What If? ... An Alternative to Order Of the Phoenix
On To Australia
By Chem Prof
Chapter 6, On To Australia
A magical boat was easily the most pleasant form of wizarding travel Harry and Hermione had yet experienced. Sort of a maritime version of the Knight Bus, but without the sudden stops and starts. With the stabilization charms it was actually a very smooth ride, skimming along through the waves at a speed equal to that of the fastest ocean racing boats. And like the Knight Bus, it was invisible to muggles.
By the end of the second day they were passing south of Fiji, and the two teens were standing in the bow of the boat with their arms around each other’s waists, watching the sunset. Tomorrow they would land in Brisbane and begin the process of reacclimatizing to civilization. After tonight the pareos would be packed away until their next visit to the island, but this was one last chance to wear the colorful garb that more than anything else symbolized for them the island experience.
Anyone who’d known them back in Britain would never recognize the pair now. Besides their dark tans, Hermione had once more altered their appearances. This time, to Harry’s amusement, she had begun with a switching spell on their hair. Over the past four months both had grown out their hair, so that Harry’s was shoulder length and Hermione’s fell past the middle of her back. Once everyone on board had a good laugh at the switch, she’d given Harry a trim so that he now had a full head of curly brown hair. By contrast, she’d lengthened her own with the result that she now sported long flowing, somewhat uncontrollable black locks. The young woman leaning up against the railing looked more like a native island girl than ever before.
While she was at it, Hermione had tried out the skin alteration charm she’d learned from the French witches in Tahiti on Harry’s scar, but it didn’t work. After sharing a concerned look with Sirius, they again resolved to look into this phenomenon further, and hopefully find someone with knowledge of curse scars once they made contact with the Australian wizarding world.
There was another, equally dramatic change in the English travelers. Six weeks of an island diet combined with all the physical labor and exercise had resulted in substantial weight loss for all of them. It had been greatest in the adult Grangers and least in Harry, since he had been rather skinny to start with, but they were all in considerably better shape than they had been. One unexpected result of this was that when they unpacked their regular clothing they discovered that much of it no longer fit!
It was the worst for Harry and Hermione. While everyone found that their shorts, skirts, and trousers were all several inches too loose around the waist, they could manage in the short term by pinning them or tightening their belts. For the teens, however, paddling a canoe for an hour or more each day had greatly increased their upper body strength. Their more highly developed arm, shoulder, back, and chest muscles had expanded their torsos such that every top they owned was now much too tight. Hermione, to her mother’s amusement and her own chagrin, couldn’t fit into a single one of her bras, being unable to fasten the clasps no matter how tightly she stretched the straps.
The first part of the problem was easily solved as Harry could borrow a shirt from Hermione’s father, and she could do the same from her mother. But there was no way she could wear one of her mother’s bras; the older woman was much fuller in the bust. Harry’s initial thought, on hearing of his girlfriend’s problem, was to suggest that she just go without one, but he had enough sense to keep this idea to himself. Mrs. Granger suggested she simply wear a bikini top under a tee shirt, but Hermione found some of her mother’s tank tops that fit snugly and gave her enough support, and decided she could layer one of these under a blouse. Everyone agreed, though, that a shopping expedition would be their first order of business after they landed in Australia.
Given that they were adopting new identities, they also needed to come up with different names. Hermione, predictably, had already given this some thought.
“How about Wendell and Monica Wilkins?” she suggested to her parents. The two adults simply stared at her.
“Where did that come from?” her mother asked with some amusement. Hermione colored slightly and shrugged.
“I don’t know, they just came to me,” she admitted. “What do you think?”
“Well, the last name’s alright, I suppose, but I don’t really feel like a Monica, and I simply can’t see your father as a Wendell, do you dear?” she smiled teasingly at her husband.
“Personally, I liked the bloke in that movie, Crocodile Dundee ,” he declared with a smirk. “Paul Hogan. So I think I’ll go with that.”
“Do you really think it’s necessary to change your first names?” Harry wondered. “I mean, I doubt if anyone in wizarding Britain even knows your first names. I didn’t even know them until you introduced yourself to the Delacours.”
“Now Harry, don’t ruin our fun with logic,” Mrs. Granger chided. “We’re enjoying this.” She burst out laughing at his gobsmacked expression at this role reversal. “Who do you want to be, honey?” she asked Hermione. “Just to be on the safe side, you should probably have a different last name than we do.”
“That’s easy,” Hermione replied eagerly. “Jane Elizabeth. And Bennet for the surname.” Her mother nodded knowingly. Jane Austen was her daughter’s favorite author and Elizabeth Bennet one of her best-known characters.
“Well, since you claimed Elizabeth, I’ll have to settle for Emma,” she decided with a grin, referring to yet another Austen character. “And what about Harry?”
Hermione noticed Harry’s hesitation, and guessed correctly that he was reluctant to give up the name that was one of his few links to his dead parents. “You could be Henry James, after the author,” she suggested while giving his hand a squeeze. “Then Harry can be your nickname.”
“I guess,” he decided with a shrug. “What about my last name?”
“That’s easy,” she smiled. “Darcy.” When Harry inquired as to the significance of that surname, however, she just shot him a sly grin and told him to read the book.
Sirius wasn’t planning to spend much time in muggleAustralia, so he didn’t care what they named him, and he agreed to also go by Darcy. His primary contribution to the project was to prepare all the fake documents they needed, working from their regular passports and other identity papers. After all, as a Marauder he’d had plenty of experience in forging official looking signatures.
The five of them spent nearly a month traveling around Australia, learning about the country and trying to decide on a place to live. Hermione’s mother really liked Perth, but felt that it was too far away from everything else, especially the school the teens would be attending, which was in the Queensland outback. Eventually they decided to settle in Richmond, outside of Sydney near the Blue Mountains.
The Grangers had enjoyed living close to London and Sydney was the largest metropolitan area in their adopted country. Additionally, this location gave them access to some spectacularly scenic hiking opportunities in the nearby national parks. They purchased a modest house for Hermione and her parents, while Harry and Sirius rented a two-bedroom flat about a block away. In actuality, Harry would spend most of his time living in the house with Hermione’s family when the teens were not away at school
And so Paul and Emma Wilkins began a new life in Australia. Anyone trying to track the former Mr. and Mrs. Granger would run into a dead end in Tahiti, where they seemed to have vanished into thin air. Similarly, there had been no official sighting of Hermione Granger since she’d crossed into France at the beginning of August, and Harry Potter had not been seen since he left Privet Drive the day before.
For his part, Sirius was anxious to return to the island, and took his leave after the others had settled in. After discussing the situation with Harry, he had decided to split his time between Polynesia and Australia. It turned out that the island woman he’d taken a fancy to had told him right before they left that she wanted a baby. More specifically, his baby. And he planned to make every effort to accommodate her wishes.
Everyone was very thankful that for the first time in four years, Halloween passed without anything out of the ordinary happening to Harry.
Meanwhile, back in Britain things initially seemed to be going smoothly. The school year got underway without any great fanfare, although the absence of the two Gryffindors was a huge topic of conversation for at least the first month. This debate was greatly fueled when a sensational story appeared in the Daily Prophet , regarding the prophecy that had foretold The Boy Who Lived’s defeat of You Know Who. Eventually it was grudgingly accepted by many in wizarding Britain (at least, by his supporters) that it made sense for Harry Potter to disappear at this time, since the dark lord might well seek revenge for his humiliation at the hands of the then one-year-old toddler.
It was a difficult period of adjustment for Ron, who lost his two closest companions, but his housemates stepped up and did their best to make him feel welcome to spend time with them. Without the two dominant personalities of their class, the rest of the Gryffindor fifth years were forced to assume more prominent roles at the school. They no longer had Granger and Potter drawing all the attention in their classes and in everyday life at the castle, respectively. It turned into a positive experience, both for their own personal growth and in bonding with each other, and by the end of the term the six of them – Ron, Neville, Dean, Seamus, Lavender, and Parvati – were closer than ever.
Gryffindor won their first quidditch match in a high scoring contest. Ron struggled in his debut as keeper, but the experienced Gryffindor chasers dominated the quaffle while the Weasley twins were far more skilled than their Slytherin counterparts. Ginny finally beat Draco Malfoy to the snitch, eliciting a vicious, insulting diatribe from her opponent that turned into an all out brawl after the final whistle. It quickly spilled over into the stands and resulted in the largest number of detentions ever issued at Hogwarts for a single incident.
At the end of October there arose an ominous reminder that the dark times had not ended. The first Death Eater trial resulted in convictions for Amycus and Alectus Carrow, specifically chosen by Minister Bones as two of the least sympathetic characters among the dark lord’s followers. On Halloween night, however, Voldemort struck back. For the first time in fourteen years, the Dark Mark appeared in the sky over a destroyed wizarding home. The evil wizard had chosen his victims cunningly – the entire family of a Wizengamot member simply disappeared.
In the months to come, this same scenario repeated with every Death Eater trial, each time the target a Wizengamot member apparently chosen at random. By the end of the year Minister Bones was on shaky ground, and facing increasing pressure from the terrified governing body to halt the prosecutions.
And in a seemingly unrelated incident, Katie Bell somehow got hold of a cursed opal necklace on a Hogsmeade visit in December, and was seriously injured. This led to her being sent to St. Mungo’s for an indefinite stay, and served to add to the growing level of unease among the students at Hogwarts.
In mid December Harry and Hermione made a trip to the Australian Academy of Magical Arts to introduce themselves to the headmaster. It was just after the end of the Australian school year, and the students were on summer break until the end of January. Hermione also hoped to get their booklists so that she could have a month to look the texts over before classes started. This would be their OWL year, after all, and she wanted to make certain they weren’t behind in anything.
The two teens found the main office without too much difficulty, noting that the building was laid out much more logically than Hogwarts. There was an administration wing, which also included the library and infirmary, a recreational wing which contained a gymnasium, locker rooms, spell practice rooms, and student lounge areas, and a classroom wing, with the teachers’ offices adjacent to their classrooms. The student dormitories and the dining hall were in another building, which was connected at the ground level. The greenhouses and the astronomy observatory were separate, similarly connected structures.
The headmaster was a balding man who appeared to be middle aged, although it was hard to tell with wizards. He looked up from his desk as the two new students approached his open door. From the way they were walking together and holding hands it was obvious to anyone that they were a couple.
“Ah, there you are,” he greeted them, rising and coming around his desk, holding out his hand. “Welcome to the AustralianAcademy for the Magical Arts – or, as all the students call it – AAMA. I’m Professor Williams. And you are Miss …” he paused to look down at the papers on his desk.
“Jane Bennet, sir,” Hermione prompted, shaking his hand. “And this is Henry Darcy, although his close friends call him Harry.”
“Mr. Darcy and Miss Bennet,” Williams repeated with a smile. “Interesting.”
Hermione smiled back. “The cover story is that my mother was a big fan of Jane Austen, and she couldn’t decide whether to name me Elizabeth or Jane, so I ended up with Jane Elizabeth. Jane is in fact my real middle name, but few people in the wizarding world know that.”
“I actually never even heard of the book until I met Her … Jane, that is,” Harry added. “She’s going to tell everyone who asks that she decided as soon as she met me that we were fated to be together. But I know that she looks past my name and sees the real me.” The two students turned to each other and shared a private smile, knowing that his statement was truer than their new headmaster realized.
“Well, as you requested, I and my assistant are the only ones here who know your true identity,” he confirmed. “Do you intend for it to remain that way?”
“As long as possible, yes,” Hermione replied. “The situation back home is still up in the air, and there are a lot of people, on both sides, who aren’t very happy with Harry right now. We dropped out of sight four months ago and have been in hiding ever since. We hope that’s long enough that two students appearing in Australia in January won’t be obviously connected to two that left France in August.”
“Well, I certainly wish you luck with your plan, and I must say it’s a pleasure and an honor to have both of you here. Let me show you around.”
There were some immediately obvious differences between this school and Hogwarts. One was the climate. The summers were hotter than anything they’d experienced in England, and the winters much milder, with freezing temperatures a rarity. They would never need cloaks or overcoats here, and snow was seen only in the mountains. Consequently, their school attire would be much lighter and more modern than the traditional long sleeved robes worn at Hogwarts. Bare arms and legs were the order of the day during most of the school year. The standard uniform was a sleeveless tunic, tailored appropriately for each gender, combined with leggings of variable length, according to the individual student’s taste, The two English immigrants decided to go with mid-thigh length bike shorts at first, and adjust later if necessary. The outfit was finished off with leather, sharkskin, or dragonhideboots.
Headmaster Williams filled them in on the curriculum as they strolled about the grounds. The Australian model was loosely based on that of its mother country, including seven years of instruction, with students taking OWLs after their fifth year and NEWTs at the end of the seventh. The academic year, however, began at the end of January and ended in early December, with a two week break in July. Had they started their education here, Hermione, with her birthday in September, would have been in the year ahead of Harry. Thus, she would be the oldest student in their year, but the headmaster didn’t foresee any difficulties with that.
Since the population of Australia and New Zealand was much smaller than that of Britain and Ireland, the school was only about half the size of Hogwarts. There were twenty to twenty-five students per year, with roughly one hundred fifty total. Consequently, there was no need to separate them into competing houses. Everyone was housed together in one large dormitory, grouped by year and by gender.
Australia was a relatively young country, settled to a large extent by undesirables or others who were seeking a different life than was available in Britain. Its people tended to be more rugged and self-reliant and held less regard for tradition. There were no thousand year old castles on this continent. All the school buildings and furnishings were at most one hundred years old, and often much newer. The curriculum and attitudes at this magical school also reflected this heritage, with less emphasis on History of Magic, Astronomy, and Divination and more practical applications in Charms and Transfiguration.
There was a component of Aboriginal magic in several subjects, as the spells and rituals performed by the original inhabitants of the continent had developed along some different lines than the traditional European methods. Hermione’s eyes lit up at this, as she was always eager to learn about other cultures. She had witnessed a hint of this in her contacts with the Polynesian magic users on BlackIsland, and was eager for this additional opportunity.
Another significant difference was that all magically raised students were required to take Muggle Studies for their first three years, and a course called Intro to Magical Society was similarly required for all muggle raised students. The two students shared an exasperated grimace upon hearing this, and Harry was briefly tempted to ask to sit in on the Intro course, even if it meant being in a class of third years, to see what he’d missed out on.
Both teens were delighted to learn that there was a considerably different interpretation of the Reasonable Restriction on Underage Magic here. Students were encouraged, not forbidden, to practice the spells they’d learned during the year when they returned home for breaks. So long as they abided by the International Statues on Secrecy, keeping magic away from the eyes of uninformed muggles, they were free to perform spells appropriate to their level of training. Of course, they’d both done exactly that while they were on BlackIsland, but it was good to know they could continue their training here in Australia without fear of official reprimand.
At the end of the tour they sat down with the headmaster to select their courses. Harry was inclined to forego History of Magic and Astronomy, and had no interest in continuing Divination. Hermione certainly agreed with his Divination decision, but wanted to see what a competently taught History of Magic course would be like. She also decided to stick with Astronomy at least through her OWL year, since there was a different arrangement of constellations to be studied in the Southern Hemisphere.
At Hermione’s urging, and with her enthusiastic assistance, Harry had been studying her Arithmency and Ancient Runes books during the past two months, since they were among her favorite subjects, and he felt ready to join her in those two courses. They both signed up for Defense, Charms, Potions, and Transfiguration, which were required of all students, and both elected to take Herbology. Hermione had had her fill of Magical Creatures and opted not to continue with it, but Harry decided to stick with the course in honor of Hagrid, his first wizarding acquaintance.
Thus, when everything was settled, Hermione had nine courses and Harry eight. The headmaster pronounced these to be acceptable schedules, and added that they would also be eligible to sit the Muggle Studies OWL if they desired. Harry tried hard to hide his amusement at Hermione’s irrepressible excitement when they were given their book lists. Unfortunately, she noticed and shot him a look that he knew meant that he would be spending a great deal of time in study during the next month.
Harry and Hermione were both shaking their heads and smirking as they exited the bungalow and stepped out onto the sand of the deserted beach. After spending Christmas with the Grangers (and it was a decidedly different experience to celebrate Christmas in the middle of the summer!) Sirius had brought them to Black Island for the week between Christmas and New Years. It was now New Year’s Eve, and they’d just ushered in 1996 with the appropriate noise and merriment, exchanging kisses at midnight. Their hosts had had considerably more to drink than they had, however, and the kiss between Sirius and his lady had progressed into much more. The teens had quickly decided to go for a walk on the beach when the adults made obvious their intent to retire to their bedroom to continue their celebration.
Out on the sand in the warm night air the younger couple shared a longer and more passionate kiss of their own after exchanging some suggestive speculation about the example their elders were setting for them. When they broke apart Harry boldly proposed a celebratory activity of their own.
“No, Harry, we are not going to go for a night fly together in the nude,” Hermione laughed while hitting him playfully in the chest.
“But you said you wanted to do something romantic,” Harry pointed out with a grin.
Hermione shook her head and groaned. “Dream on, Potter.”
“Well, how about midnight skinnydipping in the ocean?” Harry suggested hopefully.
“No way!” Hermione shot back. “You know what they told us. Nighttime is when the sharks and other predators come closer to the shore to feed.” Harry’s eyes widened at what she didn’t say in her rejection of his idea.
“So, the nude part’s OK then?” he countered. Hermione merely rolled her eyes. “How about if we go to our little spot in the jungle with the waterfall?”
“Maybe someday later when we know each other better,” Hermione demurred, not letting on that the same idea had also crossed her mind.
“But we’ve known each other for more than four years now,” Harry persisted playfully.
“You know what I mean,” she sighed. Not wanting to ruin the mood by getting her upset, Harry relented, giving her an affectionate hug. Eventually they settled on a moonlit flight on the broom – fully clothed.
While Harry fetched the broom, Hermione changed to a pair of short shorts and a cropped tank top that left a lot of skin showing, which she knew Harry would enjoy. She thought about how enticing the skinnydipping idea had been, and knew that if he had pressed she would have agreed to a partially nude swim in the lagoon. That memorable day in October still gave her a tingly feeling inside. With that thought in mind, she decided not to wear anything underneath the tank top.
After returning with the broom, Harry’s eyes were immediately drawn to Hermione’s bare midriff, and he couldn’t keep his hands to himself. Once they’d risen high above the island he wrapped one arm around her waist. Sighing contentedly, she closed her eyes and leaned back into him and he added a second arm.
“Harry,” she murmured. “You’re not holding onto the broom.”
“Don’t worry,” he assured her. “We’re hovering. Open your eyes.”
She looked and gasped. He’d maneuvered them so that they had a perfect view of the moonlight shining across the water. “It’s so beautiful!” she declared softly.
Harry wrapped her up more tightly and tentatively slid his hands under her top. Hermione reached up and covered his with her own, but instead of pushing them back down as he expected, she moved them higher, onto her breasts.
Harry’s breath immediately caught in his throat. Both of them were silent for a while, simply experiencing the sensation. Finally Hermione sighed happily, then whispered with a smile, “You need to breathe, Harry.”
Harry let loose a loud exhalation, causing them both to chuckle. “I had no idea my heart could pound this hard while just sitting still,” Harry noted nervously. “Can you feel it?”
“My heart is beating pretty fast too,” Hermione pointed out. “And your hands are better positioned than mine to be able to tell.”
Harry hugged her closer, making her moan at how incredible it felt. Harry joked that it was making him lightheaded, and if he passed out, she’d have to land the broom. But when he started to move his hands back to the broom handle, she stopped him, letting him know that she wanted them to stay right where they were.
After another period of pure bliss, Harry broached a related topic. “Is it too soon to ask you to marry me? This feels like the perfect moment.”
“Unfortunately, it is,” Hermione responded wistfully. “Too soon, I mean, although you’re right about the perfect moment. We’ll have to wait until you’re seventeen. You need to be of age to enter into a commitment like that.”
“I don’t suppose there are any loopholes to get around that, are there?” he mused. “Like maybe for the last surviving heir of a Noble Family? Could he be considered an emancipated minor and therefore an adult?”
“Oh, and I suppose you think the Potters might be wizarding nobility?” Hermione inquired. Harry nodded eagerly and she laughed. “You have such a vivid imagination!” she declared, patting his leg affectionately. “For one thing, there’s no such thing as an adult minor. That's something of an oxymoron, and at any rate it wouldn’t work.” Sensing the question he was about to ask she quickly explained. “An oxymoron is a term that is self contradictory. If you’re considered an adult, you’re no longer a minor. But besides that, there’s no such thing as a noble family in the wizarding world, the Black family’s arrogance notwithstanding, and not at all in Australia. And even in muggle England, the age of majority is no lower for the nobility.”
“Oh well, it was worth a shot,” Harry responded with a theatrical sigh.
“Now, if we lived in Scotland …” Hermione teased. When Harry groaned she laughed again. “Don’t get your hopes up. Can you see my father moving us back there for that reason?” She felt his chest vibrate as he chuckled at that thought.
Suddenly she shuddered when his thumbs began to explore a bit, redirecting her attention to their current activity. “Harry,” she murmured in a low voice. “What do you say we pay a visit to that waterfall again?”
Yes, I poked fun at yet another overused fanfiction cliché – the emancipated minor – employed by authors who are too impatient to have Harry become an adult to wait until he turns seventeen. I will be taking a shot at an even more annoying one in the next chapter.
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