A/N: Sorry about the last cliff hanger….no not really….but we shall continue….and I still don't own the rights to any of this….although this is my story and some characters I created….just some of them though…
"Stupefy!" said Hermione. A yellow light hit Harry and he collapsed to the floor. However, he was in the process of removing the glamour from his face, so when he hit the floor Hermione saw his face change, from light brown hair and blue eyes to the messy dark hair and green eyes and his tell tale scar reappeared as well.
Hermione gasped at what she had done. Immediately she pointed her wand at the unmoving body as she said, "Rennervate!"
Harry started to moan as he became aware of where he was: lying on the floor in his chateau with Hermione standing over him with a worried look on her face. Harry reached up to his face slowly, and he felt the presence of his scar. Looking back at Hermione he gave a weak smile. "I suppose I may have deserved that for not reading your letter until earlier today."
Hermione's expression changed instantly from one of worry to irritation. "What?" she screamed at him, "I poured my heart into that letter and you ignored it for how long?" She thought about hexing him. "And now you're running off to France and wearing glamours to disguise yourself. What is going on here?" she demanded.
Harry propped himself up with his elbows. "You already attacked me with a stunner," he said cautiously. "Can I try and explain without getting attacked again?"
Hermione glared at him for his cheek. "You better do a lot of explaining. That series of letters you sent the other day really doesn't cut it as far as explanations go. So, running off here to France, was that running away from the past seven years, running away from all the fallout of the battle, or was that just running away from me?"
Harry slowly stood up, not wanting to anger the witch in front of him anymore as she still had her wand pointed at him. "Erm, 'Mione, could you maybe put the wand away. I won't apparate away, really."
Hermione blushed and quickly replaced her wand as she made a quick apology. She looked back at Harry as she was trying to fight back tears. Harry was initially unsure of what to do, but then he finally stepped forward and embraced her with a hug. They stood together, holding each other tightly, as they silently released their own pent up anxieties as they found comfort in being together. After several minutes, Hermione pushed herself away from Harry.
"So, I think I deserve an explanation of just what in the name of Merlin you have been up to over the past week," she stated firmly.
Harry lowered his eyes, as he meekly admitted that he did owe her an explanation. "So do you want to start with a run down of what I've been doing, a tour of my chateau, or do I need to just start with the groveling?"
Hermione smiled at his offer, "How about you start with the tour, throw in some groveling here and there and then we can sit down and I'll listen to your story. By the way, Kreacher has really done a nice job with Grimmauld Place."
Harry was stunned. "How did you get in there? Kreacher changed the wards. And while we're at it, how did you get here?"
Hermione thought for a moment before answering, "First you tell me what you've been doing and I'll tell you how I got here. But considering what I had to do, I thought you would be smart enough to figure most of it out."
Harry gave her a slight grin, and then he said, "Let's just go have a seat outside, we can enjoy the view, I'll have Rene bring us something to eat and drink, and I'll tell you what's been going on with me. WIll that work for you?"
Hermione returned the smile, "It's a start."
Harry showed her to the deck and they sat down facing each other as he began to tell her what he's been through for the past week. Harry told her of how he felt after the battle. He had one mission in his life, and that was to defeat Voldemort. He completed that, and as he considered the cost of completing that - the death of so many people, including friends and loved ones, not to mention countless innocents - the feeling was overwhelming. Add to that the feeling of being alone, having no family, he was overwhelmed. Then he met with the goblins and he surrendered to them for his crime of breaking in and stealing the Hufflepuff cup. Hermione had surmised some of what happened, and she told Harry of her visit to Gringotts and how she learned that there were no further charges and how they confirmed that at least Harry was alive and well, they still would not help her find him.
Harry continued his tale, explaining how Kreacher had repaired and kept up Grimmauld Place after they had to leave. He then told her of his desire to just get away from everything and how he came to the Chateau Potter, where he had been staying for the past week.
"Harry," interrupted Hermione as he was about to tell her more about his other properties, "slow down. I have a question for you. The Forest of Dean, you've been going back there, I know, but why?"
Harry blushed slightly, "It was because of what you said, when you stated how you wished we could just stay there and grow old together." There was an awkward silence for several minutes as they both avoided each other's gaze. Finally Harry looked up as he decided he had done enough of hiding from his feelings. "It's where my thoughts and feelings about life, about you, really began to change. At one point I thought of you as a sister. But with everything we've been through over the past year, and with the time we were there, I thought about what you said. We could just grow old together. And I came to realize that is what I wanted. But then I saw you and Ron together after the battle. And I knew that what I wanted would never happen. I had enough hurt in my life, and I knew I could not stay around and see the two of you together. It would hurt too much."
Harry's voice trailed off as he tried to hold back tears.
Hermione was in shock to actually hear Harry admit so much. "But I sent you the letter, I saw you leave, I knew I had to tell you what was going on, how I really felt."
Harry interjected, "Yeah, and in my brilliance, I never even read the letter until this morning."
Hermione wrinkled her brow as she tried to understand what he had said, "You only read the letter today? Why? Why did you wait? What made you read it finally?"
"Why did I wait?" he echoed. "Because I thought I knew what I saw when Ron embraced you. I had nothing left there, nothing left with you, I couldn't bear to be just your friend."
Harry tried to smile at this thought. But Hermione needed more of an explanation. "But what made you decide to read the letter?"
"James?" called a woman's voice. "Lord Black? Where are you? Why have you been avoiding coming by to visit for the past few days?"
Hermione raised an eyebrow as she looked at Harry. "Lord James Black?" she whispered. "This is going to be good," she said softly with a smile.
Harry's face paled as he realized who was calling for him.
Camille DeMarest had arrived, and she was obviously looking for the Lord Black. She came around to the deck and found him sitting with his back towards her, talking with a woman whom she had never met. As she stepped onto the deck, she apologized, "I'm sorry, my lord, I didn't realize you had company. I didn't mean to intrude."
Harry turned around to face her, and her face dropped. "Excuse me, but where is Lord Black?" asked a stunned Camille. Then she noticed the scar on his face. "Potter? Harry Potter?"
"Erm, yes," stammered Harry. "Harry James Potter, to be precise. Or even more precise, Lord James Harry Potter-Black."
Camille was shocked, and quickly tried to come to understand what he had said. She looked at Harry and then at Hermione. Then her voice caught up with her thoughts. "You deceived me into thinking you were someone else!" She started this as a question but it cam out as an accusation. "And just who is this? Someone else you are playing games with?"
Harry was speechless as he tried to figure out how to respond. Hermione covered her mouth so as not to laugh out loud at the scene unfolding in front of her. But then she started to worry herself who this young woman was who just barged into Harry's home. Obviously Harry had not finished telling her what he had been doing since he arrived in France. Hermione quickly decided to answer before Harry could manage a response. She stood up and offered her hand in a greeting, "Bonjour, mademoiselle, I am Hermione Granger. I've been a friend of Harry's since we started at Hogwart's Academy as first year students. I've been wondering just what kind of games he has been playing as it seems he has been hiding from his friends this past week."
She knew she wasn't making things easy for him, but she felt he deserved what was coming if he had been pretending to be someone else.
Harry turned and gave Hermione a slight glare, then he softened his look to a smile. Turning back to Camille he tried to explain, "I am sorry, Camille, I did not mean to lead you on or offend any of you. I came here to relax and have some time alone after the events of the past year, particularly the last week."
Camille interrupted him, "You really are Harry Potter? The boy-who-lived? The Tri-Wizard champion?" She paused as he nodded acknowledgment of all that she had said. "You really defeated that Dark Lord, Voldemort?"
Harry blushed slightly, but he nodded to the affirmative. "Yes, I did defeat him, right on the school grounds at Hogwarts. I did it with the help of my friends, especially Hermione."
Camille eyed the other young woman closely, trying to determine if she was a rival for Harry's affections or not, and she quickly began to worry that there may not really be any competition to be had, but she was not giving up yet. "So, you run away from England after winning the war, and hide from your friends? Is that what heroes in England do?" She paused briefly to let her question sink in. "And then you come here and pretend you're someone other than who you really are. Why? Were you trying to catch another young witch and not have your friends know about her? Keep her hidden here in France, and return to England with your friends who 'really' know you? Was this all some sort of game to you?"
Harry was stunned by the accusations. "None of this is a game to me, Camille," he answered harshly. "I came to France to be alone, to unwind, to get away from everything, the war, the death, the pain, the suffering. I did not want people talking at me. I have had enough of the comments of 'Oh, that's the boy who lived!' or 'Wow, he is the chosen one' or 'You think you're so special with that scar.' Ever since I found out I was a wizard when I was 11 years old, I have always been something to someone, and I always seem to be the center of attention. Honestly I am sick of all of that. I wanted to go some where, anywhere, some place where I could just be me and not judged on who I defeated as a baby, or why I have a bloody scar on my forehead, or when is the next time some dark lord is going to jump out and try to kill me. Your father asked me earlier if I was running away form anything. Yes, I was running away from all of the fame and all of the pointing and all of the staring and all of the expectations. Your father asked me if I was came here looking for something. I didn't think so, but I did find something." Harry turned to look at Hermione and reached a hand out towards her. She noticed the gesture which pulled her out of her stunned response to Harry's impromptu lecture. "I just hope that I haven't messed up what I found in my heart," he continued, now staring into Hermione's eyes, "that I haven't lost it as soon as I found it."
Hermione's eyes watered up at what she thought he was saying to her.
Harry turned back to Camille, who was now blushing as she wiped her tears from her face. She turned to leave as she mumbled her goodbye. "I am sorry," she said softly as she started to head away," I really am." Her heart broke slightly as she backed away. Then she added, "Fleur was right, I see that now. Little Harry Potter did have his heart broken at the Yule Ball during the Tri-Wizard Tournament. Good day, Lord Black, or should I say, Lord Potter." With that she turned away and left Harry's home.
Harry was ay a loss for words for Camille as he watched her walk away and then apparate when she passed his protective wards. He slowly turned back to Hermione who reached out and took his hand in hers.
"Well, that was interesting," she said as she continued to stare at the empty space the young French witch had disappeared from. Turning to Harry, she asked, "Would you mind telling me just what that was all about though? Lord Black?"
Harry looked at her sheepishly as he replied, "Sure, I'll tell you what I know about it anyway, but I want you to tell me just how you found me and how you made it into Grimmauld Place and how you found your way here."
Harry recounted the events of the past week, the dinner at Baron DeMarest's chateau, the day spent boating, his falling overboard and Camille trying to care for him. Then Harry began to laugh slightly.
"What's so funny?" asked Hermione.
"The stacks of letters I received at Grimmauld Place," he chuckled. "Some are from supposed fans, and I actually received one from Camille, complaining about the horrid Lord Black who moved in next door to her and was dismissive of everything Harry Potter ever did."
Hermione laughed with him at first and then she started to eye him closely. "You're actually infatuated with her, aren't you?" she questioned.
Harry started to protest, and then he realized he was in trouble. "Kobayashi Maru," he muttered.
"What was that?" asked a confused Hermione.
Harry looked up at Hermione, and he repeated, "The Kobayashi Maru. It's a no win situation." He quietly looked down at his feet for a minute, avoiding Hermione's gaze. "I never read your letter until this morning, so I thought my feelings towards you would never be returned. She is an attractive young witch, although perhaps a bit irritating at times. Then she showed all of her concern for me after the accident yesterday. Honestly, I was getting quite confused, particularly after her father came over this morning." Harry hesitated before he continued, "And then I finally read your letter this morning."
"So how is this a no win situation?" she asked.
Harry was startled by the question. "What? I thought I had no chance with you until I read your letter. You asked me a direct question and I figured you'd be upset if I gave an honest answer, but I knew there was nothing else to say, but what I really felt."
"That's not a no win situation, Harry," corrected Hermione. "It's your honesty that I need, and it continues to win my heart." Hermione blushed and turned away. Harry reached a hand out to her shoulder. "I'm sorry, I'm just being a silly little girl," she said as she tried to hide her embarrassment with being overly emotional with Harry.
Harry stepped up behind her, placed his arms around her in a gentle hug. "I have always been honest with you, 'Mione," he said softly. "And to continue to be honest, I am glad you tracked me down and found me. I suppose you were the one to place the wards at the Forest of Dean."
Hermione spun around in Harry's arms. She smiled at him as she brushed away a tear from her eye. "Yes, I did." She bit her lip as she considered what else to say.
"I gather you found a way to attach a tracking spell to one of your wards?" Harry asked as he tried to figure out how she had tracked him.
Hermione nodded, and she continued to explain further what happened. "Apparently the tracking charm worked to let me into Grimmauld Place. Remember how Yaxley grabbed a hold of us as we escaped the Ministry after getting back the locket? I hoped that the tracking charm attached to you from the wards would do the same. It actually worked."
Harry's smile broadened as he looked into her eyes. "I'm kind of glad it did work out."
Hermione leaned her head onto Harry's shoulder. "I was worried you would be mad at me for doing this."
Harry laughed slightly at her comment. "So, you made it into Grimmauld Place. I suppose Kreacher decided to help you then?"
Hermione stepped back away from Harry as she prepared to tell him the rest of the story. "No, he wouldn't help, he just made some irritated comments about the muggle born making it back into the house. I figured you must have flooed somewhere after I tracked you to Grimmauld Place, and then I guessed which house you went to."
"How did you have any idea of what houses I have?" asked a worried Harry.
"Well, the goblins at Gringotts wouldn't give me any useful information," she pouted, "so I spoke to Kingsley about getting some information from the Ministry about the Black and Potter possessions. I had to use a little clout as part of the 'Golden Trio' to get them to give me the information I needed. Then when Ginny saw I had a list of your family properties she had a fit."
Harry looked at Hermione with a shocked look on his face.
"What?" she asked, "I didn't mean for her to see the list. She grabbed the papers I had right out of my hand!"
"No, it's not that," said Harry. "You actually coerced someone to give you my private information? What ever happened to always following the rules?"
"I'm sorry Harry," she apologized, "I know it was…not exactly the right thing to do, but it was important…to me at least it was…" Her voice was barely above a whisper as she finished her sentence.
"I'm glad you did," said Harry, trying to reassure her. "You broke the rules just to find me?" He continued with a smile, "I am impressed with that alone."
Harry reached forward and gently lifted her chin with his finger, so that he was looking her in the eyes. "Getting back to the time we spent at the Forest of Dean," he said with his emerald eyes sparkling. After a brief pause that made sure he had her attention, he continued, "I really would like to just grow old with you, but I'd rather we spend it anywhere you want, it does;t have to be in the Forest of Dean, but if I'm with you, then that would be fine too."
Hermione was speechless at his comment. She couldn't find words to say to him. So she just leaned forward and kissed his lips.
Later that day while they were enjoying the view of the Mediterranean from Harry's Chateau, Harry wrapped his arms around Hermione from behind as he laid his chin on her shoulder.
"You know, the other day when I went on the boat with Baron DeMarest and his family, I was surprised by how much I liked it."
Hermione turned and looked at him with surprise. "You liked getting thrown overboard? I thought you hated swimming," she said with a smile.
"Not that part," he smiled back. "I could see how relaxing it could be to just be on a boat, not a magical boat, but a sailboat, or even a yacht, and just lazily cruise around the sea. With you. Alone with you."
"You know," Hermione said without taking her eyes off of the view in front of her, "That does sound kind of wonderful. I think I would like that."
"That's good," said Harry softly. "I've already made an appointment to meet with a gentleman down at the marina tomorrow…."