Harry paced the room getting more frantic by the minute.
"I'll fix some tea, Deary," said Mrs. Figg.
Harry turned to her in desperation, "Have you ever heard anyone discuss how to disapparate? If you describe it, I'll try to do it. I'm good at learning defensive spells, especially under pressure. Maybe I can figure out how to disapparate right now."
"No, Deary. Everyone goes to special classes at the Ministry Training Annex. They don't talk about it at home so you younger children won't try it. 'Fraid you'll splinch yourself."
Harry looked lower than low.
"I'll fix some tea, Deary."
Flashback to late October of 1977 - -
She turned quickly and startled him with her vehemence, "If you follow me for one more step I will pull out my mace and spray you."
"I am not following you," he said. "I live in that building over there. I recognized you from class and I must say that I was concerned about your safety in this part of town. I was considering following you to your building to make sure you arrived safely but I won't follow you past my building. I will even wait here for a minute or two and let you get well ahead of me before I walk my last few hundred feet."
She recognized him in his winter coat with the scarf around his neck only after he started talking. She was horrified that she had spoken to a classmate in that manner, this classmate in particular.
She had chosen this building to live in because she was unable to pay more. She was concerned about debt. Even with tuition reductions for family income, financial prospects looked bleak until long after starting her dental practice.
She had started a filing job that very day in the administration building to supplement her loans. She was eating out of discount can goods and had meat only twice a week, but was considering cutting back further.
When he stopped talking she said, "I am so sorry I yelled at you. I live in that building too, but I have never seen you there before. Of course, I have always either gotten back to my flat before dark or sprawled out on the couch at Meg's place. That was getting old. Meg doesn't mind but her flat mates do.
"Now that I have this job to help make ends meet, I'll have to walk home after dark every evening, at least until the afternoons get longer in the spring. I'd welcome your company. I am a little afraid here at night. But I bet walking with a former SAS member has to be a little safer." She thought she was chattering, but she also hoped she was complimenting him.
He stiffened and slowed next to her while turning to face her. "I never was in Ireland. The fighting I did was...well, let's say I served with distinction by my standards, and if you do not care for former soldiers, I will escort you safely to your flat and never again come nearer to you than I do in class." He was holding himself erect as on a parade ground and turned as to give the order to march.
She touched his arm just enough to be felt, he paused, and she applied enough pressure to turn him back to face her. Her voice held as much admiration as she could muster. "My father was a commando in the war. He speaks with begrudging admiration of the skills of the SAS, which as you might know, is high praise from his lot." She gave him a hopeful smile.
Just perceptibly, he softened his ramrod stance. She plunged ahead. "I respect what you did, serving our country. Meg and I have been friends since undergraduate school. She was the only other woman in our year interested in dentistry. We are friends by proximity but I don't hold her political opinions. We have agreed never to discuss a number of issues in order to maintain our friendship. But I'd wager you and I hold much more similar views of the world."
This was more than enough to either work or never work. She thought he was so handsome. He had let his hair grow a little more than at the start of term, it was still shorter than all the other men's hair in class, but the gray was not as obvious at this length. She admired his bearing and carriage and had to wonder if she wanted what her mother had wanted in 1941 when she had married her commando after knowing him only seven weeks.
This was the first man that she had ever met near her age that reminded her of her father.
He softened. He loosened his guarded stance slightly. Finally, after what had to be only ten seconds but to her seemed a tiny eternity, he smiled and formally offered her his right arm. They walked slowly together in silence until they reached the front of the building. It was a comfortable silence, remarkable since they did not know each other very well.
He asked her flat number and discovered he lived in the same number she did, just two floors below - she was on the third floor and he was on the first, one above the ground.
She realized the first move would have to be hers, so she took a chance. Her friend Meg had cursed him terribly, and at that time, she had been unintentionally not much better by her silence. They were in the elevator and she was desperate for a way to continue her time with him. "Please let me fix you dinner. It's the least I can do after what my friend and I have put you through."
He finally smiled. "Can you cook?" She knew he was only asking in a joking manner. The look in his eyes made her feel that he was too kind to be mean-spirited. He wasn't questioning her abilities or calling into derision her invitation. He had a wonderful smile she thought. She thought that he had a wise face that had perhaps seen more than he wanted to in his years of service.
She somehow knew she had finally met a man she could marry. It remained to be seen if he would be the one, but he might be the one.
And no, she could not cook.
Dentist Steph Granger was on the elevator in the Medical Center heading to the parking levels below when he pulled out his mobile phone. He had seen a parcel left in a corner in the waiting room as he locked the door. He thought then about going back and placing it in the box kept for things lost. One or two personal items a week ended up in that bin. Most things were collected within a few days.
If his receptionist had missed it at closing then she might miss it again on Monday and not be able to tell anyone calling to inquire, that it was there. He brought the mobile phone up to dial his office and to place a message on the recorder once the elevator door opened. But he stopped before dialing. He remembered that the staff would not be there Monday morning. They would all be on vacation, as would he.
Still holding the mobile in his right hand, he stepped out into the garage level near his car. He heard and felt an explosion that rocked the building. He was about to turn and go back up to the first floor to see what had happened. Instead, Steph Granger looked up into the face of what must be, by Hermione's description, a Death Eater.
Flashback to the early Spring of 1978 - -
For the first time in months, she was not walking home with her "SAS chap" as she called him. Somehow, Meg got herself invited back to Syl's flat for a meal. Syl had finally learned to cook, a little. He taught her.
That first night had been a disaster in her kitchen. She had burned everything she opened. He smelled the burning and heard her mild, frustrated oaths. He walked in and smiled at her. His smile did not condemn her cooking skills. He simply said, "Come with me. I can cook."
She had a few tears in her eyes that quickly dried. He gave her his right arm after she locked her door and they walked down the stairs to his flat. Whereas he had to wait outside for a minute at her request so she could straighten a bit, his rooms were pristinely neat. Quite Spartan actually. What she could see of his flat was bare except for a couch, a small television, a desk with books alphabetically ordered and held by bookends, and a kitchen with shelved items arranged by category and further arranged by height.
In no time, he had a simple but delicious meal at the table and she marveled at his ability. They talked freely and openly about everything. He panicked at 10:37 because he had not studied as he had planned to that night. She could miss a night's revision because she was three weeks ahead of the course syllabus in every subject.
The next day after that first night, they happened to meet earlier in the walk home and made the most of the trip together. He offered to cook, and when she baulked, he asked if she would help him with some of his difficulties in a particular class they had together. It seemed a fair trade. Both thought they were getting the better of the deal.
The next afternoon he walked out of a store almost right into her. They walked together, ate together, and studied together.
Thursday afternoon she came upon him reading on a bench. They walked together, ate together, and studied together.
Friday he was waiting for her as she came out of the administration building.
"Syl, please sit over here with me for a minute."
She became fearful with his words. In that instant she realized he had come to mean a lot to her. She had fancied and had tried unsuccessfully to dismiss, that she might be in love. And that tone in his voiced portended an end. She tried to keep her face calm.
He sighed and lowered his head into his hands. She placed her hand on his right arm. "Syl, I have misled you and you have every right to be furious with me. I...We...I, that is, well I planned all of this like a military operation. I have not been able to keep my eyes off you in the classes we share. I scouted out your walk home for over a week after I noticed one day that we live in the same building. I was following too closely on Monday when you first saw me because you were running late and I was afraid for your safety.
"You must hate me for misleading you. You have come to mean too much to me to let it go on further without telling you the truth. I must tell you now of my machinations and let you end our relationship before it really begins. Much longer and I will not be able to stand the loss." He rose to leave.
"You want a relationship with me?" He barely heard her. He froze in place. He turned. She continued. "I want one with you. The second I saw you in class I decided I wanted to get to know you, but Meg queered that chance that first day. This has been one of the best weeks of my life. Don't go. Walk me home?"
That night they kissed good night.
That was late October. Meg and Syl were walking to her flat in late March.
There is a very seedy part of London, just like there are bad sections of every city. Tony Peet ran one of the worst gangs in one of the worse parts of seedy London. To be in his gang you had to have killed someone. They were bad and they were known as bad. The London police was finally doing something to curb gang activities. A third of Tony's gang was under arrest and he was feeling the pressure.
That very morning an Oxford professor of sociology had been on the television discussing gangs and gang related activities. He was a bit sympathetic towards them for some reason, but Tony thought he was insulting. Syl's SAS chap heard the interview while fixing breakfast and thought there would be nothing good to come from the broadcast.
That evening Tony and five others stole a car drove to Oxford to find the professor and "send him to gang school," as Tony put it. Of course, Tony had no idea that the professor lived over forty miles away from the university. Tony felt at home in alleyways and found one. The manager of the shop across the street saw the gang members go in the alley and called the police. Twenty seconds later Syl and Meg walked arm-in-arm right, down that same alley, taking a shortcut to her building.
Half way down the alley, the girls had walked into a trap. There were three gang members behind the girls and Tony and two others in front.
"Oi, me darlings. Nice of you to come out to play wid Tony and his boys. I wants the redhead first," referring to Meg. "You can decide for yourselves who gets first dibs on bushy hair." Meg started to scream, but Tony saw it coming, stepped up, and backhanded her into shocked silence.
A rubbish bin lid sailed into the center of the tightening circle and the hoodlums spread out a bit, looking around. Syl's SAS chap skirted between the building and a gang member and ended up in front of Syl and right next to Meg who was whimpering on the ground.
In that quiet voice that she knew so well, yet with a chill in it that she could have never imagined, he said, "Why don't you boys run along and play somewhere else before one of you gets a skinned knee, or something worse."
Six clicks were heard. Six switchblades flashed in the limited light. Syl called shrilly, "Be careful, they have knives!" Panic caused the logical and rational Syl to needlessly state the obvious.
"Those aren't knives. This is a knife."
He had never let her hold his left arm. It was always his right arm he offered her. In that moment, a thought that had never quite made it into her full consciousness coalesced in her mind. "He never hugs me with both arms unless we are in his apartment, and he always goes into his bedroom for a minute when we first arrive."
Tony called to his cronies, "Get 'em lads," and they were the last words he ever spoke.
The old sergeant had said it succinctly. "You are the bleedin' SAS. They don't call you in to mollycoddle the bad guys. You're out numbered. You're outgunned. By all rights you should all die. But you are the meanest, best-trained, best-equipped, most fearsome dealers of death on the planet. Tis sad but true, m' lads, when they send you in, the situation is grim at best. You must kill-em all, and let someone else sort-em out.
"Altogether lads. One. Close with the enemy. Two. Anything is a weapon. Three. Hurt'em to distract'em. Four. Hurt'em to disarm'em. Five. Kill'em! This is war! It is literally you or them!"
The gang member closest to Syl died first. He had not made a move but he held a knife within four feet of her, and SAS policy is to eliminate the nearest threats to the hostages first. The next closest gang member to a hostage was Tony, advancing near Meg. It only took a few seconds longer for Tony to be mortally wounded, also. The last recognizable look on his face was disbelief.
A third gang member was about to pierce our hero from behind. Syl screamed and her defender turned, and was thus only grazed on the right collarbone. The blood from his wound caused Syl to scream again. The Fairbairn viciously slashed this third assailant on his knife arm and he dropped the blade and fainted.
The fourth gang member gave Syl's boyfriend his worse wound of the encounter, a serious puncture high up in the left shoulder. The attacker was trying to stab him in the back but missed because her former SAS chap was a whirling dervish in a fight. This last attacker would have a gruesome facial scar for the rest of his life. Had he not instantly dropped his knife and fallen to his knees, moaning and wailing while holding his face, he would have received a more serious scar ensuring a closed casket.
Our hero looked like the wrath of God personified as he turned to the two remaining gang members. The Fairbairn and his hands were red from his battle and he seemed completely un-phased by his own dripping wounds. The two fled right into the arms of the constables who had finally arrived.
"Get us away from that madman," they both shouted.
Syl was about to run up and hug him when he slumped against the wall in pain. This pause gave Meg the opening she needed.
"I knew you were a killer. Two are dead and two more might die because of your bloody actions...." He was gamely trying to push himself back up from sliding half way down the wall, but it was unnecessary.
The slap sounded like a small pistol shot. Syl roared at her former friend. "He saved you from rape and probably death, and this is how you thank him? Get out of this alley before I take his knife to you myself." Syl looked the part of a small avenging angel at the moment. Meg backed up quickly and turned only to run away faster.
Syl turned back to him and asked as to his wounds. He simply said as if discussing the weather, "I've had worse. Are you all right?"
Just like him to think of her while bleeding from a number of minor scratches and two wounds needing numerous stitches. She knew now for sure that she loved this man. He had promised to make himself scarce while she and Meg walked home together. But he followed them in the shadows for their safety. He had risked his life and been twice wounded for her and for a woman he knew hated him. He was so kind and so honorable. She smiled. "You owe me. To return the favor of all of the tutoring I have been giving you, will you teach me to defend myself?"
He looked up at her and smiled wanly; the pain was overtaking his dwindling adrenalin surge. His answer was not an answer to that question, but it answered it nonetheless. "I love you," he said.
Her heart thrilled at his word. She replied, "I love you, too."
Steph Granger had one last question for his daughter.
"Hermione, you told us that witches and wizards are humans just like us, but with magical abilities, correct?"
"Well then, they bleed if they are cut, and if they are shot or something, they could die, couldn't they? Or could they stop the bleeding or even death?"
Hermione gave him the look of concentration she inherited from her mother. He knew she was paging through her encyclopedic memory at light speed looking for as complete an answer as possible.
"When Mr. Weasley was attacked by a huge snake it slashed him badly and he was unconscious. He would have bleed to death if someone hadn't gotten to him in time. Had he been awake he would have tried several possible methods to stem the blood flow. In this particular case, the snake had an agent in its venom that prevented coagulation, but under other circumstances, a witch or wizard could stop their own bleeding if they were conscious. However, if they could not speak a spell or if they did not have their wand, I believe they would bleed to death if cut badly enough. Every healing spell I know of requires a wand and a spoken spell, but I suppose there may be others."
Her father quickly changed the subject to one where mother and daughter would become quickly engrossed. After he started the two of them discussing the next topic, he became lost in thought.
Later that night, after Hermione was asleep, Steph Granger took down his old dusty chest from his closet. They practiced their old skills. Then he and his wife made several "re-arrangements" of the house.
Hermione Granger opened the door and saw two Death Eaters on her front porch. She slammed the door shut immediately. "They rang the door bell," ran through her mind in amazement as she reached for her wand. At the same time, she slammed the door and turned to run, screaming to her mother.
A Reductor Curse blasted the door off its hinges and knocked Hermione down. Between the effects of the blast and the impact of the door, the explosion turned her, so that she could see the Death Eaters enter her home. The wind had been knocked out of her and she gasped for air. She blinked to remain conscious. She had two regrets in what would certainly be the last moments of her life. She regretted all that was unresolved with Ron. And she regretted that she would not be able to help Harry fight Voldemort.
Dazed and struggling vainly to bring her wand out from under the door, Hermione heard the start of the Killing Curse. "Avada Ke...." She also heard an odd metallic clacking sound that she thought familiar but could...not...quite...identify....
Author's Note – Thanks to all of my reviewers, particular those of you who care enough to help me improve my craft.
I am grateful to my beta, ninkenate. To her goes a load of the credit as to why you have enjoyed this tale.
For everyone who hates Author's Notes in the middle of a story and let me know – The first chapter of "The Granger Defense" has been modified to remove the offending note. That paragraph now reads:
"The SAS," Meg spat. "The bloody, bleeding, blinding SAS! Your kind killed my Uncle Caley! Why you are..." Meg's Uncle Caley had taught her how to swear and she honored his memory at that moment.
Disclaimer---What belongs to J K Rowling is J K Rowling's. What belongs to anyone else is theirs. Everything left is mine, I guess, but remember the old adage: "There is nothing new under the sun."