I'd like to thank thekingofsweden1, rpeh and brianna-xox for beta reading. Their help has improved the story a lot.
Epilogue: On the Path to a new Britain
Hermione stepped out of the lift into the entrance hall of the Wizengamot Chamber with measured steps, appropriate for the occasion. Today was an important day, the culmination of years of work. Half her life, if she wanted to be dramatic. She nodded in greeting at those members who were standing outside the chamber, milling with family, friends, and other members. Most of them nodded back, but some didn't manage to hide just how forced their smiles were. Many of those were wizards and witches who had been members of this body for a long time. Those who had escaped when the Dark Lord had attacked the Ministry of Magic.
Not all of them, of course. But in the young witch's opinion, there was no difference between the survivors, and those of the same generation who had replaced the dead. All of them were purebloods, and all of them were far too … conservative.
And all of them were afraid of her. She smiled widely at Malcolm Selwyn and noted with satisfaction that the old man paled and looked away. Fortunately, Harry wasn't there yet, or he'd joke about 'fear keeping them in line' again.
In a way, things had not changed that much compared to the first time she had stepped into the chamber, in the Spring of 1997. They had been afraid of her back then, as well. She looked down at her Order of Merlin, which was prominently displayed on her robe.
Hermione Granger had felt nervous when she had approached the open door to the Wizengamot Chamber, despite the occasion. Until she had realised that that was exactly what had been intended by the assembly. They had wanted to impress her. Her and Harry. Impress, and cow them. The wizards and witches who had made up Wizarding Britain's Parliament and High Court had been dressed in their finest robes, and the room, only slightly damaged in the Dark Lord's attack to begin with, had been restored to its old splendour with a diligence and effort other areas had been lacking.
And yet, she had told herself, none of them would have been present if not for her and Harry. And there would have been far more empty seats - not all dead members had been replaced yet. So she had thrust her chin out and entered with her arm linked with Harry's. Her defiant gesture - she had still been his retainer, and should have walked a step behind him - had caused the esteemed members to whisper to each other, which in turn had made her smile. Even more when most of them had looked away when she had stared at them.
"Told you, they're scared of you," Harry had whispered to her, his grin barely hidden.
"They should be," she had whispered back. "We've saved them all, killed Voldemort and his Death Eaters, and they still act as if they are superior to us."
They had had friends among the Wizengamot, of course. And friendly acquaintances. Sirius. Neville, who had inherited his seat from his grandmother, as well as Parkinson, who had inherited hers from her father. And of course Albus Dumbledore, Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot, and the one who had, together with Harry, largely been responsible for their presence that day. He had been waiting in the centre of the room, with two velvet cushions floating next to him, an Order of Merlin resting on each of them. First class, both of them.
Hermione had known that the Wizengamot hadn't wanted to award her an Order of Merlin, First Class. Not to a muggleborn. And especially not to the muggleborn girlfriend of Harry Potter, the Boy-Who-Lived. Harry had insisted though. He had threatened, in private meetings with a few of the new leaders in the Wizengamot, to refuse an Order himself, unless Hermione would be awarded the same honour. Dumbledore had supported the decision using his own influence. Hermione had still been certain that ultimately, the matter had been decided by the Chief Warlock's declaration that she had been the one to kill the Dark Lord and his followers, and some veiled hints that she could repeat the ritual that had allowed her to do so.
"It is with great pride and pleasure that I welcome the two young people who have done more than anyone else to save our country from the Dark Lord Voldemort. Harry Potter, who defeated the Dark Lord as a baby, and then went on to defy him several more times, until he defeated him in a battle for his very soul. And Hermione Granger, who risked her life to destroy the Dark Lord and prevent him from ever returning again.
"As a reward for those remarkable deeds, Wizarding Britain awards you both its highest honour: The Order of Merlin, First Class!"
The old wizard had flicked his wand, and the two Orders had floated up, towards Hermione and Harry, gently setting around their necks.
While she and Harry had bowed at the beaming old wizard, the audience led by Sirius had started to cheer loudly. The assembly itself had joined in the cheering, if not quite as enthusiastically.
After a while, Dumbledore had spread his hands, and the room quieted down before he had spoken up again: "As a recipient of the Order of Merlin, Miss Granger is now recognised as a pureblood witch. As such, she cannot be a retainer."
On cue, Harry had stepped forward and turned to face her. She had handed her wand over to him, and he had raised it while she had bent her right knee.
"Hermione Jean Granger. I, Harry James Potter, Head of my family, release you from my service and from the Oath you swore to me. I return your wand to you, so you might wield it in defense of your honour, as Head of the Granger family."
She had accepted her wand and had felt the Oath vanish. For a moment she had been afraid, deathly afraid, that her feelings would have disappeared as well. They hadn't. Then she had been afraid that the life debt would have been restored. It hadn't. Smiling brightly, she had stood up and had raised her wand, touching Harry's.
"Thank you," she had whispered, then she had lunged and hugged him. And the audience had cheered again, despite the breach of decorum. Or maybe because of it, in some cases.
Hermione smiled, remembering that moment. It had been the first time in years she had been truly free. Free of the Oath. Free of the life debt. Free of the constraints of a muggleborn in Wizarding Britain. That alone would have been enough to treasure that memory forever, but that day had become even better. The new Minister for Magic, Elphias Doge, an old friend of Dumbledore, had quickly appointed both her and Harry to two of the free seats in the Wizengamot.
Elevating two students to the Wizengamot had caused a brief uproar among the old members of the Wizengamot. Neville, one empty sleeve pinned to his robe showing what price he had paid in the war, had dealt with that quickly though. Their friend had stood up and reminded everyone that his age had not been a reason to refuse his inheriting of Augusta's seat. Pansy had stood up as well, backing him up. Both had been among the youngest Heads of families as well, and had already encountered that kind of prejudice.
She didn't see Neville, but she hadn't expected to see him yet. He had mentioned he had another fitting of his new prosthetic arm planned; she hoped there hadn't been any complications. His wound hadn't been able to be treated with muggle means, unlike many others. Voldemort's forces had been using wands specifically made for the Dark Arts, and it had shown in the kind of curses they had used. And all because of one evil wizard: Siegfried Steinberg alias Karl Klugmann.
It had been the first trial she had taken part in as a member of the Wizengamot. The prisoner, an older wizard with long grey hair, had been dragged in by two Aurors and roughly secured to the seat for the accused with enchanted chains as well as spells. The Prussian hadn't shown any sign of discomfort or fear though, just disdain. She had glanced up to the audience rows, where the brother of Dumbledore had been sitting, scowling. He had been the one who had caught the fleeing wandmaker, together with two Aurors. He hadn't been wearing his Order of Merlin, and rumour had claimed that he had only accepted it to use it as a coaster in his inn. Since the Orders of Merlin awarded to the wizard's friends and associates had already been on display on the walls in the Hog's Head Inn though, Hermione had doubted that.
"Siegfried Steinberg, you stand accused of having supported the Dark Lord Voldemort by crafting wands for his forces. Wands created by the Dark Arts, as deadly to their wielders as to those they fought against. Wands that were, in effect, sacrificing their wielders, using dark rituals. How do you plead?"
Hermione had felt a pang of guilt at the hypocrisy of judging a man for something she had done as well - or nearly done. It disappeared quickly though when Steinberg sneered and spat "Guilty!" as if it was an honour. "Guilty of advancing my art, and expanding the lore of magic!"
"Let the plea be noted as 'guilty'," Dumbledore had told the court scribe.
"As if there would be any other verdict!" Steinberg had said. "At least I'll have the satisfaction of seeing my work endure - in the flesh of many of yours! Others will pick up where I left."
Hermione had started to suspect then that the wandmaker had been influenced himself by his work. Dumbledore must have suspected the same, she had thought, but the Chief Warlock had followed procedure and had interrogated the prisoner, helped along by Veritaserum. The muggleborn witch had felt sick even before the tale of the man's life had reached his recruitment by Voldemort. What he had done in Grindelwald's service… She had shuddered. And the wizard had firmly believed that the knowledge he had gained had justified the crimes he had committed.
His recounting of his time in Voldemort's service had not brought many new findings, but the callous way the Dark Lord had sacrificed - literally - his followers had not failed to impress the audience. Hermione had felt guilty for being grateful that this trial would do a lot to prevent the surviving werewolves in Britain and Scandinavia from thinking of the Dark Lord as a martyr for their cause.
The verdict had never been in question - the Wizengamot unanimously sent the wandmaker through the Veil. Hermione had attended the execution herself, as an observer. Steinberg had been defiant and unrepentant to the last.
Unlike many of her colleagues, the young witch doubted that the wandmaker's work had died with him. Steinberg's notes might have been been destroyed by Aberforth Dumbledore, but that would not keep the knowledge that such wands could be created from spreading. And there would be wizards willing to recreate those things. No matter what the Minister for Magic claimed in interviews.
Speaking of interviews… she spotted Luna and Aicha among the people mingling outside the chamber before today's session. The blonde was waving wildly at Hermione, smiling widely. Aicha was a bit more restrained. The two witches had been inseparable during their sixth year, and now were living together, both working for The Quibbler. They made a good team, Hermione thought, Aicha ensuring that Luna didn't let her enthusiasm take her too far. At least in articles that didn't cover mystical animals. The Daily Prophet was still the most popular newspaper in Wizarding Britain, but The Quibbler had gained quite the following among the younger crowd, mostly thanks to those two witches.
Hermione walked over to the couple. "Hello Luna, Aicha."
"Hermione!" Luna hugged her. "I'm so excited for you! This is what you've been working for, for years!"
"It's not been over yet, Luna," Hermione said. "I expect a lively discussion." Although she didn't expect the bill to fail - Harry, Dumbledore and she herself had spent a lot of time working on the Wizengamot members to gather a majority for the bill. But if three years in the Wizengamot had taught her one thing, it was that you couldn't be certain until the votes had been counted.
"We've been asking the members here for statements, and the opinions were rather favourable," Aicha said.
Hermione smiled at hearing that. She was more than a bit nervous, if she was honest with herself. Harry would say she was worrying over nothing, like before her exams, but she simply couldn't help it.
"Where's Harry?" Luna looked around as if she was searching for a snorkack. To think she and her father had actually found them!
"He went to return some files about werewolf criminality rates to Kingsley." Werewolves were still discriminated against in Britain. Remus, who Wizarding Britain thought had been infected with lycanthropy two years ago by the 'poor children an evil werewolf had infected', was doing what he could, with the full support of Dumbledore, Harry and herself, but it was a slow process. Hermione hoped the laws would be changed by the time Mats was old enough to enter Hogwarts.
"And the Head of the DMLE wanted to cultivate him again as a supporter for his further career," Aicha said.
"Oh, yes." Hermione frowned. That wizard was even more ambitious than Percy, who was in line to become a Department Head himself, as soon as a spot opened. So different from his father.
As if he had known she was thinking of him, Arthur Weasley was walking towards the chamber. Some had expected Arthur, as the most senior Department Head to survive Voldemort's assault, to take over as Minister for Magic. Not Hermione though. She hadn't been surprised when Arthur had used his seniority, as well as the fame he had earned escaping from the Ministry after it had been taken over and defending Hogwarts, to become the Head of the new Department for the Adaption of Muggle Inventions. He had been instrumental in pushing the use of muggle medical techniques to deal with the lingering effects from the dark curses from Steinberg's wands.
Hermione sighed, remembering how for a brief while, muggle culture had become a fad. It hadn't lasted, of course, apart from muggle movies and a small scene of muggle literature and music fans. Muggle culture simply lacked magic to appeal for long to wizards and witches. Clubbing in muggle London had been an escape during the war, but wizards and witches, including those born to muggles like Hermione herself, simply didn't want to go without magic for any length of time if they could help it. Who would want to, after experiencing the wonders of magic?
Hermione Granger had stood next to Harry Potter at the Leaving Feast at Hogwarts, wearing their head girl and head boy badges, when the Headmaster had called on the gods. With her having been made a pureblood by the Wizengamot during their sixth year, there had been no way anyone else would have been chosen as head girl. And no one else but Harry as head boy.
Dumbledore had stood up and raised his goblet, as tradition had dictated.
"At the end of this year, we are gathered to give the gods their due so they will bless those among us who leave Hogwarts to enter their adult lives with peace and prosperity in their future."
Hermione had raised her own goblet, together with everyone else. There hadn't been as many empty spots as after sixth year - a number of those students whose families had fled Britain had returned after the Dark Lord's defeat, such as the Patils. And hadn't that been an awkward moment when Padma had seen Pansy on Ron's arm!
"Janus." Dumbledore had dipped the goblet, letting the wine pour out. "Bless them with a good start in their new life."
Hermione had felt her skin starting to tingle when she had dipped her own goblet. Just as her skin had tingled during the ritual. She still hadn't known what caused this. She hadn't wanted to know, either. Hogwarts, the gods, or magic itself… she simply watched as the red wine vanished in sparks before it reached the floor.
"Hecate. Let magic protect and guide them."
She had focused on the wine that had kept falling, pouring out of her goblet, more than the cup could have held, and had tried to ignore how the tingling had intensified, how her hair had started to float.
"Apollo. Keep them healthy and guide them to fruitful and passionate pursuits."
She had been surrounded by sparks then, almost glowing until the wine stopped falling. No one had commented on it though, not to her face at least. Another advantage of her reputation, since this was a topic she really hadn't wanted to discuss. She'd find out what caused this in good time by herself.
The rest of the feast had been a joyful affair. The wounds the war had caused had not been healed completely yet, but enough time had passed for things to have gone back to normal. Students had once again cared more about the House Cup and Quidditch, both won by Gryffindor, and their relationships than politics. Most of them, at least. Hermione and Harry had had plans already, even though that evening, they had celebrated their graduation like everyone else.
"Hermione?" Luna was waving her hand in front of her face.
"Sorry, just remembering something." Hermione smiled. She hoped her friends would think she was going through her arguments again, instead of reminiscing about the past.
"Oh? What did you remember?" Luna asked. "Did you forget to turn off the cooking charms at home?"
No such luck. She wasn't about to lie to her friends though. "Graduation actually. I was thinking just how far we have come since then."
"That's not a surprise," Aicha said, "since Harry and you focused on politics."
"We have other interests as well," Hermione said. Magical Research, specifically spellcrafting, for her. And that stupid game for Harry. Star Seeker for Puddlemere United… as if he hadn't already been hounded by fans in public! At least they tended to leave him alone when she was with him, she mentally added - her reputation had advantages.
Hermione ran her wand over her medal, polishing it and cleaning the ribbon. It wasn't needed; the medal was enchanted to be self-cleaning, but she hadn't cast those charms, and felt her own were just a bit better.
Hermione had taken full advantage of computers for her research in the last few years. She had published some of her new spells, but the optimised versions of others she had kept to herself and Harry, and their friends. Her advantage wouldn't last forever, of course, but as with her and Harry's fame, she would be using it for all it was worth in the meantime.
"Polishing your medal, again?"
Hermione turned around while Luna and Aicha chuckled at the teasing tone. "Harry!"
She smiled at him, then hugged him. She knew older members of the Wizengamot would frown at the open display of affection and love, but she didn't care. She wouldn't ever hide her love anymore. "I don't have to hex Kingsley then."
"It wasn't Kingsley, actually. It was Braggling."
"Simon Braggling? Again?" Hermione rolled her eyes.
"Yes. He offered me his vote for today if I would make the DMLE put Paige Caldwell back on the wanted list," Harry said.
Hermione frowned. "If he had an ounce of moral fiber left, he'd support the werewolf legislation, after narrowly escaping becoming a werewolf himself. He should know best that it could happen to anyone."
"I told him the same as usual: Dumbledore had his reasons for that decision, and I'd not question them." Harry shook his head. "That man can carry a grudge!"
"He's not the only one," Hermione said. Luna and Aicha nodded. It was understandable, of course - so many had been killed in the war.
"... and so we have gathered here to honour the dead, those who have given their lives to protect us all, and those who have been murdered despite our efforts. May this memorial ensure that such madness never again takes hold of our country."
Dumbledore's speech had been received with applause by the audience - and with tears as many among them had remembered loved ones whose names had been carved on the giant obelisk placed just inside the gates of Hogwarts.
It had been an impressive sight: Polished white marble, 20 feet high, with black plates on all sides where the names of those who had died slowly appeared and disappeared in an endless cycle. There had been far too many names, in Hermione's opinion, but she thought the simple, straightforward design had been fitting. Far better than the proposal from some idiot in the Wizengamot to list the 'heroes', and the 'victims' in separate columns. In a war, everyone was a victim, first and foremost. There were better ways to remember the heroic deeds people had done in the war than by dividing the dead.
When Dumbledore had stepped aside from the memorial, Harry and Hermione had stepped forward, and both had put their hands on the marble, remaining there, unmoving and silent, for a moment. Others had followed their example, and it had become a tradition for all students at Hogwarts to visit the memorial on the first day of each year, so they would never forget the cost of war.
"There you are!"
Hermione looked to the lift and saw Ron heading towards them, together with Pansy. She was still getting used to thinking of their best friend as 'Ron Parkinson' instead of 'Weasley'.
Ron hugged all of them. He wasn't wearing his Auror robes, so he wasn't on duty today.
His wife and Head of Family was a bit more restrained. "Hermione," Pansy said, bowing her head.
"Pansy." Hermione bowed back. She and Pansy were not exactly best friends, but they were friendly. Friendly rivals at times - they didn't always agree on what the best course of action was. Not too often, actually. But it was a civil rivalry.
"Harry." Pansy bowed to him. "When will you make an honest witch out of her?" she asked, making a point out of glancing at Hermione.
Harry chuckled while Hermione rolled her eyes. That 'joke' had been old two years ago. "We are married," she said, holding her hand up to show her ring. "You should know, you were at the wedding."
"A muggle wedding," Pansy said.
Hermione shrugged. "It's not my fault the Wizengamot doesn't recognize it." She certainly wasn't going to marry in Wizarding Britain unless they adopted the French way of having dual Heads of Families. She was her own witch, equal to Harry, and she'd stay so!
Besides, she had had her dream wedding already.
The open carriage had been a wonderful choice. Hermione had beamed all the way to the church. A classic model, shiny black with gold trim, drawn by a pair of beautiful black horses. To think that Sirius had wanted to create a copy of Cinderella's carriage. From the Disney movie! Fortunately, Mrs Smith-Forsythe had dissuaded him from that plan. And from most of his other ideas. No air-dropped flower petals at this wedding either. Nor marching bands. She hadn't managed to avoid the elephant though - Luna had made elephant rides a condition for being the maid of honour. And Hermione had wanted her, of course. The poor wedding planner had doubled her rates when she had heard that 'Mister Black' was financing the wedding, but she had been worth every penny. It had been Sirius's money anyway - the Head of the Black family had spared no expense for the wedding of Harry and Hermione.
And it showed, Hermione had thought when she had arrived at the church. Sirius's gold, and Mrs Smith-Forsythe experience had resulted in a wedding that had outshone even Nymphadora's, without looking crass or nouveau-riche. It certainly had shut up those members of her family who had thought she had been pregnant, just because she had been marrying right after finishing school. Especially her snobby cousins, who had been half her bridesmaids, the other half having been formed by Ginny and Aicha. Hermione's wedding dress had cost more than Cynthia's entire wedding, she had thought. And the jewelry…
Not that she had cared that much about the costs, not when she had walked down the aisle on her father's arm, towards Harry and Ron, who had been waiting at the altar. The look on Harry's face when he had seen her for the first time in her wedding dress… that would have been worth all the gold in their vaults, and more. The vows had been altered a bit from the classic form since everyone had agreed that calling on the Christian god would not be good for their political goals. Hermione didn't know how much it had cost Sirius to rent a church for a wedding where the vows didn't involve God, but the wizard had managed. Some magic might have been involved as well, but no one had wanted to confirm that.
"I, Harry James Potter, take thee, Hermione Jean Granger, to be my wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part, and this is my solemn vow."
"I, Hermione Jean Granger, take thee, Harry James Potter, to be my husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part, and this is my solemn vow."
And then they had kissed as husband and wife. Finally.
Harry's aunt and her mother had cried during the whole ceremony. As had Daphne, though Pansy had later told her the former Slytherin had likely cried because Harry was now definitely out of reach, but that had most likely been a joke.
Stepping out of the church to take the carriage to the reception, they had discovered that Sirius had hired aeroplanes; but fortunately, they hadn't carpet-bombed the party with flower petals, but had written his well-wishes in the sky. A touching gesture, and almost restrained, for Harry's godfather.
The orchestra waiting at the reception had been a bit over the top, Hermione had thought, but the music had been wonderful, even if she had felt some regret that they couldn't have had magical musicians perform. That had been the only such moment though. The day had been perfect otherwise. As had been the wedding night.
"It's a good thing they didn't marry in Wizarding Britain, or she'd be lost twice as long in her memories!"
Hermione glared at Ron while Harry wrapped his arm around her, chuckling. It had been her dream wedding. She knew many of their friends still didn't understand why they wouldn't marry according to Wizarding Britain's law. Not after they both had longed to be able to for years. Pansy at least understood why Hermione didn't want to exchange her freedom for marriage, even if she teased her and Harry about it. Hermione knew that most of the Wizengamot, and Wizarding Britain, desperately wished Harry would marry her and become her Head of family. They wanted the witch who had destroyed the Dark Lord under the control of the Boy-Who-Lived. Well, they wouldn't get their wish!
A shout announced the arrival of Sirius Black. Harry's godfather hadn't changed in the years since the end of the war. Not even his marriage to Valérie had managed to temper his rakish attitude. Fatherhood might, according to Harry, but the Veela wasn't showing any signs of pregnancy yet. Apart from his wife, Sirius was accompanied by Chantal, Laure and Eugénie, and Remus with his two children. Hermione noted with a frown that people shied away from the teacher, most of them not bothering to hide their fear, or worse, their revulsion. Some though, greeted him warmly, which gave her hope that the discrimination of werewolves could be fought successfully.
"Nymphadora and Viktor can't make it," Sirius said. "Little Rayna has some issues with her shape-changing again."
Which meant she wasn't in a shape to be shown to the public. Hermione really hoped none of her future children ever were metamorphmagi. She first hugged Mats, who seemed very excited, and then Letta, who clung to her father's leg. "How are you two?"
"I'm doing great! Father will be buying me my first training broom! And Letta will get a toy broom," Mats said animatedly. "I'll be able to fly as much as I want at home!"
Hermione smiled indulgently. "Don't overdo it. It's not a toy." She knew that the two children growing up at Hogwarts was part of Dumbledore's plan as well - if two werewolves were raised at the school, any argument that they were a danger for the students and therefore shouldn't be allowed to actually attend the school would be disproven easily. Remus was already proving that werewolf teachers were no danger to their students.
Letta showed her a Chocolate Frog Card: "Look, Aunt Hermione! I got you!"
Hermione laughed. "Oh… they messed my hair up again." Privately, she thought it was the company's revenge for having had to redo the cards for her and Harry so often in a few years. First, their Order of Merlin, then their marriage, then her published spells and works… she had kept the card designers busy.
Letta giggled, pointing at the bushy hair the figure on the card had. "You're funny looking!"
"Just on the card," Hermione said. She left the kids to Luna, who started to entertain Mats with a story about snorkacks while Aicha's genie entertained Letta, and greeted Harry's godfather and his 'wife and lovers', as he liked to introduce them in polite society. Their relationship still looked a bit weird to Hermione, but as long as they all were happy and the temper tantrums involving fireballs were kept to a minimum, the witch didn't care how exactly they handled it.
Their muggle wedding, six months after Harry's and hers, had caused Mrs Smith-Forsythe to quadruple her rates and take a three-month-long vacation afterwards. The magical wedding had been held in France, of course.
"You look pensive. Having second thoughts about marriage?"
Hermione had looked up as Harry had summoned a drink for her. She had known he had meant a magical marriage, and had shaken her head. "No. Just a bit tired. I hadn't been aware that Veela weddings involved so much dancing."
The actual ceremony, in as much as vows had been concerned, had been rather similar to British customs. Just with other gods being called upon - nominally; the Veela revered the Greek Pantheon, which was quite similar to the Roman-based one whose gods were revered in Britain. A bit more archaic too.
But the rest of the wedding… Veela priestesses had performed 'sacred dances' to bless the couple. Aerial dances had been performed to honour the mythical ancestor-goddess of the Veela. Then Sirius and Valérie had opened the actual wedding dance.
Harry had taken a seat next to her, watching the couples turn around each other on the floor in the great hall of the Chateau D'Aigle. Sirius had been dancing with all his lovers as well as his wife nonstop, making Hermione wonder if he had taken a potion to keep on his feet.
"You know, if we married in France, we'd both be the Heads of our family," Harry had said.
He had sounded as if he had just been making a casual remark, but Hermione had known that he had been giving the matter serious thought.
"I know," she had said. "But it would be limited to France. The British don't accept that system."
"They might, if a few of us do it," Harry had said.
"Do you want to marry magically?"
Harry had sighed. "I wanted to. Now… I don't know anymore."
She had hugged him. "We'll take it one step at a time. Once we can marry without having to subjugate one of us to the other, we'll do it."
Around them, Veela and wizards and witches had mingled, drinking and dancing and enjoying the marriage. And flirting. Hermione hadn't seen that much flirting since sixth year's opening feast.
"No wonder he wanted to hold his wedding here. It's a very Sirius wedding."
"At least Rubeus still hasn't managed to breed a flying elephant."
Neville arrived, earlier than expected. His prosthetic arm looked fine, from what Hermione could tell when he greeted them. Mats shied away from the 'wooden arm', but Letta seemed fascinated by it. The little girl even asked Neville to hold her with the arm.
Of their circle of friends, only Ginny wasn't there. The Holyhead Harpies had an exhibition match today and as a starting chaser, Ginny couldn't get out of it. Or so she had claimed. Ron had jokingly offered to break her wrist, and had been hexed for it. Hermione didn't know if Ginny really hadn't been able to get away, or if the redhead's relationship with Neville was in a 'complicated' state again. The ups and downs of that particular couple seemed to keep at least two journalists each at the Daily Prophet and Teen Witch Weekly in business.
The doors of the lift opened again, and Albus Dumbledore walked into the hall. The Chief Warlock smiled and greeted everyone warmly, and Hermione couldn't help but feel a bit jealous. Dumbledore had been as much, if not more responsible for the destruction of Voldemort's soul, and he had publicly claimed responsibility for devising the ritual she had used, but people didn't seem to be fearing him that much. Even 'Dancing with Death Eaters' hadn't helped much there, despite the author's diligence in detailing the war's crucial events. Although, once again Lockhart had added too many quips and rather lurid descriptions of his paramour.
The Chief Warlock's arrival had signaled the impending start of the session, and the Wizengamot members still outside the chamber started to file in, including Harry, Hermione, Sirius, Pansy and Neville, while the rest of their friends and family headed to the entrance for the audience.
The Wizengamot didn't have politically aligned seating. Each seat had a fixed location, and sadly, Harry's and hers were not next to each other. Hermione squeezed his hand before they separated, and went to her seat, pulling out her notes.
Dumbledore opened the session, reciting the old forms to convene the Wizengamot. They sounded more like a ritual than anything else to Hermione, but there was no corresponding magic.
"Esteemed members, we are gathered here today to discuss and vote on a proposal of Miss Granger: The Blood Equality Bill. You are all familiar with the proposal; it will remove blood status as a legal means of distinguishing between wizards."
It would also remove the Patron system, but Dumbledore didn't mention that. He didn't have to, of course - everyone was aware of that, even without reading the proposed changes. This was one of the most controversial bills proposed in decades.
And it was hers. Hers and Harry's.
"You have the floor, Miss Granger."
"Thank you, sir." Hermione stood up and let her notes float in front of her. "Esteemed colleagues, Wizarding Britain's customs and laws are based traditionally on magic. We all know that magic is not a tool, but a force of its own. Life debts prove this." She ignored the whispering that went through the chamber. "Which is why a life debt, even though it is very rare, has such far-reaching legal effects: Magic itself enforces it. This has been demonstrated and proven many times."
She briefly let her gaze travel through the chamber before she continued. "The same cannot be said for blood status."
More whispering followed, rising in volume. She cast an Amplifying Charm. "No spell or ritual that would target muggleborns but not purebloods has ever been created. No Anti-Muggleborn Charms exist - and Merlin knows, many have tried to create them. Magic simply does not recognize that there is difference between a muggleborn and a pureblood."
She had the arithmantic proof, even. Her paper covering that subject had started the biggest controversy in the annals of 'The Arithmancer' magazine. As far as she knew, three duels had been fought over letters in the last issue alone. No one had challenged her to a duel though.
"So, why do we dare to act as if there is one? Why are muggleborns and purebloods not allowed to marry?" She raised her chin and pushed her chest with her Order of Merlin out. "I was born a muggleborn, but I'm now a pureblood. My blood didn't change. I didn't change. All that changed was a legal classification. Something utterly mundane."
Hermione didn't smile when she heard the outraged comments from those fossils who had understood that she just described their legal classifications as something better suited to muggles. She felt like smiling though.
"Where do muggleborns come from? There are many hypotheses, but none of them have ever been proven. Essentially, no one can explain why two muggles would have a magical child. And yet, we think such an obvious act of magic itself is grounds to shun them, and treat them as our lessers?"
She scoffed. "This caste system we have in Britain has to be abolished because it goes against the very foundation of our society: Magic itself."
She sat down again. Selwyn rose to refute her proposal. He had nothing to say she hadn't heard and anticipated though. Tradition this, tradition that. At least he didn't claim muggleborns were dangerous and needed to be controlled.
Harry was the next speaker, and Hermione paid close attention to his speech, even though she had helped write it.
"My esteemed colleague, Mister Selwyn, has spoken about tradition. About the need to introduce muggleborns to our society in a controlled fashion, which gave birth to our current system. Well, I've been raised by muggles, and I had no idea magic even existed until I received my Hogwarts letter. I knew as much about our customs and traditions as any muggleborn. Less actually, since most muggleborns were raised in Wizarding Britain. Why wasn't I treated as a muggleborn then? Because of my blood? I was made a pureblood by a decree of the Wizengamot; when I was born, I was legally a muggleborn, despite my father being a pureblood.
"I was a Patron for a muggleborn, despite being born a muggleborn myself, and despite being raised as a muggle. And yet, I know our traditions and customs, better than many purebloods my age."
Hermione saw how Harry glared at Selwyn and the other old fossils. "The blood laws of Wizarding Britain are not just rubbish, they are insane! We treat people who were born to magical parents in Wizarding Britain, who were raised in our country and lived their entire life as wizards and witches, differently just because their parents were two muggleborns instead of purebloods or half-bloods." He leaned forward. "And yet when it suits us, we ignore our own laws, and arbitrarily declare muggleborns as purebloods, proving that blood truly does not matter.
"Nor do the actual circumstances of a child's life matter at all. A muggleborn raised by wizards to become an expert of our customs and traditions would be forced by our laws to swear an oath to a pureblood Patron. A pureblood raised by muggles as a muggle would be treated as a Head of family though.
"This makes no sense at all. It is time to abolish the blood laws in Britain."
A few more members rose to speak, but nothing really new was said, even though the debate grew quite lively. But the majority of the members of the Wizengamot had already made up their minds about their vote before today. All that was left was the posturing. Something that didn't sit well with Hermione. It seemed so wasteful.
Finally, the votes were called. Hermione fought to keep a calm, composed expression, instead of biting her lower lip and constantly restyling her hair. She knew that the bill should pass. The arguments she and Harry had presented didn't matter much; the fossils wouldn't listen to them anyway. But there were enough of them who were too afraid to go against the explicit wishes of Dumbledore, Harry and herself.
Dumbledore received the results, then rose to announce them. "Blood Equality Bill. For: 29. Against: 20. The bill has passed."
They had done it! Hermione closed her eyes, savoring the moment. She had had doubts, irrational ones, and fears, but they had done it!
She still had much to do. Werewolf discrimination needed to follow the blood laws to the rubbish heap of history. She had to find a ritual to destroy Dementors more easily. There were a dozen spells that she wanted to create. And there was that standing offer from Saul Croaker to join his department, should she ever tire of politics. She had all the options she had dreamed of and feared she'd never have when she had become Harry's retainer so long ago.
But today, she simply wanted to celebrate. With her friends, and with Harry.
They had earned it.