Chapter 122 & 123 – What Has he Been Doing
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“Aerith!!!”

Aerith blinked, not expecting a sweet shout, and the girl jumped into her arms, hugging her, “Yelena…what are you doing here?”

“Tummy pain…so no school.”

“Right…no, why are you….” Hermione walked out and stopped in the middle of her sentence, looking at her surrounding, the large living room, one she was familiar with, and there were walls, not glasses, “Are we in Riverdale?”

“Of course, home is in Riverdale, silly,” Yelena cutely held her head, shaking it, shrugging.

“Right,” Tifa blinked, tilting her head to look at Cloud, who was innocently sitting on the sofa, “Why are you here?”

“Where else would I be?” Cloud seemed just as confused as they were, “I thought you weren’t coming today?”

Natasha looked at the three, stunned and confused, “And you say I am a little girl.”

She walked over, showing him the page, the picture of him in front of a house. In the picture, he carried a goading smile on his lips, “Why are you not there.”

“Oh, so that’s what he meant by bait.”

“Who?”

“Genesis. Dobby got the newspapers since I keep an eye on what’s happening, and Genesis suggested that he had an idea. I couldn’t care less, but he seemed bored, so I gave it the go-ahead,” Cloud answered them, patting on the sofa beside him, whispering to Natasha, asking her how her school was going.

“So…that’s Genesis?” Hermione asked, and she felt her cheeks start to burn up.

“Yeah. Why would I do something as stupid as that? Only someone bored enough would do it,” Cloud looked up for a moment. Still, the confusion remained in his eyes. He couldn’t understand what made them think it was him other than his face, “You ever thought this could have been a trap? Making you worried, to draw you out? That’s a hit and miss.”

Aerith whispered to Tifa and Hermione, “Who are we talking to? I almost feel stupid now.”

Hermione would have run back and not shown her face if the portal hadn’t closed. She covered her face; only Cloud heard that.

“I am not trying to make you feel stupid,” Cloud patted Natasha’s head, looking at Yelena, “I am saying…that I would never do that. I don’t want to die protecting you…I want to live and protect you…protect this weird…family. Voldemort…he’s not enough to make me take that risk.”

“See, I told you so,” Natasha hugged Cloud, “He would never do something so silly.”

“You never said that,” Aerith puffed her cheeks.

“I would have if you hadn’t babied me,” Natasha looked away and looked up at Cloud, “I did think that.”

Tifa chuckled and got on her knees before him, holding his palm, “You have grown up so much. I was so worried that you couldn’t wait to pick a fight…you always used to.”

“Yeah. I lost interest in that after seeing…Sirius.”

Aerith covered her lips, giggling, and Hermione couldn’t stop the smile and laugh that appeared on her lips, commenting, “Ouch.”

“I guess it is something that he would have done,” Hermione nodded, agreeing with him while Aerith sat down on the lounger, holding Yelena.

Aerith raised her eyebrows, “Still…Genesis has big plans… huge ones. This doesn’t feel like him?”

“You should read more newspapers from L.A, then—Dobby, come over.”

“Yes, Master,” Dobby appeared, realizing they were all sitting there, and bowed, “Ohhh!! Madams are at home! Forgive Dobby for not realizing it! Dobby will bring some to drink right away.”

Before anyone could say anything, Dobby disappeared, leaving them speechless, and Tifa looked up, “You were saying?”

“Yeah. He’s famous. After saving the President’s wife, he was in the news, and some waning celebrities thought they could use this, or their PR Manager did, and they hired him at an exorbitant price. He’s…handsome looking, so that got some attention and media coverage, and then his next client had an accident where they were almost shot, and he deflected the bullet by shooting at it. Though it seems the client arranged that, the bullet was never going to hit them, and there were cameras. It got recorded and replayed, and he became even more famous.”

“There were rumors that First Class Soldiers in Avalanche Inc are superhumans. That the company has managed to recreate Super Soldier Serum, and Genesis is a successful product of it. He denied it in media but told them they could protect anyone. He also told them the prices were so high because 90% of that money would go into hiring war veterans, helping them with their mental and physical health so make sure they can perform their duties to the best of their capabilities.”

Cloud took a glass of ice tea, taking a sip, “Ever since then; he’s been hounded, interviews, jobs, and even offers for movies. Some even want to write his biography, and I am sure they are either FBI or CI…something. There is another one of those organizations.”

“He has gotten popular,” Tifa leaned on the couch, resting her head on his knee, “Uh…we haven’t been doing enough.”

Cloud touched the cold glass against her cheek, “Don’t worry. Shelke has been doing good…so you can focus on school.”

“Mm,” Tifa smiled, looking into his eyes, but Natasha couldn’t wrap her head around it.

“So why is he there? In London.”

“Because he was tired of all the attention,” Cloud shrugged, “That’s the big plan you were talking about. Using this opportunity to present himself as bait to take a vacation.”

“Oh, ohhhh,” Aerith grinned, “Interesting.”

“It might also be to make Voldemort think that I don’t know where his Death Eaters are hiding, so that helps.”

“Oh,” Hermione nodded, giving him another look, “You know where they are hiding?”

“Don’t you?” Cloud tilted his head, and even Natasha gave him a look that said would we be asking if we did?

“Kreacher. That house-elf. Even since I used Space Serum, I have this new sense of…distance between things. Even with my eyes closed, I can map out things in my surroundings. They are like a new set of eyes; if I focus, I can expand the range quite a bit. When curing Lupin, I didn’t want anyone walking in….”

“So you mapped the Grimmauld Palace and didn’t see Kreacher there anywhere? Harry mentioned that Sirius shouted ‘get out to Kreacher while he meant to get out of the kitchen…Kreacher might have taken it as something else. As permission to go outside.”

“Well, he did. I opened the portal when I had time to see where he was, and I am sure that a few of the Death Eaters are hiding there.”

Yelena yawned, drinking ice tea, bored of what they were talking about. She glanced towards her big sister, who seemed to be hearing with focus, so she tried to do the same. Even when Aerith noticed that and kissed her cheek, she giggled, pushing her face away to hear what he was saying.

“You know where they are?” Hermione widened her eyes, not believing it.

Cloud leaned forward, taking three or four files on the table, spreading them, taking one out, “Narcissa Malfoy. Before marriage, she was Narcissa Black, younger sister of Bellatrix Lestrange, who was Bellatrix Black. They also have another Sister Andromeda Black, now Tonks, mother of Nymphadora Tonks. With Lucius Malfoy being the Death Eater, Kreacher visiting her to still give reports of Order’s activities, and Bellatrix coming out. It would be easy to find them in Malfoy’s house.”

He watched them read the file, “You didn’t know all that? It was right there, in the portrait.”

Aerith and Hermione hid their face behind the file, and Tifa shrugged, “I didn’t…it seems that once women marry off, they aren’t part of the family. Or Kreacher might have treated Tonks differently.”

Cloud worriedly darted his eyes between the three, “I am starting to have doubts…if you three can handle this.”

“Sorry, we don’t have a sixth sense, and we can’t read minds, and we can’t open portals wherever we wish,” Aerith narrowed her eyes, shooting a look at him from the other side of the file.

“You can do…that portal part,” Hermione whispered.

“Ofo, not now, Hermione,” Yelena shook her head in exaggeration, making Aerith break out in a silly grin, “Right. Not now, Hermione.”

“Four, there’s also me,” Natasha raised her hand, but he only patted her head like she was a child.

“You have nothing to say,” Cloud realized Tifa hadn’t been moving; she was lost in deep thought.

Tifa raised her head, and there was a flush on her cheeks, “No…I was…umm…sense of space…is that how you…I mean, you were good, but then…you all of a sudden became phenomenal.”

Natasha covered her ear, “Lalala, I am not hearing this!”

“Ohhhh,” Aerith covered Yelena’s eyes, only for the little one to take Aerith’s hands and cover her ears, “Sooo…that’s how. We were all talking about it, and we don’t usually talk about this stuff.”

Hermione looked at her feet, ashamed. “Can we not talk about it now?”

“I don’t know what you are talking about, and I’ll deny all charges…but yes.”

“Ew, ew, ew! Would you all stop it!” Natasha jumped on her feet, “Winky!”

“Yes, Miss?!” Winky, who had been hiding, waiting for her chance to serve, came running forward.

“Drop me back to Hogwarts!”

“Right, this way, Miss,” Winky happily nodded, taking Natasha as they apparated.

“We should go to,” Tifa rose, kissing his cheek, “We’ll see you soon, and we can handle things.”

The three of them said goodbye to Yelena and thought it would be a while before they saw Cloud at leisure for days.

Though the next month, Valentine’s Day happened to be on Saturday, the day they got to go to Hogsmeade, and they did, having a date there.

They had to divide the day, so everyone got a one-on-one date, and while Aerith and Cloud were on a date, they met Harry and Cho, who seemed to be having a little argument. While Cloud wanted to see what was going on, Aerith did an excellent work of keeping him focused on her.

Even Tifa’s date with him went ok but bit awkward since she didn’t understand why they were doing it. Ever since they had been to this world, she shared their life with him and Aerith, and being just the two of them didn’t feel right.

“That’s what Aerith said.”

“Great minds think alike.”

“Right….”

“You focus on your date with Hermione; she has been waiting for some alone time with you,” Tifa held his palm, interlocking their fingers, enjoying the silence as they walked together around the Hogsmeade. In between, she shared what happened at school, and he would tell her stories about what Yelena did, and she would, in turn, tell him about Natasha.

“She even declared that you wanted to win the cup for seven years in a row, but since you couldn’t, she would,” Tifa grinned.

“Is that why you aren’t playing?”

“Yeah. I wanted to play…for Angelina, but Angie understands. She said that Natasha might need it more than her…so she wouldn’t mind, but Natasha would have to win on her own merits,” Tifa softly said.

“She knows…?”

“No, but she’s sharp,” Tifa shook her head, “I don’t want Natasha’s past anywhere around her in Hogwarts, so I didn’t tell anyone.”

“Thank you.”

Tifa stopped to look, “I know you think she’s like your child…but I hope you don’t think you are the only one who thinks that way. I do too.”

“I don’t want you…to feel burdened.”

“I don’t. I won’t,” Tifa cupped his cheek, “I am happy they are a part of our lives. Nothing would have made me happier.”

Cloud leaned in, sharing a long kiss with her, and pulled away, “I don’t have to say it…right?”

“I wish you would,” Tifa chuckled, hugging his hand as they walked together.

They spent their time together, and then it was time for his third date, and by then, he had decided he would never spend a night with anyone but these three.

He wasn’t sure what to feel, and Hermione was nervous, so she kept talking about everything but them. Like how Bode, for some reason, didn’t tell the Ministry that it was Lucius who put him under Imperious Curse, or the Ministry would have raided the house, and they would have found Death Eaters.

But, Bode wouldn’t say anything, and the Ministry was oblivious. She even went to Dumbledore with it, but he said he’d handle it but didn’t do anything.

Cloud stopped near the fence of the shrieking shack, “We should take a break.”

Hermione closed her eyes, stunned; she parted her lips, which Cloud found cute, though the suppressed anger, not so much, “Are you…breaking up with me on Valentine’s day?”

Cloud leaned against the fence, his hands crossed, “And I am not breaking up. I am talking about a break.”

“Why?”

“You care too much.”

“Sorry, so are you saying that…we are TAKING A BREAK because I CARE too much?”

Cloud scratched his head, looking away, “That is not what I mean. You…are brilliant, and everything about you is…amazing.”

Cloud looked into her eyes for a moment, “I…always felt that and that’s what I love about you, and when I see you, there are times when I see that, like right now when you are angry. But other times….”

He walked by her, “I think the space, the parallel world, the mess in the magical world…that was all too much for you, and by all right, it should be. It was foolish of me to introduce you to these parts. You…are being burdened by too much, and you care too much about pleasing me because you think you have to compete with Tifa and Aerith, and then there are children. I don’t know what to do…but I should give you space. You are not ready for this.”

Hermione bit her lip, not out of anger, but because she felt relieved for a moment, and it twisted her gut. She was staring at her feet when he hugged her, “That’s fine…you know. You are a kid.”

“So are you,” Hermione muttered, “Don’t talk like you are much older. I thought about it…you were isolated during your childhood, and you left your village at a young age, and then you were surrounded by those much older than you and barely made a friend, and then you were experimented on. With all that…even if you were physically much older, mentally, you were still a child acting like an adult. Even now…by your mental development, you should be about 18 to 20.”

“And look at you? You are done with your studies, and you are a powerful magician in your own right. Even on our side of the world, you are successful, and now you have learned to analyze information, and you almost everything and more than us when you are sitting so far away…and…and…you have kids, on top of that…Tifa colored her hair like Natasha’s, and Aerith’s is like Yelena…and I…I feel left out.”

She pulled away, looking into his eyes desperately, “I don’t know where I fit in your world.”

“You don’t.”

Hermione closed her eyes, “Right…and here I was thinking you wouldn’t be…you.”

Cloud sighed, leaning his head back, hearing her leave, and he knew he had to say it, “You don’t have to!”

Hermione stopped, holding back tears in her eyes as she shot an angry look at him, and he walked towards her, continuing, “You don’t have to. You don’t have to be a part of my world.”

He took a long breath, cupping her cheek, “You…are Hermione Granger, and you can have a world of your own…and I’ll be a part of your world. I promise.”

“Gosh, fine!” Hermione held his palm, “Still, it doesn’t mean I am cutting this date short. I want a Quill, and there were a few books that I wanted to buy. So you are buying them for me.”

“Ok.”

“And I’ll buy a few clothes, and I want candies since I am going to cry over this, and when I cry, I eat.”

“Ok.”

“If I get fat, it’d be all your fault.”

“I don’t mind.”

“I do! Have you seen Tifa? She looks like a model! And Aerith is such a doll, hot, mature doll. I mind!”

Cloud’s tips curled into a smile, and he shook his head, “Yeah. You are right.”

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