Who Will Fill A Coward's Grave

Chapter 21 - Winds of Change

Albus sat calmly in his ministerial chair, prominently placed within the Wizengamot Chamber, while chaos reigned supreme all around him. After yesterday's events, there was always going to be an emergency meeting called for today. The reason for the chaos however was the deliberately provocative article on the font page of today's Prophet.

While the main headline, 'Dark Lord Dead' - and accompanying photograph of a sheet-covered dead dark lord - was certainly cause for countrywide celebrations to commence, it was the secondary front page article below that iconic headline which had the Wizengamot members riled up with anger.

It was now obvious to Albus that Miss Skeeter must have witnessed his conversation with the soldier who had finally ended Lord Voldemort's life. As such, the official statement of what had taken place yesterday must have been immediately consigned to the wastepaper bin in the offices of the Daily Prophet. In hindsight, approaching and mentioning awards to someone who had just battled inferi, dementors and then tore Voldemort into so many pieces the body was eventually carted away in buckets, was not Albus' finest moment.

'Minister Told by Ungrateful Hero to Stick Any Award up his A**E'

If that was all that had been said, some of the Wizengamot members might actually be having an irreverent chuckle at their Intern Minister of Magic's public embarrassment, but that was not the case. Rita's article then proceeded to deliberately provoke discord and disorder over this ungrateful muggle-born's ridiculous response, in her own inimitable shit-stirring style, before then printing Ian's answer verbatim. It was Ian's righteous rant that was responsible for the furore currently surrounding Albus. The Wizengamot members outrage focusing on someone who had dared to publicly criticise them - and the society they led.

'Over a decade ago, magical Britain made it abundantly clear to a teenage muggle-born that he would always be an outsider in 'their' society. The best that I could ever hope for was to be tolerated, while being looked down upon and lorded over by the self-proclaimed pure-blood elite. A brief return to this world is more than enough for me to see that things haven't changed - and don't show any signs of altering in the near future.

You've had years to deal with these problems and haven't, because all Voldemort's supporters were pure-bloods - and doing anything constructive would mean punishing these so-called respectable witches and wizards. That's not something your Ministry of Magic was prepared to even contemplate, far less consider implementing.

Her Majesty ordered this problem dealt with, her innocent subjects being murdered by dementors was never something that would be acceptable to her - it shouldn't be acceptable to your society either. Today, her government and armed forces carried out those orders that you clearly couldn't or wouldn't.

Yes I killed Voldemort today - that was the entire purpose of us being stationed in Hogsmeade Village. We protected the villagers and visiting students, killing the bastard after he tried to murder Harry by cursing the lad while his back was turned. Harry's betrothed shielded him, then I took care of the problem.

I don't see these events changing much though, it didn't the last time. A heroic pair of parents gave their lives so their son, Harry, could live - not so things could just return to what you consider normal with murdering animals simply granted forgiveness out of hand. Think on this - who's going to clean up your next mess?

Take your award and stick it up your arse, I want nothing more to do with you people. I will never return to a society where the circumstances of my birth sees me treated as a second class person. With our task now over, I would expect to be rejoining my old unit. Goodbye and, if I have anything to do with it, we will never meet again.'

Albus couldn't really fault the young man, or what he said. A conversation Albus had joined later simply reinforced his own views that things in magical Britain really now had to change. He approached Harry's friends, looking for any information they might have on Harry's current whereabouts. What he discovered though was nothing short of life-changing for the old wizard. Unlike Archimedes, when Albus had his Eureka moment he was not in a bath - and it wasn't a pleasant experience either.

Justin Finch-Fletchley was describing to the ever-growing group around him exactly what equipment the soldiers had used, that equipment's capabilities and the tactics employed for the entire battle. Albus just had to ask the clearly very knowledgeable student where he acquired such valuable information.

"My family are all military, and that would have been my choice of career too - before I got my Hogwarts letter. Now I'm stuck here until I sit my O.W.L.S. I intend to leave straight after sitting them and return to the muggle world. If I study like crazy, I should still be able to join the forces for officer training after my eighteenth birthday."

One of the crowd that had gathered to listen couldn't help but ask the obvious question. "You would leave Magic behind?"

Shrugging his shoulders, Justin gave the only answer he could. "I want a career where, if I have the ability and work hard, I could see myself pushing toward a good position. My Grandfather was a General, my father is a colonel. My uncle's in the Royal Navy, a ship's captain. No matter how talented or how hard I work, all the top positions within the Ministry would always be closed to me - simply because I'm a muggle-born. That's not something I can change or ever accept, what other option do I have?"

Trying to deflect attention away from Justin's conclusions, Albus asked in all seriousness if he would be joining the men who fought here today. That surprisingly had the Hufflepuff laughing at him.

Justin finally got himself under control and corrected the Minister's obvious misconception. Looking around at those who were listening, he could see they had all thought the same as Dumbledore.

"These men today are no more than a unit, probably put together specifically for this job. The British Army has over a hundred thousand serving soldiers, and tens of thousand more held in reserve - but available for instant call-up if needed. When you include the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force, there are easily far more people in the British Armed Forces than there are witches and wizards living in the UK. I don't know if they were using special ammunition today but the weapons I saw were pretty standard, and nowhere near all they have available to wage war. If they wanted to, the entire village of Hogsmeade could have been wiped out in a matter of seconds - and from a couple of miles away. The first time you would know anything about it would be when your house exploded all around you."

Knowing that all the Ministry's Aurors were currently present in Hogsmeade, along with most of the Order and Kingsley's Phoenix Force, Albus had erroneously assumed what he had witnessed was a major part of the muggle's fighting force. Discovering that an infinitesimal percentage of their resources had just achieved what the combined forces of magical Britain could not was a real shock to the system - one Albus still really hadn't recovered from today.

When cries began to be heard about dragging this upstart solider before the Wizengamot, Albus stood and waited on silence so he could be heard.

"I think it's time for some facts to be heard in this chamber, rather than hearsay and the loud rantings of the uninformed."

This set off some grumblings but no one was prepared to challenge Albus Dumbledore, allowing the intern minister to continue.

"We had every magical resource available to us in Hogsmeade yesterday yet, without the muggle army, we may have been defeated. At best, we could have held off the dementors. Splitting our force to tackle the unexpected hoard of inferi would have seen us stretched to a point where failure wouldn't just have been an option, it would have become a real possibility. Let's not forget the only plan we had for dealing with Voldemort was throwing a fourteen year old boy at him…"

"But there was a prophecy…"

"Yes there was a prophecy, but Harry wasn't mentioned specifically by name. That prophecy has been fulfilled, the sphere is no longer active, and the only certainty is that Voldemort is now totally gone - he will never be coming back. Yesterday I watched as an incredibly small proportion of the British Army dealt with all three problems at once, and made it look easy. Now, my question is this - why would you deliberately antagonise these people by trying to drag one of their soldiers in front of a body that he and they don't recognise as having any authority over them?"

Pointing out their lack of authority was never going to go down well with this group, Wizengamot members prided themselves on their own importance. Albus let them rant and rave for a few minutes before once more taking control of the chamber. He let a little of his own anger out to play. That Albus' anger was directed at the members in the chamber soon brought them to heel.

"Yes we have magic! Could that magic kill an inferi, yes. Could it kill a dementor, no. Could it kill Voldemort - it didn't before. The muggles are masters of destruction, their armies, navy's and air forces could slaughter us before we even knew we were in trouble. No magical shield or ward could hope to stand up to the destruction I witnessed yesterday, and I'm very reliably informed that was nowhere near their full capabilities they showed us. They have weapons so powerful, entire cities can be destroyed by using them. They also have the capability to destroy the entire Ministry of Magic building with a single device. They have items called smart bombs. These are so clever, neither deception charms, wards nor shields would be able to protect us. Whoever the next Minister of Magic is, they will have to take that into account."

Taking a calming breath before he continued, Albus didn't want to say the next part in anger. "The young soldier who finished Voldemort yesterday is not the first muggle-born to think he had no other option but to leave our magical society. Sadder still is the fact that this is still going on today…"

"If they want to leave, good riddance…"

Spotting who had called out that nonsense, Albus pinned the fool with his gaze. "Right now, we have some of Hogwarts best students considering whether it's worth continuing their magical education, knowing they will already be leaving it as soon as they are able. You might say good riddance now, but when news breaks that Harry Potter has left us - our ministry will become the laughing stock of Europe."

This news almost started a riot, with all sorts of nonsense being called out. Albus decided to head most of it off at the pass. "All a student has to do is pass O.W.L.s and they can legally leave Hogwarts. Mr Potter and his betrothed, Miss Granger, could easily pass those exams in a number of subjects right now. There is also no stipulation that they have to sit those exams in Hogwarts, or even Britain."

It was Arthur who then asked a sensible question. "Do you know this for sure, Albus?"

"They left yesterday before I could speak with them but that is now the outcome I expect. Voldemort murdered Harry's parents, Death Eaters murdered Hermione's father - and let's not forget our former Minister of Magic wanted Harry transferred straight to Azkaban for defending himself against those murdering Death Eaters. Apart from their friends - who we both know they'll keep in touch with - our society has absolutely nothing to offer them."

Hearing these truths, in a Wizengamot chamber that was packed with press and public visitors too, proved too much for one member. Standing, he made a proposal to the chamber. "We may not have the authority to pull this soldier before us, we certainly have the means and the laws to do that for Potter. I propose we do that very thing. Let's get the boy here in front of us…"

This drew loud derisory laughter, and immediately had all eyes focused on the source - Arthur Weasley. It wasn't intentional on Arthur's part but he began destroying the image of him being mild-mannered and easy-going for everyone who was in that chamber.

"And how do you propose we do this? My department is stretched to its limits at the moment. Most of our best aurors now work for someone else…"

This was immediately seized upon by the member who had made the ridiculous proposal. "Employ the Phoenix Force to hunt him down and drag him here. That's what they do, wands for hire…"

Staring at the wizard, Arthur summed up the situation in one sentence. "You are a bloody imbecile! First, the Phoenix Force are not wands for hire, they work for a specific person. Lord Black pays the salaries of the force. He had no faith in a Ministry of Magic that threw him in Azkaban without even a trial, and tried to do the same to his godson. Sirius wanted a competent band of witches and wizards to help his godson, Harry Potter, take the fight to Voldemort. Every single member of that force was at Hogsmeade yesterday and, to a man, that same force would back Lord Black against any illegal moves by the Ministry of Magic against his godson. Let's not forget, most of these people were forced to resign from an incompetent Ministry - before being offered this lifeline by Lord Black. They, like Harry Potter and Hermione Granger, owe us nothing."

Looking around the chamber, Arthur asked a question that left the vast majority of the Wizengamot members squirming.

"How many of you were in Hogsmeade yesterday? There were six Weasleys standing beside Harry Potter, including four of my sons and my wife. So was Emma Granger, The muggle mother of Hermione's betrothed, and someone who already considers Harry her son. This woman took part in the ritual inside Gringotts that put Voldemort into a coma, her feelings toward Harry more than making up for her lack of magic. She was instrumental in the introduction of the communications systems we used yesterday and, not only works with Albus as a liaison, she is an employee of the Phoenix Force while working directly with the muggle Prime Minister too. Woe betide anyone who tries to arrest Harry Potter on some manufactured charges. Doing something that stupid could literally see our Ministry fall - something neither Voldemort or Grindelwald managed to achieve."

There were cries questioning Arthur's sanity after those remarks but, when he held his hands up for silence, the Head of the D.M.L.E. got it.

"Year after year, our society sees talented people leaving it. These people, be they squibs, muggle-born or otherwise, take that talent into the muggle world. That's who ended the threat of the inferi, dementors and Voldemort yesterday. Not only that, they snuffed-out all three of these major threats and, as Albus just said, they made it look easy. This was a mere fraction of the people we chase away from our society, yet my entire department couldn't protect the Ministry if that small group who battled yesterday turned their weapons in our direction. It therefore goes without saying that we wouldn't have an earthly chance if their full might was ever focused against us."

The member who had stood first to make his proposal was left looking for answers, because he clearly had none himself. "Are we just supposed to sit here and do nothing?"

Albus wasn't the only one who had an epiphany yesterday, Arthur had thought of nothing else since. He decided now was as good a time as any to air his thoughts on the matter. "No, doing nothing is the one option certainly not open to us. As a society, we have to change. We need to evolve in order to cope with the world that surrounds us - rather than sit on our arses and expect tide and time to accept our commands to stop moving - simply because we have magic."

The Head of the D.M.L.E. called for the chamber's pensive to be brought forward and asked Albus to deposit his memory of yesterday's battle into the basin. It was compulsive viewing for an audience who understood just how deadly each of the triple threats faced yesterday were. As the memory ended, every member now agreed with Albus and Arthur on at least one point, the army had made it look easy.

As the memory ended and the silence dragged on inside the chamber, Arthur had an idea of how to reinforce his case calling on their need to change. Acting on that idea, Arthur took out his mobile and hit the speed dial for Emma before putting the phone on speaker. It took a moment to connect and Emma's voice sounded slightly metallic but it was clearly heard in a still silent chamber.

"Hello Arthur, is something wrong? Sirius assured us everyone was fine after yesterday."

"Everyone is fine here, Emma. You're also on speaker in the middle of the Wizengamot Chamber. How are Harry and Hermione?"

"Oh, you know the Ministry's wards will fry that phone in a few minutes? They're both currently walking along the beach, their injuries mean it will be a few days before their skin can take them swimming in the sea. Tonks and Ian are here too, bodyguards to those two. Hold on, Sirius wants a word..Take care, Arthur, and pass on our best wishes to your family."

A new voice was now coming from the device. "Arthur, I'm assuming you're doing this to demonstrate a point to the Wizengamot?"

"Yes, Sirius. I'm trying to show them we no longer live in Queen Victoria's reign."

"Fair enough, just pass on this message. My godson and Miss Granger will take time to recover from yesterday, then we'll sit down as a family and discuss what happens next. We won't accept anyone from outside our family trying to influence that decision."

Albus had made his way over to Arthur so they could watch the Wizengamot member's reactions while viewing his memory of yesterday being projected by the pensieve. He leaned over and spoke into the phone. "Sirius, give them both our thanks and best wishes. All I ask is to be kept informed, whatever decision you all reach."

Sirius barely had time to acknowledge that before the phone started to crackle and then die.

"In testing we have found that heavily warded places, like the Ministry and Hogwarts, really affect the electronics inside these devices. As Emma said, I knew that before contacting her. As I suspected, they are currently on Lord Black's tropical island, thousands of miles away from here. My four youngest holidayed there during the summer and were able to call home, using these devices that are becoming commonplace in muggle society. During this last conflict, I certainly slept safer knowing that, should my home be attacked, I could contact the Phoenix Force and have their officers responding in under a minute. Compare that to tying a note to an owl's leg…"

Giving that comparison a moment to sink in, Albus then fully endorsed everything Arthur had just said, before adding his own portion of drama to today's production.

"It's no secret that I took on this position solely in the hope I could hand over a 'Voldemort free' country to the next minister. Since that has been achieved, I now intend to step down - effective immediately. I shall spend my final days at Hogwarts, trying to prepare our young people for life in our world. This chamber will determine what that world will be, and how many of them will be welcomed there. That's a job I'm not afraid to say I'm too old - and too set in my ways - to do anymore. My last action within this chamber will be to nominate who I think would be the best person to take our society forward. I nominate Arthur Weasley for the post of Minister of Magic."

With that, Albus walked out of the once again silent chamber with his head held high.

-oOoOo-

A much more cordial, though a lot less public, meeting was also taking place in Downing Street. The Colonel knew he'd done a good job, but the Prime Minister actually personally serving him a glass of exceptional single malt really emphasised that point. He couldn't help but think the politician was after something, and Prime Ministers usually got what they wanted. The Colonel decided to play along and see where this led, there wasn't really another option available to him at the moment.

"Can you give me your honest appraisal of how the battle played out?"

Taking a sip of the best whiskey he'd ever tasted, the Colonel proceeded to lay out his thoughts. He'd been expecting that question since before he'd walked in the door. "Our dementor solution went pretty much to plan, which in itself was rather gratifying. Those zombies turning up proved no opposition for our troops, though our press would have had a field day if they ever got wind of them. All our troops had standing orders to engage Voldemort, engage and destroy with extreme prejudice. That I would say was the only part of the operation where we got lucky."

Even the experienced soldier needed another sip of his whiskey before he could continue. Their carefully crafted mission had almost come apart while victory was not only within their grasp, it was prematurely being celebrated. Losing either of the teens who had been targeted and attacked would have placed an entirely different slant on the day.

"Potter and the Granger ladies had helped us so much with this mission, the troops were looking on them almost as if they were part of the unit. Between the ground troops and air support, we had every part of that village covered. Voldemort waited until the streets were full of people celebrating before springing his attack. Those two kids getting knocked to the ground while defending themselves was the only thing that gave us a clean shot at the bastard. Voldemort was never leaving that village alive, that he was the only one that perished in the final attack was the real bonus - and where we rode our luck."

The Prime Minister raised his own glass to that. He too personally knew both Harry and Hermione, while Emma actually worked for him. Had Voldemort succeeded in murdering either of those teens before being terminated, this would now be an entirely different meeting. He pushed on though with his new agenda.

"Can you give me an assessment of these magical's abilities, and any threat they pose to the country?"

"Some of their abilities, and equipment, are nothing short of incredible. Being able to show a group of people an actual memory is simply mind-blowing, as is the ability to shrink and then enlarge major pieces of equipment. I could go on all day but you already know most of that stuff. Using the choppers should instal a bit of respect into whoever takes over as their next Minister, it certainly was a massive shock to those troops they had on the ground. Their Ministry of Magic is too divisive and disorganised to ever really pose a serious risk to us, they couldn't even get their shit together to deal with the problems they already had. It's the prospect of another magical splinter group forming, and then targeting us, that will cause any sleepless nights we have."

It was time for another sip of whiskey while he put his thoughts in order over this threat. "We passed this entire thing off to the press and public as a terrorist group who had managed to get their hands on a chemical weapon. We would currently have no defence against a real magical terrorist group setting out to deliberately do us harm. We are talking about people who have the ability to pop past all of our security, make themselves invisible and can cast spells on me or you that will place us completely under their control. Now that should frighten more than me."

That was exactly what the Prime Minister wanted to hear from this very capable officer, it matched his own analysis perfectly. Now to see if he could do something proactive about those very real threats, rather than having to sit back and wait on being contacted by the Ministry of Magic next time there was a problem.

"I think you would need to be insane not to be frightened by the potential threats any such group could pose - that, and our current lack of any defence against it. But for Emma Granger, things would have been so very different. The magicals were sitting in this very office, informing me we had a problem but couldn't do anything about it. Emma rubbished that notion, and your unit more than proved a point yesterday. We now know they couldn't have dealt with those dementors anyway, yet we wiped them out. The million pound question though is what do we do next time? Can we honestly say they're won't be a next time?"

The Colonel immediately worked out where the Prime Minister was going with this, and really wanted in. This latest mission fulfilled one of the main reasons for him joining the forces in the first place, to protect people from very real danger. "If you are proposing a unit to monitor and deal with any threats from the magical world then I would certainly like to be part of that. We could also see this unit crossing over into mainstream use for special situations. Her Majesty and your bodyguard detail could certainly benefit from having someone who would not only recognise a magical threat but be able to respond properly to it. Supplying Her Majesty with a voice-activated portkey would mean she could be instantly whisked from any potentially dangerous situation to a place of safety. Hostage situations is another use I can think of straight off the bat. Invisibility and then one of those portkey contraptions could have any potential hostages safe before terrorists even knew they were gone."

The Prime Minister didn't even attempt to hide his smile. "I not only want to set up such a unit, I want you to lead it. Draw up what you need, personnel- equipment - facilities - the works. I also want a list of potential or perceived threats, and what your unit's response to them will be. I hope we can convince Emma Granger to maintain her position, though mainly working for you and liaising between us. Whether the new Minister of Magic wishes to keep her position open will be up to them. Harry and Hermione get whatever they want, whether that's training, university places or even jobs within the unit. Their country owes them and I intend to see that debt paid - and so does Her Majesty. You and the Sargent who finished Voldemort can expect to be hearing from her too."

The Colonel had no problem with any of that, having already established a good working relationship with Emma. She also had contacts within the magical world that would become an invaluable source of information. He had been privileged enough to witness one of Harry and Hermione's magical training sessions. The determination and dedication they brought to that session, not to mention their amazing magical powers and abilities to think outside the box, impressed the hell out of him. He would be delighted to find a pace for both in his new unit, though suspected they would be a good bit older before either even considered that option.

It was rare for both parties to leave a meeting thinking they had gotten exactly what they wanted, that though was the case here. They happily shook hands before the Colonel left Downing Street through a door no press photographer even knew existed.

-oOoOo-

The five who now considered themselves a family were sitting on the porch of what appeared from the outside to be a beach hut, the inside was totally different though. Emma was thinking for at least the thousandth time that she really loved magic. They were relaxing after a wonderful meal, sitting chatting while watching the tropical sunset. Life was good, and they had definitely eared this break, but - sooner or later - they would have to return to the real world.

Watching Hermione snuggle into Harry, as both of them shared a wicker armchair, brought a smile to Emma's face. She didn't think these two could have gotten any closer, Voldemort's attack on the young couple last week had proved Emma wrong. After almost losing one another, they were constantly seeking assurance that the other was alright. Holding hands, cuddling - they were rarely out of physical contact. Emma didn't blame them one bit, she found herself hugging both of them for some simple reassurance of her own. Knowing this discussion had to happen however, Emma just threw the first question out there.

"This break has been lovely, amazing actually, but what do we do next?"

Sirius' wide smile robbed his words of any malice, though he was most certainly making a serious point. "Whatever the hell we want to!"

Hermione's head was resting on Harry's shoulder while she lounged on his lap with her legs dangling over the arm of their shared chair. She was first to throw an opinion out there. "Even though Dumbledore has resigned all his positions, except Headmaster, I don't want to risk putting us back into Hogwarts to find out if he has actually changed. He's spent a long lifetime manipulating people and events to get what he wants. Dumbledore may say he wants to change but how do we know if he can?"

They were all well aquatinted with what was happening back in Britain, both the magical and mundane sides. Emma and Ian had to keep in constant touch with their superiors, while Shack also kept Sirius up to date on at least a daily basis. Their week's break away on the island hopefully giving things time to settle back down in Britain.

Holding Hermione closer, Harry added his opinion to the melting pot that would be stirred and carefully seasoned before a final family decision was served up.

"With Arthur as the new Minister of Magic, it should be safe enough for us to return to Britain. Like Hermione, I think I'm finished with Hogwarts too - and not just because of Dumbledore. Learning from tutors suited us both, and is something we would like to continue. The offer from the Prime Minister is an unbelievable one - and certainly something Hermione and I are considering. I was toying with the idea of becoming an auror, until seeng the way the Ministry almost deliberately got Tonks killed."

Hermione then seamlessly took over, letting the three adults know this was something they had certainly discussed in detail amongst themselves. "We've gotten to enjoy training and really enjoyed helping Ian's unit - no one can dispute that help made a great difference to what happened in the Hogsmeade battle. As well as training though, they're offering to let us study whatever - and wherever - we want. Adding that to the very real possibility of someday making a difference with our lives is a pretty irresistible combination. As an added bonus, there is also the protection angle to consider too. Should someone from the Ministry ever try to throw either of us in Azkaban again, we know for certain our new department would tear those prison walls down to get us out. Just look what they did to the Dursleys..."

This saw Harry slowly sit up straight, taking a now blushing Hermione with him, since this was the first he had heard about anything happening to his rather obnoxious relatives. With the other four now looking at each other, Sirius nodded for Emma to take the lead in this as Hermione just cuddled tighter into her betrothed.

"It wasn't anything we said or did, Harry, but somehow the government discovered how the Dursleys had treated you. They put that family under an intense investigation, and things didn't go too well for them. They were quickly found guilty of child abandonment for leaving you in London, which also cost Vernon his job. There were tax irregularities too, which saw them being forced to sell their house to pay their debts. Last I heard Vernon was packing shelves in a supermarket while Petunia pulled pints in a pub."

Hermione could feel Harry beginning to shake. That had her worried until he couldn't hold his laughter in any longer and all the tension left the group with Harry's chuckles. After getting himself under control, a stray thought soon had Harry laughing again. It took a couple of moments before he could articulate that thought to the rest of the group. "I was just thinking how much Vernon would hate his wife being chatted up every night by drunk men. Aunt Petunia will certainly hate it too."

Sirius and Remus were howling with laughter at that, while Hermione tried rather unsuccessfully to convince Harry that was rather unkind of him. Her own giggles of amusement though were rendering those efforts particularly ineffectual. A smiling Emma then delivered the coup de grace.

"They were also sentenced to a couple of hundred hours of community service - each. They have to fit working with the homeless into their busy schedules too. That was the only thing that saved them from a custodial sentence, and they are also monitored by social services so they don't mistreat your cousin either. That is the Dursley family's new normal..."

"While Harry's is to enjoy this wonderful tropical island with his family." Hermione punctuated that statement with a quick kiss for her betrothed.

Harry sat back once more, and again taking Hermione with him. "I had honestly forgotten all about them. They didn't want me and I was glad to be rid of them. I have to say though, as punishments go, that was poetic justice. It's up there with Noah Allen not graduating as an auror, while Amanda not only graduated - she got a mMinisterial Award for bravery too."

This had his betrothed chuckling again. "After the Prophet printed what Ian said, they really had to find someone to give an award to. Noah was certainly a prick though, and should never get to wear an auror uniform. Three times we put him down during their training, and he claimed we cheated every time."

Moony threw another question out there. "Has Ian asked Tonks yet?"

This time both teens were left wondered what was happening, before Emma filled them in. "They're recruiting for the new unit, looking to get a few more magical troops on board. Tonks name was very high on the list of people they wanted, and Ian's been tasked with recruiting her."

Sirius' loud laugh reverberated around the porch once more. "I've been impressed with the people you work for, Emma. Getting Ian to ask her is a master stroke. They are currently walking arm in arm along the beach, and enjoying this wonderful sunset together. I can't see Tonks saying no to Ian tonight, no matter what he asks her."

Although blushing at Sirius' rather suggestive remark, Hermione made their intentions known. She and Harry had even talked tentatively about going to university together, and joining this new unit would make all of that happen."If Tonks and Ian are going to be in this unit too, then we certainly want to be a part of that. I don't know how I would take to having mum as one of our bosses though..."

Hermione had the giggles again, while her mother simply smiled at her. "I'll be working more in administration, not barking orders at you two - unless I need to."

This drew smiles from both teens, so she gave them what she knew they'd both consider bad news. "There are also awards coming our way, and you can't tell Her Majesty no - far less go as far as Ian did with Dumbledore. It will all be kept low key though. The Colonel doesn't want members of his new unit to have their pictures plastered all over the news and daily papers. He wants the unit and its members to be kept as much of a secret as possible."

It was time to give them the good news Emma had just heard earlier today. "Arthur still intends to keep me on as a direct liaison between the Minister of Magic and the Prime Minister, which has really lessened any fears our government has. They also know that governments change though, hence the formation of the new unit."

Into this pleasant and relaxed atmosphere, Hermione dropped what both teens considered to be a bombshell. "I know I said I would destroy the Elder Wand when this was all over, but I now think it would be wrong to do so. That wand saved Harry's life, it probably saved both our lives, it just feels wrong to destroy something that we might need again some day. I have no intention of using it, or even carrying it around with me, so we thought of locking it away somewhere safe."

They expected an argument, instead they received two nods of agreement and a hug from Emma. Sirius then offered a suggestion. "We're all rather frightened by the power this wand can wield, and worried it could have an affect in its owner. If you want to lock it away, can I suggest placing it in my vault - with a family meeting requiring all of us to agree before it ever gets removed and used again?"

That suggestion met with total agreement from everyone there. As the wand's master, only Hermione could wield it. Since she would now need the agreement of the other four before it could be removed from Sirius' vault, Hermione was more than happy with that compromise. Remus though had one final suggestion, one that showed why he was a marauder.

"Of course, we'll tell Albus - and anyone else who knows Hermione has it - that it was destroyed. Only we five will ever know the truth."

With everything now more or less settled, the finer details could be worked out later, they all went back to enjoying their well-earned break. Sirius' suggestion that their break was so well-earned, they should make it last at least another week was instantly agreed on by all.

A/N A short epilogue should see 'Coward's Grave' joining my other stories and being marked as complete. Will attempt to write that next, before returning to work on 'Proud Parents'. As usual for me, I don't have one word of anything else written when I post a chapter. Hope to have the epilogue with you soon - certainly within weeks rather than months. Real life has been crazy recently but things are gradually getting back to normal now. There is only so much celebrating a body as old as mine can take...