13. New Year, New Life & Epilogue
The Potters, the Grangers, Remus and Tonks arrived together at the Burrow on Bonfire Night. Arthur had passed on the invitation through Winky when she had shown up to breakfast the morning after the wedding. When Arthur informed Winky what he saw on the tapestry in Grimmauld Place the little elf panicked, it took him several minutes and many, many promises to not tell anyone what he knew to calm her down.
The twins had made a special line of Whiz-Bangs for the holiday and were promising a grand display. Angelina, Alicia, Katie had all been invited and Fleur had come down from Hogwarts, unfortunately Bill had to remain at the school. Ever since the attack on Hogsmeade security around the castle had gotten almost ridiculous, Fleur said she had to pass through two separate Auror checkpoints on her way out of the gates and there were always at least two professors and a half dozen Aurors patrolling the halls.
"So where have the two of you been hiding?" Fred asked Harry and Hermione as everyone sat down in the garden for the meal Dobby and Winky had prepared, a small bonfire was setup nearby for warmth and the twins had put several dancing Guy Fawkes figures in the flames. The newlyweds had both kept their left hands hidden, waiting for the perfect moment to surprise the unknowing.
"We tried to track you down on Halloween to see if you wanted to go for a drink and ended up with this bum," George jerked his thumb towards Remus.
"We had plans that day," Harry ignored the comment about Lupin. "I tried to see if you were available but you told me to bugger off."
"We were busy in the afternoon, but what could you have been planning that lasted for the last five days?" Fred asked.
"Oh, we just had a small gathering before Harry and I went away for a few days," Hermione airily replied.
"You took a vacation?" Angelina asked.
"Something like that, just a few days in Paris," said Harry.
"Because it's so hard not going to school or having a job," Katie quipped from across the table, barely holding down her laughter.
"Ah, young love-" George began.
"The city of lights-" Fred continued.
"The city of love-"
"Snogging on the Eiffel Tower-"
"Snogging in the Louvre-"
"The city to-"
"Oh, enough of that!" Alicia promptly broke in.
"Paris, did you take a portkey there?" Mr. Weasley asked.
Harry smiled to himself, "No, we flew down and Apparated back."
"Oh my, you must have froze!" said Arthur.
"It was quite comfy actually," Hermione smiled with Harry, "the stewardess gave us a nice thick blanket to snuggle under."
Arthur's eyes lit up, "You flew on a Muggle airplane! How was it, did you get to see the pilot's seat? I hear that there's more switches and knobs there than I could even dream of."
"Only a little peak," said Hermione. "The pilot was standing in the doorway."
"Pity. I don't suppose they explained how they managed to keep up in the air," Arthur hopefully queried.
"It's all aerodynamics and a property called lift," Dan started to explain. Arthur was completely ensconced as Dan pulled James' wand and went about drawing a sideways teardrop in the air and began explaining as much as he could remember from his physics courses about how the airflow around the wing helped keep the plane in the sky.
"What's with the rumor of you having a phoenix Harry?" Alicia asked.
"It's true," Harry admitted. "The day Voldemort attacked Hogsmeade he… killed Hedwig…"
Hermione carried on after a moments silence; "I was slightly incapacitated at the same time, when I woke I joined Harry where he buried her. After a few minutes silence we started to hear a phoenix song and then he burst into the air above us. When Dad was bitten he closed the wound before Harry took him to St. Mungo's. He hasn't been around since we left for France, but I suspect he'll turn up sometime tonight."
"So what the Prophet said is true?" Fred jumped, "Harry killed a werewolf and only got a few scratches down his back?"
"No, Dan killed Greyback with a sword hidden in their bedroom, and the scratches…" Harry's throat went dry.
"Were from me," Hermione quietly admitted much to the twin's glee.
"Please say we can tell them soon," Harry whispered in Hermione's ear. "I'm driving myself mad holding it in."
Hermione smiled smugly and brought her left hand up to Harry's cheek, turning his head to kiss him.
"You're engaged?" Angelina blurted out as the firelight flashed through the diamonds on Hermione's hand. "When did that happen?"
Harry brought his own left hand above the table and scratched his chin, "Oh, about three weeks ago." When he looked across the table Angelina and Alicia's chairs were both empty, his eyes landed on the pair as they rounded the table and yanked him form his chair, bouncing with excitement and squealing. "Shouldn't you be doing this to her?" Harry helplessly asked as he felt the thumps of Fred and George joining the hug.
The girls eventually disengaged from him and dragged Hermione to her feet; Harry noticed Arthur didn't look surprised at all. "I saw the tapestry in your house update itself," Arthur explained when he caught his look. "Winky made me promise to not tell anyone." Winky looked clearly disappointed in herself so Harry sent her a look letting him know he wasn't upset as the twins continued pounding him on the back.
"If everyone would calm down a little," Hermione disentangled herself to reach inside her jacket; "we have pictures for you all."
The twins and their dates scurried to their chairs like obedient schoolchildren and sat passively as Hermione passed an envelope to each of the five people who were not at the wedding, Katie and Fleur. They were all quite amused by the shots of Ron elbowing Harry, the couple exchanging rings, and the fact that Gabrielle had apparently managed to capture every moment they had kissed throughout the afternoon.
"What's up with your rings flashing?" Alicia asked.
"They're goblin made," Harry answered looking down on the ring Hermione had surprised him by acquiring. "Ragnok had his brother make Hermione's for me, then she snuck off and asked him to have a matching band made for me. Of course she paid for it with money from my vault," Harry smirked at her. She hadn't been expecting to be able to afford a ring matching the one Harry had gotten for her, but Ragnok informed her she had been given full access to their now joint account the day before.
"The two of you exchanged goblin-made rings, with blood promises?" Arthur was suddenly quite interested.
"Bloody hell Harry, are you completely daft?" George asked.
"Well I didn't know what I was doing at the time, but I wouldn't change it."
"Harry," Arthur broke out of the deep thought he'd been in, "in the ritual that V – Voldemort used to regain his body, he used your blood correct?"
"Yeah, it was the last ingredient," Harry absent-mindedly rubbed the scar on his arm Wormtail made that night. "Why do you ask?"
"He has your blood in his veins. There was an Auror report on the first of November. Someone attempted to kidnap a healer from her home; the symptoms the Death Eater described to her before his interrogation was cut short are only known to be caused by a particularly bad reaction to rings such as yours. He confessed under Veritaserum that he was sent out for help to cure Voldemort."
A look of disgust grew on Hermione's face, "So you're saying Harry's promise of fidelity to me also applies to Voldemort, that any impulses he feels will be punished?"
"That could very well be the case," Arthur grimly smiled. "And if the report I received is any indication, he felt quite an urge and was severely harmed by it. The rumors pertaining to those rings are a bit exaggerated. Cursory thoughts generally won't matter so much but Voldemort must have had a serious desire to… act out."
"All right Harry!" Fred erupted.
"Found a new way to give that wanker what he deserves!" George agreed.
Harry's stomach turned at the thought that the only woman Voldemort could ever have a pain-free reaction to was Hermione; a glance in her direction confirmed she had the same thought.
"Zo, how waz Pariz?" Harry could see the mirth dancing in Fleur's eyes.
"Well, ugh, it rained on Tuesday," Harry stammered as Hermione sent Fleur a slightly playful glare. "And there was a nice café around the corner from our hotel that we had lunch at yesterday…"
"So that's two days-" Fred began.
"Out of five-" George continued.
"Stop it," Harry threatened not daring to look in Dan's direction.
"So where did you stay?" Alicia asked.
"The Hotel Majestic," Hermione smirked at Harry, "in the penthouse. My darling husband decided to flaunt a bit of his wealth."
"Fancy that, how was it?" George asked.
"It was a bit… pink," said Harry.
"Honezly Harry, it iz Pariz, what would you expect?" Fleur asked.
"Well it is hard to get a proper impression of a city if you never leave the room," said Fred.
"There was a nice view from the terrace," Hermione helplessly mentioned. The thought of what went on out on the terrace made Harry's blush deepen several shades.
"Anyone care to explain just why the two of you are married?" Angelina asked. "As far as I knew you were just friends at Bill and Fleur's wedding and barely dating on Harry's birthday – are you-"
"I'm not pregnant," Hermione growled, "and I'm very tired of telling people that."
"Sorry, it's just, well, it'd be a pretty reasonable excuse," Angelina quickly apologized.
"Yes well," Hermione rolled her eyes and intertwined her hands with Harry's, "Harry and I have been best friends for years. There's hardly a thing we don't know of each other, and we've been living together since July. We went away for most of the month on a mission of sorts and by the time we returned we both knew the true depth of our feelings for each other."
Hermione's face was glowing in the firelight drawing a great smile to Harry's face as he continued for her, "I made a clumsy attempt at proposing the day Hogsmeade was attacked but with everything that went on that day we both got sidetracked. I got her ring a few days later and made a real attempt at asking her the same night that Dan was attacked," Harry's smile fell.
"Once Dad was feeling a bit better we all had a little talk and I suggested we get married on Halloween to have something to celebrate instead of something to mourn," said Hermione.
"So, we did. I know it's a bit sudden and we're both sorry you all couldn't make it to the wedding. We are trying to keep this as quiet as possible, at least until Voldemort is gone," said Harry.
"Having a Dark Lord breathing down their necks they can handle," said George.
"But a herd of rabidly disappointed females scares them senseless," Fred smirked.
"Just because you are both too scared to be married doez not mean zey are," Fleur announced.
"Really, what's the point of getting married?" Fred asked drawing scowls from Angelina and Alicia.
"Remus seems to be getting along fine without any matrimonial complications," George drew the scowls from his brother.
"Don't remind me," Tonks growled.
"And speaking of complications, what happens if the two of you make it back to Hogwarts?" Fred asked.
"Well," Hermione nervously began, "while it's not completely decided, we've spent a bit of time discussing the possibility that we've outgrown our need of a full-time education."
"A woman after our own hearts," Fred beamed.
"Now I see why you'd marry her Harry," George added in kind.
"Right, it couldn't be that we're madly in love and I want to spend the rest of my life with her, it's all about cutting class," Harry deadpanned.
"You're both not planning to sit the N.E.W.T. exams?" Remus asked.
"Again, we haven't decided but we had a chat with Dan and Emma before coming over tonight and they agree that being the only married couple in the school, whether or not the rest of the students know, will probably be a bit uncomfortable," Harry responded.
"And I did check into the possibility quite some time ago of taking the exams at the ministry," Hermione sent a look towards Arthur.
"I'd be more than happy to help make any arrangements," Arthur was slightly stunned. "I might be able to swing a few bonus points if you could manage to bring a couple of other drop-outs along with you."
"Oy! I'll have you know that our present employer could care less about some silly exam marks!" George shouted.
"By that rationale are we to expect that your employees marks don't matter?" Hermione shrewdly asked, Harry guessed that it had something to do with George's 'silly' remark.
"While we probably wouldn't hire someone that scored T's across the board, what's more important is their personality, after all it is a joke shop," Fred proudly told them all.
"What he's trying to say is that what matters more than test scores is the ability to put up with the pair of them," said Angelina.
Once everyone had finished eating the twins went down to the pond and began setting off the fireworks they'd prepared for the evening. Harry sat with the Grangers and Arthur alternately watching the sparkling image of Guy Fawkes dancing a jig in the air and the other women surrounding Hermione, taking turns inspecting her ring and asking questions he was pretty sure he didn't want to hear judging by her blush. Another explosion sent a dozen balls of light sailing out all over the property until they stabilized over seemingly random spots and morphed into the word 'AUROR' with an arrow pointing down. A spell shot up from one of the hidden protectors that only caused the sign to grow and begin flashing, Arthur quickly chastised his sons into vanishing them.
A wolf burst into the air and began chasing Guy Fawkes about, eventually catching him and eating him whole. Another wolf joined him and they waltzed through the air, the twin's tribute to Dan and Remus. There was a herd of hippogriffs, a few dragons, and a dozen goblins illuminating the sky when Fred smirked at Harry, a few seconds later a glittering image of Harry and Hermione snogging each other senseless appeared in the middle of the rest.
"Harry, are you available a week from Tuesday, the eighteenth?" Arthur asked as Harry-in-the-sky began waltzing with one of the wolves leaving Hermione riding a hippogriff around the house.
"I don't think so. We're all staying at Grimmauld Place for the full moon, but the only thing we have to do during the week is study, if we decide to go ahead with the exams."
"Well if you're available, we've finally arranged a time to give the Queen and Prime Minister a tour of Hogwarts and they were both curious if you and Hermione had the time to spare to accompany us all."
Dan and Emma looked as if they could burst with happiness at any moment. "We'd be glad to come along, how are they getting there?" Harry asked.
"We're not quite sure yet. They could floo in from the Prime Minister's office with a bit of help, but I'd rather not risk them missing the grate. I'll probably end up having a portkey made for us all to land right in front of the gates," said Arthur.
"If you'd rather not risk either of them getting hurt on the landing I could ask Albus to take us in pairs straight into the Head's office," Harry suggested, not mentioning the fact that he could probably Apparate them in instead. As if on cue there was a burst of fire in the sky and Albus began sailing through the Whiz-Bangs. Harry and Hermione were once again locking lips.
The rest of the evening passed pleasantly enough, aside from Fred and George trying to wrangle more details about the honeymoon from Harry, less than a yard away from Dan. The result was a two-on-one hexing battle that Hermione was only just able to stop before it turned serious. Once Harry managed to stop his ears twitching he helped Hermione drop her parents at home, pick up their bags and return to the cottage for the first time as a married couple.
"I see Dobby had been keeping himself busy," Hermione mentioned once she managed to free herself from Sirius and Crookshanks. The walls of the main part of the cottage had been littered with pictures from their wedding day.
"I think Gabrielle managed to take every one of the hundred pictures my camera holds," Harry chuckled while looking at a shot of himself and Dobby sitting in a pew, Harry occasionally pulled his trouser legs up a bit to show off the fact that he was wearing the socks Dobby had knitted for him in his fourth year. "So, shall I take my wife to bed?" Harry asked while scooping her up in his arms and carrying her off to their room.
Hermione softly giggled as her jumper was pulled over her head. "Harry, remember I told you that we might have to restrain ourselves for a few days?"
Dropping his face into her chest Harry let out a little moan, "Of all the bloody times. I swear this place is jinxed."
"It's just a few days, I promise I'll make it up to you."
"No worries, as long as I can still have most of my with you," Harry smiled and continued divesting Hermione of all but her knickers and kissing every bit of flesh he could find.
The cottage was completely vacated on the morning of the fourteenth. The full moon was that night and everyone was staying over at Grimmauld Place. Sirius was quite confused when Harry hugged him tightly and Apparated them both but quickly shook it off when he discovered he had an entire new house to explore. The Grangers were picked up around lunch but most of the afternoon was spent in silence, anytime Hermione or Emma took in Dan's extremely pale face they had to leave the room and compose themselves.
"I've anchored a set of manacles to each end of the room," Remus quietly informed them all as Emma went about clearing up from supper. "I honestly don't think there'll be a problem with Dan and I sharing the room, but it is better for us to be safe from each other. Since Tonks is on duty tonight, would you be willing to lock up behind us Harry?" Realizing that he had no idea of what protocol had been developed for Remus' transformations and hadn't been anywhere near him for one since third year Harry mutely nodded.
"Have the two of you made any sort of final decision regarding school?" Dan changed the topic.
"Given what still has to be done our only two options appear to be literally combing the countryside for Voldemort or staying at home, studying and learning everything we can so when the time comes we'll be prepared," Hermione spoke quietly. "We're planning on talking to Mr. Weasley next week about coming up with some sort of signal for if Voldemort's located. If everything goes according to plan, with help form Lilly's seventh year notes, we should be ready to take the exams the first week of December."
"Honestly Hermione, you could've passed them last year. The hardest part of this for you will be keeping me on task until the tests are all over," Harry's voice had an exasperated tone he was more used to hearing than saying.
Hermione smiled for the first time that day, "I still can't believe you think you'll be ready in just a few weeks. We studied for our O.W.L.s for months!"
"Well I've dropped a few classes since then and really aside from the tour day we have nothing to do but revise, as long as Voldemort stays hidden," Harry retorted.
"In Harry's defense," Remus joined in, "the Wizarding Examinations Authority rarely updates their exams and I know Lilly documented everything that the exams covered."
"Sounds a lot like cheating to me," Dan weakly smiled.
"Well the point is that you learn it not how, right?" Harry asked earning a glare from Hermione.
The grandfather clock in the entryway chimed and from the sound of it shot a few stray bolts at Crookshanks. Hermione sniffed as she stood and Apparated away only to return a few seconds later with two smoking goblets for Remus and her father. "Are you sure you don't get used to the taste?" Dan asked after choking down his.
"The only other time I've had this potion available was when I was Hermione's Professor and I could barely stomach it then," Remus held down a gag.
Dan smacked his lips, "It's like licking an ashtray."
"And how would you know what that's like?" Remus feebly chuckled.
"Oh, Emma used to smoke until she got pregnant with Hermione," Dan idly mentioned.
"Dan!" Emma shrieked in sync with Hermione's "Mum!"
When the time came Harry left Hermione and Emma in the drawing room and went down to the entrance hall to meet Dan and Remus, both of whom were draped in only thick grey blankets. Remus led the way down a dark flight of stairs that led to a heavy metal door and another made of wood. A pair of eyes followed their progress, narrowing slightly when Harry turned to meet them, "Mind your business Kreacher, get back in your room." The wooden door creaked shut and a few seconds later the shrieks of Mrs. Black could be heard, "Another Half-breed! Kreacher get those mutants out of my hou-" Harry cast a silencing charm on the door before she could rant any further.
Through the metal door Remus and Dan retreated to opposite corners of the stone room where Harry attached a manacle around one of their ankles, tapping it with his wand to fuse the clasp shut. Looking down at his father-in-law Harry was at a complete loss for words, a glance to Remus' grey face confirmed there wasn't much he could say so after reassuring Dan that he'd be fine and telling him he'd be back at first light Harry walked back into the hall and sealed the door.
Hermione was sitting on the bed in the room Winky had prepared for her and Harry when he returned. "You did everything you can for him," Harry softly told her as he slung an arm around her shoulders. "He'll be fine in the morning."
"What about now?" her voice was a ghost of its normal self.
Harry internally cringed for leaving out something so obvious; "He's fine, and even better he's not alone. Remus has been dealing with this most of his life and it hasn't stopped him from being his normal prat of a self. I think you and your mum are taking this worse than he is."
"You seem to be taking it well," Hermione sniffed as they watched the sun sink below the horizon.
"Well every time I try and take the blame for anything everyone jumps at the chance to tell me I'm wrong and you heard your dad. If you keep feeling bad he'll stop taking his potion."
"We can't let him do that, its all there is keeping him from turning into a monster."
"He'll never be a monster Hermione, but if you want him to keep drinking that sludge you're going to have to listen to him."
A trace of a smile appeared on Hermione's face, but only for an instant, "I thought you were always supposed to take your wife's side of things."
"Only when she's right which for you is almost all of the time," Harry kissed her temple, went about exchanging her jumper and bra for the Quidditch jersey one of the elves had laid out on the foot of the bed and tied her hair back in a ponytail. After sliding off Hermione's jeans and tucking her under the blankets Harry threw his own trousers on the pile and joined her; Hermione immediately rolled towards him and buried her face in his chest.
Shortly after sundown a muted howl echoed through the house followed closely by a second. A third, Sirius', came from much closer and Harry tightened his arms around Hermione's trembling body, her icy legs intertwined with his own. Looking up at the squeak of the door hinges Harry saw Emma standing in the doorway hugging herself, Harry was reminded of the only time he'd tired to run to his aunt and uncle during a storm because he was frightened. Vernon had put the locks on his cupboard the next day for waking them. Pushing his discomfort out of the way and reaching past Hermione he pulled back the covers for Emma to join them. Following a moments hesitation she slipped in behind Hermione holding her as tightly as Harry was from the front.
Minerva McGonagall sat behind her desk enjoying her first leisurely breakfast since the term had begun. She had been able to just keep up with her Headmistress duties along with keeping the transfiguration lessons she'd become used to over the years, Head of Gryffindor house had to be handed off to make time but thanks to the extremely low enrollment this term she'd been able to pull it off. Today however she'd handed over the lessons to Fleur Weasley to see about giving a tour of the school to England's Muggle leaders, who were due at the front gates in thirty minutes.
It was the timing more than the occurrence of a massive fireball erupting in her office that startled her and she blinked in surprise when her eyes landed on Harry and Hermione Potter; The Queen, Prime Minister, and Minister for Magic of the United Kingdom; Ragnok, head goblin of Gringotts and Kingsley Shacklebolt.
"Minerva pleasure to see you so soon!" Arthur warmly greeted her. "Might I have the pleasure to introduce Her Majesty the Queen and the Prime Minister, also I'm not sure if you've had the pleasure of meeting Ragnok"
"No I've not but Albus always had nothing but kind words. It's a pleasure Your Majesty, Mr. Prime Minister, Ragnok," McGonagall nodded in turn.
Both of the Muggle leaders had seen the Ministry of Magic that apart from the airplane memos flying all about was relatively similar to any other office building around. The Headmistress' office was nothing near normal and now they were both taking in the many spindly instruments scattered about with wide eyes.
"I say, all the portraits here are sleeping. Isn't it normal in your world for them to move, and talk?" the Prime Minister asked.
"They're faking," Harry half-smiled. "They've gotten good at it over the years."
"Dare I say 'the jig is up' then?" the portrait of Albus Dumbledore twinkled down at Harry. The others in the room made a show of stirring awake, some showing a look of outrage at the presence of a goblin and a pair of Muggles.
"Yes it is," McGonagall announced, "and I expect all of you to be on your best behavior, is that clear?" Several grunts of agreement were heard. "Now that that's all out of the way, welcome to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. I was expecting to meet you all at the front gates of the grounds, but I see Mr. Potter had arranged an alternate means of travel," she smiled fondly to Albus, now preening himself on Fawkes' abandoned perch.
"And quite an interesting means of travel it is," the Queen remarked.
"Quite remarkable indeed," Dumbledore's portrait agreed.
"You would think so," Hermione muttered under her breath drawing a slight snicker from Harry.
"So, I haven't even told the faculty of this visit, though I dare say word will get around by the first break. The students are currently in their first lessons, shall we have a look around and stop in on one of them?" McGonagall asked.
"Before we set out Professor McGonagall," Hermione interrupted, "Harry and I wanted to give you these." She pulled a stack of envelopes from her jacket and handed over the one labeled for her.
McGonagall opened it and found a set of wedding photos, "Oh my, thank you both. Given your decision am I to take it you'd rather none get placed where they might be happened upon?"
"Unfortunately yes," Hermione sighed. "But I swear the day this is over I'm taking out an advertisement in every wizarding publication in England."
"What's this all about?" Kingsley asked craning his neck to see what the Headmistress was holding.
Hermione broke the slightly uncomfortable silence, "Those are photos from mine and Harry's wedding."
"So I guess that moves you up a spot," Harry told the Auror drawing a deep laugh from him.
"A spot?" the Prime Minister asked.
Hermione rolled her eyes, "Witch Weekly had a list of England's most eligible wizards. Kingsley was number four while my husband was three." Minerva, Arthur and Ragnok all joined in Kingsley's laughter.
"Well congratulations, but why do you wish the photos hidden?" the Queen asked.
"Mostly for safety," Harry admitted. "Voldemort already sent a werewolf to Hermione's parents' house after she bested him in Hogsmeade, we don't want to give him another reason to go after them."
"Sounds a bit silly to me," the Prime Minister remarked. "If what we've been told about this man is true he doesn't need another reason."
"There's also the public to consider," Harry quietly responded. "There was a rumor of Hermione and I dating in our fourth year and several witches decided to send her hate mail."
"Well now that you have Winky scanning all of your mail that shouldn't be a problem," Arthur quickly turned on them. "And the Grangers are on a twenty-four hour watch both at home and at their surgery."
"But that wouldn't help either of us in public," Hermione jumped in. "I can still remain relatively anonymous in Hogsmeade or Diagon Alley while Harry has to sneak around to avoid being mobbed. When word gets out we'll not be able to go anywhere without a hassle."
"It's bound to happen eventually," Kingsley told them.
"Do you really want to be in the top three that bad?" Hermione asked with narrowed eyes. "You know you'll never make it to number one since the editors of that magazine seem oblivious to the fact that Lockhart's completely lost his mind."
"Now Hermione, there's no need to be shrewd," Arthur playfully commented.
"Of course, it's not like the git tried to erase my future husband and his best friends' memories when they were twelve years old and on a mission to rescue your daughter," she quickly chastised him back. Harry couldn't help but smile from Hermione's protectiveness.
"Getting back to the point," Ragnok spoke, "neither of you has made a very good case to keep your nuptials a secret."
"Now no one here is suggesting you begin placing your advertisements, just let the news leak out on its own," McGonagall promptly cut in.
"Part of the problem is that it will be more of an explosion than a leak," Harry grimly stated.
"Which is apparently bound to happen one way or another," said the Queen. "There really is no point in delaying the inevitable."
Hermione furrowed her brow as she looked down on the glove currently covering her ring and slowly removed it. "Goodness, why on earth would you want to keep a thing like that hidden away?" the Prime Minister exclaimed.
"Did I not tell you Mr. Potter that my brother's work is truly impressive?" Ragnok asked.
"Like I'd ever doubt you," Harry muttered as he removed his own gloves. "Alright then, you win. Shall we start the tour?"
The group set off from the office, which was located on the sixth floor this year and wandered about somewhat aimlessly until they reached the portrait of the fat lady who gave a curtsy before opening. Thankfully the common room was empty and Harry barely managed to stop the Prime Minister from wandering up the staircase to the girl's dorm. Both of the Muggles found the archaic security measure quite amusing. McGonagall led the way up to the boy's seventh year room which now only housed Neville, Dean and Seamus; the group left rather quickly after discovering Neville's Mimbulus Mimbletonia had showered the room in stinksap sometime after the room was vacated that morning.
The medallions Hermione had made to allow the Muggles past the repelling wards of the school also allowed them to see the ghosts occupying the castle and they had a rather nice chat Nearly-Headless Nick on their way out of Gryffindor House. Going back to their wanderings the Queen asked just where the Chamber of Secrets could be hidden to avoid being found for so long. They had made it rather close to Myrtle's home so Harry skeptically led the way. The ghost was nowhere to be found but the stream of water coming from one of the cubicles made Harry believe she was merely hiding in one of the toilets, possibly hiding from him still believing he purposefully tried to kill Malfoy the last time he was here.
Harry looked at the tap with the snake and considered telling them he'd lost his ability to speak Parseltounge to avoid what was sure to be a rather eerie trip down. Hermione gave him a look that took that option away and after concentrating much harder than he used to need to commanded the entrance to open.
"That's the way down. It's an extremely slimy tube followed by a dark, partially collapsed tunnel that I could barely fit through when I was twelve ending with the rotting corpse of a massive snake."
"Sounds like a lovely place to spend an afternoon," Hermione sarcastically replied.
"Hermione, I'm sure you and Kingsley and probably Professor McGonagall would love to take a trip down, but I really don't think we should. There's no point to it, at least for today, other than turning our stomachs and I don't think Mr. Weasley needs to see the place where Ginny almost died."
Hermione sighed a little before stroking the slightly grey hair on Harry's temple and reaching up to give him a kiss. The six others in the room, and as close as he could come the phoenix on McGonagall's shoulder all rolled their eyes for the tenth time that day though no one seemed to care enough to say a word.
The Headmistress cleared her throat just as Harry was about to forget that anyone else was in the room, "We've been hidden away in here long enough to miss the first break. Would everyone like to stop in on a lesson, then perhaps take a trip down to the kitchens to see the elves for lunch?"
They headed back up to the charms corridor where upon their arrival Professor Flitwick was so surprised at the visitors he toppled off of his usual stack of books he was lecturing on top of. A Muggle-born Hufflepuff in the fifth year class was startled enough accidentally send a silencing charm at the Prime Minister that Kingsley easily deflected. After forty minutes of watching the students send their spells any direction other than the one they were supposed to due to gawking they took their leave, Harry was tickling the pear just as the bell rang.
"Why is it that none of these elves appear to need one of your wands to work their magic?" the Queen asked as she watched them happily go about their lunchtime scramble.
"Due to a rather old law that I unfortunately don't have the support in the Wizengamot to reverse only humans are allowed to carry or use wands," said Arthur. "Some races, like the elves and goblins have quite powerful magic of their own and don't necessarily need a wand."
"I've always wondered," Harry spoke up, "could the restrictions just be an old form of prejudice? Maybe wizards in the past thought that anyone who could wield such powerful magic without a wand could easily overpower human wizards with he help of one."
"That is quite a reasonable theory Mr. Potter," Ragnok flashed his pointy grin. "Though the actual reasons have been buried through the ages there are many goblins who would agree with you."
"And how come there are only humans here if there are others that can use magic?" the Minister asked.
"The idea that only humans were to be allowed entrance to this school has actually never been challenged," McGonagall admitted.
"Does your race have their own schooling system?" the Queen asked Ragnok.
"Nothing formal Your Majesty. Goblins, like the elves, centaurs, and merpeople are all self taught; knowledge is passed on from parent to child."
"Wouldn't it be better to allow all magic users access to a proper education thereby clearly showing that one race is not superior to another?" The Minister asked.
"The theory behind that statement is very sound, but it would take years of work to get our society to reach the point of accepting it," said Arthur.
"Excuse me, but mermaids are also real?" the Queen asked.
"There's a village of them at the bottom of the lake on the grounds," Harry replied before dropping his voice. "My owl was killed the day Hogsmeade was attacked and I buried her on the shore. The Merchieftainess came up out of the water to give me a grave marker."
"You laid Hedwig to rest on the grounds?" McGonagall gently asked.
"He put her directly across from Professor Dumbledore's tomb," Hermione answered for him. "The marker itself is quite beautiful though I expect it's covered with snow by now."
"The merpeople in the lake bear no resemblance to what you'd think, though some of the colonies in tropical waters would," Arthur put in.
A bell rang in the distance, "Well, what say we visit our resident centaur?" McGonagall asked.
They made a stop in the Great Hall for the Muggles to take in the enchanted ceiling before slipping into Firenze's sixth year class, Luna gave Harry and Hermione a dreamy little wave from behind the clouds of smoke she was fanning. After ten minutes in the starlit pseudo-forest Hermione noticed the rest of the groups glazed over eyes and quietly went about shuffling them all back into the hall; the centaur had been polite enough to come over and greet everyone before returning to his meandering lecture about smoke swirls in relation to planetary movements.
Harry looked out a window towards Hagrid's hut and saw a group of students huddled around a fire and casting nervous glances towards a crate that was rocking violently in the snow, "Maybe we should go see if Hagrid's class would like to visit a phoenix for a bit."
Albus, who was currently roosting on Hermione's shoulder trilled happily at the suggestion so they made their way to the doors which creaked opened to escort them out. Harry and Hermione both pulled their gloves back on and Hermione pulled their Gryffindor scarves from inside her jacket, just as Harry was about to don his he realized the visitors weren't as prepared for the weather and promptly offered it to the Queen who happily accepted. Professor McGonagall talked both Potters into conjuring gloves, earmuffs and scarves for everyone else; Harry was quite proud of the knobbly mittens he made for everyone even though Hermione was able produce several sets of scarves and earmuffs in half the time. As they made their way down the steps Hermione swung her wand in a wide circle over her head and a thin ring of blue fire melted the snow in a ten-foot wide circle around them.
Hagrid, being himself, took no notice of anyone other than Harry and Hermione until they pointed out to him just who they all were. While the Queen and Prime Minister were both gaping at Hagrid's size Neville, who was one of the few students to keep up with the N.E.W.T. level course mouthed a very relieved thank you to Harry for saving him from whatever was growling in the crate set away from the students. Hagrid happily switched his lesson plan to fawn over Albus in front of everyone; he also had Harry demonstrate the bird's ability to transport him even through the wards around the castle. Once the class was dismissed Hermione slipped Hagrid an envelope of photos and Harry was more than happy to answer all of the Prime Minister's questions about the nearby pitch and what it was used for. He led the way there and called for Dobby to bring his and Dan's brooms so he and Kingsley could race each other for a bit. Hermione's efforts to warm Harry's very pink cheeks on the way back inside distracted them both enough to not notice the bemused looks they were receiving.
Thoroughly disheartened as McGonagall led the way down to the dungeons Harry faded to the back of the group praying they'd be on their way shortly. All work on the second years swelling solution ground to a halt as Slughorn began proclaiming how great an honor it was to be in the presence of such greatness almost reaching the point of falling to his knees to bow before Kingsley sent him a glare that would halt a raging hippogriff. Hiding with Hermione in the back of the group it took Harry a minute to figure out that the Slytherin portion of the class were all directing their glares at him because no one had bothered to remove their Gryffindor colored accessories. Things as trivial as house boundaries weren't making their way through Slughorn's thick skull, he spent the remainder of their time in the potions lab wildly singing the Queen's praises from a respectful distance. The group arrived back in the entrance hall less than ten minutes after they had left.
Ragnok left them shortly before they made their way into the antechamber off the Great Hall for a secluded supper. On the way in Harry secretly cast a series of charms on the door.
"Mr. Weasley, how would you feel about Hermione putting a Protean Charm on your watch?" Harry asked as a pair of elves served their food.
"Assuming it wouldn't be showing whatever love notes the two of you pass between each other I'd be fine with it," Arthur pulled out a pocket watch and slid it towards Hermione.
As Harry bit his tongue Hermione explained; "Harry and I just want a way to be informed if Voldemort is attacking or cornered somewhere. We assume you'll find out almost immediately so all you'll have to do is charm your watch to show the location and we'll come as soon as possible. It also goes the other way if we happen to stumble across his path."
"That is quite a good idea, I wonder if you would like to have a link to this castle as well," McGonagall hopefully pulled out her own watch which Hermione took and applied the charm.
"Is it safe to talk about such matters in here?" the Minister asked eyeing the elf refilling his wine.
"All of the elves in the school are bound to keep any privileged conversations they hear, such as this one, to themselves. House-elves by their very nature are excellent at keeping their masters' secrets," McGonagall informed them.
"And I charmed the door on the way in, just incase," Harry admitted.
"Harry Potter," McGonagall began in a semi-flustered voice, "if you'd been this forward thinking over the last six years the competition for the House Cup would have been pointless as Gryffindor would have easily had a hundred points more than the others after a week!" Harry felt his face warm up and remained silent through the rest of the meal.
The Great Hall fell completely silent when their group reemerged; Harry unconsciously took Hermione's left hand to hide her ring while shoving his own in his pocket, the same positions they'd been in all day. Fleur was sitting at the Head Table next to her husband and Harry could barely hold in his laughter when Arthur had to pull the gob smacked Prime Minister past the part-Veela. Hermione hung her head in embarrassment on the march down the center aisle, not used to being the center of so much attention. Once back in the entrance hall Harry turned at the sound of his name and found Ron hurrying out after him.
"Are you guys leaving?" Ron quietly asked trying to avoid being seen by the other people in the party.
"I don't actually know, just following along why?"
"Well there's a defense club meeting in about ten minutes, thought you'd like to know and maybe stop by."
"Ronald!" Arthur happily exclaimed.
"Err, Hi Dad. Your Majesty, Mr. Prime Mu – Minister…" Ron's voice faded away.
"So this is the lad you're always speaking so highly of Arthur," the Queen gave Ron an appraising look.
"No Ma'am, that'd be Bill. He's the red head up at the Head Table," Ron mumbled.
"You have a younger brother sitting with the instructors?" the Queen and Ron exchanged perplexed looks.
"Your Majesty, this is my youngest son Ron. He must have assumed you were speaking of his eldest brother who's the current Defense Against the Dark Arts professor," Arthur hurriedly explained.
"There's a self-defense course taught here?" the Minister asked.
"Oh heavens yes," McGonagall nearly laughed. "But if there's one class where you might accidentally stray into the middle of a duel it'd be that one. Kingsley and I both agreed it best to stay away."
"Oh pity, it would have been nice to see a little action," the Minister remarked.
"Well there is a meeting of our defense club starting fairly soon," Luna seemed to appear out of nowhere at Ron's side.
"Miss Lovegood," Arthur noticed her with a start. "I seem to recall seeing you in a certain set of photographs." he shrewdly prompted.
"Oh yes, Professor McGonagall was nice enough to allow me to attend as I'm Ronald's girlfriend," Luna beamed while Ron's face quickly turned red.
"Oh really, and when did this happen?" Arthur was obviously enjoying himself.
"Following Harry's advice Ron stayed behind after one of our meetings to-"
"Ask her to Hogsmeade!" Ron blurted out, Luna appeared unfazed by his interruption and Harry was just as glad as Ron that she decided to not correct him.
"Right. I think I could spare a bit more time to take in some of this meeting. Your Majesty?" the Minister asked.
"It could be interesting, but is it safe?"
"The meetings are held in the Room of Requirement," Harry pointed out. "It will make it safe."
"So how have these things been going?" Harry asked as the new group climbed their way back up to the seventh floor.
"It's a lot of work actually," Ron frowned. "We had to spilt everyone up into three groups based on what they know. Luna takes the youngest one, I take the middle and Neville does the top."
"All the time, you never trade off?" Hermione asked.
"Well I like working with the younger students, especially since Ronald seems to think I deserve a few extra kisses each night one of them has an accident," Luna happily told them. "Though the bed hasn't made another appearance, sometimes I wonder if the room's mad at us for not using it the first time." Harry swallowed a few coughs.
"Between Quidditch and Head Boy duties I don't have time to work up all the spells or the top group," Ron pushed past the awkwardness; thankfully the four teenagers had hung back quite a ways to talk. "Neville's been doing great; I swear he splits all his free time between the greenhouses and the room looking up new things. I really owe you two an apology for not helping out more in fifth year."
"No problem mate, it honestly sounds like you've been putting more work into it than we ever did," Harry clapped Ron's shoulder.
"Before I forget Ron, these are for you and Luna," Hermione handed over another envelope. "We were going to ask that you not let anyone see them, but the people that run the country seem to think that'd be pointless since they'll all figure it out eventually."
"So the two of you are going to be wearing your rings in there?" Ron slowly asked.
"Looks that way, is that a problem?" Harry asked.
"Well… Ginny's still been acting a bit funny about you Harry. They're your bloody wedding rings so I wouldn't tell you to not wear them, but it might be easier for her to accept that she'll never have another chance at you if she finds out in a place that doesn't have fifty witnesses."
"Ron, that is without a doubt the kindest, most sensitive thing I have ever heard you say," Hermione pulled him into a tight embrace. "Well done."
"Maybe it's well done to you," Harry whispered to Luna as he put an arm around her shoulders giving her a light squeeze, her dreamy smile brightened and Harry could just make out her humming her favorite tune.
"Oy! That's my girl you got there," Ron teased.
"I'll trade you if it means I can have my wife back," Harry retorted.
Hermione lightly slapped Ron's shoulder, "Honestly, it's not like either of us could ever think about anything inappropriate."
"Or at least we'd know if you did thanks to those wonky rings the two of you got," said Ron.
"We didn't tell you yet," Harry suddenly grinned. "Your Dad thinks that because Voldemort took my blood for that ritual he's under the same… restrictions as I am, and he's already had at least one reaction."
"Bloody hell Harry, that means the only witch he could ever want to… well it'd have to be Hermione," Ron's face went pale.
"Yes well, that's the downside," Hermione looked like she'd just eaten something extremely sour.
"That's very bad news for Voldemort," Harry was taken aback at Luna's use of the name. "Goblins make rings like that to persecute cheaters, and they hate cheaters much worse than Slinkykoots."
Finally reaching the right corridor they came upon a group of students who had taken one of the many shortcuts to the seventh floor waiting for the room to be opened. Harry and Hermione both discretely pulled off their wedding bands and placed them on the snitch necklaces tucked under their shirts then quietly informed Arthur and McGonagall just why they'd done it so they wouldn't inadvertently say the wrong thing. Walking into the room Ron had required Harry was a little surprised to see it a replicate of the one he'd made in fifth year, only twice the size. "Club's grown a bit," Ron meekly told him.
After a moments concentration Harry looked to the corner and found a glass walled cubicle large enough for the guests to comfortably observe from. The room quickly filled, all of the original D.A. members still in school came over to greet Harry and Hermione before going off to their designated groups. Of course Colin Creevey had brought his camera and took several pictures, mostly of Harry, before Ron got his group moving. Each of the three groups had around twenty people, Harry and Hermione unintentionally ignored everyone else sectioned off behind the glass walls commentating on how well things had been arranged. Luna's group, which Harry was happy to note had three Slytherin girls who appeared to be first years, had paired off to work solely on disarming and shields. Ron's group seemed almost chaotic until Harry realized most of the noise was the Creevey brothers firing off stunners at anything they could see. The group led by Neville appeared to be conjuring metal balls the size of bludgers, which dissolved into thin air after impact, and hurling them at each other. The Hufflepuff boy paired with Ginny was having a very bad night, every time the redhead would glance over and see Hermione talking closely with Harry she would fire off one of the balls with enough fury to shatter the boy's shield and nearly his arm.
"Isn't that a touch… barbaric?" the Queen's voice eventually broke through Harry and Hermione's conversation.
"I'm sure it appears that way," Hermione calmly replied, "but when you consider the Death Eaters will be firing curses to kill, torture, or rip your limbs off your body a cannonball hurling through the air seems tame."
"Do you still practice these things when there's not a war underway?" the Minister asked.
"In a way, but with nowhere near the enthusiasm," McGonagall explained. "There are always organized duels, and the standard Defense curriculum deals with how to defend yourself against some of the more dangerous magical creatures in existence."
"Duels, as in two people facing each other at first light and all that?" the Minister asked.
Professor McGonagall's lips twisted into a shrew smile and she weaved her way through the clusters of students to have a whispered conversation with Neville, Ron, and Luna. "I believe a demonstration is in order," she announced when she'd returned. "Mr. Potter since this room seems to respond so well to you could you please enlarge this enclosure to fit everyone?" Harry looked down at his feet and concentrated on walling off about a third of the total room. Once they were all safely enclosed she addressed the group, "Well then, Mr. Potter, Mr. Longbottom… get out there."
Harry looked at Neville and was surprised to see a mischievous smile crossing his face that seemed severely out of place. "So… Any rules?"
Neville made a show of scratching his chin, "I'd rather not die, if you can manage."
"No promises mate," Harry barely got out before Neville launched a series of cannonballs at him, they were both grinning like madmen. Harry rolled out of the way and sent a trip jinx, disarming spell and a pair of stunners back at him. Neville managed to block or dodge everything but the jinx and landed with a thud.
Harry sent a set of cords to restrain Neville that he banished with a slash of his wand and retaliated with his own series of stunners mixed in with a jet of hot water. When Harry saw the water rushing towards him he stabbed out his wand without much of a thought and a mass of green flame shot off towards Neville. At first Harry was afraid he'd burnt him to a crisp but at the last second Neville rolled clear and looked back up at Harry with wide eyes. Trying to take advantage of the moment Harry swiped his wand, knocking all of the books on the self behind Neville on top of him. Harry was halfway through summoning his wand away when he felt something wrong and ducked under a stunner that Ron, having just come around the barrier, fired at him.
He wanted to yell at Ron to see what he was playing at but his eyes landed on Hermione and the others on the other side of the glass. All of their mouths were moving but he couldn't hear a thing, for some reason the cubicle had been silenced. Ron had levitated the books off of Neville during Harry's momentary lapse of judgment, he luckily noticed in time to banish a new barrage of cannonballs towards Ron. The three former roommates scampered around the room, occasionally laughing manically as stunning spells and cannonballs were batted around like tennis balls. Ron had attempted to conjure a yellow canary to distract Harry but the fact that the bird looked more like a yellow version of Pig and flew lopsided due to its mismatched wing sizes didn't help his cause. Summoning a memory of Hermione unzipping his trousers with her teeth on one of the nights he'd been unable to return her any pleasure Harry sent his Patronus hurtling into Ron, who looked slightly sick from the image it carried to him.
Neville took advantage of Harry's distraction to conjure a live vine that quickly wrapped itself around his ankles, having enough of being double teamed Harry transfigured it into a boa constrictor and sent it back to Neville leaving him free concentrate on Ron, who was now raining down stunners on Harry in retaliation to the images he'd implanted in his head. Somewhere in between blocking and deflecting Ron's spells Harry sneaked a levicorpus on his friend and summoned his wand. Neville was still struggling against the snake, which was hissing at Harry about wanting to eat the boy so he quickly replaced it with a whip of flame. Panting slightly and looking between the two incapacitated wizards Harry failed to notice Kingsley sneaking around the barrier and sending a blasting curse at the floor just behind him.
"Playtime's over Potter, let your friends go and get ready," Shacklebolt told him in his low, calm voice but didn't even give him time to follow his orders. Harry freed Neville but had to leave Ron dangling in the air to dodge a sickly-yellow spell he'd never seen before and probably didn't want to know what it did.
"Oy! What's going on in here?" Harry yelled.
"Just making sure all that time you've spent with Remus and Tonks hasn't softened you," Kingsley sent a tangle of heavy chains sailing through the air; Harry barely had the strength to stop their progress. Ron was shouting to be let down.
Harry conjured a large metal shield and turned to the pile of books Neville had been under, transfiguring them one at a time into bats, birds, bugs… anything that would fly and sent them all across the room before discarding the already severely dented shield. Kingsley managed to deflect all the stunners Harry followed with while dispelling the airborne assault, though he did receive several gouges on his face and arms; he missed the blasting curse Harry aimed just inches in front of him and the Auror was sent flying back into the glass. Harry used the pause to free Ron.
At first Harry though Kingsley had done the same metal conjuring spell Neville had once he was back on his feet, but he quickly found out the difference. Kingsley's attack moved much, much faster and followed Harry as he tried to dodge; he felt an excruciating burst of pain as the ball landed between his shoulder blades. Through the pain and spots dancing in his eyes Harry slashed his wand through the air causing Kingsley to yelp, once Harry's vision cleared he found he'd slashed open one of the man's cheeks.
"Do you want to stop?" Harry uncertainly asked taking in the Auror's bloody face.
"Still standing aren't I?"
Harry didn't see Kingsley's wand move but he felt the mass of magic he'd sent at him. Harry wasn't sure what made him do it, but he extended his arms palms out in front of him and pushed back with all his might. Shacklebolt looked quite shocked when the spell smashed into his chest sending him to the ground, what shocked him even more was Harry sending a large silver arrow through his thigh keeping him from getting back up.
"Now can we stop?" Harry sank to his knees panting.
Kingsley grimaced through the pain, "Yep, good enough for me." Just as the Auror dispelled the arrow Madam Pomfrey was led into the room by a House-elf. She looked between the two of them, tutted in Harry's direction and bustled over to Shacklebolt.
The barrier disappeared and Hermione rushed over to Harry; she quickly let him go after he yelped in pain from her embrace, "Sorry, bludger to the back, or whatever that bloody thing was… Why did they just do that to me?"
"I think Harry," Arthur made his presence known, "that you'll be getting an owl tomorrow letting you know you've just passed your Defense Against the Dark Arts N.E.W.T."
"All of that, for a bloody test?" Harry feebly shouted.
"Cheer up mate," Ron made it through the crowd of people loudly chattering about what they'd just seen, "at least it's one less you'll have to take." Ron crouched down next to Harry, "Why did you show me…"
"It distracted you, didn't it?"
"Yeah, but still," Ron's face twisted in disgust again.
Madam Pomfrey worked her way over and without warning jerked up the back of Harry's shirt, "Well Potter I suppose you won't agree to stay the night for observation either will you?" Harry's only answer was another yelp of pain as the nurse manhandled his back. "You'll be sore in the morning. Take this potion now to dull the pain and have someone apply this salve tomorrow," she handed over a phial and a small tin before making her way out of the room muttering to herself.
Saying good-bye to as few people as possible and making sure Hermione was always somewhere in between Ginny and himself Harry rounded up the tour group from that morning and had Albus take them all back to London to make their own ways home. Kingsley seemed quite happy despite his temporary limp.
"Did anyone tell you why I didn't get any warning about this test tonight?" Harry asked once he and Hermione were back in their room.
"I don't think the idea came to Mr. Weasley until you were in the middle of dueling Neville. He sent Ron in when you weren't looking to finish your 'warm-up' as he called it before sending in Kingsley," Hermione sighed and pulled off his shirt to massage his shoulders. "I tried to warn you about Ron coming in but McGonagall'd already silenced the glass."
"It looked like it was pretty noisy in there," Harry agreed then noticed his wedding ring dangling around his neck. "I thought something felt off," he mumbled as he went about putting it where it belonged. Hermione made a surprised noise when she realized what he was doing and reached into her own shirt. "Wait, let me help you with that," Harry playfully pulled the garment over her head drawing a slight giggle from her. Recognizing the signs Albus flashed out of the room.
Harry carefully detached her ring and put it where it belonged trailing kisses from her finger up her arm all the way to the side of her neck. "Harry, are you okay? You were hurt tonight… oh my."
"I'm perfect. All I need to heel is you," he muttered as he finally made it to her lips. With a very familiar move Hermione's bra joined her top on the floor.
"What are you going to do now that you don't need to study for one of your…" she trailed off as Harry unzipped her skirt and laid her down on the bed.
"I'll just have to pick up a new topic. I'm thinking anatomy," Harry remarked between the kisses he was trailing down her bare stomach. "Wanna be my study partner?"
Hermione let out a dreamy sigh as he pulled off her skirt and knickers at the same time leaving her in just her knee socks. Harry assumed her answer was a resounding yes judging by the noises his kissing his way up her thighs drew from her. He spent enough time between her legs for them to clench tightly around his head, threatening to pop it like a berry. Feeling a sense of accomplishment Harry fortunately misplaced the rest of his clothing as he kissed, licked, and occasionally bit his way back up to her mouth. Hermione gently rolled them over with a move that joined their bodies on the way and went about demonstrating to her husband just how much she loved him.
After checking randomly over a period of three hours Crookshanks finally gave up on being able to get any rest in his owners' room; he joined the displaced dog and phoenix in the room next door, a place they'd spent many more nights than they'd like to have since a few days after the honeymoon weekend.
"So Harry, ready for these exams your lovely wife insists you take?" George asked when he and Hermione joined them at the gates of Hogwarts on the twenty-ninth for Bill's birthday dinner.
"We're both quite prepared for next week and if you're trying to get my help with something just ask, there's no need to pepper me with compliments first," Hermione chuckled.
"Come now, what makes you think George and I would resort to such things?" Fred asked.
"Because I know you, and I doubt you even your girlfriends would believe you'd call a girl 'lovely' without trying to get something from her."
"Very well then," George rolled his eyes in defeat and pulled off his knit cap revealing two humungous ears.
"We've been developing a series of Study Snackboxes, hoping McGonagall will lift the blanket ban on our products if we make something that will help the kiddies in their classes," Fred informed them.
"Of course once that happens we'd be free to put whatever we want in the boxes-"
"But the Hearing Helpers have gone and turned George's ears all wonky-"
"You wouldn't believe some of the things I've heard," George rolled his eyes. "And neither of us can get rid of the damn things."
"Our exams are done on Thursday, we could come by the day after," Harry told the pair.
"That is assuming you can live with the noise until then," Hermione smiled.
"I'll manage," George exhaled. "I've taken to wearing an enlarged pair of earmuffs and keeping to the back room of the shop."
"I've even stopped myself from tampering with them, after all what kind of brother would I be."
"So do either of you have a clue what this little announcement is Bill and Fleur are planning to make?" George asked.
Hermione smiled smugly, "She does, but all she'll tell me is that they're not having a kid," Harry told the twins.
Fred and George tried to wiggle the information out of Hermione but all would say is "You'll hear soon enough." The four of them continued on to a hallway on the third floor on the opposite side of the castle from the room Fluffy was kept. It was a faculty corridor that not even the twins dared enter during their years in school. The apartment that had been given to Bill and Fleur was arranged a lot like the cottage, only with two less bedrooms. When Harry, Hermione and the twins walked in they found the rest of the Weasley's minus Charlie, Gabrielle and Luna all awaiting them.
"George, what happened to your head?" Percy asked from the seat next to their father.
"Nothing Perce, just an accident in the shop," George waved off the rest of the families questions.
Harry and Hermione greeted the resident couple and gave Bill the set of very fancy robes they'd gone to Paris the weekend before to get; Harry thought they looked a bit silly but apparently Fleur had a word with Hermione about wishing her husband had at least some formal wear other than the robes he'd worn to their wedding, which apparently when translated out of girl-talk meant it was Harry's job to buy them. When Bill opened the box and looked up to Harry all he could do was shrug and nod his head in Hermione and Fleur's direction.
Harry sat down next to Ron and Luna while Hermione went to the kitchen to help Fleur and Gabrielle finish making the food. Ron's whispered complaining about how Padma had been blackmailing him into covering her rounds after catching Luna emerging from his room one morning kept Harry amused enough to not notice the food being levitated to the table or someone sitting next to him until he heard Hermione's voice.
"If it wouldn't be too much trouble Ginny, I'd like to sit next to my husband."
Harry's head whipped around, Ginny's scoff turned to a gasp when Hermione raised her hand into the air. Harry placed his left hand on the table when the girl's glare turned in his direction, "What's the meaning of this!" Ginny shouted at him. "You only broke it off with me because of You-Know-Who!"
"No I didn't Ginny, we've already been over that. I've loved Hermione for years, but only realized just how much over the summer," Harry calmly told her.
"But I love you! All she's ever done for you is get you hurt!"
"Ginny really," Arthur tried to calm his daughter. "Just because Harry has married doesn't mean you won't find a wizard-"
"But I want Harry!" Ginny whined causing the rest of the room save Hermione to shuffle uncomfortably.
"Well that's just not going to happen. He's my husband and that's the end of it," Hermione put her hands on her hips.
"You've done something to him haven't you, you bint! Taking advantage by running off with him for the summer to poison his mind against me-"
"Ginevra stop that this instant!" Arthur slammed his fists on the table. Ginny fumed silently for a moment, scanning her family members faces.
"You all knew of this, didn't you? Why didn't you do something?" she screamed at Ron.
"I did do something, I stood up next to him at the wedding."
Ginny attempted to storm from the room but Ron hit her from behind with a stunning spell and levitated her to the spare room, "Sorry about her Hermione, I'll see if I can talk to her."
"We can leave, if you want," Harry told the Weasleys. "After all we're not family or anything."
"Nonsense," Arthur waved off the suggestion. "You're both unofficial Weasleys no matter what anyone says."
After a few moments silence George turned his head in the direction his siblings had gone, "Wow, I've never known Ron had feelings, much less how to express them."
"Ronald can be quite an affectionate one when properly motivated," Luna beamed across the table from the twins.
"Don't say any more about that, please." Percy begged of her drawing a round of laughs from everyone. Harry happily realized it was the first time he'd ever shown a sense of humor; maybe there was hope for him after all.
Ron re-emerged just in time to inhale a plate of food before the cake was brought out, once everyone had decoded the words spewing from his food-filled mouth they learned Ginny was petrified on the bed, still fuming.
"If you don't mind me asking Harry," Arthur began, "where did you come across that silver arrow spell and why did you use it against Kingsley?"
George's fork clattered against his plate as both twins looked at Harry with matching grins, "You used that against a person?"
Harry smiled a little sheepishly, "Well, Kingsley said the duel wasn't over as long as he was standing so I shot him through the leg to hold him down."
"But where did you learn something so brutal?" Hermione finally asked the question that had been on her mind since witnessing the event.
"Oliver taught us all how to do it before the Quidditch final third year," Harry shared a smile with the twins.
"He never actually came out and said it, but we think he was planning to assassinate the other team if we lost," Fred was barely hold down his chuckles.
"It's the same spell the supporters of the Appleby Arrows used until it was banned," George added.
"Only about a hundred years ago," Ron exclaimed. "Where'd Wood find out how to do it?"
"When the season was called off the year before due to all that Chamber of Secrets nonsense he started spending all his time in the Quidditch section of the library looking for something to give us an edge in his last year," said Fred.
"You guys are going to start giving Ron all the wrong ideas about being a captain if you keep going on about this," Bill said with the same smug smile he'd been wearing since they sat down to eat.
"So are you two ever going to tell us what you wanted us all here for?" Fred asked as he helped clear the table. Luna was in trying to talk some sense to Ginny but Harry had a feeling she was only further infuriating the girl.
"What, you're all here for my birthday, aren't you?" Bill laughed.
"Oh stuff it Bill," George punched him in the shoulder, "you know you're not important enough to get that kind of treatment."
"Well it's more Fleur's announcement than mine," Bill admitted, Arthur's eyes lit up. "No Dad, not yet."
"Not for a lack of trying I bet," Ron snickered.
Hermione smacked his shoulder and hissed in his ear, "Just because Luna's out of the room doesn't mean you can say things like that."
"Profezzer McGonagall haz offered me a temporary job teaching her Tranzfiguration courz!" Fleur announced and was promptly tackled by her sister.
"Temporary?" Arthur asked.
"At least until the end of the year," Bill replied as Fleur was accepting a round of hugs from everyone. Percy, having not as much experience dealing with her was left a bit empty-minded. "McGonagall's been having a tough time keeping up with her teaching on top of running the school, after the day you guys came to visit she decided to offer Fleur the job."
"Have you told Gringotts yet?" Harry asked.
"Oui, eet waz a bit sad leaving, but zee job I waz doing waz quite boring. Covering for McGonagall waz a brilliant change," Fleur beamed as she embraced Harry in her sweep of the room.
"What happens when the year's through?" Harry asked.
"They'll work out an actual contract if everything goes well, as of Monday she's just a permanent substitute," said Bill.
"Ginny's quite upset with all of us," Luna silently crept back into the room. "She even said something about remaining here over Christmas."
"This is all my fault," Hermione muttered.
"Excuse me?" Harry blurted out in a harsher tone than he would have liked. "Are you regretting getting married?"
Hermione's face went white as she realized what she'd said, "Harry no, of course not. Our wedding day was the happiest of my life and I plan on spending the rest of that life loving you more than should be possible. Please, don't ever think I regret anything about our relationship."
"I wouldn't. I'm sorry; I didn't mean to be so harsh. You're the best part of my life and I can't imagine how bad it'd be without you. Please don't ever doubt that I love you just as much as you do me," Harry cupped Hermione's face in his hands and gently kissed her.
"Ron, how do I get in touch with Hermione's parents? I think I've just gotten a cavity," Fred announced in a voice that guaranteed everyone would hear.
The door to the spare room slammed closed and everyone turned to see Ginny standing with a look of cold fury. She'd obviously been crying quite a bit. Harry silently summoned their jacket and helped Hermione into hers, "I think it's about time we get home."
The news of Harry and Hermione's wedding erupted on the first of December. Though the three-page article in the Daily Prophet didn't say how the news was released Harry had a feeling that Ginny had run her mouth in front of some one, the good part was that there were no pictures. That alone could have qualified for a special issue. Pages one and two had been strictly factual in detailing their history through Hogwarts and up to the present; unfortunately Mr. Weasley couldn't stop it when page three reprinted Rita Skeeter's article on the two of them from the Triwizard Tournament and expanded on the idea by suggested that they both had failed to return to school in favor of staying with each other. According to the article Harry would have to be under some external influence to stay away from the only place he ever truly called home.
Harry and Hermione went in to the ministry that morning for their Charms and Transfiguration exams, which Harry found oddly easy, when they made their way back to the atrium to go home it was teeming with reporters. The next day's paper had photos of the couple rushing back into the lifts; Harry and Hermione had called Albus to get away as soon as they were out of view. They had snuck into Hogwarts the week before to meet Neville in the greenhouses in preparation for the Herbology exam on Tuesday which helped with everything except when the examiner laid out several blocks of wood in front of Harry and asked which ones would make good wands. Hermione had to stay behind for her Arithmancy exam so Harry used the free time to decompress flying through the snowy air. While Hermione sat her Runes exam on Wednesday Harry did some last minute studying for Potions that afternoon. The written section threatened to give Harry a headache and the practical was practically a joke for Hermione. The examiner had heard of her constant Wolfsbane brewing from Arthur and asked for a sample phial, Harry was asked to make the same euphoria inducing elixir he'd made for Slughorn the year before. When Hermione returned home Thursday from her Defense exam Harry had to fight back a violent urge to storm the ministry taking in the slash on her cheek and bruised arm but she told him her practical had been a duel with Tonks and had beaten the Auror by unlacing her boots. Harry's mood melted away with Hermione's marks as Albus nuzzled her face and arm leaving a trail of tears along the way.
"Ah, the newlyweds," George exclaimed as they appeared in burst of flame in the back of the joke shop. "We were beginning to wonder if you'd show at all."
"Sorry about that," Harry sheepishly smiled. "We were up late last night umm… celebrating and didn't get up until after lunch." George gave him a knowing smile as he went to the door to call his brother back. "So your ears seem back to normal."
"We finally managed to put them right last night but we're still not sure where we went wrong," George admitted. Fred joined them and surprisingly they got straight down to business showing Harry and Hermione the prototypes of things like a pair of glasses (which looked just like Harry's) that would record anything a professor would write on the board and a type of chewing gum that would temporarily increase the users attentiveness and comprehension. The Hearing Helpers still hadn't made it past liquid phase since neither of the twins wanted to try it again until they figured out the problem, so as Hermione was pouring over the twins notes on the product Harry (very carefully) poked around the clutter.
"What is this?" Harry aggressively asked holding up a small figurine of himself he'd found hidden behind a hat he knew better than to try on.
"Well it was going to be a surprise," Fred nervously told him. "Of course we would ask you before marketing anything like this, but we had an idea after Dad told us about you whomping Kingsley in a duel that we could sell a little version of you fighting Voldemort. After he's finally dead at least," he added almost as an afterthought and pulled out a surprisingly good likeness of the Dark Lord from another shelf. "By themselves they won't do much more than wander around your dresser, but once you put them on the dueling stage-"
"Sold separately of course-" George cut in as Fred pulled down an ornate wooden stage about two feet long.
"You can watch them go at it. We're trying to come up with some more impressive visual effects," Fred set both figures on the platform where they bowed and began firing sparks at each other from their tiny wands. Harry was actually quite amused watching the pair until his likeness got tired of spells and turned around to moon the miniature Voldemort who threw his own little fit and walked off the stage.
"We're also working on your little attitude problem," George mentioned over Hermione's giggles.
"Are there any other figures?" Harry asked fearing the answer.
"We're planning on a few others, Dumbledore, Kingsley, possibly Tonks, it could be fun to make one of Dad, but we've only made one other." Fred had the decency to blush as he pulled a miniature Hermione from a box on the shelf, "There's other problems here," he set her on the stage opposite Harry, who had just finished redoing his trousers, they both put away their wands and met center stage to snog.
"She'll duel Voldemort for as long as we let her, but as soon as she gets anywhere near you we have to force the two of you apart," George snickered taking in Hermione's shocked expression.
"My wife will not be mooning anyone," Harry growled out.
"Don't worry about that Harry," Fred quickly told him, "she can't remove any of her clothes."
"If she could the two of them would probably be shagging like bunnies," George muttered then ducked after catching Hermione's scowl.
"If my figure can't undress then why can Harry's?" Hermione asked in a slightly cold voice.
"The next version won't be able to," George rushed to explain. "We didn't make yours until after we knew about the problem with Harry's."
"Good, because the only person who should be seeing my husband's bum is me."
"Well it's not like it's really-" Fred wisely dropped it under the Potter's combined glares.
Hermione shoved a piece of parchment at George, "Your ingredient proportions were off, and I've marked a mix that should work better."
"How were things after we left last week?" Harry asked as Fred finally got the figures back into their separate boxes, once he turned his back the mini-Harry crawled out and hopped into Hermione's.
"Ginny's pretty narked at us all for not telling her about the two of you," Fred rolled his eyes.
"And we're pretty sure it's her fault that we've been getting bombarded by angry mothers-"
"Why would anyone be angry with the two of you over us?" Hermione asked.
"Well it's no secret that we know Harry and the fact that we sell certain persuasive potions has led people to believe we might have helped Hermione here land the prize they'd picked out for their daughters," George's voice sounded quite tired as he explained.
"Well, it serves you right for selling that rubbish," Hermione said with her head held high.
"But you can't believe how well it sells!" Fred defended.
"Oh and Harry, don't eat or drink anything offered by anyone you don't know for…"
"The rest of your life. Sales are up."
"How do you sleep at night," Harry muttered under his breath, for the first time he almost regretted giving the twins his Triwizard gold.
"Details like that are quite intimate," said George.
"But we'll tell if you do," Fred waggled his eyebrows.
"Is this crudeness something that has always been handed down in your family?" Hermione asked in a semi-disgusted tone.
"Well you could say the trait has always been there," Fred's grin widened as he looked over the parchment Hermione had handed over.
"But with twins you always get double the pleasure," George's look matched his brother.
"Say Hermione, now that you've completed your educational obligations would you be interested in joining the working class?" Fred asked.
Hermione's cheeks turned pink, "I'm flattered that you'd ask, really, but Harry and I are both holding off on making any solid plans for the future until after Voldemort's defeated, all we've talked about after that is doing a bit of traveling."
"And just how much longer are we going to have to wait until we get to come up with a real offer?" George slyly asked.
"Really Harry, if you're going to be the 'Chosen One' you could get a move on. We've already got a whole line of Whiz-Bangs up on the roof waiting to be let off."
"Well it's not like I can invite him over for tea and have Dobby slip him a cupful of poison!" Harry moaned not really considering the fact that he was basically confirming the rumors. It was a very good thing for Harry that neither of the twins really gave a damn, in fact their minds seemed to stick on the image of a House-elf killing the Dark Lord and fell to the floor laughing.
Emma Granger looked down on the back garden from the room she and Dan had been setup in at Grimmauld Place. They had come that Sunday for Dan's second transformation, which so far had been a much better experience than the first. It had taken Emma the better part of a week to get her husband to confess his first full moon had been painful at first but ended up being an interesting night learning how to communicate as a wolf. He and Remus had gotten along well enough for them to convince Harry to forgo the manacles this time around.
It was the sound of laughter that woke her in the morning, when she looked outside she found her daughter and son-in-law tossing snowballs at each other while Sirius went about his morning business. Harry called Dobby out to help him after catching one straight in the face and with a snap of the elf's fingers snowballs began rising up from all directions pelting Hermione, at least until she called for Winky. Seeing the situation for what it was the female elf gave a little nod towards each of the houses around them burying both Harry and Dobby under feet of snow. Chuckling to herself Emma headed for the kitchen to make some hot chocolate.
"Why did you have to bury us?" Harry whined as he slinked into the kitchen with Winky on his heels.
"Harry Potter sir and his Dobby were playing unfair against the Missus!" Winky hotly stated.
Hermione walked through the door carrying a shivering Dobby, "Did you honestly expect me to just stand alone out there as you and Dobby teamed up against me?"
It was impossible for Emma to hold down her smile as she watched Hermione and Winky help the other two huddle under conjured blankets and sip the hot chocolate she'd made. She knew Harry and Dobby's blue lips and shivering would go away but what she wasn't so sure about was why Hermione seemed so worn out. She had been passing it off as over-exerting herself studying for her exams, but they ended over a week ago and so far Hermione had yet to bounce back. Harry seemed fine so she didn't think they'd been staying up late… entertaining each other and ever since she and Dan had been picked up the day before Hermione had seemed a bit edgy. Of course it could be the growing tension from apparently having half the wizarding world thinking she'd dosed Harry with some sort of love potion or the ever present threat of having a maniac determined to kill her husband, but for some reason Emma didn't think so.
Once Harry had defrosted he went off to release Dan and Remus; Emma used the chance to question her daughter. When Harry returned from admonishing the werewolves for having what they called a friendly wrestling match resulting in several fresh cuts he was informed by Winky that Emma had taken Hermione away from Grimmauld Place but not to worry about them.
Harry spent most of his morning with Albus healing the wounds Dan and Remus had enjoyed giving each other and was relieved when Tonks took over after coming back from whatever business she'd been up to. About an hour after Hermione had gone the snitch around his neck began beating its wings like mad signifying she was nervous about something, but it never heated up so there was no danger as far as he knew. By mid-afternoon Winky was annoyed with him for continually asking her to go check on Hermione, but the elf refused saying she and Emma were in the Muggle world and included a threat against Harry if he went wandering off after them. Supper had passed with no sign from them and Harry had taken to pacing their room in the old house, Tonks had tried calming him down by saying as long as the elves said she was fine, she was and pointed out the fact that Christmas was coming so they might be off shopping. That idea was the only thing that kept Harry from Apparating to Hermione's side.
"Hi Harry," Hermione's quiet voice broke him away from his grousing.
'Where have you been?" Harry demanded as gently as he could. "I've been stuck worrying here all day, I kept bugging Winky to check in on you but she refused – is everything alright?"
Hermione nervously strode over to the bed where she sat and stared down at her clasped hands, "I'm sorry, Mum just wanted to spend some time with me today…"
Harry's hand went to his necklace when he felt it warm up; Hermione thought she was in trouble. For a second he entertained the notion that he might be in the room with an impostor until he realized the house was still under a Fidelius Charm and anyone trying to harm him wouldn't be putting on an act like this. "Please tell me what's wrong," Harry gently prodded as he knelt in front of her.
"Mum and I were talking this morning. She took over your nagging about how I've been looking a bit run down then dragged me into London to go see our doctor-"
"Doctor, you're not sick are you?"
"Oddly enough I've not been sick at all…"
"Then why were you gone all day?"
"We spent the day talking about how to go about things being that I'm pregnant," Hermione struggled out with her eyes closed, a few tears dangled from her lashes.
"Pregnant… but how could…"
"I don't know," Hermione miserably wailed. "I reapplied the charm from your Mum's journal just before our wedding but I must have done something wrong. It was supposed to last until January." Harry moved onto the bed next to her, pulling her into his shoulder where she promptly broke down sobbing. "I'm so sorry Harry," her voice was barely a whisper, "I've ruined everything."
"Ruined? What's ruined?" Harry blankly asked not really sure what to make of the entire idea that he was hearing the news hardly any seventeen-year-old wants to hear.
"Our lives… We haven't even defeated Voldemort and all you wanted after that was to go off and see the world and now I've gone and taken that away by tossing in a baby…"
Hermione's words were barely making it through the fog surround Harry's mind, "That doesn't mean we can't go away, does it?"
"Well there are ways, at least in the Muggle world to make me… not pregnant," her body convulsed from holding back her sobs. She still refused to meet his eyes.
"Is that… what you want?" Harry's eyes stung as he finally felt something. It was almost as if a Dementor glided into the room and pulled out his heart.
"The doctor guesses that I'm less than a month along, there's some time to decide."
"But what do you want?"
Hermione hugged her own abdomen, "How could we possibly even think about being parents with all that's going on around us? We're in the center of a war, what would happen if something happened to us? Could our child ever forgive us if we were forced to leave it?"
Harry's eyes finally found Hermione's and he knew she was asking him directly about his feelings towards his own parents. "They'd never be alone. My parents are watching over us just like we'd be over them, if it came down to it."
"You sound so sure of it."
"I am. They knew who you were in Hogsmeade, what you meant to me. My Dad even knew your name… What does your Mum think?"
"She was trying to contain herself until I could tell you and spent the day telling me about what I could be in for should we decide… Harry what are we going to do?"
Harry looked deep into her overflowing eyes wondering if she was seriously asking him to decide. "Hermione, ever since we first kissed I've been seeing things in my mind, pictures of the two of us starting a family. When I was fighting the last Horcrux it was those images that beat what was in it. I know you don't believe in visions and that sort of thing, I'm skeptical at best but this is something that could be beyond a dream…"
"But what about responsibility?"
"I suppose I would be responsible for keeping you safely locked away for a few months, after that it'd be up to both of us to keep the little bugger in line."
Hermione showed a trace of a smile as she tightened her grip around herself, "The what?"
"Well what should I call it?" Harry slightly chuckled.
"Something better than 'little bugger,' honestly Harry this is our child you're talking…" Hermione seemed to run out of breath realizing what she said. "I'm sorry, I just can't stop crying," she added swatting away more tears.
"Why are you so sad?" Harry whispered.
"I'm not," Hermione cried out. "I can't help it, everything is so confusing and I don't know what to do about anything!"
"Try to move past the worry and tell me what you want."
"I just want us to have each other and be happy."
"Just the two of us?"
The sadness of Harry's tone made Hermione dissolve further, "No… Not just us."
Harry lay a shaky hand on top of Hermione's, "So what are we going to do about this?"
Together they stretched out on the bed, Harry curled protectively around his wife. "I'm pregnant," Hermione whispered staring at the ceiling.
"I know, you've told me that much," Harry smiled despite himself while wiping his cheeks dry.
Hermione matched her husband's smile, "Harry, we should be in the Common Room studying right now, not talking about being parents. How did this happen?" Harry had the good grace to wait for Hermione to retract the question, but she didn't.
"I would hope that by now you would know how it happened."
"I suppose I deserve that," Hermione sighed.
Harry's hand came to rest over the button on Hermione's jeans, "So. We are going to be parents?"
She turned her face to meet his eyes, bottom lip predictably trapped between her teeth, and began nodding, "We are."
"I hope you're ready for this. The elves are going to be over the moon."
"Winky was bad enough when everyone was teasing us, promise me you won't let her lock me in our room."
"I don't know… I think she and I would agree on wanting to keep you safe-"
"Alright, I promise. Are we going to have to sneak a healer out of St. Mungo's to see you?"
"I honestly don't know and I'm not sure who I could ask about the differences in carrying a magical child."
"Hermione. Are you honestly saying you've gone the whole day without figuring out that for yourself?"
"Figuring what out?" Hermione's confusion was evident.
"Well going about things the Muggle way has to be safe, after all your Mum had you. I would only worry about whether or not it's safe to Apparate but really Dobby and Winky might be able to answer that for us."
Hermione's body went rigid, "Do you think I could have hurt our baby Apparating here?"
"Did your Mum's doctor say anything to worry you?"
"No, but it's still quite early, maybe-"
"I'm sure everything's fine, after all you have no problem bringing someone along for the ride when they're outside your body, inside is probably that much safer," Harry reassured her praying he was right. "So, when are we telling everyone?"
"Mum will probably start badgering us about what we're going to do in the morning."
"We'll tell your parents tomorrow. Do you think we could hold it back and surprise everyone else until Christmas?"
"That sounds lovely," Hermione sniffed.
"You know, Tonks suggested you were off today getting me a Christmas present."
"Sorry to disappoint," Hermione whispered.
"You didn't. I think I've just gotten the best present imaginable."
After several minutes of silence Harry was relieved to notice that she'd finally stopped crying. The concept of being a father was exciting and terrifying enough to draw tears of his own but her emotions seemed to be his times a thousand. "Do you think it'll be a boy or girl?"
"Anytime I've dreamed of you holding a baby it's always been in a blue blanket," Harry quietly admitted. "And he's always had black hair."
Hermione placed both of her hands overtop of Harry's on her abdomen and whispered, "James."
"There's no need to name our baby after my Dad, we don't even know-"
"If it's a girl then we have a perfectly good name for her, but I'm willing to take a chance at believing in your dreams and I would like to think your parents would be honored that we'd even consider naming our children after them."
"What about your parents?"
"They'd fight us every chance they could to not use their names besides, who says we have to stop at one child?"
"I think we should concentrate on keeping the one safe for now," Harry was a little startled at how far ahead she was thinking. "We'll need to pick someone to watch over him if anything happens."
"Unfortunately I don't think Ron would be up to the task, at least not yet," Hermione quietly agreed.
"Remus and Tonks, or maybe Bill and Fleur?"
"I think that would make Remus' Christmas the best one he's had in years," Hermione decided. "How does William sound for a middle name?"
"William, where did you get that?"
"My Mum's Dad… It's just a suggestion."
Harry shifted down on the bed to quietly speak to Hermione's stomach, "James William Potter, it's an absolute pleasure to meet you." Hermione carefully slipped off Harry's glasses once he'd fallen asleep, the blissful look on his face made her happy enough to ignore the fact that his head was putting quite a lot of pressure on her bladder.
A floor below in the drawing room Winky's eyes overflowed with tears as she watched the tapestry once again updating itself.
The next morning Harry woke to find two rather large pair of eyes staring back at him, one brown the other green, and jumped back in shock, quickly waking Hermione. Dobby and Winky both began bouncing with excitement as soon as the Potters were awake.
"Is something wrong?" Harry asked even though he had a pretty good idea what they were excited about.
"Of course not Harry Potter sir, everything is most well!" Dobby squeaked out.
"Do either of you need anything?" Hermione prompted.
"We's just making sure the Missus does not need any help!" Winky replied barely containing herself.
"Why would I need your help?"
"Dobby and Winky both wish to be as helpful as possible with Harry and Hermione Potters' James!" Dobby declared.
"How did you hear that name?" Harry carefully asked not trying to scare the two of them off with overly aggressive questions.
"It is on Harry Potter's family picture, come see!" Dobby grabbed Harry's hand and pulled him down to the drawing room. Hermione and Winky joined them a minute later mumbling out an apology about needing to visit the loo on the way.
"How could his name already be here?" Hermione asked as she ran a finger over the golden threads with an astonished look on her face. "Does this mean it really is a boy?"
"Family pictures never lie," Winky proclaimed. "It used it's magic to add mister James' name as soon as it was selected."
Unable to restrain himself Harry pulled Hermione close and kissed her tenderly, they were broken apart several minutes later by the elves happily jumping up and down gripping their legs. "Dobby, could you please bring Dan and Emma in here and make sure nobody can hear what we talk about?" Without bothering to acknowledge Harry he darted from the room. "You are ready to tell them, right?"
Hermione nervously nodded her head. "We're having a baby," she muttered still slightly in disbelief, Winky's excitement only grew.
The Grangers both looked quite groggy, which made sense given that the sun had yet to rise, when they made it into the room but after watching Dobby wave an arm to completely vanish the door and its inhabitants' moods they quickly came around. Emma looked ready to burst any second, Harry couldn't help but to smile at the hopeful look on her face.
"Is there something wrong?" Dan yawned out.
"Not so much wrong as just something you need to know," Hermione slowly replied then looked to Harry who could hardly believe it was falling on his shoulders to tell her parents.
"While you were recovering yesterday Emma and Hermione went out and made a stop at a doctor's office where they found out that… Hermione's pregnant," Harry softly told Dan while struggling against himself to keep eye contact with the man.
Dan took a series of deep breaths and sank back into a chair that magically appeared under him thanks to one of the elves, "That's a bit unexpected…"
Emma landed in her husband's lap not worrying about the tears streaming down her cheeks, "We're going to be grandparents."
"You're sure about this?" he looked between his wife and daughter who both nodded. Dan's blank face was quickly demolishing Harry's nerves, "What about all of this trouble the two of you are wrapped up in?"
"I'll give my own life to keep them both safe," Harry quietly nodded his head in Hermione's direction, she was obviously awaiting her father's reaction as anxiously as Harry having not bothered shouting at him about the reference to getting himself killed.
"And Dobby will help make sure missus Hermione and mister James come to no harm," Dobby proudly stood next to Harry.
"James?" Emma asked.
"Harry and I were discussing names last night and the tapestry seems to have confirmed we're having a boy, at least Winky and Dobby say it can't lie," Hermione gestured to the family tree.
Dan wandered over to examine it for the first time tracing over the three names on the bottom, "Christ you two work fast."
Hermione slowly came up next to him, "Daddy, are you okay with this?"
"Sweetheart, of course I am," Dan quickly turned to embrace her, "you just have no idea how surprised I am by this."
"I think I might have a good idea," Harry remarked.
"Me as well," Hermione let out a shaky breath.
"All right, what's next?" Emma asked.
"We ask Albus to take you home so you can get ready to work," Hermione replied, still in her father's arms.
"You expect me to be able to keep my mind on work after learning my baby's going to have a baby?" Dan exclaimed drawing a tiny whimper from Hermione.
"Honestly Hermione, there's so much to do!" Emma shared her husband's mood.
"And plenty of time to do it in. And just so all of you know we're not telling anyone of this at least until Christmas," Hermione looked between her parents and the elves.
Harry turned to Winky, "Can you hide this tapestry?" The elf smiled and snapped her fingers twice leaving the wall blank. "How is it that you can do in a second what no one in the Order could?"
"Because Sirius never told Kreacher to let them down," Hermione quietly informed Harry then pulled his face down for a kiss when she saw his mood darken slightly. "So, are the two of you going to be getting along, or do we have to force you out?" she asked her parents.
"But Hermione-" Emma stuttered out.
"Really Mum, it's okay. You've already taken too much time away from your lives for Harry and I as is."
"You're smarter than that dear," Dan chuckled. "You are our lives."
Harry decided to step into the stalemate brewing around him, "Hermione and I do have things we need to figure out, mostly about what to do about a place to live come new years. How about the two of you go about your day and we'll stop by for supper?"
The Grangers conceded and were soon enough being transported away by Albus, though Dan did mumble something like "She's still my baby girl" on the way out.
"I know what you're thinking," Hermione announced as she came back in the drawing room from seeing her parents away.
"And what's that?"
"You're thinking of leaving, of running off to make me safe but you don't know how to keep me from following you."
Harry heard her coming closer but didn't turn away from watching the snowfall outside, "He's still out there Hermione. He's hiding, but it won't last. I need to find him before he comes for me."
"Fine. Let's go."
"That's not really what I was thinking."
"I know Harry," Hermione embraced him from behind. "You want to go off and kill Voldemort to keep him away from me but you know as well as I that I would never allow you to do that."
"Just like I can't allow you to run off on some mission that could get you and our son killed."
"Then what are we going to do about this?"
Harry turned in her arms to look down on her determined face, "I have to go."
"Please Hermione, if anything were to happen to you I wouldn't be able to go on."
"And how well do you think the idea of you running off by yourself and turning me into a single mother makes me feel?" she asked in a raised voice.
"You think he'll beat me?"
"No, but it's not a chance I'm willing to take!"
"Well then what am I supposed to do?" Harry shouted, his eyes were stinging with frustration. "I'm the one that has to end this, not you! Can you give me a single bloody reason why I shouldn't lock you away somewhere safe until he's dead?"
"Because you love me too much to seriously plot something that foolish. Because you promised me you'd never take away my choice in the matter."
"I promised I'd get you back to Hogwarts in time for exams too, but you don't seem to mind me breaking that one!"
"Mainly because it was my idea to take them early. Tell me Harry, why are you still here? If you're so determined to run off and save us all why haven't you left yet?"
"If I came back you'd murder me for sneaking off," Harry quietly admitted. "So where does that leave us?"
"Well, neither of us is willing to risk the other's safety so we'll just have to hold out for word from Mr. Weasley on Voldemort's location. In the mean time we're both going to have to concentrate on finding a way to keep the other alive long enough meet our son."
"All I want you to concentrate on is keeping yourself safe."
"I already told you I don't fancy the idea of being a single Mum-"
"Well without you I'm nothing. You're not just you anymore Hermione."
"I know," she let out an exasperated sigh as more tears sprang from her eyes. "We'll get through this Harry, all three of us."
Winky was gracious enough to allow Harry a moment to sweetly embrace Hermione before demanding she get downstairs for breakfast after which he made a trip to Gringotts to begin planning what Harry hoped to be a very merry Christmas.
The lead up to December twenty-fifth threatened to drive Harry mad. It wasn't the frigid afternoons spent dueling Remus or Tonks in the snow-filled field he'd inherited. He could handle Hermione's mood swings once he'd learned to just go along with whatever she said. Dobby's manic decorating was actually fun to watch. What Harry couldn't stand were the festive collars the elf had put on both Sirius and Crookshanks. The animals had rebelled when they were first given them, but then Dobby had gone and magically affixed them around their necks and the nonstop jingling followed Harry everywhere he went. He had a feeling Crookshanks was shaking his neck so often just to annoy Harry into removing the collar, but the elf had made them irremovable.
Albus brought the Grangers by early Christmas morning so they could join the Potters and Remus and Tonks. Lupin had offered to spend the holiday at Grimmauld but Harry had insisted he and Tonks spend at least part of the day in the cottage before going off to her parents.
"So what exactly are these things?" Dan asked watching Harry and Remus laying in front of the tree setting miniature versions of themselves against each other, part of the set the twins had sent Harry and Hermione.
"It's something Fred and George are nearly foaming at the mouth in anticipation of selling," Hermione explained. "They've promised to wait until after the war's over but sent us a complete set for approval."
"There are more figures?" Emma asked.
"I've even got one!" Tonks happily chirped producing it form the box and giggling when its hair began rapidly changing color.
"Hermione's in here as well," Harry searched after being elbowed away from the stage by Tonks. Thankfully the new versions had their attitudes adjusted so min-Harry and mini-Hermione held themselves to silent flirting as opposed to all-out snogging.
"And did the two of you get our presents?" Dan slyly asked.
"Of course we did, thank you both very much," Harry grinned sarcastically.
"Oh, and what did you receive?" Remus asked.
"Mum and Dad just sent us some clothing," Hermione flippantly replied. Of course all of the clothing they'd gotten from the Grangers, Dobby and Winky were meant for the baby.
"And just so you don't think you're forgotten," Harry handed an envelope to Remus, "Happy Christmas."
Tonks slid up next to Remus as he withdrew a thick piece of parchment, "Harry…" Remus looked up in shock. "This is the deed to Grimmauld Place."
"I know that," Harry chuckled.
"I can't accept this," Remus resealed the envelope and tried passing it back. "Sirius wanted you to own his house."
"It's already in your name Moony, and Ragnok won't let it be transferred back. Winky's done an amazing job cleaning up the place and I doubt Sirius would have any problem with you taking over the place. We've got to move out of here by the end of the month so you'll be needing a place to stay."
"Besides, the two of you will be needing your own home if you ever want your Godson to spend the night," Hermione smiled and folded her arms around herself as Remus and Tonks' jaws dropped.
"You're not… You can't be… You're joking," Remus mumbled incoherently.
"No joke. We've only known a little over a week," Harry confirmed.
"But you already know it's a boy?" Tonks asked sharing Remus' vacant expression.
"The Black Family Tree and the one we got from Mr. Weasley this morning both say so and according to Dobby and Winky they're never wrong," Harry summoned the gift from their room. They had followed the enclosed instructions and placed a drop of blood each on the canvas and sat in bed watching it stitch itself from their Grandparents all the way down to their unborn son as soon as they had opened it.
"You're naming him James?" Remus quietly asked.
Harry nodded towards his wife, "She insisted."
"And you want us to be his godparents?" Tonks looked over to Hermione.
"Assuming you're willing."
"Well I guess this explains why Winky has been by so frequently and forcing you to eat," Remus' face finally split into a wide grin as he jumped to his feet to congratulate them. Harry had to fight the urge to roll his eyes as all the women in the room began crying.
"Ahh!" Ron screamed as Harry and Hermione burst into the sitting room of the Burrow just before lunch on Boxing Day. "A little warning might be nice!"
"Nice to see you too Ron," Harry chuckled. "Happy Christmas Luna."
"Thank you," the blonde serenely replied from the sofa Ron had just fallen from.
"And did everyone have a nice holiday?" Hermione asked.
"Daddy and I had a lovely day together, but I think Ronald and his brothers had some difficulties preparing a proper meal."
"Not difficulties really, it just took us a while to sort out who'd do what. It's a bit harder without Mum…"
Hermione pulled Ron into a hug, her ever-present tears threatening to burst forth, "I'm so sorry Ron, how is everyone getting along?"
"We'll be alright. Dad's a bit sad that Ginny's stayed at school, Fred made a crack about there being a hex on the family seeing that Percy's finally come around only to have Ginny storm away."
"I'm sorry Ron, I've been trouble for your family since we met," Harry miserably replied.
"Come off it Harry," Ron punched him in the shoulder. "You've saved at least half our lives, Ginny included, and Dad and the twins all have you to thank for their careers. We're a thickheaded lot, just look how long it took Percy to come around, or me to grow up. Let Ginny stew, it'll do her good to not get her way for once."
Harry chuckled and looked over to Luna, "Well done."
"Harry!" Bill came around from the kitchen closely followed by Fleur and Gabrielle. "It's about time you made it!"
"Hold on," Ron broke in, "Did you just leave Fred and George alone in the kitchen?"
"Charlie and Liz are in zere and zere girlfriends will be by soon," Fleur told him while hugging Hermione.
"Charlie's too busy keeping the mistletoe hovering over his head to keep them in line," Ron muttered and dashed out of the room. Luna let out a dreamy sigh and followed.
"Should I call in Dobby or Winky to help out with lunch?" Harry asked Bill.
"No!" Hermione insisted. "Winky's not had a day off since you hired her and they both do too much as is." Harry vaguely wondered if it had something to do with their endless attempts at pampering her.
Harry produced an envelope from his jacket similar to the one he'd given Remus the day before, "This is for the three of you." Bill looked a bit confused as he read the document inside.
"It's a plot of land in Bristol," Hermione explained. "Sirius left it to Harry, it used to have a house on it but Remus destroyed it in a fit of rage back when he believed Sirius was the one who betrayed Harry's parents."
"Well then it should be yours-"
"We don't need it Bill, but we thought you might like to have a place for when school's out that is somewhat close to here. If you need any help in getting a house built there just ask," said Harry.
"Thank you both zo much!" Fleur kissed Harry before turning to embrace Hermione. "We ave been trying to find a home nearby for Arthur'z sake."
"But what about the two of you?" Bill asked. "Don't you have to leave where you're living at the end of the month?"
"Professor Flitwick is coming by next week to help us remove the wards and then we're moving into Grimmauld Place," Hermione answered.
"Until our own house is finished. I've spent almost as much time with Ragnok this week as I have Hermione going over the details to put a house up on the land my parents left me."
"That's one hell of a Christmas present," Bill chuckled. "What'd Hermione get you?"
Harry looked over to Hermione, they hadn't decided on how to tell everyone. "I'm giving him a son," she smiled looking Harry in the eye. There were two indistinct bursts of noises as Fleur and Gabrielle collided with Hermione.
"Are you trying to make me look bad?" Bill chuckled as he slapped Harry on the back.
"We weren't really trying for anything," Hermione responded once Fleur and Gabrielle had taken to attacking Harry who was holding his hands over the younger girl's ears knowing some sort of explanation was coming. "Once the shock had worn off Remus helped us learn that the contraceptive charm I'd been using from Harry's Mum's journals is negated by getting married."
"Which is the last time Hermione will even think of using a charm on herself without being fully aware of every aspect of it," Harry stated.
"So it was just an accident?" Bill asked.
"Our son will never be an accident!" Hermione hotly stated then quickly relaxed. "I'm sorry, I've been a bit snappish of late. Accidents are something that can be regretted, James is simply coming around a bit earlier than expected."
"Dad gave you a family tree for Christmas, is that how you know it's a boy?"
Harry nodded in response to Bill's question, "The one in Grimmauld Place added his name as soon as we picked it out too."
"Well then, there's only one thing left to do," Bill proceeded to herd everyone into the kitchen and shush them. After catching Bill's look Harry took a deep breath and proudly told the gathered Weasleys and their dates the news. Ron promptly fainted.
"Well it's about time you two showed up," Fred quipped when Harry and Hermione appeared in the back of their shop on New Years Eve. "If this kind of punctuality is normal for the two of you we might be forced to rethink that job offer."
"Sorry Fred, everything was just so hectic with moving all our things over to Grimmauld Place and getting Gabrielle back to the Burrow," Hermione apologized.
"Well it serves you right for offering to take her for a few days, really I just don't know where that girl gets her energy."
"So what did the two of you want?" Harry asked.
"Lee Jordan is planning a get together, we're going with the girls and though we'd pass along an invitation to the two of you," said Fred.
"Don't either of you ever talk to your brothers?" Hermione rolled her eyes.
"You wouldn't believe how busy we've been since the Hogwarts kiddies have been on break, here take these," Fred shoved an armful of products at each of them. "We're trying to hurry up and restock out there so we can close up a bit early."
"Ah you've arrived!" George called out as they made their way to the sales floor. Harry was quite relieved that there was only a pair of young boys browsing through the merchandise, until they saw Harry, Hermione and Albus striding into the room and nearly knocked over the tub of Edible Dark Marks. "So are they coming?"
"If the two of you ever talked to your family you'd know we have plans," Hermione replied while sorting through the Snackboxes she'd been given.
"And what could be more important than coming to celebrate with a group of former Gryffindors?"
"We've rented a hotel suite for the evening with a view of the festivities here in London. Ron and Neville are both coming by with their dates," said Harry.
"So that's why Katie told us to bugger off," Fred threw back his head in realization. "We thought she was just trying to keep us away from dear Neville. Seems to think we can't be trusted."
"Most likely because you can't," Hermione told Fred with a strict face.
"If you guys would like to stop by with Angelina and Alicia I could send Albus by to pick you up," Harry offered drawing a squawk from the phoenix. "Sorry, I just know you've been feeling a bit ignored so I thought you might like something to do," Harry stroked the bird roosting on the counter who gave him a look that clearly said oh, all right.
"I suppose we could put in an appearance a bit after midnight," George looked to his brother for confirmation.
"Of course we can! Are the two of you heading over there now?"
Harry finished straightening the display of Headless Hats he'd been stocking, "It's a bit early so we're going to take our time walking over to the hotel, stop for something to eat on the way-"
"Ah, romantic rendezvous for two?" Fred feigned swooning over Hermione.
"Let's just say we need to be getting on our way," Harry checked his watch.
"Very well," George primly started. "We'd tell the two of you to behave yourselves-"
"But it's a bit too late for that."
"Honestly!" Hermione's hands flew to her hips.
"Just get a move on you scamps," George began shuffling them to the door, "before those two lose all brain function," he gestured to the boys who had yet to move from the shock of seeing Harry.
Fred returned to the back room while George went about talking the children out of their allowance. None of them noticed a man wearing a black cloak slipping out of the curtained off section to follow Harry and Hermione as they quietly made their way through Diagon Alley and into Muggle London.
The teenagers received slightly disdainful looks from the restaurant staff and hotel clerk when they arrived at each location thanks to their casual clothing and Manticore hide jackets, but the wad of bills Harry produced at each location quickly brought about more helpful attitudes.
"So, it's only eight o'clock," Hermione pointed out as she led Harry out to the balcony of their seventh floor suite, "and no one is due to meet us until ten. What should we do until then?"
"Well you seem to already have certain ideas," Harry mentioned as she trailed kisses along his jaw line.
"What, your wife can't show you a little physical affection without there being an ulterior motive?" Hermione asked then reached behind Harry to grab his arse, lightly grinding their hips together.
Harry, as always, took the bait and in short order their jackets and jumpers were piled in a corner, "Don't you think it's a little cold out here?"
Hermione broke away from her teasing of Harry's nipples, "Well are you a wizard or not?"
"You're not trying to make fun of me over something I said when I was eleven, are you?"
"And if I was?" Hermione quirked an eyebrow and unbuttoned his trousers.
After quickly retrieving his wand Harry cast warming and cushioning charms on the balcony and lowered them to the ground, "Does this remind you of anything?" he asked after removing her bra and tenderly kissing her chest.
"Mmm, last night?"
"I was thinking the hotel in Paris myself, but if you liked last night so much," Harry quickly rolled her over and ran his tongue along her spine from her bum up to the base of her neck while slipping a hand down the front of her jeans. The Muggles on the patio below them quickly gave up on enjoying the night air.
Just minutes after getting out of the longer than actually needed shower and getting redressed Harry felt the hairs on the back of his neck stand straight, warned Hermione to brace herself and caught Neville before he crashed to the ground. Thankfully Katie's landing was much more graceful, hardly needing Hermione's help to right herself at all.
"Wow, nice digs," Katie exclaimed as she plopped down on the bed, "good to see this is still made."
"And what if it wasn't?" Harry laughed with his former teammate. "We are married, you know."
"And Winky did tell us about having to remove the jinx Remus put on Harry's bed when we were away," Hermione remarked.
"Well as far as I could tell it looked like he moved all his stuff into your room pretty quick after the two of you got back," Neville defended himself and Katie through a furious blush.
"And were married three months later," Harry fired back.
"Well not everyone moves as fast as the two of you!" Katie jumped back into the playful banter. "At the rate the two of you are going you'll be parents by the time anyone else even gets engaged!"
"Well," Harry let out a shaky breath, "unless Neville's got a ring in his pocket you'll be right."
"What?" Neville and Katie both exclaimed as their eyes bugged out in Hermione's direction.
"We just found out a couple weeks ago," Hermione confirmed. "We're going to have a son."
"Is something wrong with the charm we found?" Katie quietly asked much to Neville's discomfort.
"No, apparently Lilly never marked down the fact that getting married negates the last application of it."
"That's good to know," Katie looked quite relieved. "So, how far along are you?"
"I would guess around six weeks, I have an appointment to go back to the doctor the week after next so hopefully we'll learn more then," Hermione smiled as Harry wrapped his arms around her middle.
"Doctor, not healer?" Neville asked.
"Let's just say if we have it our way the wizarding public won't learn about James until he takes his first walk through Diagon Alley," said Harry. "You are the last of our friends to hear, sorry about that. We just haven't seen you."
"How do you know it's a boy?" Katie asked.
Harry shrugged, "That part's magic."
A burst of fire brought Ron and Luna into the room, "Sorry we're late Harry. The gnomes tried rebelling against that contraption Dad made to keep them away from the vegetable patch. One of the little buggers took a bite out of Charlie's shin."
"Did you get everything sorted out?" Harry asked.
"Oh yeah, when we left Dad and Gabrielle had taken over the kitchen table to build more of those poker things," Ron rolled his eyes.
"She was also quite talkative about her time spent helping the two of you pack away your cottage," Luna added.
"I think she was just happy to be around and help Winky fawn over Hermione while Remus and I did all the actual work," Harry smirked.
"So, they know?" Ron nodded his head towards Katie and Neville.
"About the little rug rat? They just told us," Neville barely managed to dodge Hermione's hand as it traveled towards the back of his head.
"You should be careful what you call their child Neville," Luna warned. "Hermione hexed George's mouth off for name calling on Boxing Day."
"Right," Neville looked slightly terrified. "So how were your N.E.W.T.s?"
"We just got our results yesterday," Hermione took to the topic with a wide grin. "Harry actually managed to get an 'O' in more than one topic and 'E's in everything else."
"And naturally Hermione received top marks on everything," Harry added leading Hermione to hide her blush in Harry's chest.
"What were the exams like?" Ron eagerly asked.
"Charms and Transfiguration were both pretty easy actually. Without Neville's help I don't think I would've passed Herbology and the written part of Potions was a nightmare. Hermione's Defense practical was a duel against Tonks-"
"So both of you ended up having to duel Aurors for your practicals?" Katie asked.
"And we both won," Harry beamed at his wife.
"I think we should call room service to bring some champagne to properly celebrate!" Katie declared.
"Call who for what?" Ron quirked an eyebrow.
"Have someone who works here bring us up something alcoholic to drink," Harry clarified. "But it wouldn't really be fair since we couldn't all have some."
"Well they don't have to know Luna's underage, do they?" Ron asked.
"He means Hermione. It wouldn't be good for the baby," Luna told her boyfriend.
"Really it's all right. I'm used to being the sober one," Hermione wryly smiled. "Just order me some juice."
When the employee delivering their drinks first saw it was a group of teenagers he was delivering two bottles of champagne and a carton of orange juice to he tried to take the cart away but an exceedingly generous tip from Harry changed his mind, the six of them then adjourned to the still magically warmed balcony to watch the crowd of Muggles below. Harry was forced to Accio back the corks once Ron and Neville discovered how to pop the bottles and after one glass of the bubbly drink Luna was forced to share Hermione's juice. Her giddiness even frightened Ron a bit. It turned out two bottles could barely sustain the four people drinking them until just past eleven, Katie was ordering more before they'd even run out.
Harry grumbled to himself when he heard the knock on the door knowing he'd be expected to leave another extra-large tip, he was quite surprised however when Luna stopped his progress by tightly gripping his arm, "Luna, what are you-" Harry's voice cut out when he took in the terrified look in her eyes.
"The Dark Lord is here," she whispered in a tremulous voice.
"Luna what are you on about?"
"He's here Harry, waiting at the door. I can feel it."
"Voldemort's not really the type to wait at the door," Neville shared a concerned look with the others.
"Unless he's trying to ambush Harry," Hermione whispered.
Harry's breathing shallowed as another knock drew a whimper from Luna, "Everyone get out of here, now," he quietly ordered.
There was a quiet slapping noise, "I can't Apparate!" Katie urgently whispered.
Harry withdrew his wand from his jacket pocket and handed it to Hermione who took it without complaint. He drew his mother's from his sleeve and made it half way to the door before changing his mind, "If none of you can Apparate you'll have to run."
"Room service!" an entirely different voice from the original employee called from outside.
"He's not alone," Ron assumed.
"Harry if we run, it'll be all of us," Neville demanded.
"No Nev. We need to split up. We need to get help."
"Harry, the floor," Ron suggested. "Blow a whole through it, we might be able to get ahead of them."
Harry felt the snitch around his neck and the watch around his wrist heat up at the same time, a glance at Hermione confirmed she'd just warned Mr. Weasley of trouble at their location. He pointed his wand a few feet in front of their group, "REDUCTO!"
The blast opening a hole in the floor was immediately followed by one blowing down the door. Harry grabbed Ron, who was closest to him, by the elbow and chucked him down. The Muggles below were quite surprised. Neville grabbed both Katie and Luna and jumped down after Ron as eight Death Eaters preceded Voldemort into the suite.
"Severus, Bellatrix take the others," Voldemort ordered. Harry's veins turned to ice as he realized the two people he hated most after Voldemort were behind some of the masks before him, but all of the Death Eaters present jumped down after their friends before he could figure out who was who. "We meet again Potter. And Potter… I sent you something to celebrate your marriage, but seeing as you're still alive it seems to have been lost in transit."
Harry was very relieved he'd told Winky to not bother checking any of their mail after the news broke, just to destroy everything as safely as possible. "Yes well, sorry you didn't get invited to the ceremony." Harry edged closer to the hole knowing the room below was probably clear by now. Hermione could get over him throwing her down a floor if they both walked out alive.
"Are you not scared?" the Dark Lord taunted. "Left all alone, only a mudblood for comfort in a room with the greatest wizard alive."
"You're not human enough to be a wizard anymore… By the way, Happy Birthday Tom."
"Petulant child!" a killing curse shot directly at Harry, Hermione levitated a nightstand into its path showering them all with splinters. Harry made another slight move to remove Hermione from the room but with a sharp jab of Voldemort's wand a mass of flame filled the hole.
"ALBUS!" Harry roared out for the phoenix while sending a Reductor curse towards Voldemort and trying to shove Hermione off into the loo.
"What is that Potter, do you miss the old fool? I would have thought he'd have trained his precious 'Chosen One' better than that."
Hermione held firm against Harry's pressure to leave, "How is it Tom, that someone as brilliant as you were at Hogwarts could get so caught up in something as stupid as a prophecy? The bloody thing didn't even name Harry!"
Voldemort locked eyes with Hermione realizing she knew more than he did about the prophecy, "Tell me what you know mudblood and I might spare you the torment of watching your husband die."
A flood of warmth passed through Harry as he heard his wife continue taunting the most feared wizard of their age, "I'd rather not say anything and watch him finish you once and for all, if you don't mind."
Harry threw himself at Hermione as a yellow streak sailed through the air, he successfully knocked her to the ground but felt his left arm go limp as the spell collided with his shoulder. On the way to the ground Harry lashed out a whip of flame around the Dark Lord's ankles and pulled jerking Voldemort's feet from under him. Seeing an opportunity from underneath Harry Hermione fired a blasting curse at the ceiling, the entire room rocked as the bed set from the room above crashed down upon Voldemort.
"Where is that bloody phoenix," Harry muttered as he jumped to his feet.
The rubble exploded outward as Voldemort reemerged, several of the gouges Hedwig had left on his scalp had been reopened, "Enough of this, I cannot be killed!"
"You're wrong Riddle, we know about your soul-splitting!" Harry shouted.
"I've taken greater leaps towards immortality than you can imagine, you cannot harm me!"
"Really, then you haven't been falling ill since Halloween?" Harry prompted filled with grim satisfaction. "Every time one of your little slags tried to please you? Goblin rings can be quite handy when you've got a maniac running around with your stolen blood. I guess Wormtail did something useful after all."
Voldemort's face contorted with rage as he actually looked at the rings on their hands, Harry saw his arm in motion and knew he was firing a killing curse at Hermione. Fueled by his protectiveness of her Harry felt a huge burst of raw energy rush through his outstretched arm that sent the Dark Lord flying across the room, slamming him into the wall. Hermione tried to send both beds in the room to pummel him further but he managed to destroy them before impact.
Harry tried to keep himself between Hermione and Voldemort as he slowly closed in, "It's over Tom. I've destroyed them all, you're as human as you can be."
"You don't know what you're talking about boy!"
"Don't I? Your diary, your Uncle's ring? The locket in the cave, your bloody pet snake? The cup with the dragon, the tiara you had Snivellus guarding? They're all gone," Harry bored his eyes into Voldemort's, willing him to see each of the objects and their destruction. Harry's lips twisted up into a slight smile as he realized the Dark Lord was scared, for the first time afraid he might truly die.
Lord Voldemort let out an agonizing scream as Harry Potter vanished from the room.
Ron Weasley was incredibly pissed at Harry for chucking through the hole in the floor, mostly because he landed on his arse. The Muggles in the room screamed themselves blue in the instant before he stunned them for their sake as much as his own.
Neville and Katie landed in a heap next to him while Luna appeared as if she had only hopped off a stool. "…take the others," Voldemort's voice was clearly heard from above.
"Shit," Neville mumbled as he blew away the door to the room. "We've got to run!"
Outside the door Neville jerked Katie off in one direction while Luna took his hand and went the other, "This way Ronald, follow my trail."
"Trail?" Ron gasped out as they ran around the corner, the shouts of the Death Eaters splitting ranks could clearly be heard. "We've got to get out of the building so we can get some help!"
"But I can't Apparate like you," Luna reminded him, her usual patient voice beginning to wane.
"Damn it, where's that bloody bird when you need it," Ron jerked Luna to a stop when he noticed a door labeled stairs and blew it open.
"I don't think that one was locked," Luna mentioned before the wall next to them exploded. She swiped her wand at the door across the hall and pulled Ron into the thankfully empty room. "Quick, make another hole." Ron quickly obliged but stopped her from jumping down, instead dragging her into the closet and motioning for her to be quiet. With a look that didn't belong in the situation they were in Luna stood on her toes and kissed him just below his ear before whispering, "Excellent thinking dear."
"I think stunners are going to be pointless against this lot," Ron whispered back as they heard the shouts of their pursuers entering the room. Four of the Death Eaters had followed, one made the leap down before Ron threw open the closet door sending off another Reductor curse. He'd aimed a bit low and fought the urge to heave as he blew off a man's legs from the knee down. To his right Luna landed a spell on another Death Eater shooting him up in the air so that his head firmly lodged itself in the ceiling. The third remaining in the room got off a killing curse, which Ron had to shove Luna out of the way of before sending one of Neville's cannonballs straight into his mask. Before either of them could be happy of what they'd done the fourth sprang back up from below.
"Just what do you think you're doing, Weasley?" Severus Snape growled out as he ripped off his mask. One side of his face was still scared from the day in Hogsmeade.
"Reducto!" Ron shouted aiming for the man's chest but his curse was deflected straight at Luna who barely dodged it.
"Pitiful! Even Potter could do better than that," a noise like a gunshot echoed through the room as Snape sent Ron crashing into the wall. His mind vaguely registered Luna's voice and his vision cleared to find she'd conjured a small flock of what could have been birds but for the tentacles dangling down from their bodies and sent them at their former professor.
"Silly little girl!" Snape taunted her with an outraged look on his face. "Can't get your head out of the stars long enough come up with a proper spell."
"That attitude is exactly why you were never very popular at Hogwarts," Luna replied a little out of breath.
Seizing the opportunity Ron took up the leg of the desk he'd been thrown into and swung it like a beater's bat knocking out several of Snape's yellow teeth, he also succeeded in getting himself thrown down into the hole landing flat on his back. Above him Luna let out a scream of protest and a burst of what looked like pink lightning connected with Snape's chest.
The Potion's Master had obviously been hurt, but not enough to stop him from shouting, "Avada Kedavra!" Ron watched helplessly from below as the green jet streaked out of view. There was a flash of light and a shriek from the corner Luna had been standing in and the world seemed to dull as an all consuming rage filled his senses, his minds eye filled with an image of Luna falling lifelessly to the ground. Snape was too preoccupied with Luna's fate no notice Ron whipping his wand up towards him producing a heavy metal chain that wrapped around his neck. With all the strength he possessed Ron pulled down.
A strange gurgling noise emitted from Snape's throat as he fell through the air landing on the back of his head with a dull crunch. Ron snatched the git's wand from his limp hand and snapped it in two before wiggling his fingers under the chain to see if he had a pulse. The belief that he hadn't been able to help Luna anymore than his Mum when it mattered the most made Ron's eyes sting and bottom lip tremble. Snape had a pulse. A weak one, but it was there. His hand quivered as it encircled Snape's neck, his grip slowly tightened; Ron's breathing grew erratic when he dispelled the chains to better choke the murdering git…
"Ronnie, if you keep doing that your father will never be able to put him on trial."
"L – Luna?" Ron jumped back in shock and looked up to see her smiling down on him. He could feel the tears streak down his cheeks, hoping with all he had that it was really her because at that moment she looked like an angel to him.
"Who would you expect?"
"But, the curse… I thought you'd…"
"It was quite scary for a moment there, you should come back up here and see. Unless you'd rather stay down there with Professor Snape?"
Ron had the presence of mind to bind Snape neck to foot in chains before dashing to the stairs and back up a floor. When he entered the room the fight had originated in he found the three other Death Eaters all bound with heavy orange cords. Luna sat in the corner she'd nearly been killed in tickling what looked like a chick sitting in a pile of ashes. Ron had a bit of a hard time forcing his breath steady as he rushed to her side, tightly gripping her to his chest as if to reaffirm she was really there.
"I'm all right Ronald… Harry's phoenix came just in time to intercept the curse," Luna kissed away a tear slinking down his cheek.
"Thank Merlin. Please, don't ever scare me like that again," Ron refused to loosen his grip.
"As lovely as this is dear, we should go see if Harry needs our help."
"Harry!" Ron jumped to his feet nearly stepping on the baby Albus.
Luna scooped up Albus, ashes and all and slipped him into the pocket over her breast. "We should put Professor Snape up here with the others. I burnt that man's legs so he wouldn't bleed to death though I'm afraid that will make it impossible to reattach the rest."
"Right, of course," Ron absentmindedly replied as he hastily levitated Snape up and dropped him on the pile of unconscious Death Eaters. "Let's go," he grabbed her hand and made a dash back to the stairs to get back up to the suite where he'd left his oldest friends.
Neville and Katie raced through the hotel taking every turn they came across as the walls and floor exploded from the barrage of curses being flung at them.
"Wait!" Katie shouted seeing an opportunity. She neatly levitated a soda machine sitting in a small nook, spun around and flung it back down the hall. There was a loud crash and a muffled scream as it came to rest on top of one of their pursuers. A door creaked open as an old man peaked out into the hall to investigate the noises.
Neville froze around the corner as he recognized the voice that had haunted so many of his dreams, "Bellatrix," he got out as the pace of his breathing increased. Katie knew exactly whom he was referring to and what she'd done to her boyfriend's family, her face quickly paled.
"Quick, in here," Katie blasted a door to another suite. There was a muggle couple hardly any older than themselves halfway through undressing each other on the bed, before they could cause any trouble Neville stunned them hoping the Death Eaters wouldn't bother with them as long as they didn't move.
Hoping to double back Neville blasted open the wall to the adjoining room, shoved Katie through and tossed a packet of the twins' Instant Darkness Powder behind him. Two rooms and eight stunned Muggles later they came back to the room where the old man had been killed, the racket of their moving between rooms hadn't been quiet enough apparently.
"Come out Longbottom," Bellatrix cackled from out in the hall. "Come and play and we might leave your little mudblood in one piece."
"Piss off you old hag!" Katie shouted back.
"Wrong answer!" Bellatrix gleefully shouted and her two remaining partners burst into the room wildly flinging killing curses. Neville tackled Katie to the ground and sent every piece of furniture in the room flying towards their attackers hoping to distract them.
Katie saw Neville's plan and managed to hit one of the Death Eaters with a trip jinx then binding spell, but Bellatrix chose that moment to enter the room and freed him. Giving up on playing fair the fifth time they had to roll clear of a jet of green Neville began flinging blasting curses at every limb he could see and eventually managed to remove one of the men's wand hand. When Katie applied Neville's attack against Bellatrix she whipped the injured man through the air to intercept causing Katie's curse to evaporate part of his abdomen.
Neville was growing more and more worried by the fact that Bellatrix was all but ignoring him and surely only toying with Katie. Taking a chance as soon as he saw it Neville fired off a half-dozen cannonballs, some destroying the sixth floor window and one lucky shot hitting the other man in the gut sending him flying out into the night. He discovered too late that this distraction was what Bellatrix was waiting for.
"NO!" Neville screamed as he spun around to find Katie writhing on the floor. Bellatrix only held the cruse for a few seconds, but it was enough to leave Katie curled up in a ball, her face streaked with tears.
"Give up Longbottom. Your little mudblood here doesn't have to suffer anymore, just turn yourself over to the Dark Lord."
"The hell I will!" Neville shouted and tried to curse her but the evil witch sent him flying across the room and turned back to torturing Katie to keep her down. "Would you stop that!" Neville yelled as he struggled to his feet.
"Is the little boy finally ready to give?" Bellatrix asked in a girlish voice. "Is he really too weak to fight back? Even Potter had enough gall to try an Unforgivable on me when I killed my mutt of a cousin." She grabbed a handful of Katie's hair yanking her up from the ground, "Maybe we should find out what would happen if I were to slit her throat, really Longbottom, even your miserable excuse for a father wasn't stupid enough to sully his family name with a mudblood-"
"ENOUGH!" Neville roared, all magic forgotten as he lunged at Lestrange who was surprised enough to release the dazed Katie as their bodies collided, both of their wands went clattering away. Neville landed a solid punch to her face removing her mask and hood while Bellatrix attempted to reach her wand. Seeing her movement Neville pressed the forefinger of one of his hands as far into her eye socket as he could.
Lestrange leapt back screaming, blood pouring down one side of her face and drew a dagger from inside her robes as Neville made to assault her bodily again. He was almost to late to react to the blade and ended up receiving a severe gash to one of his thighs, as he landed he managed to ram an elbow down onto her chest effectively knocking the wind from her. He made a scramble for his wand only to find the witch pulling back on his ankles. When Neville rolled over and kicked the bloody side of her face she spat up blood and tried to overtake him. The last second before he would have lost the race Katie became mobile enough to toss Neville her own wand. From less than a foot away Neville launched a high velocity cannonball directly at Bellatrix Lestrange promptly smashing every bone in her face. He then bound, gagged and stunned her twice for good measure before rushing over to Katie's side.
"Hey there," Katie feebly smiled as Neville tried to help her sit up.
"What have you got to smile about?" he asked with a touch of panic knowing too well the pain she'd just been exposed to.
Katie brushed a hand along his cheek and lightly kissed his lips, Neville had a feeling that if she'd used any more pressure she would have hurt herself, "I'm proud of you. You didn't sink to her level… you didn't kill her."
Neville brushed away her tears and tried to remember the last time someone had told him outright they were proud of him. There was only one time that stood out and that was when he'd been dropped head-first from a window; even after all of the business in the Department of Mysteries most of his family had commented that it was about time he started living up to his Dad's name. They'd all been more than happy to go on about how brave Harry'd been, not that Neville would ever hold that against him… Harry… "Can you walk?"
Katie nodded a little, "Just help me up. Are you all right?"
"We need to find Harry."
Harry's mind awoke to a dull echo of the searing pain he had always associated with his scar, when his vision swam into focus he saw Hermione looking back at him in shock and fear. It didn't make any sense until he looked down and saw a skeletally thin hand with abnormally long fingers. He was looking through the eyes of Voldemort, no more than that… he was Voldemort.
"Hermione," he said in astonishment both at what was happening and the cold voice that he had just spoken with.
Get out of my head Potter! Voldemort's voice hissed through his mind. This parlor trick of yours will never rid you of me!
"I'm in control here!" Harry bellowed out as he felt the coils of the Dark Lord try to wrestle control back from him, his knees nearly buckled from a burst of pain.
You can't kill me! The voice echoed around in every corner of his head.
Harry looked down at Voldemort's wand, the brother to his own. "Not you, us," he muttered and flipped the wand around in his hand so it pointed back at his own chest.
"Harry!" Hermione shrieked and rush towards him only to stop a foot away not sure what to do. She looked up into his eyes, he knew she was trying to find him somewhere within the horrid red eyes of Voldemort's body. "Don't you even think about it," she muttered, tears streaming down her face.
Harry wanted to brush them away but knew it would be Voldemort's hand, not his own. "I'm sorry Hermione, this has to end."
"NO!" she yelled finally reaching to him to pry the wand from his grip.
"Don't make me fight you," Harry could feel a wave of emotion pass through him drowning out Voldemort's constant snarling.
"You can't do this," she wailed.
Just kill the bitch, she only stands in your way Voldemort taunted.
"You can't leave me now Harry. You can't leave us…" Hermione's comparatively small fingers wiggled their way between Harry's and the wand he was holding finally freeing it from his grasp. "What about me Harry, what will I do without you? What about James?"
Hermione tentatively reached up to lay a hand on his cheek, Voldemort's… "Don't touch me, not like this," Harry recoiled.
"Then come back to me!"
Yes Potter, go back to her so I can properly kill you both… along with your son.
"No!" Harry shouted as he felt Voldemort trying to delve deeper into his own mind.
"Harry," Hermione whispered as she crossed her arms over her abdomen, "come back to us."
Harry felt a strong urge to cry then realized Voldemort wasn't human enough to do so. He remembered just a few hours ago making love out on the balcony, and again in the shower. A massive feeling of disgust tried to swell up around him but he was able to push it down. He looked down to Hermione and was met by the same eyes he'd seen earlier when he was peppering her pelvis with kisses, as close as he could get to his son for now.
The images flooded to the forefront of his mind, every time he'd imagined Hermione pregnant, the feeling of absolute completion he'd had since learning she was. The dreams he'd had nearly every night of the two of them passing their child back and forth. He could feel the same tingle in his fingertips as when he ran them over Hermione's bare skin even though he wasn't touching her at all. Harry closed his eyes and allowed the images to overtake him. He didn't know if he was going to live past this moment but he was happy to be feeling these things, even if it was for the last time, in the presence of the person he loved more than anything.
There was screaming, a horrid fearful cry. Harry hadn't noticed it arriving; for all he knew it could have always been there, but he slowly became aware that the clearer the his feelings became the more the screaming faded until there was an unimaginable burst of pain, almost as if every bone in his body shattered into a million fragments at once and then nothing… only peace.
Hermione watched in utter amazement as Voldemort's face gained a bit of color and a pleasant smile. She knew it was Harry controlling the body but the image of the Dark Lord standing before her, eyes closed and smiling not in a manic way but one that radiated love, was an image that would be with her well beyond her time on earth. She knew her husband was somehow at that very moment fighting for his life along with the lives of countless others and yet she stood rooted to a spot on the floor barely two feet away with Harry's wand in her right hand, Voldemort's in her left and her own in her pocket with absolutely no clue what to do with any of them.
When the smile broke out across his face she couldn't help but join in despite the knowledge that the lipless mouth before her had only ever shown malice and spite. Lord Voldemort's body began slowly pulsing light until a golden nimbus formed around it. The aura flashed, a microsecond of the most brilliant light imaginable followed by an explosion that knocked Hermione to the ground. She'd thought Voldemort's body had landed on her until she finally cleared her vision to find Harry's face just inches away, the beatific smile she'd been admiring a moment before looked perfect when plastered across the face of the person who owned her heart. The heart that had stopped beating the moment she realized he'd come back. Not bothering to keep her prayers silent Hermione nestled her cheek up against Harry's nose, the seconds seemed infinite until the slow tickle of his breathing sent a tingle through every cell in her body. He was alive… Somehow she just knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that everything was going to be fine.
"Harry! Hermione!" Ron's frantic shouting brought Hermione's mind back to the present. She looked upside down at him and Luna rushing back into the room then mentally kicked herself to look over to where Voldemort's body had stood. What she found was a crumpled heap of a Dark Lord, blood was seeping from his eyes, ears, nose and mouth.
"Is he…" Ron trailed off looking down at Harry's limp form on top of her.
Hermione gently rolled them over and brushed her hand across his rosy cheek, "He's alive Ron. I think he's done it." She looked up into her friend's eyes and found her own tears being mirrored until he cautiously moved over to Voldemort and placed two fingers against his neck.
"I don't feel anything, do you think he's really…" it was almost as if he didn't dare ask.
"Harry!" Neville's voice rang through the hallway a second before he came into view with Katie leaning heavily on his shoulder. Hermione sprang to her feet and rush over to them while Luna began jetting water on the still smoldering fire in the room.
"Katie are you all right, what happened?"
"I'll be fine, just a little sore. Is everyone-" her voice died out when her eyes landed on Harry's still form.
"He's alive, and we think he's done it," said Ron.
"How do we stop thinking and know?" Katie asked. "I mean he looks pretty dead from here, but..."
"I agree, this situation calls for certainty not assumptions," Luna supplied.
Hermione glanced from person to person before taking a breath and calling for Dobby who took on the expression of a lost child upon seeing the room. "Dobby listen to me," Hermione held the elf's head still as she knelt before him. "Harry's alive and help should be on the way but right now I need the sword."
With a snap of his shaky fingers Gryffindor's sword appeared in his tiny hands. Hermione closed her eyes for a moment before reaching out to take it.
"Wait," Neville stopped her. "I should do it, since Harry can't." The others in the room were amazed as Hermione simply nodded and took his place as Katie's support. Neville relieved the elf of his burden, quietly limped over to the fallen Dark Lord and placed the tip of the sword directly over his heart. He took one deep breath to prepare himself and leaned forward slowly impaling the corpse of Tom Marvolo Riddle.
When Harry finally began to stir he realized he was lying in a bed with someone who had their hands wrapped protectively around him, "I'll never get tired of this," he mumbled as he tightened his grip.
"Harry!" Hermione jumped from her position on top of him. He slowly opened his eyes to find Hermione beaming down on him.
"Are you okay? And James?" Harry quietly asked ignoring everything but her moist eyes.
"Now that we have you again, we're perfect," Hermione sniffed.
"You didn't have me?"
"Well, you were only out three days this time," Hermione lightly told him.
"Is… Is it over?"
"It is love. You did it," her dam finally burst and Hermione buried her head in his shoulder. Harry's head dropped back into his pillow and he felt a bit lightheaded as he was able to breathe deeply for the first time in years.
"We're all fine, if you were wondering," Ron's rather loud voice carried across the room.
Harry finally looked around and found himself in a private room in St. Mungo's. There were three pairs of beds set up though only one from each pair was actually being used. "Why are we all here?"
"Dad's been keeping us all tucked away waiting for you to wake up, apparently there're some people a bit upset that we decided to destroy two floors of a perfectly fine hotel in return for saving the world," Ron sarcastically replied.
"And besides Hermione and Luna we all needed a bit of work," Neville added.
"Is everyone all right? What happened?" Harry asked as he rolled onto his side to hug Hermione's back to his chest, one hand automatically drifting down to her stomach.
"All of the Death Eaters were caught and the only people who died were Voldemort and a Muggle man Bellatrix decided was in her way," said Hermione.
"So the Aurors showed up to help?"
"Nope, the four of us got 'em all," Ron proudly stated.
"Ronald hurt Professor Snape terribly when he thought he'd killed me," Luna happily replied. "Of the eight that were there six are still here in the hospital."
"Why would he think you'd died?"
"Well I saw him shoot a killing curse at her after we got separated but couldn't see your phoenix swoop in and swallow the curse whole," Ron explained. "I kind of paralyzed him."
"Maybe now the Head Girl will take it easy on you so we can spend some more time together," Luna hopefully mentioned to Ron.
"Any extra time Ron has will have to be spent on studying with N.E.W.T.s approaching," Hermione pointed out. "And don't worry about Albus, Dobby's taking care of him."
"You have to get us out of here Harry, she's bringing up exams five times a day," Neville whined.
"I'll try," Harry chuckled. "What else happened?"
"Katie and I got chased by Lestrange and a few of their thugs, I ended up bludgeoning her half to death. Gran's over the moon about that," Neville half smiled.
"And Voldemort, did I…"
"You don't remember much do you?" Hermione asked.
"It's all a bit fuzzy."
"Well, you possessed him and somehow that did him in. While you were unconscious and just before the Aurors arrived we wanted to be sure so Dobby brought Gryffindor's sword by and Neville… ran him through."
Harry's head jerked over to Neville who gave half a shrug, "We had to make sure. The pictures were all over the prophet the next morning with him slumped against the wall and the sword poking out of his chest."
"So I assume your Dad's going to make me take a medal," Harry prompted Ron.
"All of us actually. Luna's going to be the youngest Order of Merlin recipient ever," Ron's grin threatened to break his face as Luna happily cuddled up to him.
"Mr. Weasley is trying to make it as private of an affair as possible, hopefully just a few pictures in the Prophet," said Katie.
"There's also the matter of the Queen and Prime Minister stopping by while you were out."
"Them too?" Harry whined.
"They'd like to give you something but are waiting for your input," said Hermione.
"At least that's something," Harry rolled eyes spent a minute kissing Hermione behind her ear feeling a need to be closer to her. "Where are your Mum and Dad and everyone else?"
"Visiting hours ended a while ago so if they're part of the wizarding world they're out celebrating, otherwise it's just Saturday," said Ron. "Fred and George have been launching off Whiz Bangs like mad over Diagon Alley."
"And they said they want to make little toy versions of us all!" Neville beamed.
"And the rest of our names are being batted around almost as much as yours in the Prophet!" Ron excitedly mentioned. Harry took some measure of comfort in the fact that he wasn't being hailed as the sole savior of the wizarding world.
"We had a rather rude Unspeakable visiting yesterday with Ron's father," Luna mentioned. "He didn't want to accept the possibility that something other than the sword could have killed Voldemort so Hermione had your friend Dobby bring your Pensieve by and showed us all what happened after we'd split up."
"We also told them almost everything about the Horcruxes and how we destroyed them," Hermione admitted.
"Well, it's like you said. They were going to want to collect them for study so we might have forgotten to mention the existence of a certain tiara when Dobby brought the rest of them by." Hermione's lip slipped between her teeth as she smiled mischievously at him.
"Of course none of us are mentioning it in the hopes of possibly having a desire to borrow it some day," Katie glanced at Neville who quickly turned red.
"So you both know the whole story behind all of this?" Harry asked Luna and Katie.
"We were a bit surprised when Neville insisted on stabbing Voldemort, but it makes sense now," said Luna.
"Even if was pointless," Neville muttered.
"What I can't believe is how Professor Dumbledore could keep all that from you until the worst possible time," Katie looked sadly over to Harry.
"It doesn't matter anymore," Hermione stroked his cheek, "it's all over now." A relaxed silence filled the room for a minute.
"They're seriously making our families stick to visiting hours?" Harry asked.
"There's a dozen Aurors making sure we aren't being bothered right now," said Hermione. "Which unfortunately would make sneaking away that much harder."
Hermione's meaning of 'sneaking away' was quite clear to Harry in the way she wiggled her bum under the blankets. "Well, have any of you actually tried to Apparate out of this place yet?"
"I'm pretty sure it's warded against that Harry," Ron rolled his eyes.
"Are you sure?" Hermione joined Harry's side of things. "Maybe you're just insufficiently Determined. Isn't that what Mr. Twycross said when you failed your first test?"
As Ron spent his time stuttering his way towards a response Harry climbed out of bed. When he went to stretch his left arm jerked erratically for a few seconds, "So, is that permanent?"
"Oh, I forgot to mention that," Hermione stretched out on the bed in a way that reminded Harry of Crookshanks before getting to her feet. "Being your heroic self you dived in front of something Voldemort meant for me but your jacket absorbed most of it so the healers had an easy job getting things healing. The twitches should be gone within a week."
"So now what are we going to do?" Harry asked Hermione.
"Well, that depends where you want to go," she grabbed the front of his hospital gown and pulled him close.
"Oy! I'm right here, I'll go somewhere!" Ron called over.
"I'm gonna need clothes," Harry continued on ignoring Ron.
"So Grimmauld Place or are we going shopping?"
"I'll go shopping," Katie offered.
"The elves will kill us if we go far and don't let them come along," Harry kept the loud-but-private conversation going.
"They wouldn't do anything until after James is born," Hermione pointed out.
"You know if we wanted to not be a part of a conversation we'd invite Fred and George around more often," Neville joined the complaining.
"We still need money, I have plenty in the trunk."
"Oh all right," Hermione feigned defeat. "We'll just try and sneak in the house without anyone catching us."
Harry and Hermione both looked to Luna who had yet to try and break into the conversation. "If you see Albus can you thank him for saving my life," she asked them with her dreamy smile.
"Of course we can," Harry easily replied then wrapped his arms around Hermione Apparating them back into their room at Grimmauld Place for a few minutes of privacy.
"There is one more thing I haven't told anyone," Hermione quietly told Harry as she walked over to the nightstand on her side of the bed and returned with three wands: Harry's, his mother's, and Voldemort's.
"You kept it?" Harry blankly asked picking Voldemort's from the group.
"I couldn't bear the thought of you not having the option to maybe use it to see your parents again."
A short breath escaped Harry's mouth as he rolled the yew between his fingers. "No," a tear streaked down Harry's cheek and he slowly shook his head. "The place they've moved on to is where they're meant to be. They're with us now in their own way, it's probably better for them to stay at peace."
"I understand," Hermione sniffed and wiped away her own tears. "I just thought you'd like the choice."
They shared a small smile before Harry quietly told her, "Thank you." In one sharp movement Harry snapped the wand in two, together they watched a piece of one of Fawkes' feathers slip out of the wood and vanish in a puff of flame. "So, do you think we've let them stew long enough or should we wait a few minutes before getting them out of the hospital?"
"I think they'll be fine for a little while longer," Hermione smugly replied before pulling Harry to her for the first of many kisses in their new life.
By suppertime Ron, Luna, Neville and Katie had all been smuggled out of the hospital to meet Mr. Weasley, Mr. Lovegood, Mrs. Longbottom, the Bells, the Grangers and Remus in Grimmauld Place. Harry thought the least he could do for getting everyone into a life-threatening situation was have them over for a nice meal and Remus was more than happy to provide the location.
"So Harry, now that you're done with school, unemployed and Dark Lord free what are you and Hermione going to do?" Mr. Lovegood asked as he finished his dessert.
Completely forgetting that he was speaking to a newspaper editor Harry gave a completely honest answer, "We are going to do as much as we possibly can."
A small girl with long auburn hair and brilliant green eyes squealed with delight as the silver stag she was riding on chased and otter along the stream in her yard. "Daddy, be careful! You almost stomped on Mum!" She let out another squeal as she rose up into the air, ending up sitting on the shoulders of a thirty-five year old Harry Potter.
"I did no such thing!" he retorted and reached up to tickle his youngest child.
The otter ran a circuit around their legs before morphing into Hermione Potter, "Harry stop that! We've just eaten breakfast, you'll make Lilly sick!" she chided him as she grabbed Lilly and set her on the ground.
"Really Mum, I'm fine," Lilly rolled her eyes.
"Just like your father was fine after wrestling a Yeti? Or being chased by a dragon half way across Sweden?"
"Your day's just not complete without mentioning that dragon is it?" Harry lightly asked as he ran a hand along Hermione's shoulders.
"Well I hardly think it's worth risking your life for some silly trophy, you nearly killed James and I with worry!"
"He was four love, he hardly remembers it."
"Yeah Mum, lighten up," Lilly chirped from in between them.
Hermione dramatically sighed and turned back to the house muttering, "He's turned my own children against me."
Harry took Lilly's hand and made to follow but was cut off by a train of people on broomsticks whizzing around the property, "Oy! If any of you get hurt I'll make sure Madam Pomfrey doesn't get around to fixing you up until after the feast tonight!"
An orange blur broke away from the rest and came to a quick stop in front of Harry and Lilly. "Come on Harry it's just a bit of fun! Besides, Katie and I need to warm up for practice," Ron Weasley tried to reason with his friend and made a motion to the violent orange jumper with a black 'CC' embroidered in it.
"Like your coach isn't going to be making you lot do laps as soon as you walk out on the pitch," Harry rolled his eyes.
"Right! So we're just having a bit of fun before heading off for something not so fun," Ron again tried to reason with him.
"It's already after ten anyway Ron, we need to gather everyone up so I can make a portkey to the station."
"You know it's a Weasley family tradition to avoid getting there until the last minute!" Ron proudly stated drawing a giggle from Lilly.
"I don't think Hermione will take that for an excuse, especially with James having to report early for Head Boy duty."
Ron slumped his shoulders in defeat and flew back to the group shouting things like, "No we don't have time for that! – Put the bludger back! – Do you want your Mum to hear what you just said? Then let go of your brother's broom!"
"Daddy, what kind of animal will I be when I grow up?" Lilly asked as they watched the train of people wander inside their house.
"I don't know sweets. The easiest way to find out would be to teach you the Patronus Charm, but you'd probably need your own wand for that."
"I couldn't use Grandma Potter's?"
"It might work, but it would be a lot easier with your own. I tell you what, for your birthday next month we'll go visit Mr. Ollivander. It's about time you had a wand matched to you and I can try and teach you at night after that."
"But isn't that supposed to be a really hard charm?"
"Yeah, I couldn't do it until I was nearly fourteen-"
"But I'll only be seven!"
Harry chuckled and picked her up to join the others inside, "Very true, but you'll be the smartest seven-year-old I know."
"I get that from Mum," Lilly proudly stated.
"That you do," Harry chuckled and moved to kiss her cheek.
"Dad, no! Your beard's all scratchy!" Lilly giggled holding out her little hands to block his progress.
Harry put on a playful pout the rest of the way inside but couldn't succeed in changing her mind. Ron, Luna, Neville, Katie and both couples' children had come by for breakfast had the trip to platform nine and three-quarters. At the moment Katie and Neville's oldest son was digging through his school trunk trying to find his new prefect badge while Ron and Luna's twin fourteen-year-old daughters, who looked exactly like their mother but with flaming orange hair, were passing said badge back and forth trying to decide who could wear it on their ear. Ron and Katie, who was wearing a matching team jumper to Ron's, were sitting at the table deep in discussion about an upcoming match completely oblivious to that fact that Ron's twelve-year-old son was spiking their drinks with something his uncles had given him that would make them think they were flying backwards the next time they got on their brooms.
"It's all your fault you know," Harry muttered to Hermione after putting Lilly down.
"Oh, what now?" Hermione asked in a flustered voice watching the chaos grow in her kitchen.
"Lilly's still refusing to let me kiss her thanks to this beard you've made me grow."
"But you wear it so well," Hermione slightly pouted tickling her fingers along his jaw line. "Doesn't he look better with it Lilly?" The little girl scrunched up her nose and shook her head. "Oh, you'll understand when you're older."
"But it'll still be scratchy then too," Lilly huffed as if her mother was mad for wanting Harry to grow the beard in the first place.
Harry left his wife to try and explain her reasons to their very strong-willed daughter and wandered into the sitting room. Dobby, Luna, Neville and his eleven year-old son were all sitting in front of the telly completely focused on the Playstation game they were competing in while Winky sat on the sofa coloring a picture with her and Dobby's two-year-old son. Harry shook his head as he remembered how amazed he was at the baby elf when he was small enough to fit in the palm of his hand but powerful enough to make all of Hermione's hair stick straight out from her head when amused.
A bang turned Harry's attention to his twins coming down the stairs. When they first learned they were having a boy and a girl Harry and Hermione had tried to get Dan and Emma to let them name the children after them and been repeatedly shot down, the Grangers were only slightly amused when they were introduced to David and Emily at the hospital. Now the twins were getting ready for their first trip on the Hogwarts Express by levitating their trunks into each other. Some days Harry was happy he and Hermione had made the decision to let their children do magic at home but sometimes, like now, he wondered if it was the right thing to do.
"Hold on a second," Harry stopped their progress at the bottom of the stairs. "Are you two really planning to go the whole train ride and sorting ceremony with blue hair?"
The fact that both twins were Metamorphmagi had come as a shock. One day when they were four years old Harry called them and James, who was nine at the time, in for lunch. Harry'd actually asked James where he'd found his two blond-haired friends before realizing they were his own children, Tonks came for dinner that night. For some reason neither of them could get the green eyes they shared with their father and siblings to change.
"What's wrong with blue Dad?" Emily asked.
"Nothing, I'm just imagining the look on your Mum's face when the two of you march into the Great Hall looking like that." The twins cringed in unison and Harry leaned down to whisper to them, "How about this: go natural until after you've been sorted then change to your house colors."
"Won't Mum still get mad?" David asked.
"I'll deal with your mother tonight," Harry winked. "She won't have time to catch up to the two of you until after class tomorrow."
David and Emily screwed up their faces in concentration changing their hair back to its natural brown and smiled mischievously as they made their way into the kitchen with the others.
"I'm not going to have to discipline them over whatever you were just plotting with them am I?" Harry's son James asked as he came down the stairs.
"That depends on how forgiving your Mum's feeling tonight," Harry gave him a pat on the shoulder.
"Just do me a favor and remind her I had no part in whatever it is," James laughed and followed his siblings' path.
Harry smiled with pride as he watched from outside the room as Hermione went about straightening the Head Boy badge on their son's chest. He remembered the day back in Hogsmeade when Hermione had dueled Voldemort and his father's parting words to give his children the life they wanted for him. Now, nearly seventeen years later, Harry watched his son who looked nearly identical to himself, who had even been born a couple of weeks early and shared his birthday, and wondered if this is the life his parents had wanted to give him.
The first five years of James' life had been some of the most interesting of Harry's. Interspersed with the ups and downs of being first-time parents he and Hermione had taken James with them everywhere they went. They tried to not stay away more than a month at a time for their family and friends' sake but as he grew their trips became adventures, after all how many five-year-olds get to cheer on their father wrestling a Yeti in Tibet? For her part Hermione had offset Harry's exploration days with ones set aside just to learn about wherever they were and as a way quench the publics thirst for Harry came up with the idea to send travel reports in to Mr. Lovegood at the Quibbler. By the end of the first year of reports it was the third most read wizarding publication in England. The fifth year, which included a second section for children partially compiled by James, made the Quibbler number one all across Europe and in a few other parts of the globe.
After five and a half years of teaching Transfiguration Fleur decided she wanted to quit and work on starting a family; McGonagall owled Hermione as soon as Fleur had left the office. Hermione only agreed after creating a warning system to notify her when someone came to her office allowing her to remain living in their house in Godric's Hollow throughout the year. Harry had to feel a little sorry for the students of the school as Hermione's first four months teaching were also the last four of her pregnancy with the twins. Settling down from years of globetrotting had been odd for Harry at first, but with three children to tend to he had plenty to do. They still spent their summers traveling and every September Mr. Lovegood was happy to receive a new travel log but the summer Hermione was pregnant with Lilly changed everything. In their hut in Bali an owl swooped in with the news that Professor Flitwick had retired his post and McGonagall wanted Harry to fill it.
At first he'd turned her down not wanting to relinquish his job as stay-at-home Dad, but in the end James, Emily and David talked him into it. Harry's one regret of his adult life was that he didn't get to spend the first years of Lilly's life with her as he had his other children and instead had to settle for their nights together playing out in the yard or taking strolls through the village to visit Remus in his parents reopened shop. The job of running The Wolf's Den, were all the employees were werewolves, had been a wedding present to him two years after Voldemort fell. Thankfully Harry and Hermione had very reliable babysitters in Lilly's godparents, Dobby and Winky, because Harry's first year of teaching was the longest of his life. The sheer amount of paperwork was enough to drive him mad and students quickly learned to behave around him when he started assigning detentions making them accompany Hagrid into the forest to feed Fluffy.
"Everyone's ready," Hermione's voice broke Harry from his reprieve.
"Well it's about time," Harry joked looking around the room at his children and his friends with their families, really they were all an extended family as Ron was the only adult who'd grown up with any siblings.
Harry walked over to the eight trunks and tapped the top one of each stack with his wand causing them to glow blue and shudder. James walked over and gave him a brief hug, "Good luck tonight Dad."
"Thanks, you too," he chuckled softly then stepped over to Hermione and Lilly to watch as everyone else put a hand on one of the trunks and Ron counted them down and away.
"Well Lilly, we have a few hours until Dad and I need to leave, is there anything you want to do?" Hermione asked.
"I don't know," the girl shrugged her shoulders. "Daddy says I can get a wand for my birthday and find out what animal I can be."
"Harry!" Hermione nearly shouted at him. "Honestly, I couldn't even do that charm until I was sixteen!"
"Daddy could do it at thirteen, and he says I'll be smart enough to try at seven."
"She got that part from you," Harry said in a serious voice.
"You two are incorrigible," Hermione rolled her eyes. "Now that it's just the three of us how about taking lunch up on the carpet?" she nodded at the corner where the rolled up rug they'd gotten in Morocco sat.
Lilly jumped in excitement and scurried off to her room for something warm to wear as Harry and Hermione fixed some sandwiches, shortly after that Harry was unrolling the slightly-illegal king sized rug outside and raising them up in the air over their home.
"Why do you like coming up here so much Mum?"
A dreamy smile took over Hermione's face as she rubbed her daughters back, "Back when your father and I really came to understand how much we love each other he used to bring me up here to watch the sunset. He even gave me my ring during one."
"Is that back when the bad-man was still around?" Lilly asked in a little voice.
"It was the summer before Mummy and me made him go away for good," Harry confirmed.
"Was it scary back then?" Lilly asked as she wrapped her arms around Harry's waist.
"Sometimes," Harry stroked two of his fingers along her cheek as Lilly's almond shaped eyes opened a little wider at his admission. "But no matter how scary things got I always had your Mum with me and that made things alright. As long as you have someone you love to bring a little light in your world it won't matter how dark it is outside."
Lilly hugged him a little tighter, "I love you Daddy."
Hermione caught Harry's eye as she smiled at the pair of them. "I love you too Lilly. You, and your Mum, and your brothers and sister more than anything."
"Is that why the bad-man wanted to hurt you and Mum, because he didn't have a light?" Harry sighed a little as Lilly asked the same question her siblings had around her age.
"It wasn't even that he didn't have one, more that he didn't want one," Hermione tried to explain.
"It's what you choose to do that makes the person you are. The things you hear now and what you'll learn in school later all say there was a really evil wizard named Voldemort who tried to hurt a whole bunch of people just because he didn't like them but really he was just a boy named Tom who didn't think anyone would ever love him and chose to bad boy because of it," Harry gently told her.
"Why didn't he think anyone would love him?"
"He didn't have a Mummy and Daddy like you and he was raised with people that thought he was weird because he could do magic," said Hermione.
Lilly furrowed her brow as she put the information together with what she'd learned on a trip to her grandparents graves in the village, "But, that's just like Daddy."
"Exactly," Hermione poked Lilly's nose. "But Dad chose to be a good boy and we're all here thanks to that."
"I want to marry a good boy like Daddy," Lilly proclaimed sending Harry into a slight coughing fit.
"For his sake I hope that doesn't happen for a very long time," Hermione giggled out as she slapped his back.
Lilly seemed a bit upset, "Well Daddy got married when he was James' age, and James says I'll be his age before I know it."
Harry's insides were moving about in quite an unpleasant way, "Not everyone gets married at that age honey. Look at Uncle Remus and Auntie Tonks."
"Well Auntie Tonks says that was just because Uncle Remus was lazy."
No more unsupervised visits to the Lupins Harry thought to himself. "You know she likes to joke around a lot, especially when it's about Uncle Remus." Harry was at war with himself as he took in his daughter's disappointed look, his supportive side eventually beat the protective one. "But don't worry honey, I'm sure you'll find a good boy someday soon enough who'll take you up in the air for all the sunsets you can handle." Hermione was silently laughing on Lilly's other side knowing he hated the words coming out of his own mouth.
"And will you bring me up here to see them until then?" Lilly asked in a brighter mood.
"I think I'd be a very happy man if I could do that for the rest of my life," Harry replied with all the sincerity in the world.
"And give me a ring like Mummy's?"
"Well, Mum's ring is a pretty special one," he slowly spoke dreading the thought he might be disappointing her. "How about the next time I go see my friend Ragnok you can come with me? He's helped me get almost all of the jewelry I've given Mum and I'm sure he can help me find something pretty for you."
"Mmm, okay," Lilly happily chirped.
Hermione smirked a bit at Harry and made a motion to indicate Lilly had him wrapped around her little finger, Harry happily nodded.
"You know Dad and I have to go into work soon, right Lilly?" Hermione asked as they cleared up their lunch a short time later.
"Mmm-hmm. Dobby say we can race our brooms around the house after you go, and later he might help me change the walls in my room into a different color."
Harry smiled at the memory of the first time she'd ridden the toy Firebolt Emily had handed down to her and how Dobby constantly challenged their children to races on his own. The elf was quite sad the Christmas James had graduated to a full-size broom but quickly rebounded when he found out both the twins had been given toy ones that year. "Just make sure you're the one that picks the colors," he advised Lilly knowing Dobby's penchant for decorating.
Once up in his and Hermione's bedroom Harry delayed getting changed by taking his Pensieve out from the cabinet in his nightstand and sat on the bed sifting through some thoughts. When he dropped the talk they'd just had with Lilly about Voldemort in the basin it swirled around showing images of Harry and James sitting under the tree next to his parents grave and the whole family sitting around the Grangers' Christmas tree the night David had finally brought it up. Upon adding the strand talking with Lilly about sunsets and marriage the image overlaid itself with Harry proposing and unfortunately some of the many times he'd seen Neville's youngest son being rather close with Emily.
"Brooding over that again?" Hermione peeked into the bowl.
"They're only eleven!"
"Are you trying to deny ever hugging me at that age?"
"That's the point! They're too young for that! If they get sorted into the same house tonight I'm moving into Hogwarts to keep an eye on them," Harry grumbled.
"You and I both know you'd never even consider that, Lilly would be crushed," Hermione commented.
"You're going to make me wear the medals, aren't you?" Harry pulled out the box that contained both of their Order of Merlin, First Class medallions Mr. Weasley had given them as well as the ones for the Order of the Thistle they'd gotten from the Queen.
"Well it's not like I enjoy waltzing around wearing something that's supposed to signify I'm better than the person next to me but feasts are somewhat formal occasions and in this case it's just easier to go with what's expected," she removed their matching emerald green robes from the wardrobe and passed Harry his.
"One of these days I'm going to make it acceptable to go to these things in shorts and a t-shirt," Harry mumbled.
Hermione came around the bed and wrapped her arms around Harry, "You think just because you got the Hogwarts board to drop the humans only rule you can go around making you own?"
"Of course not," Harry's hands slid down to her hips as they swayed in time to some imaginary music. "I just loath formality. Six years of teaching and I still haven't gotten used to be called 'Sir.'"
"I felt so old the first time a student called me Ma'am," Hermione agreed. "We're not old yet, are we?"
"Of course not love. The day we can go a Halloween feast without me wanting to pull you into a broom cupboard is when we're old." Harry un-needingly proved his point by divesting her of her jumper and kissing his way down her chest while cupping his hands around her lacy green bra.
"Harry," Hermione moaned out, "we don't have time for this."
"Of course we do, it's just the bloody gossip meeting," Harry unzipped her skirt and squeezed her bum. That was all the convincing Hermione required and in a flash she had Harry down to his boxers. Baby Albus chirped from the pile of ashes he'd reduced himself to the night before, clearly unhappy about being unable to transport out of the room. Hermione snatched her wand from the clothing pile and rotated his perch around so he didn't have to watch.
Just as Harry pushed her bra up a bit to lick one of her nipples they heard footsteps running down the hall and Lilly yelling for her Mum. It would have been no surprise for the girl to see either of them in their undergarments but the state Harry was in required some sort of cover up, he was just able to sit on the bed and pull a pillow into his lap before the door burst open.
"Mum, Grandma Granger and Aunt Tonks are here!" Lilly panted out of breath no doubt from running clear up to the third floor of the house.
"Didn't I tell you? They're visiting with you tonight, actually they've come over quite early," Hermione glanced at the clock.
"But they can't stay over! We haven't made Grandpa Granger and Uncle Remus' medicine yet!" Lilly screamed in a panic.
"Lilly," Hermione had a patient but lecturing tone, "think of what phase the moon is in."
Lilly's eyes flitted about for a second, "We begin brewing it next week," she stated firmly.
"Correct. Grandpa Granger was going to try and take Grandpa Weasley and Remus golfing today so Grandma Granger and Tonks thought they'd spend some time with you."
"Okay," Lilly conceded and sat down on the bed next to Harry. The surge of discomfort that passed through him helped alleviate the problem that had made him sit in the first place. "Are you getting dressed up for work?"
"Umm, yes we are," Hermione stuttered out and picked up her robes from the bed. Harry wanted to send her back down to Tonks and Emma now that she knew nothing was wrong but didn't have the heart to tell her to get out.
Lilly looked over her mother's outfit and wandered over to Hermione jewelry box giving Harry a chance to quickly pull on his robes behind her back. The mirror inside the box was ignored as it yelled out 'Put those back, they aren't yours!' and Lilly returned with the emerald items Harry had given Hermione for her eighteenth birthday.
"Did your friend Ragnok find these for you?" The way she surveyed the jewels made Harry sure he was in for trouble the next time he visited the bank.
"You father gave me those just a few weeks before my ring," Hermione confirmed while putting on the necklace overtop of the ever-present snitch.
"And the tiara?"
"That came from somewhere else," Harry slowly told her.
"It's much, much older and very valuable. I hope that someday both you and your sister will be able to wear it at your own weddings like I did," Hermione sat with Lilly waiting for Harry to finish affixing his medals.
"I think I'd like that," the girl decided much to Harry's dismay. Lilly's talk of weddings lasted straight until Harry and Hermione Apparated to Hogwarts. He only hoped she would drop it as quickly as she had the idea of being a princess after first meeting the Queen.
As far as any official records would show the pre-term staff meeting at Hogwarts was simply a time to introduce any new staff members and bring up any pressing matters, in reality it was a chance for all of the professors to gather and socialize about their summers, relay any good stories from the year before and most importantly go over the list of students being sorted to gossip and place bets on the familiar names. As hard as Harry had tried all he could ever learn about the meeting before his first night at Hogwarts was that nobody saw the point of betting as he was surely going to be a Gryffindor. When James' name came up his first night the same thing had happened and the rest of the faculty had obviously been uncomfortable with the idea of gossiping around his Mum and Dad, especially since it was Harry's first meeting as a professor.
The fact that Neville's first son landed in Hufflepuff spurred on the bets over Ron's twins the next year, though they still ended up in Gryffindor. Professor Vector, Head of Ravenclaw since Flitwick's retirement, cleaned up when Ron's son joined his Mum's house and was now deciding to try again for David and Emily; everyone but Harry and Hermione went against the possibility. The bets on Neville's youngest were split between red and yellow, Harry wanted to place one that he would end up anywhere other than with Emily but didn't think there'd be any takers. Per tradition one House-elf was given the night off from the kitchens to keep the official tally and sack of gold to divide the winnings with before the faculty filed into the Great Hall, except Professor Sprout who had taken the task of collecting the first years on what most likely to be her final year at the school. Harry had great hopes that they'd be able to get Neville away from the Apothecary he'd been managing to replace her.
Harry spent his time waiting for the students meandering in alternately laughing with Hermione about how they'd been interrupted at home and talking to Bill Weasley. As happy as he was about the jinx on the job apparently ending with Voldemort he had to admit it had been a bit odd that someone else was teaching the subject he'd always been best at, in a way it reminded him of Snape except the fact that Harry had been perfectly happy teaching Charms once he'd gotten used to the responsibility of being a professor. The annual duel he'd been having with Bill the day before the Christmas holidays in the Great Hall fulfilled his urge for a fight.
The hall fell silent as the new students were led in and Harry took a moment to look through the crowd at all of the children of his friends and peers. The year before had been interesting with two goblins enrolling and being placed into Slytherin House, apparently McGonagall had gotten a howler from nearly every parent who had a child in the house for a month but refused to back away from the decision Harry had helped her and the board come up with that any magical being had a right to be taught magic. It had taken Harry, Mr. Weasley and Mr. Ollivander nearly ten years of lobbying to get the wand restrictions lifted on non-humans and the Hogwarts board had been the last step Harry had wanted to personally accomplish for his friends.
Bill kept score for the record during the sorting, only stopping once to chuckle as Terry Boot's son ignored the fact that he'd been sorted into Hufflepuff to make his way towards his and Fleur's twelve-year-old daughter, who looked exactly like Gabrielle had at her age, at the Gryffindor table. When Neville's boy became a Gryffindor Professor Sprout took a second to glare at Hagrid who'd given a great whoop. The High Table fell completely silent as David Potter was called for his turn with the hat, Harry sat with his hands steepled as they seemed to have a longer-than-usual conversation that ended with the hat nearly laughing 'RAVENCLAW!' Only the students cheered while the faculty patiently waited for an equally long talk with Emily. Professor Vector's whoop of joy could have been heard in the forest when Emily joined her twin and Harry and Hermione shared a loving glance with them both, until their hair returned to the same blue it had been in the afternoon leading Hermione to painfully grip Harry's thigh under the table. Her annoyance had melted away by the time the last student was sorted and she gave his hand a supportive squeeze as he found the eyes of the only three people sitting opposite him that could tell he was a bit nervous.
"You're ready for this," Hermione's quiet voice was the only sound in the hall. "And we're all very proud of you."
Harry Potter beamed to all those gathered as he rose from his large golden chair with his arms spread wide, "Welcome, to a new year at Hogwarts!"
Just a quick word of thanks to everyone who read and reviewed… I really had no clue when I started this that I'd end up writing nearly 196,000 words of Potterness, and it could have been even longer if I would have known what I was doing from the beginning.
But anyway, this is it. They way I wish the big 7 would go (roughly). I hoped you all enjoyed the reading as much as I did the writing. Thank You and Good Night!