Vox Corporis: Rebirth
Chapter 93

"One door opens and another closes"

Original story by - Miss_AnnThropic

fanfiction (d*t) p0rtkey (d*t) org/story/6586/1

Email: miss_annthropic (at) yahoo (d*t) com

By 'the_scribbler'

The_scribbler (at) shadowgard (d*t) com

Pursuant to the Berne Convention Implementation Act of 1988 and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998, 17 U.S.C. §§ 512, 1201–1205, this work is copyrighted 2007 with all rights expressly reserved by its author unless explicitly granted. No portion may be reproduced in any fashion without the express written and notarized permission of the author.

Disclaimer: I do not own any of the Harry Potter characters. All characters are creations of Joanne K Rowling, © 2007, to whom I am deeply indebted. I make no money from any of this.

CONTENT Disclaimer: This story may contain sexually graphic and explicit material and as such, it is not suitable for minors. If you are a minor, please leave now, as it is illegal for you to be here. If it is illegal for you to read or view sexually explicit material in the community you view such material, please leave now. This story and characters are purely fictional and any resemblance to events or persons (living or dead) is purely coincidental. These stories are just that, stories, and the author does not promote or condone the activities described herein

In Gratia: The original story was created so beautifully and so powerfully by MissAnnThropic. I owe an enormous, nay…a HUGE debt of gratitude to her for her kindness in letting me 'play in her sandbox'. I have used direct quotes from her story, chapter 57, (beginning on page six) in this chapter. Please see: Fanfiction (d*t) portkey (d*t) org/story/6586/57

Note: This chapter is 11, 339 words long, in 23 pages.

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From Chapter 92 - "The Circle of Life"

At sunset, the Granger's back yard began to buzz with activity, as their guests began arriving.

Before they knew it, night had fallen and Harry, Hermione, Jake, Miranda, Berti, the entirety of the Weasleys, Luna (and her father), Neville (along with his parents and his grandmother), and Remus Lupin [who had been cajoled into coming] found themselves around a magically expanded Christmas dinner-table. Gifts had yet to be opened though Jake, Miranda, Harry, Hermione, Dobby, and Winky had opened their stockings the previous evening.

Hermione held her husband's hand under the table and through it, felt his continual and abiding love for her as platters of food were passed all around and toasts were offered in memory of those who were not present to celebrate. Finally, Miranda, Jake, Hermione, and Harry took time to say a few words each about Rowena's sacrifice and about the person that she had been. When they were done, each person lifted his or her glass in solemn remembrance and then they all drank together.

Frank and Alice Longbottom, who were seated to Neville and Ginny's left, were moved almost to tears as they saw and felt the love that had moved heaven and Earth in order to bring them back from the hell that had become their existences. Neither could think of a more incredible gift than the sacrifice that Rowena had made. For them, and for those around them, it was the best Christmas ever.

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One hundred Ninety-five miles due north from the southern end of the Columbia Glacier, on the far eastern side of Mt. McKinley; Tuesday, December 29th, 1998

Vacillation will get a wizard killed. That was the mantra taught to every would-be Auror who went through the training program at Leeds, England. It was also something that had been beaten into Draco Malfoy during his animagus training.

Hunting Storm-giants was not a game for the faint-of-heart. They were huge, first of all, often topping out at 32 ft. They were also very, very aggressive and intolerant of 'visitors'. They were also incredibly protective of their young, which differentiated them from all other giants. Officially, Storm-giants were a 'protected species'; protected by the laws of both the Federated Magical States of America and the Federation of Magical Canada. In truth, their real protection lay in the sheer remoteness of their habitat and the incredible, almost impenetrable forests where they dwelled. Any expedition into Storm-giant territory therefore took someone with great courage or great need and Draco Malfoy had great need.

Practically unrecognizable from the boy who had attended Hogwarts, Draco had gone from the spoiled boy with the long, plaited silver-blonde hair and rich father to someone much different. First, the ever-present sneer that he had worn as a student was gone. The hair-braid and sneer had been replaced by short-cropped hair (for it was considerably easier to care for and it didn't get in the way when flying) and a face streaked by several long, thin scars. One ran along his jaw-line, just below his mouth and then down, along the left of his face. That one had been the product of a branch that he hadn't seen in time. Another ran from just below his right ear and down his throat had been from trying to duck under some barbed wire that surrounded a large farm that he had intended to raid, in order to find both shelter and food.

The final scar was the one that galled him most. It was a jagged scar that formed what most would have called a lightning-bolt and it lay on the right side of his forehead. It made Draco want to scream with frustration and rage. He had gotten it by failing to consider how a Reducto at close range, inside the mouth of a cave, could ricochet. The sneer itself had been replaced by a hardened look that spoke of too many unwanted, unexpected, and harrowing experiences – the kinds of experiences that made little boys into young men (if they were lucky enough to survive them) and young men into adults.

At this moment though, none of that mattered. Draco was on the trail of what he though could be a small storm-giant colony. Signs were hopeful: crushed trees, large foot-prints, and an unnerving quiet that permeated the area. The problem was that Draco had not decided how he was going to make the kill, if it came to that. Giants were almost totally impervious to stunners and he wasn't at all sure that an AK would work, either.

As he followed the trail of destruction, Draco tried to think about whether he could do what had to be done. Not whether he was willing to kill - that he had already proved that (in the affirmative) - but whether he was powerful enough to take down such a big, magical creature. For all his braggadocio, Draco knew that he wasn't in Harry's class. No one he knew was in Harry's class – including his late father's former master. Draco hated Harry with every breath and every cell of his being for what he had done to the Malfoy family, but he wasn't stupid enough to ignore or disrespect the skills and power that Harry had. No one did that and lived to talk about it.

The trail led down into a ravine that was almost hip-deep in snow and for a moment, Draco paused and thought about whether or not it was a good idea to follow a trail into a place from which there might not be easy escape. However, there was really nothing for it. If he wanted to get the heart-stone, there was no choice but to follow the path that he had found.

Casting a careful warming charm (as well as an "Impervio"), so that the cold of the snow would not affect him, Draco hitched up his courage and began working his way down into the ravine.

At first, the trail was fairly obvious. Trees that are bent in half at the 15 ft. mark are pretty obviously the work of a very large (magical) creature and it was easy for Draco to follow the general direction of the trail. Because he had also thought of masking his own scent, he was pretty sure that no matter what the wind did (it was blowing at his back at the moment), he would not be detected by the giants, if there were any.

Eventually though, the trail began to become less certain and at a couple of different points, there was nothing for it but to take out his wand and cast a 'point me' spell. The trail entered a very tall set of pines at the end of the ravine – about 150 meters from where he stood. The steeply slopping entrance to the top of the ravine lay some 1400 meters behind him and at least a hundred meters above the point where he was currently standing. There was nothing beyond the trees that he could see and the idea of entering the foreboding woods scared him not a little. There was no help to be had and anything that he got himself into he would have to get himself out of - and that might not be so easy. The sudden and very real chance of having to deal head-on with creatures that could dwarf him by more than 26 feet in height and by orders of magnitude in terms of magical strength made him pause. It was going to take considerable thinking and a great deal of luck to come out of the situation hale, whole, and in successful possession of a heart-stone.

Sitting down, Draco used his wand to clear away the snow from the ground in a wide circle and then set about making a covered lean-to, using branches from the pine trees immediately behind him. When he had finished, the branches were bent over in such a way as to create an igloo-shaped green dome. A bit of summoning later and the shelter was covered with a thick blanket of snow; totally secure and proof against both wind and cold, with only one entrance to it and a small hole at the top, as a vent. It was tall enough, as well as wide enough, to completely camouflage his magical tent, which was the point of it, considering that a magical tent, staked out on bare ground, would be obvious to the giants.

The design was something that he had seen in a book as he passed through the small town of Ketchikan, Alaska on his way north several days before. Why the design had stuck with him, he didn't know, but he was grateful that it had…because it was going to keep him warm, dry, and most importantly….hidden until he was ready to make his move. He was pretty sure that the giants were somewhere either in or on the other side of the trees that lay immediately ahead of him and he wasn't stupid enough (anymore) to go rushing in without a plan. Slytherin students were, after all, supposed to be a cunning bunch.

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Early morning at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry; Wednesday, December 30, 1998 – in the Sanctum Sanctorum

Albus Dumbledore smiled. The gift that he had been working on for more than five days was at last finished. His smile was soft, almost wistful in a way, as he bent over his work-table and looked at the incomprehensibly magical and inexplicable diamond that now lay dangling from the 22kt. Gold chain that he himself had worn for so many years as a part of the symbols of office that he had been given when Armando Dippet had finally stepped aside. Minerva McGonagall would wear the necklace beautifully, he thought.

It had been quite a trick to divert his deputy's attention away from this most special of projects, but it had been worth it. His very last act as Headmaster of Hogwarts would be a joyous one; for he would see his lady-love don the necklace as a part of her investiture; knowing that she would carry with her, for all her tomorrows, the singularly precious Resurrection diamond and with it, the power to raise the dead or heal those on deaths' doorstep. It was the power beyond all others and one that belonged, properly, in the hands of someone who had the lives of so very many children in her care. He prayed that she would never need to use it...but prayed too that she would have the wisdom to do so if such a terrible circumstance ever came to pass. It was far too valuable. He believed (and with good reason, he thought) that it would be locked away by ministry sycophants; hidden behind so many wards that it would never do anyone any good or stolen by one of Riddle's remaining sympathizers.

Wrapping it carefully with his gnarled, slightly arthritic fingers, Albus smiled to himself. It was a remarkable thing to feel love at his age – or at any age – but especially at his age. Not many had the opportunity to love someone so special for so long; especially the way he loved Minnie. She always made his darkest days that much lighter.

When the package was finished and a bow had magically appeared upon it, Albus turned his attention to the three small pictures that graced the table upon which he was working. One had a picture of Harry when he was just 11. The one beside it was a picture of a studious and thoughtful Hermione Granger; a newly-minted witch, taken the day she turned 12. The one behind it, a necessarily larger one, was a picture that the couple had given him just four months ago. It was a picture of the two of them at their Muggle wedding, holding hands, and radiating such love that he could not help but think of the sacrifice of love that Lily and James had made to protect Harry when he was just an infant.

Fawkes trilled a warm, sympathetic, melodious note which warmed the Headmaster's heart and made him turn to face his beloved familiar. "Harry loves you too, my beautiful friend" he said softly. Fawkes' eyes whirled like fantastically colored, iridescently blue opals and he radiated magic from every feather as he pushed images to his master and took in his master's thoughts.

Understanding phoenīcēs ("many phoenix") was a trick, because while they were highly aware and intelligent (magical) animals, they operated, or at least communicated, using extremely emotionally ladened images. There were many other creatures, dragons included, that communicated that way with no problems, but humans generally had a great deal of trouble with it. However, Albus Dumbledore was, if forced to admit to it, a highly intelligent and magically powerful man who had at least some measure of talent when it came to understanding the world around him, and so he often had a fairly large measure of success when it came to communicating with his resplendent and loyal friend. He wasn't, however, alone in that talent. There were others…

Closing his eyes for a moment, Albus thought back to the awful afternoon when he had discovered (because the magical suit of armor in the hallway had summoned him to it) that an enormous and incredibly angry black jaguar was in the process of tearing apart Draco Malfoy. That jaguar had turned out to be Harry Potter, in his animagus form. The revelations regarding Harry's innate magical powers that had come from finding Harry about to kill Draco sat with him still.

Flashback: Just after Christmas, 1995; In the Headmaster's Office, Hogwarts

"Tell me how you 'touch the jaguar' I believe you called it?" The gleam in Dumbledore was eager and immensely curious. Hermione could almost imagine Dumbledore as a student listening eagerly to a professor deemed a master in their subject.

Harry nodded and then his face twisted as he searched for a way to describe it adequately. "I don't know how I do it, I just do. I'll want to see better in the dark or hear better and I just… reach inside me for the jaguar. I… brush against it." Harry scowled in the effort to put his amorphous talent to words. "Almost like the jaguar's sleeping inside me, but it's not really asleep, but I can touch it and it knows when I want its eyes or its ears and it loans them to me without taking over me."

"You're conscious of your animagus form within you when you are in human form?"

That, at least, had an easy answer. "I'm always conscious of it." Harry stopped, puzzled, and glanced toward Hermione hesitantly when a question struck him. "You mean… you're not?"

Hermione shook her head with a faint smile; it was almost endearing to plainly see how hard it was for Harry to think of the experience for someone else being fundamentally less than how he experienced it. But from the first days endowed with their new ability to become cats, Hermione knew it was different for Harry than for her. "I know, intellectually, that the lioness is there, but I don't feel her like you feel the jaguar."

For a second confusion flickered over Harry's face as he tried to imagine it the way she described her awareness of her lioness.

"Harry," Dumbledore said, redirecting Harry's attention back to the headmaster, "how difficult is it for you to borrow these senses from your animagus form while you maintain human shape?"

"It's not. Sometimes I do it without realizing I'm doing it."

Dumbledore lifted his eyebrows. "Astounding… do you think you could demonstrate this ability for me?"

Harry gave an acquiescent half-nod then paused abruptly and looked over his shoulder toward the back of Dumbledore's office. Hermione twisted to follow his suddenly concerned look and she saw Fawkes on his perch near the far wall. She understood at once what had given Harry pause. When both teenagers turned their heads to look again toward their headmaster Dumbledore looked truly baffled by their sudden reticence and interest in his bird.

"Umm," Harry stammered, "we've noticed that animals sense when I'm touching the jaguar. I'm just not sure how Fawkes will take to it."

"Really? Animals pick up on that, do they?" Dumbledore asked in fascination.

Harry nodded, stopped, and then can't his head in sudden distraction. "Well, actually, come to think on it, Hermione can tell when I'm touching the jaguar, too."

When Dumbledore looked to Hermione she nodded. "It's… hard to explain. Maybe it's just that I know Harry so well that I'd notice the difference, but there is one. There's this… aura about him. He just feels different…like you're suddenly standing in the presence of greatness."

Harry ducked his head and barely blushed, but Hermione could not explain it any other way.

"Well, I think Fawkes will be fine for the duration of a simple demonstration. Please, Harry," Dumbledore gestured to Harry to proceed.

The headmaster acted as though he expected some kind of production or lengthy process to follow. It made the actual shift itself seem silly in comparison to the build up it was given. Hermione watched as Harry sat on the chair's arm beside her, as casual as though they were hanging out in the common room with Ron and Ginny, not a hint of discernable change in him to watch him, but Hermione knew the moment Harry was part jaguar. She could feel his energy change from common magic to phenomenally powerful. Behind them, Fawkes squawked suddenly in surprise and flapped his wings.

Then the sense of immense strength of presence slipped, the phoenix quieted, and regular Harry gave a sheepish shrug.

End flashback

Albus knew, from the end of Harry's first year onwards, how remarkable he was - in the same way that he had seen how special Hermione was - but the "animagus incident" stayed with him as the moment when it really crystallized for him. There was a certain amount of humor in the situation, in hindsight, given that he – Albus – was a goat animagus and that he most certainly did not want to 'touch the goat'…ever. Chewing his cud once had been quite enough to forever put him off the experience.

"How are you going to surprise us next, Harry?" he mused as he turned his attention to the next thing on his notoriously long 'to-do' list.

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Gryffindor Tower; Head Student's Rooms – several hours after sunrise.

Hermione Potter fussed with her dress, even as Winky darted around her legs, magically pinning the dress, so that she knew where to make the final alterations. It was not a job that Miranda Granger could do, even if she wanted to, and there was nothing for it but to let the excited house-elf do the work that she had taken on.

"Dear, if you don't stand still, she's not going to get it right". Miranda was standing off to the side, watching as the scene unfolded, and couldn't resist admonishing her only daughter.

"Moooooooooooooooooooom! I amstanding still…or at least I'm trying!"

"You're not, but I forgive you."

Just at that moment, one of the tiny elf's fingers caught on a seam and the dress pulled away from Hermione's body altogether, leaving her naked save for a very small pair of white silk, G-string bikini knickers.

Miranda's eyes flared as she saw her daughter's tight, lean, and stunning body clad in naught but the silk knickers. Hermione heard the sudden, sharp intake of breath that accompanied her mother's surprise and turned to look at her. The look in her mother's eyes rendered the question unspoken. "What? Harry and I train hard and we're animagi, so it keeps us in good shape."

"But….you're so lean!" Miranda hissed.

Turning to face her mother more directly; her hands coming to rest on her almost totally naked hips, Hermione said, "And? I'm not ill and I'm not below healthy weight for someone my height. Besides, I want to be lean. I feel better and I move better when I am." She didn't have to add that Harry loved the fact that she had such an astonishing body and could never keep his hands off her. Not that she would ever want him to do so!

Miranda didn't know what to say to her daughter's reply. She was almost as lean, even if her hips were a bit wider since Hermione's birth and her breasts were a bit reduced because of breast-feeding her daughter for almost a year, but that didn't stop her from being a bit concerned. She didn't know that her only daughter was planning on getting pregnant the next evening, but that didn't stop her from having 'motherly intuition'. "Hermione dear? Are you and Harry up to something?"

If Hermione hadn't become so used to hiding secrets and 'schooling her face' in order to conceal that fact that she knew things that others didn't, her expression might have given away the fact that she was, in fact, 'up to something'." After composing herself and occluding her mind, she said, "No, we're not. What would make you think that we were?"

"Other than the fact that you're avoiding my question and the fact that you've acted like a nervous squirrel all morning? That and the fact that you've taken a great deal more time getting ready for this wedding than you've ever taken before, for anything else. So, I ask again, what are you and Harry up to?"

"Should I tell her, Harry?" Hermione thought across their bond.

"NO! We already agreed that we weren't going to have that conversation with them until after you're already pregnant. Besides, I don't want to have to deal with your father right now. He and I have finally gotten to the point where he's not wanting to beat me every time he sees me touching you or kissing you."

"That's what I thought, love. I just wanted to check" Hermione replied quickly. Making up her mind that it was easier and better to confound her mother than to take her question head-on, Hermione cast a silent, wandless Confundus charm. Its effects were instantaneous. A look of total confusion washed over her mothers' face, leaving the elder Granger wondering where she was for a moment.

"Is everything alright, Mother?" Hermione asked solicitously.

Miranda blinked several times before her mental fog lifted. Finally, she said "I think so. Why are you naked?"

"Oh, you know. We were trying on my wedding dress for tomorrow night. You must have had a dizzy spell for a moment. That's why you can't remember. Do you want to sit down and collect yourself?"

Miranda nodded and then sat down on the soft, plush chair that was against the wall immediately behind her, wondering why the last several minutes were completely lost to her.

While her mother gathered herself mentally, Hermione silently signaled to Winky that she was ready for the second fitting attempt. Complying, Winky levitated the gossamer dress above the Head Girl and let it settle down into place, so that Hermione was once again robed the way she would be the next evening. Once the gown was properly fastened, Hermione looked at herself in the mirror. What she saw was perfect radiance and she had to smile inwardly when Harry saw the image of her reflected, through Hermione's own eyes. "You'll be the most beautiful bride in history, my love" he said into her thoughts, softly.

Hermione pushed her feelings of love towards him, because she couldn't express her happiness any other way. After some time, Harry thought to her, "Glad you weren't wearing the Star of Morgana. Your mother would ask too many questions about that. It's bad enough that she had to know about your Gringotts' medallion."

"I know. I love her, but she's nosey sometimes."

"I love your mother, 'Mione. I really do. But, you're right. She's overly curious sometimes and that could get her into trouble. It's bad enough that she's always asking to see the kind of magic that we can do. God knows what she'd have to say if she found out about the Star and what it signifies."

Shifting topics, Hermione thought to him, "At least she didn't complain that my wedding dress isn't white. You know that would freak out most Muggle mothers."

Harry snorted, mentally, before replying. "Well, yes. I'm glad that she also doesn't know that I've already seen you in your wedding dress. She's just traditional enough to have insisted otherwise."

"There is that, love. I never expected to associate the word 'traditional' with my parents, as they've never done anything 'traditional' before, but you're right. I could imagine that coming out of my mother's mouth."

The entire dialog between husband and wife was taking place even as Hermione was standing and preening in front of the full-length mirror (which she was very glad wasn't the Mirror of Erised). When Winky was finished, Hermione turned to look at her mother. "Well?"

There were tears forming in Miranda's eyes as she gazed upon her daughter's magical wedding dress. Setting aside the fact that it wasn't white, which she knew damn well would have signified a lie, Miranda thought the dress was stunning. It was strapless, first of all, and fit Hermione's shape like it had been painted on. The dress cupped her breasts beautifully, emphasizing them without being obnoxious or scandalous. While the bodice and dress were both light and dark green, depending on the light that struck it, the over-layers of the skirt shimmered and fooled the eye with a beautiful ivory color that defied description. The effect enhanced the dark green and muted the lighter green, so that the dress looked regal and resplendent.

"You're beautiful, love. That's all I can say". Miranda wiped the tears from her eyes and stepped forward so that she could give her daughter a hug….which Hermione accepted, albeit very carefully. She didn't want to injure all the hard work that Winky and the other elves had sacrificed for her sake.

In a room two floors below them, another young bride was being prepared and the excitement there was much the same – only magnified because of the presence of many friends, a soon-to-be sister-in-law, and other assorted females…all of whom, like Ginny, were completely enthralled by what they were seeing.

Luna Marie Lovegood stood on a pedestal in the center of the room while several elves, along with Madam Malkin herself, attended her final dress-fitting. Ginny watched, without jealousy as Luna was moved and 'man-handled', however gently, into new positions, so that the flow and cut of the dress could be assessed properly. Ginny was too caught up in the excitement of the moment to be jealous. It wasn't often that she got to be the maid-of-honor at such a splashy wedding!

Walking in circles around the base of the platform where Luna stood, Madame Malkin was having kittens for a completely different reason. She had had very clear, unambiguous orders from Lord Potter-Black that Luna should have the best, prettiest dress possible and that price was not an object. He had made it clear to her that if Luna wanted a dress made from pure, spun gold or freshly sent moonbeams, then that was what she was to do.

The dress that Luna had chosen, however, was made from things infinitely rarer than either gold or moonbeams and rather than despair of the young woman's choice, Madame Malkin had found herself thrilled at the challenge. It wasn't every day that she was asked to procure sufficient quantities of hair from the manes of newborn Unicorns and baby female sphinx!

The dress, of course, had turned out better than anyone could have imagined. Madame Malkin had, over a period of ten days, magically woven together the two types of hair into a fabric unique in the history of fabric-weaving, using a loom located in a secret room behind her storefront. It was as magically impervious as basilisk hide but millions of times more beautiful and though the overall effect/color was a pale yellow fabric, it flashed brilliant white, in the right lighting. It was exquisitely soft and luxuriant-to-the-touch, "mermaid"-shaped, strapless dress, with only a short train, which fit her amazingly slim, hour-glass figure and Luna could feel her nipples harden with excitement as they moved under the silky fabric. She knew that Ron would love the effect and was thrilled that she'd be wearing such an amazing wedding dress.

Ginny noticed Luna's excited state too and gave her life-long friend a big smile, which hid the fact (she hoped) that she thought that Luna looked delicious as well. Other girls in the room noticed Luna's reaction to the dress as well and at least one looked like she thought Luna was a very tasty morsel. Luna did a mock-curtsey and spent the next couple of minutes in silly flirting with her admirers. Ginny thought it was a good thing that her Pin oak and Chimera wand was handy and that her brother wasn't around. Ron would have 'thrown a wobbler' if he had been present!

As Ginny helped Luna off the platform, after handing her back her 'street' clothes, a door opened off to the side and Hermione Potter walked in. That there was an emotional, almost magical radiance that Ginny felt immediately from the older witch didn't surprise her, given what she had just been doing – which was trying on her magical wedding dress. What did surprise her was the fact that Hermione, while immediately acknowledging her with a smile and a warm, full-bodied hug, made her way over to Luna, whom she immediately kissed with a full, open-mouthed kiss – in the same way that a lover might.

After Luna and Hermione broke apart, Luna looked at her, smiled, and then said quietly but without even a hint of anger or any negative emotion, "That's the third time you've kissed me that way".

Hermione nodded and then put her face very close to the (now) red-headed girl. "It's because it's what Harry would do, if he could, and because we both feel love for you. Harry is with me right now, in my thoughts and feelings, and he wants you to know that you will always be special to us."

Luna seemed to consider this for a moment and then said, with her lips still an inch from Hermione's, "Don't ever stop, then. It keeps the Nargles away…and tell Harry I love him too."

With that, the relationship issue that had been brought up by Hermione's kisses seemed settled between the three of them.

Ginny, for her part, took in the intimate scene and was unsure of what to make of it. It seemed odd to her that Hermione would kiss Luna in such a way, but she was clear on fact that Luna did not at all mind the kisses and that there seemed to be a deep level of affection between the two. Why that was, she didn't know, but it was there. She wondered what Ron thought of the situation, if he thought anything at all. Deciding that it wasn't her place to bring up the issue with him if he didn't already know about it, Ginny set it aside and joined the other two in talking all about the two dresses that had been made for them. It was going to be her turn next and she wanted to know what they thought of her ideas for her special dress.

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Just after sunrise; Thursday, December 31st, 1998, on the eastern side of Mt. Denali, AK.

Dawn broke, cold and clear, over the almost perfectly white dome into which Draco Malfoy had been forced to retreat the previous night. The only sound that echoed in the ravine was the incessant snapping of ice, which had accumulated on the pine branches, as it warmed in the sun.

Clearing away the last of the snow which had piled up at the 'front door' of his makeshift igloo, Draco took a deep breath – and then immediately regretted doing so, as the seven degree below zero air hit his lungs. It burned his throat, it was so cold and it shocked him. Immediately, he retreated back into his magical tent; hastily closing the igloo 'door' behind him as he went. "Fuck, that's cold!" he thought to himself. "Going to have to warm up before doing that again!"

Taking out his wand, Draco improvised by casting a series of warming charms on his clothes – taking special care to make sure that his feet stayed warm – and then finished up by casting a modified Bubble-head charm, where the air inside the bubble was kept warm.

Once he was sure that he had done everything he could to be ready, he undid the door of the magical tent again and stepped out.

Forty-five minutes later, Draco made his way back into his hidden igloo; happy satisfaction painted on his scared face. It had been the most productive forty-five minutes of the entire week and he felt, for the first time in a long time, that he was going to be able to accomplish the mission that he had set for himself.

The trap that he had set across the obviously giant-made path was an extremely nasty piece of work. It was a version of the Whip Trap that had been used to great effect in the Vietnam War, and he thought, ruefully, that it was a shame that he had Muggle soldiers to thank for it. His 'modification' was simple, really. It consisted of a length of pine tree, held in an arched position by a catch device triggered by a camouflaged, magical trip-wire that he had stretched across the track. To the 'whip' he had attached a very large (20' long), sharpened pine-tree spike which would impale (at roughly stomach level) the next giant unlucky enough to wander down the path. Draco thought about it and realized that the one thing that he had forgotten was a magical signal charm that would alert him the moment that the trap was set off – but it was too late to make changes. He couldn't risk scaring off his quarry. "Oh well. Can't go back now."

The wait stretched on for three long days and he was beginning to despair of ever even seeing a giant, much less trapping and killing one. However, early on the morning of the forth day, Draco woke to the sounds of a giant screaming in pain. It sounded like the death-throws of a huge dragon or something.

Grabbing his gear, Draco almost forgot to add the warming charms…but he paused just as he reached the door of the igloo; feeling the cold, dry air that had leaked in during the long night desiccating his sinuses and lips and did the charms faster and more efficiently than he had ever done them before. Ignoring the fact that Filius Flitwick might actually have awarded him house-points for the effort, were he still at Hogwarts, Draco carefully made his way out of the igloo and through the drifted snow that had covered his tracks since his last foray out-of-doors and was instantly glad that he had done the warming charms. The air was definitely colder than the last time he had gone out and he could feel it eating away at him, bit by bit.

The path from where the igloo sat partially hidden by the trees at the bottom of the ravine to where he had placed the trap was less than two hundred meters, but he couldn't see anything yet, because of the light. The sun was still an hour or more from its full height and there were long shadows everywhere. However, the sound of the giant's screaming had only started to slow, which made it easier for him to find his prey.

Making his way across the broad expanse, Draco felt particularly vulnerable; as vulnerable as he did the day that he had learned of his parents' death at Harry Potter's hands, and he didn't like it. Stopping for a moment, he took out his wand and quickly masked his scent, the sound of his footfalls and his breath, and then disillusioned himself. Turning around, he used his wand to wipe out the path in the snow behind him; hoping to confuse giant that might stumble across him and buy him some time to get away.

Once he was certain that he was as hidden as he could be in the middle of the large, broad clearing, he made his way towards the wounded giant once again; all the while, thinking about how to finish off the massive creature.

The space between where he had camped and where the wounded giant lay seemed to stretch on and on in front of him. He didn't dare run across the open expanse, of course, because it would kick up too much snow – leaving him quite visible. Nor did he dare move too slowly…for no matter how badly his trap had injured the giant, there was always the possibility of a 'sudden recovery', which would leave Draco in the position of having to either attack the enraged giant or run away. His experience as a wounded animagus gave him all the information he needed about what a giant in a similar situation might be willing to do in order to survive…and so he didn't relish having to face that scenario.

Finally making the tree-line, Draco saw what his crude trap had wrought and it wasn't pretty. Everywhere he looked there was deep, reddish-purple blood…more blood than he had ever seen anywhere and for a moment, his stomach heaved reflexively.

The massive storm-giant lay on his side; one hand clutching his stomach, trying to hold in what remained of his intestines. It was gory and vile and even at more than twenty feet away, Draco could smell it. It came very close to making him sick.

Fighting back the incredible urge to 'review breakfast', the last of the Malfoys gathered up his courage and made his way around the giant's body, so that he could see the giant's face. The killing curse worked best, he had been told, (on 'beasts' and 'monsters') when aimed at the creature's head. No one knew why, but it did, and so he wanted to make sure that his first shot counted.

It took him a bit to move in between the trees and around the giant's body, but he was finally able to position himself for a clear shot. Closing his eyes for a moment, Draco let all of his hatred for Harry Potter well up in him. It was a necessary thing to do in order to cast the killing-curse properly. Most wizards and witches never experienced sufficient anger or hatred to cast any one of the Unforgivables, and that was doubly true for the killing curse.

"AVADA KEDAVRA!" Draco all but shouted, as he pointed his wand directly at the giant's head. Immediately, the sickly green light of the curse leapt from his wands' tip straight out at the giant and a second later, the massive creature was dead. He breathed a sigh of relief and then, inexplicably, began to cry.

How long he stood there crying, Draco didn't know, but when it stopped, he felt…clearer…lighter… and then realized that there was no time to lose and he immediately set to work.

It was a bloody, awful, time-consuming business to rest the Heart stone from the middle of the huge, messy chest and he knew that he would never again consider himself 'unable' to do such work. Not only did he have to fight against an almost constant gagging on his own bile, but worse…the fact that every minute that he had spent on top of the giant's body had been consumed with fear – fear that he would be discovered by another, very, very angry giant or that the body would attract other interested parties – and that he would be caught off-guard as he worked to extract the Heart Stone.

For forty-five minutes he struggled with unfamiliar anatomy and with bones that stubbornly resisted every effort to move them aside. Since the Giant's body was still extremely warm, he had even broken into a sweat as he worked – which really surprised him.

The moment that he felt the Stone beneath his fingers, he began to itch with excitement and the knife he was using flashed again and again in fast, deft cuts. The moment it was free, he held it up in the sunlight. He WANTED to yell…to celebrate! But he knew that he had to get away from the body as quickly as possible. With a quick flick of his wand, he conjured a large glass container and then summoned as much of the giant's blood as was necessary to fill it.

Jumping down from the body – with the sealed jar of blood in one hand and the Stone in the other, he exulted for a moment…before he shoved the Stone down deep into his pocket and zipped it closed. Using his wand to clean up while walking, Draco made his way back towards his igloo and the relative warmth of his magical tent. As he went along, he promised himself a long, warm bath, along with the entire bottle of wine (his last one), a good dinner, just as soon as he could get it, and then several night's sleep in a decent hotel.

Two days later, tired and hungry from the long, long walk out of the woods (because walking was a good bit warmer than flying, especially since, even in the sunlight, it was still below zero outside), Draco Malfoy wandered into the Red Dog Saloon in Ketchikan, Alaska – his last stop before leaving the continent. Inside the most secure of his jacket's pockets, wrapped in silver velvet cloth, laid the clean, ruby-red Heart-stone of a fully adult Storm Giant and next to it, in a Moke-skin bag, were ten thousand bright, shiny British Galleons - the proceeds of the sale of almost a gallon of Storm Giant blood.

Flush with cash, both magical and Muggle, and a great deal of pride in having accomplished his mission, Draco had decided to splurge a little. Dinner – consisting of the biggest piece of prime rib and the largest plate of onion rings that the place offered – along an extra-large Alaska Amber Ale (which was, in his estimation, the greatest Muggle drink he had ever found) sounded just about perfect. His plan was coming together and there was nothing that could stop him now from doing what no one else had done: Killing Harry Potter.

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Two days prior – December 31, 1998 – in the Great Hall of Hogwarts – just before 9 pm.

"This is it" Ron thought, as he took in the Great Hall and all that had been done to it. No longer did it resemble a meeting/dinning Hall, but rather the largest and most amazing cathedral that he had ever seen or even thought about. Next to him stood Harry Potter – his friend since their first train-ride together – and to their right and left stood their best men. For Harry, it was Neville (since Ron was also getting married) and for Ron, his eldest brother, Bill.

"You alright, Ron?" Harry asked quietly, as they stood side by side at the altar and waited for the music to start and for the first glimpses of their brides. Ron didn't know that Harry had already seen Hermione's dress, through her eyes, reflected in a mirror and it was probably just as well.

"Fine, really. Didn't think I'd be nervous, but I am."

Ron snorted quietly. He thought Harry's was the epitome of understatement, given what they were both going to be doing later. "Yea, yea. You, the great war hero, nervous? C'mon Harry. You've faced down the dark lord and Merlin knows you and Hermione are as perfect together as any two people have ever been, in history."

Harry's eyes took in his taller, red-headed friend and then he smiled too. "All I have to do is make sure that you don't eat all the food before the guests are fed."

Ron's ears flushed with embarrassment, as his friend's teasing comment registered. "I'm not that bad anymore" he hissed.

"So says the man whom even your mother was afraid of when she heard you say," I'm hungry"

Ron's come-back started to take shape and then was suddenly cut off when the sound of a clear, vibrant trumpet, accompanied by pipe organ, rang out in the hall. Harry smiled as he recognized the opening strains of Clarke's Trumpet Voluntary in D major. Turning his head, he felt Hermione's enormous magical presence and then saw her, standing next to Luna. No matter when it happened, it was always the most wonderful feeling in the whole world and now, Hermione's presence lit up the entire hall. She was, to him, beauty, grace, and love personified. Harry felt his breath catch for a moment, as he took in all that she was. "I love you" he thought to her.

"I'm coming for you, Harry. I love you!"

Next to Harry, Ron was taking in Luna's radiant essence as she made her way down the isle. His mouth was dry and the tux, which Harry had gone to great pains to have fitted for him, was suddenly too warm and too constraining. All he could think about was how perfect Luna looked and how much he wanted to be with her.

"Gentlemen?"

Ron turned at the same time that Harry did and both of them saw the Headmaster's smile and twinkling eyes. There was a moment of understanding that seemed to pass between the Headmaster and Harry, but Ron couldn't be certain. All that mattered was the fact that his beloved was almost to the altar. As Luna reached the last row of chairs, her father Xenophilius stepped into the aisle and offered her his hand. On the other side, Jake Granger did the same thing for Hermione.

Time seemed to slow down as the two men led their daughters up to the altar and as they placed their daughters' hands into those of Ron and Harry.

The obvious difference between what was happening within the Hall and what Harry and Hermione had experienced previously was the fact that both Harry and Hermione were literally glowing.

Touching his wand to his throat, the Headmaster winked at the two couples and then addressed the incredible throng that had assembled for the double wedding. More than a thousand people had found a way to pack themselves into the Hall, including all of the Weasleys (save for Molly herself) and all of the Grangers (at least all those who, like Miranda's mother, were 'in the know'). The Minister for Magic was also present, as was the head of the DMLE, and every single Auror who could be spared from other duties. They looked particularly wonderful, as each Auror had worn his/her dress-blues. Behind them sat every Hogwarts student who had stayed for the wedding and celebration, along with their parents and other, assorted Hogwarts alumnae. Even the ghosts of Hogwarts had lined up, still and silent, in the back of the Hall, so that they could witness the wedding and the retirement of the greatest wizard any of them had ever known.

A hush fell over the crowd as the Headmaster began speaking. "We come here tonight to celebrate the unions of two couples, friends all, whose deeds are now permanently woven into the fabric of this school and whose love for each other and those around them is an example to us all. This will be my last official act as Headmaster and I could not imagine a happier duty than to recognize and then unite in love the four who stand before me."

Albus smiled at her and then faced Ron and Luna. "Well, I still have a few things to say – not that any of you are surprised." There was a laugh from the four, as well as from the rest of the people near the altar. He paused for a moment and then reached out and took their hands in his before speaking again; his voice magically amplified so that those in the audience could hear him clearly. "You two are quite a pair. I know that you, Ronald Weasley, faced your first few years here at Hogwarts as 'Harry's best friend' and had a hard time figuring out who you were going to be. You have tremendous personal courage, even if, at times, you've struggled to see it in yourself. It's not easy to grow up next to someone for whom prophecy had picked a special role… but you did it and now you are marrying a most extraordinary young woman and you will have a lifetime together in which to make your own path. Part of your path has already started to form and I have great confidence that together, the two of you will do great things."

Luna squeezed Ron's hand and he would swear, afterwards, that he could feel her love through their touch. It was both reassuring and terrifying.

"Luna Marie Lovegood! I have watched you over the years and have seen you become a most amazing young woman. The difficult times that you faced early on in your house did not break you, as they might have done to others, and you found deep and lasting friendships in those who stand next to you today. You have been a source of wonder with all the gifts that you have shared and I know that you are a credit to your parents and to your wider family, in unexpected and wonderful ways. Ron loves you for all that and much, much more. Of that, both Minerva and I are certain. We also know that you are joining a family that will love you with the same ferocity that they love each other and will guard, protect, and cherish you for your whole life." The Headmaster left unsaid what the Weasley family knew to be true as well – that Molly might never again be the person she once was and that it was going to take a long time for her to be reincorporated back into the family, whether Luna was present or not.

Pushing that unpleasant truth to the back of her mind, Luna smiled up at the Headmaster and then turned her head so that she could look into Ron's eyes. There was absolute certainty and love in his eyes. Nothing, for him, would ever be 'righter' that this moment.

The air was beginning to crackle with expectancy and the Headmaster knew it was time, finally, to bond the two couples.

"So, Ron, Luna, would you like to get married now?" The about-to-be-newlyweds looked at him and then laughed, even as they blushed furiously. Albus looked past them and spoke to the audience. "You should see their blushes. I love that I can still do that!" The Hall rocked with laughter and even the normally imperturbable, unflappable Minerva McGonagall grinned at their embarrassment. "Very good then. I'll take that as a yes. Would you two turn and face each other?"

Ron took Luna's hands and lifted them up, so that he could kiss them, before letting them fall together, by their sides.

"Do you, Ronald Billius Weasley, take this woman, Luna Marie Lovegood, to be your wife, your bonded mate, through this life and all eternity?"

Ron could hardly contain himself. "I DO!"

Dumbledore smiled and then pressed on. "Do you swear your love, loyalty, honesty, and fidelity to her, on your life and on your magic?"

"I do!" he said, knowing full well that he had just made his first wizards' oath.

"Good. And do you, Luna Marie Lovegood, take this man, Ronald Billius Weasley, to be your husband, your bonded mate, through this life and all eternity?"

Her face radiant, though streaked with tears, she said, "Oh yes! I do!"

"And "Do you swear your love, loyalty, honesty, and fidelity to him, on your life and on your magic?"

"Oh yes! YES!"

And do you promise to cherish, protect, and love him, in good times and in bad, both in sickness and in health, in this lifetime and through all eternity?"

"I DO!"

There was cheering now from the assembled Weasley clan. "Well then" Dumbledore continued, "It is my great joy to ask you to give each other the rings that will symbolize your commitments to each other."

Acting as Maid of Honor for Luna, Ginny Weasley stepped close to her best girlfriend and then, from a small, gray velvet bag, poured into her open hand the ring that would forever mark Ron as her husband. From the other side, Bill did the same thing for Ron; placing in his hand the ring that complimented, but did not match, the necklace that Harry and Hermione had given Luna as a Maid-of-honor give before their Muggle wedding.

Almost shyly, Ron and Luna placed the rings on each other's hands and then faced the Headmaster again. "Ron, Luna, there is no happiness greater than giving love. There is no bond as important as that between husband and wife. You have chosen a life together and today, like all the days ahead, is one for celebration. However, before you leave this hall, I want to repeat to you both the words that were said when the two people next to you married in their Muggle ceremony in September. Here's what their minister said to them:

"Mend a quarrel. Search out a forgotten friend. Dismiss suspicion, and replace it with trust. Write a love letter. Share some treasure. Give a soft answer. Encourage youth. Manifest your loyalty in a word or deed.

Keep a promise. Find the time. Forego a grudge. Forgive an enemy. Listen. Apologize if you were wrong. Try to understand. Flout Envy. Examine your demands on others. Think first of someone else. Appreciate, be kind, be gentle. Laugh a little more.

Deserve confidence. Take up arms against malice. Decry complacency. Express your gratitude. Worship your God. Gladden the heart of a child. Take pleasure in the beauty and wonder of the Earth. Speak your love. Speak it again. Speak it still again. Speak it still once again."

I think those are words to live by…and I urge you both to always remember them. Now, by the power given me as the Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot and by decree of her Most Royal Majesty, it is my very great joy to pronounce you husband and wife. You may now kiss your bride."

Like the couple they were, Ron and Luna came together for a kiss that might very well have lit the long drapes in the Hall. There was wild applause and jubilation and none were cheering louder than Harry and Hermione.

It was finally Harry and Hermione's turn and though they had been husband and wife in the Muggle world for several months, both were feeling nervous. Hand in hand, they faced the Headmaster and soon-to-be Headmistress. There was a long pause and it seemed, for a moment, that the Headmaster was finally at a loss for words.

"Harry, Hermione" he began, "I have been teaching for almost one hundred years and in that time, I have seen and learned many things. The two things that abide with me still are these: First – that love, like music, is a force and a magic beyond all that we do here and has no equal in the human heart and second – that there is no substitute for kindness and love and for doing always what is right over what is easy."

Extending a hand, Dumbledore reached a hand out and was joined by Minerva McGonagall. Facing the assembled throng once again, he returned to speaking. "There is in each one of us the desire not to be alone. We see it in the faces of all those who have yet to find their life's partner. Tom Riddle did not know love… something for which I blame no one but myself…and because he could not love, he became that which we all feared the most. Harry Potter did know love: the love of his extraordinary partner Hermione, and in the end, that made all the difference."

There was spontaneous applause from the audience as Harry and Hermione's deeds were once again recalled to mind and appreciated by those present. When it died down, the Headmaster spoke again. "I can feel Harry's blush from here, I think". Laughter erupted from the audience as those who knew Harry best reacted to the Headmaster's comment. "Harry, you and Hermione showed me what I had to do and you gave me the courage to face this moment – for in truth, the saddest thing that I do tonight is leave the post of Headmaster. I have loved and cherished this position for all the years that I have been allowed to serve. Teaching, as Minerva will tell you, is an act of love and a gift both to student and teacher and you have given me a very great deal. For that, I can say only… thank you."

If there were a dry eye in the Hall before the Headmaster spoke, there wasn't now. The Alumnae felt a loyalty to the school and a connection to each other that was other-worldly in many ways. For the Gryffindors among them, the loyalty to Minerva McGonagall was equally strong. She had always protected those of her house and loved teaching in a way that was, for her, almost a religious devotion…and her students knew it.

Minerva reached down and took the Headmaster's left hand in hers and she knew it was her turn to speak. Hermione watched her every move like the cat-animagus she was. When the soon-to-be Headmistress winked at her, she smiled and blushed. Hermione thought she knew what was coming, but didn't want to presume anything or expect anything that wasn't hers by right. Minerva lifted her eyes to scan the crowd and spoke; the emotion of the moment threatening to choke her voice. "First, I want all here to know how proud I am to be a part of this school and how grateful I am to have had the friendship, love, and support of the greatest Headmaster Hogwarts has ever known.

Great and wonderful wizards and witches have come from this Hall and have given or sacrificed much to the cause of magic and it is an institution that has a long tradition of scholarship and achievement – but we would be no where without him."

Applause once again broke out, as people tried to show the Headmaster just how much he was appreciated for all that he had done over the years.

Once the applause died off, Minerva started again: "The reason that I have kept teaching and will be taking over as Headmistress is that Albus was right when he said that teaching is a gift that teachers give to students and that students give to teachers. Now sometimes, perhaps only once in a long career, a professor might be lucky enough to come across that student – that unique, irrepressible student who, beyond all others, makes their entire career worth it. For reasons that I could talk about all day, but I'm sure you're all hoping I don't, I have found that in Hermione Jane Potter."

There was more applause and laughter among those (a very considerable number, really) who had watched Hermione from a distance and had always admired her incredible hard work and study-ethic. There was not a great deal of surprise when the Headmistress-in-waiting said, "She is, as many of you already know, my protégé and if she keeps going the way she is now and if she wants it, will succeed me as Headmistress when I retire." There was a bit of a stir at this, as many thought that Harry should be the one to be Headmaster, but others nodded in agreement with Minerva, as they knew that the only two jobs that Harry might ever want would be either DADA professor or flying instructor and that paperwork and organization! would bore him to tears in short order.

Minerva took a step back then and faced the audience once more before saying, "Her extraordinary scores, throughout her years here, along with her already impressive achievements, have made her the only viable candidate. I know that by the time that I am ready to leave Hogwarts, she will be ready and she will be the greatest Hogwarts Headmistress ever."

In a whisper that she thought only Hermione could hear, Minerva bent slightly at the waist and said to a now openly crying Hermione, "Ydych wedi gwneud i mi filch" ("You have made me proud"). Hermione nodded, blinked back her tears and, understanding the message behind the words, whispered, "I love you, too, Grand-mère."

Standing tall once more, though her eyes were wet with tears, Minerva put a hand on each of them, let a soft smile re-paint her face, and said, "Enough of talk of the future, my young lions. Here is my blessing and final words to you both: The Lord bless you and keep you and make His face to shine upon you, all the days of your life. May your marriage be long and happy and may you always walk together in love. May you see your children's children and at the end of your days, may you both see the light together."

After Hermione and Harry quietly accepted her blessing, Minerva stepped back, looked at her long-time love and said softly, "Your turn".

Albus looked at them, his eyes bright with the wetness of his own threatening tears. "When Hermione and Harry asked me to officiate tonight, I knew that I had been given a wonderful gift, for it truly is an honor to help them acknowledge, in front of all of you, the power of their bond and the depth of their commitment to each other."

The ceremony was almost over, but no one fidgeted, as they all knew this was the moment for which they had all been waiting.

"Harold James, Lord Harry Potter-Black, do you take this woman, Hermione Jane Potter, to be your wife, your bonded mate, through this life and all eternity?"

Harry nodded and then let his voice ring out. "YES! I do and always have."

Dumbledore smiled. Harry was nothing, if not predictable. "Do you swear your love, loyalty, honesty, and fidelity to her, on your life and on your magic?"

"YES!"

"And do you promise to cherish, protect, and love her, in good times and in bad, both in sickness and in health, in this lifetime and through all eternity?"

"Gods, YES!"

"Well then! Let us ask your bride the same things."

"Do you, Hermione Jane, Lady Potter-Black, take Harold James, the Lord Potter-Black, to be your husband, your bonded mate, through this life and all eternity?"

Hermione almost squealed, or at least squeaked, "YES!"

"Do you promise to cherish, protect, and love him, in good times and in bad, both in sickness and in health, in this lifetime and through all eternity?"

"I DO!"

"Then you know what's next…Do you swear your love, loyalty, honesty, and fidelity to him, on your life and on your magic?"

"YES! I SO SWEAR!"

"Then, by the power given me as the Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot and by the ardent wish and decree of her Most Royal Majesty, it is my joy to pronounce you husband and wife."

Knowing the Potters the way he did, Albus Dumbledore 'forgot' to bid Harry to kiss his bride, realizing that it would have been quite redundant. The intense, almost blinding actinic glow from where famous Head Boy and equally famous Head Girl stood kissing was proof enough that they had, indeed bonded magically.

There was no clapping. In fact, not a single sound could be heard anywhere in the Hall, as the assembled guests took in the singular display of raw, unfettered power.

Once the glow subsided though, those whose eyes were not stinging from the display began to clap. It took a moment, but soon, everyone in the Hall was on his or her feet, clapping for the two, bonded couples.

How long they clapped, no one was certain. However, it did go on for at least a minute, before those towards the front saw the Headmaster step forward, with Minerva by his side.

Once the audience was again seated, Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore looked out at them all and said, "It is time for me to leave this stage once and for all. I have said my farewells to my colleagues and now I say it to all of you. I have loved a good many of you in my time as professor and during my time as headmaster. If I have a single regret, it is that I didn't get to know more of you better while you were students. If the years and my magic permit, I wish to change that. When I leave here tonight, I will set out on a journey that I hope will bring me to each of you, one way or the other. Where I will go between now and then, I cannot say, for I truly do not yet know. However, before I leave, there is one final thing that must be done and I would have all of you witness it."

Half-turning, Albus Dumbledore faced his long-time love. "Minerva O'Shea McGonagall, do you accept the mantel of Headmistress of Hogwarts?"

She hadn't cried (completely) before, but there was no stopping the tears now. "Yes, Albus, I do."

"And do you swear on your magic to encourage, promote, protect, defend and support all those who enter your charge?"

"So help me God, I do"

"Do you promise to teach all who come to you, without reservation or hesitation, and without regard to family, gender, race, creed, wealth, or status?"

"I do."

"And finally, will you accept the responsibility for protecting this castle and all its lands against all intruders and will you take up arms, if necessary, in its defense?"
Though she didn't like it, she knew that such was the cost of leadership, as the Headmistress. "I do, so help me God."

The moment she said the words, she could feel a new life all around her and she realized, with awe and a certain amount of joy, that she could feel Hogwarts. It answered to her call!

Albus knew what had just happened to his long-time love, because he could see the look of wonder on her face. "Then Minerva O'Shea McGonagall, Headmistress of Hogwarts, take this…" He held out the finely wrought necklace that bore the Resurrection Diamond, "And teach and protect all who have need."

Inclining her head, Minerva let him place the necklace about her. Its magical power immediately thrummed within her and she knew that she was now, truly, the Headmistress.

"I love you, Minnie" he said quietly, meeting her gaze. "I will see you again before too long."

"Goodbye, Albus. I love you too."

He put one hand up, as if reaching into the sky; there was a flash of phoenix fire, and in an eye-blink, he was gone.

Ron, Luna, Hermione, and Harry stood for a moment, dumbfounded. Then the recessional music began and just as quickly as it had begun, it was suddenly over. They were two newly married couples, and they were expected to put on happy faces and leave the Hall just as they had entered it.

Too stunned to do anything else, Hermione and Harry let Ron and Luna, along with Luna's father and all the Weasleys, lead the way out. Hermione could feel that Harry just wanted to disappear with her…to retreat and consider what had just happened. Even if they had known that the Headmaster's sudden departure was coming, there was nothing they could have done to prepare for it emotionally.

As they made it, hand-in-hand, to the enormous doors at the end of the Hall, Harry and Hermione had the sudden, incredible urge to retreat to the one place that they really called home.

"We can't just leave without telling someone." Hermione thought to him, as she pulled him aside.

"We'll tell Ron and Luna and we'll tell your parents. They can tell everyone else."

Harry immediately agreed and they decided to divide the work. Hermione went and found her parents while Harry cornered Ron and Luna. In neither case did it take but a very few minutes to get approval (or at least understanding) from the people in question.

In almost the blink of an eye, the Head Boy and Girl met in the court yard, outside of the Great Hall. "You know, leaving like this…they're going to be pretty hacked off at us."

Harry snorted mentally. He really didn't care. "Ready?"

"Always, my husband." And with no more sound than the passing of a ghost, the Head Boy and Girl disappeared.

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There. The wedding scene is finally done. I wasn't sure that I would make it. This has been a hard chapter to write – but it's done. Five more chapters to go (I think) and the story is finally over.

As usual, I would ask you to please leave a review. Reader-reviews are the life-blood of this kind of writing and I need/want them no less than the next person. Plus, it gives me a sense of what's working and what isn't.

Regards,

the_scribbler