dave-gerecke: Thank you!
Shiba! Thank you so much for your ongoing support of this story, and your good humor. As a violinist, I have to say that all music is wonderful and all instruments have their own special qualities. I chose the viola for the center of this story because it fits so well with Harry's personality: when it's played well it sounds gorgeous, and it generally doesn't like the spotlight.
Darak: read and see. :D Thanks for reviewing.
wolfawaken! Thank you for your support!
moonfyre: here you go. :D
Sykoticstalker27: I'm so glad you liked it.
Freja! That's exactly what it's like. I'm so glad you liked the story. Thanks for all your support and reviewing action. Best of luck in all you do. :)
Wicked! Harry is definitely a world-changer. Have fun with the epilogue, and thank you for your reviews.
Note: Literature is powerful stuff. It lets you do anything. For instance, it lets an author jump years in sentences, as I have. This last part of "A Magic Beyond" is sliiiiiiightly romantic (H/Hr). However, there's nothing here that will make you vomit, I promise. :D Enjoy!
Epilogue: Pretty Bloody Proud
It was the end of yet another concert. The concert hall was warm, in much appreciated contrast to the cold rain outside. Jo had never truly appreciated warm rooms until a few weeks ago. It was a few days after New Years, and she'd had some shopping to do. When she trudged into the flat, sank down in front of a fire her husband had prepared, and actually heard her bones creak, it gave her pause. Was she getting old already?
The wild applause of the audience played was merely a rumble at the edge of her consciousness. She stood while the audience clapped and whistled appreciatively, smiled, and let the volume rise back up to its usual roar. The London Chamber Players was the best quality, steadiest gig she'd ever had. She looked over at the cello section and surreptitiously blew a kiss at the love of her life. He put a hand on his cheek and batted his eyes. She had to bite her tongue.
The one thing about Jim that would never change was his ability to make her laugh, no matter what the situation. There had been their tentative, quiet relationship at Surrey U, the snogging sessions in practice rooms at Conservatory, and then marriage, and then … goodness. Twenty years had flown by. Jo needed glasses now, Jim was getting a paunch, and they were both going gray, but at least they had each other.
The curtain dropped and the orchestra left the stage. Pressing gently past other people and finally reaching her case, Jo wiped down her instrument and put it away. Just as she was loosening her bow, Mark, the security guard, came over to her.
"Jo?" he asked.
"Mark!" she said, cheerfully. "Something need doing?"
Mark laughed. "No, ma'am, I just have a message. You and Jim have some guests waiting for you out in the hall."
"Guests?" she asked, clicking the latch shut on her case. "We're not expecting anyone."
"They said you weren't," Mark said, nodding. "But they seem pleasant, and if you need me, I'll be right there."
Jo put on her coat and blinked at Mark, who was weedy, thin, and had to be about twenty-one, if that. He puffed out his chest and looked quite ridiculous.
"Yes, thank you, Mark. I'll just collect my husband and we'll see to these guests. Jim? All ready?"
"Yes indeed," Jim said, coming over with his cello case. He parked it next to his wife, pulled on his evening coat, scarf and gloves, and pecked her on the cheek.
They each picked up their cases and headed for the side door as Jo explained they had people there to see them. Jim was as surprised at this as Jo had been, and when they stepped out into the lobby a couple stood there waiting for them, arm in arm.
The woman was young, of average height, with frizzy brown hair coiled in an elegant twist. Bright brown eyes blinked behind delicate oval glasses. She wore an unbuttoned thick coat over a lovely blue evening dress.
The man was young too, and strikingly handsome. He was straight and tall, slim and broad-shouldered, wearing a tuxedo and an unbuttoned overcoat. The light bounced off his high cheekbones and reflected in his luminous green eyes. His hair, black as pitch, was cut in a flattering, fashionably messy way, and he wore glasses with very hip rectangular frames.
No. It couldn't be.
Jo had stopped dead, and was staring rudely. A vision was filtering back to her, of a small boy with the same eyes, same hair … the man had no scar, but everything else was too similar to ignore. Jo handed Jim her case, hardly looking at her husband, who was gazing at her curiously. She found her legs and walked over to the man. They locked eyes.
"Harry?" she asked at once.
The man smiled at her. He looked a bit surprised. "Hi, Jo," he said softly, in a pleasant baritone. "Wow, I didn't think you'd remember me. It's been a very, very long time."
"Oh, Harry!" Jo cried, all decorum forgotten, and threw her arms around him.
"Harry?" Jim asked, confused.
Jo turned around, still holding Harry, and narrowed her eyes at her husband. "Harry! The little one! You lugged him around Kew for a whole day when we were at university!"
And suddenly it dawned on Jim, and his eyes got huge. Pretty soon he was putting down instruments and hugging Harry and then firmly shaking his hand, and the woman next to Harry was laughing.
"It's good to see both of you," Harry said. "Not that I'm surprised, of course. I remember you couldn't stop staring at each other the whole day. Couple of lovesick fools, you were!"
"And still are!" Jim said proudly, putting his arm around Jo. "Our twentieth anniversary's coming up. January 26."
"Congratulations," Harry said.
"Thank you. How are you, dear?" Jo asked.
"Doing quite well," Harry said, smiling. "And if I'm grinning like an idiot, it's her fault." He threw a long arm around the woman next to him.
The young woman smiled happily, showing perfectly straight, pearly-white teeth.
"Jo, Jim, I'd like to introduce Hermione Granger. Her parents are dentists, in case you can't tell."
Hermione frowned slightly and raised an eyebrow at him. Jim and Jo both laughed.
Jo smiled and shook Hermione's hand. "It's nice to meet you, dear."
"Likewise," she said kindly, now shaking hands with Jim.
Jim shook his head in disbelief at Harry. "Gah, lad, it's been years!" he said. "I can't believe how tall you are! How old are you now, if you don't mind?"
"Twenty-nine, sir," Harry said.
"Jim!" said Jo.
"What?" Jim asked.
Jo eyed her husband, who continued to look confused. Harry laughed, and Jo finally smiled too, feeling supremely content. It was so good to see Harry happy and grown, to catch him up in an embrace, to know that he had become the heartbreaker she knew he would.
It was fulfilling in ways that most things could never be.
"So how did you find us?" Jo asked.
"Well, Hermione and I wanted to take in a show, and I saw the names on the program and thought it was a reasonable chance to take," said Harry.
"I'm glad you took it," Jo said warmly.
"Me too," Harry said. "I half expected to see Lisa's name on the program, or Aidan's. Do you hear from either of them?"
This took Jo by surprise. She hadn't expected Harry to remember everybody. "Well," she said, "Lisa plays with the Symphony now, but we do run into her on occasion. She's just gotten a new cat, from what I understand, and she's doing well. And Aidan's not doing music anymore. He runs a café in Manchester."
They stood around and talked for a little while. Apparently Harry had gone to school in Scotland with Hermione (they were in the same year). She was now a doctor working at a hospital in London that Jo had never heard of, and Harry, after two stints in jobs that he hated (one he disagreed with and the other was stupendously boring) was now very happily teaching at the school he used to attend. When Jim, assuming correctly that they were dating, asked incredulously how they were able to see each other often enough, Harry replied simply that distance was not a problem.
Jim scratched his head. And Jo didn't ask how this was possible, or how his scar had disappeared, as though it had never existed at all. She was just so glad to see that he was all right. He was comfortable, happy, safe, and loved … everything she wished for him.
"Well, it's getting late," Harry said finally. "We have a train to catch tomorrow, and I expect you two have things to do as well."
"Oh, my, yes we do!" Jo said, her brain finally clicking back into the present. "We're leaving on tour for France in two days, and we need to pack! Come on, Jim, we'd best go and get some sleep. Let the lovebirds have some space," she said, and winked.
Jim waggled his eyebrows at her. "D'you mean those lovebirds," he said, thumbing at Harry and Hermione, "or these?" he finished, pointing at himself and Jo.
"Oh, you!" she said, gently slapping him away. They walked off, leaving Harry and Hermione to watch and smile. "Goodbye, Harry! Lovely meeting you, Hermione! Come see us when the Players come back to London! We'll have dinner!" Jo shouted to them, as her husband tried to tickle her.
"Yes, let's!" Harry called.
"Goodbye, it was wonderful meeting you!" Hermione called.
They waved until Jo and Jim turned the corner. Harry and Hermione both buttoned their coats and put on their gloves. Harry let Hermione smooth his lapel and straighten his muffler. She looked up into his green eyes and smiled.
"So that was the woman who changed your life?" she asked.
Harry smiled back. "More than you know," he said. "'Course," he continued, feigning carelessness and deliberately not looking at her, "She's not the only one."
Hermione took that as her cue. Rising on tiptoe, she planted a small kiss on Harry's cheek, and heard him take in a quick breath. She cursed mentally at having been too forward. They'd only been going out for a month and Harry, as far as she could tell, was terrible at handling public displays of affection.
He said nothing. But he didn't move, either. He just looked at her and got his face right in hers, his green eyes glimmering with mischief, a little smile playing about his mouth.
"Healer Granger, that was very sneaky of you," he chided in an undertone.
And then, quick as a dart, he shot in for the kill and kissed her square on the lips. Pulling away a moment later, he saw that Hermione looked a little dizzy, but absurdly pleased.
"Ha … Ha …" she was trying to say his name, blinking furiously and failing.
It made him laugh. After so many years of thinking he was a flop with girls, seeing that he could have an effect like that on someone so smart was a bit mind-blowing. Finally, though, she snapped out of it, shaking her head and giving him a small grin.
"Harry," she managed. Then she narrowed her eyes at him like he was a naughty little boy. "You never showed her your card! She would have just died!"
Harry snorted. "Hermione, A, she wouldn't have understood it, and B, if she got the gist, she'd be full of questions we wouldn't be able to answer. You know full well I couldn't have shown it to her."
Harry had just recently gotten his own Chocolate Frog Card, and while Hermione was tremendously excited about it, Harry didn't know if he was more puzzled or amused by the whole thing. He didn't see what all the fuss was about, really. Yes, he'd defeated Voldemort at seventeen, saved the world, blah blah blah. But in his eyes, he was doing his life's work right now, at Hogwarts. It would probably seem odd to others that after such a flashy adolescence and a dramatic few years as an Auror he would find such satisfaction in such a "humble" profession, but he was finally doing something he could truly be proud of … something he loved.
"Come on, I want to read it again," Hermione said, digging into Harry's pocket for his card.
Harry laughed and shook his head. Apparently Hermione's high over this ludicrous card thing hadn't worn off yet. He let her take it out, getting a glimpse of his own face on the front, smilingly shyly, before Hermione turned it over. They were alone in the lobby, but Hermione still read it aloud quietly.
"Professor Harry Potter," she read, and gazed up at Harry with a definitely sexy look in her eyes. "Ooh, I like that."
Harry laughed. "Get on with it!"
"Very well," she said. "Professor Harry Potter is currently the Defense against the Dark Arts instructor at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Widely regarded as the most powerful light wizard England has seen since Albus Dumbledore, Mr. Potter, at seventeen, was responsible for the demise of the dark wizard Voldemort. He has written two books on the subject he teaches, and one of these, The Art of Practical Defense, is in its second printing. Mr. Potter is a Quidditch-enthusiast, and a sometime Seeker for pick-up games. He also plays the viola."
"Terribly," Harry added.
Hermione scoffed. "That's not true! I mean, of course the first few months it was quite painful to listen to you practice, but you don't sound like a dying cat when you play anymore."
Harry raised an eyebrow. "I sounded like a dying cat? You never said that! Neither did Ron, come to think of it."
"Well, I didn't want to discourage you, and Ron didn't even hear you. He just cast silencio on the door. Besides, you can play real music now. It's been four years of lessons, right?"
"Three. And I still sound like a dying cat from time to time," Harry said, nudging her gently. He expected Hermione to either scoff again or laugh.
Hermione did not scoff, and she did not laugh. She just smiled at him.
"I am so proud of you," she said quietly, taking his hand and squeezing it gently. "And I'm sure if Jo had seen that card, she'd be even prouder of you than I."
Harry grinned at her and they started off.
"Which is difficult, mind you," Hermione finished, as they reached the doors and stepped out into the chilly night, "As I am pretty bloody proud."
And there it is, folks. Hope you enjoyed it. Thanks so much for your support! I have other stories in the oven, and they should be appearing reasonably soon. :)