(A/N: Here's another long one and it wraps up the story. Also, I'd wanted to get this to you sooner, but I was delayed because I became sick enough that I had to spend a couple of days in the hospital - fortunately, I got better. Enjoy…)
When Hermione awoke the next morning, she Apparated to Diagon Alley and picked up a newspaper since she'd stopped it while she was on her holiday trip. She'd restart her subscription when she was back at school soon.
When she looked at the headline and then read the first few paragraphs of the lead story, she grinned and hurried home.
Hermione appeared in the middle of the kitchen, startling her mother, and shouted, "I think he really did it!"
"Goodness, dear, what are you on about?" her mother asked her.
"I think Harry accomplished his mission while we were gone, or if not then he's really close," the girl gushed.
Her mother walked over and put her hands gently on her daughter's shoulders. "Dear, if I understood you and Harry correctly, the mission was going to end up killing a number of people. Yes," she said quickly to stop her daughter, "I remember you each said they were destroying your world and needed to go, but this is still very serious."
"You're right that there is part of this that is not so good and I know Harry is sad he had to do it, but this may mean all the weird and strange things and attacks are over and we can have a normal life. He's done what no one else has been able to do. The price is horrible, but the fact that he could do it is amazing," she told her mum.
"I still don't fully know what to think about this, but I'm glad you're both all right. I do hope you can put this 'cleaning up' behind you." Emma returned to fixing breakfast.
"I sincerely hope so too, Mum."
— — —
After lunch, Hermione again traveled to Diagon Alley and used the Floo to travel to Hogwarts and Professor McGonagall's office specifically.
"Miss Granger, I assure you that Mr Potter is still sleeping as of an hour ago when I checked, so would you mind taking a seat for a few minutes?"
Hermione nodded, wondering what her professor wanted, but thought it probably wouldn't be too bad.
"Miss Granger," McGonagall paused. "May I use Hermione for this conversation?"
"Hermione, I assure you that what is said here shall remain between us." McGonagall paused and took a deep breath. "I've always been aware that you are a very bright young witch with a good heart who is above average in magical power. I'm also aware that Harry is a young wizard of good heart with more power than any other student here, and is above most teachers as well. Together you make a good team.
"Despite that, when you came to me at the end of the last term, I thought you were being a mite disrespectful to the Headmaster, but I let it go because I could tell your heart was in the right place … and so I helped you.
"I obviously don't know all the details, nor do I think I want to know, but I can read between the lines and guess a few things based on what was in the newspaper this morning plus a few things I've heard from the Headmaster.
"I suppose what I'm taking a long time to say is that I wish to apologize for doubting you and Harry and I wanted you to know that I'm proud of you both for doing the difficult but right thing. If you need any help at all, please come see me and I shall do my best for you."
Hermione was in a bit of awe in hearing her favorite professor tell her that. She nodded as she swallowed then cleared her throat to find her voice. "Thank you, Professor, that means a lot to me and I know it will to Harry as well. We will always do our best to be worthy of your trust."
McGonagall smiled ever so slightly. "I would expect nothing less because that's who you are. I'll let you go see Harry. Don't worry, Madam Pomfrey assured me he really shall be as good as new by tomorrow evening."
"Again, thank you for everything, Professor." Hermione stood, knowing the time was over. "I'm sure Harry will tell you the same thing."
"Because you'll remind him?" the older woman quipped with a tiny quirk.
Hermione blushed slightly. "Only if I need to. I'm trying to work on doing less of that."
"I have no doubt you'll be successful. As I said, you and Harry make a good team."
Hermione left feeling better about it all and she hoped they would be successful."
She spent the afternoon holding Harry's hand and looking at him, while turning her prophecy over in her mind. She still had no better answer and that annoyed her. Perhaps she'd tell Harry if she couldn't figure it out soon, and if he had no idea after some time, they could go to Professor McGonagall - maybe.
Hermione settled in the car as her parents took her to the train station for her to return to Hogwarts for her sixth year. It was Sunday morning and traffic was light, so her father was in a good mood, although she couldn't quite say the same. He turned on the radio to one of the radio stations he and her mother liked which featured a song by the Beatles and that she ignored. She sat in the back seat and brooded about not having Harry here, or even fully knowing he was all right despite what she'd been assured. She wanted to hold him and hear him say he was all right.
Eventually, a new song with a male voice broke through her thoughts, as she'd been trying to listen for anything about fire, flames, burning, or whatever else sounded similar.
Girl, girl, girl
You gonna set me on fire
My brain is flaming
I don't know which way to go
Your kisses lift me higher
Like the sweet song of a choir
You light my morning sky
With burning love
Burning, burning, burning
And nothing can cool me
I just might turn into smoke
But I feel fine
You light my morning sky
With burning love
With burning love
Ah, ah, burning love
I'm just a hunk, a hunk of burning love
Was that a sign? Would a Greek Seer even know of or use a Muggle song? Did that fit the prophecy? Ugh! She hated the impreciseness of Divination with a passion, even a burning passion to borrow the phrase. Still, was that a reference to the third fire of the prophecy? If it was, how did it relate to the fourth fire? Even thinking about it the whole time until they arrived at King's Cross station didn't give her any more insight.
Hermione told her parents good-bye and gave them each a hug.
"Tell, Harry hello from us and that we expect him to stay with us for Christmas," her mother told her, and her dad agreed.
"I'll tell him," she promised and she walked through the portal and headed for the train.
Hoping he'd somehow come even though she knew he wouldn't, she took a cabin in the back of the train, where Harry normally sat, and waited.
Neville and Luna came one right after the other. After their greeting, Neville asked, "Harry hasn't made it yet?"
"No," Hermione said with a sigh. "I'm told he probably won't make it this morning and he'll join us at school."
"All right," Neville said slowly as he thought that through. "Something unusual happen to him?"
"Yes, he had a little accident and Madam Pomfrey is taking care of him," she explained, hoping this line of questioning stopped, and it did. Her dejected tone probably helped with that.
Ron and Ginny arrived a few minutes later and a little early for them. Ron asked the same question, "Where's Harry? He left us with only a note. And do you know why the prat hasn't written in the last month? My owl couldn't find him either."
"I've been out of the country," Hermione said, "but I was told he had a little accident and he'll be meeting us at school."
"What happened?" Ginny asked with worry.
"A training accident I was told as well as magical exhaustion." Hermione didn't think that gave anything away.
"How do you know?" Ron asked with suspicion. "He left us and hasn't sent any messages since. Mum is really upset with him." Ginny nodded to show he was telling the truth.
"I don't know why you weren't told," she said while knowing Harry could have told them too but she could easily guess she was the only one told because she was his girlfriend, "Kreacher told me when I returned." She shrugged. "It's no big deal," she said, trying to defuse the situation. Ginny nodded and sat back, but Ron still looked upset.
The train jerked to start the trip started a few minutes later and the two Prefects left for their meeting. When it was over, Hermione did her best to hurry back to join the others, not really wanting to be alone with Ron. He kept looking at her in a way that made her uncomfortable.
Just as she reached their cabin door, Ron yelled from half-way down the car. "Hermione, will you wait up? I've been wanting to talk to you."
Hermione paused but opened the door, which caught the attention of those inside.
"Can we talk out here? Alone?" Ron asked as he caught up.
"Whatever you want to say can be said in front of the others," she told him, afraid of what he might do based on his expression.
"Please, Hermione?" Ron looked pained to have to say that, but he had.
Against her better judgment, she closed the cabin door. "All right, what did you want to talk about?"
Ron saw the others watching through the cabin windows and he looked unhappy, but she had done what he'd asked. "I, uh, well, willyougooutwithme?" he asked in a slurred hurry.
Hermione had been afraid of that when he said he wanted to talk alone. Hoping she could end this now, she said, "Thank you for asking, but I'm afraid the answer is not at this time." Trying to ensure he didn't have a chance to continue it, she jerked the door open and hurried in, sitting next to Luna (and Neville) so Ron would have to take the open seat on the other bench next to his sister.
A red-faced Ron yanked the door open and stormed in before slamming the door closed behind him. "Why not?"
Great, he's angry, she thought sarcastically. She also considered that a little bit of the reason was her fault with her answer, but she'd hoped - wrongly - that he'd leave it alone. Well, there was nothing else to do but the full truth. Harry owed her for this she thought.
"Ron, I can't date you because I already have a boyfriend." There, she'd said it.
He looked gob-smacked. "Who? Viktor?" he finally got out in a choked tone as he dropped almost bonelessly into his seat.
The other three were looking at her, Neville and Luna in surprise while Ginny was smirking. "Harry and I started dating at the beginning of the summer."
Ron blinked at her for a three-count before he yelled, "What?! But how? We weren't supposed to be writing him."
"We never wrote," Hermione told him before she continued with smugness. "Muggles have several perfectly good ways of communicating that don't involve owls. I'm sorry, Ron, but I'm not available to date you - maybe later." Probably never, she thought. After being with Harry for the summer, compared to Harry, Ron was never going to be good enough for her unless he changed drastically.
While Ron gaped at her, Ginny smiled and said, "Congratulations and good for both of you."
"Yeah, congrats," Neville said, "Harry's lucky."
Luna congratulated her too.
"Thank you," Hermione said, blushing a little.
Ron suddenly got up and left the cabin.
"Maybe he'll get it out of his system before we get to school," Ginny said hopefully. "Now," she grinned mischievously, "how did you two get together and what was the summer like for you?"
Hermione almost laughed at the thought of her gossiping like this. "We had a telephone call to start and then I went over to visit him. That started things. He'd come over sometimes and my parents would take him home."
Ginny frowned. "I thought Harry wasn't supposed to leave his aunt's home?"
"Harry decided to do what he wanted," Hermione answered simply. "He said that he wasn't in school so he didn't have to do what the Headmaster told him. I certainly enjoyed our time together."
Ginny giggled while Luna and Neville smiled. They continued talking while Hermione kept their project secret.
Ron never did return during the trip.
— — —
Harry woke slowly and took in his surroundings. Even without his glasses he knew where he was since he'd been here so much. As the memory of what he'd been doing last returned, it all made sense - especially since he'd been trying to get here. Grabbing his glasses, he put them on and sat up.
Madam Pomfrey came striding in with wand in hand at that very moment, probably because of some magic to tell her when he woke, or so he figured.
"Mr Potter, how are you feeling?" she asked as she did a diagnostic spell on him.
"Pretty good, actually." He stretched and found that was still true.
"How's your left arm?"
He now remembered what it had looked like just before he came in. He wasn't sure he wanted to, but he slowly looked down and was surprised that his arm looked perfectly fine. "Wow, you're amazing!"
Pomfrey chuckled for a moment. "I wished I could take credit for that, but Fawkes cried on your arm and healed it."
"Again?" Harry touched it and it felt normal. "I'll have to do something nice for him."
As if listening for his name, Fawkes flamed in and trilled as he landed next to Harry. "Hey, thank you for fixing my arm again. You're amazing." He gently stroked the soft feathers.
Fawkes trilled happily and nodded his head.
Harry continued to pet the bird as he looked up at the nurse. "So, can I get dressed and go?"
"You may. There are your clothes on the next bed; I replaced the T-shirt. However, someone is going to want to talk to you before you go. I suspect he's already on his way," she told him with mirth before she walked back to her office.
Harry groaned, but realized he probably couldn't get out of the upcoming conversation. "I'll get you something for helping me; I just wished I knew what," he told the magical bird.
Fawkes trilled before he rose, took to the air and then flamed out.
"That was unusual," Harry said as he got up and grabbed his clothes before heading to the bathroom.
After he'd gone to the bathroom and changed, he came out to find Dumbledore sitting in a chair and waiting for him. It was as Pomfrey had guessed.
"Professor," Harry said evenly as he walked over to his bed and sat down, grabbing his socks and shoes to put on. He was calmer about the man now, but he planned to be very careful around him.
"Harry, feeling better?"
"Yes, I'm very good, thank you. How are you?" Harry supposed he should be polite since he still had two more years here.
"I'm very good as well. I have a few questions for you, if you don't mind," Dumbledore told him.
"You can ask; I might even answer," Harry told him with a grin as he finished with his socks and started on his shoes.
Dumbledore chuckled. "Why did you leave the Weasleys' house? You were perfectly safe there."
"As I said in my note, I had training arranged and I wanted to do that. I'm sure you understand why," Harry said.
"That is one of the reasons I waited to tell you about the prophecy; I was afraid you'd run off and try to do something rash," Dumbledore told him seriously.
"Other than my little accident, I was and am fine," Harry insisted.
"Yes, your accident. How did you burn yourself?" Dumbledore looked very interested.
Harry remembered the man could do Legilimency and looked down to tie his shoes as he hoped this all worked out. "My teacher and I were working with fire spells and I cast one a little too close to a wall allowing it to come back at me. That was my mistake and I paid for it."
"Your teacher couldn't help you?" Dumbledore asked.
"I chose not to let him as that would have exposed his identity and he wanted privacy." Harry shrugged. "It was unfortunate, but it all worked out. I'm better trained so that when I have to fight Death Eaters and eventually Voldemort, I'm more ready than I was last June."
"About Voldemort," Dumbledore looked at him even more intently. "Did you fight him on Saturday and was there - perhaps - a Fiendfyre spell involved? There was terrible loss of life with that curse."
"Fiendfyre?" Harry snorted. "I've read about it but couldn't cast it to save my life, Professor. As for fighting Voldemort, I was home on Saturday.
"Professor, if the prophecy is true and it's really meant to be, I'll face him and defeat him one day. Until then, I have a life to live."
"I'm sorry, Harry, but the prophecy says that you can't really live as long as he's alive," Dumbledore pointed out.
"Yeah, well, I'm going to try anyway. I plan to take my studies a little more seriously, but I also plan to have some fun. I no longer acknowledge my relatives, but I do have a girlfriend and her parents like me too," Harry told him with a smile. "I think life is looking up."
"If I may, how did you and Miss Granger get together? I had asked her not to write you to keep you safe," Dumbledore told him.
Harry felt his anger rise and did his best to put it away and mostly succeeded. "While she may have obeyed exactly what you asked and didn't write me," Harry said coolly, "fortunately for both of us, she ignored you in general and we used Muggle means to talk and get together. You, Sir, are my Headmaster and not my guardian; therefore, I don't have to obey you during the summer."
Dumbledore looked disappointed with him. "Harry, I'm only trying to keep you safe while Voldemort is after you."
Having noticed the old man's hand earlier, Harry pointed at the blackened hand, "Perhaps you should spend more time trying to keep yourself safe. Is Professor McGonagall in her office?" He wasn't going to ask about the hand as that might have caused Dumbledore to think he was interested in doing something dangerous this year.
"She is, but there is one more thing we must discuss before you go," Dumbledore told him. "We need to schedule some lessons for you. I have some information about Tom Riddle that you need to learn."
Shaking his head, he stood as he said, "I'm sorry, Professor, but I really don't see the need for that right now. If it becomes really important later, we can discuss it. Now, if you have some useful battle magic, that would be great." He really didn't expect Dumbledore to say he had any, that didn't seem to be his style.
"My information about Tom Riddle is far more important than learning spells," Dumbledore tried to impress on him. "You'll need the information before all is said and done."
"If that's so, then I'll let you take care of whatever needs that information this year. If it's really important, I'm sure you'll make time to act on it. If it's vital, you could give up your positions and do only that fulltime. In addition, you make it sound like I'll have to go do something dangerous with the information and I'm afraid I can't do that."
"There is always danger with Voldemort, but why can't you do it?" Dumbledore asked and Harry noted that his suggestion about Dumbledore doing it was ignored.
"Because I'd have to break a promise to Hermione and I can't do that," Harry told him.
"Perhaps she'll understand and it won't be a problem," Dumbledore countered.
"No," Harry said determinedly, "I promised and I think it's best I keep that promise and I don't think you can convince me or her otherwise.
"So we don't continue to argue, I will end it by saying thank you for letting me come here for Madam Pomfrey's services. I'm sure that was safer than me going to St Mungo's."
As Harry started walking out, Fawkes flamed back in, as if he'd been waiting for this moment, and landed on Harry's shoulder. He trilled and held out one claw with a little plastic sign. Harry took it and looked. It had a picture of a bush with little orange and red fruits on it. "You want some of these?"
Fawkes trilled and nodded his head.
"Right, I can do that. I've never heard of a Ha-ban-ero before, but I'll get you some," Harry said as he walked to the double doors of the hospital wing, sure he was mispronouncing whatever plant this was; he'd have to ask Neville about it.
"No!" Dumbledore yelled, "He can't have any of those!"
Harry felt himself rising and then he was gone in a burst of flames. When he was normal again, he was standing in front of McGonagall's office. He laughed. "You were listening to us you crazy bird."
Fawkes trilled differently and it was funny sounding, so Harry guessed it was a laugh.
"I'll get my house-elf to bring you as many of these as you like if you'll keep Dumbledore away from me for the next two hours, OK?" Harry watched the bird nod before it flamed away. He really had to chuckle.
When he knocked on the door, it was opened by a surprised McGonagall. "Potter? I didn't expect you to be up yet."
"I'm feeling rather good right now," he replied. "Can we talk about my classes?"
"Certainly." She waved him in and pointed to a chair. "I have your letters since they couldn't be delivered. Has the Headmaster talked to you yet?"
"Yes, we just had a conversation." Harry frowned. "I was not pleased he told that he told my friends not to write me again. However, I have you to thank for that not being a problem - thank you again."
She smiled ever so slightly. "You're welcome. When Miss Granger was here while you were asleep-"
"Hermione came here while I was injured?" he interrupted. He wasn't sure if he should panic or not. He did want her to know why he wasn't there to greet her, but this could be worse.
"Mr Potter, please calm down," she ordered him. "Miss Granger was distressed you were injured, but was also pleased that you'd recover fully. I don't think you'll have any problems with her over this."
"I hope you're correct, Professor." He remembered her commands to avoid injury vividly and didn't want to face her wrath.
She smiled ever so slightly again before she became serious. "For just a moment, I'm going to call you Harry because you deserve it.
"I was quite dubious at Hermione's idea when she first came to me, but I've learned over time that there is little you and she can not do when you really try."
"Ron has helped too," Harry pointed out.
"Some, but I'm well aware that Ronald is a minor contributor. His showing this last June reinforces my view.
"My point, Harry, is that you and Hermione did a very good job. It was difficult in more ways than one, but I am amazed by what you did - doing what needed to be done. As I told her, I will not reveal your secrets from this summer. I also told her that if you need someone to talk to about this or have questions, feel free to come see me. I will help you in any way I'm able."
"Thank you, Professor," he said, touched by what she'd said. "I shall keep that in mind."
"Now, here are your letters." McGonagall placed them in front of him. "Before you pick your classes, I will say that Professor Snape has gone missing and I personally don't expect him to return; so you can take Potions without him if you like."
"I had wondered," Harry said with a grin to maintain the ruse they each were upholding without mentioning it. He looked at his OWL scores and then marked his classes for her. Putting his book list and OWL scores in his pocket, he asked, "Is there anything else before I go get my supplies?"
"Not specifically, although I do think you'll find a surprise at the Feast tonight. I believe the school will be calmer this year," she predicted.
"Oh? I would welcome a calmer year. Thank you again for all your help, Professor," he told her. He guessed the surprise was no more Draco and possibly included some like-minded friends.
"You can use my Floo to travel to Diagon Alley."
He thanked her again and left for the shopping district.
While he did need to be here, he really needed to go to his house first so he Apparated there. He was pleased the entryway was clean. He was also pleased that he found everything like he expected in his bedroom, including his suit standing in the corner and it sparkled it was so clean.
He opened the bundle he'd brought back from the Malfoys and added those wands to the others he'd collected, although a few were charred, He had 47 plus Riddle's. Since Riddle's worked so well for him, he planned to keep that. The rest he put in a box. Searching for the few extra Death Eater figurines, he added them to the box as well. Finally, he penned a note and set it on top. He'd deliver it all soon, but not today.
Grabbing his normal wand and money, he Apparated back to Diagon Alley to do his shopping. It was a little strange without other students around shopping for supplies too, but Harry appreciated it as it allowed him to go faster.
Just because he could, he stopped in to see Fred and George.
"Harry!" one of them called out, causing the few shoppers to look at him in surprise. "Come to the back."
Harry nodded at the pretty brunette who was looking at him in shock from behind the counter.
"George, look who's here."
"He returns!" George said in triumph. "Where have you been? Have you seen the news?"
"I've been training and which news?" Harry asked.
"About the big fire at the Malfoys," Fred answered before he lowered his voice as if to tell a secret. "They think most if not all of the remaining Death Eaters were there."
"And they're all toasted now," George added with a grin. "We're having a sale on jams that are the wrong color right now in honor, but most people don't seem to get it. Still, grape jam that's green and strawberry jam that's purple is always fun."
Harry laughed. "I like the idea. I also like the idea that maybe life will be quieter. Surprise Killing Curses are never fun."
"You can say that again," George told him.
"Surprise Killing Curses are never fun," Fred quipped and received a raspberry sound from his twin and a chuckle from Harry.
Harry really wanted to share his victory with them, but decided that was best kept secret. He trusted them, but there was no need to share and then have Dumbledore pull the memory from them. Dumbledore probably wouldn't do that, but Harry felt it better to protect his friends this way. Hermione and McGonagall knew and they were enough he decided.
— — —
Harry stood against a wall with his shrunken trunk in his pocket as the Hogwarts Express pulled into the Hogsmeade station. He didn't see Hagrid anywhere, but guessed he'd see him later this evening.
As the train slowed down and the last car came into view, he wasn't surprised to see Hermione standing in the doorway and looking for him. It was obvious when she saw him as her face brightened.
He started walking that way and she jumped off the train just before it came to a stop, running to him. Harry grabbed her as they met and he swung her around so they wouldn't fall over. The second he set her feet down she was kissing him for all she was worth and he loved it, kissing her back just as fiercely.
The sound of a few people clapping eventually broke them apart and he looked up to see his friends smiling and clapping - except for one friend who was stomping off angrily.
"Ut-oh," he said softly.
"Don't worry about him," she told him before she smiled brightly again. "I'm so happy to see you again and that you're up and about. I didn't like not being able to do this last time I saw you."
"Sorry about that," he told her honestly. He hugged her tightly so he could whisper in her ear. "I'll tell you all about it later tonight."
Hermione stroked his face and whispered, "Don't think about it now, I don't want you to be upset. Later is soon enough."
Harry noticed that his friends had been hanging back but now came forward when he loosened his grip on Hermione. "Hi!"
The remaining three came over and the girls gave him a hug while Neville slapped his shoulder in a friendly manner. They all said it was good to see him.
"As you can see," Hermione told him as they started to walk to the carriages, "Ron knows about us dating and he's not happy."
"Yeah, well, we anticipated that," he told her. "He'll come around eventually, he always does."
Hermione looked down for a moment. "Harry, you should know that he asked me out on the train. I told him I already had a boyfriend. That's how he learned about us."
"Ouch," Harry said wryly.
"Not as shocking for us," Neville told him. "Congratulations, by the way."
"Thanks!" Harry said happily and smiled at Hermione. "Oh, I heard a rumor you wouldn't have been bothered by Draco. True?"
"Yes, how did you know?" Hermione asked.
"I heard the year would be more pleasant and calmer," he explained. As he thought back, they were probably the four who had come down the stairs, from Draco's room, or so he guessed.
"I look forward to that," Ginny said as the carriage pulled up and they boarded.
They all chatted until they made it to the Welcome Feast. Hermione sat beside him so he put his arm around her back and she snuggled into him. Ron gave him a baleful glare before looking away. Perhaps the year won't be entirely peaceful, Harry thought.
— — —
After the feast and they all started to get up, Ron walked by and threw his Prefect Badge on the table in front of Harry. "You have everything else, you might as well have that too." He stormed off without waiting.
Harry picked up the badge and looked at it and then at Hermione.
"I'd far rather do patrols with you," she told him.
He looked at the badge again and then towards the head table to see McGonagall walking towards him.
"Mr Potter, did Mr Weasley just give you his Prefect Badge?" She didn't look too happy at the moment.
"Err, yes, Professor. He said he thought I should have it." Harry left off the rest purposefully.
McGonagall harrumphed. "Well, would you be willing to take on the responsibility? Considering some of his past actions, maybe it's best he's willing to give the position up."
"I, uh…" He looked at Hermione who gave him a begging look. "I suppose I'll do it." Harry felt Hermione squeeze him around the waist where her arm was.
"Very good," McGonagall looked satisfied. "Now it will be as it always should have been. Please come see me sometime tomorrow so that I can discuss your duties."
"Of course, Professor." He watched his head of house leave and started to leave as well.
In the Gryffindor Tower, Harry told his girlfriend, "I'll be back in a moment." He went upstairs to put his trunk in its place. Ron also glared at him but otherwise left him alone. Neville gave him a sympathetic look.
Back downstairs, Harry pulled Hermione over to a corner, turned the chair away from everyone and expanded it to be the size of a loveseat, and pulled her into it. "If you know a privacy charm, it would be really, really helpful. It's either that or we sneak off to the Room of Requirement."
"I like the idea of a room to ourselves, but I think it'll be better if we stay here," she told him and then did several spells. "There, we should be left alone and as long as we don't shout no one should hear us either. Now, tell me everything."
Harry proceeded to do just that, giving as many details as possible. He told of his victories, the ones he had to let go, and every death he caused … from the beginning to the big fight at the end. His voice was gravelly and soft while tears were leaking down his face at the end.
Hermione held him to her, shielding his face from all others as she worked to not cry at all the emotional pain he'd been through - all the guilt he had suppressed from the death and destruction. She held him and stroked his head until he had it all out of his system. She hurt with him for what he'd had to do and, despite her efforts, tears ran down her face as well.
"You did good, Harry, you did good," she told him slowly and several times before ending with, "Those people will never kill or torture or anything else bad again. It's all over."
He sniffled quietly. "Dumbledore doesn't think so."
"We know Dumbledore makes mistakes, Harry, so let's pretend this is one too. If it's not, we'll deal with it then." She continued to stroke his head and now his back. "If it's not really over, we'll fix the bad arm of your suit and make a second suit for me and I'll join you to put him away for good."
Harry laughed a little, which sounded funny in his current state. "You don't like to fly."
"I won't fly," she told him imperiously, "I'll just jump - with style."
Harry laughed again, feeling a little better as he wiped his face on his sleeve. "I'd like to see that." He paused to work up his courage for this next part. "Hermione, will I get to see, uh, what you promised since I kept my part?"
Hermione laughed nervously but glad he was putting the bad of the summer behind him. "Harry, I'll always keep my promises to you, including that. It won't be tonight though."
"I know." He squeezed her waist a little before loosening his grip so he could look around. "Looks like we might be alone now."
"I think so, why?"
Harry moved his hands to grab her shoulders and pulled her over so she was lying on top of him. He then kissed her hard and let his hands roam all over her back. Her resistance to his move was gone in a flash and she was a very willing participant.
After a while, they stopped kissing and moved a little to get more comfortable. "I know I've told you before, but thank you for everything. The idea of the suit and all the work is obvious, but in some ways, this is more important."
"Why?" she asked as she laid her head on his shoulder and let her fingertips lightly caress his face and neck.
"While I was patrolling, I had a lot of time to think," he started. "I thought of you a lot."
"Yes," he admitted.
"I thought of you a lot too while I was gone," she told him.
"Thinking of you and, well, your love for me, it…" he paused, "I guess you could say it helped to keep me mostly grounded. You helped me survive the guilt of everything I was doing."
"But you had to do those things," she said as she leaned up on one elbow to see his face. "You protected us and saved us."
Harry blew out a breath. "I'm not saying this well. You," he paused again, "the thoughts of you protected me and saved me. Knowing you were safe and were coming back to me was so important."
"How?" She was confused.
"It took me a long time to admit it to myself, but I got used to doing what I was doing. I didn't think about it, I just did it. Without you, I could keep not thinking and only doing … and with that suit, it would be hard to stop me." He dropped to a whisper, almost afraid to say but thought she needed to hear it. "I could kill anyone and get away with it. I needed you to come back and help me put away the suit and take away this part of me and to - love me, for everyone's sake because it would be so easy to keep killing. There are more bad people that need it … all over the world."
Hermione blinked and stared at him, seemingly frozen.
Harry wasn't sure what had happened to her with his confession, but he was starting to get worried. "Hermione?"
She blinked again and then seemed to really look at him for a moment before she threw her top arm around him and hugged him tightly. "I love you so much, Harry. No more suit, no more killing, no more dangerous patrols. You have my love and you have me." She kissed him hard.
Reveling in her attention, he finally said, "You're amazing, you drive all the crazy away."
"I'll love you and save you from all that, I promise," she told him with a fierce determination that surprised him.
"So, do we stay here all night?" he asked mischievously.
She laughed lightly. "We do not, Harry, especially since classes start tomorrow. But if our schedule allows and our homework is done, maybe we can spend the night in the Room of Requirement next weekend," she said in a tempting way.
"Yes," Harry hissed, "homework will be done."
Hermione kissed him again and then rolled off and stood up. She took her spells down before they walked to the stairs. He kissed her one more time before he let her go.
— — —
As Hermione made herself cozy in her bed, she considered the revelation she'd had a few minutes ago. She might be mistaken, but she was almost certain the third fire was her, or rather her "burning love" for Harry, which would save him. It seemed that without her metaphorical burning love that Harry would go Dark and become the fourth fire, according to the prophecy.
It was a little frightening that he was capable of that, but she was happy that she was capable of countering it. She also wondered if his ability to push caring completely aside was because of how he was raised with the Dursleys. Thinking back to the book on abused children that she'd read, she thought this might be true and blamed Dumbledore.
She also considered that with how Harry didn't like or want the prophecy about him, she thought she wouldn't tell him about hers, especially now that she thought she had the answer and it was so easy to do … not to mention satisfying, she thought with a smile in the dark. Well, maybe she would tell him but not until years from now when she was sure there was no problem.
As they finished dinner their first Friday of the term, Harry looked around and saw what he thought of as normal for the school, and that felt very gratifying since he knew he'd helped make this possible. No Malfoy, Crabbe, Goyle, or Nott had helped. No Snape had helped a lot more.
He was amused that they still had no regular Potions teacher for the NEWT years; Dumbledore was having to teach the sixth and seventh years. Since Harry had decided to take sixth years' Potions after all (because Snape was gone), he could say that Dumbledore was a generally good teacher, despite his dislike of the man as Headmaster.
Of all people, Molly Weasley had been drafted to teach the lower five years temporarily, as she had an Outstanding on her NEWT exam in the subject. However, Harry had written Slughorn a letter and told him it was safe to return. Hedwig had returned this morning with a positive reply, so he knew Potions would be more normal as of Monday.
Defense didn't have a permanent teacher yet either for some reason. Dumbledore had recruited Hestia Jones from the Order of the Phoenix to fill in until he could find someone. Harry thought she wasn't any worse than Quirrell had been, but that was a pretty low standard to him. Based on looks some of his friends had been giving him in class, he thought it was only a matter of time before they asked him to resume something like the DA. He wasn't entirely sure how he felt about that.
As they walked out of the Great Hall hand-in-hand, Harry looked at his girlfriend. "So, you said you needed a little time, will 45 minutes to an hour do?"
"Yes, that will be fine," she told him a little nervously, some of which was attributed to excitement.
Harry felt the same way. "I'll send you a message when I return and another when I'm outside the door so you know to open it," he told her quietly as they walked, each glancing at the other and smiling. They didn't have a Prefect patrol tonight or tomorrow night.
When they reached the bottom of the Grand Staircase, he kissed her swiftly and let go, watching her going up until she was out of sight before he turned to start his final mission as the White Knight.
"Harry," a voice said softly from the side. Turning, he saw Ron standing there and looking at him and his friend looked sad.
"Ron," Harry said evenly. This was the first time they'd talked all week, since the term had started.
Ron continued to stare at Harry for a moment. "I'm right and yet I'm wrong."
Harry blinked at that, not sure what to say so he kept quiet to see what his friend wanted.
"You do get everything. It's taken me all week to figure out I'm jealous of you," Ron admitted, "for being Quidditch captain, for being so popular everyone knows who you are, you have money, and now you have Hermione. Eventually, I also realized that you have a Dark Lord and Death Eaters after you and you lost your parents and your godfather. You do have it all, but there's a lot of bad with the good.
"I also thought that the one thing that you wouldn't want and I could have would be Hermione. She's so smart and caring and pretty when she wants to be, which is most of the time. And this last week I've watched how devoted she is to you … and you to her.
"Listen, I'm a prat about a lot of things, but I won't stand between the two of you, not if she helps to balance the scales for you. Just promise me to take good care of her … at least do that for me."
Harry couldn't help it; he stepped forward and pounded Ron the back a few times before letting go.
"Get off me, you big lug," Ron protested half-heartedly and with a lighter tone than he'd used for his confession.
"Thanks, Ron," Harry told him. "Things have changed, but I'm glad you're back with us. Oh, don't worry, I'll take very good care of her."
Ron gave a forced smile and nodded before he turned and left.
Harry was very pleased Ron had figured that out after only a week, unlike the month or so it took in fourth year. He wondered fleetingly if Ginny had helped that along, but knew it would be rude to ask. He'd have to tell Hermione about this later tonight.
Going to the third floor, he made sure he was alone and opened the passage way out, squeezing through the opening. He walked most of the way through the tunnel before Apparating to the small clearing near the Bones' estate that he'd left from last time. There, he put his Invisibility cloak on before proceeding.
When he reached her gate, he softly called, "Kreacher, come."
The elf appeared with the box as requested earlier. "I'm here, Master."
"Very good. Please put the box on the front porch and knock before returning home. Oh, wait," Harry told him quickly. "Did you get the plants I told you to find?"
"Yes, Kreacher found the habanero plants. They are growing well," the elf told him.
"Very good. When the fruit ripens, be sure to give them to Fawkes in Dumbledore's office, when the old man isn't there," Harry ordered, still not knowing why Dumbledore didn't want the bird to have the hot peppers (or so Neville had informed him when asked), but Harry thought it was a fun joke on the Headmaster and if Fawkes wanted them, he'd do it for the helpful bird. Maybe it gave him flaming farts or something, he thought with a grin.
"Yes, Master." Kreacher popped out and reappeared almost instantly on the front porch of the house. He knocked loudly and popped away, leaving the box behind.
Harry moved a couple of steps closer to hear better when the door opened and a woman he'd never seen before looked around and spied the box. She frowned as she said, "I only see a box with a note on top." She pulled out her wand and cast spells. "There is only found a sticking spell on the note. There's something magical in the box, but it's not active like a charm. Maybe it's an artifact."
She turned as if listening to something or someone before nodding and reached down for the note. She read out loud:
This completes my mission. As I told you I would, here are all the wands I collected except for one: Tom Riddle's; I'm keeping it as a trophy. I might suggest you seek Mr Ollivander's help in identifying their owners. That might help you to identify some of the bodies that were burned so badly. I don't think there are any more Death Eaters, but if so, they are yours to chase.
As for Tom Riddle, I threw him through the Veil of Death, so I believe this Dark Wizard is gone for good. I realize you have no evidence of that, only my word. Sorry, but that's the way it needs to be; I don't want that kind of fame.
I have avenged those I love as well as friends killed by that maniac and his followers; my time as the White Knight is over. The next Dark Wizard is yours, but I'd suggest you work on preventing this from happening, not responding when he appears. Ask Dumbledore why Riddle was like this, assuming you can get him to answer honestly. Personally, my guess is the Wizarding World failed him in some way when he was young, but that's only a guess. I've seen others in that situation and it was close that they didn't "go dark". I'd also suggest you find a way to remove the Pureblood bigotry, but reducing it may be all you can do.
The White Knight
(or if you prefer: The Dark Blue Knight)
Bones had appeared in the doorway during the reading and was looking around her front garden thoughtfully. When the reading was over, she bent down and opened the box. She gasped as she pulled out one of the figurines. "Three more Death Eaters." Looking back in the box, she touched her finger to the items for a full minute. "Forty-seven wands."
Amelia Bones looked up and scanned the area again. Though she didn't see anything out of the ordinary, she called out, "Thank you!"
Smiling, Harry lowered his voice as much as he could and said, "You're welcome." At Bones' surprised look and the Auror guard raising her wand, Harry Apparated straight to the tunnel to the school.
Lighting his wand, he started walking as he removed his cloak and also pulled out the Marauder's Map. When he reached the statue and saw that it was clear on the other side, he said the magic password and entered. As promised, he sent his first message to Hermione.
He passed a few people on the way, nodding and saying hello as he passed. He also wondered just what Hermione was up to. Knowing her, it could be almost anything.
Checking the Map again as he reached the seventh floor, he saw the area was clear, so he sent his second message. As he reached where the door should have been, the door appeared and opened.
Entering, he saw what looked like the inside of a house. Closing the door, he wasn't surprised or bothered that it disappeared. He started walking around as he looked for his girlfriend. He also noticed the décor and liked it - it was very homey and a place he could easily enjoy living.
Not too surprising to him, the small house had a small library room. Also unsurprisingly, that was where he found her. With all the bookshelves, there was a fireplace with a roaring fire which made it a little warm. Near the fire on a love seat was his girlfriend with a book in hand, smiling at him.
Hermione had her hair pulled back in a ponytail to control it. She was wearing a short T-shirt and shorts, so there was some stomach and a lot of legs showing. He started to wonder if those two items were all she was wearing.
"There are some more comfortable clothes in the bedroom for you," she told him.
"Go change," she told him, giving him a look that said he should follow her orders.
Since she obviously had a plan, he nodded and left since her plans usually worked out better than his plans. He found a pair of shorts and a half T-shirt for himself laid out.
After changing, he returned to her and she patted the seat next to her as she laid the book down. "All done with missions?" she asked as she turned and then kissed him, running her hands over his face and through his hair.
"Yes," he eventually answered when he could, his arms around her and his hands on her bare sides.
She moved over and placed herself in his lap and leaned against him. "Good. And the suit stays where it is until I store it at Christmas?"
"I promise," he told, moving a hand down to her mostly bare leg and caressing it lightly.
"Splendid," she told him before she kissed him again.
"So, what is all of this for?" he asked.
"Oh, some of it is for your reward like I promised." She looked mischievously at him. "Some of it is because I want it and I think you'll like it too." She kissed him languidly. "And some of it is for us to talk about. I plan to be with you for the next 100 years or so and I thought this place would be a good way for us to figure out what we want in a house when we live together. We can build whatever we want."
He grinned at her. "One hundred years? You really do have plans. So, this is what you'd want?"
"Yes I have plans," she told him a little imperiously, before changing into a soft giggle and watching as he lowered his gaze. "You like what my laugh did to my shirt?" she asked him coyly and impishly.
"Well, yes," he admitted with only a very slight blush and only in the back of his mind admitted it might have been due to lust more than embarrassment.
"Don't worry, we'll get to our anatomy lessons soon, but to answer your question, I like a lot about this setup for a house, at least as a first house. It's not big enough for children, but perhaps we could find a way to add on. Or maybe we make something like this for a summer home and stay there when it's just the two of us. It's possible your family has a home somewhere."
Harry caressed her stomach a little, with his hand going higher and higher slowly. "I look forward to figuring that out."
As Hermione arched her back and let out a soft satisfied groan from his caresses, Harry decided he was going to look forward to exploring life and family with Hermione through the years. As for adventures, he didn't need a magical suit, she and her interesting responses were adventurous enough.
(Four months later)
While Harry was at the Grangers' for Christmas, Albus Dumbledore looked at the diadem with the large blue gem in it and cast yet another spell at it. The spell also failed to show anything suspicious. He also didn't feel anything evil from it, only a magical presence.
Leaving the Room of Requirement, he headed for his office as he thought about Tom's remaining Horcruxes.
The diadem seemed to be "clean" now.
In October, he'd found a cave that showed Tom's handiwork and because it was only him, he'd spent nearly an entire day there dismantling the trap. In the end, he didn't even have a Horcrux, only a clue.
After much pleading and cajoling for a week in November, he'd convinced Harry to allow him to search the old Black estate at #12. It wasn't until he stressed that Harry didn't have to do anything and that Hermione could come too did he agree. While the two students drank tea in the library, he searched Regulus's room but eventually found Slytherin's Locket in Kreacher's possession. To his surprise, the Locket was clean of Tom's influence. Not so surprisingly, Harry had ordered Kreacher to only let him examine the Locket and he had to give it back to the house-elf at the end.
Entering his office, he pulled two memories out of his head and put them in his Pensieve. Looking at Harry during his discussion with the lad when he'd been burned and then when he wished the boy Happy Christmas a few days ago, Albus could now see the difference in the boy's scar. It was subtle, but the scar was definitely lighter now.
He looked down at his dead hand and considered that he'd done that for nothing; it really wouldn't matter if he'd ever found the ring or not, but he had and now the curse would eventually kill him prematurely.
Albus put the diadem on the shelf with the other Founder's known possessions. He would alert Minerva to keep a look-out for Hufflepuff's cup, but there seemed to be no need to find it now. The Horcruxes had dissipated recently, or that was the only conclusion he could come to.
He was certain that Harry Potter had been the White Knight, but he had no proof and knew no one would believe him. Miss Granger being with him made it more obvious to him, as she would have been able to have facilitated it. Yet, when he'd expressed this to Minerva, she'd dismissed his idea and suggested he should go get a check-up from Poppy.
With a sigh, he looked around his office staring at everything and nothing. He'd been Headmaster for almost fifty years and what did he really have to show for it other than what should have been two magical protégés, each of whom ended up disliking him and wanted nothing to do with him. In fact, the first had actively tried to kill him while the second did his best to ignore him.
He'd followed Harry's suggestion and given up being Supreme Mugwump for the ICW back in September. Perhaps it was time to retire from being Headmaster at the end of this year. Being only Chief Warlock wasn't too taxing, assuming he lived that long.
— — —
Harry laughed at himself as he tripped over his own feet and fell down while Emma was teaching him the Tango. Emma had a playful smirk as she held out her hand to help him up while another chuckled and the last giggled at him. The Waltz and Fox Trot had been easy compared to this.
He stuck his tongue out at Hermione as she continued to giggle at him. She returned a look that he took as "Do you plan to use that with me?" He became a little embarrassed and looked back at Emma with forced normalcy. "I'm ready and I am going to learn this so I don't embarrass us when I take Hermione dancing."
Hermione's giggles were cut-off as her eyes went wide and she gulped.
Feeling smug at having returned her teasing, he tried to concentrate on the Tango again. For a moment, Emma looked like a red-haired woman in a photo of his and Dan looked like his dad for some reason. The vision left as fast as it'd come, but he still felt the peace of the moment. Life was going well and a bushy-haired girl and her family were the reason. He had a family for real now and no Dark Wizards chasing him.
(A/N: There's my first H/Hr story with her as the only leading lady. I hope you've enjoyed the story. I do have plans for another, we'll see if I get time to write it or not.
I considered writing an Omake for an alternate ending where Hermione comes home before the final battle so it doesn't take place, Draco kills Hermione at school causing Harry to go mostly insane. He'd put the suit back on and take revenge on everyone who his skewed mind thought was responsible. Anyone coming to stop him will be killed too, even the good guys like Dumbledore, because anyone coming after him would be "bad" by definition. By the time it was over and Harry gave up and killed himself, there would be very few Wizards/Witches anywhere in the world. But hey, that sounds pretty depressing, so I shan't write that. :)
Keep the "author alert" on to know about the next posting and you can check my bio for status updates. Until next time - Kevin)