Potter Ever After
"So, how long have you two been dating?" Dennis asked the pair, ignoring McGonagall staring angrily at their table.
"Oh, nearly three years."
Harry coughed, nearly choking on Pumpkin Juice.
Hermione, clad in a t-shirt and jeans, didn't seem to notice her seatmate's discomfort; instead, she threw an arm around his back. "It all started when I was cornered by a troll my first year. Harry, the wonderful man that he is, rushed in and saved me; by own knight in shining armor."
Harry waited until Dennis Creevey walked away, then whispered, "Hermione... we're dating?"
"Of course!" Hermione said, laughing at his confusion.
"I didn't know... how could we be dating if I didn't know we were?" Harry asked in a weak voice.
"Harry, be serious. If we weren't dating, why on earth would you be meeting my parents later this afternoon?"
Harry paled. Oh dear god. What had the author done?
"So, this is the young man that's shagging my daughter?!"
Harry's lip quivered. What on earth had Hermione said to her parents about him? It did not help that Hermione's father was holding a cricket bat and rhythmically rapping it into the palm of his other hand - though the man was clearly aching to pound it into something else.
"Dear, stop terrorizing the poor boy."
"It's my job as a girl's father," he growled, "to bodily threaten any boy who'd dare tou..."
Mrs. Granger interrupted. "If you don't knock it off, dear, I'm withholding sex tonight."
"Oh, well, in that case," Mr. Granger replied in a warm voice, "Welcome, and come on in - we've been looking forward to meeting you."
Harry blinked. "Er..."
"Oh, sorry about earlier," Mr. Granger said, shrugging. "Rather silly of me. I was thinking, 'Hey, maybe my daughter who's young enough to be in American Middle School shouldn't be having wild kinky sex, let alone with a boy that's even younger than she is. But, hey, when the misses threatens a night without sex - well, you know I had to crumple fast. That's one of the foundational blocks of a happy lasting marriage: abandoning parenting beliefs in the face of sexual extortion."
"Plus, well, teenaged pregnancy isn't that big of a deal anymore - and you're never too young to get your first STD, am I right?"
Harry blinked again.
Hermione dragged her date inside. "That's right, daddy. But we're not ready to have sex for a long, long time."
Harry breathed a sigh of relief; some measure of sanity at last.
"We'll wait until we're 17. Or at least a few chapters into the story..."
Harry blinked again.
"I mean, the author's going to be bored writing limited-to-making-out sessions, so we'll probably end up shagging before the end of the sum..."
"It was nice meeting you all!" Harry blurted before running away from the house in panic.
"Mate! I heard what happened with you and Hermione!"
"Don't remind me, Ron."
Ron shrugged. "Obviously she wasn't 'The One'."
"You know, the one you're meant to be with for eternity."
Harry was feeling a headache coming on. "Ron, I'm not sure I'm ready for a relationship that'll last for eternity."
"What do you mean?"
"Okay, you know how I was getting googley-eyed at Cho last year?"
"Well, when I was in Charms class, and Padma sat in front of me? I'd sometimes stare at her backside a bit. And, well, the Gryffindor Chasers are really good looking, and sometimes they come out of the locker with just their athletic bras on instead of a full shirt. To be honest, when that happens, I'd be hard pressed to even remember my own name."
"My point is, even when I thought I was totally-in-love with Cho, I'd forget about her at the drop of a hat and ogle any cute girl that happened to be nearby. It... it sounds cad-like, but I just don't think my brain and body are stable enough to be a good boyfr..."
"Harry," Ron growled. "You're 14 now. It's about time you developed the emotional maturity that comes at that age and settle into a relationship of everlasting true love."
Little did he know, Harry was 5 minutes away from outright panic. That's what he deserved, though, talking with Luna Lovegood - who for some reason was wearing a sundress made from what looked like glowing mushrooms.
"I can't explain it to Ron - he just doesn't listen to what I'm saying," Harry vented, mostly to himself. "Hermione's great - she's a genuinely good person, there's nothing wrong with her, and I enjoy spending time with her. It's just..."
"You don't want to be her boyfriend."
"Right," Harry said, happy she understood.
"Is it because she's destined to be with Ron?"
"Er... no? I don't know."
"Harry, you can't choose to not be with a girl without it being an issue of a conflicting love interest or it turning out that she's a horrible person."
"It's dramatically unsatisfying," Luna replied lightly. "Either you're her soulmate, she's destined for someone else, or she's a horrible rotten person that stabs you in the back. It is simply not possible for two people to generally like each other but eventually decide that they don't see themselves eventually marrying one another. Arithmancers proved its impossibility in the Great Rahmcawm Paradox of 1203."
"I like the third option, myself," Luna half-sang. "Traitorous ex-friend that works hand-in-hand with Dumbledore to manipulate every string in your life. It's so satisfying to see their machinations fail and then, later in the story, they get what's coming to them and the headmaster is forced into exile or such."
"Headmaster in Exile. Okay, sometimes they kill him. But usually he lives to the end of his days to suffer in the knowledge of his utter treachery."
"Back up. You said 'works hand-in-hand' with Dumbledore to manipulate me?"
Luna sighed. "You didn't know that the headmaster was the ultimate puppeteer?"
McGonagall walked up to the pair. "Mister Potter, the Headmaster would like to have a word with you..."
"Why, yes, Harry. I've been manipulating you your entire life - all for the greater good, of course."
Harry's mouth gaped.
"Would you like a Lemon Drop? I can absolutely guarantee you that they're not laced with anything that will harm you."
The silence stretched.
"I'm sorry," Harry said. "I don't buy it."
"It's true," Dumbledore said, his twinkling eyes shining rather twinklishly. "I've controlled everything about you, turning you into my perfect sacrificial lamb."
"No, no, no," Harry replied, shaking his head. "I call bullshit."
"Sorry, it's true. Now, if you don't mind, Hagrid has arrived with a shipment of kittens and I find myself rather hungry for the taste of the flesh of the innocent."
"Why are you doing this?" Harry asked. "You're a semi-insane, mildly-forgetful, crazily-busy old man with genuine flaws - but you are not an evil person."
"Oho, I'm Evil with a capital 'E'," Dumbledore shot back. "I'm so Evil that I blocked the reading of your parents Will when they died, all so I could foist you on abusive relatives so you'd be utterly dependant on me. Mwuhahaha."
"Uh, except my parents didn't have a Will."
"Of course they did!" Dumbledore said, aborting his laugh. "Who told you they didn't?!"
"They died when they were twenty-one. Nobody in their twenties has a will."
Dumbledore couldn't argue with that; he was in his hundred-and-fifies, and he was still putting off his estate planning (honestly, he had so much crap that he'd probably end up giving even Ron Weasley something or another.) "But, my boy, the... your money! Oho, you'll never catch me, but I'm totally stealing your money! Hahahah!"
"No you're not."
"Oh, yes, I am! Loads of it. You're going to bankrupt before you graduate at this rate!"
"Why haven't I noticed my vault getting any smaller, then?"
"Er, because I'm stealing from another vault. You've only gone to your Trust vault, Harry. I made absolutely sure you never heard of your real vault, with all the oodles of money and magical artifacts and brik-a-brak and what-not."
"You're saying my parents, 4-years out of graduation, went through the trouble of setting up a Trust vault?"
"And they put so much gold in the 'little' vault that it ridiculously outsizes the account the Weasleys use for their entire family?"
"I mean, to the point where I've gone several years of expenses without putting a visible dent in the Trust account? That it's just the 'Potter Pocket Money' fund?"
"I thought so," Harry said, smugly. "Why are you doing this?"
Dumbledore sighed, laying his wrinkled hands upon his desk. "It's the journey of the hero."
"The hero (that's you, Harry) starts out with a mentor. And then, during the journey, the mentor is removed so the hero can come into their own. It's the only dramatically satisfying path. Otherwise people ask, if the world is hanging by a thread, why isn't the mentor working to fix it instead of sending their young naive protege to do the job."
Harry twitched; he was beginning to hate the phrase 'Dramatically Satisfying.'
"... so, you see, I only have two options. I either have to die, or have to be revealed as a weak or untrustworthy person that's not worthy of being a mentor - thus making you (the hero) lose me."
Harry closed his eyes. "So instead of dying, you want me to think you're a horrible manipulative person, rise out from under your wing, and become a fully independent actor of fate," he said in a dead voice. "You'd rather live with everyone thinking you're an arse than simply dying with dignity?"
"Absolutely right," Dumbledore replied enthusiastically. "And I usually get away with it – man, you would believe the things I convince some people I'm capable of. And, while I won't mind moving on to the next adventurous great... whatever, I'd rather just put it off for awhile. I mean, I haven't even finished my Will yet!"
"I heard you told Dumbledore you were done with all his manipulations," Ginny said, sidling up to him at the Gryffindor dining table, her blue jumper tied by the sleeves around her waist due to the warmer-than-expected weather. "That you're now an agent of your own free will, able to tread a third path instead of walking the ways of Voldemort or Dumbledore - a powerful force for your own purpose instead of a pawn belonging to someone else."
"Oh dear god," Harry said, rolling his eyes.
"That's the most overly dramatic bullshit I've ever heard. And get your hand off my arse!"
"Sorry," Ginny said, pulling her hand away. She didn't sound sorry.
Minerva McGonagall stood from the head table and began to speak, her voice carrying across the hall. "Everyone, quiet. I have an important announcement. We will be re-opening the northern wing quarters to better accommodate our married couples within the school."
Harry blinked. "Oh sh... well... I can guess what's going to happen now..."
An excited shriek came from the Hufflepuff table - sure enough, Susan Bones and her trademark cute sweater bounced up and over his way. "Did you hear? I found out that we have a Marriage Contract!"
"What do you mean, 'No'?"
"As in, No, I'm not going to follow the Marriage Contract."
That baffled all the rest of the Gryffindor common room. First, Harry wasn't in his proper room (shouldn't he be in the Married Quarters? Why would they bother setting them up if Harry wasn't going to go live there?!) and now he was talking absolute gibberish.
"What do you mean, you're not going to follow it?"
Harry shook his head. "I mean, I'm not marrying Susan Bones."
"But... it's been put into a contract."
"So you have to marry her."
"No I don't."
"The contract says you do."
"But I'm not going to."
"Why not? She's dead sexy! Those sweaters hide them a bit, but have you seen how effing large her..."
"That's not... listen, I'm not marrying anyone. Not now, not anytime soon."
"But the contract says you have to be wed before you turn 16. It was a final arrangement to seal the treaty between the Bones Clan and the Potter Clan. That treaty was the only thing that let the wizarding world turn the tide against Baba Yaga and her forces of evil!"
Harry's eyebrows rose. "So you're trying to say that if I don't marry Miss Bones, Baba Yaga will rise from her resting place, and her troops will come back to life, and they'll all start killing everyone?"
"Well... no. But it will sever the centuries-old alliance between the Potters and the Bones!"
"So you're saying the two remaining members of the Bones Family... and the only remaining member of the Potter family... might not like each other?"
Harry shrugged. "I can live with that."
McGonagall frowned. "Mister Potter?" she called out from within the commons.
"Here," Harry called, coming down the stairs from his dorms. "Did you need something, professor?"
"I've approved your request - you'll be able to take leave this weekend, provided you're back in the castle by curfew." Her message delivered, McGonagall left the commons.
"So, where are you going, Harry?" one of the boys asked.
"Gringotts." He mentally added, 'I have to get away from you nutters.'
"Ooooh," Ginny said, "Are you going to look for your parents' will?"
"Don't be stupid," Ron said.
Harry couldn't believe it. Finally! Someone else was making sense.
Harry's relief lasted until Ron continued, "He's going to look for more marriage contracts."
"Or perhaps," Hermione added, "He's wanting to see if he can learn weapon and armor forging and enchanting."
"That's silly," Fred chimed in. "He'd be going there to legally assume the mantle of the Potter Lordship."
"And probably assume the Black line of Wizengamot seats as well," George added.
"Maybe they've got books on Runecrafting," Lavender added.
Harry blinked. "You all know that Gringotts is a bank... right?"
"Banks don't handle marriage certificates?"
"Banks don't handle legal wills?"
"Banks don't do weapon-smithing?"
"Banks don't officiate family lines of succession?"
"Banks don't act as libraries?"
"Banks don't control who has a seat on governmental bodies?"
Harry groaned. "No!"
"Are you sure," Ron asked, raising an eyebrow.
"Then what do they do?"
"They store wealth and lend money."
Fred laughed. "Ha! That sounds pretty unlikely. Next thing you know you'll tell me that banks aren't responsible for blood-heredity tests!"
"Seriously," George said. "Why are you going to Gringotts? It's the Wizengamot seats, right?"
"Uh... you're the new recruit?" Voldemort asked.
"Is there any reason you look like Minverva McGonagall?"
"Because I am Minerval McGonagall."
"... and you want to become a Death Eater?"
"Let me show you," she answered. She went over to the closet and pulled out a spare Death Eater uniform. A minute later, the former Transfiguration Professor was standing, clad in a black robe and wearing a white face mask.
"See?" she asked.
"... see what?"
"Let me explain. I've been in, what, a few hundred-thousand fan-fics. In those fan-fics, I do what a lot of women do: spend time in the morning to look presentable to the world. Making sure my hair is nice, making sure my robes are neat, making sure my outfit is smart. It's not that I'm vain, it's just that more emphasis is placed on a woman's appearance, and I spend the same time that a normal woman does on such things."
"Now, in those hundreds of thousands of fanfics, my clothing or dress or shoes or such - is never mentioned. All the time I spend, day after day, and all you ever hear is 'McGonagall sat, primly', or 'McGonagall frowned thoughtfully'; never an ounce of appreciation for the time I've spent. Even in this story, I've already been in 4 prior scenes, with nary a mention of what I look like – and I bet nobody even noticed that. Yet Ginny gets to wear her jumper, Hermione gets her t-shirt and jeans, Susan gets her cute sweater, and Luna gets a dress of... whatever the hell that thing was made of. The unfairness makes me quite sick."
She sidled up to Voldemort, a tear threatening to emerge from her right eye. "But just now, for the first time in what seems like forever, I'm in this scene where I actually warranted narrative description of my appearance. I wasn't just 'there', I was wearing a black robe, I was wearing a white face mask."
Bellatrix nodded to herself, black hair rustling against her black dress. That's how she joined, after all (she didn't even have a hair color until she became a Death Eater.)
"This place is disgusting!" Ginny said, wiping her hands on her jumper (the red one, not the blue one from earlier. It matters to the plot. Somehow.)
"Why are you even here?!" Harry demanded. "I didn't invite you to tag along."
"When you say things like that, Harry, it sometimes makes me doubt our soul-bond."
"Dear god, I am afraid to ask..."
"During my second year, you saved me from being eaten by a monstrous beast. It formed an unbreakable bond between us that will last through all time."
"Well, I don't think th... wait. You said your second year?"
"Yeah. You saved me from the clutches of an evil werewolf whom you banished from the school with your powerful magicks."
"That's how you remember last year ending?" Harry asked incredulously. "Nevermind, fine, whatever. I've pretty much given up figur..."
"Dobby!" Ginny called out loudly.
The house elf appeared before them.
"Dobby," Ginny commanded. "I want you to clean this place out before Harry moves in."
"Nos!" Dobby screamed and disappeared.
Harry was confused how Ginny thought they were here for move-in preparations. Why on earth would he want to live here?
Ginny, however, seemed to be confused about something else. "What just happened? Dobby refused an order! This fanfic is defective!"
"Dobby is a free elf. He doesn't belong to me. You can't just give him commands like that, and even if what you did wasn't terribly rude, he's already been contracted for legal employment elsewhere. I really don't see a house-elf shrugging prior employment obligations on a whim. Besides, there are thousand of other houseelves in Britain that I could try t..."
"Oh, puh-lease," Ginny said, her voice dripping with condescension. "Dobby's your domestic servant in, like, every Harry Potter fanfic ever written."
"That's just because he's the only one mentioned by name this isn't either homicidal or drunk."
"Harry Potter!" Hermione screeched. "I think it's time you finally made up your mind."
"Who. Is. It. Going. To. Be?!"
Harry raised an eyebrow. "Who is what going to be?"
"Who are you going to fall in love with?"
"It's Daphne Greengrass, isn't it? Or Hannah Abbott? If it's not me or Ginny... oh, maybe Luna Lovegood? No, probably Daphne. Or maybe both Luna and Daphne? Or did you decide to end up going with Susan's marriage contract?"
"I was actually thinking of asking out Karen."
"Karen?" Hermione asked, confused. "I don't think I know her."
"I'd be surprised if you did. She's a muggle living a block over from Privet Drive. During the summers off from school, she keeps in shape by jogging, and she always looped through Privet late afternoon, and at the tail end of the last summer, I was always doing yardwork when she ran by. I'd wave hello, she'd wave back. The sixth time I saw her, she actually stopped her jog and started to chat me up a bit - and we hit it off pretty well, all things considering. I never got a chance to ask her out because Hogwarts started back up, but I think I might take her to the movies this summer."
"A muggle?!" Hermione screamed. "A bloody OC'ed muggle girl?! What the hell?!"
"Maybe that's the point," Harry said.
Hermione wordlessly steamed.
Slow patriotic music began to play.
"Maybe," Harry said with deliberation and firmness, "that has always been the point. The Harry Potter series is about not judging people by who they appear, or by what blood flows through their veins - but by the content of their character."
The music began to crescendo.
"The same struggle has happened countless times. People rally against bigotry and persecution; how dare you discriminate against a black man... yet never in their own stories is the hero himself of color. And maybe, just maybe," he continued, his voice growing bolder, " these fanfics have lost that message of inclusiveness."
"Not of Race," Harry said, an Americ... I mean, the Union Jack waving behind him from an unseen breeze, "And not of sexual orientation. But of magical blood. They claim to stand against blood puritism, yet its somehow always a witch (or wizard) that Harry is going to live happily ever after with. Well, No More! This Hero is going to find himself a nice muggle girl!"
After a final echoing shriek from a Bald Eagl... er, whatever the British Version of a majestic national animal is (A Crake flying over a field of Bangers and Mash?), the music faded away.
Hermione looked at him.
"You're messing with me. It's Daphne, isn't it?"
Author's Note: Heh, hope nobody minded me poking a bit of fun at the current state of HP Fanfiction.