I Need A Vacation


Story Summary:
Lumbered with kids that will be their own in a mere ten or twenty years, Harry and Ginny face the hardest babysitting gig ever... (Written for the SIYE Twin Travel challenge.)

I Need A Vacation

Author's Note:
This was written for SIYE's Twin Travel challenge, which asked for fics featuring Harry and Ginny's future kids returning through time. This isn't quite what the challenge author expected.

I Need A Vacation

The Death Eaters rose from the ashes of the magical fire changed, improved, indefatigable. Their battle for supremacy had raged for decades, but the final battle would not be fought in their present. It would be fought years in the past.
An afternoon in late June. Starting at about six thirty, just after dinner.
In our present. Right about now, in fact.

* * *

In Harry Potter’s present, more specifically, which at present involved breakfast. (It was summer, they were seventeen. At that age, mornings are things that happen to other people.)

“You’re completely missing the point, Ron,” Harry was saying. “If you want a really good treacle tart, the trick is to add a pinch of...” He caught himself as Hermione and the rest of the Weasleys started to appear, then smoothly switched subjects. “...they need a new keeper if the Cannons are going to even have a shot this year.”

Ron seemed about to reply, but the timely arrival of bacon cut him short. Realising the conversation – or what was left of it – was probably over, Harry followed his example, and soon enough the table had reached its usual combination of mastication-interrupted conversation.

For a while, anyway.

Harry had just tucked into his second bacon buttie when a loud, sizzling crash sounded from the living room.

The table fell silent. Then, as one, the assembled clan were on their feet, wands drawn, moving guardedly towards the door.

Harry got to the door first and barged it open, leading with his wand as he entered and stared, flabbergasted, at the sight in the middle of the floor.

None of them had been sure what to expect, but it sure as hell hadn’t been this.

On the floor in the living room were two children, seven or eight years old, crouched in a shallow depression in the cindered remains of the carpet. The edge of the coffee table glowed with orange embers, suggesting a sphere where whatever caused the depression had taken a bite out of it. And a very surprised mouse took a look at the half-melted, half-dematerialised chocolate biscuit in its paws, and fainted.

The children finally seemed to notice their presence, and turned to the door, heads cocking identically. Then their faces lit up.

The girl, a frighteningly energetic redhead, launched herself with a shout of joy at a completely unprepared Ginny, who thudded painfully into the wall (where she left a dent that would someday perhaps cause an estate agent’s commission to rise very slightly by adding ‘rustic charm’ and ‘simple, unaffected decor’).

But that in itself wasn’t what had really confused them. It was what the girl had shouted.

She’d shouted “Mummy!”

* * *

The evening had continued oddly too. Molly had taken to the kids in a snap, of course, and had spent most of the evening coddling them and feeding them simply unhealthy amounts of ice cream. Ginny and Harry on the other hand had seemed understandably rather awkward about the whole thing, and watched apprehensively from the living room door.

“James and Lily,” Harry said, frowning. Ginny wrinkled her nose in agreement.

“I’d have hoped we’d have had more imagination. Besides, it does feel a bit, you know... well, your parents were married, I mean...”

Harry winced, scrunching his eyes shut against the thought and mentally reaching for the brain bleach. He changed the subject.

“Still, at least ‘Lily’ isn’t so bad. She wasn’t hit with the full force of the Evans Naming Curse.” He remembered a long-forgotten conversation with Sirius. “Unlike my great-aunt Bougainvillea.”

They chuckled together for a moment, then sobered and stood in silence for several long minutes, watching the ch... no, their children, weren’t they?

“It’s all set, then,” Ginny murmured nervously. “We get married, have kids... It’s fate. No choice, no say...” The wounded glance Harry shot her made her brain catch up with her words. “I don’t mean that... I mean... well, you know what I mean. Like you and the prophecy. I don’t want to end up marrying you because I have to so the time-thing doesn’t get muddled. I want to end up marrying you because we want to be married, you know?”

Harry’s expression softened, and he nodded.

“Thing is,” he mused, “if they’ve come back and now exist only because we know... no, hang on, if us knowing makes them not... wait... my point is, the future can’t be set. We make our own fate. It’s the only way this can make sense. It can’t be set.”

* * *

The quidditch game had been confusing, too. Harry had taken the two children out into the paddock and handed them each one of the old brooms that littered the shed. But James’ eyes had lit up – almost literally, Harry thought – at the sight of Harry’s Firebolt.

“Say,” the child had opined, “that’s a nice broom.”

Which was true, of course, and of course Harry had been persuaded to let him try it, but there was something unnerving about the whole affair, particularly when the child had, with preternatural ease, pulled off a perfect Wronski.

* * *

“Something’s not right,” Hermione mused as they chatted furtively in the broom shed later that night. “The kids are just too perfect.”

Molly had, in her assumed role as nanny, put the retrovagent sproglings to bed about an hour earlier, and had put her feet up in front of the fire with a mug of cocoa, a good book, and a hubby.

The quartet on the other hand had made their excuses and escaped to the broom shed for a brief conference. Harry and Ginny had almost subconsciously joined hands where they sat, cross-legged, on the granite floor.

“I’m mostly surprised that Ron hasn’t beaten me up for, y’know, Ginny...”

“I thought I saw... no, I couldn’t have...” Hermione didn’t seem to be paying attention, lost on a train of thought that had cruised by the station without noticing and was already halfway to Aberystwyth. She sat staring into the distance, twirling a finger absently in her hair.

“Don’t be silly, Harry. For a start, you haven’t sh-”

“Ron!” Ginny jabbed him in the ribs.

“...haven’t done anything yet, is what I meant to say,” he continued with a glare, “and anyway, I’m sure you wouldn’t dream of it until I’d got properly off my face at a nice big wedding.” He paused, as a thought struck him. “With lots of food. Obviously.”

“...and I suppose you can find yourself imagining things sometimes,” Hermione carried on quietly in the background, staring into the distance, oblivious to the conversation going on around her. “Impossible things, crazy things, insane things...” Her finger was well and truly caught now, though she hadn’t seemed to notice.

“Hermione, what are you talking about?”

Hermione started, snapping out of her reverie.

“Hm? Oh, the kids... I mean, I saw... I thought...” She untangled her finger with an embarrassed cough. “I suppose there was just something I recognised. About the kids. Something familiar.”

“Well, of course there is. They’re the spitting image of these two, aren’t they?”

Hermione shook her head, frowning.

“No, it’s something else... I can’t put my finger on it... It’s more like...”

She was rudely interrupted by the same crackling, crashing noise that had heralded the children’s arrival. This time it accompanied a glowing blue sphere that seemed to simply eat the shed’s back wall into nothingness, leaving only a hunched, naked figure in the smoking half-sphere in the packed-earth floor.

They stared at her for a moment, dumbfounded, while a disquieting throb of recognition pounded at the back door to their brains. Ron was the first to see it, and a moment later he had clamped his hand over Harry’s eyes.

“Um, Hermione... I think it’s you.”

Hermione’s hand joined Ron’s to block Harry’s vision, not that he would have wanted to see anyway. But outside his private – and dark – world, the traveller from a future had stood up, and Hermione reached the same conclusion.

“You’re right... I think it is.” And moments later, another one. “I look good...”

“Oh yeah,” Ron agreed, slightly too enthusiastically for Hermione’s liking, if Ron’s winced ooof was anything to go by. “Um. I mean, it’s definitely you.”

“I hate to butt in,” Harry interrupted from behind their hands, “but what the hell is going on?”

His question was ignored, however, and Hermione’s breathed “Oh, wow...” was followed by the resumption of vision, which quickly explained Hermione’s wonder.

“Oh wow,” Harry echoed. Ron seemed to still be somewhat discombobulated by private ponderings of his own, which Hermione would no doubt have a chat with him about later.

For now, though, the Hermione in front of them – it was clearly her now, he saw – was changing. Her hair, moments ago frizzed and curling with static, was straight and sleek, and was arranging itself into a short ponytail. But what had prompted Hermione to remove her hand from Harry’s eyes, though, was that the newcomer had somehow acquired clothes.

Or was acquiring clothes. Or becoming clothes, or something. Harry wasn’t quite sure. Either way, she was somehow suddenly fully dressed in a tight-fitting red leather thing; noises from Harry’s left seemed to indicate that Ron wasn’t entirely displeased with this new and somewhat less demure style. The Hermione they both knew, however, was rather more sceptical.

“All right, that proves she’s a fraud. I’d never wear that.”

“What about if...”

Never, Ron.” Another thought grumbled its way into her brain. “Besides, my hair doesn’t do that. And I can’t do the... clothes... under the... skin. Thing.” But deep in the back of her brain, another flicker of recognition flared briefly; when she thought about it, it was gone.

Belatedly, she thought to draw her wand. She quickly remedied the oversight, and soon the new arrival stared, unfazed, down a perfectly polished length of wood.

“I am Hermione,” she – it? – said. This seemed to infuriate Hermione.

“No you’re not! I’m Hermione!” She waggled the wand threateningly. “You’re not me!”

The fraud cocked her head, like a hawk sizing up a rabbit.

“Correct. And also incorrect. I am not you, and yet I am you. It is a long story.”

“I like stories,” Hermione growled through gritted teeth. The fake nodded, then acquiesced.

“I have your memories and personality. To all intents and purposes, fifteen years from now, I am who you would be were you not fatally inconvenienced.”

“Wait, I’m dead?”

“No. And yes. You will be dead fifteen years from now in the timeline whence I come. Quite... conclusively. Your imprints were recovered and installed into an M25 polymagimetic chassis configured to default to your likeness. Your brothers-in-law were involved in the process.”

“Wait, you’re a... a... photocopy?”

The catsuit woman considered this for a moment, then nodded.

“An acceptable summation. I am a model X1200 Herminator.”

Ron and Harry finally seemed to regain the power of speech. Ron’s in particular had eluded him as his thoughts and eyesight was not subject to the restrictions of a PG-13 rating.

“Brothers-in-law? You mean me and Hermione...”

The woman cut him off.

“It is, as I mentioned, a long story. For now you are in grave danger.”

She stalked off towards the door, glancing back over her shoulder at them.

“Come with me if you want to live.”

* * *

The Herminator stalked briskly down the path towards the house, the four teenagers bustling along behind her.

“What’s the matter?” Harry demanded, hurrying alongside.

“Three hours ago, fifteen years from now,” the woman replied matter-of-factly, without the slightest hint of being out of breath, “two paeoids will be sent back in time by followers of Voldemort to terminate you and prevent his defeat next year.” She glanced at him. “In your timeline, of course. It is likely that they will eliminate peripheral resistance while you are separated, so anyone currently in the house is at risk.”

Harry’s mind was buzzing, a roiling mass of information overload. So he did the natural thing.

He tripped over a tree root.

“Ow! Oh, bollo... bugger, OW!”

He dragged himself pitifully to his feet, pulling a clump of nettles out of his ear and glasses.

“Wait a minute,” he said, trying to process one thing at a time. “Wait, followers of... paeoids?”

“Beings that appear human – childlike, in this case – but are not.”

“Like...” he thought for a moment. “Like inferi?”

“Negative. Cybermagic organisms.”

She set off again for the house; Harry started to follow, but winced in pain as his ankle gave way.

“Wait, hang on, my ankle... I think I sprained...”

“There are two hundred and fifteen bones in the human body. That’s one.” The Herminator heaved him back to his feet and prodded him onwards. “You’ll live.”

By now Hermione had caught up and scurried along beside... her? Her namesake? Herself? It didn’t pay to think too closely about it. Anyway, there she was.

“Why did they send children?”

“Replica children. Because you’d be sure to take them in. They cannot be bargained with, they cannot be reasoned with. They do not feel pity, remorse, or fear. And they absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are dead.”

“Oh good,” Harry mumbled weakly. “No pressure, then.”

* * *

Loud snores came from the living room as Molly ambled down the stairs.

“Arthur,” she asked as she opened the door and stepped in. “Have you seen the ch-”

She stopped in mid-stride. Arthur Weasley lay, snoring loudly, on the sofa. On the backrest, leaning over him, stood the two children, each with a long gleaming metal blade extruded from their right arm, poised to air-condition Arthur’s head.

Molly’s eyes widened, but the shock only immobilised her for a moment.

“Oh no you bloody don’t,” she bellowed, grabbing a decorative cast-iron skillet from a hook on the wall and lunging for the creatures.

Her first swing connected with a resounding CLANG, sending ‘James’ crashing into the wall and cascading down the knick-knacks, beating a perfect rhythm of five impacts in quick succession.

Her second swing went wide, narrowly missing ‘Lily’.

Her third swing stopped in mid-swing as a burning pain flared through her side. She tumbled to the floor, absently feeling a trickle of something warm and wet from her back.

* * *

The gong-like clang from the living room spurred the quintet into overdrive, and they broke into a run, Harry hobbling slightly.

The Herminator diverted a thought to her arm, and a small flap popped open. Out of it emerged a vaguely cylindrical assembly, six ash shafts revolving together around a central axle. Another thought, and the bundle spun up briefly.

Then she kicked the door down.

Actually, ‘down’ is probably understating it somewhat. Um.

She kicked the door in.

And then out again through the front door, passing through a wall and a sideboard along the way.

She could certainly kick, anyway.

They stormed into the living room and were met with chaos.

Molly was on the floor, oozing slightly from a long but shallow cut on her back, clawing her way towards the iron skillet she had dropped. Arthur, writhing in pain and clutching his shattered knee with one hand, was using his other hand to fire spells at the two ‘children’, who were clearly regrouping for another attack.

The cluster of wands under the Herminator’s forearm burst into life, spinning blurringly fast and blazing a constant stream of hexes at ‘Lily’. Harry and the others concentrated their fire on ‘James’, blasting him with a succession of their more legally dubious curses.

A flicker of movement caught Harry’s eye; when he looked round, ‘James’ had stabbed his blade-arm elbow-deep into Ginny’s leg.

Harry saw red. Roaring with fury, he grabbed the skillet and swung, putting all his weight behind the blow.

The small creature staggered back, a metallic sheen peeking through its ragged skin.

Another clang, and ‘James’ smashed through the window into the garden.

Harry scrambled after him, clang after clang knocking the vile little creature – more metal now than flesh – further down the garden.

In the privacy of his own skull, Harry was panicking. Sure, the dinosaur part of his brain was doing a fair job of beating seven shades of snot out of the little bugger, but he had to get tired sooner or later. If only...

Wingardium Leviosa!” Ginny’s voice screamed from behind him.

He turned. She stood there, a tea towel hastily wrapped around her leg, with her wand arm extended and straining as...

He followed her gaze. Then the roof exploded off the garage and Arthur Weasley’s latest project burst out.

It was big. And heavy. And metal.

It was a combine harvester, in fact, and Arthur had been rather uncertain as to what, exactly, it was for. Fortunately, Ginny had a pretty good idea.

“Get out of the way, Harry! Right now!”

Harry dived away from the rather dented ‘James’ just as Ginny dropped the combine harvester.

‘James’ was confused. What did this blue screen mean? Reacquiring target... grzzt... malfunctions detected... what’s going on... and what’s that big thing above...

The combine thudded heavily into the ground, flattening the beast into the hard gravel drive.

Ginny stared at the wreckage.

“Ooo arr,” she muttered snidely. Then she helped Harry up off the ground and together they hurried back to the house.

* * *

Inside the living room, the battle still raged. The Herminator looked the worse for wear, a blue light glowing from her eyes and trickles of conjured blood oozing from innumerable gashes across her body. Ron was ducking behind furniture, dragging his semi-conscious parents from the room with Hermione’s help while the visitors from the future fought.

The Herminator spun, backhanding ‘Lily’ across the face and firing a burst of cutting hexes into the small creature. ‘Lily’ seemed to stumble, then rallied.

She formed her hands once more into silvery blades; but she was losing control, and the once-sleek daggers were twisted and deformed claws, jagged and vicious. She charged, leaping into the air, flailing wildly as she hurtled towards Hermione’s future namesake.

And then the Herminator moved in a burst of speed, lunging forward and driving a rock-hard fist into the child’s demonic face, blasting the little beast back across the room.

She stepped back, ignoring her now-lacerated left arm as she raised her right arm toward the juvenile assassin. The cylinder of wands spun up as the creature staggered to its feet.

Glacias,” the Herminator spat icily.

A white-blue flurry of super-cooled magic pounded ‘Lily’, and the monstrously shifting childlike form slowed, solidified, grew sluggish. She took a pace, her freezing foot sticking to the floor.

Confused, ‘Lily’ took another pace. Its foot sheared off at the ankle in a spray of chrome shards. A flicker of... something. Fear? ...flickered across its face.

It took another pace and tumbled forward, shattering as it hit the coffee table, thousands of razor-sharp metallic fragments shrapnelling across the floor.

The Herminator evaluated the scene for a moment and, hearing the door open behind her, turned to see Harry, Ginny, Ron and Hermione reenter.

“Cast incendio at the fireplace. All of you. The cumulative effect should be sufficient to destroy the fragments.”



They did as they were told, and soon the fire was blazing merrily, the brass fire surround melting slowly into the ash tray.

“We need to melt down all the fragments,” the Herminator said. “Quickly! We have very little time before it reinitialises!”

They began collecting fistfuls of the shards and flinging them into the fire, but already some were starting to melt into tiny pools of silver liquid, rolling and flowing slowly across the carpet, joining and melding as they met.

As Harry threw the last of the solid pieces into the fire, the pools had finally joined into a single large glob behind them. They had managed to dispose of most of the pieces, but would it be enough?

The glob pulled itself together, coalescing into a human form.

The Herminator watched intently, aiming her miniwand at the creature as it reformed...

...into a head and shoulders sitting in the middle of the floor, glaring reproachfully like a piano Beethoven taking a walk.

The Herminator raised an eyebrow at the pathetic spectacle.

“Come over here,” ‘Lily’ raged. “I’ll bite your legs off!”

With a long sigh, the Herminator walked over to Lily, picked it up by the pigtails, and threw it into the fire.

* * *

An hour later they sat on the hill overlooking the orchard, just the two of them, watching the sunrise.

“You’re right,” Harry murmured. “Parenting is hard work.”

Ginny collapsed, giggling, into his arms. Behind them, Hermione came jogging up the hill from the house. She seemed in a hurry to get back.

“Breakfast’s ready,” she said, a trickle of apple sauce dribbling down her chin. “You should hurry before it’s all gone – you’d never believe it, but Hermy makes a positively superlative apple crumble!”

She hurried off back down the hill in pursuit of crumble, leaving the two pensive teens to their view.

“You know,” Ginny said, resting her head on Harry’s shoulder, “much as I like the idea of an unknown future rolling towards us, I think I’d like to know you’ll be in it.”

Harry chuckled, nodding.

“And one thing’s for sure,” he grinned. “When we do have kids, they can’t be any worse than our last lot.”

And so, laughing, they set off together, for life, for an unset future, for each other.

And, most importantly, for breakfast.

Endnote: Yes, there are a few words in there that I may have made up a little bit. But they all stem from perfectly sound etymology. I like playing with language. :-)