Years From Now

Chapter 3

Years From Now

Chapter 3

August 23, 2008

Hermione sighed as she removed her Ministry robes and let them fall on her bed in a heap. She had spent the entirety of her morning- a blessed Saturday- at work and she was a tad aggravated. She frowned as she undid her bun and her hair was allowed to be unbridled once more. While she reveled in her new title and typically looked forward to going to the Ministry (even with the longer shifts the position temporarily brought), there were a couple aspects she did not enjoy, one of which was a certain monthly meeting.

In actuality, Hermione had three monthly meetings: a meeting with all the heads of the divisions in her department (i.e., Aurors, Improper Use of Magic, Administrative Registration Department, Hit Wizards, and the Misuse of Muggle Artefacts Office), a meeting with the Minister of Magic and all the heads of the Ministry's seven primary departments, and a solo meeting between her and the Minister. She had just come from a meeting with the Ministry's seven department Heads and this meeting was the one she looked forward to the least. It had only been her second one but the brunette knew they would be a thorn in her side from here on out. Hermione ran her department efficiently and expertly, calculated like a well run machine with very few glitches, but this could not be said of the other six major departments of the government. It was vexing hearing about the disorganization and, dare she think it, slight incompetence of some of the other Heads when they discussed what was happening in their branches, and the witch thought Kingsley Shacklebolt was a saint for the patience and diplomacy he showed. Hermione thought she would have some of the disorderly handlings stomped out within one month if she were Minister while she also thought she never wanted that responsibility.

The meeting was also supposed to have been three hours (from 9AM to 12PM) but it had run over by one hour, and she was now late in meeting Harry at his apartment. She believed he would not be upset by her tardiness as their outing was not time sensitive and he already had someone to keep him company, but she still sent her Patronus off to deliver the message that the meeting had run over and she would be there soon. The brunette was hungry but would wait to eat until she was with Harry; now she would merely change, leave out fresh water for Hermes (her owl), and Apparate to his apartment.

Hermione landed in Harry's bedroom 15 minutes later and saw that it was empty. Her eyes flickered to his bed and she saw that it was unmade, something that made her roll her eyes. He never made his bed unless she was over and prompted him to do it or simply did it herself. She took her wand and gestured at the bed, but she did not bother to stay to watch the bedding correct itself as she exited the room. Hermione heard the sounds of a television playing as she walked through the hallway, and when she got to the living room she saw people moving about on the large screen. She could also see a head with black hair above the top of the couch, assumedly watching the show or movie intently, and she smiled before she moved to her left to get to the kitchen another way.

The witch found Harry standing in front of the refrigerator and staring into it with a frown, one hand on the handle keeping it open. Like her, he had a number of Muggle appliances in his home that resulted from being raised as one during childhood.

"You've read my mind because I am starving!" Hermione said, walking up to next to him and standing on her tiptoes to plant a kiss on his left cheek. A smile instantly replaced his frown as he turned to her.

"You're here!" he noted, closing the door.

"I am. And starving, like I mentioned."

"I need to do some shopping so what I can offer is limited. Eat in London?"

She nodded. They needed to go into the city anyway so it was not an inconvenience.

"How was the meeting?" asked Harry.

"Long. Irritating at times." Hermione shared, making a face.

"You got to see Percy again, though."

"True. We sent each other exasperated looks from time to time."

He smiled and then jerked his head toward the living room.

"Did you say hi?" the wizard inquired.

"Not yet," she attested, "I'll do it now."

Hermione then walked to the right out of the kitchen and approached the front of the living room. A 10 year old boy sat crossed leg on the sofa with his eyes glued to the screen before him, and she stood still with a pensive smile while she waited for him to notice the addition to the room. When he finally did, his face broke into a large grin and he unfolded his legs, sitting up straight.

"Hermione!" Teddy Lupin cried, his hair color changing from black to forest green.

"My little chameleon!" the witch uttered.

Hermione moved toward him and plopped herself down on the sofa next to the child, enveloping him in a firm hug while she dropped a kiss on his forehead. It had been about a month since she had last seen the young wizard.

"You're coming with us to Grimmauld?" Teddy wondered when they separated.

"I am! I'm spending the rest of the day with you, in fact," she revealed, running a hand through his hair.

"God-Dad didn't say you were coming. I didn't know what we were waiting around for!"

"It was a surprise," Harry interjected, leaning against a wall, "And you didn't seem too concerned about anything when I put on the film for you, Teddy."

"He only did it so I'd stop asking when we were leaving," the boy informed Hermione in a conspiratorial tone. The brunette chuckled.

"And he kept asking because he only wants to go so he can fly. But what did I say?"

Teddy threw back his head rolled his eyes, and opened his mouth in a theatrical manner but in the next instance he answered:

"That I can fly after I help tidy up."

"Exactly." Harry stated.

"A fair deal, chameleon." Hermione mentioned.

"But what is there to even tidy up? No one really lives there- besides Kreacher! Whose job it is to clean! He loves doing that!" Teddy insisted. The two adults looked at him pointedly though remained quiet, and he seemed to shrink a tad with each second that passed.

"No flying until I help," the Lupin boy finally conceded in a meek voice. His godfather inclined his head with a small, satisfied smile.

"Besides, we also go to give Kreacher company," the brunette alerted.

"Yes, I know."

"Well, are you ready?," prompted Harry, moving from the wall, "We're going to eat first and then head to Grimmauld."

"Yes." Teddy affirmed, hopping up and pulling Hermione along with him. His hair switched back to being black, "Don't forget the broom!"

"Of course not, Sir Ted."

The Auror then removed his wand and silently Summoned his broomstick: another Firebolt he had bought a year after losing his. It was still the best broom on the market and there were rumors of a newer edition being made, one that Harry was committed to buying whenever it did come out. He shrunk it and placed it in the breast pocket of his shirt and Teddy watched with barely suppressed glee.

"Are we Apparating?" the young boy pondered.

"Yes," confirmed Harry, "Who do you want to Side Along with?"

"Hermione! Because I haven't seen her in so long."

She smiled and reached for Teddy's hand, which he gave without delay.

"I'll remember that when you come sniffing around my Firebolt, then," the older wizard teased.

"Don't be jealous, dear!" Hermione remarked, winking.

Harry was always assaulted by memories when he entered Grimmauld Place, though they bombarded him at varying points in his visit. Today the memories were instantaneous, and the Auror hardly noticed Teddy shoot off into the house shouting for Kreacher as he stood stock still in the entryway. The emotional rollercoaster that had been his fifth year, the darkness of his sixth year, The Order: Dumbledore, Snape, Remus, Tonks, and, of course, his beloved godfather, Sirius… all of these recollections and ghosts crowded his mind as he stood in the main hallway. It was 12 years later and Harry could still be as deeply affected by Sirius' absence as he had been that day in the headmaster's office when he had destroyed the old man's possessions out of despair. Even with the house's notable renovations he had overseen a decade previously, he could still envision the old, dreary Grimmauld of days gone past with hardly any effort.

"Hey," someone stated in a soft voice, pulling Harry from his morose musings. He looked to his right and saw Hermione, who was watching him with a tentative smile, "You're okay." The witch grabbed his hand and brought it to her mouth, kissing his knuckles once.

He gave a sad smile and nodded faintly, thankful for her soothing, reassuring presence that never failed to make him feel better.

"Yeah. Sometimes it's just…" he commenced, trailing off.

"I know, Harry. I know."

"Master Harry is back!" another voice declared suddenly.

Kreacher then came into view wearing a broad smile and bowing low, with a pleased looking Teddy a couple steps behind him.

"I found him!" the boy reported.

"Hello Kreacher!" Harry responded genially.

"Krecher is happy to have master visit again! Along with master Teddy and miss Hermione," the elf attested.

"How are you, Kreacher?" posited Hermione kindly. (She continued to hold Harry's hand).

"Kreacher is better now that you've come."

"It's good to see you again, too." Harry claimed. Kreacher beamed in response.

"Is master hungry?" the elf questioned.

"We just ate, actually… but tea would be good."

"Yes, tea sounds perfect." Hermione added.

"Right away!" Kreacher answered, bowing quickly.

They both understood that it would have made the elf feel poorly or inadequate if they had offered no way for him to serve his master, especially not after seeing Harry in a number of weeks. The dark haired wizard visited Grimmauld at least once a month and often popped in twice a month to make sure this property and its occupant did not go untouched. They took their tea in the small drawing room on the second floor and Kreacher stayed and interacted with them for the half hour while they drank; after that, they turned their focus on cleaning a bit.

While the house was in markedly better shape than it had been when Harry was a teenager, due to regular upkeep and a live in elf whose purpose it was to serve, it took the wizards about an hour to tidy what was necessary (a testament to how large the home was). Teddy was placed in charge of the smallest space since he was the only one who could not perform magic, and he vocalized that he could not wait until next summer when he had his own wand. Once they had straightened up to Harry's liking and reconvened in the first floor drawing room, the Lupin boy immediately asked the older wizard if he was now permitted to fly. Teddy's request was granted and he bounced with poorly contained eagerness as he, Hermione, and Harry traversed to the backyard.

Hermione reminded the boy to be careful while Harry unshrunk his broom and presented it to his godson, and both wizards looked at her with exasperated grins as they simultaneously informed her Teddy would be fine. She had an opinion or two about the appropriateness of such a high caliber broom for a child not even at Hogwarts and had voiced her thoughts more than once, but she remained quiet this time in favor of Teddy's clear excitement. Together, the brunette and Harry watched him fly joyously through the sky from their spot on the ground in an expanded lawn chair. Hermione was curled into his right side and her eyes followed Teddy in a dedicated manner; talk between them was not florid yet the quiet that pervaded was wholly comfortable.

Harry loved tranquil moments like this with her- where they could simply relish the other's closeness and truly live in the present, without any concern for anything that was not happening around them. He glanced at Hermione when she made a noise and grimaced right afterward, only to notice she continued to watch Teddy and was not as confident about a move the boy had executed as he had been. Harry smiled to himself and pulled her a little closer. It was hard wired in her DNA to worry and be concerned, something he knew too well. He often considered that Hermione's handling of and reactions to Teddy were an exact preview of how she would be as a mother to her own children… children of whom he hoped to be the father. Children who seemed much less hypothetical and much more certain now that he had a ring he was waiting to give her.

Harry's heart began to beat faster. Children. Gosh... when would she want them? When would he? He knew he wanted them without question, but, when? When would be good? He was 28 and Hermione was turning 29 next month, which made them more than ready as far as age was concerned. Would she want them soon after getting married? Would she want to wait some time? And, if so, how long of a wait? The brunette had just gotten her promotion last month, but by the time they had kids she should be well acquainted and used to the position…. Would she want to plan her pregnancies or would she be okay if they were unexpected? Would she stop taking her birth control potion once they married or keep consuming it?

They had discussed children before, of course, but the takeaway up to this point was that they both wanted them and Hermione wanted no more than two. Now that Harry was facing the very real possibility of being her husband, the children issue had a new layer with specific questions he had not encountered before. And with Teddy zooming above them and his girlfriend cuddled up next to him, he was hit with a large dose of excitement and a crazy desire to ask her these questions. The Auror's heart was still pumping faster than normal when he leaned over and put his face against her neck, shaking his head once. Her hair fell over much of his head.

"Hello." Hermione uttered with a tiny chuckle.

"Hi," replied Harry, his voice muffled. Soon. Soon you can have this talk, after you've proposed, after she's said yes.

"Are you all right?"

"Yes. I just… love you," he said, "So much."

She felt a flush run throughout her face and upper body and she smiled as she tenderly placed her right hand on his neck. He was always affectionate with her (something she believed she had a great hand in instilling in him through example when they were children), but she was always taken by heartwarming surprise when he showed it without any indication it was coming. Hermione maneuvered a bit and then commenced placing small but lingering kisses under his chin and along his jawline, caressing the neatly groomed hair that was there.

"I love you too," she remarked softly in between a couple kisses.

Harry's hold on her tightened while he inhaled, his eyes feeling like they wanted to close. He had to be careful and make sure he would not lose himself, as he was particularly sensitive when she kissed him this way. It was a sure fire way to get him going, and more times than not the interlude would degenerate to a point where he was thrusting fervently into her. As appealing as that possibility was, it was obviously not an option right now so, to take back some control, he made their faces level once more and kissed her soundly.

Conversely, they did not carry on too long.

"Gross!" Teddy exclaimed, sounding more nearby than he had previously. The adults broke apart and saw him hovering above them by about six feet, an offended expression on his countenance.

"Sorry, chameleon." Hermione apologized, doing well to appear somewhat abashed.

"Gross, huh?," prompted Harry, smirking good naturedly, "We'll see if you still say that when you find a person you want to be gross with some day."

"Ugh! Never," the boy retorted, shaking his head.

"Are you done flying?"

"No, not yet! Can I have more time?"

"Another half hour," the Auror stated, checking his watch, "Then you'll need to wash up before we go to Ron's."

"Okay." Teddy acknowledged, directing the broom and taking off again.

"You are gross, Mr. Potter." Hermione attested, smiling at him as she righted his glasses.

"I wanted to be much grosser with you but there is a child about," he grinned.

The wizards stayed at Grimmauld and with Kreacher for another 90 minutes before they departed to their next destination: Luna's and Ron's for dinner. The married couple had invited Harry and Hermione over a few days previously and had been more than happy to include Teddy when they discovered he was going to be in the care of his godfather. Teddy took off running for the front door when they landed in the front yard and he rang the doorbell spiritedly while the adults followed at a leisurely pace, amused by his youthful energy.

"Kid!" they heard Ron exclaim when the door was opened.

"Ron!" the Lupin boy replied.

"I haven't seen you since Harry's birthday. Where've you been?"

"Where've you been?"

"Working at your favorite shop. Why haven't you come by?" the red head inquired. Teddy grumbled something and then responded:

"Grandmum says I ask to go there enough that you'd think I live there."

"That's why you should ask your godfather to take you every time you're with him!" Ron informed, laughing.

"Encouraging his delinquency, Ronald?" Hermione posited when she and Harry reached the door.

"Our shop encourages creativity, not delinquency! Get it right, Herms!"

He grinned when she made to swat him and, effortlessly, pulled her into a hug.

"Harry," acknowledged Ron, cuffing his best friend's shoulder over the witch's head.

"Weasley," the Auror smiled.

"Hi Luna!" Teddy greeted from inside the house, having moved past the trio.

"Hello Edward!" Luna said, giving him a kiss on his forehead. (She was the only one besides his grandmother whom he allowed to call him by his full name). The other three then crossed the threshold and Ron closed the door while his best friends hailed his wife, whom stood next to the home's staircase.

"How are you, Luna?" Hermione asked, flashing a lovely smile and hugging the blonde.

"I am doing well, thank you."

"You seem so serene even though it'll be any day now!"

"Isn't she always?" Harry wondered, stepping up next to them and hugging Luna.

"One of the reasons I love her!" Ron added, throwing an arm around Teddy's shoulders.

"I'd be a mess!" Hermione admitted, shaking her head and running a hand affectionately over Luna's very pregnant belly.

"You'll be just fine when it's your turn, Hermione," the blonde predicted, smiling warmly as she watched the other woman stroke her protruding stomach. A faraway smile graced the Muggleborn's countenance while Harry felt a powerful lurch of emotion run through him, missing the glance Ron threw his way. Teddy made a face before questioning:

"What's for dinner?"

"All of your favorites!" Ron answered, looking down at him.

"Really?"

"No. So you'd be better good with veal, vegetables, and mash."

"And dessert?" Teddy asked, grinning.

"Blueberry trifle. But only for people over the age of 11," the red head said, leading the boy in the direction of the kitchen.

The menu sounded appetizing and Hermione was the next to follow, but when Harry started to walk in the direction of the food as well, Luna stopped him by reaching out and touching his shoulder. He turned to her.

"How's the planning going?" she inquired when they were alone, displaying the mellow smile she often wore. The wizard did not have to wonder what his friend meant by "planning."

"Good," he said, grinning, "I hope to do it at Hogwarts; I'm meeting with McGonagall on Thursday morning."

"That's a perfect location, Harry!"

"Yeah. I started writing the riddles this morning."

"Riddles?" Luna pondered.

"Oh, yes! Her father gave me the idea of a scavenger hunt." Harry informed.

"Oh, how fun!"

"I want it to end at the boat docks." He was imagining waiting in one of the boats for Hermione and, when the last clue led her to him, he would help her into the boat with him, get down on one knee, and present the ring and a promise of everlasting companionship to her.

"It's going to go so well," the blonde predicted, nodding happily, "I'm excited for both of you! I can't wait until you're married."

"Thanks Luna. I can't wait either, but we have your double bundle to be excited about first!" Harry remarked. He held out his right hand and she accepted it, following as he walked them to the kitchen.

"Yes. Though, I've rather enjoyed being pregnant and experiencing all of the feelings that are unique to it. It's felt like I'm one of the magical creatures I study!" she mentioned, gently patting her stomach. The Auror chuckled.

The five took dinner in the dining room attached to the kitchen in place of the formal, larger dining room. Ron and Luna had prepared the food together and it was very good, but the latter had to decline the wine that her husband brought out to accompany the meal. They talked about their jobs for a bit, something that Teddy mostly tuned out, and Luna revealed that she would actively return to work six months after she had given birth. However, she would not be as invested as she had been before she had gotten pregnant and Ron, too, would cut back working at the shop once he was an official father.

"Any news about the Martens?" questioned Ron, 20 minutes after dinner had commenced. Harry raised an eyebrow while Hermione looked at him astutely.

"Ron, what makes you think we are at liberty to discuss that?" the brunette wondered.

"A few reasons. One, everyone knows about them; giving information is for public safety! Two, I'm your best friend. And three, I'm an ex-Auror," he relayed, appearing nonplussed.

"Ex-Auror, yes, emphasis on ex. Best friend is not enough reason to divulge pertinent information regarding a high profile case, and keeping quiet in fact helps public safety! We don't need people misconstruing things and causing panic for no reason."

"Hmph. I expect that response from you," Ron then looked at the dark haired wizard, "Harry, any news on the Martens?" Hermione made an annoyed face and pursed her lips while her boyfriend smiled and held his hands up in surrender.

"The Martens?," Teddy interjected, being pulled from his own world and peering around at the adults, "What about the Martens? Have they been caught? Did they do something terrible again?"

The Martens were a brother and sister duo from Belgium with dark intentions. They had fled their country after exploding half of the magical government's headquarters to smithereens, their last act of terror in a string of crimes over the span of six months. They had a body count of 43, the majority of which had come from their leveling of the building, and they were wanted by a number of magical governments. The Martens had been on the run since April and squatted in various nations, wrecking brief havoc in some and remaining utterly quiet in others. They had been in the UK for the past six weeks and had not yet been caught, but they seemed to have decided that it was a location worthy of committing malevolent acts. Noah Ainsworth's team, the third senior Auror, was assigned to tracking them but the siblings had not been spotted for seven days.

"No, little chameleon, they haven't been caught yet but they also haven't done anything. There's nothing you need to worry yourself about." Hermione claimed, looking fondly at the young wizard before glaring at Ron.

"She's right. Nothing's happened." Harry added.

"For now," the red head mumbled.

Teddy nodded before scooping up a forkful of mashed potatoes (his second helping) and then asked:

"What are you going to do when I'm a teenager and I'm not so little anymore? Will you still call me little chameleon?"

The men grinned while Luna laughed.

"Hmm…," Hermione said, wanting to smile, "I'll change it to 'Cam', how about that?"

"Deal." Teddy agreed and there was more laughter.

"Oh!" Luna uttered suddenly, a hand going to her stomach. She instantly captured everyone's attention.

"What's wrong? Are you okay?" Ron inquired hastily, seated next to his wife and pivoting to face her properly. An arm went around her shoulder protectively and he peered at her belly with concern.

"Just a kick… or two," she notified, smiling serenely as the tension dissipated. Ron's shoulders relaxed and he returned her smile as Teddy raised an eyebrow.

"Kicking?" he pondered. The blonde nodded at him.

"Would you like to feel?"

The Lupin boy looked somewhat alarmed and he glanced at each of the adults to gauge their reactions, although all four were smiling.

"Just to see what it feels like." Teddy murmured, getting up and walking the short distance to Luna.

Harry shared an amused glance with Ron as the mother to be put the boy's hand over the spot that was the source of the kicking. It took a long moment but there was movement again, and Teddy appeared surprised before he could stop a small grin forming on his lips.

"Wicked," he muttered, making Ron laugh and Luna hum in contentment.

Harry glanced at Hermione and saw that she was watching the exchange with something akin to adoration and something else he could not entirely place, but he knew it caused his heart to race. The next image to pop into his mind was a slightly older Teddy wearing that same grin while he held a hand over Hermione's pregnant belly, and he, Harry, stood proudly by her side.

The meeting with McGonagall could not come soon enough.

Harry was at Hogwarts Thursday morning of the succeeding week, as scheduled. Minerva McGonagall was delighted to see him and they ate breakfast in Hogsmeade while she demanded a very thorough update about his life. They discussed how the professors and students were faring and the fact that Teddy would begin his magical education the following year, and the Auror regaled with her humorous tales about his godson. The headmistress also took a sober moment to remember the boys' parents and what they had been like while at the castle, something that was sad but also appreciated by the dark haired wizard.

Harry informed McGonagall of the reason for his requested visit while they walked back to Hogwarts, alerting her that he wanted permission to use the school in order to propose to Hermione. The witch was speechless while he outlined his plan and told her everything he had done so far, and Harry watched in shock as the headmistress began crying (something he had seen only once before) and assured him that of course he could propose to Hermione at Hogwarts! McGonagall ranted about both of them individually before ranting about their compatibility and blatant care for each other as a couple, remarking that their marriage- marriage!- was bound to flourish.

He had never seen McGonagall so emotional and, after she had calmed, the witch admitted that she had been overwhelmed by the knowledge that two of her most cherished students were going to wed. She noted that she had felt something similar upon discovering that James Potter and Lily Evans were going to marry and this comment made Harry the emotional one, though he did not express it. The two discussed the specifics of the proposal while they strolled the grounds and what she could do to minimize student interference or gawking, something that was bound to happen if Harry Potter was involved.

Consequently, while Harry spent the morning catching up with McGonagall, Hermione spent it in full DMLE mode. She checked over a list of everything major she had to do for the day and wondered how long today's shift would actually be. The Muggleborn had to adjust the budget for the new batch of Aurors beginning their three year training in the middle of September, hear an accusation that an employee in the Misuse of Muggle Artefacts Office was intentionally planting ominous artefacts in Muggle settings, and meet with the Wizengamot about an issue for which its judges were evenly split in their decision. The Wizengamot was the most pressing matter so it had to be acknowledged first, but she rolled her eyes as she took a bite of her breakfast pastry.

The thought of starting her day by convening with the Wizengamot was unfortunate but true. The majority of its members were fair and pleasant, including the Chief Warlock, but there were a few among them with old values who were passive aggressive with Hermione and (indirectly) gave her a hard time. They were bitter a Muggleborn had risen so swiftly through the ranks and begrudged her having such a position of power. Indeed, it had only taken the brunette a decade to get where she currently was, but this was no surprise considering the fact that it was The Brightest Witch of Her Age.

Hermione glanced at the clock and saw that it would be prudent to head to the designated conference room where she would be meeting with the nine judges and Chief Warlock. She wanted to be about five minutes early to reduce the chance for negative remarks about her punctuality, so she stood from behind her desk and left the office. Her assistant's desk was empty as the witch was not yet in, but she would be by the time Hermione returned. The brunette thought about the visit to Ron's and Luna's five days previously as she walked to her destination. Luna's official due date had been two days ago but she was still pregnant, so she was liable to give birth at any given moment.

The knowledge of Luna's impending motherhood was thrilling. Her red headed best friend was on the verge of being a father! In the span of four years, Ron had married the blonde and gotten her pregnant, and it was apparent he could not be any happier. He had accomplished a career, marriage, and parenthood by age 28… and it made Hermione consider where she was. She was thriving in her career path and it was very well established, but she wanted more than just a career for her life, didn't she? She also wanted a family of her own, and she had Harry (with whom she was very happy) so these were not far fetched desires, but she wondered when they would factor into her life- their life.

Harry had revealed he had been thinking of proposing to her before they had broken up, back when he was 25 and she was 26. That had been three years ago… was he in a place again where he was ready for marriage- with her? Had he considered it since then? Hermione definitely had. They had been a couple for three years, split apart for over a year, and had dated again for the past year and a half. The brunette believed she knew Harry better than anyone and she knew she would never love any man more than she did her dark haired best friend. In her eyes, he was it for her. Hermione believed they were strong enough for marriage and she would happily accept if he offered it… but he hadn't yet.

But who necessarily said Harry had to be the one to ask her? Did she not love him too? Did she not have a mouth that was capable of asking him to marry her, or at the very least have an honest conversation about their status as a couple and the prospect of marriage? The answer to all of those questions was yes, and she decided open dialogue with him about their future was a good course of action that she wanted to take. They could map out their lives together.

Hermione felt content when she walked into the conference room and saw five of the ten witches and wizards present, nodding at a couple.

"Good morning, everyone!" she greeted a few minutes later once everyone was in the room.

"Madam Granger," a number of voices answered genially.

"Miss Granger," a wizard in his 70s stated, halfway leering at her. The witch and wizard sitting beside him looked pleased by his subtle lack of respect and she fixed them all with a flat, unimpressed look. He was Timothy Burke and one of his companions, the woman, came from the Fawley family, both family lines a part of the Sacred Twenty Eight. These three were the ones who normally made things more difficult for Hermione than was necessary, their prejudice the commanding force behind their interactions with her.

Just because Voldemort had been defeated did not mean every bigot or dark wizard had fallen with him.

"Herbert, would you be so kind as to explain the nature of our meeting today?" Hermione prompted, addressing the Chief Warlock. He smiled while the court scribe started documenting.

"Of course, Madam," the older wizard replied, "We were unable to reach a verdict due to lack of consensus regarding a case, so we require your intervention."

The Warlock was typically the one to make a final decision in situations where there was not unanimity but the group of judges really was split down the middle: five on one side and four and the Warlock on the other.

"Very well. What is the case that needs to be heard?" the Muggleborn posited. A female judge cleared her throat to commence sharing the facts and the eleven discussed the matter for the next 52 minutes before Hermione offered a verdict (and consequences) that most everyone accepted.

She returned to her office right after the meeting and had a brief chat with Lottie, her assistant, before walking inside. Her office was organized and welcoming; there were many plants in the space and a couple pieces of art she had chosen adorning the walls. The most personal items in the room were her books on the large bookshelf, a few, meaningful trinkets, and two picture frames perched on her desk. One of the pictures was of her parents while the other was a picture of the Golden Trio in their second year and she kept both frames facing her chair. Today, however, there also sat a folded, crisp piece of parchment on her desk and she raised her eyebrows as she picked it up. Lottie had not mentioned anything about a message or letter from anyone and she was always on top of things like that, so what was this?

Instead of calling to the other woman to ask about it, Hermione simply read the paper. It turned out to be an article: an article that summarized the life and actions of Gellert Grindelwald. It was nothing beyond that. The witch made a face as she flipped the parchment over and saw nothing but blank space. No markings or notes or anything- just information about Grindelwald she already knew. Odd.

However, any thoughts or feelings she had about the article disappeared when she shook her head and dropped it in the trash. She was much more focused on her day's itinerary and deciding when she would talk to Harry about their future.

A/N: The proposal will come next chapter! I'm also blown away by how many follows this fic has gotten in only 2 chapters; I've never had that happen so quickly to one of my stories.