It was late evening when Hermione came downstairs again, looking sleep-mussed but rested.
She found Stephen sitting in a small study off the main entrance hall, sitting in a broad armchair in front of a fireplace. He was staring into the flames that crackled gently in the hearth.
"May I?" she asked, peeking in through the doorway.
"Please," he said, indicating the chair across from him.
Her feet bare on the cool flagstone floors, she padded into the room and curled up in the chair.
Stephen snapped his fingers, and a small quilt appeared over her lap and tucked itself gently around her.
"This one isn't sentient, like your Cloak, is it?" she asked, amused.
"Fortunately not," he replied, with an easier smile than she'd seen throughout the day and a half or so that she'd known him.
It was odd, Hermione considered, to be so far away from everything she'd ever known, and yet she still felt at home. She hadn't quite had the courage to try any more magic after she'd spirited Stephen away into the Registry office. She didn't feel any different than before, but what did she know? In any case, a sudden wordless, wandless Side-Along Apparition had drained her quite thoroughly, although she had attempted to hide that fact for as long as she could.
She had the feeling Stephen had known, anyway.
They had agreed beforehand that she had to be the agent of their escape, and that he would not display any magic at all unless she were somehow incapacitated. It was crucial to keeping the Prophet and the rest of the wizarding media on the topic of Hermione's purposeful departure. If Stephen appeared to be in control of anything whatsoever, they would latch onto it, and then they'd scream about abduction by a mad Muggle or some similarly ridiculous thing.
No, it had to be her. Her will. Her choice. Her actions.
It didn't make it easier, though, being gone now. She'd had to make all these plans without notifying a single person. Harry would forgive her, of course, as would Neville and Luna, but the others she couldn't be certain about. It would be a long time before Ron would speak to her again after this. He always did know how to hold a grudge.
She shivered. It sank in, finally, how very far she was from home.
"That was a brave thing you did," Stephen said into the silence.
She looked up. He was contemplating her now, as he had been contemplating the fire when she came in. "I don't feel brave," she said, scarcely above a whisper. "I feel like I've run away."
"You did," he agreed, but his tone didn't express the condemnation she felt herself. "But you also left a trail to follow. It may be that you will inspire others to bravery, too."
She huffed out a laugh. "I suppose we'll see, won't we?"
There was a glint in his eye that may or may not have been the fire. "Yes," he responded thoughtfully, "we will."
"I think I might like to learn magic, the way you do it," she said simply, after the silence had stretched out between them once again. "If you are willing to teach me."
He took a breath and held it briefly before he answered. "Wong should teach you, I think. I would…prefer not to."
Hermione let her head fall slightly. She had been expecting something like this. "I understand."
"I'm not sure you do."
She looked up at him again. The glint was definitely not just the fire.
"I should prefer," he began quietly, "to spend time with you more...freely...than the roles of teacher and student would allow. If that is alright with you, that is."
"Oh," Hermione replied, softly. "No, I'd… I'd like that."
The corner of Stephen's mouth curled up the tiniest bit. "We could start with dinner, if you like. Do you know what time it is?"
Without thinking, Hermione cast a wordless Tempus . The time floated in front of their eyes in the darkness: 02:26.
Hermione's face lit up. "It's not gone," she said, marveling. "It's a bit late for dinner, though," she frowned.
"Nonsense," Stephen said, standing up. "You ever been to an American diner? There's a fairly decent one just a few minutes' walk from here."
Summoning her bag and shoes, Hermione grinned. "It's a date."