The Harry Potter universe and all the characters in it belong to J. K. Rowling. I get nothing out of this except enjoyment.
A/N Whew! I just barely made it. Normally I write well ahead of my posting, but since I posted 4 chapters in the last 2 weeks I caught up, and have been frantically writing this epilogue this past week, just finishing yesterday. I suspect that epilogues aren't supposed to end up being the longest chapter of the story, but that's what happened with this one. I just had so much to tell you about what happened after.
A few months ago I calculated that if the reviews per chapter kept up at the rate they had been coming, this story would end up with 1200, which seemed like an incredible number. With this chapter that mark will likely be surpassed. Thank you to all of you who have reviewed this story. It's really nice to know that my work has been appreciated. Now, on to the final curtain.
July, 2010 - 12 years later
"I'm home!" Hermione called out as she appeared in the entrance hall at Potter Manor. When there was no immediate response she shrugged and removed her work robes, a nicely fitted set with the Potter family crest over one breast, made of fine magical silk infused with protective charms. While it was necessary to wear the standard wizarding clothing out in public (in the wizarding world at least) she and Harry rarely wore them at home, choosing instead to dress more comfortably. She caught herself as she was about to lay them over a railing and with a flick of her wand a cupboard door opened and a hanger came sailing over to her. With another gesture of her wand the hanger inserted itself into the robes and flew back into the cupboard. Mustn't make any more work for the house elves than necessary, she reminded herself. It also set a good example for her children.
As if reading her mind a small house elf popped into existence before her. "Welcome home Mistress Miney," squeaked a small nervous voice. "Can I gets you anything?" Hermione smiled and knelt down to be closer to eye level with the shorter creature. Minnie had decided last year that she was getting on in age and would need to begin training her replacement. Through the House Elf Liberty Placement Service (HELPS) that had been founded by Harry and Hermione she had found no shortage of house elves willing to work for the Potters, and this young female elf had been signed on as an apprentice.
"Thank you Daisy," she replied, taking her new servant's hand and giving it a little squeeze. "A glass of iced tea would be lovely. And is Brian ready to be fed?" Daisy nodded enthusiastically.
"I goes and gets him and your tea right away." She turned away and was about to pop out of the room when she suddenly stopped and turned back, dropped into a little curtsy, then continued on with her assignment. Hermione smiled fondly – she thought the little elf was so cute, and she tried so hard to remember the duties Minnie was teaching her. With a contented sigh she concentrated briefly and apparated to her bedroom.
Once there she continued making herself comfortable by removing her shoes, skirt and blouse, leaving only a small pair of knickers, then reached into a dresser drawer for a pair of shorts. During the summer her home outfit was usually a brief pair of shorts and a tank top or a bikini top. If her parents were visiting she might forego the top entirely. While she and Harry had not adopted the nudist lifestyle favored by her parents, they were comfortable with it, and their sunroom, swimming pool, and sundeck were designated as clothing optional. That suited Dan and Emma just fine, as that was where they spent nearly all of their time when they came to Potter Manor, and Dan still frequently congratulated himself for talking Minnie into adding these amenities that long ago summer when they were training Potter's Army. Even when her parents weren't around, Hermione still swam and sunbathed topless, with Harry's wholehearted approval. As for the children, Hermione agreed with her parents that children were natural nudists, who had to be taught to wear clothing, and they were all brought up, like Hermione had been, being perfectly at ease with various levels of undress. For now, Hermione left the tank top off until after she finished feeding her young son.
Daisy popped in again with the iced tea. "Miss Padma be bringing Brian along now," she explained.
"Thank you Daisy. Why don't you take some time off and play with the children for a while until suppertime?" Hermione suggested. The young elf's face brightened and her head bobbed several times, then she disappeared, forgetting to curtsy again.
"Welcome home, my sister." Padma came slowly into the room, loosely holding onto the hand of a small toddler. Harry and Hermione's youngest son had just learned to walk a month ago, and insisted on walking everywhere by himself. When he spotted his mother his face brightened into a big smile and he tried to pick up his pace, only to take a tumble forward. Padma was alert, though, and caught him before he did a face plant and both women laughed as Hermione took her son and started nursing him.
It wouldn't be too much longer, Hermione thought somewhat wistfully, until this part of her life was over. While in some cultures children nursed until the age of two or even longer, in her society they rarely went past one. Brian had just turned one, and another few months was about as long as she would be able to stretch it out. She just loved the feeling of closeness and contentment she got when nursing her children, and she knew she would miss it. She and Harry had decided that three children would be it for them, so this was her last opportunity.
Hermione looked back up at her close friend. Padma had developed from a very pretty, slightly built girl into a beautiful woman. Her hips had filled out nicely, as had her bust, but her waist was as slender as ever, making Hermione quite envious of her figure. Her clothing accented these features. Her normal 'at home' outfit consisted of a flowing floor length wrap skirt that was slit up the side, revealing an occasional glimpse of a shapely leg, a bare waist, and either a halter style top or (like today) a colorful satiny scarf that was tied into a bandeau style top. This was in keeping with her cultural heritage, in which women's clothing traditionally had bare midriffs but long skirts. Over the years of being with Harry and Hermione she had lost some of her modesty, and occasionally wore shorts, bikini bottoms, or other clothing that revealed her lovely legs, but not when other people were around.
Hermione, on the other hand, had put on nearly twenty pounds and added a couple of inches to her figure in the past twelve years. Ten pounds had come the first year, from the combination of them ceasing the long hours of vigorous physical training and all the feasts they had attended. First there were all of the banquets in their honor, and then they had spent the rest of the year after leaving Hogwarts travelling. And every country, even every town, they visited wanted to honor them with a celebration, and all the fine dining had brought consequences with it. The rest of the added weight had come from motherhood and the natural process of maturation that came with aging.
The extra two inches on her hips, she had been told by her mother, she just had to accept as it was genetic. The two or three inches on her waist were something she was resolved to reduce at least somewhat, now that she was finished having children. She now had even more admiration for the way her mother, now at age sixty, had kept in shape over the years with her devotion to her exercise classes. On what she considered the positive side of the ledger, she had also gained two inches in her bust, and gone up a cup size – or would have if she ever wore a bra. The support charm Fleur had taught her was essential now, but its necessity was a natural consequence of time, gravity, and nursing three children.
It was a large consolation that Harry was perfectly happy with what he called her 'curvier' figure, which was obvious by the way he still couldn't keep his hands off of her. When they were together she was never surprised when his hand came to rest on her hip, or his arm managed to find its way around her waist or stretch out across her shoulders, or his fingers suddenly began massaging her neck or stroking her back. Her response was always to lean happily into his embrace, and their friends never tired of teasing them about their seemingly constant need for physical contact. She didn't mind it a bit.
"I just got home and finished changing myself," Padma continued on from her earlier greeting. "Harry's out in the back yard with the children. I believe it's flying lessons today."
"Who all is still here?" Hermione inquired as her eyes dropped back down to the little mouth eagerly draining her breast.
"Little Hermione, as always, and Ron's two oldest. Charlie's boy. And ours, of course. None of the other little ones."
Hermione smiled again. Fleur and Bill had celebrated the victory over Voldemort the same way she and Harry had, except with a fertility charm instead of a contraception charm, as evidenced by the birth of their first daughter nine months later. When Fleur had announced her intention to name her Hermione, Ron had good-naturedly objected. He had planned to honor his best female friend himself in that way if he had a daughter, but it would be too confusing to have two Hermione Weasleys.
His brothers had pointed out teasingly that given his family history, it was unlikely that he would ever have a daughter. It was different for Bill and Fleur for whom a daughter was not at all unexpected due to Fleur's veela heritage. At the time, Ron had just married Susan three months previously at Christmas, and the strawberry blonde Hufflepuff was understandably flustered at this discussion. After all, she wasn't even pregnant yet, although Molly had hinted that she expected an announcement at any time. Susan, though, had gone into healer training after Hogwarts and wanted to finish that before starting a family.
The predictions of his brothers had held up, however, and now Ron and Susan Weasley were the parents of four rambunctious red haired boys. Susan had confided to Hermione that she was going to try once more for a girl, then give up after five.
"Let me guess," Hermione responded, "Hermione is telling everyone exactly what they should be doing, Vik, Jimmie, and Prajit are ignoring her, and Lily is scolding Harry for goofing off. Oh, and Artie's just having fun."
Padma laughed out loud. Hermione Weasley, despite all of her parent's efforts, was something of a diva. The oldest Weasley grandchild, now eleven, with stunning good looks inherited from both parents, she had naturally been the focus of a lot of attention since the day she was born. Vik Weasley (Ron's second), Jimmie Potter, and Prajit Patil at six years old were tight as thieves, and would probably be best mates all their lives. Seven year old Arthur Weasley was as fun loving as his father Charlie. Harry Weasley (Ron's first) and Lily Potter, both eight, constantly got on each others' nerves, just as his father and her mother had, and for much the same reason. Simply put, Lily was driven and Harry was a bit of a slacker. Whenever Lily would put her hands on her hips and snap, "Honestly, Harry …" Harry and Hermione had to bite their lips and turn away to keep from losing it. But the two of them loved each other like sister and brother and would drop their squabbling in an instant and stick up for each other if either was picked on.
As the closest thing to royalty the wizarding world had, Harry and Hermione knew their children would be the subject of media attention that rivaled anything Prince William and Prince Harry had to put up with. The fact that Potter Mansion was still unplottable, and not connected to the floo network, thereby being accessible only by portkey, afforded them some semblance of privacy. Although the growing family always attracted notice when out in public, they could at least relax at home.
Fortunately, their children had learned to deal with all of the attention reasonably well, and had so far remained relatively unaffected by it. It had helped that their daughter, Lily Jane, combined the best qualities of both of her parents. She had Harry's green eyes and charming smile, and Hermione's curly brown hair; Harry's athleticism and knack for quick improvisation, and Hermione's intelligence and love for learning. But most of all she had a strong sense of responsibility and compassion for others. As the eldest, she set an excellent example for her siblings.
James Sirius Potter, who with his father's messy black hair and his mother's chestnut brown eyes looked even more like his namesake grandfather than Harry did, had inevitably discovered that he had been named for two of the most famous pranksters in Hogwarts history, and had developed a similar personality. When his 'uncles' Fred and George learned of this propensity, they were thrilled, and attempted to further corrupt him at every opportunity. Fortunately for the Potter household, his parents were the most powerful witch and wizard of their generation, and had plenty of experience dealing with pranksters, not to mention finely honed instincts for detecting things that were not quite as they should be. It also helped that his sister Lily had always been able to keep her brother under control, and could rein him in whenever necessary.
Harry and Hermione had wanted to name their third child in honor of their late, beloved headmaster. While the names Albus, Percival, and Wulfric were a bit much, Brian was perfect. To his parents' surprise, Brian Cedric Potter was born with blonde hair and blue eyes. Fred and George had given them a hard time by claiming that it was a good thing that he didn't have red hair, or people would really start to talk. Fortunately, Emma had laughingly informed her flustered daughter that she had had blonde hair when she was younger, and of course many babies were born with blue eyes. At only one year old, Brian's personality had yet to fully emerge, but the toddler in her lap who had just switched from one breast to the other was so far a very happy, contented child. And all three of the children knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that they were very much loved by their parents.
When Harry and Hermione had finished their stint of traveling and decided to settle down, they were at something of a loss deciding what to do with their lives. While they had firmly convinced themselves that they would prevail against Voldemort and be able to live long and happy lives together, their focus had necessarily been on doing everything they could to ensure that they were still alive at the end of the final battle. Thus, they hadn't really given much thought to what came after. They were overwhelmed with offers – they literally could name their own terms in any position of whatever occupation they chose, including Minister of Magic.
When the wizarding public had learned that the Ministry of Magic had nearly been destroyed by Voldemort's attack, and that Hogwarts had been successfully defended with minimal damage against a much larger enemy force, not to mention that Harry Potter had destroyed the most feared Dark Lord in living memory, Scrimgeour's days were numbered. For the foreseeable future, Harry Potter was a god. The media fell all over themselves to praise anything associated with him, not that it was necessary. It was 1981 all over again, only this time the public had a living, breathing hero to focus their adoration on.
If he wanted to be Minister of Magic, there was a large portion of wizarding Britain that would have been perfectly happy to give it to him. Fortunately, he had no such desire, nor did Hermione. What they did have in mind were quite a few changes that needed to be made, and now they had the clout to pull it off.
Their first task, immediately following the battle, was to help decide on the awarding of honors. It was a foregone conclusion that the two of them would receive Orders of Merlin, first class – the youngest ever winners of that award. The other leaders in the battle and Horcrux hunt were awarded Orders of Merlin, second class, including Tracey and Daphne, Ron, Viktor, and Charlie, Remus, Tonks, Bill and Fleur. Ginny likewise received one for her heroics at the end. Harry had pushed for her medal to be a first class as well, but Ginny talked him out of it. All of the other students and staff that participated in the battle received Orders of Merlin, third class, including Dan and Emma Granger, the first ever muggle recipients of the wizarding honor.
As for the position of Minister of Magic, Harry and Hermione consulted heavily with Arthur Weasley, Connie Hammer, and Gawain Robards, none of whom wanted the job either. But they were willing to make recommendations, not only for the position of Minister but also department heads. In the end, Amos Diggery became Minister with Arthur as his top assistant. Hammer and Robards kept their previous positions, but their influence in the government, as known confidants of Harry Potter, was now considerable. All of the department head positions went to wizards and witches who had consistently supported Dumbledore over the years in his struggle to open the eyes of the world to the threat of Voldemort.
When Remus received his Order of Merlin, and Harry made a scathing reference to the anti-werewolf laws during the presentation, the Ministry fell all over itself in its hurry to overturn them. When Lord and Lady Potter followed this up several months later with a blistering attack on the way other magical creatures were treated by wizards, they immediately had everyone's attention. At a press conference in the Atrium of the Ministry of Magic, standing right before the Fountain of Magical Brethren, and flanked by the top officials of the Ministry and Gringotts Bank along with Dobby, Winky, Magorian, and Firenze, the pair called on the wizarding world to turn that symbolism into reality.
In her speech Hermione called them to task for their long history of denial of rights and outright persecution of goblins, centaurs, and elves, while Harry related the assistance each of the groups had provided to him in defeating Voldemort. The pair concluded by embracing each of the representatives of the other races in turn, and the wizarding public was stunned. Over the next several weeks the points the pair had made were debated and reflected upon, and a large portion of the public came to acknowledge that there was certainly some validity to them.
Treaties were negotiated with the goblins and the centaurs with language that made it clear that these were agreements between equals. Fleur and Viktor were of immense help in bringing the French and Bulgarian Ministries on board, given their own war hero status. Other European Ministries followed suit, eager to find favor with the Potters, who included lobbying as part of their travels to the continent. Within a year the International Confederation had ratified both treaties.
The situation with house elves was more of a challenge. Eventually the Ministry was able to craft a law called the House Elf Protection Act, which criminalized certain previously common treatments of house elves. Penalties ranged from fines to removing the abused house elves from their masters. The problems were to convince the abused house elves to leave, and what to do with them. The former was a slow process, as many of the subservient creatures wished to stay bonded. There were not a few others though, who like Dobby desired to escape their unhappy situations.
The House Elf Liberty Placement Service was established and funded by the Potters to give these freed elves somewhere to go, and enable them to find another family to serve. At the house elves' option, they could either be bonded or hired. In this way many families, like the Weasleys, who had never had a house elf obtained one, and they were almost universally grateful for the assistance and treated them well. Initially most of the newly placed elves chose to be bonded, but the employment option was being exercised more with each passing year.
The toughest part, for Hermione at least, was finding the patience to let the process unfold slowly, rather than freeing every house elf in the world immediately. Her mother, who had taken the time to get to know quite a few of the delightful creatures at Hogwarts, was a vital asset to her in this effort to control her instinct for instant justice.
In terms of an occupation, though, they were flooded with potential opportunities. Any Ministry department would have eagerly welcomed them, but they knew they needed to keep some distance from the political process for a while. Every quidditch team in the English league (excepting, obviously, the Holyhead Harpies) offered Harry a position as starting seeker and the English National team guaranteed him a roster position as at least a reserve. Every wizarding business was willing to pay enormous amounts to have their names associated with them, even if they didn't do any work, just for the publicity. Robards offered them immediate positions as Aurors, skipping the normal training period, and Gringotts would have taken them on in any capacity they wished as well. McGonagall also made it clear that they had teaching positions at Hogwarts waiting for them whenever they wanted them.
In the end, Hermione took a position that allowed her to satisfy her thirst for knowledge as well as make significant discoveries that had potential to impact the entire magical world. She became an Unspeakable in the Department of Mysteries.
After the final battle the pair knew it was time to return their time turner to the Department of Mysteries, and they did so with a mixture of relief and regret. By that point they had aged about two years past their contemporaries, and the physical toll on their bodies was a strain. The ability to expand time to do all the things they wanted to do was enticing, however, and potentially addicting. In the end though, they gave it up. Croaker and two others were waiting for them when they arrived at the Ministry that day and made their pitch.
After some negotiation they decided that both of them would officially be on the secret roster of Unspeakables, but that Harry would only participate as needed, or on special cases. In effect they were job sharing, probably the first example of that employment practice in the wizarding world.
Intially, Harry spent most of the rest of his time familiarizing himself with his estates and learning the things that were necessary in overseeing his large portfolio of holdings. Following the successful model of his experience with Fred and George, he also began investing in some of his other friends as well, helping them to start up businesses of their own when they were ready.
When the Potters began having children he and Hermione split time with them at home, and while Hermione was nursing he would bring the babies to her at work at feeding time. Since Hermione spent more time at her work and he spent more time with estate matters, he naturally fell into the role of stay-at-home dad. During this time the couple made a significant discovery. Harry loved kids. And kids loved Harry.
It began with Hermione Weasley, who enjoyed being with him so much that she gradually began spending more and more time at Potter Manor, especially when the younger children began to arrive. Eventually Bill and Fleur, who were both still working at Gringotts, decided that they had no need for other child care, since she was there all of the time. Then Bill joked at one of their weekly dinners together (in order to maintain the closeness they had developed with the older couple, Harry and Hermione established a practice of having them over once a week) that they should be paying Harry, or perhaps he should start a child minding service.
Instead of laughing it off Harry got a thoughtful look on his face that Hermione recognized all too well. Thus began what became informally referred to as Potter Academy. It was the most exclusive school in the world. If it had a waiting list, it would number in the thousands. But you could not apply to it; admission was by invitation only. And tuition was free. Simply put, Harry started inviting the children of his closest friends to Potter Manor on a regular basis. And along with playing with them, he began educating them.
One of the legislative reforms that Harry and Hermione had pushed through was the easing of restrictions on the underage use of magic. Children were now permitted to practice magic in the presence of a parent or qualified instructor. So besides teaching them how to handle a broomstick, he began explaining the fundamentals of magic, focusing on feeling the magic in themselves, how it flowed, and what it felt like when they released it. Since all magical children experienced bouts of accidental magic, they had a reference point for what he was showing them.
When their parents agreed that they were old enough to have a wand, he taught them simple spells, focusing their attention again on feeling the magic flow. In addition to spellwork, they learned about other magical races and how their magic worked, with demonstrations by Dobby and Griphook. He also taught them about the nonmagical world (he and Hermione had decided to drop the word 'muggle' from their vocabulary) and a more relevant version of History of Magic. They talked about common magical creatures and magical plants. Finally, with Dan and Emma's help, they learned to brew some simple potions. And he made all of it fun.
Hermione Delacour Weasley would be the first 'graduate' of Potter Academy to enter Hogwarts, beginning in the coming school year, and the Potters and Weasleys were anxious to see how she would fare. They expected that she would be performing at no less than the level of a third year student. She had the potential to eclipse the marks of her namesake, be the top of her class, Head Girl, quidditch captain, and bedazzle a whole generation of Hogwarts males with her beauty. The biggest problem was likely to be how they would be able to keep her from becoming too full of herself.
Indeed, she was to become the best student any of her teachers had ever seen. At least until three years later when Lily Potter arrived. As time went on and more and more of the children who had benefited from Harry's tutelage entered Hogwarts, the faculty would find that they had to rethink their entire approach to magical education.
Now that her young son had finished eating and had fallen asleep, Hermione took him to his room and put him in his bed. After setting a silencing charm to keep the noise of the house out, and a monitoring charm to let her know when he awoke, she and Padma started toward the stairs where she heard the sound of running footsteps. In seconds four children went flying by her.
"Harry, Vik, and Artie have gone home and the rest of us are going to go swimming now," Lily stopped to tell her before racing after the rest of them to their rooms to get changed. Hermione grinned at Padma and returned to her room. There she undressed again and tugged on a bikini bottom, then donned a coverup to head down to the pool. At Hermione's unspoken question Padma pulled her wrap skirt apart to reveal that she was already wearing a swimsuit bottom. She rarely swam in the pool with the others, but she would be prepared if she wanted to dip her legs in for a bit. Hermione smiled at her and followed her down to the pool area.
There Harry greeted them with a tight hug for Padma and a nice long, lingering one for Hermione. Then he sat down behind her on her a lounge chair, lowered the coverup partway down her back, and began to massage her shoulders and neck as she and Padma told him about their days. He then filled them in on how the flying lessons had gone, pausing occasionally to plant little kisses on the back of her neck.
"Hermione's more like you on a broom," he quipped, causing her to turn and stick her tongue out at him. "She's a very competent flier but not willing to push herself or take risks. If she plays quidditch she'll make a better keeper or a beater, assuming she inherits her father's height. She'd probably do best as a keeper, since she's phenomenal at calculating angles. When we practice on the ground no one can get anything past her." He stopped for a few seconds to nuzzle her neck again, causing Padma to giggle at Hermione's momentary loss of focus as she closed her eyes at the blissful feeling.
"Lily's fearless, but has an instinctive feel for how far she can go before she gets into trouble," Harry continued. "She reminds me of Ginny on a broom, so she'd probably make a good seeker or chaser. Harry is determined to be a keeper like Ron, but with his size and strength he might be better as a beater. I should suggest to Fred and George that they work with him on it a bit. With the younger ones it's too early to tell."
With that Harry stopped and leaned back on the lounge chair, pulling Hermione back down with him and wrapped his arms around her. She snuggled into his chest and closed her eyes, luxuriating in the feeling of him holding her, like nothing could ever take them away from each other. Unfortunately this only lasted until their children spotted them snuggling and splashed them to get them to break it up. She pretended to glare at them, then caught Padma's smirk out or her eye and turned the glare on her 'sister' for good measure.
'Sister' was a good description of the relationship that had developed between the two women, as she and Harry both considered Padma to be a member of the family. The saga of how Padma had come to be a permanent part of the Potter household was both unusual and poignant.
She and Justin had gone their separate ways after graduation, as both of them knew they would, but parted as good friends. The irony of the situation was that intolerance was present on both sides. Justin knew that his upper-class British family would never accept his relationship with a 'woman of color' and hadn't even told them they were dating. On the other hand, Padma knew that her conservative family that could trace its pureblood roots back thousands of years would never tolerate a muggleborn spouse for her. (A half-blood heir to the Potter and Black lines yes, but not a muggleborn.)
Tragically, her parents blamed her for Parvati's death, since she had been so adamant about joining Harry Potter's student army, and refused to even speak to her. Since so many of her Ravenclaw classmates had been killed as well, there was little comfort to be had from that quarter either. When Harry and Hermione compassionately offered a place for her to stay with them she latched onto it like a lifeline.
She had been an absolute wreck when they took her in, but with their kindness, compassion, and love, she gradually began to heal. And the two of them began to fill the large empty spot in her heart left by the loss of Parvati. There were awkward moments, to be sure. She was certainly not used to the way they lived, particularly their mode of dress. The first time she happened upon them swimming laps in the pool one afternoon, she just sat and watched open-mouthed. The mixture of excitement, appreciation, and desire that coursed through her as she took in the briefly clad figures (primarily Harry, but also Hermione to some extent) powerfully yet gracefully gliding through the water was intoxicating.
Since none of them wanted her to be alone in the mansion, she accompanied them on their travels. The first extended trip was around England itself. Hermione took Harry to see the things he had missed growing up, and the trio wandered through museums, churches, and castles, and hiked through picturesque countryside. As they were touring the muggle sites of the country (with the Potters' fame they couldn't have set foot in any magical areas without being swarmed with well-wishers), Padma was initially at a large disadvantage. Fortunately, with her foreign appearance, she was able to pass off her ignorance of muggle ways as unfamiliarity with a different culture. Between what she had learned in the mandatory Muggle Studies class and Harry and Hermione's patient explanations, she eventually became comfortable and competent with the nonmagical lifestyle. The soft-spoken, intelligent Ravenclaw was a delight to travel with and talk to, and Harry and Hermione grew ever more attached to her.
The trip to France opened Padma's eyes to yet another facet of Harry and Hermione's world. Bill and Fleur accompanied them on this one, with Fleur playing the exuberant tour guide. The real shock came when they came to the beaches of the Rivera. In introducing Fleur to the concept of the bikini, Hermione had created a monster, as the part Veela embraced the miniscule swimwear with a passion. When they hit the beach she was the first to discard the upper portion of her swimsuit, as her top hit the sand even before they finished setting up the loungers. When Hermione followed suit, Padma found herself in a potentially embarrassing position.
When Hermione had considered installing a pool at Potter Manor the previous summer, she had worried about how her classmates would react to the nearly nonexistent muggle style swimwear, and in Padma's case her fears were well founded. The conservative Indian girl was not comfortable baring anywhere near that much skin. But Hermione and Fleur worked with her to find something that would suit her, and she ended up with a fashionable one-piece suit and sarong combination. The next day she switched to a two-piece suit with another matching sarong, and she had found her comfort level.
Over the course of the week they spent at the beach she became emboldened enough to begin to bare her legs, at least in Harry's presence if not in front of other men, aided by the relative privacy of the sun and wind screens that lined the beachfront. When they returned to Potter Manor this bikini/sarong combination would become her standard apparel around the sundeck and pool. Eventually, over the years, she even tried sunning topless with Hermione occasionally, but covered up or rolled over when Harry was present. All-in-all, everyone was satisfied with the situation that evolved, which permitted each of them to wear as much or little as they liked.
With any other couple, the growing closeness of an attractive woman could have led to serious problems. But Padma had far too much respect for both of them to do anything to interfere with their relationship, and with their soul bond they were both aware of each other's feelings so that Hermione knew that she did not need to feel threatened. Thus the growing love they all felt for each other took the path of platonic, sisterly affection. Of course, if there had been any possibility that Harry would have taken a second wife, Padma would have leapt at the chance. Even if he had still been considering that option for continuing the Black family line though, Padma was no longer an option for him. With Parvati's death, she was now responsible for the Patil line. And that fact led to the second stage of the drama.
Three years after he had shut her out of their family's live, Padma's father had come back to attempt to mend their relationship. The reason for this soon became clear – he expected her to do her duty and produce an heir. Over the next two years the pressure steadily mounted and eventually she knew that she had to do something. With Hermione's help, and Harry's agreement, she came up with a plan, and a year after the Lily's birth she left England for India and an arranged marriage. Five years later she returned as a widow with a four year old son.
From the beginning there were suspicions, but a cursory check by interested reporters revealed that there was in fact an elderly wizard, a distant relative of the Patil family in India, who had provided legitimacy to Padma's child. Paternity was another question entirely, as he had been infirm and not expected to live much longer when she arrived in India, lingering only five years after their marriage. But it would have been professional suicide for any reporter to suggest that the child was Harry Potter's without absolute proof, as well as instant ruin for the publication that ran the story. Even had Harry not retaliated, he had powerful friends, including the highest ranking goblin at Gringotts. As far as the general public was concerned, those that were aware that Padma was living at Potter Manor, and suspected that something might be going on, figured that if any wizard deserved to have a beautiful mistress it was Harry Potter, and if Hermione Potter didn't have a problem with it neither did they.
The real story was that Padma had conceived through artificial insemination, with Harry as the donor. Harry willingly produced sperm samples, with Hermione's enthusiastic assistance (confirming that she hadn't lost her touch since the days of living together in the flat at Cambridge and the Head Suite before their marriage), and Hermione took them to India under cover of a clandestine Unspeakable mission. Thus Padma had her fondest desire fulfilled – a son, fathered by Harry Potter – and she knew that she could be content with her life.
While it was possible that she could choose to give up her life with the Potters and find a real husband – she was still a beautiful woman after all, with no shortage of potential suitors – she felt that it was not a certainty that she would find this kind of love elsewhere and was unwilling to risk losing what she had. After Prajit's birth she did take a lover for a brief period just to experience 'what it was like' but that only confirmed her decision. Of course, Harry and Hermione accepted Prajit into their family on Padma's return, and both of them grew to love him as their own. The Potter children accepted him as well, and when they were older the adults would explain how they were actually half-siblings. When Brian was born a year later, Padma and Prajit were just as excited as the rest of them, and the family grew together as one.
Harry had resolved the issue of the Black family line years earlier. After determining that Remus's lycanthropy had rendered him sterile, as expected (and everyone had a hard time envisioning Tonks as a mother anyway), he transferred the Black title and all its associated vaults and properties to the Weasleys. Given that both Molly and Arthur were distant cousins of Sirius, this was acceptable to the wizarding community at large. Bill was the one Harry actually bestowed the title on, as he considered him to be the most responsible and most capable member of the family. Since the actual line would have descended through Bill in any case, as the eldest, this did not seem out of place, and he took the seat in the Wizengamot when he turned thirty. The rest of the Weasley children had no problems with this, as Percy would have been the only one of them with political aspirations. Harry had spoken to Ron before making the final decision, and Ron assured him that he was fine with the title going to Bill, and had no desire to be on the Wizengamot himself. Any lingering resentment he might have felt was quelled by the information that all of the Weasley children would be receiving a substantial annual stipend from the Black (now Weasley) family trust. Thus the Weasleys, one of the oldest pureblood families in Britain, were finally recognized as a noble house.
"Mama's here!" Sitting at the poolside Padma and Hermione laughed at the younger Hermione's excited announcement of Fleur's arrival, for they knew the reason. When her daughter had turned ten Fleur announced that she had to begin wearing the tops of her swimsuits. While this was a normal development in the lives of French girls (and English girls too, for that matter), the headstrong young witch had vigorously objected, pointing out that neither Mrs. Potter nor her mother wore them most of the time. In the end, Fleur had compromised with her, agreeing that she could continue to go without when she was at Potter Manor, but only when none of her Weasley relatives were around (they being more traditional wizarding families) and only when Fleur was present. Within seconds the offending top was gone and she was back in the pool frolicking with her brother and the Potter children.
This was Bill and Fleur's evening to come for dinner, and more importantly the three witches were getting together to plan a landmark event – a party celebrating Harry and Neville's thirtieth birthdays and their accompanying induction to the Wizengamot. Accordingly they told Harry and Bill to stay out of sight, and headed over to a far corner of the sun deck. There Hermione conjured a screen like the ones sometimes used on the Riveria beaches that would afford them some privacy. Fleur immediately got comfortable by stripping down to a thong bikini bottom and Hermione removed her coverup. Padma untied her wrap skirt and discarded it, then after some hesitation untied her top and removed it as well. Fleur arched an eyebrow at this, but smiled her approval. Hermione reached out and gave Padma's hand a squeeze to add her own encouragement and the three of them settled into their lounge chairs to get down to work. Padma conjured a pad of parchment and an auto-notes quill and they began sharing their ideas.
They were inviting nearly all of their classmates from Hogwarts, as well as students in other years who had been in Potter's Army, and their favorite professors. Hermione shuddered slightly as she recalled their graduation. Only twenty students (half of the number who had been sorted seven years prior) had lived to participate in the ceremony, which had been delayed for a week out of respect for those who had died and to permit the injured to heal. Parvati's loss had reduced the Gryffindor contingent to seven, but it had been the largest. There were three from Slytherin, four from Ravenclaw, and six from Hufflepuff, the latter two houses having suffered heavy losses on the road to Hogsmeade. The following year's class was similarly hard hit.
All of their professors had pulled through, most with injuries of varying degree, although it had been touch and go for Hagrid. As night fell upon the battlefield that had once been the grounds of Hogwarts, a band of centaurs brought his battered and unconscious form to the castle. They had found him beneath his dead half brother, surrounded by mounds of dead trolls. When Hagrid went down severely injured, Grawp had stood over him and defended him to the death, falling on him with his last breath to shield him from the enemy. Hagrid had taken a long time to recover from his loss, and at McGonagall's suggestion relinquished his teaching position so that he could focus on his duties as gamekeeper, which had been his first love. He had later told Harry and Hermione that it had been something of a relief, as he had never really been comfortable as a professor.
Hagrid's place as Care of Magical Creatures professor was assumed by Charlie. While everyone was surprised that he was willing to give up his dragons after all those years he had spent with them, he assured them that he liked other magical creatures as well, and actually regarded this as his dream job. It was a few months before people caught on to his other reason for staying at Hogwarts.
Everyone had always figured that Daphne would end up with an older man, since she was so much more mature and sophisticated than the boys her age, and she dominated any relationship she was in. What they hadn't expected was that she would end up with a Gryffindor, despite her dalliance with two of them her seventh year. But in the preparations leading up to the final battle, and during the battle itself, she became very impressed with Charlie and he likewise became impressed with her. He quickly recognized the clever, intelligent, passionate person inside the beautiful, flirty, but aloof exterior. And she was drawn to his sense of humor and amazing coolness under even the most difficult circumstances, not to mention that he was a very nice physical specimen.
When the following school year started, it was announced that Daphne would be staying on to apprentice under Professor Slughorn, and help him out with his classes, as he groomed her to assume his position in a few years. It didn't take long after that to figure out that there was a hot new romance at Hogwarts. Two years later they were married, Daphne became the Potions professor, and Hogwarts had its latest husband and wife teaching tandem.
Tracey also maintained her relationship with Daphne, in both a personal and professional sense. The other Slytherin went into the commercial end of the potions profession, selling not only ingredients, like a normal apothecary, but actual ready-made potions. She got the idea from her Muggle Studies class when Emma described the concept of take-away food, where one bought meals already prepared as contrasted to a grocer where the raw materials were purchased. When she discussed her idea with the Grangers late in the school year, they referred her to Hermione and Harry, who readily invested in her business, knowing how bright and capable she was.
Dan and Emma remained at Hogwarts another year, while they worked with Hermione to revise the totally outdated OWL and NEWT examinations in Muggle Studies. (Again, her status was now such that if Hermione Granger Potter said the examinations were outdated, the Wizarding Examinations Authority jumped to update them.) After that they returned to their home and began to rebuild their dental practice. Emma often wished that she had a house elf to help out with keeping everything running smoothly, and Dan commented on how dull life seemed after their experiences during the war. They tried to keep up with the friends they had made in the wizarding world, and later were delighted to have grandchildren to spoil, becoming even more frequent visitors to Potter Manor.
Remus and Tonks had stayed on a few more years in the Defense position, until McGonagall could find a competent replacement, then moved on. Tonks returned to the ranks of the Aurors and advanced to senior Auror status, becoming second in command under Shacklebolt, who took over for Robards when he retired. Remus joined the Ministry to direct the werewolf outreach program that was initiated after the revision of the werewolf laws.
When Harry transferred the Black family holdings to Bill he set aside a portion for Tonks. Even though both she and Remus objected strenuously, arguing that they had a simple lifestyle and didn't need the money, Bill and Harry were equally adamant. They opened a vault for her and endowed it with 100,000 Galleons, as well as several Black family heirlooms and some jewelry. Tonks complained good-naturedly that with these jewels she was always the most lavishly dressed woman at any formal Auror dinners. She and Remus were more than happy to move out of Grimmauld Place and they bought a simple house near her parents. Harry also arranged to purchase the Shrieking Shack from Hogwarts and presented it to them as a belated wedding present. With Dobby's assistance they fixed it up and they lived in it while they were teaching at Hogwarts, and then whenever they visited after they moved into their next jobs.
Dobby kept himself busy with a variety of jobs, sometimes working on projects for Harry as well as continuing to maintain the Black properties. He also spent a lot of time as with HELPS as the primary recruiter, persuading other abused elves to leave their masters. Dropping the name of the great Harry Potter worked wonders in his efforts. Winky kept her job with the Weasleys which she was extremely happy with, and aided them in rebuilding the Burrow.
Bill and Fleur returned to Gringotts, and Bill eventually rose to a rank just below that of vice-president, managing the curse-breaking division. Fleur worked part time for him in a research position while raising their family, having added a son seven years after their daughter was born. They lived in the former Black primary mansion at 12 Grimmauld Place, but it looked nothing like it had when the Blacks occupied it. They spent their summers, of course, at the Brighton beach house, where the Potter family were frequent weekend guests.
Molly and Arthur rebuilt the Burrow as soon as the war ended, and moved back at the end of the summer. With Arthur's new position in the Ministry, and the Black estate income, they were no longer strapped for money and settled into a comfortable if somewhat lonely existence since all of their children were now out of the house. After several years of research the St. Mungo's healers came up with a nerve restoring potion and after a few more years of treatment and therapy Arthur was able to discard his flying carpet/wheel chair and walk again, albeit with a limp.
Molly was ecstatic at the news of Fleur's pregnancy, and in due time doting over her grandchildren and urging her kids to have more became a fulltime occupation for her. She was to a large extent successful at this, as Bill had provided her with two, Ron four, and Charlie two with another on the way. Fred and George had never married, which everyone but Molly thought was a good thing, although they continued to have an interesting relationship with Angelina and Alicia.
Hermione thought that Susan had been a good choice for Ron, as her Hufflepuff qualities (loyal, hardworking and patient – particularly patient!) enabled her to put up with him, and also to deal with her growing family. Her healer training served her in good stead as her sons found ever more creative ways to injure themselves. Ron had unabashedly parlayed his fame from the war into a position with his favorite quidditch team, the Chudley Cannons. Since quidditch was the one thing he had always worked hard at, he had earned his way into a legitimate position as their starting keeper, and enjoyed a solid career. He and Susan had moved into the Black family house in Birmingham, near her family, despite Molly's wish that they would live closer to the Burrow. They quickly pointed out that they were always only a quick floo trip away, but in fact enjoyed the separation. They were also frequent visitors at Potter Manor, and were godparents to Lily, just as Harry and Hermione were godparents to their son Harry.
Besides obsessing over her grandchildren, Molly Weasley's other concern was her wayward daughter. Things had been cool between them at best ever since the summer that Molly's constant harping to Ginny about her inability to win Harry had driven her into a bottomless hole of low self esteem and destructive behavior. Harry and Hermione had concluded that the fiery redhead's primary goal in life was to be the opposite of her mother. She would NOT get married, she would NOT settle for being a housewife, she would NOT have a boatload of kids, and she would definitely NOT get fat.
It wasn't as though Ginny was doing anything harmful. She was living the glamorous life of an international quidditch star. Her talents had been even more on display her seventh year at Hogwarts, and she had been snapped up by the Holyhead Harpies upon graduation. She had become so good that she had made the last two English World Cup teams. She was easily the most well-known player on the team, given her beauty, her flamboyant and fearless style of play, and her status as a war hero. The press was constantly swarming over her, and the papers and magazines were full of stories about which gorgeous hunk she was last seen with. And she made it easy for them, attending the most prominent parties and balls all over Europe, and her wit and sharp tongue were always good for a memorable quote.
At this point Hermione shook her head sadly. Thinking about Ginny often made her think about Neville. He had always loved Ginny from a distance, never giving up hope that she would someday return his affection. It wasn't as if he never saw her though, as they remained good friends to this day. He attended all of her quidditch matches, and the two of them had dinner together frequently, at least when Ginny was between beaus. Ron had once made a snarky comment that Ginny needed someone who would tell her she was beautiful every day. While Hermione thought that was being a bit harsh, she did feel that a guy who was sensitive to a woman's feelings was a rare find. Like Harry was. And like Neville was. Both of them were examples of men who would have no problem finding something to compliment their beloved about every day. Every woman should love a guy like that, and Ginny was no exception.
Most of her friends thought that Ginny was being foolish, as Neville had turned into quite a catch. And with his taking his Wizengamot seat, more notice was being paid to his bachelor status, as he was expected to continue the Longbottom line. Indeed, he was about to be moved to the top of Witch Weekly's 'Wizarding World's Most Eligible Bachelor' list. Soon witches would be swarming around him angling for the opportunity to become Lady Longbottom. The problem was that Ginny just didn't seem to be able to get past seeing him as her good old friend Neville. But now time was running out.
Neville had suffered cracked ribs and broken legs from the collapse of the Astronomy Tower but had been healed in time for the graduation ceremony and the presentation of the Orders of Merlin. Afterwards he had also gone into business, and although he didn't need startup money from Harry, the Potters had invested anyway, just because of the profit potential. He put his herbology knowledge to good use by raising magical plants, and selling them for their various uses. His friendship with Daphne, and by extension Tracey, obtained for him information about what herbal potions ingredients were in demand, and supplying their potions store was a profitable portion of his business. He had also developed new strains of magical flowers, and now brides throughout magical Britain and even into the continent were demanding Longbottom Lilies for their weddings. His prize creation was the Ginevra Lily, a flaming red-orange flower that literally glowed. Hermione made a note to order thirty of them for the party.
"I assume our representatives from the press will be attending?" Padma asked. Hermione smiled and nodded. After taking some time to grieve over the loss of her best friend, Lavender had been hired by Witch Weekly and immediately assigned to the 'Potter Desk'. (She was undoubtedly the first ever Order of Merlin holder to work at that magazine.) Her friendship with Harry had served them both in good stead. She never wrote stories with unconfirmed rumors about Harry and his family, and he was always honest with her when she contacted him for confirmation. She was the only writer with portkey access to Potter Manor, and she had consistently proven herself trustworthy. Even though she probably knew more than any other reporter about the Potters' relationship with her former best friend's sister, she had never written a word of it. Initially, her bosses were annoyed with her for not running the juiciest gossip on the famous couple, but eventually when every one of her stories turned out to be true, and she consistently got stories that none of the other gossip columnists got, she was handsomely rewarded.
A year later Colin Creevey joined her as her photographer, and much the same story occurred. He got pictures no one else could get, and he was the only photographer the Potters were friendly with. He became the official photographer at all of their private functions.
Just recently, Lavender and Colin had gone out and started their own publishing company. Their initial efforts revolved around two publications. PotterWatch, a daily single page report on the latest happenings with the Potter family, was similar to what they had been doing at Witch Weekly. Teen Witch, a weekly paper, was modeled after Witch Weekly but aimed at the young teen and preteen market, which was about to explode with new customers as the postwar baby boomers began to enter their teens. The cover story on the first issue, scheduled to go on sale in August, was about the new wave of students entering Hogwarts in the fall, and featured Hermione Weasley, complete with a five page photo spread. It was destined to sell out in a matter of days, and demand for poster size photos of the beautiful young witch would erupt shortly thereafter.
As it turned out, Lavender and Colin's association was not strictly professional, and they had married a few years before.
Colin's brother Dennis also played professional quidditch, although not quite at the same level as Ginny. He had assumed the position of seeker on the Gryffindor quidditch team the year after Harry graduated, and had played well enough during his three-year stint to attract the attention of the scouts.
"Is your boss coming?" Fleur teased Padma.
The Indian woman laughed and nodded. "He wouldn't miss it for the world."
The 'boss' in question was Justin Finch-Fletchly. After leaving Hogwarts he had struggled, like many muggleborns, to determine his place in the world – primarly wizarding, primarily muggle, or some balance of both. He had eventually decided to use his family contacts to start a crossover business, importing useful muggle items into the wizarding world. He was familiar with the Misuse of Muggle Objects regulations, which prohibited enchanting muggle objects to do something other than their original intended function, but didn't have a problem with it since the items he sold were only used for their original purpose.
When he discussed his idea with his fellow muggleborn Hermione, she informed him about her Charms honors project. Justin immediately saw the implications of making electronic devices able to function in the wizarding world, and negotiated a licensing agreement with her. The problem was that the enchantments she discovered were not easy to cast, and not just any witch or wizard was able to make them work properly.
When she heard of this Hermione offered to do the enchanting herself in her spare time. Justin would purchase the devices in bulk, ship them to a dropoff point where Dobby would transport them to Potter Manor, and Hermione would perform the enchantment. Then the shipping process would be reversed. Justin was also smart enough to recognize that he had a potential public relations gold mine on his hands. With Hermione's agreement, and another licensing fee, he was permitted to use her name in marketing. Eventually 'Granger Enchanted' would become the trademark signifying the highest quality in charmed muggle goods. Even when others saw his success and started competing product lines, customers would prefer and pay more for Justin's items. The whole concept soon became a very lucrative undertaking for both parties, and the Potters and the Finch-Fletchlys grew even wealthier.
When Padma returned from India, Hermione was pregnant with her third child, and Padma offered to help. Being an extremely capable witch herself, she learned how to do the enchantments and took over that task for her best friend. Then they decided that they could eliminate the shipping cycle and Padma could go to Justin's plant and do the enchanting there. Her time spent traveling with Harry and Hermione, plus her years spent living with them, had familiarized her enough with the muggle world that she knew how these electronics functioned and what they were used for, so was able to tell when an item had been successfully enchanted. She now spent several hours a day at this task, hence Fleur's joking reference to Justin being her boss.
As for their other classmates, Justin's fellow Hufflepuffs Hannah Abbott and Ernie Macmillan had married and now had three children, two of whom attended Potter Academy. Ernie had joined the Ministry, and was advancing at a rapid rate. Ron was betting that he would eventually become Minister of Magic. Harry thought Bill was more likely, while Hermione suspected that Tracey Davis could give both of them a run for their money if she decided to act on her political ambitions.
With regard to the other Gryffindors, Dean Thomas had taken up painting, and had also managed to straddle the magical and non-magical world. His studio had both normal pictures and wizarding ones. A painting of his of Harry, Hermione, and Ron showing them together just before the final battle hung in the entrance hall of Potter Manor, and a more intimate one of just her and Harry was in their bedroom.
Seamus had fulfilled what he claimed was every Irishman's dream and purchased (with Harry's assistance) his own pub, the Hog's Head in Hogsmeade, when Aberforth Dumbledore died a few years after his brother. In return for Harry's help he kept his ears open for information gleaned from the shady characters who frequented the place. Although he cleaned it up a bit, the tavern kept its rather dodgy reputation, which appealed to upper year students from Hogwarts who wanted a bit of a thrill. Seamus would regale them with tales of some of the bizarre things that he claimed had happened during his years at Hogwarts. Few of the students in his enraptured audience ever suspected that most of the stories were actually true.
"And we're sure this is going to work with the schedules of our quidditch stars?" Hermione confirmed.
"Yes," Fleur responded. "Ginny says she'll be off that entire week, and Viktor's schedule will be the same.
This was the year of the Quidditch World Cup, and England and Bulgaria had both reached the semifinals, which would take place during the middle of July. If their teams both won, as expected, Ginny and Viktor would resume training in early August and would meet each other for the championship at the end of the month. This would be Ginny's second World Cup, but her first time in the finals. For Viktor it would be his fifth, and potentially his third championship. It was widely speculated that this might be his final season.
Once things had calmed down after the final battle Viktor had rejoined the Bulgarian team. Due in no small part to the fact that he had been away from the game for a year, they did not reach the finals for another shot at the title they had narrowly lost to Ireland prior to Hermione and Harry's fourth year. During the preliminary rounds, though, he had secured tickets for his comrades in arms to come to watch the matches, particularly a certain blonde Ravenclaw. Luna attended every one of his matches, as did Ron. Harry and Hermione had joined them at the last two, and it was quite an experience for Hermione. On one side of her sat Luna, with her stream of consciousness commentary on the match that resembled free association more than anything else, and on her other side was Harry, whose remarks on Viktor's strategy and the match in general were always concise and to the point.
The following academic year Viktor had returned to Hogwarts to help out where he could and to resume his role of mentor to the Slytherin students. He also managed to spend quite a bit of time 'helping' the Head Girl from Ravenclaw. McGonagall had confessed to Hermione that she had faced something of a dilemma over whether to appoint Ginny or Luna to the position, since both had shown excellent leadership the previous year. Ginny had deduced her headmistress's difficulty, and commented to Hermione that while Head Girl would be an honor, what she was really looking forward to was being quidditch captain. Hermione dutifully relayed this sentiment to McGonagall and the problem was solved. While Molly wasn't happy with the result, Ginny had stopped being concerned about her mother's wishes by that point.
To many people's surprise, Luna turned out to be a very good Head Girl. While the prefect meetings tended to be hilarious, with her occasional off the wall comments, she always managed to get her point across and was always on top of things. She had an uncanny ability to spot problems developing ahead of time, and solve them before most people even knew something was amiss.
She married Viktor promptly upon graduation, and the two of them toured the world. During quidditch season she traveled along with him to all his practices and matches, and during the off season he traveled along with her, searching for whatever strange creature had caught her fancy at the time. They didn't have any children yet, but Hermione knew that they both wanted them, and suspected that this would be the impetus for Viktor's retirement if the rumors turned out to be true.
They had made quite a bit of progress with their planning and were about to call it a day when they heard footsteps approaching and Lily's head peeked around the corner of their privacy screen. "Daddy says to tell you that supper's almost ready and that Grandma and Grandpa will be here in fifteen minutes. And he wants to know if you're done planning his surprise birthday party yet so that he can come out and join you and enjoy the view."
The young girl looked out from the sundeck and her eyes roamed about the yard, clearly curious as to why the view would be better from this spot than from any other. Then she glanced back at the three witches reclining on the lounge chairs struggling to keep a straight face and her eyes narrowed in suspicion. Hermione and Fleur, who had no problems with Harry seeing them topless, turned to Padma, who glanced down at her own uncovered breasts, shrugged, and nodded.
"Don't worry, Lily, Daddy's just guessing about his birthday party," Hermione told her daughter, partly to alleviate her concern and partly to change the subject. "He knows we'll be having a party, but he doesn't know about any of the details, OK?" The bright young witch nodded her understanding. "And we're finished here so tell him he can come out and sit with us if he wants to." As the Potter daughter skipped away back to the pool, Padma rolled onto her stomach and the others banished the pads of parchment to her room for safekeeping.
A fresh from the pool and thoroughly soaked Harry poked his head around the corner and grinned at them. "And what are my three favorite witches plotting out here?" Hermione jumped up and pulled him into a wet hug, and could not help but admire how good he still looked in his brief swimsuit. He had put on some weight in the intervening years as well, but he got more exercise than she did and was still relatively fit.
When Hermione finished her hug Fleur was next. As she wrapped her arms around Harry she wiggled her torso a bit, teasing him as she always did, then leaned back and kissed him on both cheeks. To Harry's surprise he found Padma embracing him as soon as Fleur was done. Hermione and Fleur giggled as his eyes widened when he felt her bare chest pressing against his and noticed that his hands on her back didn't encounter any fabric. He pulled back a little and Padma shot him a mischievous look with her dark brown eyes, then turned quickly before he got more than a brief glimpse of her and lay back down on her lounge chair, her face flushed at the thought of how bold she had just been.
Harry just shook his head in a what-am-I-going-to-do-with-these-women manner and moved over to Hermione. There he flopped down on her lounger chair and pulled her on top of him, where she immediately snuggled into his chest, causing the other two women to roll their eyes and groan. Ten minutes later Lily came back to announce the arrival of Dan and Emma. When she saw her parents cuddling together she put her hand on her hip, let out a deep sigh, and rolled her eyes in such a perfect imitation of her mother that Padma and Fleur burst into laughter. With that, they all got up and Harry chased a shrieking Lily back toward the pool while the three women got dressed and they all headed in for dinner.
Saturday, July 31, 2010
The feast had been concluded, and the guests of honor had been persuaded to say a few words (very few, given their natural reticence) and Hermione was relaxing out on the back lawn of the manor, taking a short break from the crowd of well-wishers. She noticed Susan approaching her with an eager look on her face, and the former Hufflepuff quietly asked if they could talk in private. Hermione rose and they began walking toward the woods.
"I have some good news and I wanted you to be the first to know," Susan whispered.
"Let me guess, you're pregnant again," Hermione smiled back as Susan nodded happily.
"Not only that, but it's going to be a girl!" she gushed.
"Oh that's wonderful!" Hermione wrapped her friend up in a hug.
"I wanted to talk to you about her name," Susan went on as they reached the edge of the woods and stopped.
"Oh," Hermione returned, caught momentarily by surprise. "You're not still thinking of …" Susan shook her head, still smiling. Hermione gave her a quizzical look. "On no, not Harriet," she began to object. But Susan shook her head again.
"We were thinking Amelia Jane." Hermione felt her eyes tearing up and hugged Susan again.
"I think that would be lovely. I'm so happy for you." The two women spent a few minutes talking about the details of Susan's pregnancy and then walked back toward the manor house hand in hand. As they neared the rest of the group there was another redhead waiting for her.
"Hey, Hermione," Ginny called out jokingly. "Mind if I have a turn?"
"Guess it's my day to hear about big news," Hermione said slyly. Ginny turned and looked questioningly at her sister-in-law and Susan beamed and nodded. Ginny's squeal turned the heads of some nearby partiers and the two Weasley women hugged. After giving Ginny some details, Susan left them and went back to the house to share her good news with a few others.
"So, what's your story?" Hermione asked as she and Ginny retraced the route that she had just taken with Susan.
"Well, for starters, I'm retiring from professional quidditch," Ginny grinned at her. Hermione's jaw dropped.
"So, had enough of the celebrity lifestyle?" she teased after she regained her speaking ability.
"Actually, yes," the smaller girl replied. "I'll play until after the World Cup final and then I'm done."
"And …?" Hermione prompted, knowing there was more to the story than this.
"I'll be joining the staff at Hogwarts as a flying instructor." This generated yet another excited hug. "With the postwar babies starting this fall, they're expecting their largest class ever," Ginny continued. "Over the next few years they'll be doubling their staff, so that they have two professors for every position," she explained. "This year besides flying and coaching quidditch I'll be helping out a bit in Charms and Defense as well."
"Oh, that's fantastic," Hermione replied, hugging her again. "I'm sure you'll love it. Have you told anyone else yet?"
"Fleur, just now," Ginny answered as they broke apart and began walking again. "She thinks it's perfect. Says now there'll be someone there who can keep Hermione under control." The older Hermione laughed. That was probably true, since the young part-veela who was her namesake idolized her glamorous, quidditch-star aunt.
"You know, I'm surprised that McGonagall hasn't got you and Harry back there yet," Ginny commented as they neared the woods.
"Well, we do sort of have a standing offer," Hermione admitted. "We might consider it after the kids are out of the house."
"Oh no, not before my children have had a chance to attend 'Potter Academy'," Ginny protested.
Hermione came to an abrupt stop and gave Ginny a long look. "Is there something else you're not telling me about?"
Ginny shrugged nonchalantly, but the corners of her mouth twitched. "Did I mention that Neville's joining the staff at Hogwarts this fall too? In Herbology," she added when Hermione didn't immediately respond. Hermione just stood there giving Ginny a piercing stare.
Finally she asked, "Is this for real or just until the next hot guy comes along?"
"Ouch." Ginny's face fell but she did not become angry at the uncomplimentary implication of the challenging question. "I guess I deserved that." She gestured for Hermione to sit and the two of them settled down on the grass by a tree. Hermione could sense Harry's concern for her through their soul bond as he wondered what had become of her, but she sent back a feeling of reassurance that she was fine.
"I've been a right idiot," Ginny began. Harry and Hermione had often shared that sentiment about her between themselves, but for now she kept silent. "Do you know why I've never dated a guy for more than a year?" Hermione nodded. It was because she compared every guy she met to Harry and none of them ever measured up. "Of course you do, you're the most brilliant witch of our generation after all," Ginny quipped with a wry smile. Then she allowed her gaze to wander off toward the quidditch pitch where a pickup game was taking place.
"You know, I fell in love with him all over again after that night you and he came after me in the broom closet," she said softly. "How can you not love a guy like that?" Hermione had no response. She did love him, after all. And she knew that Ginny had more to say.
Ginny turned back to Hermione. "If you were to list all of Harry's great qualities, how high would you put his gorgeous eyes, his cute smile, and that messy hair that makes girls want to run their hands through it?"
"Well, I like those things about him but they're not at the top of the list," Hermione replied, taking the question seriously.
"How about his fame, wealth, and influence?"
"Not very high at all."
"What about the excitement he generates in people just by being around him?" This was an insightful observation, Hermione thought. Harry did have that effect on people. And their time at Hogwarts had seemingly been one thrilling moment after another. The adventures they had experienced together had been what had brought the trio into their close friendship.
"I can see how that draws people to him, but it's not something that will sustain a relationship if there isn't more to it," Hermione answered. She knew that Ginny had long envied the three of them for those adventures and the close bonds that had resulted.
"And what about his selflessness, his willingness to think of other people before himself? The way he'll do anything for his friends?"
"You mean like go after an annoying little girl to rescue her from a troll?" Hermione suggested.
"Yeah, or take on a basilisk to rescue an annoying kid sister," Ginny added. "Or go after a former girlfriend to keep her from making a mess of her life."
"That one's pretty high up," Hermione agreed.
Ginny leaned back and sighed. "I've been looking for all the wrong things. All this time …" She turned toward Hermione again. "Who am I dating now?"
Hermione thought for a moment. Usually it was easy to follow Ginny's love life from the stories about her in the wizarding tabloids. But there hadn't been anything for quite a few months. "I can't recall reading anything at all this year so far," she admitted.
"I spent quite a bit of time with Neville at Christmas," Ginny continued. "Did you know that he's been my best friend since we left school? We talk all the time. He's always been there for me whenever I needed advice, encouragement, congratulations, or a shoulder to cry on." Hermione was wondering how the two of them had managed to stay in such close contact when Ginny smirked at her and added, "After the battle Daphne gave us a pair of the charmed mirrors you made. I didn't realize it at the time but she was trying to get us together all through the tournament by making me jealous."
Hermione nodded while things fell into place in her mind. They had been surprised that Neville hadn't stayed another year at Hogwarts to apprentice under Sprout, in order to stay close to either Ginny or Daphne. Of course, when Daphne set her sights on Charlie that part of the mystery had been cleared up. But now it turned out that Neville and Ginny had been in contact all along. And Molly had been annoyed that Ginny had spent so little time at home during the holidays.
"Well, at Christmas time, Neville asked me if I had gotten everything out of my system yet," Ginny said as she resumed her tale. "And I finally got it. All the things I wanted in a guy, all the really important things, I had right in front of me all along. I just had to grow up and get over all the fantasies. I can't believe it took me so long."
"Well, stubbornness is a Weasley family trait, and a few of you have been known to have thick skulls," Hermione teased while wiping some moisture from her eye, realizing now where this conversation was going.
"So anyway, we've been seeing each other since then, and now we agree that we're ready to move our relationship to that next step," Ginny admitted.
"I can't believe the two of you have been keeping that a secret for this long," Hermione exclaimed.
"Yeah, pretty Slytherin of us, huh?" Ginny grinned. "But we wanted to make sure it would work before we told anyone. You guys would have been all over us and you know how my family is." Hermione had to agree with that sentiment. That kind of pressure was not conducive to nurturing a fledgling relationship, particularly when the two participants had known each other for so long.
Ginny rolled toward Hermione and propped herself up on her elbow. "During your last year, you slept with Harry in the Head Suite, didn't you?" Hermione choked a bit before she could clear her throat and answer. She had not expected the conversation to take a turn like this.
"We shared a bed, if that's what you mean." At the question in Ginny's eyes she clarified. "We didn't actually have sex until we were married."
Ginny snorted. "Yet another thing in common between Neville Longbottom and the Boy Who Lived." Now it was Hermione's turn for the questioning look. "He wants to wait too."
"And you …?" Hermione inquired delicately.
"How many guys do you think I've slept with, Hermione?" Ginny asked with an unreadable expression on her face. Hermione shrugged, not wanting to guess. She only knew of one boyfriend for sure that Ginny hadn't had sex with. Now Ginny grinned at her. "Not a one." Hermione tried not to show her surprise, but failed, causing Ginny to break into laughter. "It's amazing how creative the newspapers can be. But none of my relationships have ever lasted that long. I've always ended them before they got that serious." Hermione nodded both her understanding and that she believed the younger girl. "Neville's known all along," Ginny added. "I think that's part of why he's been so patient. And to tell the truth, I think a big reason I haven't is that I didn't want him to think poorly of me." Hermione pondered that assertion and decided that it made sense. Wanting to maintain Harry's good opinion of her would have been enough to cause her to refrain from going too far with a guy as well, back when they were just very close friends.
"So, why did you ask about the Head Suite?" Hermione asked, getting back to Ginny's original question.
"We're planning to ask McGonagall if we can share living quarters at Hogwarts," Ginny replied. "I was thinking it seemed weird that we would be sleeping together but not having sex. But now that I know that we have such excellent role models …" she explained teasingly.
Hermione reached out and smacked her on the arm, then turned serious. "Do you really think McGonagall will let you do that?" she asked doubtfully.
"Have you ever been in the faculty quarters at Hogwarts?" Ginny queried, temporarily avoiding the question.
"Yes, when my parents taught there."
"That's right. Well, Neville visited his gran also, but you're the exception," Ginny responded. "Most students have no idea where the faculty quarters even are. I couldn't even tell you which of our professors were married, other than Remus and Tonks and your parents." Hermione supposed she agreed with that. "My point is that they're very private, and I'm pretty sure that they take the view that what the faculty do on their own time is their business." Hermione conceded that might be the case. "And besides," Ginny concluded with a smirk, "she's pretty anxious to hire us, so we have some negotiating room."
Hermione laughed, and the two friends fell into a comfortable silence. Hermione was inwardly ecstatic that things had finally worked out for the two Gryffindors. Once again she could sense Harry's curiosity through their bond, and she knew she would need to get back soon to satisfy it. She climbed to her feet, then reached down to give Ginny a hand up. She wrapped the smaller girl in a tight hug, then kept her arm around her as they walked back toward the house.
Beside her Ginny was bubbling with excitement, having shared the secret that she had kept for the past half year. "Yes," she sighed. "I've finally found my knight in shining armor. And he has all of the really important qualities of the Boy Who Lived." Hermione smilingly agreed with her. Then Ginny giggled. "Except for the scar."
A/N I toyed with the idea of ending this story with the word 'scar' and wrote the previous scene accordingly. But then, I'm not doing anything else in this story the way JKR would, so why start now?
September 1, 2020
Even more than twenty years after Voldemort's final defeat, Hermione Granger-Potter still commanded instant respect in the wizarding world, and the anteroom full of nervous first years immediately fell silent. Many of them stared in awe at the woman who was the most famous witch in Britain, and most likely all of Europe, as they awaited her instructions. When all was ready, she opened the doors and the new Arithmency Professor, Head of Gryffindor House, and Assistant Headmistress led the procession into the Great Hall.
After twenty years as an Unspeakable, Hermione knew that it had been time to move on, and she had known all along where her career would ultimately lead. Now she was back at Hogwarts and she and Harry were looking forward to many decades at the place where it had all begun for them.
Since she and Harry had both worked in the Department of Mysteries, she had kept her maiden name for professional use, and it would be no different here. And so as she approached the Head Table, where her husband smiled at her from the golden chair once occupied by Albus Dumbledore, Professor Granger motioned her charges to stop and picked up the Sorting Hat from the stool.
As the sorting wound slowly through the alphabet, Hermione permitted herself an occasional glance around the large room, noting the faces of so many of her friends who had also ended up back here. Ginny, Neville, Charlie, Daphne, and Padma all were seated at the Head Table on either side of Harry. For whatever reason, likely in large part because they had put their lives on the line for this school, her class had felt an especially strong connection to the ancient castle.
Finally, two thirds of the way through the sorting, a grinning sandy-haired boy stepped forward, and no one in the hall would begrudge the bit of moisture that gathered in her eyes as Hermione called out his name and lowered the hat onto the head of her youngest son.
"Brian Potter." A hush fell over the large room as everyone awaited the ancient artifact's decision. Hermione's eyes once more locked with Harry's and they shared the same feelings of pride and anticipation through their soul bond. Just as it had with her other two children, the hat took its time, noting that this child had characteristics that would fit in well with each of the houses – intelligence, loyalty, cunning, and courage. But in the end, there was really only one choice.
Final A/N – And so it ends. At the conclusion of Sunset/Sunrise Over Britain Bob and Alyx both commented on the mixed feelings they had about completing the story. I understand how they felt. I've been writing fan fiction for almost two years now, having started a few weeks after HBP came out, and have posted more than 600,000 words. I never dreamed that would happen when I began. I was skeptical of my ability to get up to 100,000 words on my first story and I thought that would be it. By contrast, my PhD dissertation was less than 50,000 words. (Trust me, you do NOT want to read it.)
Before I forget I want to acknowledge my wife who had been proofreading this story and offering valuable advice. She's been remarkably supportive of my writing. And I need to thank my daughters for not being embarrassed about the stuff their dad writes. You may have noticed that there's a fair bit of preaching and moralizing in these stories.
One of the last decisions I had to make for this story was what careers to give Harry and Hermione. Unspeakable is one I haven't seen too often in other stories. The one that comes immediately to mind is 'The Wrath of Hermione' by pstibbons on Portkey. One thing I've tried to do in my stories has been to occasionally move the plot in an unexpected direction – throw in a twist on the normal fan fiction clichés. An example in this story was the Ginny/Neville romance. So many post-Hogwarts HHr stories have Harry dating around (or sleeping around) with a string of gorgeous women before realizing that he loves the woman who had been his friend for years. Here the twist is that it's Ginny who does that with Neville instead of Harry with Hermione. Also, at the end Ginny shoots Voldemort with a high-powered rifle where in most similar stories it's Harry at the trigger. Another is having Ron be perfectly OK with Harry and Hermione getting together. And, I suppose, the whole premise of this story is a twist on the dozens of fics that start out with Hermione revealing that she never felt 'that way' about Ron in that this one starts out with Ron revealing that he never felt 'that way' about Hermione.
I also feel, despite a couple of reviewers' assertions to the contrary, that I've faithfully followed canon through HBP in all of my stories. I know JKR may intend the final pairings to be different than they end up in my stories, but as of this date (June 29, 2007) I haven't contradicted anything that actually happened in her stories so far.
Another thing that has been interesting is how many of my ideas have started showing up in other fanfics. I guess imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but I would appreciate an acknowledgement when that happens. I've tried to do the same when I've borrowed ideas from other authors. (At times, it may seem like I used someone else's idea because of how much lead time I write with, but I actually thought of it before the other person posted it. That happened once with 'Soul Searching' and 'Tom and Harry'. Old Crow and I independently came up with the same idea, which was interesting since we were each proofreading the other's stories at the time.)
So, what next? I'm going to write one more chapter for 'The Ritual' in the next week or two, and I have two ideas kicking around for short stories that may or may not come to anything, but beyond that I have no idea. There's a good possibility that after Deathly Hallows comes out I won't feel like writing any more, so this may be it. This writing has pretty much completely dominated my spare time for the last two years, and my wife has been incredibly patient with it, but … If so, well, it's been a lot of fun.