. Just not my only purpose."
"I request permission to cripple the little bastard when we catch him, Albus," Severus Snape growled as the Order prepared to head off on their search for Harry Potter.
"I'll help," Tonks added with her own growl. "Little prick has us running all over Hell's half acre trying to find him. Archimedes, my ass. Where in Greece do we go?"
"Do you learn nothing in your schooling?" Severus asked. "We obviously should head to Sicily. Archimedes was famous for his extended defence of the city of Syracuse."
"Tonks is likely right, Severus," Remus said. "Harry is great in Defence Against the Dark Arts, but History of Magic - and history in general - is not his strong point. I'd lay money that he was thinking of Greece, and by extension, likely someplace like Athens." He got a sly look on his face. "Or are you saying that he's as smart as you are, Severus?"
"That child? Intelligent? As much as I hate to admit it, your comment has merit. I still believe that someone should check out Sicily, if only to have all the bases covered, since he referred to a code with Granger, but I find myself agreeing with you, Lupin. Athens it is."
Albus shook his head as everyone prepared to leave via Portkey. His accidental abduction of Ms Houghtailing had led to some repercussions in the international circles that were going to play out for some time, and had made his attempts to gather Harry back into the fold much more difficult.
He needs to understand that he is at a very dangerous time in his life. I told him the Beowulf prophecy to take advantage of his tendencies. Were he to have heard the proper prophecy, then he would most certainly have run off and made an attempt on Tom that would eventually bring him down, but Harry would certainly have died in the process, and left us with an angrier than usual Tom Riddle. I need to ensure that he is skilled enough to kill Tom, but not skilled enough to protect himself completely, lest he rise as the next dark lord. I do not believe that I would live long enough to properly fight him were that to be the case.
He shook his head. I wish that he could have a long and happy life, but such was not destined to be. I mourn the necessity of his death.
The 31st of July found Heidi and Harry walking around the base of the Eiffel Tower together, waiting for Hermione to arrive. "I'm going to risk it this time," he told her. "I'm pretty sure that I've got a chunk of the Order running around like headless chickens right now, and her letter seemed like she was pretty torn up over what she'd done."
This was obviously the universe's cue to bring Hermione Granger on-screen. "I didn't comment when it was that other one, but your Hermione is a bit of a hottie," Heidi murmured. "I think I'd enjoy trying to see if she freckles or not."
"I've never really looked at her that way," he said in response before turning around to look in the direction Heidi was looking. "Holy shit," he breathed. "She's never looked that good at school!"
"I'll bet your school never allowed sheer sundresses either," she answered with a laugh.
The girl in question saw them and looked right past them, continuing to look for Harry. He was confused by this, so he started walking in her direction. She finally registered that someone was approaching her, so she stopped and waited for them to get close. "May I help you?" she asked.
"I hope so, Hermione," Harry answered. "I'm here to meet you, after all."
"Harry!" she exclaimed happily, and nearly threw her arms around him to hug him, but she stopped herself. "I'm sorry. I lost that right this summer."
He drew her into a hug, startled by how she was shivering. "I could really use a hug from my best friend, though."
"But I betrayed you!" she sobbed into his shoulder. "The Imperius doesn't excuse my actions."
"You accept the responsibility, though. You don't expect me to forgive you your trespasses against me. Malfoy, on the other hand, used it as a way of saying 'I'm really not a child-raping bastard, I was forced into it by someone else!' He took no responsibility for his actions."
"Are you really going to argue with me forgiving you?" he asked with a smile. "Do you really want to insist that I hate you or something?"
She blushed. "You should, after I reported everything to Dumbledore. 'It's for the greater good'," she mocked. "'And just to make sure - Imperius!' Making me do something I was inclined to do anyway doesn't forgive me."
"Why were you inclined to look after this gorgeous hunk of man?" Heidi asked, making Hermione jump. "Heidi Koenig, by the way."
"Hermione Granger," she replied, holding out her hand. A look of anger shot across her face, followed immediately by resignation. "If Harry's trusting you, I will too."
"Thank you. Now, what was your reasoning?"
"To be honest, it's because he gets in so much danger during the school year, and last year it started even before the school year started. I worry for him. I want him safe."
"He's my friend. Isn't that enough?"
"Usually, but I read body language too. There's more than friendship at the heart of this."
"Doesn't matter anyway now," Hermione said sadly.
"Uh, can I ask what's going on here?" Harry asked.
"Girl talk," Heidi said with a chuckle. "First, I'm trying to get this pretty thing to admit that she'd like to do to you what I couldn't get you to do to me in Munich - or anywhere else, for that matter - and then find out if she's interested in - A) the opposite sex and - B) sharing."
Hermione's jaw had dropped, but Harry was intrigued to note that her breathing had sped up considerably, and that she was also showing him that she wasn't wearing a strapless bra under her dress.
"You've got a strong-willed boyfriend here, girl," Heidi said. "He was cuddled against me many a night, and all I ever got was a gentle poke in the rear end, and I don't mean that the way you might think. From the way he seemed to talk about you, I suspect that you would have a much easier time getting him naked than I've had with the same effort on my part."
Harry was blushing furiously and refusing to look at Hermione at this point, mainly because he was now imagining exactly what Heidi had just described. "She's blunt," he strangled out.
"I noticed," was Hermione's squeaky answer.
"So, you haven't answered any of my questions. The most important is how you feel about him. The other two are just wishful thinking on my part."
Hermione looked at Harry and said, "I know that I've really hurt my chances this summer, but I have to admit that I've had dreams about waking up and feeling what she was describing, only with no clothes in the way. I've wanted to look across the breakfast table and look into your eyes."
"- and then get him to screw you on the table -" Heidi interjected with a chuckle.
"You have a one track mind, Heidi," Harry said, shaking his head.
"I'm sexually frustrated," she said with a shrug. "I'm sleeping with a man who has admitted that he'd like to fuck me, but won't. Whether or not I now understand what he's been holding out for, I'm still horny."
"What do you mean that you understand why he's been holding out? You can't mean me," Hermione said. "I'd kill to be half as sexy as you are!" She clamped her hands over her mouth when she realised what she'd said.
Heidi's eyebrows rose in amusement. "Was that a generic 'I can see why people think you're sexy, even though I don't feel that way myself' sort of feeling, or the way I feel looking at you and Harry, which is a 'let me go home and wring out my panties' sort of way?" Whether or not they were horribly embarrassed by her turn of phrase, neither Harry nor Hermione was able to keep from laughing at that. Heidi simply stood there grinning.
"Look," Harry said, still chuckling madly, "whether or not we can get Heidi laid in the next couple minutes, we're really here to talk about what's going on in England. Why don't we get your parents over here, and the five of us can go to lunch together. Besides, you guys might want to know a little something about the goblins, and a way to get proper value for your money."
Hermione perked up, but then looked around. "I'm surprised that the Order isn't obvious around here. None of them are really good at hiding."
Harry squinted and looked around, seeing no tell-tale sparkles. "No cloaks or spells, so they must have bought my cock-and-bull story about you and me meeting elsewhere."
"Where'd you send them?" she asked in curiosity.
"Well, if they understood, then Syracuse. If they didn't, then they likely chose Athens. I mentioned that Archimedes was famous for the place."
Hermione blinked at him for a moment, and Heidi ended up giggling. "I think you'll want to be careful about that, sexy. I think intelligence turns her on."
He looked at Hermione, who was apparently trying to find out if it was possible to blush to death, and said, "E equals emm cee squared?" He put his hands behind his back and crossed his fingers as he spoke.
Her eyes widened, and suddenly she threw her arms around him and cried softly in his ear. "I love you too, Harry!" she finally managed to whisper.
He relaxed. "We all need to talk, and it's best to get your folks involved. Where are they?"
"Over there on the benches. Let's go join them."
"So you're suggesting that we give Hermione a thousand Pounds or so, have her convert them to Galleons, and then sell them for the gold?" Derek Granger asked.
"Probably best to melt them down first, I'd say. Perhaps I can find out from Mr Hogunson at Deutsche Bank." From the look on Hermione's face, he was actually surprised that her eyes didn't simply fall out of her head and land on the table. "I take it you recognise the name?"
"I didn't know that he worked at Deutsche Bank, but . . . Harry, Einar Hogunson is to the gnomes - the real ones, not those stupid potatoes with legs - he's to the gnomes what Queen Elizabeth is to us. You've been in contact with the head of the Gnome Confederacy!"
"He likes Harry," Heidi said. "I think he'd ask Harry to call him Einar, but I doubt Harry would do that."
"The thing is, you can expect a return of something like five thousand percent, if I remember how that works properly," Harry said, ignoring the byplay. "You give her a thousand, and when you're done selling the gold, you'll have about fifty thousand in cash. The goblins know this, and that's why they're so much in charge of wizard banking - they can afford to buy out the wizards, if necessary. A galleon is worth a lot more than they offer." He paused for a moment. "Actually, I think it's forty-nine hundred percent. You're getting that original thousand back, plus another forty-nine thousand with it. It's one or the other, but you know what I mean."
"What do you expect from us in return?" Angelina asked him.
"If you're thinking I want a cut, you're wrong. Hermione is my friend, and proved that to me, even with the problem this summer. She was willing to allow me to cut all ties with her, despite the fact that it would break her heart to do so. I've discovered that I'm kinda in love with her, and I think she's kinda in love with me, and if I didn't know that she'd kill me for suggesting it, I'd make the payment for telling you this keeping her as safe as possible."
"Harry James Potter," Hermione growled.
"Case in point," he said with a laugh. "Scatter my remains to the four winds, please." He turned to face her. "Hermione, I know that you want to be with me, at my back, but can you understand that I want my friends to be safe?"
"Can you understand how I'd kick myself if you died and I wasn't there to try to prevent it?"
"Well, I won't die until after Voldie is defeated, I know that much." When Hermione gave him an odd look, he quoted, ". . . the Dark Lord shall fall to the Marked One . . . beware, though, lest greater evil rise in his stead . . . the Dark Lord shall fall to the Marked One . . ." He sighed. "That's the real prophecy. He quoted the damned Beowulf prophecy at me, knowing that I don't do well in History of Magic."
"Why is the Headmaster doing this?" Derek asked. "What benefit is he getting out of it?"
"I don't honestly know," Harry said. "He could be secretly evil, or he could honestly believe that everything he's done is for the best. Whose best interests is the question, though. My personal thought is that he sees himself as incorruptible, and therefore I am the one destined to become a Dark Lord. I'll take the title if the only evil I have to do is making my children laugh themselves silly and eat their vegetables. Beyond that? Who wants to rule the world? Does anyone who goes for it actually ever think of all that's involved? If you're running everything, then you've got meetings left and right about prices of tea in Tangiers and peaches in Patagonia, not to mention dealing with all the petty squabbles. If you're a Voldie type ruler, then you are going to be constantly worried about the upstarts coming to depose you, since you obviously care for none of your proper duties as ruler."
Hermione blinked at him a few times, and was giving visual evidence that Heidi was right - smart people made Hermione horny. "Harry," she moaned, and then blushed. Clearing her throat, she tried again. "Harry," she started once more in a far more normal voice, "where has this intellect been in our previous five years?"
"Well, the Dursleys didn't like me showing up their Duddy-dinkums, so that was one reason I hid it, and one of my first friends my own age is an extraordinary slacker. I wanted him to keep liking me, so -"
"What about when we return to school?" she asked.
"If you return to school," Angelina interrupted.
"When we return to school," Hermione shot back.
"She's right. Even knowing that Dumbledore is likely to try everything he can next year, I can't just leave Europe and not fight Voldie. I want to win and have a life after that." He turned back to Hermione. "Because I want to survive and hopefully marry and father those children - if I am exceptionally lucky, it might be with a certain British beauty I have known for years - I will need to let my real intellect out. No more slacking." He sighed. "Besides, in order for me to change schools, to something like the Suisse Institute of Magic, I need the signature of my wizarding guardian. If I haven't mentioned it to you before, then I'll give you three guesses who my guardian is listed as in the wizarding world."
"Should we move Hermione?" Derek asked.
Harry held up his hand and silenced Hermione. "Please. They needed to ask. You'd run the risk of losing her, I think. She becomes old enough to make her own decisions in the wizarding world on the nineteenth of September, and at that point, she'd come right back to Hogwarts, because I'm there, and she's one of the only people I'll trust at my back. Her and Neville."
"I'm glad you didn't mention the Weasleys," Hermione said. "I've been disturbed by some of the letters I've been getting from Ginny and Ron. Ron is horribly confused right now, and I think that it's because of those brains. Ginny's letters hint that there has been sort of a Weasley plot in regards to you. She seems to think that she'll have access to your vaults in just a couple years. Ron's been part of the plot, but I think that it may have been a control issue, and the brains started to break that control, so we can't tell whose side that Ron is on at the moment. Ginny seems to be turning into a money-grubbing little bitch, and that bothers me, because I thought that she was my friend."
"So I shouldn't trust the Weasleys for now?"
"Hard to say. The twins seem solidly in your corner, we know that Percy disagrees with you because you don't kowtow to the Ministry line, and we've no idea at all about Bill and Charlie. I've doubts that Percy is secretly an agent for The Good Guys, tee em, so until word comes down otherwise, I refuse to trust the sanctimonious git."
Harry's eyebrows were nearly to his hairline, and he was smiling, partially in disbelief. "'The Good Guys, tee em'? 'Sanctimonious git'? Where has this little firebrand been hiding?"
"Behind her worry that her best friends might not like her if she acted the way she wanted to."
He shook his head. "Well, be yourself. I like you as you are." He turned back to her parents. "Your daughter means a lot to me. If I didn't think she'd cripple me for suggesting it, I tell you to go to Australia or New Zealand or Fiji or somewhere as far away from me as possible." He noticed the winces from her parents as he finished. "What? Did I say something wrong?"
"That was what broke my Imperius," Hermione said. "Dumbledore was angry and told me to hurt you badly if you showed up to talk to me. Basically, since most everything that doesn't remove a limb is repairable, he wanted me to cripple you until he could arrive."
"Arrogant, wasn't he, to assume that you'd stay under his control? Well, that's too bad." He was going to say more, but his 'beeper' began to vibrate. "Hmm, I wonder what Mr Hogunson needs to see me about?"
"He gave you a beeper?" Hermione asked in a breathy tone.
"Well, of a sort. He beeps me when something major is happening with me or my accounts. He seems to think that this case will open the doors for the gnomes to begin banking in wizarding England. Tell you what - come along with me and I'll introduce you. He can explain the process I'm talking about better than I can. With luck, being my friend will help you make a good impression, since he seems to like me."
"Okay," Hermione squeaked.
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