Step. Step. Step. Turn. Step. Step. Step. Turn. Step...
"You're wearing a hole into the carpet, mate," Ron said, annoyed.
Harry looked up from his pacing and glared at his best friend. "Madam Malkin said that my dress clothes would arrive this morning. It is now two hours before my speech and they are not here. So please excuse me if I am annoying you."
Ron threw up his hands. "I can't talk to you when you're like this. See you downstairs." He made a move to walk off in a huff.
Harry stopped him. He said, "I'm sorry. I just want this day to be over with. I'm finally at the point where I can have a normal life. It's bad enough I'm going to be seeing half the audience in their underwear and that I still have my original problem of speaking in front of thousands of people. Is it too much to ask that everything else go smoothly today?"
Ron shrugged. "I don't see why you're so worried. You could tell the audience to go screw themselves and they wouldn't care."
Harry stared at Ron for a long moment. At last, he said, "I finally see the resemblance."
"Whatever," Ron replied. "My parents should be here soon and I gotta go meet them." He left the room.
Harry glared at his window as if that would cause his clothes to suddenly materialize.
"Oh, Harry, you really have to learn to relax."
"Easy for you to say, Hermione," Harry replied. He turned around and his eyes bugged out.
At first, Harry thought that Hermione was topless, but then he realized there were floral-shaped things attached to... Gah, he could feel his brain melting.
Hermione blushed but kept her hands on her hips. She said, "They're adhesive pasties."
Harry could see that. It was what they were adhering to that was giving him trouble.
Hermione looked annoyed. "What else was I supposed to do? I can't wear a bra in this dress and with you confessing to me practically before the ceremony there wasn't time to get another one."
Harry forced his eyes upward then said, "You could have warned me!"
Hermione shrugged producing interesting secondary motions. "You've been gawking at me for the better part of a week. It makes little difference now."
"Little difference?" Harry yelled. "It's like the difference between plain, everyday dishes and the fine china!"
Hermione blinked. "I don't know if I was just insulted or complimented... Harry, open your eyes! If I can handle this, so can you!"
"No, I can't. Everyone knows you're the more mature one! They're not going to fall off, are they?" Harry asked worriedly.
"These are magically spelled on so don't be expecting any wardrobe malfunctions, mister." There was a pause then Hermione asked lightly, "Is that what you're hoping will happen?"
"Yes! No! Aaah!" Harry exclaimed, his eyes popping open out of sheer panic. He was preparing to jump out the window when he noticed that Hermione was laughing.
Hermione smiled at him. "I'm sorry, Harry, but it just doesn't feel like I'm doing anything improper. You're the one with perverted vision, not me."
"You're having way too much fun with this," Harry accused.
Hermione gave him an innocent expression. "I have no idea what you're talking about."
Harry was about to rebut when he realized something. "Hey, I'm not going to pieces any more."
Hermione gave him a mock pout. "Has my charms worn off so quickly then?"
Harry grinned. "Never. You look beautiful."
And she did. Harry saw that her face looked different tonight, which he supposed was due to makeup, and she looked great in it, though he probably would have thought the same even if she wasn't wearing any. Her hair was coiffed up nicely and he was sure her dress was good too though obviously he had no opinion on that subject.
Harry was just about to ask Hermione if he could go through a final run-through of his speech when Hedwig flew in carrying a long, wrapped package.
"Finally!" Harry said. He quickly unwrapped the box then performed a Switching Spell to exchange what he was for his new clothing.
Harry looked over himself in satisfaction. The black silk robes he was wearing was styled in the pattern of a Japanese man's formal kimono. He was told that it was quite fashionable these days and he could see why.
"Wow," Hermione breathed.
"You don't have to look so surprised," Harry said.
"What do you mean?" Hermione asked, surprised.
"Can you see this?" Harry dropped his jaw and widened his eyes exaggeratedly.
"You prat!" Hermione said and punched his arm playfully.
Harry pretended to be mortally wounded. "Hey, my bruises have just begun to fade!"
Hermione smiled at him. "This is nice, isn't it?"
Harry straightened up and rubbed the back of his neck nervously. He thought her smile should be bottled and sold to the depressed. It was that uplifting. He said, "Sometimes, I can't believe this is happening."
"You know what I can't believe? That you seeing me can make you go so crazy. I can't believe I spark that kind of reaction in you."
"You should believe it." Harry shrugged. "Besides, you know me. I never do anything by halves."
"Anything besides your homework, you mean," Hermione teased.
Harry couldn't resist. "I didn't have to. That's what you were for."
Hermione punched him again, this time not so gently.
The Great Hall had been magically expanded to accommodate all the guests for this occasion. It was quite amazing, but Harry was more concerned over what would happen if an expanded space collapsed back to its normal size while people were still in it.
The room was still rather empty since people wouldn't start officially arriving for another hour or so. Harry and his strained hormones were relieved at this.
A corner of the dining hall was sectioned off as a private booth for Harry to relax in until it was time for his speech. Hermione stood outside the curtained area, screening the people who wished to talk to him. Lupin had already been by as well as Arthur Weasley who had shown up before his family in his capacity as a Ministry official.
Harry stared up at the illusion of the night sky on the ceiling simply trying to take everything in, knowing that his life at Hogwarts was coming to a close.
"Memories are a wonderful thing, are they not?" Dumbledore asked, coming to stand beside him. "At least, they can be. But even the negative ones can make the positive ones much more satisfying."
"I prefer to remember the happier times myself, professor," Harry replied.
The aged wizard peered at her through his rimmed glasses. "I hope that your times here have been more good than bad."
"I've had many happy times here," Harry assured him.
"I am very glad to hear that. You have grown into a fine young man, Harry, and I am sure that you will go far in life."
"Thank you, professor," Harry said a little choked up.
Dumbledore got to his feet and dusted his robes off. "And I understand that congratulations to you and Miss Granger are in order."
Harry flushed a little. "Er, thanks. I'm surprised that you know about it. Hermione and I have been together for barely more than a day."
There was a twinkle in the old man's eyes. "As it is rumored by the students, I see many things in this castle though perhaps I do not see some things as clearly as you at the moment." He winked then exited through the opening
Harry sat frozen in his seat, not knowing how to interpret that last statement. Then he shook his head ruefully. "I will never understand that man."
"And why should you? He's the most powerful wizard in the world, and you're just regular Harry Potter," Hermione teased, sticking her head between the drapes.
Harry chuckled. "I never thought that I would ever hear anyone call me 'regular.'"
"Harry, that's what I like about you. You know I don't care about your fame or money." She paused and put a finger to her lip. "Though I must admit that those are definite pluses."
"Hermione!" Harry laughed. He exited his booth and placed an arm around her and drew her close to him.
"Ah, look at the lovebirds."
"Yeah, sickening, isn't it?"
Harry looked to his right with both hope and dread in his heart.
Fred and George walked up to them carrying a long, heavy bag between the two of them. They followed Harry and Hermione back into the private area.
"Guys, that better be my cure," Harry warned. "I'm still peeved at you."
Fred put a hand over his heart and stumbled back. "I'm hurt! We always had your best interests in mind. Did we not get your mind off your speech like you asked? Did we not set forth a chain of events that got you a girlfriend? And though I understand that you came to some physical harm, did you not live out most guys' fantasies of seeing women in their underwear? Is that how you speak to two friends who have brought you so much happiness?"
Harry stared at the redhead, unsure what to say.
Hermione giggled. She said, "How long did it take you come up with that bull, Fred?"
Fred shrugged. "Let's just say that I'm glad you guys got together when you did because my original apology reeked."
"That was an apology?" Harry sputtered.
"And I'm glad you accept it," George cut in smoothly. "Now, to the matter at hand. We have found a method of reversing the effects of the dust. Behold!"
The drama of the moment was a little lost by the mechanics of untying and pulling off the bag, but within moments, Harry saw what appeared to be an old-fashioned shutter camera on a tripod.
Harry looked at the machine nervously. "If this involves stealing my soul in any way, I'm out of here."
George waved his hand dismissively. "Don't be silly. The process is really quite simple. All this does to the spell on you is reverse its polarity."
"And what does that mean?"
"No idea, but it certainly sounds exciting."
"George!" Harry yelled.
Hermione gave the twins a stern look. "We can joke and have fun after we fix Harry, okay? So will this rid him of his problem or not?"
Fred scratched his head. "Well, yeah... Okay, here we go." He pushed a button on the camera.
Harry blinked his tearing eyes to make the spots go away. He looked immediately over at Hermione and he smiled widely. He said to Hermione, "You look fantastic."
She turned away with a light blush.
Hermione really did look great. She was wearing a blue dress, an off-the-shoulder style that was both graceful and elegant. Part of him was a little disappointed, but he decided not to mention that.
Harry quickly stuck his head outside and glanced over the rest of the Great Hall, confirming that everyone was now appropriately dressed in his eyes. Everything appeared normal.
Then he felt a breeze.
Harry put a hand to his head. "Please tell me I'm not standing here just in my boxers."
Hermione stared quizzically at him. "What are you talking about?"
Harry stuck out his bare arms. "Look!"
A look of comprehension came over Fred's face. "Oh... there was only a five percent chance of this happening... Harry, you may be missing your clothes but to the rest of us you appear fully clothed."
Harry glanced down at his uncovered stomach skeptically.
Catching his look, George said, "Well, of course the illusion wouldn't affect you."
Harry glared at the twins. "This story sounds suspiciously familiar..."
Hermione giggled. "Emperor's new clothes, indeed."
Harry sighed. "And when will this wear off?"
"Now that's an interesting question-"
"Kidding, kidding! An hour should do it."
So for the next hour, Harry walked around feeling incredibly foolish as he greeted people who entered the Great Hall. It didn't help that Hermione kept breaking down laughing every time she glanced at him.
It was with great relief when his clothes finally rematerialized around him. This relief was short-lived since Dumbledore told him it was time for him to make his opening speech.
Harry was gripped by sheer terror until Hermione grabbed his hand and turned him toward her. She said, "Calm down, Harry. You're going to do great."
"And how do you know that?" Harry whispered frantically.
Hermione stared deep into his eyes. "Because I know you, silly. You have never failed to rise to the occasion when you had to do so. That's one of the things I like so much about you."
She leaned forward and pressed her lips against his. It was a light, chaste kiss, but it was one that promised many more to come and make his heart go wild.
"Go get them."
Harry didn't know he made it from his booth to behind the podium on stage. The intervening walk had been made in a daze with him absently touching his lips. But the hush that came about when applause stopped broke him out of his thoughts.
He glanced out at the large crowd of people that were there to hear him make it official that the most evil wizard of the century was finally, irreversibly dead. He looked over at the Weasleys, his teachers, members of the D.A., and his best friends.
His last days at Hogwarts had been long and crazy, but perhaps that was fitting for a place where anything could happen.
Picture the audience in their underwear
Harry smiled to himself. He didn't need to do that.
He looked at the only audience member that really mattered. Hermione smiled at him encouragingly.
No, he didn't need to do that that. He just needed to picture her.
Harry Potter cleared his throat and then he began to speak.