Chapter 16: Explanations and Recriminations

They all stared at Dumbledore, and Hermione could not believe her eyes. She was looking at a man, in the flesh, who was dead and buried. "Sir? Is that you?" she asked hesitantly.

"Don't be ridiculous," Snape drawled silkily. "The headmaster died several weeks ago."

"Because of you!" Harry hissed and lunged towards Snape, his sword raised.

"Harry please!" Dumbledore's voice echoed cavernously through the clearing, causing Harry pause. "You will restrain yourself until the story is finished. Miss Granger, kindly direct them."

Harry glared at Snape but nodded, so Hermione read the instructions that had appeared in front of her. "We are to head to the wooded clearing for the wedding ceremony."

"Right, well let's get this over with then," Ron grumbled and stalked off along the road.

They walked in silence, each preoccupied with their own thoughts, except possibly Dumbledore who was humming a tune that sounded like an Irish drinking song that Seamus particularly like. When they reached the clearing, they found that there was an arch set up and chairs for everyone. "Harry and Ginny, I mean Robin and Marian, please walk up to the front and the rest of you may have a seat," Hermione told them but then corrected her instructions. "No Neville, not you… you're going to be-"

"It's all right, Mr. Longbottom," Dumbledore told them serenely. Hermione found that her voice was completely gone. She tried to ask what was happening, but found that she could not speak. "I shall take it from here, Friar Tuck." He walked over to stand in the archway, behind Harry and Ginny.

Hermione began to panic! Dumbledore is… wait, was a member of the Wizengamot and therefore had to power to marry a couple! She was pretty sure that her two friends were not ready to marry and he'd silenced her before she could say anything!

"Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today…"

She watched in horror as the headmaster married them. Hermione tried everything to distract them, but not even Ron was paying attention to her. He seemed to have fallen asleep. She even got desperate enough to try to throw her shoe at him but couldn't get it out; it bounced back at her, off the glass that had appeared to block her. Desperately she banged on the glass until her hands ached. She gave up and rested her cheek against the glass.

She only knew the deed was done when Luna started to clap. "I have always loved weddings," the blonde told them all dreamily while Harry happily kissed Ginny and Ron made a noise of disgust.

Then, quite suddenly, Hermione was on the ground near Ron and she let out a wail. "I can't believe you did that to them!" Tears of anger and frustration poured down her face as she squared off with the headmaster.

Dumbledore smiled benignly, "and what do you think I have done, Miss Granger?"

"You married them!" Hermione shouted, pointing at Harry and Ginny who looked stunned. "You're a member of the Wizengamot and you have that right and I-"

"You what?" Ginny shouted, interrupting Hermione. Harry merely gaped at them.

"Please sit down, all of you. Now really, Miss Granger," he said, because Hermione looked like she was going to interrupt. "I need to explain."

They all sat, begrudgingly, while Hermione fumed inwardly. Ron moved up to sit next to her and she looked over at his pale face but he didn't speak, just took her hand in his and held on as they waited for the Headmaster's explanation.

Dumbledore's face was set, as he stared hard at Harry. "We have much to discuss but Harry, I need to ask you… what will happen if you are married to Ginny?"

Once again Hermione tried to interject a question but her voice wasn't working, yet again as Harry spluttered for a moment and then said, "I don't know, sir."

Hermione turned to see Ginny staring at the ground, but Harry's arm was around her shoulders and she looked as though she were crying. "What I mean," Hermione looked back at Dumbledore who was speaking again, "Is would you leave your wife ever?"

"No!" Harry told him, and she could hear the horror in his voice. "No, of course I wouldn't!"

"Why not?" he asked simply.

"Because… because I couldn't do that!" Harry sounded very frustrated now. "Listen, you can't just leave the person you love!"

Dumbledore gave him a sad smile, "Then why, my dear boy, is that exactly what you did?"

Hermione felt like she'd been punched in the gut. Just maybe, the old man knew what he was doing. She looked back to Harry and saw the same horror and recognition on his face. They had each tried to tell Harry that he shouldn't have broken up with Ginny but Harry had refused to listen.

"You get it now?" Ginny yelled at Harry and Hermione jumped. "I want to be with you but I won't ever try to force you! I knew it would be hard and I didn't want to complicate that but I- dammit Harry! I want to be by your side… always."

"Well, it looks like you will be," Hermione said and then blinked in surprise when she realized that it had actually made it out of her mouth.

Harry looked between them and then leaned in to softly kiss Ginny's lips, "I think I… understand and I don't know what we'll do, but we'll make it through… together."

"Bravo Harry and you can relax," Dumbledore told him. "I cannot marry you two, as I am dead. I am but a memory, no Miss Weasley, not that kind of memory. I am more of a pensive memory that can interact. It took a bit of planning on my part but was, I think, necessary for each of you to understand how much you will need each other in the future. Your friends and allies will become vital, Harry so remember that."

"So sir, that explains why we're here," Ron said pointing to the four of them, "But not Neville, Luna or them."

"Yes it does," Hermione said automatically. "What Professor Dumbledore is saying is that Harry is going to need as much support as possible and that he should count on all of us. Ginny for love, because that is so vital to who he is, and the rest of us for friendship because without it, he would be just like Voldemort."

"Correct, as usual Miss Granger and as two our other two guests…" Dumbledore looked over at Snape and Malfoy. "I am afraid they are here to help Harry succeed as well."

"No way!" Harry yelled, jumping to his feet. Ron and Ginny were right there with him, shouting about how they wouldn't accept anything from them.

"SILENCE!" the old man roared and the three of them shut their mouths. "I arranged with Professor Snape to carry out Draco's orders if he deemed it necessary. He is vital to our plans and I cannot have his cover blown for any reason. This was the perfect opportunity to show Voldemort that he is faithful. If I was going to die anyway, Harry, why not further the cause of the Order?" Dumbledore's eyes were dull as he said this to her dark haired friend who seemed to be shrinking into his seat. "I know that you have hatred in your heart for this man," he pointed over at Snape, "but when that final day comes you will need him and he will be there to support you, even if it doesn't look like it. Severus, please tell Harry…"

The greasy haired man, looked over at Harry, and a dark emotion that Hermione would almost call regret, flitted through his eyes. "I am sorry that your parents died Potter… because of me. That was what convinced me to go to the Headmaster. I didn't want to be involved in the bloodshed of more babies whose only crime was being born, who could not help who they were born to."

Harry stared at him for several long minutes, "I will never forgive you nor stop hating you but… I will work with you." Snape nodded in understanding.

"That just leaves you, Mr. Malfoy. You are here because we can be certain that you did not chose the mark you wear on your arm and because I believe that you have it in you to help end Voldemort's reign of tyranny." Dumbledore marched over to him and got down to his level. "Will you work with Professor Snape to bring this war to an end?"

Draco studied him before asking, "What about my mother?"

Harry answered for him, "If you help us and she is threatened, then I'll show Professor McGonagall a memory of what happened today and she'll have the Order hide her."

A rush of pride filled Hermione at the maturity of these words. Maybe, just maybe, there could be peace at the end.

Draco nodded his thanks and told Dumbledore, "You can count me in."

"Excellent," he replied as he stood up. "You will find that you are actually in Hogwarts right now and outside the door will be my solicitor with a portkey for each of you to travel back to where I snatched you from, except you four, you have a wedding to go to," he informed the Weasleys, Harry and Hermione.

"Sir, where are we?" Hermione asked, very confused.

"Why, the Room of Requirement, of course," he answered with a wink before their surroundings disappeared along with the Headmaster and a door that had not been available before, slowly opened to reveal a short, portly man with a tiny mustache.

"Hello? I am Herbert Gerber Popinjay…"


Back at the Burrow:

"Where have you four been?" Molly Weasley shouted at the top of her lungs, brandishing a sheet of parchment. "You two!" She bellowed at Harry and Ginny. "In the kitchen, NOW! I want to know what this marriage license is!"

Hermione blurted out, "Dumbledore said they wouldn't be married!"

"Married? You got married?" Molly shouted and Hermione realized her mistake too late. The license only meant that they could get married.

"Come on, let them explain it," Ron said quietly, taking her hand and pulling her into the back garden.

"But Ron, we really should-" he halted her words by putting a finger over her lips.

"They're capable of handling Mum," Ron informed her as they heard Ginny start shouting loudly enough to match her mother. "You and I have needed to do something and I… well I want to before I lose my nerve."

"What's that?" Hermione asked breathlessly, as he cupped the side of her face. But he never gave her the words, simply leaned in and kissed her. Oh yes, the old coot really did know what he was doing, she thought and then gave in to all the sensations she had craved since she was thirteen.

Thank you to JPx for beta'ing for me! Also thank you for all of the reviews and for your support as it has taken me forever to finish this story.

Would you like the chance to talk with me about my writing? I am doing an Author's Chat for tonight February 10, 2006 at 8pm EST. Do a google search for "wizardtales chat" and it will come up. I hope to see you there! ywg