Hermione's brilliance, Harry's Patronus, Muggle science and Magic are going to try and bring back two people dead to the world they know for more than a decade. There will not be a lot of action in this chapter, as it is setting the scene for the rest of the story, and catching the reader up on what has happened since the end of HBP. Have faith though, the task they have set themselves will not be as easy as they think.
Science and Magic, Desperation and Despair
Hermione Granger was waiting for Harry Potter to come by and take her to some sort of official function. Ever since she had broken off the relationship with Ron Weasley over differences in opinions (meaning Hermione wanted Ron to have an opinion on something besides Quidditch,) Harry had used her to keep the hordes of 'idiot women' from swarming over him.
It had been two years since Harry had killed Voldemort on Halloween of what should have been their seventh year. They had gone back to Hogwarts for their seventh year the next year, and Harry had ignored the Ministry affairs and functions then, citing the pressures of the NEWTs as the reason.
Since they had left school though, he had gradually been forced to attend several of them, as his position as the youngest holder of the Order of Merlin, First Class and the newest member of the Wizengamot required that he play the unending and Machiavellian game called politics.
Harry had gone to the first one alone, and been very nearly attacked by women that wanted to be Mrs. Potter, or simply wanted to be his girlfriend, lover or anything else he had in mind.
Harry wasn't interested though, still in mourning over Ginny Weasley, killed in Voldemort's attack on Hogwarts that fateful Halloween. The next time one of those events he couldn't miss had come around, he'd asked his oldest female friend to accompany him, knowing that Hermione at least, would treat him like a man, and not something to be worshipped or possessed.
Hermione smiled briefly at that thought and picked up one of her parent's magazines from the coffee table. Hermione still lived at home with her parents while she attended University, simply because their house was close to the campus and it was a great deal cheaper than a flat.
Hermione was never going to be any type of Muggle medical doctor, but she had a basic understanding of it, from listening to her parents and their friends around the dinner table and at parties. Like most people, the Granger's friends were very similar to themselves, meaning that they were dentists, doctors, nurses or connected in one way or another to medicine.
Until Hermione had gotten a very strange letter one day, followed by a visit from an even stranger person, she'd thought to follow in her parents footsteps and she still tried to keep up with the latest news in medicine.
She was reading an interesting article when the doorbell rang and she answered the door with her head still buried in the magazine. "Hello, Harry," she said absently as she let Harry in.
Harry Potter smiled as he saw a familiar sight. If he ever came over here and Hermione didn't have a book within arm's reach, he'd have her off to St. Mungo's as quick as he could. "Hello Hermione," he said, well aware that she wouldn't have heard him if he said "I'm going to have a baby", at least until she finished whatever she was reading.
He sat down on the couch that had become his favourite sanctuary from the Wizard world and the pressure they put him under. Being the youngest member of the Wizengamot and the youngest holder of the Order of Merlin, First Class was not a picnic in Harry's opinion.
Between the never ending politics, which Harry was beginning to use as a swear word, and the women, he was giving serious thought to becoming a hermit, or pretending to be as crazy as any of the Dumbledore's had ever been.
"Albus and his brother had the right idea," he mused, "act a little different, make people wonder about your sanity, and they'd leave you alone, not knowing what would cause you to turn them into frogs."
Harry looked up and rose as Mrs. Granger came into the room. "Hello, Mrs. Granger," he said warmly.
Mary Granger smiled at Harry. He was her favourite Wizard in the world, and she wasn't shy about letting him know that. "Hello, Harry. Taking Hermione off to another function?"
Harry grimaced. "The Wizengamot has decided that since I refuse to come out in public on Halloween, that they will celebrate Voldemort's defeat one week early, and I have been 'requested' to be present," he said irritably.
Mrs. Granger frowned. "Tell them to go to hell, Harry. It would do you and them a world of good."
Harry smiled wistfully. "I wish I could, but I finally got the Wizengamot to agree that the other people that fought for Hogwarts that night deserve a reward as well, and they're presenting the awards tonight. In return for that, I have to present them."
Mrs. Granger blinked. She looked at Hermione and back at Harry. He read the look and smirked. He bent over close to Mrs. Granger and whispered in her ear. "Ron and Hermione are getting the Order of Merlin, First Class for their work in helping to destroy the Horcruxes that kept Voldemort alive, and the rest of the DA is getting either second or third class awards."
Harry's face went dark. "Those that died defending the school will get the Order of Merlin, First Class as well."
Mrs Granger sighed. "I'm sorry, Harry. I know what she meant to you."
Harry shook his head, trying to dispel the vision of the young girl that had not survived her third encounter with Voldemort. He looked up as Hermione put the magazine down and looked at him. Hermione might be oblivious to everything when she was reading, but she'd known Harry for nine very intense years and she came over and hugged him as she saw how upset he was. "What idiocy is being fostered off on you now?" she demanded.
Harry grinned at her. "I have to present some awards at the dinner tonight, celebrating the second anniversary of Voldemort's defeat." He hugged her back briefly while she thought about what he'd said.
Harry and Hermione were still only friends as they told their friends. Neither of them was twenty-one yet and neither of them was in any hurry to start dating anyone. Harry had too many obligations and Hermione had a Muggle's attitude, that marriage could wait for after school and her career
Hermione blinked and smiled. "You got the Wizengamot to recognize the DA then?" She froze, staring at Harry. "Harry," she said, staring at him as her mother snickered.
"Yes, Hermione?" Harry said innocently.
She stared at him and groaned. "You got them to give me something, didn't you? After I asked you not to do that."
Harry looked at her sternly. "Yes, I did," he said fiercely, watching her start in surprise at his tone. "I did it for several reasons. First and most important, you deserve as much as anyone to be recognized for your work. Ron and I would never have found and destroyed all the Horcruxes without you, and you know it." Harry stared at her until she looked away, silently admitting he was right.
"Second, as a holder of the Order of Merlin, First Class, you'll automatically get a seat on the Wizengamot, and I need all the help I can get there. The Purebloods still control nearly seventy percent of the seats, and Neville and I aren't making a lot of headway against alliances in place since before we were born."
Harry grinned savagely then. "Last, as the youngest and only living Muggleborn holder of the Order, you'll be a banner for change, change I plan on ramming down the throats of the Wizard world, if I have to personally duel every bloody bigoted, racist arse in the magical world."
Mrs Granger cheered. "Go get them, Harry."
Hermione flashed her mother a glare and turned to face Harry. "I'm not ready for this, I don't have new robes, I haven't done my hair or anything." She glared at Harry when he laughed. "It's not funny. Appearing with you is one thing, they ignore me to talk about you, but this is going to be me on the front page of the Prophet."
Harry was still smiling. "I'm sorry, Hermione, but hearing you channel Lavender like that was just funny." He sighed as she glared at him. "Honestly, Hermione, you're a Witch. Fix your hair. I came over an hour early, just so you'd have time to get ready tonight."
He looked at her fondly. "Did you really think I would allow you, of all people, to be ridiculed by those Politicians?" Harry said politicians in the same tone most people used to describe something smelly on the bottom of their shoe. He reached into his robes and pulled out a package.
He tapped it with his wand and it grew into a much larger package. "I am reliably informed that the robes in here are perfect for you, and quite nice enough to receive any award in." He handed the robes to Hermione and looked at his watch pointedly. "You only have forty minutes left. I would hurry if I were you, or you may still be half naked when we leave."
Hermione turned and started up the stairs only to turn around and glare at Harry. "I'm going to get you for this, Harry." She looked at the robes in her arms and smiled. "Thank you." She went up the stairs and soon Harry could feel the faintest trace of her magic.
Mrs. Granger had watched the byplay with some amusement. "Nicely handled, Harry."
Harry turned innocent eyes on her. "What do you mean, Mrs. Granger? I got Ron some new robes as well, and warned him about tonight, why wouldn't I do the same for Hermione?"
Mrs. Granger checked the stairwell, making sure that Hermione was still upstairs. "And how much of this was due to that article the day after you took Hermione to the Minister's Garden Ball, the one that said she had all the fashion sense of a hedgehog?"
Harry smiled again, only this time, it was not a friendly smile. "Some of it," he admitted, "but we both know that unless you hold her at wand point, she'd rather spend that money on books than new robes that only get worn a few times."
Mrs. Granger smiled. "What is the point of wasting Galleons on something I wear just once or twice, and only to places I don't want to be, to be seen by people I don't like and don't care about?" she said, imitating Hermione very well. "On the other hand, there's a very nice copy of Fickleknocker's "The Arte of Greater Rune Making" in Flourish and Blotts that I could get, and it is ever so much more practical."
Harry was laughing by the time Mrs. Granger finished her mimicry. "Bravo," said Harry, clapping softly. "A stellar performance."
"What tomfoolery is my wife into now?"
Harry turned and grinned at Mr. Granger. "Nothing, really. Just a bit of imitation."
Mr. Granger frowned at his wife suspiciously, although she wasn't doing anything. "I don't actually snore like that," he protested, drawing a strange look from Harry, who had no idea what he was talking about. "She just like to tease me about it."
Harry grinned as he caught the glint in Mrs. Granger's eye. "Actually, she was imitating Hermione," Harry said and turned to Mrs. Granger. "But now that he's mentioned it, I'd like to hear this imitation as well."
Mr Granger looked at the smiles on their faces and sighed. "I stuck my foot in it again, didn't I?"
Harry was about to say something when he caught a motion out of the corner of his eye and turned to look. Hermione was coming down the stairs and Harry just stared for a minute.
Hermione had never been one for dressing up, and the last time Harry had seen her looking like this had been at the Triwizard Tournament Ball. Even then, Harry had noticed she was very different, but he'd not thought of her as beautiful. The graceful young lady that was descending the stairs was beautiful. Her hair was pulled back and tamed with some magic that Harry wished he could use on his hair and light make-up accented the large, warm brown eyes. Her lips were lined in some colour that Harry couldn't name but went well with her colouring in his opinion.
The robes he'd had Lavender and Padma make for her showed him that Hermione no longer rated the title girl. This was a woman, and one that had grown into her own quite well.
Harry shook his head, unaware of the amused look Mrs. Granger was giving him or the glare of Mr. Granger. He met Hermione at the bottom of the stairs and held out his hand. "I have a Portkey, or we can Apparate if you would prefer."
Hermione had seen Harry's look as she descended the stairs and being aware that he saw her as a woman for the first time had made her take a second look at Harry.
Harry would never be the tallest Wizard, but he was a couple of inches taller than she was, and his best feature didn't depend on size anyway. Those eyes, intent and still as vivid as the day she had met him on the train to Hogwarts nine years ago.
Harry had no idea how he affected women when he looked at them, and Hermione wasn't going to tell him. When Harry looked at a person, it was as if you were the only person he saw and it was oddly intimate, even in a crowd of hundreds, as if he erected a barrier between the two of you and the rest of the world. That made a woman feel safe, cherished and warm, and was the main reason that women would do almost anything to get him to notice them.
Add that shock of hair, which was always the same length and just as messy no matter how often it was cut or what magic or Muggle hair treatments were tried and the itch almost every woman got to try and run her fingers through it and straighten it out, and Hermione was always surprised that some woman had not found the key to Harry's heart yet.
She blinked as that thought sent a pang through her. She looked at Harry, not giving any sign of the turmoil rising in her chest as she reached up and tried to make the bangs fall a little more evenly. "Apparation, I think," she said in response to his comment. She smiled at him. "We don't need you falling on your face in front of the Wizengamot," she teased gently, "they might start to think you're not The Man Who Killed Voldemort and Freed The World."
Harry winced at the capitals plain in her tone. "One more comment like that and I'll leave you with Umbridge and Skeeter after you get your award."
Hermione smiled in a way that made Harry stare at her. "Please do, Harry. I have a couple of new spells I could test on them."
Hermione had never forgiven Rita for the stories during fourth year, and she'd never had a chance to show Umbridge exactly what she thought of her treatment of Harry during her tenure as DADA Instructor. Hermione fingered her wand and mentally ran over the spell she was saving for the moment that she could show Umbridge what she thought about her.
Harry touched her cheek hesitantly, calling her back to the present, and Hermione looked up into Harry's eyes. They froze for a long instant, lost in each other's eyes without knowing why, or what had happened to the other person. Harry shook his head, and offered Hermione his arm. "Shall we be off, my lady?" Harry's tone was light, but the oddly intent glance he gave her made Hermione blush for no reason she could name.
She responded in the same tone. "We shall, my lord."
It was Harry's turn to blush as they walked to the door that led to the garage and stepped outside. The two of them were so busy shooting sideways glances at each other that they didn't notice Mrs. Granger pulling Hermione's father back.
They disappeared with a muted crack and Mrs. Granger sighed. "Finally. I was beginning to think they'd never catch on."
Mr. Granger shook his head. "Would you mind explaining to me what you're talking about? All I saw was Harry staring at Hermione and them being themselves."
Mrs. Granger sighed. "Come along, dear, and I'll draw you a picture." She shook her head. "Men."
OoOoOoO The Ministry Ballroom. OoOoOoO
Harry and Hermione appeared in the Ballroom. As a member of the Wizengamot and his guest, they didn't have to go through the checkpoint where other people got their tags.
They had barely appeared when Harry was being hailed by four or five different people, but Harry and Hermione only heard one voice. "Harry, Hermione!"
They turned and smiled as Ron Weasley came up and grabbed them both in a hug. "How are you guys? Did you see my last game?"
Harry broke the hug and looked at Ron with a smile. Ron had made second string Keeper for his beloved Chudley Cannons after they left school, and a well aimed, or poorly aimed, depending on your viewpoint, Bludger to the Keeper's head had given Ron the job for at least the rest of the year.
He was dressed in the robes Harry had gotten him this time, and that was a good thing, as far as Harry was concerned, since the robes Ron had gotten after he made the team were in the glaring orange of his team, and Harry didn't want a eye strain headache tonight.
Hermione smiled fondly at Ron. They'd parted with a few harsh words, but they'd made up nearly a year ago and they were back to the friends they'd been before fourth year, when they had started having feelings for each other and not known how to express them.
Ron was a great guy, loyal and brave, and with a two track mind. Hermione blushed as she remembered how much she'd liked one of those tracks, but she wanted something more than a purely physical relationship, and while they'd never quite gone all the way, it had been a very close thing a few times.
What had finally broken them up was Ron's obsession with Quidditch when he wasn't snogging or touching her. Hermione had at least a dozen things going at any given time, and she like to talk them out, as it gave her new ideas and avenues to use, but Ron knew nothing but Quidditch, and wouldn't listen when she tried to talk about something else.
Harry was talking Quidditch with Ron and Hermione looked around. It looked like most of their year that had survived that last battle was here tonight, along with quite a few that had been in Ginny's year and Dennis Creevey's year. She sobered for a minute, reminded again of the losses they'd suffered when Voldemort and Snape had led the attack on Hogwarts.
Dennis had fallen early, jumping in front of a Killing Curse aimed at Harry's back and Ginny had been captured by Snape and Draco Malfoy in an effort to get Harry to surrender. It hadn't worked because Ginny had found the strength to throw off the Imperius, and shown Snape just why you didn't want to annoy a Weasley woman. She'd gutted him with a knife from the Potions classroom, an ironic twist that Hermione found only too fitting.
She'd paid for that a minute later as Bellatrix Lestrange killed her, but that had been the turning point of the fight. Harry had gone slightly insane at that point and few people could accurately report what had happened after that. Harry had been everywhere it seemed, and everywhere he went, Death Eaters died until he met Voldemort and Nagini, the last of the Horcruxes in an empty classroom.
What had happened in that classroom was known to only one living being, and Harry simply refused to discuss it. All anyone could say is that Voldemort and Nagini had been fused together, as if splinched together and they were both very, very dead.
The rest of the Death Eater had lost heart when Harry came out of the room, covered in blood and gore, seriously wounded but still alive and carrying Voldemort's head. Six inches of Nagini's tail sticking out of his forehead had convinced even Lucius Malfoy that Voldemort was gone and the only other person to die after that was Bellatrix Lestrange.
Her insanity had not let her quit, and she'd kept fighting until Neville had found her. Hermione would never forget kind, gentle Neville looking at Bellatrix and pointing his wand. "Accio Bellatrix's lungs," was all he'd said, and then he'd stood there, watching as she died, drowning in her own blood, with no lungs to breathe or get off a final curse. Nobody had ever found her lungs, and Hermione had a sneaking suspicion that Neville had kept them to show to his parents, still in the ward at St. Mungo's.
Something about that thought rang a dim bell in the back of her head, but she couldn't place it and a familiar sight made her forget about it. She looked at Harry, making sure the women were leaving him alone still and she stepped over to the man unloading the food for later. She found Lucy, the girl that had been Ginny's room mate and friend and jerked her head at the man she'd seen. Lucy saw him and grinned. She didn't know what Hermione had in mind, but if she wanted help tormenting that git, Lucy was only too happy to help.
Lucy came over and Hermione embraced her. "Hello, Lucy, how are you?" Hermione was talking to Lucy, but her attention was on the thin man and it was rewarded when he heard her voice. He jerked and then stiffened, fighting the urge to turn around.
Lucy and Hermione chatted for a minute, always staying in earshot of their victim. "Anyway, did you hear what Harry is doing with Malfoy Manor?"
Draco Malfoy flinched again and the two women could hear his teeth grinding. No one knew exactly what Harry had done to him, not even Harry. Harry had found him after Ginny's death and he'd been so angry that all he could think of was revenge.
He'd pointed his wand at Draco and said just that. The rush of magic that had speared Draco had done three things to him. Draco was as ugly as his soul had ever been. Eyes off-centred, with snake pupils and a mouth that could make children cry even when he was smiling, something he didn't do a lot of these days. Add hair even greasier than Snape's had been and a complexion consisting mostly of weeping sores and Draco was quite ugly enough to make people vomit.
Draco was also shrinking slowly, losing about ten centimetres a year. Harry had no idea if it would ever stop, but Hermione suspected it would, as soon as Draco was smaller than Dobby.
It was the last thing that had pulled Draco's teeth and made him completely harmless. Draco could no longer cause anything pain in any fashion. Merely swatting a fly would put him in St. Mungo's for an entire day, in a pain no Potion could relieve. Causing pain, physical, mental or emotional to anything bigger than a fly caused a correspondingly larger amount of pain.
He paid over the rest of the Malfoy estate during the year that Harry was in Hogwarts to avoid Azkaban, and now he was even poorer than the Weasleys, whose fortunes had turned with the end of the war.
Lucy looked at Hermione with a smile, knowing that everything Hermione had done had led to this. "No, I haven't heard. Do tell."
Hermione smiled. "Harry used the Black fortune to fund a Muggleborn school, where Muggles with Wizard children could come and learn about the Wizard world. It's on the old Malfoy estate. There is also a charity hospital there and a retirement home for House Elves that are too old to work."
Draco was nearly quivering with suppressed fury now, and Hermione smiled. "Next week, Harry plans to announce the opening of the grounds to Werewolves during the full moon, and he's going to start a project of mine out there after that." Hermione listened to Draco snarling under his breath for a minute and gave Lucy the final bit of news. "The Centre For Racial Equality is going to fight for the rights of all sentient creatures, no matter what their shape. Goblins, Centaurs, Merfolk, House Elves, all of them will be welcome there. Harry's giving me the entire bedroom wing for my offices."
Draco turned to Hermione and his face was so filled with rage that Hermione was certain he was about to try and strike her, curse or no curse. "Are you quite done rubbing my nose in how far I've fallen?" he asked bitterly.
Hermione looked at the scum who had made Professor Dumbledore's death possible and done a dozen more crimes that couldn't be proven, as all the witnesses were dead, as well as his part in Ginny's death. "No," she said frankly, "I want you to go to your grave, knowing that Muggles and Mudbloods are in your home, and that I will make sure that your room is turned into a toilet for the non humans." Hermione used the term he'd used on her in school with relish, and saw Draco's awareness of why she'd used a word that had fallen out of favour in the wizard world, at least openly.
Hermione was fairly certain that many of the Purebloods still used it at home, but since Harry had started simply hexing anyone he heard using the term, turning them into twenty centimetre slugs, people were a lot more careful about using it in public. The Weasley twins had picked up the habit as well and Hermione had seen in the Prophet that Neville had started doing it also.
Draco quivered, and Hermione could see the urge to strike her filling him, but Draco had learned better. He fought it down and turned away.
"By the way, Draco," came a new voice and Hermione turned to see Harry watching Draco with a grim smile. "I'm sure you're learning to be a useful member of society and I'm willing to offer you a job at Malfoy Manor. I need a kennel boy to help Hagrid with some of the animals."
Draco had frozen at the sound of Harry's voice and when Harry was finished he turned again. "What would it take for you to leave me alone, Potter? Hasn't your curse done enough to me?"
Harry looked at him. "No. It will only be enough when you have felt as much pain as you made others feel during your life. Then you can die for all I care." Harry examined Draco critically, seeing the hatred Draco still held onto. Harry sighed. "Letting go of your hate, and your fear would be a good first step, Malfoy. As long as your heart is an ugly place, your exterior will match it. As you heal the damage your heart does, your body will follow."
Draco stared at Harry, a touch of hope in his eyes. "So if I can become like the rest of you, this," he indicated his face, "will change."
Harry nodded. "I'm not sure how I did it, but I made your outside match the ugliness that I saw inside you. Change the inside, and the outside will follow."
Draco stared at Harry. "Only you could create a curse and not know how you did it."
"Are you ever going to let me kill him, Harry?"
Harry turned and looked at Neville. "I've told you that so long as he is under my curse, he is under my protection."
Draco was staring at Harry, hate, anger, fear and a touch of wonder warring in his face. "You're protecting me?"
Harry simply nodded and walked away, holding Hermione's hand tightly. When they were a ways away from Draco and Neville, Harry sighed and turned to Hermione. "Hold still," he said in a low tone and swept her into a hug.
Hermione automatically put her arms around Harry and then she felt the shivers in Harry. She tightened her grip on him, and he buried his head in her neck and sighed heavily.
Hermione was very glad that she was facing away from the crowd just then because when she felt Harry's breath across her skin and ear, she knew her eyes widened, giving her the look of a small animal caught in oncoming headlights. They stood like that for a couple of minutes and then Harry let her go.
"Every time I see him, I have to convince myself not to kill him again." Harry was looking at something inside himself and not liking what he saw, Hermione realized and she poked him in the ribs.
Harry jumped, turning injured eyes on her and Hermione glared at him. "Listen to me, Harry. Everyone wants to kill him, and the only reason most of us haven't is because nobody wants to face your wrath when you find out who killed him. That you can limit yourself to mere words is amazing, considering the part he played in Ginny's death."
Harry flinched and his eyes grew cold again. He looked around the room, but Draco was gone. He was about to say something when they were interrupted. "Harry, you know you're sitting with us tonight, don't you?"
Harry smiled at Neville and Luna. "Why, yes, I did know that, since I made the seating chart for the people to be honoured tonight." He grinned at Neville's expression of relief. "No politicians at the table tonight. Just Ron and whatever Quidditch girl he brought, you and Luna, Hermione and I," Harry paused, his face going dark. "And two empty seats, one to represent all the women that couldn't be here and one for the men."
The four of them sobered as they thought about the only member of the Ministry Crew that hadn't made it to this night. Harry looked at the table. "I left them open for all the people killed by Voldemort, but to me, those seats will be occupied by Ginny and Dennis."
Ron was looking inside himself. "Ginny and Percy."
Percy Weasley had been one of the biggest surprises to come out of the war. Percy had been recruited by the Unspeakables in his last three months at Hogwarts, who saw his fussy nature as the perfect spy to send into the Ministry. The Unspeakables were the ones charged with keeping corruption out of the Ministry, and they had needed a spy. Percy had been perfect, and he'd played his part so well that it was only after the war was over that anyone, including his family knew that he'd been a spy against Voldemort's people in the Ministry.
By then, it was too late for Percy, as Voldemort had caught him in mid October. Draco had testified before the Wizengamot that even under repeated torture, Percy never broke, his resistance to breaking rules staying with him until the very end.
When Percy felt his Occlumency shields slipping under the pain, he'd done something that had put him on a pedestal for the twins. He'd waited for Voldemort to get close and pulled one of Fred and George's inventions from his pocket. He'd slapped the small lump on Voldemort and in the testimony of the only survivor of that day, told Voldemort to "Bugger off".
Draco, the sole survivor of that event, had smiled at the next memory. The lump Percy had put on Voldemort's foot was a prank from Weasley Wizard Wheezes, and a second after he placed it, Voldemort, Tom Riddle, You-Know-Who, The Dark Lord, whatever you wanted to call him, was a large pile of steaming lime green coloured poop, complete with odour.
It was only an illusion, and it had gotten Percy killed in an instant, but that was what Percy had wanted, so that he wouldn't give up any information on his fellow Unspeakables.
It had taken six hours for every member of the Wizengamot to view Draco's memory of that particular incident, and as the word spread about the Boy Who Pranked, the WWW was inundated with requests for that prank. Now called "You Know Poop", it was still a best seller.
Neville looked at Harry. "I knew a lot of the guys that won't be able to be here, and Ginny was special to me, but you know who will be in those seats for me."
All four of them knew that story. Neville's parents had been Aurors at the end of the first Voldemort war, and the Lestranges had tortured them into insanity, trying to find out what had happened to Voldemort at Godric's Hollow. They were still in the Long Term Care ward at St. Mungo's.
With proper care and a Wizard's lifespan, they might be there another seventy years. Neville still went and visited them faithfully once a week.
Hermione heard that bell in the back of her head again, something she had thought about was trying to connect to something else in her head and Hermione began methodically going over everything she'd done in the last couple of days, trying to figure out what her subconscious was trying to tell her.
Harry looked at Hermione and noted the look of concentration. He leaned over to say something to her and she turned toward him to ask if they could sit down so she could concentrate, and once again they ended up face to face and caught in each other's eyes.
Ginny's eyes had been brown, but they were a changing brown, lightening and darkening with her moods. Hermione's eyes were not like that, just a nice steady brown, that showed what she was thinking as reliably as if she was telling you.
At least, that was what Harry had thought, but now those reliable eyes were showing him things he didn't understand, that raised feelings in him that he didn't know how to deal with.
Hermione had seen Harry in a crush, and in love with Ginny and she thought she'd seen all the shades of green that Harry's eyes could become, from the burning green of fighting Harry, locked in battle with Voldemort and Death Eaters, to the shining green of happy Harry, sitting in a chair in the Gryffindor common room with Ginny in his lap, in those short few days they had been together openly, before the death of Professor Dumbledore.
She'd seen a lot of the shades of green that Harry's eyes could be, but this this hue was new to her, having never been the target of Harry in love, and it confused her.
Neville and Luna watched them for a second and then shared a smile. Luna cocked her head and smiled, and that smile had never changed. It was still the dreamy expression of someone that wasn't quite in the world the rest of us live in. "Why, Mr. Longbottom, I believe the Nargles have eaten the cotton from their minds."
Neville took her hand. "Mrs. Longbottom, I think you could be right. Can we still catch one, do you think?"
Neville and Luna had spend nearly a month in Madame Pomfrey's care after the Halloween battle and they had come out of there with a relationship starting and an agreement that boggled the mind of many. Neville, practical and pragmatic Neville, accepted Luna's creatures at her word and even helped her in her attempts to catch them.
He also had a thriving business growing potion supplies for Hogwarts and St. Mungo's, so his grandmother left the couple in peace mostly. How Neville and his grandmother had come to an understanding was a topic of much debate. When she was introduced to Luna, Mrs. Longbottom had attempted to hex Luna, a feat foiled only by her grandson jumping in front of the hex, and Mrs. Longbottom had taken her grandcabbage, er, grandson home to fix.
No one but Neville and his grandmother knew what happened in their mansion over the next four days, but on the fifth day after school ended, Neville had shown up at Luna's and proposed.
Mrs. Longbottom had been getting a team of building Wizards to rebuilt the east wing of the mansion, which according to her, had been damaged in a potion mishap. One of the builders that rebuilt the mansion though, had been Gerry Wincherts, a member of the DA and year mate of Ginny's from Hufflepuff. He'd told Harry privately that there had been one hell of a battle in that wing, judging by the scorch marks, damage and residue left behind.
Harry had mentioned that to Neville once, after the youngest Longbottoms had returned from their honeymoon and Neville had merely shrugged. "Grandmother has always complained that I was not assertive enough. I just never had anything I wanted to fight for before."
Luna and Neville watched as Harry and Hermione stared at each other, totally oblivious even to their teasing. The flash of a photographer brought Harry out of it.
He spun, reflexes learned of years of fighting for his life spinning him in front of Hermione, his wand up and tracking on the man standing there. "Harry! It's me! The Agreement!"
Harry's wand tilted up and his curse, whatever it was struck the ceiling, where it appeared to do no damage. Harry stared at Colin Creevey and frowned. "Damn it, Colin, how many times do I have to tell you that I want to know when you're taking your weekly picture?"
Colin checked his camera first and then made sure he had all of his parts. He answered Harry while he patted himself down. "And how many times do I have to tell you that nobody wants a picture of Harry Potter that is glaring at them as if they were thinking about becoming the next Dark Lord?"
"I am not that bad," protested Harry. He turned to his friends for support. "I don't look that bad in the official pictures, do I?"
Neville blinked and looked at the ceiling. "Will whatever spell you cast do anything to the ceiling? I'd hate for it to fall on us during dinner."
Hermione was scratching her nose and avoiding his eyes. "You are somewhat intimidating in many of them, Harry."
Luna was still smiling at them both. "What Hermione is trying to say gently, Harry, is that Dementors run from your official pictures and they have been known to give minor criminals in the Ministry building nightmares."
Harry looked at them, finally turning to Hermione. He raised her chin with his hand, ignoring the heat that spread through him from where he touched her. "Hermione?" he said, asking for the truth with his eyes.
Hermione sighed, looking at Harry. "Harry, do you remember that picture they made you take, in front of the memorial?"
Harry frowned. That memorial was a sore point with him and most people avoided mentioning it in his presence. It had been a statue of Harry standing over several of the more important people that had fallen in the Voldemort war, protecting them. That the representation of Harry had been nearly three metres tall had grated on Harry, but that not one of the people under him had been any of the students that had fallen defending Hogwarts had been the worst, in Harry's mind.
Three days later, in the middle of the night, it had somehow become a Black obelisk, with the pictures and names of all the people that had died in both Voldemort wars cycling on all four sides. Harry had very publicly been at Ron's first full Quidditch match that night, and no one had even claimed credit for the change, but it resisted every attempt to change it back and finally it was left that way.
Harry shook off the thoughts of the memorial and looked at Hermione. "Yes," he said shortly.
Hermione frowned. Harry was not happy. "Harry," she said as gently as she could, "they had to take all of the copies of that picture down from display, since none of the other people in the picture would stay in the frame with you, and small children tend to scream when they see that picture."
Harry stared at her, and then looked at the rest of the group, seeking confirmation. Neville flushed as Luna spoke up again. "Neville uses one of those pictures to keep bugs away from some of his plants. It makes a wonderful scarecrow."
Harry stared at Neville who was intently examining the floor, but the red colour of his face said everything Harry needed to know. "Harry," Colin said, having made sure he was intact, "I risk my limbs taking the candid pictures of you because if you know I'm taking your picture, you act as though the camera is Voldemort, and nobody wants to see what you looked like when you fought him. It's bloody scary, mate."
Harry sighed. "Thank you all for telling me about this," he said, "but it would have been nice to know a year ago."
Colin laughed. "You're kidding right, Harry? Haven't you noticed that there is never a photographer around at these events except me? Every photojournalist in the world knows about Maynard Drimble, and none of them want to have that happen to them. I wouldn't be here if we didn't have that agreement, and if the Prophet wasn't so desperate for pictures of you that they pay me insane amounts of money."
Harry bristled. "That prat surprised me, in the bathroom of all places, and flashed a camera in my face, just three days after the Hogwarts battle. He's damn lucky to have survived."
Colin winced, shivering as he thought about what Harry had done. "Harry," he said in a pained voice, "I like my camera, but please don't ever introduce it to me in quite such an intimate manner. It took St. Mungo's four days to get it out of him, and he wears a diaper to this day."
Harry shrugged. "He has learned his lesson, I hope, and doesn't chase people into the loo."
Colin gave Harry a strange look. "Harry, he doesn't take pictures any more. He's developed quite a fear of cameras and bright lights." Colin thought about that. "And vivid green eyes, as well."
Harry looked troubled and was about to say something when the chime sounded, signalling the start of the dinner. Harry held out his arm for Hermione who took it absently. Harry looked at Hermione while they walked to the table. He knew that look. He'd seen it in first year, as she worked out the Potions and logic trap guarding the Philosopher's Stone, and again in second year, as she put the pieces together just before the Basilisk had petrified her.
He'd seen it a dozen or more times since then as well, and it meant she had all the pieces to a puzzle and was trying to make them fit together so she could present a finished answer to someone. In this condition, she reminded Harry of Luna, as neither of them were quite in the same world with everyone else.
He just smiled though, and led her to the table and sat down after seating her. He looked at the empty seat next to him and stood up. "Before we begin honouring everyone that should be recognized tonight," he said, threading his voice with a bit of magic, making everyone in the hall pay attention to him, "I wish to make an announcement. These two empty seats are for all the men and women that could not be here tonight because they died defending all of us."
Harry looked up. "As we honour those who survived the war, I ask you to take a minute to remember those who fell as well. We who fought in that war paid a great price to come to this night, but these seats are for those who paid the ultimate price." Harry pulled his wand, not noticing that a great many people flinched when he did so and cast a spell on the two seats.
The chairs disappeared, and in their place were small replicas of the Obelisk. Harry looked at it and then looked up with a smile. "I will say this only once, but I wish to thank whoever changed that Memorial. It was a travesty and the new design in far better." He turned and raised his wand in a Dueller's salute to the Obelisks. "So long as I live, your sacrifice shall never be forgotten."
He dropped the salute and sat down, looking at Hermione who was smiling at him. "Harry," she said in a low tone, that didn't even carry to the other people sitting at the table, "You're going to teach me that pay attention thing you do." She waited until he nodded, and then smiled. "And thank you."
Harry grinned at her. "You forget," he said, smiling, "I've seen Appendix C, "Victims of the Voldemort War." He grinned at her blank expression. "You made a little mistake in one section. Alexandra Monroe should be after Alexander Monroe, and when you made the list for the monument, you copied it from the appendix."
Hermione sighed. "I have corrected that, in the book. I never realized how hard writing was until I started this. I have a new respect for writers."
Harry snorted. "I have a respect for writers that try to get the facts. If I ever get my hands on Siralinda Muckraker." Harry left unsaid what would happen to her, but Hermione was in complete agreement about this.
Siralinda Muckraker had slapped a few facts and a lot of fiction together and called it a "Biography of the Heroes". Harry and almost every member of the Order of the Phoenix and the DA had spent the next week hunting the woman, fully intent on doing things to her that would be remembered for thousands of years. She was still in hiding, because while they weren't going to be quite as drastic, almost every survivor of the Voldemort war that had fought still wanted to do things to her. Possibly the nicest thing she'd implied in the book was that Harry, Hermione and Ron were a true threesome, not at all worried about which of them was doing what to who.
Harry and Hermione's thoughts of revenge were broken then as Minister Shacklebolt stood up. "Ladies and Gentlemen, we have gathered here tonight to honour many people, and not the least of them are the ones that are not here to be honoured, as Mr. Potter reminded us."
Kingsley Shacklebolt had been chosen as Minister after the death of Rufus Scrimgeour at the hands of Lucius Malfoy. Malfoy had tried to bribe his way back into power, and the Minister had flatly refused. Lucius had then pulled a hidden knife and stabbed him. Using a mundane tool like that prevented the alarms that would have gone off if he used magic.
He might have escaped, if the next person waiting to see the minister hadn't been Tonks. Living in a body that was a constant disguise, she had recognized that the man that stepped out of the Minister's office was in disguise and stopped him. One minute later, Lucius was in custody and the body was found shortly thereafter.
With most of the Ministry too scared to take such a visible target, and most of the ones that weren't being sympathetic to Voldemort, the Wizengamot hadn't had much of a choice in choosing the next Minister. Harry had written, or to be honest, Hermione had written a strong letter recommending Shacklebolt and Harry had signed it.
Shacklebolt still wasn't sure if he should thank Harry or hex him for that.
Harry smiled at him as he continued. "Fortunately, many of the people that fought against Voldemort are still here to be honoured, and Mr. Potter has been unceasing in his efforts to get them the recognition they so richly deserve." He looked up. "First, we will list those who are not here to accept their awards. High on this list are four people whom all of us owe a great deal to."
Harry frowned. He didn't know where Shacklebolt was going with this, but he had a feeling he was going to hate it.
Minister Shacklebolt went on to detail the prophecy that had made Harry's life hell for so many years. "That prophecy could have applied to just two people. Harry Potter and Neville Longbottom. Voldemort decided to kill Harry Potter, judging him the greater threat, and we all know what happened after that. James and Lily Potter fought in the first phase of the Voldemort war, and did so in a manner that made Voldemort count them a greater threat than the Longbottoms, who were Aurors. For their efforts, I will now ask Mr. Potter to accept their Order of Merlin, First Class."
Harry stood up, his eyes stinging. He joined Kingsley on the stage and looked out over the crowd, almost all of whom he knew, either from the war or from the Wizengamot. "Friends and neighbours, I will accept these for my parents, and thank you for them, since they cannot be here to say anything." He looked up, searching the crowd. "All in all, you will forgive me if I would rather had had them with me for the last eighteen years."
He started to leave the stage but Kingsley stopped him. "You're presenting the awards, Harry, you might as well stay here." he said in a low voice. Kingsley stepped up again. "Mr. Potter has graciously agreed to present the awards to the people that have earned them."
Harry's friends looked at each other and smiled. Graciously? They looked at Harry, who was turning a red to rival a Weasley's hair to find himself the target of so many eyes. His friends looked at each other again and grinned. Harry had been blackmailed somehow was the general consensus.
They turned their attention back to the Minister as he began a long roll call of medals that would be accepted by their next of kin. "Longbottom, Alice and Frank." Neville stood up and solemnly accepted the ribbons from Harry.
Harry shook a great many hands and expressed his condolences to dozens of people over the next hour, until they neared the end of the list. "Weasley, Ginny."
Harry flinched, even though he'd known this was coming. It had taken a rather serious threat to make sure that the Minister used Ginny's preferred name rather than her full name. Harry looked up and offered the ribbon to Molly. "I have offered comfort to a lot of people today," he said quietly, "but for your loss, I don't have the words to express the depths of my sorrow."
Molly looked at Harry and they hugged, tears falling from both of them as they mourned the spirited girl that had never backed away from any challenge, even when she knew the cost.
Harry released Molly and stopped her when she started to leave. "You might as well stay here," he said.
"Weasley, Percy." Molly burst into tears again as she took the ribbon from Harry.
Harry embraced her again. "In many ways, Percy had the hardest job of all, because it kept him from the family he loved so dearly."
Molly sobbed. "I never got to say goodbye to him."
Harry blinked down more tears, feeling the pain of the woman that had mothered him when he needed it, and still did when he showed up on her door. He knew better than most how empty the words were in the face of pain, but like hundreds of people before him, he had nothing else to offer. "I'm sure Percy knows how you feel." Harry frowned then and lowered his voice even more. "Where's Arthur?"
Molly rolled her eyes. "He got called into work about an hour ago. Somebody enchanted a store full of Muggle toys to attack anyone that entered, and he had to go deal with it." Molly sighed. "He's happier there anyway. You know he's never accepted his little girl's passing."
Harry nodded. Arthur still spoke as if Ginny was simply at Hogwarts, and would be back 'soon'. He hid the smile at the thought of Arthur chasing dozens of toys around a store, spending as much time examining them as stopping them, as he was undoubtedly doing right now.
The posthumous awards were over shortly thereafter and they had a quiet dinner before honouring the living.
Harry was slightly cheered to see how many of them there were, offsetting the pain of the first half of the awards.
He knew most of them, except a few of the Aurors, and he could offer them a personal word or two.
Padma Patil, still looking incomplete without Parvati.
Blaise Zabini, the only seventh year Slytherin to fight for Hogwarts in the battle and a large part of the victory over the students that had turned to Voldemort in Hogwarts. When Blaise had decided to fight for the Light Side in the war, he hadn't told anyone while he thought about how to make the most of his skills and abilities. In the end, he'd done a very Slytherin thing. Blaise had very pragmatically poisoned the entire Slytherin house, with an exotic poison that was harmless, unless another poison was applied to the skin.
After the students of Slytherin had declared their loyalties, for or against Hogwarts, Blaise had simply opened up on the junior Death Eaters with a Seltzer bottle filled with water and the contact poison.
Harry still smiled at the thought of Pansy Parkinson running down the hall, pursued by Blaise, who was menacing her with a spray bottle.
Colin Creevy, who had done very little fighting, but whose pictures of the battle showed that he had been every where, and that he had an eye for the powerful picture. Ginny, gutting Snape, with a look of resignation, but no fear. Dennis, saving Harry. Ron leading a dozen DA members on broomsticks over the roofs in an inspired flanking manoeuvre. Madame Pomfrey, desperately trying to hold a student's intestines in their body, casting spells with her wand in her teeth as a Death Eater pointed his wand at her back. These and a dozen more had made Colin's fortune and reputation. There was only one picture he had never shown anyone except Harry, who had the picture now, hidden in his vault.
Harry, ramming Voldemort's head on a spike Hermione had conjured from the floor of the great Hall. The look on Harry's face, of loss and despair, anger and hate, relief and happiness, a dozen conflicting emotions, had been so powerful that Colin had judged that picture a moment that Harry would have to share, if he wanted to.
Giving Harry that picture and Dennis' sacrifice was why Colin was allowed to take one picture a week of Harry, without having to try and escape Harry's idea of justice for people that took his picture without permission.
The roll of people went on. Tonks, Fletcher, Professor McGonagall, Hagrid, missing an arm, but able to say he'd single handedly stopped three giants that night. Professor Sprout, who's luring of a dozen Death Eaters into her private greenhouse had raised eyebrows, unless you knew that it was private because she kept plants in there judged too dangerous for the students to learn about.
Professor Sprout had come out of the green house. None of the Death Eaters had, although students claimed that sometimes, late at night, you could still hear screaming coming from the greenhouse. No one was really curious enough to go in there and see what caused it. Professor Sprout's reputation with the students had gone up quite a bit after that story had gotten around.
Many of the students who had been fifth through seventh years, and a few from lower years, including one of Harry's favourites, although he never told anyone.
Sheila Fizzlenip might have an odd name, and she might have been a first year Hufflepuff, but when Death Eaters attacked her school, she stood up and fought, the only way she could. She called the House Elves together and directed them in dropping pots of boiling fluids, spreading slicks on stairs and generally causing mayhem. Peeves had enjoyed her antics so much that night that he had promised not to harass her for her entire time at Hogwarts.
Harry gave her her Order of Merlin, Third Class and was pleased to see that she didn't look all googly eyed at him. He bent down and whispered in her ear. "Tell your troops that I couldn't convince the Wizengamot that House Elves deserved the Order of Merlin, but that I will be by in a week or so to give them my own personal award, the Order of Hogwarts, with Headmistress McGonagall's full support."
Sheila smiled at Harry and then frowned, pouting. "Don't I get one of those? I fought for Hogwarts too."
Harry grinned. "Can you keep a secret?" At Sheila's eager nod, Harry knelt and told her, "every student and teacher that fought for Hogwarts is going to get one, and here after, it will be an award for those people connected to the school that do great things."
Sheila smiled, and then looked at Harry with an impish grin. "So, how many are you getting?"
Harry sighed, rolling his eyes. "I have awards, and I don't need any more of them."
The young girl looked at him seriously. "Mr Potter, if you don't deserve one for what you did for Hogwarts that night, how can I, who did so much less, accept one?"
Harry blinked, looking at the third year student. "I'll think about that, but I think the people want us to move along." Harry stood up. "I will think about it, and we'll talk again."
After the awards were over, there was an hour or so of mingling and dancing, which Harry sat out. When it came to fighting Death Eaters, Harry had no peer, but his dancing had not improved since fourth year. He spent most of the night chatting with people that came by and watching Hermione.
Hermione was growing increasingly annoyed with herself. She had the beginnings of a plan, but she was missing the last little piece to make it work. She knew what she needed, but she simply didn't know how to make it work.
Someone had said something tonight, something she could use and she went back over everything she'd heard tonight. It came to her then, a flash of inspiration as she remembered the conversation about Harry's pictures.
She frowned and transformed her fork into a pen. She started making notes on her napkin, and stopped. Harry was holding out a small notepad. "I've seen that look before, and you might want to use your napkin to wipe the corner of your mouth."
Hermione took the notepad and started scribbling again, trying to get her idea down and begin putting it in order so she could start researching the things she would need. She stopped a second later as something moved in her line of sight. She looked up, and was caught in Harry's smile as he used his napkin to wipe the corner of her mouth. She blinked and shook it off. She didn't have time for this, she was working.
Harry handed Hermione the notepad and smiled as she ignored the advice about using her napkin. Acting on impulse, he reached out and wiped the offending bit away, smiling as she looked up with that look he'd seen so many times, usually directed at Ron. Hermione hated to be interrupted in her research, and her look was equal parts annoyance, curiosity and confusion as her concentration was broken. She shook her head and went back to work as he smiled fondly at her.
The celebration was very reserved, unlike the wild parties that would be thrown in a week's time, on the second anniversary of Voldemort's death, and Harry could watch Hermione write furiously in between people that came up to talk to him.
Since people were beginning to understand that Harry would not tolerate gushing or hero worship, the only real annoyance he had to put up with these days were politicians, trying to get his support for whatever bill they were presenting to the Wizengamot and women.
Harry was rich, famous and good looking, with a romantic reputation that was a challenge to a certain type of woman. Everyone knew that he still mourned Ginny Weasley, and those woman that still approached him were determined to be the one that broke that mourning.
Usually, Hermione ran interference for him, but tonight she didn't even see them. Harry would be polite for a few seconds, and then start to get irritated. Since his friends didn't want to deal with the remains of whatever hex Harry would use on the woman, they tried to intercede about then.
Most of the time, they were successful, but occasionally, a woman would be stupid enough, or determined enough to continue to press Harry. Harry's latest tactic was to hex the woman with a spell that made her tell the truth, and nothing else. It also forced her to say whatever was on her mind at any given time. That spell, and Harry's friends managed to keep the women down to acceptable levels tonight as Harry spent most of the night watching Hermione and conjuring more paper for her.
Harry was beginning to get interested in whatever she was working on. He'd never seen her make this many notes on anything, not even the Horcruxes during the hunt, and the few glimpses he had of her notes seemed to combine Muggle science with magic.
He didn't dare try to look closer at them, as he and Ron had learned long ago that Hermione was a bit daft about not allowing them to look at her raw notes. She'd admitted once that she hated having people see her mistakes, and since the notes would have errors, in theory or possibilities, she refused to let anyone see them.
Since Hermione had a number of rather disturbing curses to enforce her will with, including Ginny's old Bat Bogey Hex, which Hermione used in her memory, Ron and Harry had learned to keep their noses out of her notes until she was ready to show them. She only showed them the finished notes, and they pretended that they never heard her swearing when something didn't work out, and all of them were happy.
Ron Weasley grinned as he looked at Hermione. He looked at Harry. "Old times, eh mate?"
Harry smiled, remembering many nights of waiting for Hermione to work out the latest Horcrux puzzle and watching her write like she was now. He flipped a glance over Ron's girl of the week, yet another Quidditch-obsessed fan girl that could talk Quidditch and the players for hours, but probably couldn't name the Minister of Magic.
Since breaking up with Hermione, Ron had decided that he was too young to settle down, and he was perfectly willing to take advantage of his fame and his Keeper position to collect a new girl whenever the last one bored him. Harry didn't understand that attitude, but it wasn't his life, so he kept quiet.
At the end of the evening, Harry took Hermione and nearly fifty pages of notes home, smiling at her distracted good night and the kiss she gave him, brushing her lips on his cheek, as she had every night that he took her anywhere.
He went home, thinking no more about it, until he got a Fire call from her three days later. "Harry, I need you to come over to my place and look at something."
Harry blinked as her tone and tension caught his attention. "What is it, Hermione? Is everyone OK?"
Hermione looked at him from the coals of the fire and bit her lip. "If I'm right, Harry, I think we can give Neville his parents back, intact and sane."
OoOoOoO Author's Notes. OoOoOoO
Lots of background in this chapter, because this is only the first of several Harry and Hermione stories I have rolling around in the back of my head. There are at least two more... and we may even see Harry and Hermione figure out that their best friend is also their love.