A/N: I'm sure that I've mentioned it before, but since some readers expect things to go on, I'm going to make it clear that you should treat this as the end of Jasmine and Hermione's story (except perhaps for a "deleted scenes" one-shot that I'm thinking of publishing). I regret the fact that this story is ending as much as anyone. It's played a huge role in my life for the last 19 months, after all. I won't say that it's impossible that I'll continue, and I did create a long, detailed outline of future events in order to write this epilogue, but the chances that it will become a full story are slim. There are simply too many other stories that I'm interested in writing, and I'm not sure that I could do a fourth installment justice since it would involve a lot of international politics and conflicts.
If you enjoyed this series, please leave a review letting me know — and don't forget to thank Bonnie for all her time and effort! I hope you'll also take a look at some of my other stories as well. Visit my profile to learn about my upcoming schedule, and follow me as an author to be notified as soon as anything new is published.
A/N 2: This epilogue is very dense with information - much more so than any of the regular chapters. What's more, some information is implied rather than explained in detail. I advise people read it carefully, and possibly more than once.
Disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter, JK Rowling does.
Recommendation: This chapter's recommended fic is "A Thousand Years" by Alorkin (available on FicWad, not here). For the past millennium Harry's life has been empty of meaning or purpose. Killed while trying to escape the gilded cage that has become his prison, he is given a chance to return to his youth and set things right. H/Hr.
Epilogue - Going to the Chapel
Ritual Circle, Hogwarts Enchanted Forest. March 21, 2015.
Breathe, Jasmine. Deep breaths.
This is the best day of my life. Why am I so terrified?
"Nerves?" came a voice behind her, and Jasmine jumped slightly. Her dressing room for the wedding was simply an area screened off by hanging fabric, so there was no door to hear open. She would have been happy eloping to Gretna Green and saying their vows over the anvil, but Hermione had insisted on a proper wedding, and then had argued that the ritual circle in the Enchanted (formerly Forbidden) Forest was the only appropriate spot.
Jasmine tried to turn, but Lavender forced her head back to face her. "I'm not done yet," she said sternly. "I still need to finish your eyes, so close them again." Jasmine sighed and did as she was told. Fortunately, she'd recognized the voice and didn't need to look to know who it was.
"How're you doing, kitten?" Sirius asked.
"Oh, I know that tone of voice," he said. "For you, 'fine' could mean anything."
Jasmine sighed again, knowing that Sirius was one of the few people in her life she couldn't easily deflect. "I am fine," she insisted. "I'm just... I don't know, nervous, maybe? But I don't know why."
"You're not getting cold feet, are you?" Sirius asked, sounding a little worried.
"Morgana, no! I haven't changed my mind — I've wanted this ever since... well, I guess ever since we chose to finalize the bond, at least. We tied our lives together then, years ago. So why would I be nervous now?"
"I suppose everyone is when they get hitched," he said. "I was pretty nervous, too, when I was in your position. Remember?"
"Morgana, yes," Jasmine said, resisting the urge to roll her eyes. "But you and Alessandra weren't already bonded, though. Hermione and I have a bond that's stronger and deeper than the bond created by magical marriage. We're already more than married, so why would a wedding make me nervous?"
"Stage fright?" Lavender suggested as she started applying makeup to Jasmine's left eye.
"Maybe at one time," Jasmine conceded, "but I've gotten a lot better at speaking in front of an audience. Still don't like it, but I can handle it."
"True, but you've never made any sort of public commitment to Hermione," Gabrielle pointed out.
"What do you mean?" Jasmine asked as she opened her right eye and looked to where her bridesmaid had been sitting, keeping her company. She couldn't see her well at that angle, which was the only reason she dared look.
Gabrielle shrugged. "Everything you two have done to bind yourselves to each other has been in private. In public, you have had to spend a lot of time pretending not to be a couple. The rest of the time, your relationship has simply been assumed. It's never been proclaimed in any way except for when your soul bond was announced. And even then, it was just a press release."
"She's got a point," Sirius said. "Your soul bond might be deeper and stronger than marriage, but it isn't legal marriage in either the muggle or magical world. No other relationship is quite the same, or comes close to creating the same sorts of social, legal, or personal ties. There are no true legal or social alternatives to real marriage, and isn't that what you two always contended in your fight to legalize marriages like this? You've spent nearly twenty years arguing that marriage is vital and significant, regardless of the sex of those getting married."
"And that means it's still something you can get nervous about," Gabrielle concluded. "Have you heard anything from the Ministry, Sirius?"
"I talked to Amelia when she and Susan arrived, and she said the current Minister is still being tight-lipped about this," he answered. "But that's what she expected all along — that they would avoid saying anything until they absolutely had to, then they would quietly give their approval as the law requires."
"As your law requires, you mean," Jasmine pointed out as Lavender put on the finishing touches. "You're the one who thought ahead far enough to pass that law back in '98 requiring the Ministry of Magic to recognize all muggle marriages." Same-sex marriage had just become legal among muggles in Scotland a few months earlier, and it was this loophole that they were taking advantage of now. When she saw that Sirius had puffed up a bit at her praise, she added, "It was very Slytherin of you."
Sirius scowled slightly, but that was the extent of his reaction. Ever since his reconciliation with his mother, whose portrait was out with the guests, it had become a lot harder to rile him up with comparisons to Slytherin.
Jasmine stood and blinked slowly as she admired herself in the mirror. "Wow. I didn't know I could look so good! Thanks, Lav — I never could have done this."
"Magic's great, but makeup still looks better when applied by hand," Lavender said with a smile as she packed up to leave. "I'd better go see how Hermione is doing."
Jasmine was still admiring Lavender's handiwork when she felt a presence behind her. She turned to find Blaise at the entrance, and for a moment, she thought she saw a look of tenderness cross his features before they were quickly schooled into their usual impassivity.
"They, uh, did a nice job on your dress," he said with a gesture of his head. "I was just checking to see if you needed anything."
Not fooled for a moment, Jasmine gave him a warm smile. "I love you too, little brother."
She couldn't quite make out what he was grumbling as he stalked off, but the phrase "...by one bloody week!" was clearly audible as the fabric rustled closed.
She gazed fondly after him, then looked sidelong at Sirius. "I love doing that — gets him every time," she said with a wicked grin.
Sirius chuckled. "Better be careful — he might decide to get back at you by transfiguring the flower girl's petals into dung bombs."
"Nah, too crude — this isn't the Weasley twins we're talking about. No, it's much more likely that one of these mornings, I'll wake up to find he's laced my pumpkin juice with aging potion and I look about 50 years older." She shrugged, unconcerned. "I'm sure he'd consider that poetic justice."
"Well, at least Hermione will still love you no matter how you look," Sirius said helpfully. He regarded her for a moment, and his eyes were soft with wonder as he put his hands on her shoulders. "You do look gorgeous, though."
Jasmine smiled and gave her second father a hug. "Thanks."
"And you look gorgeous, too," Sirius said as he released her and turned to Gabrielle. "Not that you don't usually, of course, but Lavender did a great job with you as well."
There was a short, awkward silence as Sirius looked at the two women, then he cleared his throat and said that he needed to get back out to his seat. Jasmine was pretty sure that there were tears in his eyes when he left, but she'd keep that to herself.
In a traditional wedding, he'd have stayed so he could escort Jasmine up the aisle, just as Lindsey would have escorted Hermione. But that would have intersected with the tradition of "giving the bride away," something neither of them would have approved of even if they could have figured out how to work it that they could be "given away" to each other.
No, after so many years of fighting for equality and pushing the boundaries of magic, they weren't about to tolerate being treated like property, not even metaphorically. They were independent witches who were entering marriage together because it was what they wanted.
Not that that made Jasmine feel any less nervous as she stood by the entrance, waiting for her cue to start walking down her aisle.
"The sky is lovely this evening," Gabrielle said softly, and Jasmine automatically looked up, something she been studiously avoiding for the past several years. She'd forgotten that the sky was easily visible even from within the dressing area. Gabrielle was right, of course. The sky was lovely, painted with fiery reds and purples that would challenge even the most expert artist. Jasmine found it breathtaking — the perfect backdrop for a wedding.
And she hated it.
She hated it because it was her fault that the upper atmosphere was filled with so many tiny particles that produced such colors.
So many tiny pieces of earth, flora, and fauna. Dirt, rock, and bone. It was all that remained of the island of Sardinia, blanketing the planet in a beauty that could only be produced through cataclysmic destruction.
At least the muggle residents had had enough time to evacuate before the volcano she'd created in her madness had reached its full destructive force, but that didn't make her feel any better, especially not when she saw the wild colors produced at every sunset since. They were another reminder of what she'd done in her rage at those who had dared lay hands on Hermione.
The thought made her glance unwillingly at Gabrielle. Her strapless dress didn't let her pretend that the younger veela wasn't horribly scarred beyond magic's ability to repair. Usually the rough, twisted burns were mostly hidden beneath her clothing, with only a little bit visible above her collar, but now there was no missing the scars that covered her shoulder, the upper part of her arm, and much of her back.
When she and Hermione had first learned that the two veela were their shieldmaidens, Jasmine had never thought that Gabrielle would ever take that title so literally, shielding the auburn-haired witch with her own body to protect her.
Protect her from the effects of her own spells, no less.
Still, this was a wedding. Her wedding. It wasn't time for self-recrimination or brooding. Breathing in deeply again, she lifted her chin and stood a little straighter, forcing herself to focus on Hermione, the love of her life. It was Hermione she'd been trying to retrieve that day, after all. Hermione had been saved while those who took her had suffered.
And no one had ever tried anything like that again. At least, nothing that direct against them. Morgana knows, the fighting isn't over.
Jasmine risked peeking out at the assembled guests, all sitting in a semi-circular arrangement that faced an altar around which were positioned four statues of different goddesses of love. The altar in the center of the ritual circle had two separate aisles leading away from it instead of the single, central aisle typically found in churches. One aisle connected to Jasmine's dressing area while the other connected to Hermione's; when it was time, they would simultaneously walk to the altar on converging paths, just as the paths of their lives had converged at Hogwarts.
Lufestre Gydenna was already standing by the altar, which meant that the rest of the goblin contingent had made it as well. Next to her was Oliver Wood, who would be performing the actual ceremony. Hermione hadn't been entirely happy about using him, but he was the only resident of Scotland they knew who had a muggle background, allowing him to become an authorised Registrar who could legally perform civil marriages.
Looking to her left, Jasmine saw the other dressing area located about a quarter of the way along the ring of trees that formed the border to the forest. That was where Hermione was waiting with Fleur, secluded from Jasmine and Gabrielle. They hadn't been allowed to see each other since the previous morning, shortly after they'd completed that year's Eostre ritual with their full coven — apparently, it wasn't just grooms who weren't allowed to see the bride before the ceremony!
Yesterday had been the first time in several years that they'd all come back to perform a ritual in the Forest, and effects of their magic could already be seen in the budding trees and flowers. Even the famously fickle Scottish weather had decided to cooperate and grace them with a beautifully warm spring day. Jasmine suspected divine intervention.
She turned her attention back to the crowd, and it seemed to her that for a small, private wedding, there sure were an awful lot of people here. The veela alone took up half the seats. Looking a bit more closely, she quickly picked out the Greengrasses and Patils, the Weasleys and Lovegoods, the Davises and Longbottoms. Sirius was shaking Lindsey's hand and gave Emma a peck on the cheek before sitting down himself next to Alessandra; Blaise, Remus and Tonks were on the other side of her. Close to the front were Amelia and Susan, with the customary empty seat next to the latter. Jasmine's throat tightened at the memory before she forced herself to move on, not wanting to dwell on their loss of Hannah in the tragic terrorist attack on King's Cross three years earlier, a strike against the growing number of muggleborn which the coven had eventually realized was due to their rituals.
"Everyone here?" Gabrielle asked.
"Looks like it," Jasmine replied, grateful for the distraction. "Oh, here come Lillian and Violette!"
"Are you ready? Are you ready?" the overly excitable eight-year-old veela cried out as she bounded into the dressing area.
"Yes, but are you ready?" Jasmine asked as she bent down to look Violette in the eye. "This is a big responsibility, you know."
"Of course I am!" she insisted. "I'm a lot more ready than Artie or the twins!" When Phoebe and Areto had decided to expand their family, they wisely chose not to do it on Beltane, so Violette was the sole youngest child and was rather spoiled by her mothers and older sisters. She and her best non-veela friend, Arthur Longbottom, regularly got into trouble together, driving all their parents spare.
"Then you'd better take the flower petals and quit running around!" Lillian scolded her, handing over the basket before reaching up to give Jasmine a hug. "You look amazing, Mum." She pulled back and fingered the green tartan sash Jasmine was wearing across her wedding dress. "What's this? I don't remember it from the fittings."
"It's Minerva's," Jasmine explained. "It's not technically appropriate, since we're not part of her clan, but we both wanted to honor her."
Lillian smiled. "I think she'd like that."
"I thought that all the bridesmaids were supposed to be waiting by the altar, even the junior bridesmaid?"
"I will, Mum," Lillian replied, rolling her eyes in a manner that was pure Hermione. "I wanted to make sure the brats made it back here."
"Oi, I'm not a brat!" Violette objected, fisting her tiny hands into her hips. "I'm just too small for my personality!"
Jasmine frowned and looked around. "Speaking of which... where are the twins?"
Lillian's eyes widened comically as she looked behind her. "Oh, shite!"
"Language," came the admonishment — from Violette, of all people, not that Lillian noticed. She was too busy rushing out of the dressing area.
"I've got them," everyone could hear Neville, Jasmine's best man, call out, just before he walked in with a hand on each of her and Hermione's five-year-old twins.
"You were supposed to stick with me!" Lillian hissed as she and Ron followed, but they ignored her in favor of looking up at their mother with well-practiced expressions of beatific innocence.
No one was buying it.
"Which of these delinquents is your ring bearer, and which should I take to Hermione?" Ron asked.
Jasmine pointed to the twin on Neville's left and said, "Holly, go with Ron to Mummy."
"That's not Holly, I'm Holly!" the second twin replied. "Honestly, Mum, can't you tell your own daughters apart?"
"Sorry..." Jasmine started.
"Just kidding! I am Holly," the first twin interrupted before running off.
Jasmine took a deep breath and fixed Ron with a glare. "I'm going to kill your brothers. You know that, right?"
Ron gave her a look that said, "Get in line," before heading off after the young miscreant.
"Just think: when I start Hogwarts next year, you two get them all to yourselves!" Lillian quipped before dashing out as well.
"I don't know how you manage with three," Neville said as the giggling Hazel pulled Violette aside and started whispering. "I can barely cope with just the one."
"I sometimes wonder that myself. There was a time I never thought I'd have children. Or marry, for that matter."
"Well, you're about fix that. Are you ready?" Neville asked.
"As I'll ever be," Jasmine replied, straightening a little.
"How about you, sweetie?" Neville asked Violette, who was looking far too innocent now to be entirely trustworthy. Jasmine shuddered and made a mental note to have someone keep a close eye on her and the twins during the reception. The last thing they needed was a repeat of the cake incident.
"Ready, Uncle Nev!"
Just then they heard the piper start up, and Neville poked his head outside. "That's it, they're starting," he announced before hurrying out to take his position.
"Come on, Hazel, you're first," Gabrielle said as she handed the ginger witch a pillow with a ring. Hazel peeked out so she could time her exit with her twin across the way, and after a second she was gone. Gabrielle then guided Violette out of the dressing area so she could begin distributing flower petals on the ground, just as Neville's son Artie was doing on the other aisle for Hermione.
After a few seconds Gabrielle gave her the signal to follow, and Jasmine walked out herself, knowing that her maid of honor would be a few steps behind, watching her back as always. For better and for worse.
As she slowly walked down her aisle, she snuck a glance over to her left where Hermione was walking in front of Fleur. If Jasmine wasn't mistaken, Hermione looked as nervous as she felt, if not more so. That actually made her feel a tiny bit better.
Before she knew it, she was standing in front of the altar and Hermione was right next to her, looking radiant in her dress. Jasmine's breath caught at the sight, and she was glad that she didn't have to say anything yet, because she wasn't sure she'd be able to get the words out.
"Okay, ladies," Oliver said with a grin, speaking just loudly enough for those at the altar to hear. "This is it. The big one. The one we've all been waiting for."
Jasmine tried — she really did — but she was unable to hold in an unladylike snort while Hermione rolled her eyes in exasperation. Lufestre, who was there to solemnize the magic, gave him a puzzled look. "And I do mean it," Oliver continued. "All your friends have been waiting for this for ages. I think some of us have been looking forward to this day almost as much as you two have."
Both Jasmine and Hermione were smiling now, their nervousness forgotten in the wake of Oliver's joke and his heartfelt words. The air around them began to shimmer with motes of light and energy.
"Ladies and gentlemen, witches and wizards, goblins, veela, and other magical beings," Oliver said, speaking loudly and clearly now. "We are gathered here today under the auspices of Magic..."