Harry and Susan had taken Emma and Dan to Diagon Alley to look at possible sites for Susan. She wanted to open an ice cream shop. They walked up and down the alley. Bill had mentioned having purchased two buildings when they had talked with him last but both were better suited for retail than a food shop.
The Weasley twins had expressed interest in leasing one, as it was quite a bit larger than the one that they currently rented. Their business was literally booming with the sale of fireworks. It seemed that the celebrations would never end. Fred and George knew that it would not last forever but it gave them the capital for expansion of space and product line. The Professors at Hogwarts next year were in for a real treat.
They walked to the burned-out site of the old Fortescue shop. The place always made him think of Aunt Marge blowing up like a balloon. With half a smirk Harry said, "I spent a week here once. Mr. Fortescue kept treating me to sundaes and telling me stories."
Dan looked around and said, "Susan, it's the best site in the area for what you want." They had taken Hermione here once for ice cream before her first year and remembered it fondly.
Susan looked apprehensive. It was a great site, but the rent was likely to be a lot more expensive in the center of the alley than along the fringes where the new shops usually sprang up. Also the building needed a lot of work. She said, "Maybe we should look at the little one at the end again."
Harry sensed her unease and said, "Let's go talk with Bill. I asked about this property a while ago but I don't know what happened with the transaction. He'll let us know who owns it and if it's available."
It was a beautiful day. Dan said, "If you don't mind, we'll wait here. It's nice out and we enjoy people watching."
Susan conjured two chairs for them and smiled.
Harry replied, "We'll be back in fifteen minutes."
They walked to Gringotts, asked to see Bill and were shown in to his office immediately. He was visiting with Griphook. "Good afternoon, Mr. Potter, Miss Bones," said Griphook. "How may we serve you?"
"Hi Griphook. Hi Bill. I was wondering what happened with the old Fortescue site that I asked you to look into?
Bill grinned and said, "As of a week ago, you own it. What would you like to do with it?"
Harry explained that Susan wanted to open an ice cream shop and asked, "How much would startup expenses be?"
Bill replied "Twenty," implying twenty thousand galleons as it had been largely destroyed by Death Eaters.
Harry nodded and said, "Please re-deed it, add one hundred to her account and help her with anything that she needs."
Bill looked at Harry for a moment and he nodded silent confirmation of Bill's unspoken questions. Bill said, "It will be done before you leave the bank. What else?"
Harry said, "Nothing today. We need to get back to the house. Thanks Bill. Thanks Griphook." Bill would add one hundred thousand galleons to Susan's vault, sign the deed to the property over to her and find a builder to do the restorations.
Susan looked on, not certain what she'd witnessed, but replied, "Thank you." They walked out of the bank and Susan again said, "Thank you, Harry."
Harry gently squeezed her arm and replied, "No worries, Sis. Bill will help you with anything that you might need. I was taking business classes from them all year. They're really helpful."
As they were approaching Dan and Emma, one of the new second year Gryffindors saw him and dragged his mum over to say hi. Soon there was a rather large crowd standing a respectful distance away looking on. No one noticed the angry blond haired man slip by.
… --- …
As Harry and Susan were visiting Bill, Flitwick looked over the Daily Prophet with unusual satisfaction.
By Molly Weasley
The question on everyone's lips these days is what the future holds for the 'defenders of the light'. So far the boy and girl who lived have kept mum on their plans. It was previously reported that they are engaged to be married. This fact seems to be supported by the lovely ring that Miss Hermione Granger was seen wearing when she and Sir Harry Potter destroyed the tacky memorial that in no way represented the lives lost in the recent war.
A few of the defenders have however announced plans.
Miss Luna Lovegood, daughter of Mr. Odd Lovegood, this publications direct competitor, has joined forces with Mr. Rubeus Hagrid, current Care of Magical Creatures Professor at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and wizardry. They plan on opening a 'zoo' of magical creatures. A zoo is a muggle concept that allows people to view and study animals in their natural habitats. Sir Potter has purchased 10,000 acres of land on the southwest side of Hogwarts to help the two with their project.
Miss Padma Patil has accepted a Magical Medical Apprenticeship with Master Healer Poppy Pomfrey at Hogwarts. Her course of study will be four years.
Mr. Dean Thomas, roommate to the boy who lived and member of Sir Potter's so called Defense Association has accepted a position at the Ministry of Magic. He will be working as a public relations liaison.
Mr. Seamus Finnigan, also a member of the so called Defense Association, has taken Sir Potter up on his offer of business funding and is opening a pub near his home in Dublin.
Auror Nymphadora Tonks-Lupin has been promoted to the Chief Investigator of the Magical Law Enforcement division. She has hand picked a team of elite investigators that include Auror Bob Sunset as well as newly confirmed Aurors Richard Chambers and Alyx.
Auror Lupin's husband Remus, a former Hogwarts Defense against the Dark Arts Professor, has filled the job as acting MLE ambassador to the muggle government. This is a controversial posting as it is currently illegal for werewolves to be employed by the ministry. Mr. Kingsley Shacklebolt, the new director of the MLE, has challenged the law and the Wizengamot has agreed to hear the case next week. Shacklebolt was quoted as saying, "Just because someone is infected with Lycantrophy does not mean they are a monster." Mr. Shacklebolt has circumvented the law for the moment by funding the appointment through unusual means.
Professor Minerva McGonagall will remain Head Mistress of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. She has a great number of positions to fill. She had no comments on her current candidates.
As you can see from this article Mr. Reggie McDonald is no longer editor of the Daily Prophet. Sir Potter recently claimed the one million-galleon reward that our parent corporation TDP Ltd offered for the death of the dark lord three years ago. It bankrupted the paper and Sir Potter immediately bought out the remaining interest. He has split the ownership between Mrs. Molly Weasley, Mrs. Fleur Weasley, Doctor Daniel Granger, Doctor Emma Granger and a group of Hogwarts students who were orphaned by Voldemort and the Death Eaters. Miss Susan Bones has agreed to represent the orphans' interest for the first term on the firm's board of directors along with the other four owners.
Mrs. Weasley will oversee daily operations. She plans on keeping the current staff in place. She was quoted as saying, "The role of the Daily Prophet is to report the news, not create it. We will strive to consistently put out accurate and balanced stories clearly separating news articles from editorials. The Daily Prophet will also publish stories from the nonmagical world that ordinary witches and wizards should be aware of.
Flitwick was glad that Harry had purchased the business, removed McDonald as editor and grateful that he had given Molly such an opportunity.
… --- …
July 9 - Monte Carlo
The plan was very simple and set to execute flawlessly. Lucius had obtained a forged copy of his British passport and enough identification to be passable. He was listed as a wealthy British Expat currently working in Romania. He had deposited ten million pounds sterling in the casino account the week before drawn from a Barclays account from Nice.
The irony was that most of the money that he had deposited had previously been stolen from the Southampton branch of the same bank. Malfoy was met at the Monte Carlo airport and driven in a stretch limousine to the hotel. An hour later he left the hotel and apparated back to the airport where Draco was waiting.
"Come Draco," said Lucius as they made their way to the men's room. Once inside they did a quick check to verify that it was empty and side-apparated to a location a quarter mile away from their hotel.
Adjusting the invisibility cloak, Draco carefully followed his father into the hotel and up to their room. Lucius casually noted the eye in the sky cameras that were all over the hotel including the elevators and the hallways into the sleeping rooms. Twenty-five years ago he had pulled this scam once before though on a much smaller scale. It had been the beginning of his family wealth.
Lucius explained the layout of the casino and that he would be playing at one of the high limit roulette tables. While under the invisibility cloak, Draco was to carefully charm 15 of the18 black slots so that the roulette pill would not land on those spaces. When Lucius was done playing Draco was to immediately take off the charm.
"I get it. Why can't I play?"
"You have to be twenty-one to play the table games in the casino. Do not argue with me. I agreed to help you when we are finished here. Are you ready?"
Pacified, Draco replied, "Yes Father."
They left the room with Draco under the cloak and walked into the salon. The host immediately walked up to Lucius and said, "Good afternoon, Mr. Malfoy. Which game are you interested in playing?"
Lucius replied in a friendly manner, "I will test my luck at roulette. Thank you."
Woodruff the host pointed to the five dealers who were lined up. They each were wearing a starched white shirt, black trousers and had a small black dealer's apron on around their beltline. "Who would you like as your dealer, Mr. Malfoy?"
Malfoy eyed them for a moment and selected the pretty blond with above the shoulder hair. If she hadn't been a filthy muggle he might have been attracted to her. She introduced herself, "Good evening sir. My name is Susan. I'll be your dealer."
Malfoy nodded and Woodruff asked, "What amount and denomination of tiles would you like, Mr. Malfoy?"
"Hundred thousand pound tiles, please. Five million will do for now."
Lucius sat at the seat nearest the outside red and black squares. A moment later a pretty server asked him if he would like a beverage. Lucius replied, "Single malt, please."
A moment later, Woodruff brought the tiles and Lucius signed for them. He took a step back and said, "Good luck, Mr. Malfoy." A moment later Lucius placed five of the tiles on the outside red square and carefully folded his hands on the top of table. The dealer expertly spun the pill around the inside rim of the wheel.
After a moment, the dealer waved her hand over the table and said, "No more bets."
The eye in the sky security operator was watching the game and saw nothing of interest as the pill landed on 35 black. The dealer placed the red crystal marker on the 35 square and swept the tiles from the table. A moment later, she picked up the crystal and said, "Place your bets." Malfoy remained expressionless and placed five more tiles on red and refolded his hands on the table.
Meanwhile Draco had charmed six of the eighteen black numbers and was about to do 13 black when the dealer spun the wheel and spun the pill in a clock ways motion.
"Fifteen black." She repeated the motion. Malfoy counted his tiles and took a sip of his scotch to give Draco more time in between spins. After about fifteen seconds he placed twenty of the tiles on red. He was a million pounds down with two million as the current bet.
The dealer said, "Good luck sir," and began to spin the pill along the inside rim of the wheel. It landed on 34 red. She matched the stack of tiles that he had on red with another stack from the casino. He was a million up.
Malfoy took another sip of his scotch and placed the stack that she had given him on top of his own, making the bet four million. Draco had charmed the black slots on the wheel through 24 black.
The dealer spun the wheel, waved her had over the table and said, "No more bets. Good luck." A few seconds later the pill landed on 1 red. She matched his stack and waited. Malfoy was five million up with eight million on the table. Malfoy carefully stacked the tiles and indicated that he was ready to spin again.
The dealer spun the pill, waved her hand over the table and stepped back from the wheel. The eye in the sky operator watched carefully as the pill tripped on the spinning wheel and landed on eighteen red. She matched his eighty tiles with eighty from the casino. He was thirteen million up. Malfoy looked at the tiles for a moment and nodded. He smiled and said, "Perhaps I'll be lucky again tomorrow." He pushed his stack of tiles across to the dealer, ending the game and said, "I think I'll go have dinner. Thank you."
Woodruff and the dealer each replied, "Thank you, sir. The pleasure was ours." They had been trained to congratulate a winner and show profound respect to a loser.
Draco whispered "Finite Incantatem," and waited by the door.
Woodruff watched as the dealer carefully counted the tiles. Within five minutes, Lucius had cheated the casino out of thirteen million pounds. On the other side of the salon a wealthy Japanese man had lost nearly the same amount in the course of a half hour. The casino knew that in the long run math would beat luck. The house advantage in single-zero roulette was about three percent. The Englishman had won today, but most likely would be back someday and would lose. Woodruff handed the slip for Malfoy to sign and accepted the clipboard back after Malfoy had signed the chips-in ticket. Malfoy finished his scotch and walked out of the salon.
Malfoy was a bit annoyed when the concierge offered to escort him to a dinner table. Lucius replied, "Perhaps I'll go up to my room first and freshen up for a few minutes." The concierge offered to escort him to his room, but Lucius waved him off replying, "I would like a window table in thirty minutes."
The concierge nodded and walked away. Malfoy made his way to the elevator, waited until everyone had gotten out before getting in and went back to his room. Draco silently followed behind. Malfoy opened the door and closed it after they both walked in.
Draco took off the invisibility cloak, smirked and said, "That was so easy. We should do it again tomorrow."
Lucius shook his head and said, "I will briefly play a fair game tomorrow for lower stakes so I will be welcome to come back another day. I will check out tomorrow at noon. I need to go have dinner at their restaurant I will return and order something from room service for you when I return. Wait here."
Draco said, "Why can't I come with you?"
"You aren't a registered guest here. I don't want to raise suspicion. Do as you're told." There was no room for negotiation in his voice.
Two hours later, Lucius returned and said, "The server will be bringing up desert in a few minutes. Put the cloak back on."
The next morning, Lucius went back into the casino salon and signed for a million in chips. He played seven hands, winning four and losing three before cashing in. He collected his certified checks and left a few minutes later in the hotel limousine. Draco apparated to the men's room at the airport and they took their flight back to Bucharest.
Malfoy deposited the checks in Barclays, slightly more than thirteen million pounds richer for the weekend's work. In the course of a month he had reacquired well over half of his previous wealth. Even better, he had effectively laundered the money that he deposited into his account. The money would go a long way in achieving his long term goals.
Draco, while realizing that the scam had worked perfectly, had his own ideas on growing his own pile of gold. He was under no delusions that Lucius was going to share. The ten thousand pounds that his father had handed him was nothing. His plan, while making him extremely wealthy, would also accomplish another goal. The Dark Lord had personally taught him how to use fear to further his goals. When he was finished his enemies would know the true meaning of fear. The money was just lemon in the sherbet.
Lucius had always told him to set several short term goals that would lead to the bigger prize. He had five steps planned out perfectly. The first step involved a muggle and a whole lot of pain.
… --- …
Saturday morning Emma was fixing the teeth of Jimmy Thornton during an emergency appointment. Jimmy had been bouncing on the bed with his sister Kimmy when he had fallen off and landed face first in the bedside table. Not really face first, more like teeth first she decided as she worked him over. However, the procedure didn't take nearly as long as she thought it would.
It was nice to be back to work. She had missed the practice a lot. She and her husband had spent years building it. It would take a while to get it back to where they had been. Emma wasn't sure she wanted to get back to the point of doing dental work five days a week. However, it was nice to be able to use her surgical skills.
She shut the door behind the newly fixed and still numb Jimmy, the not so sorry I pushed him Kimmy and their frazzled mum. The bell on the doorjamb jangled and Emma smiled at it. She had missed that sound.
She locked the door and started back to the operating room. She had let her assistant leave after the procedure was complete. She started to hum Dan's awful song in the silence as she began to sort the tools she had used into the correct bins. Her mind was on the shopping trip she and her daughters were going to be taking this afternoon. Hermione needed a wedding dress and they were going to make a spectacular attack on the shops of London. Molly, Lisa and Diane were joining them.
She glanced down at her hand to look at the mothers ring and frowned. It was on her desk in the ugly bowl Hermione had made in primary school along with her engagement and wedding rings. She never operated with them on.
Shrugging mentally she picked up the scalpel and was about to dispose of it when she heard the bell on the doorjamb ring. She froze waiting for someone to call out her name. When that didn't happen she slipped the scalpel in her lab jacket and slowly started towards her office. Her wedding ring was her emergency portkey.
Emma heard footsteps and looked up to see a young man standing before her. She recognized him instantly and before she could pull her hand out of her pocket with the only weapon she had, he pointed his wand at her and said, "Stupefy."
She flew backwards into the wall, her head slamming against the dry wall.
Draco Malfoy smiled cruelly as he approached the muggle. He was going to have such fun with the mudblood's mother. He stood next to her prone form and smirked. This time he didn't have to share. He looked around the room deciding a good place to start.
Emma's head was pounding. She could feel the blood flowing from a cut in her hand. She gripped the handle of the scalpel tighter. She watched Malfoy look around through half closed eyes.
Emma Young had been born to Gloria and Andrew Young in early September during a freak snowstorm. Refusing to wait until her father had managed to get them to the hospital she had come out kicking and screaming. Her father claimed that he knew the moment he saw her that she was going to be feisty and free spirited. This was not always a good thing when your father was in the military.
By the time Emma had finished school and was ready for university her father was a three star Lieutenant General with the Royal Marines. Dan was not joking about him being a scary man. He had chased away every one of her boyfriends except for Jackson Turnbull, who he loved to death and Daniel Granger who she loved to death.
Andrew had started teaching her self defense when she was five. By the time Emma was seven she knew how to fight off both of her older brothers. She never really had to put her skills to the test and until the magical war she had basically forgotten about them. Emma was suddenly very glad she and Diane had gotten a couple lessons on personal defense from Alyx. It was a nice refresher and some of the things her father had taught her had come back.
If at all possible run away, Alyx had told them. If you can't run away then disable your attacker. If you get his wand then all he has left are his fists. You can use your wand to stop them. Emma couldn't and neither could Diane but there was a lesson there. Get the wand.
Use anything you can as a weapon, Alyx had lectured. Rocks, sticks, hands and feet. Whatever is easiest and works best for you. Trust your instincts.
Emma's instincts were telling her that this boy was going to kill her but not before she wished she were dead.
Draco leaned over her and put the wand next to her head. His insane smile changed to shock as she grabbed the wand with her left hand and slashed at his throat with the scalpel. She missed but managed to slice a large gash in his cheek. Using the floor as leverage she snapped his wand and it made a spectacular cracking noise. She scrambled to her feet and attempted to run.
Draco's pain turned to fury and he grabbed her by the throat. He again slammed her against the wall. The hand not gripping her throat grabbed her wrist and squeezed it. She gripped the scalpel tighter knowing he would have to break her right arm to get her to let go.
His right hand was cutting off her air supply. Using her left hand she clawed at his hand, wrist and then his face as she felt the room getting warmer. He laughed at her as her eyes began to bug out. Desperate she began to flail her feet around. He loosened his grip and she gasped for air. He leaned close to her face so that she was gasping in his breath. She could smell the blood running from his wounded face.
"You're not going to die that easily," he sneered at her. Laughing at her expression he snarled, "Oh no. I have plans for the nasty muggle."
He suddenly let go of her throat and brought his fist down across the bridge of her nose. It made a horrible noise as it shattered and blood began to gush from both of her nostrils. She felt her eyes swelling up.
She was shaking in terror when Draco reared back and then slammed his fist into her ribcage. He howled in pain and looked at his bruised hand. Still gripping her right wrist he tore at her blood stained shirt.
"Dragonhide," he muttered, disgusted. "What a waste, protection for a filthy muggle." That explained why the stunning spell had not worked. No matter, he would take the vest from her. It would be a nice thing to taunt Potter with. He slowly unzipped it revealing her bra underneath. She could hear her own heartbeat.
As his hand groped her Emma tried to figure out how to get free. She was scared half out of her mind and tried pushing him away with her left hand but he was stronger. She grabbed him by the hair and pulled.
Draco grabbed her other wrist and held it tightly too. Emma met his eyes and he leaned in and attempted to kiss her. She turned her head struggling to free her arms.
"You nasty bitch. Don't you turn from me," he snarled into her ear. He twisted her left wrist and she inhaled sharply. Emma choked on her own blood. Draco continued to twist her wrist until he heard a cracking sound. She was screaming then and he felt his pleasure rising.
He let go of her now broken wrist and grabbed her jaw. Forcing her to face him he again went in for a kiss. Emma was horrified when he pulled back and her blood was on his face mixing with his own bleeding wound. She felt the fear choking her just as the blood running from her nose was.
Draco grabbed her shirt and vest and attempted to pull them off her left side. Emma struggled with him. After a minute her broken wrist was pinned behind her by her clothing. She whimpered in pain and fear as he pushed her against the wall harder. He pressed up against her so that she couldn't move.
"How does it feel to know you are going to die a very painful death?" He asked her in an almost conversational tone. His face was inches from hers. He snickered at her reaction.
"Not just you either. I'm going to have so much fun torturing the mudblood in front of Potter. I can't wait to see him break, as his filthy little girlfriend is tortured. I'm going to use the Cruciatus curse on her. Do you know what that feels like? A thousand knives all tearing you apart at the same time. Maybe I'll leave her alive but insane. The smartest witch in 500 years loses her mind. She can room with Longbottom's crazy parents. A tribute to my Aunt Bella. She was a great witch. Followed the cause, fought for and died for the cause. Your filthy muggle husband killed her. It's only fitting that I kill you," he told her. She doubled her efforts to free her hands but he held tight.
"I'm not going to kill you just yet though. I could use some galleons. How much do you think Potter would pay to get his mudblood's filthy muggle mum back? I know you're a worthless piece of rubbish but what are you worth to him?" He asked tracing his finger over the strap of her bra.
He exposed her breast by roughly tearing her bra away. Emma choked on more blood and began to cry harder. Draco slapped her across the face and told her to shut up. Her right hand was numb from his grip but she still held the scalpel.
She was terrified at what he was doing to her. He bent down and gently licked her exposed nipple with his tongue. She sucked more of her own blood into her lungs when she gasped and tried to struggle away.
Her crying turned to screams when he bit down hard drawing blood. His laughter chilled her even more. He grabbed her by the throat once more and threw her to the floor. Emma landed hard and before she could move his soft Italian leather shoe was impacting her exposed ribs. He kicked her four times before she managed to roll over and bring the vest and tattered shirt back around her body.
Draco reared his foot back and kicked her again. This time in the backside and then her legs. Emma curled into a ball trying to let the vest protect as much of her body as possible. He just kept kicking her in any place he could.
After a couple of minutes he walked around her and looked down. Draco saw the terror in the muggle woman's eyes. He loved it when they got that look. He was about to kick her in the face when he was reminded, cruelly, that he had not been able to get her to drop the oddly shaped knife.
Emma heard him scream as she sliced through the Achilles tendon on his left ankle. Draco hit the floor next to her and she rolled the opposite direction. She gasped as her tender ribcage hit the floor. He managed to grab her legs and using his good one for leverage pulled her back towards him. They were both screaming in pain, and she in terror too.
He managed to get her feet almost to his face when he looked down. She still had the knife. Draco was ready to kick her again.
Emma Granger was a talented dental surgeon. Incisions in the mouth are tricky. One through clothing and on a body part she had not studied in years was even harder. Emma brought the knife up his leg at an odd angle and slid the blade under the kneecap on his right leg. She then did something no doctor attempting to fix a knee would do. She twisted the blade so that it would stand parallel to his leg and snapped the blade off.
Draco screamed and let go of her legs. She kicked him in the head a couple times and struggled to get away from him.
Her ribs hurt badly and Emma knew from the tunnel vision that she was experiencing that she was about to pass out. She had to get to her office. The door had a lock. The desk had a phone. The bowl held a portkey.
Emma lay fifteen feet from her attacker trying to catch her breath. Her nose was still bleeding and she could hardly move. Draco howled in pain at first but then his endorphins kicked in and adrenaline started to block the pain. She struggled to sit up.
I have to get out of here, Emma thought wildly as she forced herself to kneel. She choked again as she staggered to her feet. She grabbed the wall with her right hand to steady herself leaving a messy red handprint when she was finally able to move from the spot.
Draco, being the brain surgeon he was, attempted to stand. His heel and knee both gave out and he crashed to the floor screaming in pain and fury. She stumbled against the wall fighting to stay conscious.
Draco dragged himself almost to where she was standing trying to catch her breath. She knew that if he got a hold of her again she was going to die. She looked around for another weapon and her eyes happened upon a tank of gas. Nitrous oxide.
She flashed back to Hermione's first and only cavity. She had slept for almost a day when given the nitrous oxide gas. The mask had crossed her face just once and she could have only breathed it in once before passing out. After finding out about her magic they had chalked it up to being something to not mix with a magical person.
Emma turned the release valve on full and grappled with the hose. Draco was still on the floor coming at her. She grabbed the mask and bent over him. Her ribs protested and she fell to the floor with a sound that was half scream, half sob. He grabbed for her and she pushed the bright orange mask over his face holding on for dear life. After one breath he was unconscious. After two he twitched a couple times. She let go and moved for the door.
The mask fell away but he didn't move.
Crying hysterically she crawled on her knees to her office. It was slow moving. Her left wrist was broken. Her right hand was cut badly. She vomited her breakfast, blood and the mucus she had swallowed twice before she got to the doorway.
The door to her office read Doctor Emma Granger, LDS MDS MGDS. She felt dizzy as she saw her qualifications on the door. The Bachelor of Dental Surgery, Master of Dental Surgery and Membership in General Dental Surgery were of little use at the moment.
One inside her office she collapsed against the door and locked it. Still crying but no longer completely hysterical she steadied herself. Her desk was five feet away and she could see the bowl from where she was kneeling.
Five feet. 'Accio bowl,' she thought, never in her life wishing more than then that she could do magic. She struggled to move and managed a short burst.
Four feet. She grasped her ribs and sobbed twice. 'Cry later,' she thought.
Three feet. She stumbled a bit on her knees and then righted herself.
Two feet. She could hear him moving. 'Damn,' she thought panicking.
One foot. She stumbled again in her haste and renewed terror. She hit the desk with her shoulder but remained upright.
Emma reached up and grabbed the bowl with her bleeding right hand. She fumbled with her rings and then gripped them against the bleeding wound. She spit out the blood in her mouth and choked out the word.
The pull at her navel had become more familiar. She had gotten better at landing but not this time. She slammed into the dining room floor at number twelve with a thud.
"MUM!" Emma heard Hermione scream.
She looked up to see her daughter. Daughters. Susan was there too. With Lisa, Molly and Diane. They were supposed to go dress shopping, Emma thought hazily. The last thing she heard was her daughter giving orders and starting a diagnostic spell. Then everything went black.
… --- …
Harry lifted his clubs into the boot of Dan's car. It had been a nice round. They had avoided all discussions on the upcoming wedding. Remus and Jack had rounded out the foursome. Remus had an unfair strength advantage that was evened out by the fact that he had driven the ball straight only one time during the round.
Harry turned his cell phone on and watched it boot up. It was habit to check his messages as soon as he got off the course. He also wanted to tease Hermione about trying on dresses. He knew that she was not looking forward to it.
He hit the keys for his messages and his three companions teased him about already being married. Remus was the first to notice the smile leave his face.
"What is it Harry?" he asked noting the seriousness in the young man's eyes. When Harry swore loudly the other three men were shocked.
"Emma's been hurt," Harry said grabbing his future father in law by the arm. He apparated them to the doorstep of number twelve. Remus was right behind him with Jack.
Harry burst into the door running. Dan almost ran him over when he stopped dead at the sight in the living room. He heard a strangled noise come from Dan and looked at him. In that moment he saw his friend's heart break.
Hermione was sitting on the couch. Emma was lying with her head in her daughter's lap. Her face and neck were bruised horribly. Her left arm was wrapped in a bandage. Her eyes were swollen closed. Hermione was stroking her hair. Diane was sitting on the floor next to the couch holding Emma's other hand, which was also bandaged, gently. Across the room Susan sat on a chair with her knees pulled to her chest.
Dan brushed by Harry almost knocking him down. He dropped to his knees next to Hermione's legs and looked at his best friend.
"Emmy?" he said softly. Hermione knew that her father only ever used that name when they were being intimate. She knew that it was something between just the two of them and she felt her heart tear at her chest. He slowly reached to touch Emma's face but stopped short for fear of hurting her. She must have sensed it because she dropped Diane's hand and reached for him. She opened her eyes and squinted at him. The light hurt but she couldn't look away.
"Dear God, my love. What happened?" he whispered. His wife's face scrunched up and he saw that she was going to cry. He leaned over and kissed her forehead and shushed her. "That's not important right now. I'm here, love. I'm here," he repeated.
Susan, Diane and Hermione were all crying freely.
"Mum. You need to rest. Daddy will help you upstairs," Hermione told her. Emma closed her eyes and then slowly sat up.
Harry watched Dan walk Emma to the staircase. He followed her up the stairs as if she were a small child, standing behind her but letting her do it on her own. When they disappeared from the landing Harry turned back to Hermione.
His fiancé had buried her face in her hands and was shaking. He sat down next to her and pulled her into a hug. Hermione began to sob.
More than anything the lost look on Diane's face scared Harry.
… --- …
Dan followed his wife to their room. She stopped in the doorway and looked around for a second. Then she walked over to his chair. She sat down and reached for her shoes. Noting her grimace and the way she sat back up quickly he hurried to help her.
There was nothing sexual about his undressing her. He removed her shoes, blood stained pants and then the tattered shirt. He suspected that it had been fixed magically. As it came free from her shoulders the rips and the bloodstains reappeared.
As he began to unzip the basilisk skin vest she put her hand over his. Dan stopped and then let go. She unzipped the vest slowly. He noticed that she was biting her lip and looked almost afraid. When he saw the bruises and the bite mark, a rage like nothing he had ever felt consumed him for a moment. He forced the thoughts away and helped his wife finish undressing.
He helped her into one of his shirts along with a pair of her sweat pants. Emma let him lead her to the bed. He helped her get as comfortable as he could. When he turned to leave she grabbed his hand. She motioned to the pillow next to her own and he slid under the covers with her.
Dan held her gently until she fell asleep. His thoughts ranged from killing the people responsible for hurting Emma to wondering with horror about what they might have done to her. He knew that no matter what he would do everything he could to help her through this.
He kissed his sleeping wife gently on the forehead and then went back downstairs to get some answers.
… --- …
Remus looked over all the women and then sat next to Susan on the arm of her chair. He cleared his throat and asked, "What happened?"
"Don't know. She portkeyed in hurt. Hermione and Diane started healing her. Molly went and got Poppy. I found Alyx and Tonks. They haven't come by to tell us what they found yet," Susan answered in a choked voice.
"Did she say anything?" Jack asked sitting on the floor next to his wife.
"Not a word," Diane said in a hollow voice. Jack pulled her close.
They sat in silence until Dan came down the stairs. He arrived at the bottom step when the door opened and Alyx and Tonks came in. He followed them into the living room and stared at them hard. Alyx cleared her throat.
"How is she?" Alyx asked.
"Asleep. She wouldn't talk to me," Dan answered.
"She probably couldn't. I had to repair her throat. It was almost crushed," Hermione said in a strangled voice. Her father closed his eyes not wanting to imagine how that had happened.
"What did you find?" Harry demanded of the two aurors.
"Draco Malfoy. He was unconscious when we got there. There is no indication that anyone else was with him," Tonks answered in a tight voice.
"I…" Dan started to say but then he had to sit down. He took a deep breath and asked about the bite mark. He was focused on the floor and missed the look of horror that crossed Diane's face.
"She wasn't raped," Hermione told him.
"Are you sure?" Dan asked. It was horrible enough without that on top of everything else.
"Positive," Hermione answered. She had seen the bite mark too.
"He couldn't have. When he was strip searched during processing it was noted that he had taken a reducto curse to his privates sometime in the past year," Alyx said in distaste.
Diane muttered something that only Jack heard before she quickly left the room. They all heard her footsteps pounding up the stairs. She would be there for Emma when she awoke.
Hermione got up to leave the room. She couldn't think. She couldn't breathe. She was four steps from the doorway when Tonks stopped her.
"His trial will be next week. If he lives that long," Tonks qualified the end of her statement. Everyone in the room looked at her.
"He was hurt pretty badly and lost a lot of blood," Alyx told them.
"My heart bleeds for the bastard," Harry snapped.
Hermione closed her eyes and walked out. Harry went after her knowing he was the only one who could possibly comfort her. He found her in the dining room staring out the window at the garden they had fixed.
He wrapped his arms around her from behind and she sighed.
"I should have insisted on a guard but I thought it was over," she told him. He squeezed her a little tighter and she asked, "Will it ever really be over?"
"Yes. One day we will be safe. I promise," he said fiercely.
"I love you, Harry," she said after a few moments of silence.
"I love you too," he whispered.
After a few minutes they rejoined the others. Dan grabbed his daughter in a fierce hug when she came into the room. She just held on knowing that he needed it as much as she did.
… --- …
Michael Brooks knew that getting lunches for the prisoners was traditionally the newest Auror's job. However Director Shacklebolt had recently pointed out that Order of Merlin recipients were excluded from lunch run duty so the second year Auror walked out to the fish and chips stand to pick up a lunch.
The street vendor saw the young Auror walking up and put a new squeeze bottle of vinegar out. In a voice that seemingly didn't fit, the vendor asked, "What can I get you, Gov?"
"One order," replied Brooks, not paying any attention to the man.
The Auror took a ten-pound noted from his pocket and handed it to the vendor, obviously uncomfortable with the muggle money. The vendor handed him the paper bag of hot fried cod and made change while the Auror doused the batter-fried fish with vinegar from the squeeze bottle.
"Here's your change, Gov," said the vendor.
The Auror returned to the Ministry holding cells a few minutes later and placed the bag in the transfer door of the prisoner holding cell. The lone prisoner took the bag and began eating the food hungrily. As he ate his second piece the prisoner collapsed onto the cement floor. He convulsed painfully for a full minute before his blood pressure rose to the point that blood rushed from his eyes, ears, nose and mouth.
The prisoner, Draco Malfoy had ingested almost an ounce of nearly straight Veritaserum. Three drops had enough influence on the brain to cause the person to tell the truth. Ten times that amount would act like a complete Obliviation charm. The hundred times the recommended dosage that Malfoy had ingested was fatal within three minutes.
Malfoy had been dead for almost an hour when the afternoon guard walked by to check on the prisoner. The vendor had been found dead a block away from his stand by the muggle police. They never noticed that the vendor's cap and apron were missing.
… --- …
The next issue of Witch Weekly reported the attack.
Female Muggle Attacked by Death Eater
By Reggie McDonald
The endless celebrations for the defeat of the Dark Lord came to a screeching halt today. Emma Granger, muggle mother of the girl-who-lived, was attacked at her place of work yesterday morning. One Death Eater reportedly carried out the attack. Auror Nymphadora Tonks-Lupin, the Auror assigned to the case, did not identify the Death Eater to the press.
Mrs. Granger, a simple woman even by muggle standards, was able to fight off the Death Eater with a special muggle weapon called a scalpel. The press was not given a description of this weapon.
We in the wizarding world should wonder about the Granger family. Mrs. Granger's husband, Daniel Granger managed to use a muggle weapon against a known pureblooded woman, Bellatrix Lestrange. He killed her. Now Mrs. Granger uses another strange muggle weapon on an unknown Death Eater. Just what type of work does Mrs. Granger do that requires her to have a weapon at her disposal?
I am calling for the Ministry of Magic to investigate these muggles. Who knows whom they will maim or kill next?
Harry seethed as he read the article. He tossed the magazine into the fireplace and stormed from the room. Hermione and Diane watched him leave. Jack followed him out the door and Harry grabbed him by the arm.
A second later they were at the apparation point in front of Gringotts. Jack didn't say a word as he and Harry met with Bill Weasley. He smiled when he realized what Harry was doing. It was a grim smile that scared Griphook.
… --- …
Caroline Derringer checked herself in the mirror as she walked towards the door. She felt herself grinning as she swung the door open. She was delighted that Susan was coming to her flat. The grin left when she saw the look on Susan's face.
"Wha… Susan are you okay?" she asked. Susan pressed her lips together and shook her head. Caroline pulled her through the door and led her to the sofa.
"I have something I need to tell you and I don't know how you are going to take it. I just can't mislead you," Susan said.
Caroline wanted to scream. She knew that Susan was too good to be true. Who ever heard of meeting the perfect woman while working in a London dress shop?
"What is it?" she asked with trepidation. Susan looked around the flat for a few seconds and then took a deep breath.
"Did you hear about the coin bandit attacking that dentist in Crawley?" she asked. Caroline felt her brow rise.
"Yes. Awful business that. Why?"
"The dentist is my Mum. My adopted Mum. I'm not doing this right," Susan said with a sigh.
"Doing what right?" Caroline asked in confusion.
"The coin bandits. I know them. Well, knew them, I suppose. Draco Malfoy, the one who attacked Emma was a classmate of mine. The other one, Snape, was a professor at my school. He was caught too but it was not reported where you might have seen it. I know why they only stole the coins," Susan said. She was working on reigning in her thoughts to make them coherent.
"Um, okay. Why?" Caroline asked.
"They didn't know any better. They were not familiar enough with your world," Susan said calmly.
"My world?" Caroline asked. Was her perfect woman a nut job who thought she was from another planet?
"The nonmagical world. Malfoy and Snape were wizards. Caroline, I'm a witch," Susan told her. Caroline didn't respond right away.
"Riiiiight. So I suppose you fly on a broomstick?" Caroline asked angrily when she found her voice. If Susan wanted to stop dating she should have just said so.
"Yes. It's a Nimbus 2001 model. Not quite a Firebolt but I do well on it. Oh, you don't believe me. Hermione said you probably wouldn't."
Caroline watched as Susan pulled a stick out of a holder on her sleeve. She looked around and then pointed it at a book on the table. The book floated up to the ceiling and then back down. When she didn't respond Susan flicked the stick again and the book turned into a fancy water goblet. Caroline picked it up and examined it.
"Yeah I know. There is a whole world that you are unaware of. I could probably get in a lot of trouble for telling you but I can't lie to you. I've never dated a nonmagical person before," Susan said. Then she snorted and continued, "Before I met Dan and Emma I didn't really know any nonmagical people."
Caroline set the goblet down and Susan turned it back into her anatomy book. Susan looked around the flat again and then sighed once more.
"There's a lot you need to know," Susan told her. Then she began to talk. She spoke for almost an hour without stopping. When she did Caroline went to the kitchen and retrieved a bottle of wine. She filled a glass for each of them.
"I have a million questions," Caroline said as she handed Susan her glass.
"Go ahead," Susan said. She sipped the wine and wrinkled her nose.
"Yeah it's cheap wine," Caroline said. She thought for a moment and then posed her first question. Two hours later she knew about the blood war, the boy who lived, Hogwarts, Diagon Alley and the girl who lived. To say she was stunned would be an understatement.
"I know you need some time to think. I understand if you don't want to date me now. My family is leaving the country for a couple weeks. Emma needs some time on a beach away from here. I'll be back on 5 August if you want to ring me," Susan said before she left.
Caroline sat on her couch after Susan left. She picked up her book and examined it. This was not the way she had planned for this afternoon to go. Not at all.
… --- …
Emma had never been so glad to start a vacation in her life. She couldn't remember feeling so deeply indebted to anyone's generosity. Harry had directly or indirectly saved each of their lives at least several times.
Hermione had healed the life threatening wounds and the ones that caused her great pain. Healer Pomfrey had been able to heal the rest of her physical wounds within hours after the Auror examination for evidence was finished. By the second morning after the attack, her ribs were mended, and the swelling had disappeared. Her wrist and hand were as good as new. The damage to her psyche would take much longer to repair.
Harry, Hermione, Dan, Emma, Jack, Diane, Bob, Alyx, Susan and Minerva walked into the front door of the villa. Harry had been somewhat surprised when Minerva had accepted his invitation to come along. In reality McGonagall hadn't been on a real holiday in the seven years since Harry had begun at Hogwarts. As such they found themselves at the dinner table together at Harry's spacious villa in Tortola.
Minerva had an unprecedented number of teaching vacancies to fill for the next term – transfiguration, defense, muggle studies, history of magic, divination and potentially potions. Filius was likely to retire in the next few years. More than ever the last year had shown her that she was an exceptional follower and a mediocre leader. The people at the dinner table had saved the school in October and saved the British wizarding world in June. She had been an observer and a participant, never the leader. The people at the table could lead the next generation of witches and wizards. She realized that the most important legacy that she could leave the school with would be to fill the positions with capable, competent, nurturing instructors. Her challenge would be to sell them on the positions as none of them needed to work another day in their lives.
Dan and now to a much lesser degree Emma wanted their old lives back. When they would get around to talking about it, Dan would realize that their old life no longer existed. In a very real sense they now had three children. He'd always replied, "dentist," when people asked what he did. It was a good part of his self-identity. However, in the last year he'd added "and defender of the light" to the title. Regardless of what he wanted, he recognized that there had been a published price on his head. The fact that the man that had offered it was dead might not keep people from trying anyway.
Dan couldn't ignore the fact that he would do anything to keep his Emma safe and right now that could easily include not living in Crawley or being dentists. Another option would be to take Harry up on his offer of hiring a team of eight bodyguards so that there were always two on duty to escort them around.
In the course of seven minutes Emma had realized that her career in their practice was meaningless. Health, safety, and family were everything. She currently possessed a different set of priorities - wedding planner, wife, mum, mother-in-law and hopefully grandmum. A part of her realized that the last year had been a turning point in their lives and that she'd never felt as useful in her life. She just hadn't had the conversation yet with Dan.
Bob and Alyx found themselves more attracted to each other every day and were grateful that they had both been given the opportunity to escort Mr. Potter and his party back to such a wonderful place. The last year had been exciting and one that they could tell their grandchildren about someday, but the fact remained that they were simple policemen and not billionaires. Under other circumstances they would have had to scrimp and save to be able to afford a week at the guesthouse that he had offered them use of.
Harry had been badly shaken by Malfoy's attack on Emma. Initially he had been worried that she might have sustained permanent injuries. Later he began to worry about whom else might be out there lurking in the shadows. He had been told that Lucius Malfoy had been killed in the fire, yet his distinctive silver serpent head wand had never been found. He was also concerned over the mysterious death of Draco Malfoy. The examiners at St Mungo's had yet to confirm the cause of death, though he'd been told that the leading candidate was a massive overdose of Veritaserum.
Like Hermione, Harry was in the process of receiving hundreds of offers of employment, requests for public appearances, product endorsements and joint ventures from people that he'd never even heard of. Harry's long-term goals were to use his money to help make the British wizarding world a better place and raise a half dozen bright beautiful adventurous children ensuring the continuation of the Potter line for generations to come. Short term, he wanted to spend as much time as possible inside Hermione and just to relax. It was the part in-between short term and long term that niggled at him. He recalled Aunt Petunia telling anyone who would listen that his father had been an unemployed lay-about.
Hermione had just finished spending the last seven years proving over and over that she was as good as anyone else. Initially it was her individual drive and insecurity. Later it had been fueled by a desire to prove that blood did not equate to ability. If Harry asked her to, she would settle for the life that Molly Weasley had led. Molly was a great mum and Hermione would never argue the point, but a part of her wanted something more. She wanted to put her own scratch on the world. It didn't occur to her that she had already done so.
Susan was anxious to open her ice cream business. She believed that hard work just might ease the aches that she still felt in her heart. She still missed Hannah. Some days her break up with Alyx still made her want to scream and some days it made her want to cry. Caroline was a very nice woman. They had gone on a couple of dates and had a nice time. The conversation with Caroline about witchcraft had gone better than Susan had expected but she had no idea about Caroline's thoughts regarding a long-term relationship.
Jack was happy in his career and happy that his lifelong friends were still in one piece. He had been shaken when he'd heard about the attack on Emma. Somehow he equated the wizarding world with places far away and had been shocked when it had reached out and touched Emma in her own practice in Crawley.
Diane had learned a lot about herself in the past year. While some of her work in the nonmagical world dealt with victims of violence, the overwhelming majority of it seemed to be endless sessions listening to teens talk about piercings, curfews, problems with boyfriends, and other self-inflicted trivialities. She had felt a lot more meaningful helping comfort victims of war. She had never really settled with the school financially, but wouldn't trade the work that she'd done helping the orphans for anything.
Diane had never been a big risk taker. While Dan and Emma had mortgaged everything to start their practice, she stayed at Crawley Connections because it was a good job and it offered financial security. Some of her work there was satisfying, especially with the battered women and the rape victims that she had helped. It was time for her to branch out and open her own practice. She just needed to talk to Jack about it.
"So now what?" asked Alyx.
Everyone was pensive for a moment and there was silence until Bob replied, "How about a walk along the beach?"
It seemed like a much better alternative to the deep conversations that could wait a few days.
… --- …
Like Harry, Abraxan was more concerned over the death of Draco Malfoy than she appeared. She was certain of two things and believed another. Malfoy had been murdered and the motive was almost certainly to silence him. Additionally she believed that it was an outside job.
Auror Michael Brooks had produced his Pensieve memory of the event and offered to take Veritaserum to help solve the crime. They had concluded that someone had stunned the street vendor; taken a few hairs to create a polyjuice replica then murdered the kindly man.
The two-week MLE Director transition from John Thomas to Kingsley Shacklebolt was going smoothly and hopefully Kingsley would focus on the investigation as soon at he had taken control of the group.
… --- …
As Abraxan was worrying over the death of Draco, Minerva had reached her decision. She approached Hermione recognizing that she was the keystone to her plan. Getting her alone for an hour, they took a walk along the beach. As they walked, Minerva began, "Hermione I would like to offer you a full professorship, teaching transfiguration beginning with the next term. I'll strive to accommodate any personal needs that you might have either now or in the future and I would be honored if you would consider my offer." She took another breath trying to get this out as quickly as possible. "Should you accept, I will offer Harry a similar position, teaching defense either full or part time to meet his needs and extend a tenured contract to your parents. I promise to accommodate your future needs whenever you and Harry decide to start a family of your own." She nervously awaited the brilliant witch's response.
Hermione was stunned. It was almost unheard of to be offered a full professorship right out of school. She replied, "Thank you, Professor. I am deeply honored, but would need to talk with Harry before giving an answer. What other positions are open?"
In a more relaxed voice, Minerva replied, "Horace has agreed to stay another year if I ask him. I intend to replace Binns and find a competent replacement for Sybil." She was delighted that Hermione was considering the offer.
Hermione replied, "Perhaps Lavender would be a good choice. I think she is actually qualified in the subject and I don't know that she has other plans."
Minerva walked for a moment and said, "The wizarding world owes you a debt Hermione. I owe you a debt. I am all but certain that you would enjoy the work and another position might not become available for years. Please consider it."
Hermione gave her arm a soft squeeze and replied, "Thank you Professor. We will."
… --- …
Matilda Emerson read the information one more time before she sat back in her chair. As the publisher of Witch Weekly it was her responsibility to grow the circulation rates of her magazine. What she had just read was disturbing to say the least.
This combined with the numerous howlers she had received about the article on Emma Granger sealed her decision. She called Reggie McDonald into her office.
"Mr. McDonald, when I interviewed you for your position you said that you left the Daily Prophet due to an interest conflict with the new owners. What was this conflict?" she asked.
"Molly Weasley has no idea what she is doing. The paper will fold within three months," he said dismissively. He was positive of the fact.
"I see. Would it interest you to know that we had four hundred subscription cancellations due to your article on Emma Granger? Or that since taking over the daily workings of The Prophet, Molly Weasley has increased their subscription readership by half?" Matilda asked.
Reggie swallowed hard. He knew what was coming next. Emerson surprised him though. She demanded that he write an apology to the Granger's. She wanted it on her desk in two hours.
"Reggie, I understand that you were tortured by the Dark Lord but he's dead now. The personal attacks on Mr. Potter and his family have to stop. I believe that you have it in you to be the person you were before he hurt you."
After he left she looked over the information again. She would have to thank Mr. Bill Weasley for the warning about McDonald. She just wished that she had known what his editorials had done to the Daily Prophet earlier.
… --- …
Emma decided that planning a wedding while listening to the sound of the surf was very therapeutic. She and Diane addressed invitations while sipping wine coolers. Diane listened much more than she spoke, but her best friend knew that she was there for her.
While Diane and Emma were visiting, Dan and Jack had driven to the market to buy some beers and wine. Susan and Minerva were visiting the dolphins while Alyx and Bob were exploring the little shops. Harry and Hermione were lying on beach loungers talking.
The faint lightening shaped killing curse scar that was just visible at the bottom of her bikini top fascinated Harry. His was an old scar by the time that he had been made aware of it, but he thought it somewhat ironic that hers was so similar.
Hermione watched him watching her and asked, "Aside from thinking of fifty ways to remove my bikini top, what's on your mind, Harry?"
He grinned, liking how she could read him so easily and replied, "I was wondering where you would like to live?"
She replied, "London is nice, but I was wondering if Professor McGonagall would give us our suite back."
Harry looked at her with a neutral expression on his face. He asked, "What did you have in mind?"
"I'd like to open a primary school for magical children someday. I really need to get some practical teaching experience first. Professor McGonagall is offering us teaching positions at Hogwarts." It was obvious to her that Minerva's offer fit perfectly into her long-term plans of preventing future wars through familiarization between long time magical and firstborns.
Harry had mixed feelings. Hogwarts had been his home. Hermione had supported him through thick and thin. If she wanted to live on the South Pole he would follow her. He just felt like he needed a few months off first.
She added, "Mum and Dad would be offered positions too. You and dad could golf in the evenings, and we could practice making babies. Mum and Dad would be safe. You could teach as much or little as you wanted. We could go to Paris on weekends. Please?"
Attempting to buy a moment to think, he asked, "Have you talked with Dan and Emma yet?"
"No. I wanted to talk with you first."
Harry realized that this was what she wanted to do and replied, "I'm willing to if you want to. When would we need to be back at the castle?"
"I'm not positive. I'll find out. I suspect the week prior to school starting, probably no later than the 24th. Thank you, Harry."
… --- …
While Hermione was thinking of ways to reward Harry, Bill was writing bank drafts. Harry had decided to divide the million galleon award that he had collected from the Daily Prophet and asked Bill to disburse it evenly among the Order members and the volunteers who had stood with him at Avebury. Bill was happy to comply. The transaction to purchase the financially strapped newspaper had gone quickly. Interestingly enough Bill and Griphook had found that the Malfoy estate had owned a large minority interest in the newspaper. Minister Abraxan had previously decreed the estate to be liquidated and donated the proceeds to the families of Hogsmeade, funding the rebuilding of the village. As such, Bill was able to purchase the newspaper for slightly less than the net value of the business. When Bill was done, each of the volunteers would receive 7,700 galleons.
Per Harry's general instructions Bill had also re-deeded the old site of Fortescue's ice cream shop to Susan Bones and found a magical builder to do the restoration. The builder would meet with Susan and him when she returned from her vacation to finalize the design of the building. Real estate prices had gone up considerably since Voldemort had been put down, so Bill was fairly certain that she would do well with the property whether she used it, leased it out or resold it.
… --- …
Minerva was delighted. Hermione and Harry had agreed to accept her offer as full time instructors. Dr. and Dr. Granger had accepted her offer for a team teaching position teaching modern muggle studies as well as writing a new curriculum. Best of all, the four of them had agreed to put together a prototype orientation program to allow the muggleborn first years and their parents a two-day one-night introduction to the castle and the magical world.
After her eye opening dressing down by Katlyn Greystone she had spoken to a number of the muggleborn students. In most cases older muggleborn students had made their transition easier. She also recognized that the pureblood students had issues of their own to address. Minerva hoped to make it easier for all of them.
The conversation at the dinner table the final night before they would leave the island was lively.
Hermione checked her notes and said, "There are thirty-eight students enrolled. We can get portkeys made and deliver them."
Minerva smiled and replied, "There might be as many as forty-four. Since the death of Voldemort, there have been six inquiries from parents who had refused the original offer."
Emma asked, "Do you mean twelve year olds who would be enrolling as first years?"
McGonagall replied, "Precisely. They would be six students who had been denied the opportunity to receive a magical education from their parents who originally considered the magical world to be too dangerous."
Hermione asked, "Do many students with nonmagical parents traditionally refuse their offer letter?" She was thinking of what she had told Diane about being dead had she not attended Hogwarts.
Minerva replied, "Usually no more than one a year. They are given one year to change their minds. If they don't they are obliviated."
A dark look flashed across Harry's eyes for a moment and he said, "The Ministry seems to be very willing to use memory charms as a solution." There was no doubt what he was referring to.
McGonagall didn't feel the need to defend the practice and agreed. After a moment she asked, "Would you have preferred that Mr. Weasley had been sent through the veil or had been given a life sentence living with the dementors? My understanding was that you had to pull quite a few strings to have him memory charmed and allowed to finish his education at a first rate boarding school in Melbourne."
Harry replied, "I did. I just wish that I could have done more."
Dan said, "Harry, he's alive because of you and has his whole life in front of him. Is that so bad?"
"No. I guess not. I just wish that it had never happened." The whole thing continued to hurt him like walking barefoot over sharp rocks
"Now we're back to playing what if. What if the four of you hadn't gone to the wedding?" asked Diane, pointing to Emma, Dan and the Potters.
Susan replied, "I'd be dead. So would everyone who was there that night. Lestrange would still be out there and the dementors would still be hunting people down. Voldemort might have won the war and Ron would be dead. Harry, the best thing that you can do is to let it go."
Harry sighed but nodded, and replied, "You're right."
Minerva asked, "Are you two coming back here for your honeymoon. It's lovely."
Hermione shook her head and said, "We're going to Sydney for a week and a half. We'll be back on the 20th. The first year orientation starts on Monday the 24th. I've found day trips to the Hunter Valley wineries, Bondi beach, Wollongong, the opera house, the blue mountains, and the Great Barrier Reef in Brisbane."
Susan coughed and said something that sounded like, "Room service." They all laughed.
… --- …
After dinner, they went down to the beach to watch the sunset. The next morning they'd go back to Britain. Emma pulled Harry aside for a minute and said, "Thank you Harry. I'm not one hundred percent better. Diane said it's going to take more time but I really needed a place to feel safe and get better. This was it."
Embarrassed, Harry replied, "There's nothing to feel bad about. You didn't do anything wrong. You're welcome to come here anytime that you want."
Emma shook her head and said, "I wasn't wearing my ring. I could have…"
Harry shook his head and said, "Then he'd be out there murdering other innocent people. You got away and can see Hermione get married in a few days. What's wrong with that?"
"Nothing. Thanks again for the body armor. It saved my life and saved Hermione's too," she paused for a moment and then said, "I love you."
Harry gave her a hug and said, "See? I'm the lucky one. I love you too."
… --- …
Hermione portkeyed to the Dursley home in Indiana with little sound. It was just after dark and there was no one around to see her. She removed the invisibility cloak and folded it over her arm. When she rang the bell Petunia Dursley answered the door.
Petunia's face hardened when she recognized the young witch. She motioned for Hermione to enter and checked to see if the neighbors had seen her.
"What do you want?" Petunia asked Hermione as they entered the house.
"What's she doing here?" Dudley whined seeing the witch.
"Now see here. That freak is not coming here. Not now, not ever," Vernon snapped. He was enjoying his freak free life even if he didn't have someone to blame Dudley's bad behavior on.
"Why would he want to? He owns properties all over the globe and has many friends who would share a room with him if needed. I'm here because I wanted to personally deliver an invitation to Harry's and my wedding," Hermione snarled handing Petunia the envelope containing three first class airline tickets and an invitation.
"Why would you want to marry that freak?" Dudley asked.
"If you ever call him that again you will find out exactly what's involved in the magical art of transfiguration," Hermione said pulling her wand out. She made a soft oinking noise. Dudley squeaked and hid behind his father.
"You can't come here and threaten us," Vernon stuttered. For some reason she scared him much more than the old wizard had.
"It's not a threat you massive tub of dragon dung. Harry wanted to invite you awful people for some reason that escapes me. I'm telling you now that I will not have my wedding ruined by the likes of you three. If you can't behave in a civilized manner then don't come. Trust me, you won't be missed."
"Awful people? Just what has that boy been saying about us?" Petunia demanded.
"He's finally opening up to me about his childhood. He told me about the cupboard under the stairs, the name calling, allowing Dudley to use him as a punching bag and treating him as your personal slave. God help you Vernon if I find out that you ever hit him. Harry is a very forgiving person. He's willing to put the past behind him. I'm not. You're welcome at our wedding only because Harry is a more decent person than I am. Please RSVP to my mother by 6 August." She turned to leave.
"Wait," said Petunia. "Please? Vernon, take Dudley to the mall for a bit, please." They left and she asked Hermione to come in for a cup of tea. With the two of them gone she asked, "How is he? How are things? I saw his picture in a magazine this week."
Hermione softened her stance a bit and told her about the events from the last year.
After Hermione finished Petunia asked, "He's really gone? He killed my parents, our parents…He killed my sister. I hated everything about the magical world. I took it out…"
"On Harry. He's such a kind man. Someday I hope you can change enough to get to know him. Goodbye Mrs. Dursley."
As Hermione turned to leave, Petunia replied, "We'll be there."
… --- …
Caroline stared at her cell phone and attempted to work up the nerve to push the send button. She had replayed Susan's frank explanation in her mind several times in the past couple weeks. Not calling her back wasn't really an option. Caroline just wasn't sure what to say.
She pushed send and put the phone to her ear. She would figure it out. It rang so many times that she almost gave up. Finally a voice answered. A male voice.
"Er… May I speak to Susan?" she asked. It wasn't possible that she had the wrong number. She had called Susan on the programmed number several times.
"Sure. May I tell her who's calling?"
"Oooooh. It's Caroline. How nice to finally speak to you. Susan is keeping you a secret. I'm Harry," he said in a friendly voice.
"Uh hi," she replied as she heard Susan in the background.
"Give me my phone Harry," Susan demanded. Harry laughed.
"So Caroline, as Susan's almost adopted big bother and soon to be almost brother-in-law I would like to know your intentions," Harry said with a laugh.
"POTTER you prat. Give me my phone before I turn your testicles into bludgers and get my bat," Susan said.
"Heeeeeeeey," Caroline heard another female voice say.
"My intentions? Oh I don't have any except to snog her senseless," Caroline told him. He laughed. She heard a thump and more laughter.
"Bloody prat. And I'm older than you, hippogriff breath. Hello?" Susan said into the phone. Caroline could hear more laughter.
"Hi. Sorry about that. Harry thinks he's funny," Susan said.
"He is. It's the first time my girlfriend's almost brother has asked me my intentions," Caroline replied.
"Girlfriend?" Susan asked.
"If you'll have me," Caroline said.
"Brilliant!" Susan replied.
… --- …
Hermione looked up from her book as Susan side long apparated Caroline into the living room. Caroline's eyes were huge as she looked around.
"Uh… That was… I don't even know what that was," Caroline said. Emma who was sitting on the other end of the sofa laughed out loud.
"I can relate to that. I'm Emma," she said offering Caroline her hand. Susan reintroduced Hermione and they all sat down.
Before they could speak Diane came tearing into the room like her shoes were on fire with Dan right behind her. She was laughing.
"Bloody hell, Diane how old are you?" Dan asked wiping the water from his head. He picked a piece of Weasley Water Wheeze from his bushy hair.
"Dan! Mind your language," Emma said. He glanced at her and then looked back at Diane.
"Oh come on Danny boy. How many times during university did you throw water balloons at me and Em?"
"That was years ago. Eons," Dan objected.
"I'm not that old," Emma objected, shaking her head at her best friends.
"And these are more of my crazy relatives," Susan said. She introduced Diane and Dan who both shook her hand.
"We're not crazy," Diane said.
"Is that your professional opinion, Dr. Turnbull?" Hermione asked.
"You're the one who thinks she's a witch. You tell me," Diane answered with a smirk. Hermione dried her father off with her wand and shook her head.
"No more chocolate frogs for that one," she said nodding at Diane.
"I only had one. I can't help being excited. I love weddings," Diane said. Emma smiled at her friend.
The phone rang interrupting their conversation. Everyone looked around for the cordless phone and then Susan used her wand to summon it. She looked at the ringing contraption and then to Hermione.
"Green button," Hermione said with a smile.
"Uh hello?" Susan said. Caroline could tell that she was uncomfortable with it.
"Oh hello Mr. Dursley. Uh… Harry's not here. Can I take a message? Hmmm… Okay. Yes, I understand. Oh no worries. There will be plenty of normal people there. Hmmm… Got it. The Dorchester Hotel. Separate room for Dudley. Keep my crazy sister away from him. Oh come now. She wouldn't do that. Well okay, she would but I'm sure she would change him back. I'll make sure you have a hire car waiting for you. Luxury car? I'm sure they'll have something that suits you. Have a nice flight," Susan said. She looked at the phone for a moment and then pushed the red button.
"What exactly would your crazy sister do?" A voice from the door asked. Susan grinned at Harry.
"Transfigure Dudley into a pig," Susan answered. She sat the phone down.
"That would be a waste of her considerable skills. He's already looks like a pig with a wig," Harry said as he sat down next to Hermione. He kissed her very quickly and she smiled.
"Harry!" Emma objected but Harry shook his head still grinning.
"Hagrid tried it once. He only managed to get a tail," Harry said remembering the first time he met his friend. Susan and Hermione both laughed.
"Why would Vernon be concerned about Hermione doing something to Dudley?" Emma asked crossing her arms. Hermione bit her lip and blushed.
"Well uh… I delivered their wedding invitation personally. Vernon wasn't exactly happy to see me," Hermione admitted. Harry laughed loudly.
"Oh, I bet. I can only imagine what he said to you. Please tell me you lost your temper," Harry said.
"Well a little," Hermione confessed.
"Hermione Jane!" Emma snapped. She didn't want to think about what Hermione could have done to the Dursley's.
"I didn't hex them. I promise. I didn't even say anything too awful. I just reminded them about proper manners and if they couldn't manage it then they should stay away. Far far far away," Hermione said blushing deeper.
"I hope they listen. I hate it when you get mad," Harry said slipping his arm around her.
"I wouldn't worry. Petunia seemed to understand and I think she'll keep them in line. Though I'm still unclear why you invited them," Hermione said. Harry sighed and she held up her hands in surrender. "I know. No more arguing about it."
"She's my Mum's sister," Harry repeated for what he thought was the hundredth time.
"It would have been nice had she remembered that years ago," Hermione muttered. She changed the subject and said, "So Caroline, Susan's told us nothing about you."
"What do you want to know? I'll answer any question. Maybe even tell you the truth," Caroline joked. She decided that she liked these people.
"Oh good. Permission for an inquisition," Harry said rubbing his hands together. Hermione tapped him on the back of his head and he snickered. Caroline crossed her arms and smiled.
"Caroline Sara Derringer. Major pain in the neck, 040177," she said with a smirk. Dan laughed.
"Name, rank and serial number? We have ways of making you talk. I might feed you one of them frogs and make you as mental as the good Doctor here," Dan told her motioning to Diane.
"I'll explain it to you later," Hermione told Susan who was completely lost.
"Tell us about your family," Harry said with an easy smile.
"I'm the middle of three. All girls. Mum is a seamstress and Dad works at the London stock exchange. He's good at what he does and oh so disappointed that his girls have no interest in stocks and bonds," Caroline said easily.
"You're in medical school?" asked Emma, remembering the day at the dress shop. "Which one?"
"Kings College. I haven't picked a specialty yet. I'm leaning towards vascular," she said anticipating the next question.
"Brilliant. I wanted to go there before I found out about magic," Hermione said. The two of them began a conversation about medicine that Harry and Susan stopped listening to after a minute.
He grinned at Susan who smiled back. He was extremely glad she was happy.
… --- …
August 8 – Wedding Bells
As the tall dark haired boy approached them Petunia felt Dudley tense up. She had to bribe her son to get him to come to the wedding. He didn't want to be anywhere near someone who might give him a pigs tail or an enlarged tongue. She could understand that but she also knew that the real reason he didn't want to come was he would have to behave. After convincing his probation officer that they would return to Indiana she had no intention of letting Dudley not come to the wedding.
Vernon wasn't happy about it either. He was convinced that Harry was somehow responsible for the trouble that Dudley was causing in Richmond. Somehow Petunia didn't believe that Harry had stolen the car that Dudley was found joy riding in. A part of her waited in anticipation to see the man that he'd become.
"Hello, Mrs. Dursley. My name is Neville Longbottom. Please come with me," the young man said politely.
"Well he's not one," Vernon muttered. Petunia sighed and looked at the young man.
"How are your parents Neville?" Petunia asked. Neville stopped dead in his tracks, completely shocked.
"Nothing really changes. You know my parents?" he asked.
"We met at Lily's wedding. I was saddened when I heard about what happened to them," Petunia told him. Neville nodded and then proceeded to take them to their seats. Vernon sputtered and Petunia gave him a look that she had practiced on Harry for years.
"Why are we not sitting closer to the front?" Vernon demanded. Halfway back was an insult.
"Hermione asked that this is where I seat you. The Weasley's and then several of our Professor's will be in front of you," Neville told him.
"The red heads?" Dudley whimpered.
Neville left Petunia sorting out her son and husband. She was hissing at them in low tones. He grinned at Emma who had watched the whole exchange. She gave him a nod and went to check on her frantic daughter.
Neville and Bill Weasley continued to seat people for a bit and then it was almost time for the ceremony to begin.
A murmur ran through the muggles in the church when they realized that the Queen's grandsons were being led down the isle and seated. Only a few of them were aware that Harry had been knighted.
At the pulpit Reverend Robert Hill watched as the Princes and their escorts were seated, followed by a red headed man that he knew as Mr. Weasley and finally by Mrs. Weasley and Mrs. Granger.
He had known Dan and Emma for years. He knew that this past year had been very hard on the two of them. Just when they were getting back on their feet that awful coin bandit had attacked Emma. Reverend Hill was glad to see that Emma was looking well today.
He watched as the Granger's adopted daughter Susan was led down the isle by an older man named Remus. They arrived at the altar and then each stepped into their places.
A red headed man stepped in to the doorway and walked slowly down the isle. He shook Remus' hand solemnly and handed him a pair of strange looking boots. Remus set them down where he was standing and stepped more to the side.
The process was repeated by the redhead's mirror image. He was carrying a pair of strange looking sports gloves. He gave them to Susan who set them down and stepped aside. Both of the red headed men took a seat behind Molly and Arthur Weasley.
Harry entered from the left and took his place next to Remus. He stared hard at the boots and then the gloves. The trumpets started blaring and he turned to see Hermione and Dan start up the isle. His mind went blank when he saw her.
She was a beautiful vision in cream and white. Harry thought his heart was going to leap out of his chest. He and Dan shook hands and then Dan gave his daughter's hand to Harry.
Dan kissed Hermione on the cheek and said, "We love you both." Then he took his seat with Emma.
Hermione turned to Harry who managed to smile. She was puzzled for a moment and then looked at the gloves and the boots. Her eyes closed and she swallowed hard.
"Harry and Hermione have something they would like to say before we begin the ceremony," Reverend Hill told congregation.
"Thank you Reverend. I know many of you are questioning the boots and the gloves that Fred and George brought to the altar. The boots belonged to Ron Weasley and the gloves to his amazing sister Ginny. They were very good friends of ours who we lost in the last year. We would…" Harry choked up and Hermione squeezed his hand.
"We would like to think that if they were here that they would be standing up for us. We know that things could have been a lot different if they were here. We didn't want to do this without a little piece of them here," Hermione finished. She saw Fred bury his face in his hands. His date grabbed him in a tight hug. George had his eyes closed and was fighting the tears hard. Molly took little Frances from Fleur who slipped her arm around Bill. Charlie was biting his lip, tears on his cheeks.
Reverend Hill waited a moment for them to collect themselves and then began to speak, "Dear friends we are gathered here today in great joy to…"
Harry and Hermione's eyes locked as they listened to him speak.
"Who gives this man to be wedded to this woman?"
"Molly and Arthur Weasley, in spirit and memory of James and Lily Potter," Arthur said in a strong clear voice.
"Who gives this woman to be wedded to this man?"
"Her mother and I do," Dan answered, sounding a little choked up. Both Harry and Hermione turned to look at him. Dan's face was covered with tears. He bit his lip just like Harry had seen Hermione do so many times before and Harry almost laughed.
"Harry and Hermione have chosen to write their own vows. Harry, you may proceed."
"When we decided to write our vows my first thought was 'Wow, I better get Hermione's help with this'. For the past seven years whenever I needed help, be it with our school lessons or figuring out what life was throwing at me, you were the first person I would turn to. It's been a crazy seven years and without you I would have not survived it. Hermione, you are my best friend. I vow to work as hard as I possibly can to be worthy of your trust in me. I promise to honor, cherish, respect, laugh with, cry with and most of all love you for the rest of my life," Harry told her.
"Hermione, you may proceed," Reverend Hill said softly.
"From Halloween night during first year you have been my friend. Sometimes you have frustrated me and sometimes you make me think that anything is possible. I feel so fortunate that you have chosen to share your love with me, and that I get to grow old next to you. Harry, I promise to honor and cherish you, loving what I know of you, and trusting what I do not yet know. I look forward to growing together and getting to know the man you will become. I promise to stand with you through whatever life may bring us."
While Reverend Hill was getting the rings from Remus, Hermione handed Susan her flowers. Susan gave her a brilliant smile.
"The wedding ring is a symbol of the love shared by husband and wife. It is a never-ending circle so that your love and marriage shall be never ending also. Harry please take Hermione's left hand and repeat after me…"
Harry's voice shook as he slid the ring on her finger. Hermione's voice was clear but her hand was shaking. He smiled crookedly at her knowing that they were a matched pair.
"What the Lord has brought together let no man tear asunder. With the power vested in me I now pronounce you husband and wife. Sir Harry, you may kiss your wife."
'Wife,' Harry thought in absolute delight.
They never would figure out who started the catcalls as they kissed. They were just glad that someone broke it up.
The receiving line at the sanctuary entrance seemed to go on forever. Harry, Hermione, Dan, Emma, Molly, Arthur, Susan, Remus and the ushers, Neville and Bill, spoke to each of the guests for a few moments. Hermione hugged all four of the Weasley boys. Charlie teased her about taking hugging lessons from his mum.
Hermione was even polite to the Dursley's. Harry wasn't but who could blame him, his cousin was ogling his bride.
… --- …
Hundreds of miles away in a dark dungeon outside of Bucharest, Rachael Tryveski watched as her palm was slit open. She couldn't believe her luck. When her father had told her that she was to marry a foreigner she had thought the worst. Expecting a hunchbacked monster, she had been shocked to see her future husband was a very handsome blond man. He looked familiar but she couldn't place him.
He chanted an incantation over the cauldron that they had just dropped their blood in. When he finished she began her part.
After they both finished he dipped a goblet in the mixture. He fed her the first drink of their marriage, a mixture of their blood and their magic.
She was now bound to him for the rest of her life. It didn't bother her that she had met the man yesterday. It didn't bother her that she was being used to pay off her brother's gambling debt. Anything had to be better than living with her bitter, angry father.
After they consummated their marriage on the floor of the dungeon twice they returned upstairs. Her husband ignored her and left after a quick shower. She sat down with the evening paper and a cup of tea.
This was her new life and she was ready to face it.
… --- …
The reception was being held at a banquet hall near the church. Emma and Dan visited with friends that they had not seen in quite some time. Everyone agreed that Hermione looked beautiful. The Grangers could not have been happier. Both noticed the tight security but neither of them said anything about it.
Harry and Hermione danced their first dance to a muggle song that Diane had picked. The older nonmagical people in the crowd smiled as they listened to Etta James.
Susan and Caroline danced a couple times but mostly sat and talked with Neville and Luna. Caroline and Luna were amused when they learned that Susan and Neville's mothers had plotted to marry them off when they were babies. Neville grinned at that thought. He had known Susan forever and had never thought of her that way once.
Fred and George took turns dancing with anyone who would dare the floor with them. Harry had ended up dancing with both of them at the same time causing Hermione to laugh. Eventually the Weasley twins pulled her into the dance too. To her surprise they were dead serious when they thanked them for the tribute to Ron and Ginny.
Diane tried everything she could think of to get Jack to dance with her. He and Remus were talking work and golf. Eventually she gave up and pulled Dan to the dance floor with an amused Emma watching.
Dinner was served early and Remus toasted the happy couple before desert. He wished them a long life full of love, surprises and magic.
Poor Frances Weasley had gotten involved in a game of pass the baby. After a short while she got cranky and let out an ear piercing scream. At the same moment she shrieked across the room her mother's hair turned the same color as her father's. Fleur fixed it quickly and managed to join her husband in a laugh.
The father and daughter dance was sweet. Dan told Hermione how proud he was to have such a wonderful daughter. He also let her know that they loved both her and Harry very much. Hermione rested her head on her fathers shoulder and let herself be his little girl again.
To the disappointment of the twins, they didn't smash cake in each other's face. Hermione licked the frosting from his upper lip after they kissed in a way that made Harry flush.
Petunia was keeping a close eye on Dudley. It wasn't difficult. He had been to the buffet table four times. Eventually she found herself speaking with Emma Granger. Mrs. Granger mentioned a magical reception that was to be held the following day. Petunia knew she would never get her husband and son to go but she wanted to. Emma agreed to arrange transportation for her.
Together they watched Harry and Hermione talk softly and kiss in between sentences. Emma was ecstatic at how happy the kids were. She wondered what they were talking about but decided it was better that mum didn't know.
Across the room Harry and Hermione broke apart from yet another kiss caused by ringing glasses.
"How soon can we get out of here?" he asked in a low tone.
"It depends. What do you plan on doing after the party?" she asked coyly.
He leaned close to her ear and told her exactly what he planned on doing with her. They left five minutes later.
… --- …
The magical reception was held at Hogwarts in the Great Hall.
Emma had allowed Molly Weasley to produce the guest list. The result was a room full of witches and wizards some of whom Harry and Hermione had never met. They spent a good deal of their time talking with DA and Order members while avoiding ministry types that reminded Harry of Slughorn.
Minister Abraxan made a short speech and gave them a blessing on their marriage.
Harry wandered around with his wife greeting their friends. When Lavender teased them about starting on the twin project Hermione surprised him by grinning wickedly and agreeing.
They were talking to Minster Abraxan when Hermione noticed that Petunia was speaking with her mum. She nudged Harry who took a look. He noticed that people seemed to be surrounding them. He shrugged and after a few more minutes they excused themselves and made their way over to them.
People wanted to meet the woman that had taken down Draco Malfoy. Emma was extremely uncomfortable and was looking for a way to escape. To her surprise it was Petunia that came to her rescue.
"Just what do you think you are doing? Mrs. Granger is here to celebrate her daughter's wedding, not talk about being attacked by a disgusting little boy whose arrogance was only surpassed by his ego. You should be ashamed of yourselves," Petunia said in a scathing voice that dripped ice.
"I couldn't have said it better myself. Hello, Aunt Petunia," Harry said frowning at the idiots who seemed to get the hint and scurried away.
"Hello Harry. Hermione. I didn't get a chance to congratulate you yesterday. It was a beautiful ceremony," Petunia told them. Harry thought she sounded sincere. Hermione linked arms with her mum and they left Harry to talk to his aunt.
"Thank you for inviting us Harry. I know you didn't have to and if I could be honest with myself I would say that we didn't deserve an invitation."
Harry gave her a weak smile and changed the subject. He asked, "What do you think of the castle?"
"It's scary. I saw a ghost earlier," she replied. He chuckled.
"There are plenty of ghosts. I can introduce you to Sir Nicholas. He's a nice bloke," Harry said but Petunia looked almost terrified. He hurried to assure her, "Nothing and no one here is going to hurt you. Even Peeves the poltergeist is just basically annoying."
"Poltergeist?" Petunia looked a little feint hearted. Harry gave her an easy smile and then asked her to dance.
Across the room Hermione watched her husband being the man that she fell in love with. She didn't understand his forgiveness of his Aunt. The more she found out about Harry's childhood the more she wanted to hex the bat bogies out of all three of the Dursleys. She decided to use his example of forgiveness and just live and let live.
When the dance finished Harry and Petunia made their way over to her. She forced a smile for the woman. Harry wasn't fooled but Petunia was. Hermione forgot all about her as Harry pulled her on to the dance floor.
Emma found her husband with Susan and Caroline. Together they watched the newlyweds dance.
"So how soon do you think it will be before they make you grandparents?" Susan asked.
"Not too long," Emma said. She felt the smile on her face widen. She looked around the magical hall and then to her husband. He gave her the special smile that was reserved for only her.
Around the room people were chattering, dancing, drinking, eating and enjoying life.
… --- …
The next afternoon Harry and Hermione took the portkey from Heathrow to Cairo then Bombay then Bangkok to Sydney. All in all it took nearly an hour and they arrived late in the evening at a very nice hotel.
"One of yours?" asked Hermione giving Harry a playful smile.
"Ours you mean? To be honest, I don't know. Bill made the arrangements."
They were shown to their room. The bellman was surprised by the small overnight bag that they had arrived with, given that they had registered to stay ten nights. Usually it seemed like guests brought every item that they owned along with them. He left closing the door behind him. Harry took the traveling trunk out of his pocket and expanded it.
They had lost much of the clumsiness around each other but Hermione was certain that they could practice for years and still find new ways to delight each other. She looked forward to finding out. There is much to talk about on that subject, but now isn't the time.
The next day they took the guided city tour on the green double-decker busses. Naturally they got off at every stop and saw what there was to see. They went to Chinatown, the powerhouse museum, the harbor museum, kings cross, the opera house, and the harbor bridge. Then they had lunch. After lunch they stopped into Duncan's boomerang school and bought a few boomerangs. Mr. Duncan himself was there. He closed the shop and took them across the street to Queen's park to give them a lesson for an hour, delighted to talk with them.
"You can toss them underhand if you want, but most people toss them overhand like this."
He gave his a toss and amazingly enough it circled around and landed at his feet. "Don't try and catch em. The real ones have a sharpened edge and were used by the Aborigine to hunt with. These are just for fun."
Hermione gave hers a toss and it had made a half circle before it landed.
"That's quite good, Miss."
"Mrs." said Hermione, a bit sharper than she had intended to.
"Oh, no offense meant." Recognition came to him, but he didn't say anything. To him they were just two people enjoying their honeymoon.
… --- …
Three days later they were tired from constant sightseeing. Harry again brought up wanting to go to Melbourne to see Ron.
"Harry, no. It will eat away at you if you do. You know the rules. He's not to have any contact with the wizarding world."
"I agree, but it's not going to make his life any better if someone tells him that he was a wizard, he messed up and got expelled."
"I understand, but I just want to know that he's OK." He paused and said, "No one ever checked up on me."
Suddenly it all became clear to Hermione, and her heart went out to him. She asked, "Where is he?"
Harry replied, "He was enrolled at the Scotch school in Melbourne, but would have finished a week or so ago. A bloke named Chet Winthrop was his caseworker. We could go there an look him up."
Her rational side made one last attempt. "You know that he won't be the same don't you?"
Harry nodded and replied, "I'm not trying to turn him back into a wizard. They took that away from him. I know that. I just…" Words failed him but Hermione understood.
And so they found themselves on Qantas flight OF419 from Sydney to Melbourne. An hour after landing they found Winthrop. He welcomed them into his office. "Good afternoon Mrs. Potter, Sir Harry. How can I help you?"
Hermione spoke, asking, "We were hoping that you could give us an address for Ron?"
The smile never left his face. He told them, "I would love to, but he's in the process of moving. He leased a storefront by Bondi beach to open a sports rental shop. He was going to ring me when he'd settled in. You are welcome to look him up, but he won't be the same person that you knew. Naturally you both know that you are prohibited from revealing anything to him regarding the wizarding world. He couldn't do magic now if you handed him your wand and told him an incantation. That was removed, but he's a happy young man with a bright future. He did remarkably well at Scotch and was quite popular with the young women."
Harry never felt so frustrated in his life. He could win a war, but he couldn't save his buddy's life.
Winthrop thought for a moment and said, "It's obvious that you have his best interest in mind. Let's go find him. I'll introduce you two as friends of mine from…?"
"Crawley," added Hermione.
"OK, Where are you staying?"
"The Quay Grand Suites in Sydney."
"That won't do." He thought for a moment, took out a pencil, pointed his wand at it and said, "Portus." The pencil glowed blue for a moment then the light faded. "Grab hold of this," he said, touching his finger to the center as Harry and Hermione each took an end. He tapped it and a moment later they were outside behind one of the pubs that lined the street behind Bondi beach.
They walked up the street as Hermione resisted the temptation to stop into every shop for a look. Halfway up the road they saw a new shop that was in the process of opening. Outside was a freshly painted sign that read, Ron's Sporting Rentals and Beachwear.
They walked in. Ron looked up, saw Chet and smiled. "G'day Mate. How ya doing?"
Harry was about to reply, then realized that Ron was talking to Chet, who said, "I'm doing fine, Ron. These are two friends of mine from Britain, Harry and Hermione Potter."
Ron held out his hand, smiled and replied, "G'day. I'm Ron Wilson. Pleased to meet you. What brings you here?"
"We're on our honeymoon."
"Congratulations." He gave Harry a wink and said, "She's quite a looker. Well done."
Harry smiled, and replied, "I think so." Hermione poked him in the side.
Chet asked, "How's the setup coming?"
Ron replied, "The stock is ordered. I ordered a dozen long boards and a dozen shorties. The O'Neill gear arrived yesterday. The Billabong and the Shark Attack lines should arrive today."
Just then two young women walked in the shop. Ron spotted them and said, "Excuse me. Ladies, can I be of some assistance?" He exuded charm and gave them an easy smile.
Hermione shook her head for a moment then smiled. She squeezed Harry's hand, who said, "Thanks Chet. We should get going."
He nodded, smiled and said, "Glad I could help. Enjoy your stay."
After Harry and Hermione said goodbye and left, Chet stayed a few minutes to help Ron unpack some boxes. Ron asked, "They seemed like a nice couple. Where do they live?"
Chet replied, "Crawley." There had been no hint of anything in Ron's voice.
Ron nodded and said, "That bloke has the same watch that I do."
Chet nodded and said, "Another man of good taste. You might run into them again. They were going to be here a few more days. I should get going myself. I was just in the area and thought I'd stop by and say hello."
Ron smiled, and said, "Thanks. I really appreciate it."
… --- …
Harry and Hermione did stop by later and invited Ron to have dinner with them. They went to the Hard Rock for a pint or two. Ron was almost familiar - his laugh, his smile, and his wit seemed the same, yet he wasn't the man that they'd grown up with.
Harry smiled and asked Ron if he was hungry.
"Starving" said Ron. "I could eat a 'roo."
Harry smiled and they ordered large dinners. To no one's surprise Ron helped Hermione eat hers after he finished his own.
In between bites Harry said, "We just finished school. How about you?"
"Same here. I went to Scotch in Melbourne. It was great. I played football, surfed, chatted up the girls and every now and then my mates and I would go hang-gliding. It was awesome, just floating in the air like a bird."
Hermione replied, "It sounds like fun. What classes did you take?"
"I took chemistry, botany, computer, business and physics mostly. How about you?"
Hermione replied, "About the same. Harry took some business classes too."
They talked for a while then went back to Ron's shop. Harry asked, "Can you really fly with one of the hang-gliders?" Ron had shown him several photos and it looked like a lot of fun.
"Flying really isn't the right word. You drift mostly and try to find updrafts to get more altitude. I was able to stay up for fifteen minutes once at mount beauty. If the shop does well, I'm going to get a power hang-glider this summer."
"Sounds like fun," replied Harry.
Ron nodded and asked, "So honeymooning aside, what brings you here?"
"We had a property to look at, wanted to see Chet, and meet some new friends," replied Hermione who had the foresight to have thought of something. Harry nodded.
… --- …
Too soon it was time to leave. They had spent their last day at the beach. Ron showed them the basics of riding surfboards. Hermione took a few photos. Ron had e-mail and they each promised to stay in touch. They packed their things and took the hire car back to the airport. They made their way back to the wizarding portkey area. An hour later they were back at Grimmauld Place.
… --- …
When Professor Flitwick visited each of the incoming muggleborn students he left them with instructions to meet at Kings Cross station on the twenty-third at seven AM. He was delighted to see that all of the students he had spoken with showed up with at least one of their parents. After showing them how to get to platform nine and three quarters he explained that the train would not be running today.
His description of the portkey ride did not do it justice. They ended at Hogsmeade Station where he introduced them to the Professors Granger. Dan helped a few of the nonmagical people to their feet as Flitwick used a cleaning charm to knock the dust off of them.
A small blond girl glanced at the carriages and asked, "What kind of animal is that?"
"What animal?" her father asked, looking around.
"That is a thestral. Only certain people can see them," Emma replied. The girl looked up at her and then to the beautiful black animal.
"Magical people?" the girl asked.
"No. I'm as nonmagical as you can get and I can see it."
"Oh thestrals. I read about them. We can see them because of Amber," a boy who had to be the girl's brother said.
"We can see them because our sister died?" the girl asked wrinkling her nose.
"You really need to read more, Judy. It's because we were there when she died. You can only see them if you have witnessed death," the boy said.
"Where did you read about thestrals?" Emma asked the boy. He grinned.
"Mum and Dad took us to this amazing bookstore in Diagon Alley," he explained. Emma stifled a grin as she saw Hermione at the age of eleven.
"Just wait until you see the library at Hogwarts. It's astonishing," she told him. She heard her husband chuckle and smiled at him.
Emma explained to the group that the nonmagical parents would not be able to see the castle until they passed through the protective wards. The children were all very excited and chattered as they approached the castle. The adults were stunned when the castle appeared from nowhere.
Dan and Emma led them to the Great Hall where their pureblood classmates were waiting with their parents. Only one of the long tables remained. The prefects, head boy and head girl for the upcoming year were scattered along the table in no particular order. The Professors' table was off the platform and near the student table.
After everyone found a seat Professor McGonagall stood up. She said, "Welcome to Hogwarts. I am Professor McGonagall. This is the first year we have done an orientation seminar for the incoming first year students. The purpose of this seminar for the parents is to address concerns and answer questions. For the students it is to help them adjust to the school so that they may have a successful educational experience. The students that have nonmagical parents typically have some issues adjusting to the magical world. Students who have magical parents have overwhelmingly been schooled at home and need help adjusting to a structured learning environment. First we shall have breakfast and then we can begin our day."
The nonmagical parents and their children gasped in surprise as the food appeared in front of them. Minerva chuckled to herself. She loved doing that.
Harry watched each of the children for a moment as he ate. He wondered how much of who they were to grow up to be was already embedded in them. He remembered the first time he met Draco Malfoy and how he had been reminded of Dudley and his bullying.
Hermione noticed that Wendy Williams, Gryffindor seventh year prefect, was picking at her food. She wondered what was wrong. Wendy usually ate like Ron had. Allie Greystone, the sixth year prefect, was trying to engage her in conversation. After a few minutes Wendy excused herself and left the Great Hall. Hermione slipped out of the room after her. She found Wendy in the bathroom standing in front of the mirror trying to not cry.
"Wendy, what's wrong?" Hermione asked.
"Oh hi Hermione… I mean Professor. Nothing. I'm fine," Wendy lied.
"Come on now. It's just Hermione right now. What's the matter?" Hermione asked again. Wendy looked at her feet.
"Good question. I feel like a heel. I… I just wanted to be Head Girl so badly. My parents were very disappointed in me. What's wrong with me that I didn't get it?" Wendy asked. Hermione almost flinched as she saw her own insecurities.
"Nothing is wrong with you Wendy. I don't know Professor McGonagall's reasons. She didn't ask for my input except for a nomination from Gryffindor. If it makes you feel any better you were my choice," Hermione said. Wendy sighed.
"Thank you. I can't believe that she chose Esmeralda. She's such a…"
Hermione cleared her throat and gave her a special look. Wendy smiled sheepishly. Hermione watched Wendy wash her face and made a note to have Diane check up on her. Then they walked back to the Great Hall. As Wendy was sitting down she looked at Hermione.
"Do we really have to call you Professor Potter?" she asked. Hermione grinned.
"Yes, you do Miss Williams," Hermione wrinkled her nose and Allie laughed.
After they finished their meal Professor McGonagall introduced the teaching staff.
"Returning professor's include Floyd Futhark. He teaches Ancient Runes and is a translation specialist. He is the only person alive that can translate Sanskrit from memory.
Professor Vonda Vector is a Master Arithmancer. She has studied numbers and spell creation for years and created several common number theories that have proven true.
Professor Sheila Sinistra will be teaching Astronomy once again. She discovered many of the alignments that are used in divination and astronomic arithmancy.
Professor Rubeus Hagrid returns as our Care of Magical Creatures instructor. He has been Keeper of the Grounds and Keys at this school for fifty years. He knows more about the animals and beings in the dark forest than any other person alive." The parents looked at the large man and decided that he wasn't as intimidating as they had originally assumed.
McGonagall continued, "Filius Flitwick, the head of Ravenclaw House, will be teaching Charms while training his apprentice Lisa Turpin. Miss Turpin scored a perfect NEWT last year. Professor Flitwick is a former world dueling champion. In 1909 he created a small charm called Scourgify, which I dare say is used by every witch or wizard alive today." The little professor smiled, and the new students each decided that he could teach them many things.
"Rolanda Hooch has returned to teach the first years flying and to referee the Quidditch matches. She is a former professional Quidditch player. In 1963 she scored eighteen goals in one game, a record that still stands today." The students who had magical parents looked at her in awe understanding the feat while the firstborn children sat quietly.
"Pomoma Sprout, the head of Hufflepuff House, will once again return to teach Herbology. She not only knows the proper way to raise magical plants she also knows how they're used in potions and healing.
Professor Horace Slughorn is the head of Slytherin House. Professor Slughorn invented the hangover relief potion and was designated a potions master in 1938. He makes a point of keeping in touch with his students after they leave school to help them with career decisions." Slughorn sat up and smoothed his velvet vest at her words.
"Professors Daniel and Emma Granger are the only nonmagical people on the teaching staff. This makes sense since they teach Modern Nonmagical Life which used to be Muggle Studies. This class is in the process of being updated to fit with modern times. Previous to this posting they were medical professionals in the muggle world." At her words the wizarding parents looked on with renewed interest, wishing that they could attend the class themselves.
McGonagall took a sip of her tea and continued. "We also have four new Professors on the staff this year.
Professor Binns has moved on. Professor Wallace Weldon will now teach the History of Magic. This class is also being updated. Professor Weldon is an expert on historical events. His archeological digs have uncovered many fascinating artifacts.
Divination is going to be taught by Professor Lavender Brown. She is the only student in years to show any true aptitude for the art of divination. Professor Firenze has made peace with the other Centaurs and has returned to the forest." Many of the younger parents sniggered at her words having endured Trelawney's incense filled room and bogus predictions themselves.
"Professor Hermione Potter has filled my former position of transfiguration Professor. She is also the new head of Gryffindor House. Her NEWT in transfigurations last year was the highest score in the subject since 1941. Indeed, she almost beat Albus Dumbledore's score." The wizarding parents looked at her with respect, not only for her transfiguration abilities, but also knowing that she had earned her place in the Order of Merlin.
"Professor Harry Potter has accepted the Defense against the Dark Arts posting. Professor Potter's accomplishments against Lord Voldemort are well documented. He is also a wonderful leader and has a talent for inspiring children to do the right thing." Again, the wizarding people understood the magnitude of his achievements while the nonmagical parents saw a young man who they assumed would be teaching judo or some other type of physical education.
McGonagall let the group take in her words then she continued to speak. The prefects all cheered when McGonagall mentioned that Dr. Diane Turnbull would also be on staff two days a week. For the sake of the magical parents she let an embarassed Diane explain what kind of Doctor she was.
Then McGonagall opened the floor for specific questions about the classes being offered.
One of the nonmagical parents asked about Harry, Hermione, Lisa and Lavender's ages. McGonagall nodded having expected the question. She deferred to Slughorn.
"Professor Potter, er Hermione Potter, managed to raise the grades of several of the younger students in my class last year. She found a way to motivate them that had escaped me. I believe that Miss Turpin managed to tutor a great number of last year's seventh year class to NEWT level certifications in potions. I'm shocked that one of them is not teaching my class," he boomed startling the woman who asked the question.
"Sir 'Arry, er Professor Potter, this here one, 'ad a study group fifth and seventh 'ears for defense 'hat saved lives of 'any kids," Hagrid said in a voice just as loud.
"You have no idea who they are do you?" one of the magical parents asked. The other parent shook his head.
Dan chuckled and said, "I'm sure the outrageous rumors will reach their ears soon enough. We'll be talking about the war later. I understand your concerns. In the nonmagical world it takes several years of additional schooling to become a teacher of any sort. We will all be working closely to help the newest Professors to make sure that their teaching skills are adequate. I don't believe that there is really much need for concern though."
"I can assure you that all four of them are qualified for their positions. Professor Potter, Harry," McGonagall sighed and Harry stifled a laugh. She turned her famous glare on him and said, "No. I refuse to allow you to be called Professor Harry and Professor Hermione."
The older students laughed, as did Dan, Emma and Diane.
"Don't worry, Professor, it won't be confusing for long. I am positive that my husband will be the popular Professor Potter while I am going to be reviled as the one who gives too much homework," Hermione said. The students who knew her all groaned.
"I notice that my cell phone doesn't get a signal here. How can I keep in touch with Jill and Jason?"
"You may notice that there are no telephones or electricity in the castle as all. We will be demonstrating the Owl Post later this afternoon," Emma answered.
"No electricity?" One of the muggleborn kids sounded horrified.
"I had that same reaction when I first read about the castle. Some days I really miss my computer. All essays are written by hand on parchment and with a quill. It is quite the adjustment. I can assure you that by the time Easter comes you will wonder why your parents do not have candles all over the house," Hermione told her.
"You're muggleborn?" the girl asked.
"Yes, I am," Hermione said with a grin.
"The nonmagical Professors are her parents," Wendy told the student.
"Other than Professor Potter's defense class are there other physical education classes?"
"We do not have a structured physical education class. Magical children, for the most part, have little need for exercise. Weight issues that plague the nonmagical world are rare. We do have house teams for the wizarding sport of Quidditch," McGonagall replied.
"No more dodge ball?" one of the muggleborn students asked.
"No more dodge ball," Harry confirmed.
"BRILLIANT!" One of the students yelled and most of the muggleborn students cheered.
"Dare I ask what dodge ball is?" Slughorn asked.
"It's a horrible game that nonmagical children are forced to endure," Hermione answered.
"It's sanctioned bullying. I can't count the number of times I broke my glasses during that game," Wendy Williams said with a shudder. Most of the nonmagical children had the same look on their faces
"Do the different houses represent anything?"
"Hufflepuff students are known for being patient, hard workers, just and loyal," Sprout said proudly.
"My Slytherins are cunning and ambitious," Slughorn announced in his booming voice.
"Ravenclaws are known for their wisdom and intelligence," Flitwick said with a smile.
"Gryffindor students are high spirited and known for their bravery," McGonagall told them. She smiled widely and continued, "I look forward to seeing Professor Potter attempt to contain them."
Wendy and Allie both started giggling and then outright laughed.
"I expect to get help from my prefects," Hermione told them sternly. Both giggled again.
"As did I, Professor. Not to worry. Hi-jinks have their place. I know a Slytherin alum named Zonko. I believe that Professor Sprout left our mischievousness from the Hufflepuff traits and one of the best pranks I have ever seen was pulled by a Ravenclaw student named Devon Flitwick," McGonagall said. Flitwick smiled at the memory of his son.
"You have it easy Professor Potter. How many Potters, Weasleys or Grangers are in your house this year?" Sprout asked.
"I think we've been insulted," Harry said grinning.
McGonagall coughed something that sounded like Polyjuice and asked for more questions.
"Professor Granger do you plan to teach a section on muggle weapons?" One of the magical parents asked.
Dan and Emma both started to answer and then Dan deferred to his wife. She said, "Contrary to what you might have read in Witch Weekly we are not experts on nonmagical weapons. The so-called weapon I used to defend myself is a medical instrument. It is a knife about the size of…" she watched as Hermione conjured one and levitated it to her. Emma picked it up. She had not held one since she had snapped it off under Draco's kneecap. Pushing the thought from her mind she continued, "Thank you, Hermione. This is a scalpel."
"You fought off a Death Eater with that?" Murmurs went around the room.
"Yes. As my wife was saying, we are not weapons experts. The weapon I used to stop Bellatrix Lestrange is called a handgun. It is nearly impossible to get a license for one in the nonmagical world. We have no plans on teaching how to use nonmagical weapons. However, we have spoken to Professor Potter about nonmagical defense methods," Dan said, seeing how uncomfortable Emma was getting.
"I have spoken to Auror Alyx who has agreed help teach a section in my classes on nonmagical defense. I personally believe that sometimes a wand is the wrong weapon. Sometimes the best defense is to run as fast as you can," Harry said.
"Harry Potter ran from a fight?" One of the magical parents asked sounding shocked.
"Yes, I have run from a fight. I know when the best defense is to not be there. I plan on teaching your children how to recognize it too," he answered.
"We understand your curiosity about what happened during the war and will answer your questions about it later. However, the war is over. Voldemort is dead. But there are still dangers out there. One of the biggest is the lack of understanding between the children with magical parents and the ones with nonmagical parents. We are hoping to create an environment where the students can learn from each other as well as in their classes. This is going to be an interesting year."
Only Hermione heard Harry whisper, "Merlin I hope not."
… --- …
After the dinner, Minerva went back to her office, sat down in her favorite chair and reviewed her notes. Putting her tea cup down she said, "This is quite an interesting tale, Mr. Crow. It appears that the wizarding world can enjoy a few years of peace. The old scribe nodded wishing that he could have enjoyed a similar game of roulette himself.
McGonagall took another sip and said, "With considerable help from the Chem Prof and Mrs. Vanblundht your tale was quite enjoyable to read. The old scribe nodded knowing that they had made considerable improvements to the story as well as reporting some of the scenes that he hadn't witnessed himself.
They sat in comfortable silence for a few minutes, each lost in their own thoughts. Finally McGonagall spoke the words that were on both of their minds. "It seems Mr. Crow that there is more to talk about. Surely you must recognize the threat that Lucius Malfoy represents, don't you. From what you've mentioned he's reacquired considerable wealth and will certainly strike back at some point in time."
The old scribe nodded. 'It could be weeks, months or years, but the two wizards' paths would eventually cross.' He put his bottle of butterbeer down and took his leave, knowing that he would need to maintain constant vigilance.
He waited to hear from the others.