Three days later, Harry stood in the new Atrium at the Ministry of Magic, ready to listen to Hermione speak. With the death of Samantha Lyman, Hermione had been instated as the Minister of Magic moments after their return from the island. It was an unceremonious way for the first Muggleborn Minister of Magic to be sworn in but it was necessary.
Something about that probably appealed to Hermione now that he thought about it more. In either case, per tradition, The Ministry of Magic had been closed yesterday, observing the single day of mourning traditional for a deceased Minister of Magic.
But at 8 AM the following morning, business had returned to normal. That meant facing the press and as the new Minister of Magic, Hermione had been adamant that she would personally answer all of the questions about Lyman's death and the actions taken by the Masters of Death. So, after one full day of work, Hermione started her second day as Minister of Magic by facing the press.
Harry chose to stand in the back. Hermione had invited him to stand with her on stage but he knew that the story would become Harry's relationship with Hermione. Even without his physical presence that might be the case and Harry wanted to do his very best to ensure that Hermione's tenure as Minister of Magic was squarely focused on the things that she wished to do.
As Hermione approached the podium at the front of the room, cameras snapped thousands of pictures, nearly blinding her. For a few moments, Hermione stood and waited before realizing that at no point were the cameramen going to stop. Realizing that she was going to have to press on, Hermione did just that.
"Two days ago, the leadership of the Masters of Death was killed by Ginny Weasley under orders from the Ministry of Magic after nearly a year undercover among their ranks."
Instantly, questions were launched at Hermione from every corner of the room. Rather than try and answer all of them, she simply pressed on.
"The Masters of Death was being led by former Ministry officials Christopher Wise, Tiberius Ogden and Kathryn Downey. Gemma Fairley and former Minister of Magic were accomplices to their actions under the threat of violence to their friends and family. Ginny Weasley had been operating as a secret operative of the Ministry since her orchestrated escape from Azkaban over four years ago. Unfortunately, despite the success of her actions against The Masters of Death, Ms. Weasley's mental health had deteriorated to such a point that she decided to reformat The Masters of Death to suit her own desires. Due to this, Hogwarts Headmaster Harry Potter attempted to bring her into the Ministry of Magic for her actions. When this happened, Ms. Weasley fought back against Headmaster Potter, who accidentally killed her in self defense."
It was the official story and objectively the truth. Still, Harry felt that there was some sort of lie buried deep within it. Harry had been more than willing to do damage to Ginny, probably even kill her. The fact that it had happened accidentally was circumstantial at best.
Although there was a chance that was simply the guilt that Harry felt for Ginny's death talking.
"Speaking of Headmaster Potter, The Wizengamot has decided to rescind the charges against the Headmaster, allowing him to return to his post at Hogwarts." Hermione said with a smile. They both knew that they were fooling no one with Hermione referring to Harry by his title. It would look like insider politics either way if Hermione had simply pardoned Harry. Thankfully, the return of Harry Potter had been one of the first topics The Wizengamot wished to address with the new Minister after it was discovered that Harry had once again saved them all from The Masters of Death.
"As we speak, Aurors are executing secret missions up and down the country, bringing in members of the Masters of Death. After the destruction of the Masters' leadership, documentation and strategic plans were discovered by Headmaster Potter which led to the identification of nearly one hundred hidden members of The Masters of Death. While this in no way will eliminate the Masters of Death, the loss of so many members in addition to their leadership will severely cripple their ability to impact Europe for quite some time. With that weakness, we hope to coordinate with other European Ministries to ensure that they are put away for good."
"Finally, with the death of Samantha Lyman and my appointment to her post, we are now on our third Minister of Magic in less than eight months. Both myself and The Wizengamot are committed to ensure that the democracy that we have fought so hard to earn will be kept alive. Therefore, elections will be held in one month's time to ensure that we do not have a Minister of Magic who the people do not wish to serve. In the meantime, I will do my best to protect the people of Magical England and work diligently to continue the progress that the Ministry had made before The Masters of Death began their manipulation."
Percy stepped forward and whispered something in Hermione's ear before turning to the press.
"The Minister will only take a few questions before we are needed to return to the Executive Offices for a series of meetings regarding the upcoming elections. You first?" Percy said, pointing to an elderly witch in the front row.
"With the resignation of Charles Hope, have you appointed a new Senior Undersecretary?"
"I have. Percy Weasley has agreed to take up the position for the next month. If I retain my current position, then Percy has asked that I find a replacement so that he can spend time with his exceedingly pregnant wife." Hermione joked. "In that case, I have convinced Cho Chang to join my staff as Senior Undersecretary."
That had been a lot of work. Firstly, Cho was still in St. Mungo's after the raid on Gemma Fairley's home. Secondly, Cho had apparently still be harboring some rough feelings about Hermione's supposed sabotage of her and Harry's romance fifth year. It was nothing that a simple conversation between adults hadn't been able to fix but Harry had been worried that Cho might have turned her down. As it was, Cho agreed to the position long term and gave Hermione a very experienced Ministry official to support her. It also gave Hermione a stark advantage in the upcoming election by having a publicly stated staff prior to the election, something no one else would have.
"What about Ronald Weasley's position?"
"I will not have a Junior Undersecretary until after the election." Hermione said as Harry inwardly cringed. "If I return after the election...Harry Potter has agreed to fill the vacancy."
Instantly, the room was abuzz with murmured voices. It had been nearly one hundred years since the sitting Headmaster of Hogwarts had left the school for anything other than retirement. Of course, Harry being the youngest Headmaster in the school's history meant that it was unlikely he would continue that trend. However, Harry had also lasted less than a year at the position, which was probably the more scandalous of the two sides to the surprise appointment.
"Harry has decided that he will continue at his position at Hogwarts through the end of the school year. At which point, he will pass the position to Neville Longbottom, current professor Herbology and Head of Gryffindor House. Transition planning between the two has officially begun already."
"Will the Headmaster be leaving regardless of the election's outcome?" came a voice from the crowd.
"Yes." Harry said from the back of the room as he approached the stage.
It was not something that Harry had done lightly. However, in the days after Ginny's death, Harry realized that she had been right about something. His trust of the Ministry was devoted solely to the people in it, not to the institution itself. It was also related to something that Arthur had said at the beginning of the school year as well. While Harry never believed that he was deserting the country by teaching at Hogwarts, he did realize that with the fame and influence he wielded, he was probably best served as a mover and shaker at the Ministry, using his influence to better the entire country and not just its education. It would allow Harry to cast a net over the whole country and hopefully create a better world for it.
It was exactly what Grindelwald had warned him of, only Harry didn't view it as a bad thing. He never wanted to control everything. Harry doubted that he would ever run for Minister of Magic and he certainly didn't want to be in the Wizengamot. But, with his new position, he could work for those that he trusted while not being tied to any one particular subject, letting those around him influence him and then using his own judgement to determine the counsel that he would give to Hermione or whoever the next Minister of Magic was.
"Sorry." Harry said as he reached Hermione.
"No need to apologize." Hermione replied. "Although this is why I wanted you up here."
"You were right once again." Harry said before kissing Hermione on the cheek and then turning to the crowd.
"Yes, I will be leaving at the end of the school year regardless of the results of the election. I have supreme faith in the abilities of Neville and Luna and feel that the school will be in better hands. Meanwhile, I will be returning to work for the Ministry in whatever capacity it will have me. My sincere hope is that The Minister wins her reelection and I'm allowed to serve as Junior Undersecretary. If that is not the case, then I will offer my services to the next Minister and I hope that whoever that is will use my abilities to their fullest."
A week later, Harry and Hermione were invited to Ron's house for dinner. Harry had been hesitant to go for one simple reason: he didn't know how any of the Weasley family felt about him. He wouldn't blame them if they hated him. With Fred and Ginny both dead either indirectly or directly because of Harry, he would have absolutely been willing to accept that they would have hated him for the rest of his life.
Thankfully, they were better people than that. When Harry and Hermione arrived, the entire Weasley clan was already there and waiting. As Harry walked in, he couldn't help but notice the plaques again, honoring those that had died in The Battle of Hogwarts. They were a stark reminder on a day like today of what the battles that Harry had faced had cost the world.
Harry breathed deeply when George was the one to approach him, ready for the worst.
"We all saw your face when you told us what happened, Harry." he said with sobbed hitches. "I know the guilt that you feel, we all do. But we know you, Harry, and we believe you when you say that it's not what you wanted."
"Really?" Harry asked, not daring to hope that George wasn't ready to kill him on the spot.
"We'll always be heartbroken." Molly said from behind George. "But I think so will you."
"Of course." Harry assured them before admitting something that he never would have before. "I haven't slept since it happened. Every time I lay down, I see her face disappear over the ledge and every time, I do everything I can to bring her back."
"You can't bring her back, mate." Ron warned him. "Don't do what she did. She lost herself over Fred and none of us knew how to bring her back."
"I won't." Harry promised him. That's when Harry looked over Ron's shoulder and noticed that something was missing. "Where's her plaque?"
Ron turned around slowly and went to the spot where it had been, staring at it intensely for several seconds before he spoke. When he did, the tone was something that Harry had never heard from him before: somber and harsh at the same time as if he couldn't decide whether he was distraught or enraged.
To be honest, Harry couldn't decide either.
"I took it down." Ron admitted darkly. "This will be her legacy. Ours too, at least for a little while. She'll be the Weasley who lost it. She'll be the one who broke and decided that the only way to fix the world was to tear it down."
Harry understood all of Ron's word and the sentiment behind him. But that didn't mean that he thought Harry was right.
"I would leave it up." Harry countered. "The Ginny that came back wasn't the Ginny I remember at all. The Ginny that I remember was feisty. She believed in people and she believed in the good of the world. The person that came back to us didn't believe in any of that. She believed that the world was dark and full of only people that looked out for themselves."
"But look at what she did, Harry." Ron replied. "She may not have struck the blow but so many people are dead because of what she did."
"Those people died because they believed in what we were doing." Harry said. "Kingsley and Hannah died not because Ginny killed them but because they believed that the Masters of Death were wrong and they gave their lives to ensure that they were taken down. For that, they did not die in vain."
Having said that, Harry turned back to the room. "I figured you should be the first that I will tell. I've sold Grimmauld Place."
"What?" Bill said in shock. "What for?"
"Firstly, I don't live there anymore. Second, I feel partially responsible for Ginny's plan. Between myself and Dumbledore, we never gave her a good example of someone that truly trusted in the Ministry. Rather than stepping up and attempting to affect change from inside the Ministry, we rebelled, fighting against it. That's what Ginny wanted to do: rebel on a worldwide scale."
"So never again can something like The Order of the Phoenix or Dumbledore's Army exist. You can still admit your membership in either group and wear them as a badge of honor. But if you want to fight against the forces of darkness, then step up and fight them as part of the Ministry rather than fighting in the shadows. If we do that, we may inspire more people than just our closest friends to fight back. If we do that, people that we don't even know may be moved by our choices and join the Aurors or the Hit Wizards."
"Grimmauld Place stood, to me, as a symbol of the Order. With its location made public, we'll step out from the shadows and we'll take on any new threats in the light."
"Who did you sell it to?" Arthur asked.
"I sold it to a Muggle who promised to tear the thing down." Harry chuckled. "I think he's putting a shopping center there."
"Sirius would have loved that." George laughed. "Grimmauld Place sold to a Muggle!"
"I thought there was a certain irony to that as well." Harry grinned.
Godric's Hollow was still in shambles when Harry visited for the first time since The Masters of Death had razed the city. Despite the fact that it was an almost entirely magic village, there were still whole sections of the town that had been abandoned. While it was likely that those homes were owned by the few Muggles that had lived in town, it still made for a stark image as Harry walked through the town.
The house where Voldemort had killed Harry's parents was gone, burned to the ground. The statue in the center of town that had memorialized his parents was also gone, clearly shattered by a curse of some kind. The church was a shell of its former self, its steeple laying on the ground next to it.
But amidst all of the destruction, the graveyard remained relatively untouched. Whether it was Ginny's instruction or not, the graves of Dumbledore's family as well as Harry's remained unmarked. Somberly, Harry stopped at the base of his parents' grave and waited for the words to come.
"I know it's been awhile since I've come to see you." Harry whispered even though he was certain that no one could overhear him. "Things have been busy."
Harry chuckled at the non-joke.
"Busy is a stupid word to use." Harry commented. "I did something. It was an accident but it wasn't? She...Ginny. I've told you guys about her before. She went down a path that I couldn't follow. I wanted to. I wanted to let her go. Everything inside me told me to let her go but I just couldn't. She was going to a place that would threaten everything and everyone."
"We fought. We fought and I killed her. I don't think that I meant to. Or maybe I did? I'm not really sure. I know that I would have. After our initial attack at Hogwarts, I know that I'm capable of it. I know that if it had really come down to it and it had been a choice between her or me: I would have made it. But I don't think I intended to kill her. I had already destroyed her wand. But she came after me with a knife and I knocked her backwards. I didn't mean for her to trip off the edge. At least, I don't think that I did."
The winter air whipped through the darkness and caused Harry to pull his cloak tighter around him, begging to keep him warm.
"Why wouldn't you have stopped, Ginny?" Harry said, clearly no longer talking to just his parents. "You lost a brother, I know. But you had a family that still loved you. They tried to help you through it even if they didn't know how. Why couldn't that have been enough? Even after you killed Malfoy, why couldn't that have been the end of it? You got your revenge, dammit!"
Harry kicked at the snow in front of him. For the past week, Harry had held everything in, not even letting Hermione see just how broken he was. But with no one around, he couldn't hold it in any longer.
"You got it! You got the revenge that you wanted! I never understood why you blamed Malfoy for Fred's death but you did and you killed him for it. Why wasn't that enough for you?"
"It wasn't enough because you never believed that there was anything wrong with it." Harry realized softly. "You thought that your justification meant that you could simply walk away from it. But it was never that simple because if it were, the world would just murder everyone who slighted them. Anarchy would reign supreme. Although, by the end, I suppose that's what you wanted: a world in which you didn't have to bother with the laws and simply destroy anything that wronged you."
Harry stood and waited for more tears to come. He waited for more words. But neither ended up forming. He knew that his response was only half-formed but he supposed that was because he only understood half of Ginny's rationale for her actions. He knew that she believed the Ministries of the world were corrupt but he never understood how she could think that simply taking matters into her own hands was an acceptable option for stopping that corruption.
The fact was that Harry would never understand that, something that would leave Ginny's death like an open wound, never completely able to heal.
"I'll do what I can to remake your legacy, Gin. I'll do what I can to use your actions as a launching point for something better. But in the end, the world will remember you as a villain and there's only so much I can do about that. Even Harry Potter isn't all-powerful."
Harry made only the rarest of appearance at Hogwarts these days. With Neville and Luna already installed as the new Headmaster and Assistant Headmaster for the upcoming school year, Harry was less and less necessary. While he was technically still the Headmaster through June (or until Hermione became Minister of Magic and then he would further split his time between Hogwarts and the Ministry), there wasn't much day to day need for his presence. It was still required that his signature be on most of the paper, however, and so Harry typically spent one day a week sharing the Headmaster's Office with Neville so that he could get some of that pile of paperwork done.
He also used these sessions to work with Neville, training him on the things that he had learned over his six months as Headmaster, along with his four year tenure as Assistant Headmaster. It certainly wasn't a perfect or complete training but it was what Harry had. Minerva was attempting to help but her health was continuing to deteriorate from what it had been at the beginning of the school year to the point where she frequently spent entire days in a wheelchair. As a result, Harry had granted each student a one year exemption from the study of History of Magic until a new instructor could be found.
Harry was alone in his office when the gargoyle that was the entrance moved aside, allowing someone entrance. As the person emerged from the hallway, Harry was glad to see that it was James Cresswell.
"How are you, James?" Harry said with a smile. "Please, sit."
"I'm doing fine, Headmaster." James said nervously as he sat.
"Harry is fine." he said. "If everything goes well, I'm only going to be your Headmaster for another week."
"We'll miss you." James admitted bashfully. "Never thought I would say that to a professor."
"Hogwarts will always be my home." Harry admitted wistfully, looking around the room. "Despite the fact that I know that I will be going to do good work, I honestly can't believe I'm leaving."
"You could always stay."
"I could but I won't." Harry admitted. "I have other things to do. That's what I wanted to speak to you about."
"It is one of the greatest regrets that I was unable to finish instructing our Auror prep course this year." Harry said honestly. "However, during the time that we had together, I saw great potential in you. Such a great potential, in fact, that I contacted some of my friends at the Auror Academy and put in a good word for you."
James was stunned. "Thank you." he muttered.
"I am certain that they will accept you and likely with a scholarship of some sort." Harry grinned. "However, I would ask that you consider another employment offer."
"Yours?" James asked in confusion. "Why would you want to hire me?"
"Because I saw in that classroom something that cannot be taught. You are brilliant, James. There is no doubt of that. You pick up concepts with ease and your traditional classwork suggests a raw intelligence that could be compared with some of the brightest minds this school has ever seen."
"Thank you, sir. I don't know what this has to do with a job."
"You would most definitely be a great Auror." Harry continued, only barely acknowledging the boy's response. "However, I would like you to come work for me."
"Assuming the Minister of Magic is re-elected, I will become the new Junior Undersecretary." Harry said before leaning over his desk. "Between you and me, I have spoken with many people who know about these kind of things. They assure me that her chances of winning again are very good."
"It is." Harry said happily, leaning back in his chair. "As Junior Undersecretary, I will be in charge of the political organization of the Minister's Office. Effectively, I will be her ambassador to the Wizengamot. I know that goblin rights reform is on her agenda. I also know that she wants to continue to honor those who died during the Second Wizarding War."
James understandably perked up at that. His father, Dirk, had died at the hands of Snatchers at the end of the war, just a few weeks before The Battle of Hogwarts.
"Did you know that I met your father in passing once?"
"Yes." Harry revealed. "He would have never known it. It was during my time on the run. We were hiding in the woods and your father along with some other runaways set up camp near our tent. We were warded so they never knew that we were there."
"What was he like?"
"Well, he wasn't my biggest fan." Harry grimaced. "Seemed to think that I was running away from the fight."
"Don't be. He wasn't entirely wrong. We ran because we didn't know what we were doing." Harry admitted. "We didn't have the skills or the resources to bring Voldemort down. Only the desire to do good things in a world that seemed to resist us at every turn."
Harry stood and made his way around his desk so that he could sit next to James and speak to him like an equal.
"You were named after my father." Harry said softly. "I talked to your mother about it once. Born on Halloween and so they were going to name you after one of my parents."
"I don't think Lily would have worked for me quite so well."
"Don't be so sure. Lily is a powerful name." Harry chuckled. "In either case, I would like to think that your father would think better of me now. There's a big difference between me then and now. Now, I have the skills and the resources. But I still care. I still want to do great things and I want your help."
"But you're you...How could you need my help?"
"You are a brilliant young man. You're a half-blooded wizard who I know still has family that lives in the Muggle world. You are ideally placed to help me make the wizarding world better for magicals and Muggles. In turn, you'll get a seat at the table, a place where you'll actually make a difference. You won't be pushing paper for the Aurors and you won't be assigned to every random house call with the Hit Wizards. You'll get on the job training in the most high stakes office in the country. In the end, it will likely get you a seat on the Wizengamot or even the Minister position itself."
"But you could have anyone." James protested. "You could convince Percy Weasley to be your assistant. He has ten times the experience I have and is a known entity in the Ministry. Why me?"
"That insight right there is telling. You are seventeen years old and you are aware enough to know that Percy would be a better choice. The fact that you could name Percy specifically is important. Many people can name the Minister of Magic. Few can name her right hand man." Harry replied before leaning towards James. "Don't worry. I'm not going to put you in a room by yourself right away. You'll start at the bottom of my staff. You'll take notes and you'll sit in on meetings. But you will always be expected to give your opinion, even when it differs from mine. Eventually, you'll be groomed to be my proxy, someone that I can trust to speak for me, even to the Minister."
James looked terrified at the thought of the job. But as Harry gave him time, he could also see a curiosity coming forward, an interest that James himself probably didn't understand yet. That single spark proved everything that Harry had said to be true.
It also meant that Harry had him, whether James knew it or not.
"What if I fail?" James asked, clearly frightened by the opportunity in front of him.
Harry smiled and leaned forward, placing a steadying hand on James' shoulder.
"Then you'll be just like me."
Almost ten months to the day since the last party thrown at Ronald Weasley's home, Harry and Hermione found themselves at Ron's house for two purposes. Firstly, it was election day for the new Minister of Magic. For the last month, Hermione had worked with the Wizengamot to ensure that a new form of election would take place. With a rather high amount of new blood in the Wizengamot, Hermione had been able to influence them into an almost entire restructure of the Ministry's election procedures.
No longer would the Minister of Magic be selected directly by the people. Instead, they would borrow the election procedures of the Muggle Parliament and allow the people to vote for the entirety of the Wizengamot. All 27 seats would be available this year due to the slow rollout of the original Wizengamot election plan enacted three years earlier. However, once the Wizengamot was selected, then the election for the Minister of Magic would begin. Now, it was a requirement that the Minister of Magic be an elected member of the Wizengamot and the Wizengamot would select their own leadership. Among this would be the Minister of Magic and the Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot, two separate positions.
The day before, Hermione had discovered that she had received the most votes for the Wizengamot with almost 99% of available ballots having her name on the tally sheet. From there, with the 27 seats selected, the names of those wishing to be considered had be sent forward the previous night. Originally, there had been eleven names brought forward. However, after several rounds of voting, three remained: Hermione Granger, Roger Davies and Anthony Goldstein. Goldstein was considered to be a political ally of Hermione's and was someone that Harry would gladly work for if he happened to win over Hermione.
But Davies was a staunch supporter of a more traditional line of thinking with new Wizengamot members Astoria Greengrass and Theodore Nott lining up their support of Davies. While Davies was not a believer in the Pureblood methodology, he certainly was a more traditional candidate than either Anthony or Hermione.
The results of the election were due any minute.
The second reason that they had been invited was more personal. After almost a year of engagement, Ron and Angelina had grown tired of waiting. So, with a small group of friends and family surrounding them, they had gotten married at their own home with the Minister of Magic officiating their wedding, a first in recorded history.
Harry was happy for Ron. For the first year after The Battle of Hogwarts, it seemed that nothing could go right for Ron, including his relationships with Harry and Hermione. But once things began to settle down and the world allowed Ron some breathing room, he found someone in Angelina who had been a peripheral part of his past, someone who understood what he had been through without having participated in it, and yet she was still an essential part of his future: a perfect match in Harry's mind.
It made Harry consider his future for a moment before Ron, just like the year prior, appeared at the top of the stairs.
"I have the results of the vote." Ron said with a grim look. "With three votes, Anthony Goldstein."
Harry breathed a small sigh of relief. His worst fear had been that Hermione would finish last, an indictment on her relationship with Harry and how people had felt about her brief tenure as Minister of Magic. It would mean the end of her aspirations at the Ministry.
"In second place with eight votes, Roger Davies." Ron said with a grin before completing the line. "That gives Hermione Granger, our newest elected Minister of Magic, sixteen votes and a clear majority."
Instantly, the room exploded with fireworks and the sound of voices shouting in celebration. The people surrounding Hermione flooded her with hugs and Harry nearly had to pull Hermione out of a pile to save her.
It would have been bad form to smother the newly elected Minister of Magic moments after she found out the results.
Harry took Hermione's hand and dragged her up the stairs, stopping just moments short of where Ron stood. Ron embraced Hermione tightly and whispered something in her ear that he couldn't hear. It must have been something untoward because Hermione slapped him playfully on the shoulder while she burst into laughter.
Finally, as the room quieted down, Hermione stepped to the microphone.
"I'll keep this brief." she said through joyful tears. "Being the first Muggleborn Minister of Magic was great. Being the first one elected feels even better. Thank you to all of you who helped me to this point and I promise that we're going to press forward and continue to make England a better place for all people regardless of their blood or birth!"
The crowd erupted with applause as Hermione stood and smiled, clearly embarrassed with the attention she was receiving but pleased nonetheless.
Suddenly, Ron stepped forward to the microphone.
"I believe my friend, Harry, has some words as well."
Hermione looked mildly surprised, knowing Harry's hatred of public speaking, as Harry stepped past her towards the microphone.
"I do." Harry said bashfully, feeling his skin turning red already. "First, let's give another round of applause to our new Minister of Magic!"
Again, the crowd exploded with cheers and hollers and even another round of fireworks. When the sound finally died down, Harry grabbed Hermione's hand and pulled him next to her at the microphone.
"For over fifteen years, I have known that Hermione Granger deserved to be the Minister of Magic. She cared so much for everyone, even those that never deserved it. She was, by all accounts, the most brilliant person any of us had ever met and was the kind of person who could be trusted by anyone. She worked too hard, slept too little and seemed perfectly appropriate for a life in politics."
That jab earned him a slight punch in the arm from Hermione who beamed at him.
"All the while, she put up with the fact that my life made hers substantially more dangerous than it ever deserved to be. Once I realized just how good a friend Hermione was, I made it my mission to ensure that nothing ever happened to her. Of course, I've failed a number of times. But even through all of that, she has never once abandoned me or let me down. In the darkest times of my life, Hermione Granger has been my light, guiding me through that darkness and into the light."
His hands shaking, Harry reached into his pocket and pulled out a ring that he had retrieve from his Gringotts vault about one month earlier. It had been his mother's but the gem on it was easily identified as the color of Hermione's hair, something that Harry couldn't feel was simply circumstance but fate playing a joke on him.
"But over the last few years, I've realized that she's more than friend. She is my great companion. She challenges me daily to be the best version of myself and even when I fail, she's proud of me for doing what I can. She trusts me implicitly and I return the favor as best as I can. In the end, I know that my life is better because of her and it would be nothing without her."
Finally, Harry turned to Hermione, who was crying softly, her warm eyes looking at Harry lovingly. Slowly, he got down on one knee, lifting the ring to her hand.
"Hermione Jean Granger, you give me a joy that powers a thousand Patronuses. Will you do me the great honor of sharing your life with me? Will you marry me?"
Hermione didn't hesitate for a moment. Instead, she leaned forward and planted the best kiss Harry had ever had on him. For several moments, the pair were alone in the world. When they broke apart, Hermione's forehead rested on his.
"I've never been so sure about something in my entire life as I am about you, Harry Potter."
Even with all of the darkness of the past few months, even with the death of Ginny Weasley weighing on his heart, Harry could honestly say that this moment was the happiest of his entire life. Surrounded by the family that he had always craved, the woman of his dreams agreed to make a new family with him.
Harry remembered Dumbledore saying something about finding light in the darkest of places. Well, Harry didn't need to find it anymore. He knew where his light was and he was never going to let her go.