A/N: I re-edited the story as of Oct 17. There are no major changes, but I corrected a lot of mistakes and added half a sentence here or there, so it should be a slightly more enjoyable read overall now. I'd also like to let you now that I started posting my next multi-chapter story, titled I See No Difference. Check it out if you're interested in a more serious adventure/romance story set in fourth year, where Harry and Hermione run away from Hogwarts and Magical Britain.
- CHAPTER THIRTEEN -
All's well that ends well
"...And then, we freed Professor Moody, who discovered that Barty Crouch Jr was dead. We still don't know why, though. And then we left and informed Professor McGonagall, who called the Aurors and the Headmaster. And that's how we ended up here," Hermione finished.
It had been a lengthy tale, and she and Harry had talked for almost an hour as they recounted what had happened during Voldemort's failed resurrection ritual.
By now, it was long past midnight, and the two teens sat in front of Dumbledore's desk in the Headmaster's office. The Headmaster sat behind the desk, with Professor McGonagall and (the real) Alastor Moody standing behind him. To the side stood the newly sworn-in Minister for Magic Amelia Bones. All four adults looked at the two teens with incredulous expressions on their faces.
"That... is quite a tale," Dumbledore said after a long pause. "One I'm sure the evidence will corroborate. The Aurors are currently inspecting the Defence Professor's office, aren't they, Amelia?"
"Yes, I expect their report on the morrow," Minister Bones confirmed.
"Good." Dumbledore nodded.
He then turned back to the teens before him and a pained expression appeared on his face. "Now," he began with a grave voice, "what I have to tell you will be difficult for you to hear, Harry, Miss Granger. Let me start by stating that you mustn't feel guilty about what has happened tonight. Keep in mind, the only guilty parties are Tom and his followers..."
Dumbledore took a deep breath. "Barty Crouch Jr wasn't the only Death Eater that died tonight. In fact, I believe that all of Tom's former servants perished today, together with their master. Amelia, what are the current numbers?"
"Twenty-three members of the Wizengamot, fourteen spectators of the Wizengamot sitting, some of them the spouses, and nine other Ministry employees," Minister Bones recounted matter-of-factly.
Harry shared a wide-eyed look with Hermione. That had not been the intended outcome.
Minister Bones scowled as she went on, "Several of the Ministry employees we had never even suspected of Death Eater activities. Like with the three Aurors of mine who died... bastards!"
The Minister shook her head and continued, "All the marked Death Eaters in Azkaban have died as well. Further reports of people who died elsewhere were coming in by the minute when I left the Ministry, over twenty by my last count. And then we have the two deaths in Hogwarts: Karkaroff and Snape."
Harry heard how Hermione gasped next to him. He was also surprised by the last name, even though, now that he thought about it, he really shouldn't have been.
"Harry, Miss- Hermione, please," Dumbledore said sympathetically and looked intently at the two teens before him. "I implore you, you mustn't feel guilty about this. You had to make a difficult decision in a difficult situation. No one will blame you for this. Those who died today were not good people, and they had made their choice a long time ago. And in any case, it was Tom who killed his marked servants, calling upon their magic and very life in his desperate, ill-fated attempt to stay alive."
Harry nodded numbly. Honestly, he didn't know what to think about this. He certainly didn't feel happy about having caused the death of dozens of people, but he didn't really feel guilty about it either. At most, Harry felt a little bit guilty about the fact that he didn't feel guilty about the deaths.
Harry could see that Hermione was much more bothered by the news, and he reached for her hand. She looked at him as he squeezed her hand, and she gave him a trembling smile.
"That is very true," Amelia Bones concurred. "Listen to the Headmaster, Mr Potter, Miss Granger!"
With a questioning glance at Dumbledore, she added, "Though I'm quite surprised to hear you say such things, Albus."
Dumbledore sighed. "Any loss of life is of course a tragedy. I always hoped for Tom's former servants to seek redemption... But in the end, none of them ever did. Not even Severus, not really..."
He shook his head sadly and continued, "I would have mourned any former Death Eater who died tonight after having repented. But all of Tom's former servants squandered their second chances again and again, so I won't mourn that a third chance was denied to them. And I would have hated to see what would have happened if Lucius Malfoy's attempt to become Minister had succeeded. Things might have become very unpleasant for any kind of minorities, maybe even dangerous."
"I agree," Minister Bones said, and Moody gave an approving huff.
With a halting voice, Dumbledore continued, "What has happened... I had a friend once, he might have said that what has happened tonight was for the Greater Good. It is a very dangerous thing, thinking that way. But still, today, he might have had a point."
Amelia Bones nodded in agreement. "Indeed. He sounds like a smart man, that friend of yours."
"Oh, he most definitely was," Dumbledore replied with a forlorn look. "But what he had in smarts, he lacked in wisdom."
The room fell quiet, as no one knew how to respond to that.
"Well, anyway," the Minister then spoke up, "I think I have heard enough for now. I think I should head back to the Ministry now. Albus, I'll see you tomorrow."
She walked towards the fireplace at one side of the office, but then halted and turned back towards Harry and Hermione.
"Oh, one more thing," the Minister said to the couple in her usual collected tone, "You have done a great service to Magical Britain. For your bravery, ingenuity, and determination when faced with the most terrible Dark Lord in living memory, I will personally nominate both of you for Orders of Merlin, First Class."
Harry's eyebrows rose in surprise. He saw how Hermione's jaw dropped, and a small smile spread across his lips.
Amelia Bones continued, "I don't know if you are aware of the procedure, but there are two ways for an Order of Merlin to be awarded. There has to be a nomination by the Minister or a Department Head, and then either the Wizengamot has to agree, or..."
She turned towards Dumbledore with a questioning look, who smiled at her and gave her a nod.
The Minister turned back towards Harry and Hermione and continued, "Or, the nomination is seconded by the Chief Warlock himself. Then, no further vote is required. Congratulations, Miss Granger, Mr Potter, to your Order of Merlin, First Class. It might interest you that you are the youngest and second-youngest award holders since its establishment. We'll have to arrange for a ceremony during the summer."
"Tha- Thank- Thank you, Minister," Hermione stuttered.
"Yes, thank you," Harry concurred.
"It's the least I could do," Amelia Bones said with a shrug, "As I said, you've done us a great service. We all are in your debt."
She gave a last nod towards the couple and then stepped towards the fireplace. She threw some Floo powder into the fire and stepped into the green flames, calling out, "Ministry of Magic, Minister's Office!"
After Minister Bones had vanished, Dumbledore addressed the two teachers in the room, "Minerva, Alastor, I think you may retire for the night. And Harry, Miss Granger, you may leave as well, if you would prefer to continue our talk tomorrow, or..."
Harry shared a glance with his girlfriend before he answered, "We don't mind staying a bit longer."
"Very well," Dumbledore said with a smile, "In that case, I have some more questions for you, and I'm sure you'll have some questions for me in return."
Harry nodded but remained silent until McGonagall and Moody had left the office.
"Do you believe that Riddle is really dead this time?" he then asked Dumbledore.
"It almost seems too good to be true. But there is are two things that make me very hopeful..." Dumbledore began.
He leaned forward in his chair and looked intently at Harry.
"I can't help but notice, Harry, that your scar seems to be fainter."
"It feels much better, too," Harry replied. "Ever since I woke up after I had collapsed earlier, I can't feel my scar at all. Before that, there had always been a very slight pressure in my forehead. I never really noticed it, though, not until it was gone."
Dumbledore nodded slowly, a grave expression on his face. "I am both horrified and elated to hear this, Harry. It confirms my worst fears and completely alleviates them at the same time."
The Professor then waved his wand at a cabinet to his left, which opened, revealing dozens of thick, ancient-looking tomes.
"Those books are writings on Soul Magic," Dumbledore explained. "I've been researching the topic since you handed me Tom's old diary at the end of your second year. That was when I started to suspect what he had done..."
The Headmaster then proceeded to tell Harry and Hermione about how Voldemort had split his soul into several pieces to create anchors that kept him alive even when his body was destroyed. Harry was horrified when Dumbledore revealed that he suspected that Voldemort's soul had accidentally split again when he was vanquished by Harry in 1981, causing one soul shard to latch onto Harry himself. His scar had been a kind of uncompleted soul anchor.
"So, you see," Dumbledore concluded when he finally came to an end, "as your scar is healing, it means that the soul shard is gone. And that, I think, makes it highly likely that Tom's other anchors are destroyed as well."
Harry and Hermione nodded slowly.
"All right... but... but why didn't you tell me this sooner?" Harry asked, a bit upset. "Why did you never actually inspect my scar, if you suspected such a thing?"
Dumbledore sighed. "Yes, maybe I should have informed you as soon as I suspected it. But if I had examined you, I would have needed to explain my suspicions to you. I didn't want to do this until I knew of a way to extract the soul fragment that would not also kill you."
Dumbledore shook his head and continued, "To tell you that you might have to die yourself before Tom could be killed would have been cruel beyond measure... And, with what I have learnt this year, I am glad that I didn't tell you... I have destroyed your childhood enough already."
"Ah... all right, I understand," Harry replied with a heavy voice.
There was a long pause between them until Hermione spoke up, "Headmaster, you said there were two reasons why you thought that Riddle is dead. What is the second one?"
"Ah, yes," Dumbledore began, "that is another quite lengthy tale. You see, Harry, before you were born, a prophecy was made..."
Dumbledore then retold how a prophecy made by Sybill Trelawney had caused Voldemort to see Harry as a threat and target him and his parents. The Headmaster also revealed that it had been Snape who had overheard the prophecy being made and had informed Voldemort, thus setting in motion the events that had resulted in the death of James and Lily Potter.
Harry was shocked about this piece of information, but it helped him to come to terms with the deaths he had unintentionally caused. He was glad that he and Hermione had personally ensured that justice had been served for the death of his parents.
Harry also felt angry at Dumbledore for allowing Snape to teach at Hogwarts. However, he decided not to start an argument with the Headmaster. At least, the old man seemed to genuinely regret some of his past decisions.
When the Headmaster then recounted the wording of the prophecy and offered his own thoughts on its interpretation, Hermione could no longer hold back her objections.
"But- are prophesies really true?" she asked with exasperation. "Do they really come to pass?"
Dumbledore chuckled. "Prophecies... are a peculiar thing. They might come to pass, or they might not come to pass. But once they have been overheard by enough people, they have an annoying habit of fulfilling themselves."
"Oh, I see..." Harry said, "If Voldemort hadn't heard about the prophecy..."
"...he never would have attacked your parents," Dumbledore finished. "Right, Harry. The prophecy, once overheard, became self-fulfilling to some extent."
"As for the other parts of the prophecy..." Dumbledore said and shrugged. "In the end, it doesn't really matter. We could sit here all night and speculate whether the 'power he knew not' was your love for each other-"
"Or our common sense," Harry interjected with a grin.
"Quite. Or anything else. But in hindsight, it's always easy to make a prophecy fit the events. However, we don't gain any new understanding that way. As Minerva always likes to say, divination is a very woolly subject."
Hermione nodded in agreement, visibly pleased about the Headmaster's conclusion.
"But still," Dumbledore added and smiled at Hermione apologetically, "I think this should still count as another small piece of evidence in favour of our assumption that Tom is dead for good this time."
"All right," Hermione conceded.
She then failed to stifle a yawn, and Dumbledore chuckled.
"Yes, it is quite late," the Headmaster said, "It's almost dawn. I think we should end this conversation now, lest you get no sleep at all tonight."
As all his questions had been answered, Harry nodded in agreement.
After wishing the Headmaster a good night, Harry and Hermione rose from their seats and left the office.
"Are you all right?" Harry asked his girlfriend as they walked down the stairs from the Headmaster's Tower. "About what we caused to happen?"
Hermione took a deep breath. "Actually, I am. I know I shouldn't be, but..."
"I feel the same way," Harry admitted. "The way I see it, the Death Eaters made their decision the moment they took the mark. And it was Riddle who decided to kill them in the end, anyway. We really shouldn't lose any sleep over what has happened."
Maybe he sounded a bit more assured that he actually felt, but Harry still thought that the events of the evening had certainly not been a tragedy.
Lost in their own thoughts, Harry and Hermione made their way back to Gryffindor Tower. As always, they separated at the foot of the stairs to the dormitories, only for Hermione to sneak into Harry's bed a few minutes later. They knew that they would both need the comfort of each other's presence that night.
They both had a restless sleep, but they still slept in almost until noon on the next morning.
As noon approached, Harry lay on his back, with Hermione's head resting on his chest. She was hugging him tightly in her sleep, and he gently stroke her hair as he reflected on the events of the previous night.
The more he thought about what had happened, the less he was bothered by his and Hermione's involvement in the deaths of the Death Eaters. After all, the only death he and girlfriend had caused was that of Riddle, and that one had been inevitable. It was Riddle alone who had then killed his servants as he had tried to stay alive. Harry resolved to no longer allow the outcome of the sabotaged ritual to drag him down.
After a while, he felt Hermione stir on his chest.
"Good morning," he whispered and softly kissed her temple.
"Gdmrng," Hermione mumbled back and turned her head to face him.
"Are you all right?" Harry asked.
"I... yes, I am," Hermione confirmed, slowly becoming fully awake. With growing confidence, she added, "I don't like what has happened, but it wasn't our fault, and so I refuse to feel sad about it any more."
"Good..." Harry said, relieved that his girlfriend had come to a similar conclusion as him.
Then, his mood perked up some more when something else occurred to him.
"Sirius..." he began, a smile creeping on his lips.
"I know," Hermione said, "With the new power balance in the Wizengamot, he should finally be able to get a fair trial."
Harry nodded excitedly. "Yes, exactly! Hopefully, we'll see each other this summer!"
"But you'll still spend the summer with me, right?" Hermione asked with a playful pout.
"Definitely!" Harry replied and gave Hermione a peck on her lips.
"Though, I'll miss this," he added a moment later.
"What?" Hermione wondered, looking up at him from where she lay on his chest.
"Holding you, waking up next to you," Harry said and sighed. "I look forward to spending the summer with you, it will be the best summer ever, but I'll miss this."
Hermione frowned. "You're right. But... let me think of something."
"What?" Harry asked. "I doubt that we'll be able to do this at your parents'. I expect that there will be some more adult supervision than here, and we can't use magic outside of school."
"Yes..." Hermione said. "I admit that this is not an easy problem to solve. But I promise that I'll think of something."
"Oh, all right," Harry replied. "But I don't want us to get in trouble with your parents."
"Don't worry, it will all work out," Hermione assured him.
"Well, fine then... So... Should we maybe get up?" Harry then asked. "We're missing classes as it is."
"Oh, exams are over, so who cares?" Hermione replied with a shrug, nestling back comfortably into Harry.
"What!?" Harry asked in mock outrage. "Who are you, and what have you done with Hermione Granger?"
His girlfriend just shrugged again. "Come on, we have killed Voldemort yesterday. I think we are allowed to slack off a bit today."
Harry laughed. "I'm starting to think that you're a really bad influence on me."
"Oh, really?" Hermione replied and rolled off him, propping herself up on one elbow.
"And how, pray tell..." She moved back and leaned over Harry, a teasing grin on her lips.
"...am I..." She swung her leg over him so that she was straddling him.
"...influencing you?" She moved her pelvis further down his body.
It was well past noon when they finally got up.
"Ah, there you are!" Neville exclaimed as Harry and Hermione joined him in the library in the afternoon. "Where have you been?"
When his two friends didn't answer immediately, Neville went on, "There are the strangest rumours about you two! People are saying that you've been somehow involved in what happened in the Wizengamot. Most people thought that you were both in the hospital wing when you didn't show up for classes. But I saw that the curtains around your bed were closed, Harry, so I knew that you came back to the dorm during the night. What happened?"
Harry sighed and sat down next to Neville, with Hermione taking the chair to his other side.
"Well, what is the official story at the moment?" Harry asked.
Neville reached for his bookbag and pulled out his copy of the day's Daily Prophet.
Harry took the newspaper and placed it in front of Hermione and him. The headline came at no surprise to him.
MASSACRE IN WIZENGAMOT
Traditionalist faction wiped out by unknown means
Harry skimmed over the text and was relieved when his and Hermione's names weren't mentioned anywhere. The article basically confirmed what Dumbledore and Minister Bones had told them the night before.
With a sigh, Harry turned back towards Neville.
"All right... yes, we had something to do with all of this," he confirmed.
Neville's jaw dropped. He clearly hadn't expected that.
Harry continued, "I expect that you will learn what has happened soon enough, so there's no reason not to tell you. But it's a long story, and I'd prefer to only tell it once. Could you maybe gather Luna, Ginny, and the twins? Let's meet in the empty classroom where Mione and I usually train."
"Ye- yes, Harry, sure," Neville said and got up, "We'll be there soon."
The remaining afternoon, Harry and Hermione recounted to their friends how they had defeated Riddle the previous night and had inadvertently killed every single marked Death Eater. Their friends listened with rapt attention. They clearly struggled to accept some of the things they were told, but Harry was glad when they ultimately believed them.
If there had still been any last doubts in their friend's minds about the veracity of their story, those would have been removed when the Headmaster stood up during dinner to give a brief summary of what had happened. While the Headmaster skipped over some details, he credited Harry and Hermine with the death of Voldemort and lay the blame for the Death Eater's deaths solely at the Dark Lord's feet.
While Harry was grateful that this put an end to all the baseless rumours flying around, he could have done without the attention the true story was attracting to Hermione and himself. Unfortunately, the real story for once proved to be even more extraordinary than the rumours.
Things only got worse with the headline in the Daily Prophet the next day.
POTTER DOES IT AGAIN
Boy-Who-Lives kills You-Know-Who during attempted resurrection
Harry groaned when he took in the Prophet's front page. However, another headline over an article on the second page of the newspaper caused his mood to perk up immediately.
SIRIUS BLACK INNOCENT
Pettigrew revealed as true betrayer of the Potters
"Wow!" Harry exclaimed with a bright smile. "Minister Bones sure works fast!"
"That's great!" Hermione agreed as she also read the article. "She didn't even bother with a trial... Sure, as he was never convicted or even indicted... So, will we see him soon?"
"I don't know," Harry replied. "I'll have to write to him. Or maybe Dumbledore knows more."
Harry spoke to Dumbledore later that day. The Headmaster told him that Sirius would try to spend a few days in Britain during the summer to meet up with Harry. However, Dumbledore also informed Harry that Sirius was regrettably still recovering from his time in Azkaban. Now that he had been declared innocent, Sirius could finally get some professional treatment, and he had decided to spend the next months in a sanatorium in Canada.
Harry was slightly disappointed by that, but he accepted that it was for the best. He hoped that his godfather would recover faster now that he would be under proper care.
The last days at school before the summer holidays were extremely exhausting for both Harry and Hermione. Students were hounding them wherever they went, wishing to congratulate them on their actions or asking for autographs. Truly, Harry had preferred it when they had been shunned by the entire school. At least, all children whose parents or family members had been marked Death Eaters had been sent home early, so the couple didn't have to fear any retaliatory attacks from grieving students.
Still, Harry and Hermione spent almost their entire free time in their private abandoned classroom, that Hermione had warded against intruders. The only other place that was somewhat safe for the couple was the library, as no one dared to harass them under the watchful eye of the librarian Madam Pince. Whenever they were in the library, Hermione was working on a 'secret project' for her parents. Harry was curious, but she only promised to tell him all about it once everything was ready.
All in all, Harry was glad when the term finally came to an end. He was looking forward to some peace and quiet with his girlfriend after all the turmoil of the past school year.
Before they boarded the Hogwarts Express back to London, Hermione finally revealed to Harry what she had been working on. Harry was surprised by what she told him and doubted that her plan could work. However, Hermione insisted that she knew much better how her parents would react, and Harry reluctantly agreed to go along with the plan.
They had an enjoyable train ride in an apartment that they shared with Neville, Luna, Ginny, and Dean. When they arrived at King's Cross station, they said their goodbyes to their friends before Hermione led a nervous Harry out of the exit to the Muggle side of the platform.
They had just passed the barrier to the crowded platform on the other side, when Hermione squealed and darted off towards a couple standing a short distance away, embracing both of them in a tight hug.
Harry recognised them as Hermione's parents, who he had briefly seen in Diagon Alley almost three years prior.
It was clear that Hermione had gotten her bushy brown hair from her dad, while she had inherited her eyes from her mum, who had smooth hair of a darker brown. Both Mr and Mrs Granger were dressed in neat but casual clothes.
As Harry approached them, Hermione separated from her parents and stepped next to Harry, taking his hand.
"Mum, Dad," she stated, facing her parents with a slightly nervous expression, "may I introduce you to Harry, my boyfriend."
Both her parents gave Hermione a startled look at that.
"Boyfriend?" Hermione's mother repeated, and Mr Granger sized up Harry with narrowed eyes.
"Oh, uhm... yeah?" Hermione said timidly.
"You didn't even tell them that?" Harry exclaimed incredulously.
"Not even that? What's that supposed to mean?" Mr Granger muttered angrily.
Hermione chose to ignore her dad and answered Harry instead. "You knew that I was waiting for the right moment," she said defensively.
"And I suppose the right moment is right before your boyfriend comes home with us to spend the entire summer with you?" Mrs Granger asked her daughter with a raised eyebrow.
"Well, yes," Hermione said defiantly. "I think it is. I wanted you to meet in person."
Mrs Granger sighed and shook her head before she turned to Harry. "Well, as you have been clearly unaware of my daughter's information policy, I won't hold you responsible for it."
She smiled and offered him her hand.
"I'm Doctor Jane Granger, but please call me Jane," she said as they shook hands. "And the grumpy man beside me is my husband Richard."
Hermione's dad huffed in response but then also offered his hand to Harry and gave him a firm handshake. "I'm Mr Granger, and you can call me Mr Granger," he informed Harry.
"Riiiichaard," Jane said warningly.
"Fine, Richard it is," Mr Granger said sullenly.
"Thank you, Jane, Richard," Harry replied with a grateful smile towards Hermione's mother.
He wasn't very impressed by the overprotective-father-act. After all, he had been in a room with none other than Voldemort only a week ago, so he wouldn't be frightened of some grumpy Muggle now. That didn't mean that he wasn't a bit nervous, but that was because he wanted to make a good first impression on his girlfriend's parents, especially considering the stunt that Hermione was about to pull later.
At Hermione's prodding, all of them then made their way through King's Cross station and towards the car park. Once they were all seated in the Grangers' black Jaguar XJ, Jane and Richard questioned Harry about himself and Hogwarts for the entire one-hour drive to their home.
Harry mostly kept his answers to what could be considered safe small-talk territory. Obviously, he didn't tell Hermione's parents anything about his and Hermione's many adventures at school. He knew that his girlfriend preferred to keep her parents blissfully unaware of most of the dangers of the wizarding world.
At the end of the drive, Harry thought he had handled himself well during the interrogation, and he took the proud smile that his girlfriend gave him as they exited the car as confirmation.
When Harry and the Grangers entered their home – an elegant detached house in a quiet, affluent neighbourhood – Jane invited Harry to take his luggage to the guest bedroom and make himself at home.
But Hermione was not about to have that, and she had planned accordingly.
Putting her plan into action, she asked her parents to gather in the living room. Once they were all seated comfortably, Hermione nervously told her parents that she had difficult news to share and implored them to hear her out.
Hermione then proceeded to tell her parents the amazing tale of how Harry and she had shared a kiss at the Yule Ball, only for them to then find themselves in a soul bond with each other. Now, they had to keep in physical contact almost constantly, or else they would risk their health and very lives. Unfortunately, that also meant that they had to share a bed. Consequently, Harry would have to stay in her room.
Harry had known that Hermione could spin quite a tale ever since she had lied for Ron and him after the troll incident in their first year – but boy, was he astonished by her acting skills nonetheless! He kept silent and only nodded at the right times, just as Hermione had instructed him before.
Jane and Richard remained sceptical, until Hermione produced an official-looking letter with the seal of the Ministry of Magic, congratulating the couple on the completion of their soul bond, and additionally handed her parents a thick tome On the Ancient Magiks of Soul Bonds, authored by Xenophilius Lovegood. To the best of her knowledge, the book was entirely fictional – not that she told that to her parents.
Any magical parent would of course have called bullshit immediately, but Hermione's parents naturally had absolutely no points of reference as for what was or wasn't considered normal in the wizarding world. For them, their fifteen-year-old daughter forming a 'soul bond' with an even younger boy was no more extraordinary than a grown woman turning into a cat in their living room, as it had happened during their first meeting with the wizarding world. In addition, Jane and Richard had never known their daughter to tell lies.
Consequently, they abided by Hermione's request and allowed Harry to stay in Hermione's room, albeit very grudgingly. Hermione's dad was especially unamused, and for some reason, Richard's mood didn't improve even when his fifteen-year-old daughter tried to placate her parents by telling them that she was on a contraceptive potion and they therefore had nothing to worry about, anyway.
Harry had to endure the hostile glares of Richard for the following days, but he had faced and fought a Basilisk that could actually kill with a look, so he wasn't much bothered by it. Eventually, Hermione's parents warmed up to him, and he had the best summer of his life. Though, it would have been the best summer of his life anyway.
At the beginning of August, Harry and Hermione were awarded their Orders of Merlin in a ceremony in the Ministry of Magic.
As Hermione still 'hadn't gotten around' to tell her parents about their adventures at school, they told Jane and Richard that they were visiting Neville for the day and took the Knight Bus to London.
During the bus ride, Harry asked Hermione if she would ever come clean with her parents about the true nature of the wizarding world. His girlfriend replied that she would do so eventually, but not before her seventeenth birthday. She was just too afraid that her parents would pull her out of Hogwarts if they knew about the dangers she had been in over the past four years.
During the award ceremony, Minister Bones herself presented Harry and Hermione their Orders of Merlin and held a long laudatory speech. While Harry and Hermione stood next to the Minister on the stage and bashfully listened to the Minister praising them before the guests and the assembled international press, Harry cursed himself for having agreed to the spectacle in the first place.
He shook his head when Amelia Bones portrayed Hermione and him as two daring undercover operatives, as opposed to the incredibly lucky sods that they had really been.
However, when Harry spotted Sirius standing in the audience, he knew that his suffering was worth it. As soon as they were able to get off the stage, Harry ran towards Sirius and hugged his godfather.
"Hey Harry, I'm glad to see you, too," Sirius said cheerfully as they separated.
"And you too, Hermione!" he added with a smile as Hermione caught up to Harry a moment later.
"What are you doing here, Sirius?" Harry asked. "I thought you were still in Canada."
"I'm only here for the ceremony," Sirius replied. "I wanted to surprise you. And I planned the trip as a surprise for you, but also as a surprise for..."
To Harry's surprise, Sirius then turned towards a young woman who stood a few feet behind him, reached for her hand and pulled her closer to him.
The rather attractive witch with short auburn hair seemed vaguely familiar to Harry, but he couldn't place where he had seen her before. However, he was a bit taken aback by the hostile glares the witch was giving Hermione and him.
"May I introduce you to my girlfriend, Harmony," Sirius said brightly to Harry and Hermione, not noticing the tension between the woman at his side and the two teens. "We met at the sanatorium in Canada, where I'm currently staying. Harmony, may I introduce you to-"
"Yes, we've met," Harmony muttered, looking at Harry and Hermione with narrowed eyes.
But in the noise of the crowd surrounding them, Sirius apparently hadn't taken note of her comment, and just went on, "-to my godson Harry Potter, and his girlfriend Hermione Granger..."
An amused expression appeared on Sirius's face as he said Hermione's name. "Huh, now that I think about it, your names sound really similar, Harmony! Isn't that a funny coincidence!?" Sirius laughed out loud. "Hermione Granger, meet Harmony Ranger. Harmony Ranger, meet Hermione Granger." Sirius laughed again.
"Yes... extremely... funny," Harmony gnarled out with gritted teeth.
"Oh!" Hermione exclaimed, her eyes widening in realisation. "You're the dragon handler!"
"What? You know each other?" Sirius asked, visibly confused.
"Yeah," Harry said with a frown. "Your girlfriend tried to attack us after the first task of the Triwizard Tournament. I don't know why, though."
"What?" Sirius wondered, looking back and forth between his girlfriend and the couple before him.
"Why?" Harmony exclaimed angrily. "Why? Because you're the reason why I currently need to stay in a sanatorium. Because you're the reason why I need treatment for my anger issues!"
Luckily, Sirius then intervened before things got out of hand. It took a long conversation with Sirius as the mediator until Harmony finally conceded that Harry and Hermione hadn't been responsible for Rita Skeeter's false and misleading articles in the Daily Prophet, nor for the irrational reaction of the public to Skeeter's accusations.
However, Harry and Hermione apologised profoundly for not immediately setting the record straight about Hermione's name. They truly hadn't considered that the hate mail they were avoiding might end up with someone else.
Once they had bypassed their initial enmity, Harmony proved an excellent conversationalist, and they all quickly warmed up to each other. Regrettably, Sirius and Harmony had to excuse themselves far too soon to Harry's liking, as they had to catch their International Portkey back to Canada. Sirius would be staying there for at least two more months.
Once Sirius and Harmony had left, Amelia Bones approached Harry and Hermione. The Minister then led the couple through the crowd and introduced them to several Wizengamot members and foreign dignitaries.
Afterwards, she also gave them a tour through the Ministry and informed them of the recent changes in the political landscape of Magical Britain. She told the teens that she had fired over half of the Department Heads, including Ludo Bagman and Barty Crouch Senior. Crouch was currently under investigation for his role in his son's escape from Azkaban.
As the Dark faction in the Wizengamot had been wiped out almost in its entirety, the Progressive faction now held the majority of the seats in the Gamot and could name new seat-holders to their liking. Thus, the power balance had fundamentally changed in favour of the Progressives. Currently, laws were being drafted that would finally put an end to any and all discrimination based on blood status.
However, Amelia had been unsuccessful in convincing even the Progressive faction to introduce more democratic elements in the political process, like a public election of the Wizengamot seats or an independent judiciary.
Harry noted that Hermione was especially disappointed when Minister Bones stated that changes to the rights of magical beings like house-elves also wouldn't be forthcoming any time soon. For someone brought up in the Muggle world like Harry and Hermione, the Wizengamot was still an extremely conservative body.
As they left the Ministry that day, Hermione concluded that there was still much that had to change before Magical Britain could be considered a truly modern society. But she vowed that she would make it happen, and Harry promised to support her to the best of his ability.
However, he also cautioned Hermione not to press for too much too fast. The changes they were envisioning couldn't be enacted within a day, a year, and probably not even within a decade. They would need a lot of perseverance.
To his relief, Hermione reluctantly agreed with him. And they both knew that while they could start to make plans on how to best go about it, they had to complete their education before they could truly work for change.
In the following years, Hermione proceeded to wreak havoc on all academic records at Hogwarts, except in Defence, where Harry was the top of the year, the decade, and maybe even the century. In their fifth year, the couple founded an inter-house study group for Defence, the Defence Association, where Harry discovered his love and talent for teaching.
During the summer between their fifth and sixth year at Hogwarts, Headmaster Dumbledore was found dead in his office. For a reason no one could understand, he had put a cursed ring on his finger that had killed him with a withering curse. The wizarding public mourned the loss of the prominent leader, and Professor McGonagall succeeded Dumbledore as the new Headmistress of Hogwarts. As her workload as Headmistress was only slightly larger than as Deputy under Dumbledore, she still found herself able to teach Transfiguration for the NEWT classes.
During a romantic candle-lit dinner in the summer before their seventh year at Hogwarts, Hermione asked Harry to marry her, much to his shock, as he had planned to propose to her on the same evening. He immediately agreed, however, and they married one week after their graduation.
After the wedding, they told Hermione's parents that there had in fact never been a soul bond between them, but Jane and Richard confessed that they had suspected that for a long time already. They weren't mad with the newlyweds, as they remembered how they themselves had behaved as a young teenage couple, and admitted that they were actually quite impressed with their daughter's resourcefulness and her masterfully played bluff.
Harry stuck to his decision to not become an Auror and went into teaching instead. He was hired straight out of the school as Hogwarts's new Defence Professor and became the youngest Professor to ever teach at Hogwarts. But given his teaching experience with the Defence Association and his 'extracurricular' record, no one dared to complain.
Hermione joined her husband on the Hogwarts staff as Junior Professor for Transfiguration, teaching the lower years while she trained for her Transfiguration Mastery with Headmistress McGonagall. She completed the Mastery in record time in only one year and then took over the NEWT classes from McGonagall, too, as the school's youngest-ever Transfiguration Professor.
In the same year, Sirius married his long-time girlfriend Harmony Ranger in a small wedding ceremony in the Caribbean. By then, Sirius had fully recovered from his stay in Azkaban for some time already. Harmony also no longer needed therapy.
Ever since his health had been restored, Sirius had been working with Remus, Fred, and George in the development and testing of products for their joint joke shop. Thanks to the combined ingenuity of the two Marauders and the Weasley twins, their business was extremely successful and soon made them all obscenely rich. They never sold love potions.
Soon after they had finished school, Fred and George married Angelina and Alicia, respectively. Occasionally, they financially helped out their youngest brother Ronald, who became the keeper for the Chudley Cannons, the team that still hadn't won a single match since the founding of the Quidditch League. The matches against the Holyhead Harpies were especially humiliating for Ron, when he was trounced by his own sister.
Ron married Lavender Brown, and the couple immediately tackled the problem of the world not having enough Weasleys in it. Within only a few years, Ron was well on the way to have even more children than siblings. Harry and Hermione sometimes wondered whether the substandard wizard and witch were simply incapable of casting the contraceptive spell correctly and couldn't afford the potion.
Headmistress McGonagall retired fifteen years after Harry and Hermione had graduated. It was the summer before Lily Jane Potter, the eldest of Harry and Hermione's three children, was to start at Hogwarts. Harry was offered the position as Headmaster, but he declined in favour of his wife, who was much better suited to the job in his opinion.
Over the next decades, the Potters used their influence over all of Magical Britain's young minds to slowly but steadily drag Magical Britain into the twenty-first century. By the time James Harrison Potter and Rose Harmony Potter – Harry and Hermione's younger children – graduated from Hogwarts, the school was once more widely regarded as the world's foremost magical school.
The Potters made Mundane Studies, formerly Muggle Studies, an obligatory first-year course for all students who had grown up in the wizarding world, and mundane-born students had to take an introductory course on the magical world. Professor Binns was fired and replaced by a useful teacher for Magical and Mundane History. He remained as a school ghost, though.
The Potters also introduced an obligatory class on ethics, and electives for math, sciences, and arts. Hermione was especially proud when she could announce one more new elective for the NEWT students: Introduction to Logic and Critical Thinking.
The class was taught by Professor Luna Lovegood-Longbottom, who also taught the Care of Magical Creatures class for the OWL students. Her husband Neville was teaching Herbology since Professor Sprout's retirement. Hagrid continued to teach the NEWT Care class, where he could introduce the students to some of his more exotic misunderstood creatures.
However, nothing changed Hogwarts more radically than Hermione Potter's first action as Headmistress. On her very first day on the new job, she abolished the House system at Hogwarts. She stated that instead of identifying with only one House and its virtues, all students should learn to combine the best aspects of all the Houses' traits.
As a side benefit, this eliminated the need for students – and especially her own children – to be sorted by the Sorting Hat.
After all, she and her husband knew better than anyone that entrusting enchanted objects with such tasks was just asking for trouble.
A/N: Well, that's it. This has been the last chapter of Too Many Champions. Thank you all for sticking with me! It's been a lot of fun writing this first longer story of mine, and I've learnt a lot. Being able to set this story to 'Completed' is a great feeling. Once more, thanks to all who have favourited or followed the story, and a huge thank you for all your feedback!