Author: Rachel A. Prongs PM
Harry held a secret his entire life. Being framed for murder in his fifth year, he escapes. Returning, he’s another, and now Voldemort has a surprise for him. Now he must come to terms with his past, present, and future, if he wants to survive.Rated: Fiction K+ - English - Adventure/Romance - Harry P. & Hermione G. - Chapters: 18 - Words: 100,969 - Reviews: 675 - Favs: 723 - Follows: 135 - Updated: 10-19-03 - Published: 12-05-02 - Status: Complete - id: 1104823
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Chapter Eighteen: Breaking Storm
They felt it when they emerged from the pensieve. Hermione delved deeply into the earth with her mind, and got the impression of many big living things down there. Harry sent Air out, and caught the scent of many humans, panting and sweating in a deep tunnel, using their wands to slice through rock where it was too narrow or too low. The air was heavy and difficult to breathe in. But the air was getting lighter, and the tunnel soon widened into a big cave, where the Death Eaters didn't have to use their wands to clear their way.
Both Harry and Hermione knew where it was.
The chamber of Slandrin Slytherin, more known as Salazar's, where the corpse of the Basilisk still rested.
They both heard Dumbledore send out a telepathic message, and Hermione turned and looked accusingly at him.
"You never told us about that Talent," she said, and Dumbledore winked at her. The situation was too serious, however, to dwell on such matters.
"There is still time, Harry," he said. "I have stopped the members who haven't left the castle yet, and those who live here at Hogwarts for the time being. A message has been sent to those who weren't present, too. They will hasten to our aid." Dumbledore looked at them gravely. "Now we must go to the Chamber, for we can not allow him into the school. We must meet him down there."
The two teens looked at each other, and nodded gravely. Both knew with certainty that this was their destiny. Either they would die today, or Voldemort would. They hardly had the time to become frightened.
Harry took Hermione's hand in his and drew her close. He tilted her chin and kissed her lovingly and tenderly. Their eyes meet, and Hermione smiled at him.
Their hands still entwined, they left the Headmaster's office, hurrying towards Moaning Myrtle's bathroom.
Harry paid no attention to the adults who were gathering behind him: teachers, Aurors, Unspeakables; many of them members of the Order of the Phoenix. His mind was on what lay before him, or rather, under him.
He hesitated only a fraction of a second. "Open," he said, in the tongue of the snakes. More than one of those around him shuddered at the hiss that came from his mouth.
Again it lay before him, as it had several years before: the entrance to the Chamber of Secrets. Only this time, its secret was dead, and a far more dangerous foe was waiting for him.
He let go of Hermione's hand, and crawled into the slimy pipe he had to slide through to come to the bottom.
The ride seemed much longer this time, and much darker. Last time he'd been here it had been to save Ginny, his best friend's sister. This time, it was to meet his own fate.
He landed in a heap on the bottom, and got to his feet quickly, listening for sounds of a potential enemy. He Shifted his eyes into those of an owl, so that he didn't need any light to see. He heard Hermione land beside him, and helped her to her feet. It felt good to have her here, even though he was afraid for her safety.
They moved out of the way as more people came down, and Harry did manage a flicker of amusement when he saw Dumbledore, wondering how he managed to look dignified, with every strand of hair in place, and not a stain on his robes after that ride.
"Show the way, Harry," Dumbledore said. "You've been here before."
It was like walking in a dream. He saw, and remembered. He noticed the small skeletons of mice and rats and other small animals that'd fallen prey to the Basilisk. Water dripped from the walls. The tunnel twisted and turned while they walked in silence, the only sound being muffled footsteps.
In the end, they came to the place where the roof had caved in. When he was twelve, he had not dared to try to use magic to remove the stones, and now, when he was seventeen, he didn't have to remove the stones. A simple charm cut into the stone like butter, and carved out an archway, wide enough to walk through.
Then, the muffled footsteps continued onwards.
They came to the last door, and Harry stopped in front of it. On the other side, was Voldemort. He knew it.
They had been quick, not all of the Death Eaters had come through yet, and he knew that if they attacked now, they could destroy the tunnel, and bury the Death Eaters still inside under many tons of stone.
He looked at Hermione, and she nodded, her face pale. It was a cruel act, but it was necessary. If one side was to survive, the other had to die. This was war, and war made its own rules.
A lot of people were behind them now. Almost a hundred. Most of them resided in Hogwarts for the time being, others were Order members who'd been in the castle, and Harry knew more would come. The Aurors were alerted, and so were the Order members outside Hogwarts. But they couldn't wait.
"Open." Harry's hiss resounded in the tunnel, sending chills down spines. And the door opened.
There was a rumble. Hermione, who stood close to Harry, buried her face in his shoulder as the second tunnel collapsed, and more than two hundred Death Eaters were buried alive. Though, they didn't stay alive for long.
With one single thought, Hermione had killed two hundred, and there were still many awful things left to do.
By now, Voldemort had noticed them, of course, and the battle began in earnest.
Hermione and Harry stayed close together. Even though a third of Voldemort's forces were killed, he still outnumbered them by far. They caught a glimpse of Dumbledore as he sent a beam of bright red light at his attackers. Professor Flitwick was there, too, sending curses right and left. Professor Snape spun around and used the knowledge he'd acquired as a Death Eater to take down man upon man. Professor McGonagall transfigured stones and rubble into obstacles for the Death Eaters to cross, and fired stunner upon stunner against those who opposed to her.
Harry and Hermione did their part too, taking out as many as possible on their way, while trying to remain inconspicuous, as they probably were the main target here. They had to get to Voldemort.
But that wasn't so easy, for he was at the far end of the chamber, protected by his minions, who were killing all those who came close enough to get a shot at him
The defenders had the advantage of skill.
The attackers had the advantage of numbers.
However, Harry could see people coming to aid their fight, people who had hurried to Hogwarts when they heard of the attack. At one point more than seventy Aurors had rushed through the opening and saved a small group of Order members, who'd been hard pressed by the Death Eaters. But it wasn't enough.
He knew, as he watched the rage of the battle that it was up to him and Hermione now. It was upon their shoulders the fate of the world rested.
What a curious notion.
This was it, Ron knew. This was what he was born for. All events in his life led up to this. Why he didn't know, but as Asham had said: 'There are many things you don't know. Don't dwell on that, but concentrate on what you do know.'
He was in the void again, the small candles which were humans were obvious to him now, and he could see many of them gathered in one place, all of them burning brightly. But now and then, some of them suddenly burned out and died. Ron knew what it was. The one which burned with a black flame was Voldemort, and the two who where closing in on him, the two bright ones, which burned more brightly than anyone else, were his two friends.
He nudged the Element. He wanted to help. If he only could get his Element to pour some of its power into the Pectal and Citatio…
But Fire couldn't do that. Fire had no favourites; it treated everyone equally. But then, the two bright candles drew closer, and Ron realised what was happening. Slowly, they merged, and became one.
The one flame grew brighter, bigger and stronger, and Fire engulfed it with its strength. For when something is created, one of the Elements always comes to rejoice about the new being.
Something was happening; Blaise knew it. She looked into the Lake of Water. Each little drop of water was a human, and she could see a group of them, locked in battle. How she could see that, she didn't know, as she normally shouldn't be able to tell one from the other. But this was no normal lake.
In one part of the lake, a dark, tainted puddle obscured the clear surface.
Suddenly, Water reacted. Fire had done something, and Blaise could sense it. And hadn't all four Elements agreed on co-operating? Water lashed out, and a flash of bright light could be seen all over the lake, and Water encircled the new creation.
The Air apprentice watched as Air followed Water and Fire's lead, and surrounded the two powerful beings, who had become one. He probed gently, and saw that there were two powerful minds, and the connection was not only between those minds, but they were tied by the Light Element itself, and through the Light, the four Elements of Fire, Water, Air and Earth.
The Earth apprentice watched as Earth did as Air, Water and Fire, and closed around Light's Warriors. He, too, saw the connection between the two, and wondered.
They were noticed. Harry and Hermione stood back to back in the middle of the chamber, fighting off what seemed like hordes of Death Eaters. Harry had lost count as to how many times he'd had to recast the killing curse shield, and he was now sporting a powerful shield which stopped both magical and physical attack, while Hermione was cursing everyone who came close into oblivion. The cynical part of Harry's brain reminded him never to get on her wrong side.
Fortunately, Harry and Hermione weren't alone in the Chamber, and the Death Eaters had to fight off others, too. A group of Aurors attacked from the side, and drove off a good portion of them, making it a bit easier for the two.
It was then Harry spotted Sirus, locked in battle with three Death Eaters. He was fighting bravely for every inch of ground he lost, but would soon meet the wall, quite literally.
Magically enhancing his abilities, Harry jumped over ten Death Eaters and blasted Sirius's opponents to the ground. Sirius shot him a thankful glance and ran to join a group of defenders, who were in a relatively safe spot.
It was then Harry realised his unforgivable mistake. In his hurry to rescue his godfather, he'd left Hermione alone. She was doing a good job of defending herself, but defence was defence, and she was being forced backwards, towards the far end of the Chamber, near the now collapsed 'new' tunnel.
He felt a sharp pain in his left shoulder, and rounded on the Death Eater who'd sent the curse, sending a blast of purple light at him. He stumbled to the ground without a sound.
The Cruciatus curse hit his chest, and he winced in pain, before he got control over it. With a bit of pain he could absorb the curse, even though he couldn't shield against it. Hermione could do the same, but not as well, because women generally had higher tolerance for pain. She just couldn't get her mind around to suppressing the pain properly, as her tolerance told her that she had to hold out. And if she wasn't prepared, she'd just grit her teeth and scream, waiting for it to stop. It didn't really make all that much sense to Harry, since the higher pain tolerance should, logically, make it easier for her than for him, but that was the way it was.
And that was what felled her. In her battle, she'd forgotten Voldemort. He came up behind her, and she didn't notice. Harry did though, and froze.
That fraction of a second was all Draco Malfoy needed to send him crashing into a stone pillar.
He heard her before he saw her. Rolling to his feet, his heart cried out to her, as she writhed under the pain curse Voldemort had placed upon her.
The entire chamber became silent, except for the insane chuckle of the Dark Lord, and Hermione's cries. After what seemed like an eternity he finally lifted the curse. Harry desperately watched the near-unconscious Hermione at his feet, but he knew Voldemort would kill her if he moved.
The Death Eaters moved in on the stunned Light wizards, and since they were outnumbered at least two to one, they could do nothing. Those who put up a fight were killed instantly.
Voldemort locked eyes with Harry. "Lower your shield," he said, and Harry realised that he'd erected a shield without knowing it.
Harry's brain felt like it was filled with mud. No thoughts managed to penetrate the thick fog that encircled his brain. He was staring at Hermione, transfixed. His emotions were in turmoil, and only one thing got through: Hermione!
There was a second.
A searing pain shot through Harry's scar.
And Hermione screamed again. Her anguished cry rang through his brain and echoed in the far corners of his consciousness. Her mental cry was far worse than her vocal one.
Something broke inside him then, and several of the pillars in the chamber were reduced to rubble and splints. A powerful wave of energy washed over Voldemort, and he staggered backwards.
The curse was lifted, but Hermione didn't leave his mind. A desperate part of her clung to him, and it felt like she was begging for him to do … something. But what?
And then, he understood. He saw his destiny laid out before him, like a plain, new road in his mind. And he embraced her presence in his mind, savouring it, empowering it, comforting it. It came to him, as a wonderful feeling of closeness, and he was certain he felt her hands on his chest, and her lips on his. Feather light touches and whispered words of love.
Voldemort had regained his footing, and aimed his hand at Hermione, intending to kill her with a powerful blast of magic.
Their souls burned as one, and together they lashed out. Calmly, Harry looked at his enemy as the deadly energy sped towards Hermione. He felt as it entered her, and consumed her, and he felt her pain, for she wasn't she anymore. She was also he, and he was she. And as Voldemort tried to cut those threads which were her life, they reached out together, and grabbed hold of him.
Faster than the light, they shot back up, followed the stream of energy back to its caster, and realised that they could see the heartstrings which are the life of any living being. There were six of them: Light and Dark, Fire and Water, Air and Earth. All of them were tainted and full of repulsive energy.
One by one, they cut them and severed them and burnt them, and for each one, the Dark Lord screamed.
Those who saw it said afterwards that the three of them were illuminated in light; Voldemort's light was dark and tainted, but Harry's and Hermione's light was white and pure.
Powerful shockwaves rippled through the chamber, as rings on a water surface. One by one the great pillars that supported the roof were splintered, and everyone was thrown to the ground.
The dark light faded, and a gentle, golden and silvery light cast soft shadows across the chamber.
And then, slowly, ponderously, the cavern that was the Chamber of Secrets cracked, shifted, and collapsed above them with a deafening thunder.
When the shockwaves rippled through the chamber, everyone except Harry (Hermione already being down) had been thrown to the ground. When the ceiling fell down upon them, Harry had managed to draw everyone close to him, in the middle of the chamber. How he had managed that he didn't know; his brain and magic had acted purely on instinct.
He could still feel the connection with Hermione, though not as strong as it had been. She was still alive, though unconscious, and an enormous relief came with that knowledge. Later he'd have to kick himself for not protecting her properly, but he didn't have time for that right now.
He assumed that his shield was the only thing between everyone in the chamber (both living and dead) and about several cubic kilometres of stone. He realised that Voldemort's last outpour of power had been greater than he first thought.
The small cave Harry had made was low; he probably couldn't stand upright. It was also very dark; no source of light got through. Suddenly, someone lighted a wand not far from him, and he stiffened. Quickly he probed through the minds of those around him, most of which were unconscious or only half-conscious. This made it easy for him to find those who bore the Dark Mark, and put them to sleep. It wasn't actually sleep though; he just trapped their minds, a thing he wouldn't be able to do with so many if they'd been awake. He certainly didn't need to have to fight his way out of this situation.
The Light wizards were soon on their feet – or rather, their knees. Several lit their wands with the Lumos spell, and Harry rushed over to Hermione. She was laying only a few feet away from him, and seemed to be almost unhurt; her breathing was even and her heartbeat steady. He gritted his teeth at the thought of what Voldemort had done to her, and hoisted her up in his lap, cradling her protectively to his chest.
However, Hermione's health, being stable, had to stand in line for the time being. Dumbledore, who'd gotten through the whole ordeal without a scratch, came over to him, and Harry told him what his magical senses had told him. Dumbledore immediately sent several spellcasters to try to find a way out.
"Harry," he asked. "Which way is the tunnel we came through?"
Harry thought for a moment, and tried to feel with Air, but he couldn't get through. He frowned, puzzled and worried. "It seems like this cave has no Air supply. It's hermetically closed."
Dumbledore frowned. "Then we'll probably suffocate long before we get out," he said worriedly.
Harry shook his head. "I'm an Air Manipulator. I can convert carbon-dioxide to oxygen, and maintain the nitrogen." He looked around, seeing the walls dripping with water. "And I don't think dihydrogen-oxide will be a big problem either, though the fine gasses might."
"We will have to do without then. Just do your best, and give us the time we need to get out of here," Dumbledore said. "There is a chance that the first tunnel hasn't collapsed."
They figured, with the help of a bit logic thinking and a point-me spell, that they had come from the north end of the chamber, and started getting the rock out of the way. During this Harry did his best to maintain the air supply, and he also had to expand his shield as the digging started. Soon they had a small tunnel, but the smell of burnt and melted stone was none too pleasant, so they tried to just move the rocks as much as possible, but some were just too big. Those who couldn't help digging checked the wounded, and put those who had to be carried out of the cave in a stasis, so their condition wouldn't grow worse.
Then suddenly, the strain on his shield increased. The diggers had found a rather big air pocket, only it wasn't air.
It was water.
They realised why it was so wet everywhere. The chamber was lying directly under the lake. When the ceiling caved in, water from the lake had filled it.
Dumbledore came back to Harry. "It seems like we have some more trouble," said he. "First of all, the tunnel has actually caved in, even though we don't know how far, and then there is the water." He looked grave. "The question is: how do we get out? We can't carve our way back up the tunnel; it's too far."
"We can swim."
The two males turned to the person who'd spoken.
"Hermione!" cried Harry, relieved, before he kissed her soundly on her lips.
"I'm glad to see you too, Harry," she smiled when they came up for air. "But I think we have to get out of here."
"And you propose that we swim?" questioned Dumbledore, his eyes twinkling madly once again.
"Why, yes. It's a large fissure all the way up to the bottom of the lake – save that's not the bottom of the lake anymore. A bubble-head charm with a strong protection and non-burst charm should get everyone up safely," she answered.
Dumbledore looked at her, and then Harry. "Can you take care of the pressure issue? Rising that many metres through water is very dangerous."
Harry nodded. "It's easily done. I guess Hermione can help some too, as she's a Water Manipulator."
And so they did. Upon Hermione's directions, they carved their way upwards for about twenty metres, and found themselves in water. Now several of the other wizards had joined Harry in holding the shield; the water pressure was giving them a hard time. The rock wasn't difficult; it stayed relatively calm, and the rocks rested upon each other. Several places they didn't even have to support the roof. The water however, was moving, and pressing towards their shields, making the job hard and energy-consuming.
Sirius went first. With his wand lighted, and a mental map from Hermione placed in his mind, he started upwards. Hermione followed him with her mind, and after fifteen minutes she announced that Sirius had reached the surface.
Harry laid his arms around her waist and told her in simple turns how much he loved her and how convenient it was to have such a beautiful, lovable, intelligent Earth and Water Manipulator for a girlfriend.
When it was confirmed that there indeed was a way out – a labyrinth of rocks – they started sending people up. They were sent in pairs; two and two, each having two dead or unconscious bodies in tow.
It took several hours, and in the end, Harry and Hermione were the only ones left. Harry because he had to hold the shield and Hermione because she refused to leave him. Standing alone in the chamber, Harry took a firm hold of Hermione (he refused to let her exert herself in any un-necessary way) and allowed the little shield he was still holding to evaporate. With the help of his and Hermione's Water abilities, they made their way towards the surface.
Ron was confused when Asham pulled him out of the Fire. He knew he had done what he was supposed to do, but he didn't really understand what he'd done.
"Well done!" Asham exclaimed. "You did it!"
Ron looked at the man, who he'd come to know as more than slightly eccentric. "Exactly what did I do?" he asked, irritated.
Asham laughed. "It was rather what you didn't do that is the matter here," he said, and when Ron glared at him, he sat down to explain.
"You see," he said, "when you are the Guardian of an Element, you are the Element, or a physical manifestation of the Element. Your instincts are your Element's, and you do what the Element wants. The only influence you have on it is you rational thoughts, which can help to change its mind." Asham smiled widely. "You however, aren't a Guardian yet, and you still have your own instincts and your own mind. Today your instinct was to help the Light to vanquish the Dark, while Fire's instinct was to either ignore both, or help both. The Elements are almost always neutral, even though they sometimes will help the Light, like it did today, while not helping the Dark. They like the formulation of 'silent support' very much," said Asham wryly, before beaming at him in pride – which strangely made Ron feel a small twinge of happiness.
"You, however, weren't willing to help Dark, and somehow, the Element followed your will."
"But it didn't!" Ron exclaimed. "I wanted it to strengthen the Order, but it didn't!" He was rather put out because he didn't have the chance to be there and help. Perhaps he would have been rewarded for his courage.
"Yes, it did," Asham replied. "While it didn't empower the Children of Power, it allowed them to bond, and thus made them able to destroy Voldemort. All the Elements agreed, and every single one of them came to the 'celebration' of the bonding, thanks to the co-operation pact. Also, they allowed your two friends to kill Voldemort by cutting all Elements off. While they could have killed his physical body without this help, Voldemort was too little of a human to be killed completely. However, since the Elements actually did allow it to happen, he is now as dead as he can be, and won't come back again. All traces of him, except his body, will forever be gone."
This made Ron interested. "How?" he asked.
"All spells he's cast – except those that have a lasting effect, of course, will be reversed. It doesn't mean that those he's killed will wake up though, 'because they are dead. It's not the spell that's keeping them dead. It's the same with removed limbs. The limb is gone even though the spell isn't working anymore. It's other spells I'm talking about, like protection spells he's cast. If he's ever magically built something, it will collapse, and the Dark Mark his minions are wearing will forever disappear."
"What?" Ron exclaimed. "But how will we then be able to find them? The Mark is often the only proof!" And he who had hoped he could help there… He was sure Blaise would know some names. Without knowing it his eyes turned all dreamy and Asham had to hide a smirk, before he scolded the boy.
"Weren't you listening boy? The binding spell is in the person. The Mark is only a tattoo." He smiled smugly. "Won't disappear in a while, that one."
Harry woke up and found himself in a bed. Sleepily he blinked at the light, and turned on his side, wanting to sink into the comfortable oblivion of sleep once again. The mattress was comfortable and warm, and actually leaving this place wasn't even on his mind.
It was then he felt a gentle hand on his forehead, and his eyes shot open, before closing again. Deep inside him, he felt something stir. It was a lovely feeling of affection and care. It was also distinctly feminine. The hand stroked gently through his locks, and he wondered if this was what a mother's touch would feel like. Yet he knew it wasn't a mother's touch, even though it was a touch he craved and needed. Loved, even
Oh. His mind started working again. The connection. He couldn't help but smile.
What are you doing here, Hermione? he asked.
He heard a soft laugh in his ear. "Watching you, of course, and waiting for you to wake up."
He opened his eyes and rose onto one elbow. Now he recognised the place; a hospital. How unusual. But for a change, it wasn't the Hogwarts Hospital wing.
He raised his eyebrows, and Hermione answered his unasked question.
"You're at St. Mungo's, Harry, and you've been out for thirty-six hours."
He sighed, but was touched at the concern in her voice. There was something he had to ask, however. "Could you tell me what happened after we got out of the Chamber?" He would rather have liked to kiss her and declare his eternal love for her, and forget the world, but it was slightly important.
"After you fainted, you mean?" she asked, faint amusement tingeing her voice.
"Ha-ha," he muttered. "Not my fault Malfoy felt the need to crush my rib-cage."
Hermione's now obvious amusement did nothing to his damaged pride. "Well," she said, "the wounded were taken care of, and sent here, to St. Mungo's, since the Hospital wing at Hogwarts couldn't take them – there were other things to take care off at Hogwarts." She looked pointedly at him.
It was true. He remembered what he'd seen once he'd emerged from the lake – before he lost consciousness. The water line was almost a kilometre below what it had been, and it had taken them quite some time to find a way up along the wet, slippery stones, with no path to follow. They had gotten some help – it's difficult not to notice a lake in which the water suddenly disappears. Harry and Hermione were able to fly out, though, so they didn't have too much trouble. That is, till Harry tried to transform back. His exhausted and wounded body – the wounds he had yet to notice at the time – said 'stop', and he actually managed to faint – faint! – there and then.
"Yes, how did things turn out with the lake?" he asked.
"It will be filled with water soon enough," Hermione said. "The worst is possibly that several of the inhabitants died. It was mostly fish, but also a few squids, grindylows and plimpys."
Harry raised his eyebrows. "What a loss." Hermione smacked him, but did partially agree.
"What about the Merfolk?" he asked next.
"They're okay," she answered. "They usually keep themselves at the very bottom, and are able to breathe air for a short period of time anyway."
He nodded at that.
"Also," she continued, "they sent people down again, to check if Voldemort really was dead." She sounded a bit miffed. "They could have asked me."
Harry smiled. Both of them knew that Voldemort was dead, but the adults obviously found it difficult to look at Hermione as anything but a child, even though she did help to kill him.
Kill him. The smile disappeared from his face. While he couldn't feel regret at killing Voldemort, he still was a murderer – and that was what he was going to be remembered for.
Knowing what he was thinking, Hermione laid a hand on his arm, and looked sternly at him. "Harry, stop those thoughts immediately! It was not your fault, and it wasn't mine. We did what you had to do, and the world will always thank us for that. Voldemort wasn't exactly a – thing – that should be allowed to live."
The bond/connection between them reacted quite violently at this, and he knew what she was saying almost before she said it, even though he didn't Mind-Search. Her emotion mingled with his, and he suddenly found himself agreeing with her. The bond apparently, had decided to play on the fact that deep down he knew it was true, and thus decided that it would be pointless for them to argue about it.
His eyes widened, and so did hers.
"Well," Harry said after a little while, "at least we won't disagree all that much in the future."
Hermione frowned. "Is that altogether healthy? I mean, it's quite normal for couples to quarrel a bit."
Harry smiled at that. "I suppose," he said, "that you are completely correct, and that's why I was 'convinced'. If you don't like it, I could very easily raise a subject for an argument from time to time."
She shook her head laughingly. "I love you, Harry," she said.
He smiled, and sitting up he gently hugged her to his chest and kissed the top of her head. "I love you, too."
He felt the connection between them strengthen, and wondered where it came from, and who had made it. It was that connection that had made them able to kill Voldemort. It had been strong then, and though it still was, he doubted it would ever open like that again. They had been one person in two bodies then. Now they were two persons in two bodies, but attached to each other in an odd but very nice way.
His next visitors were Sirius and Dumbledore. Remus had been rather badly hurt, so he was sharing Harry's fate: a hospital bed.
"Good evening, Harry," beamed Dumbledore, and Harry smiled back.
"Good evening, Professor," he said, just as Sirius jumped forward and crushed him in a hug.
"Well done, lad," said he.
For once, it was actually a pleasant visit, with no grave matters to discuss. They did talk about what had happened, of course, and what was left to be done. Harry was informed that the Aurors had already rounded up nearly a thousand Death Eaters, based on information given by the surviving Death Eaters.
"And you've got mail, Harry," Dumbledore said.
"Thousands upon thousands of letters," grinned Sirius.
Harry's eyes widened. "What?" Then he groaned. "On no!" he said. "The find-me-not charm has faded!"
"You used a find-me-not charm?" Dumbledore asked.
Harry nodded. "Yeah. After it was discovered that I was innocent, I assumed that quite a few people would try to send me letters, so I protected myself from the owls. They can be tracked."
"I guess you will have to re-cast the charm then, but I do recommend you to read the letters," Dumbledore said.
Harry grimaced. "Why?"
"Because some might interest you. Like this," –he held up a letter- "which is from the Ministry, wanting to award you the Order of Merlin, first class."
Harry raised an eyebrow. "As flippant as they are with that reward, I think I'll refuse it."
Dumbledore's eyes twinkled madly. "I don't think anyone has done that before."
"Good," Harry said dryly. "I think I'll enjoy being the abnormal one for once."
"There are other recognitions waiting for you, too. Like the French 'L'Ordre du Griffon' and the German 'Der Orden des Thorr'."
"Oh." Harry said. "Those are quite grand and renowned aren't they?"
Both Sirius and Dumbledore nodded. "And their government isn't quite as corrupt as ours used to be, and actually still is," Sirus said. "It might have something to do with the fact that they're younger and more modern."
"They want to ennoble you, too," Dumbledore said.
"I thought only the Queen could do that," Harry said.
"Obviously not. It is something that's been a part of the Wizarding world for a long time. Since Arthur and Merlin, actually. You will find that several of your ancestors were Ladies and Lords. Lucius Malfoy was one, too."
"Speaking of the Malfoys-"
"Both died in the chamber."
There was a pause.
"There is one last issue," Dumbledore said.
Harry raised his eyebrow suspiciously. "Yes?"
"This ennobling means that everyone you're closely related to, your wife and your children will get your title: Lady or Lord."
"Oh," said Harry. "Is there really Wizarding nobility?"
"Yes," Dumbledore answered, and when Harry looked questioningly at him, he continued. "The purebloods." Then he sat back and watched as Harry spluttered with rage.
"They want to make me a pureblood!" he said. "How dare they! How can they! Encourage a condescending view of the Muggle-borns!?" He slammed his fist into the mattress. "No bloody way! I'm proud of being a half-blood, and I'm going to continue being that!" His jaw clenched and unclenched. "No way am I going to allow either Hermione or myself to be disgraced this way!" He continued to rage for a few more minutes, before he calmed down.
Then Sirius spoke up. "How would Hermione become disgraced?" he asked slyly.
Harry stiffened and paled. "What?" he croaked.
"Well, to me it seemed like you thought it would be disgracing to Hermione if you became a pureblood. I can't really see why." He rubbed his jaw and pretended to be deep in thought. "Unless someone should force the pureblood title on her, too, of course."
Harry blushed an amazing shade of red.
It was a beautiful summer morning, and though the temperature was cool now, it would probably be much warmer later on.
But still it was early, and for the most part it was only the birds that were up, and they were singing their praise towards the sky.
Yet, there were some who obviously were morning persons.
Two teen-agers were walking across the grass in the early morning breeze, their hands linked together. They were indeed a very cute couple, and at first sight you would probably mistake them for a very normal young pair. But they weren't. Both had an air which spoke of a maturity and experience which was completely ill-placed in two such young persons.
They stopped on top of the cliffs, and peered into what had once been the Hogwarts Lake. The water-level was definitely a good deal lowered.
"I'm glad it won't be long till it's filled again," Harry spoke softly.
Hermione nodded. Though the war was over, they would both be happy when the fallen wall and the damaged Quidditch pitch were restored again. The battle and what followed had shaken the area quite firmly, and the Quidditch stands and Goal hoops hadn't taken it too well. In addition, one of the outer walls of the castle had had several blocks of stone thrown off, but everything would soon be repaired. The scars would always be there, but they would fade in time. Luckily, Voldemort's little earthquake had affected the lake mostly.
"But we will soon leave," she said and snuggled up to his chest. He took the cue and put both arms around her, embracing her tightly.
"Yes," he agreed. "Our days at Hogwarts are over."
"Mmm," she said. Then, "What are you going to do now?"
He raised his eyebrows towards her.
"You have to make a living, you know," she continued. "You can't live on being The-Boy-Who-Defeated-The-Dreaded-He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named."
He smirked, and she read his mind as accurately as any Mind-Reader. "Don't you think about it! I don't want a Lockhart for a boyfriend!" His smirk widened and she blushed. "I was twelve, and he was rather handsome, so don't look at me that way, Harry James Potter!" she exclaimed.
He chuckled. "Don't worry, Hermione. I won't turn into another Lockhart, I promise." He paused for a few minutes. He had been thinking about staying at Hogwarts as the Defence teacher. While the job could be dreadfully boring, it was also very interesting, and he found a joy in teaching.
But if he did take the job, he would have to take it as Harry Potter, since Christian Atos was 'dead', and that made him less happy about it at once. He didn't know if he could take the Hero-worship in addition to the endless test and homework grading he had to do. It had been Dumbledore who coaxed his students through their exams – and then dropped all the work onto his desk! "It is your job, even though 'you' are dead, Harry. Remember, I'm still paying you," he'd said, with that devilish smile of his.
What could he say to that?
Hermione didn't have that problem. With her Healing Talent and intelligence she'd decided to become a Healer. Her ambition was to have a clinic of her own once in the future.
"I guess I have to get a job," he mused out loud. "Auror maybe. Or perhaps I'll start studying."
"Study!" Hermione exclaimed. She still hadn't gotten over the fact that Harry in fact was more studious than she'd thought from the start.
"Yes," he said mildly, ignoring her obvious jibe. "I like learning things, despite common belief," and his tone turned slightly chiding. "It's not my fault I had to hide my true potential." He turned thoughtful. "Besides, Potions and History of Magic was dreadfully boring as long as I went here."
She smirked. "I can imagine. Beauxbatons was better then?"
"Very much," he nodded. "Actually, I wouldn't mind studying Potions and Chemistry. I rather like it, and it greatly resembles cooking, too, one of my favourite pastimes."
Hermione raised her eyes and looked at him, astounded. "Cooking?" she asked.
"Yes, it's very stress-releasing," he grinned at her.
"Oh," she said, understanding his need for stress-release very well, before yet again turning the conversation. "When will you propose to me?"
Harry almost fell over at the abrupt change of topic, and Hermione smiled devilishly at him. "Erm…well, er," he stuttered, before he caught himself. "I suppose when I've worked up the courage," he said, not looking at her at all.
She raised her eyebrows. "Is the Harry Potter, The-Boy-Who-Defeated-The-Bloody-Dark-Lord, afraid of proposing to his girl?" she asked teasingly.
"I didn't do that alone,"
"Doesn't matter; the Wizarding world has decided to give you the credit anyway. But you didn't answer my question."
Harry fidgeted. "To be entirely frank, yes."
"Why?" she asked. "What's the problem? You get down on your knee, say 'Will you marry me?' the girl says 'yes', and you buy her this impressive diamond ring." She looked at him. "Is that so difficult? I even know of a nice jewellery store."
He blushed and refused to meet her eyes. "I-I don't know, Hermione. I mean, perhaps we're a bit too young yet."
She turned serious. "Harry, look at me." He did so, reluctantly. She saw confusion and uncertainty there, but also great affection and love.
"Love," she said, "I know we're young, but we are in love. I know it and you know it. And I don't want to wait. I want to be able to present myself as 'Mrs Potter', and I know I'll take pride in doing so."
Harry laughed quietly and nervously. "And I thought you might refuse to take my name."
"If a woman isn't willing to follow a tradition so old, and proudly take her husband's name, then she doesn't love him enough," Hermione stated. "She can talk about sex-roles and discrimination as much as she wants; I don't agree with her." Her voice softened. "I love you Harry, and I want to be yours forever. I want to wake up next to you every morning," – she blushed and Harry squelched some dirty thoughts – "and be the one who makes your breakfast. I want to be there when you come home, exhausted from the day, and be the one to massage your shoulders when you're stressed." She paused.
"Don't you see, Harry? I want you," – both did their best to keep their dirty teen-age minds out of the way once again– "and I want to be the one who kisses you good-night and good-morning, the one who tries to rid you of your bad habits, try to form you after my own imaginations, and sigh exasperatedly at my failur-"
She would undoubtly continued to rant for a while, had he not silenced her with a kiss.
She was right, he realised, and he felt the connection between them. It had never disappeared after the incident in the chamber, and he doubted it ever would. He didn't want it to, either.
But she was right. As always, she was more insightful than he. He did want her, as his wife, and he knew they belonged to each other now. She had only realised it before he did. Perhaps it was a grain of truth in the myth about the Citatio always marrying a Pectal, after all.
"So," he said. "Where was this jewellery store you were talking about?"
And thus ends this story, about two young people who fought bravely against the shadows of darkness, and went through fire and flame for what they believed in, but seemed impossible; Peace.
A peace for which they struggled, with blood and sweat.
They crossed borders and stretched limits, both magically and emotionally, and found in each other the purest of all things, in the midst of a war, in a darkness where one could expect it to be forgotten: Love.
A love which goes ... beyond boundaries.
Plimpy: The Plimpy is a kind of fish. It is shaped like a ball with two long, rubbery legs and webbed feet. If you happen to spot a Plimpy with its legs tied in a knot, you will know that Merpeople are around.
Grindylow: A grindylow is a pale green creature which lives in the weed beds on the bottom of lakes in Britain. It is also known as a water demon. Grindylows have long, brittle fingers which they use to grip their prey, sharp little horns, and green teeth.
Merpeople/Merfolk: Well, duh.
L'Ordre du Griffon: From my imagination only. It's French (at least I hope so!) and means 'The Order of the Griffin'. (Additional note: Firstly I wrote 'Griffin', but Sam8, the dear inhabitant of France, who also reviews my story, told me it was 'Griffon. Go Sam)
Der Orden des Thorr: Also purely my own imagination and it's German for 'The Order of Thor'. Thor, or Thorr (Thorr being old Nordic) is the name of the Scandinavian God of thunder (and quite a lot of other things). As far as I know, this God is a part of German mythology too.
Disclaimer: This story is written by Rachel Acorna Prongs and beta-read by the-dreamer. While the world of Harry Potter belongs to Joanne Kathleen Rowling, the plot is purely mine. However, I would never have made it without the help of the-dreamer, and her advice, humorous comments and useful suggestions, that have helped shape my story. Lots of thanks to her.
And that was the end of this story, Beyond Boundaries. I have enjoyed writing it – I hope you have enjoyed reading it.