AUTHOR'S NOTES: I'm sure there's a few people who liked the original version of the ending of this story but reading it over I realized that the original version kinda sucked. So here's the new and improved version which takes place after the Dursleys' trial.
DEI EX MACHINA--ALTERNATE STORY ENDING
"He asked you to marry him?" Lavender Brown asked the next morning at breakfast. The Gryffindor 6th year girls were huddled together and gaping at the beautiful diamond ring on Hermione's left hand. "Hermione, you can't!"
Looking puzzled, Hermione asked, "Why not?"
Pavarti Patil giggled. "Well, 'cause Harry can't… I mean since he's in that wheelchair…"
"What are you talking about?" Hermione asked, still confused.
"You know…" Lavender said with a dirty smirk on her face. "The wedding night…"
After a moment of trying to decipher what the context was, Hermione's eyes widened. "Wha- you think… I mean, you think that…?" brow furrowing, Hermione lowered her voice and looked at the other girls. "Just because Harry can't move his legs doesn't mean he can't… It doesn't mean that he's not able to… do certain things." Getting up quickly, Hermione grabbed a last piece of toast before snatching up her bag and walked briskly out of the Great Hall.
"Harry, mate… I know you love Hermione," Ron said as he and Harry headed down to the dungeons. "But there's… something I was wondering about."
Harry rolled his eyes as he stopped outside the Potions classroom. "My legs don't work, Ron," Harry said, opening the door. "The rest of me is fine."
"Sorry," Ron muttered. "It's just… well, everyone else wanted to know."
"Ron… sometimes you are just a bit insensitive," Harry muttered as he went to the station he shared with Hermione.
Turning around, Harry saw Ginny Weasley coming up to him, holding a small roll of parchment. "Ginny. Look I know that you—"
Ginny shook her head and gave an honest smile. "It's okay, Harry. I'm happy for you." Handing over the parchment she added, "Dumbledore gave me this to give to you."
Harry unrolled the message and after a moment said, "I have to go. Thanks, Ginny." Heading up to the headmaster's office, Harry found the headmaster sitting at his desk, a knowing smile on his face. "You wanted to see me, sir?"
"Yes, Harry…" Dumbledore said, his eyes twinkling merrily. "Leaving the Ministry of Magic the other day I couldn't help but notice a certain ring that Miss Granger wore on her left hand." Smiling, he asked, "When are the two of you to be married?"
"I've only just proposed!" Harry said, laughing. "I don't know… I'd… I'd like to do it this summer when I turn 17."
"I'll inform Molly at once," Dumbledore replied. "Now… on to less appealing business."
"Voldemort, I presume," Harry guessed.
"Naturally," Dumbledore said. "I have been studying what I know of the methods he used to gain his power and I believe that I have devised a way to destroy Voldemort remotely."
Harry moved his wheelchair closer, interested. "How?"
"In the Department of Mysteries Voldemort left you when you felt a great surge of positive emotions: love, friendship… I believe that if you were to invade Voldemort's mind—essentially possess him—you would be able to end him once and for all," Dumbledore explained.
Harry thought it over and after a moment asked, "But what's to stop Voldemort from reversing the process and possessing me?"
"I, along with whoever else you wanted, would act as a link to your mind," the headmaster replied. "We would encourage you; help you to destroy those bonds of magic which tie Voldemort to this world. He has become so wrapped up in his power I do not expect him to survive with his magic broken."
"How… how soon would we do this?" Harry wanted to know.
"Not this moment," Dumbledore answered. "But soon."
Harry had never put much stock into the saying 'Beware the Ides of March' until a cool March evening which found him lying on the couch in Dumbledore's office with Sirius, Hermione, Ginny, Luna, and Ron. "Just relax, Harry," Dumbledore said, standing next to Harry. "Close your eyes…" Harry closed his eyes and focused on the headmaster's voice. "Let your mind drift… let all your thoughts go… Focus on finding the link between you and Voldemort."
Harry felt a surge of anger and hatred but instead of withdrawing from it like he usually did when he felt Voldemort's emotions, he held onto it and used the feeling to draw himself into Voldemort's mind.
It felt like the dungeons of Hogwarts but there was a sharp, almost metallic scent on the air… The entire chamber felt like a snake… And all around the room were glowing green chains…
"How did you get here, Potter?" Voldemort said, looking at the teenager standing before him.
"You should protect your feelings and emotions more," Harry said, withdrawing his wand. "Someone might use them to invade your mind." As quickly as he could, Harry fired a spell at the chains but as soon as the chain was destroyed, the whole chamber shook violently and the stone started to crumble a bit.
"I wouldn't recommend that, Potter," Voldemort said with an evil grin. "If I die… you die as well. We are linked, Potter…"
'Look for the link that binds the two of you,' Dumbledore's voice said in Harry's head.
Harry looked around and narrowly missed a Killing Curse Voldemort fired at him. Diving away from another spell, Harry fired his own curse at another one of the chains, again making the room shake and crumble. "So what did it, Tom?" Harry said, trying to distract his foe. "What made you turn?"
Voldemort fired another spell and was amazed when Harry blocked it easily. "Silence, boy!"
"Was it the fact that Mummy abandoned you?" Harry said, his eyes still scanning for the link that bound him to Voldemort as he dodged the Dark Lord's spells. "Or was it being the only wizard in an orphanage full of muggles?" Ducking a Cruciatus curse, Harry asked, "You could have manipulated someone into adopting you. Why didn't you? Was it maybe because you felt you deserved to be there? Forgotten? Alone?"
"SILENCE!" Voldemort roared and fired a wild shot which missed Harry but hit some of the chains which seemed to be tangled together. "NO!"
Harry tried to keep his feet as she room shook even worse. Finally, he saw the link. A small golden chain in the corner. But hitting it would require a very direct shot. "I know what it's like to be hated for your powers!" Harry said, trying a different plan. "My aunt and uncle would have preferred to dump me at an orphanage and forget about me." Avoiding another series of spells, Harry went on. "My uncle beat me and my aunt worked me to death. I didn't matter to them. Just like you didn't seem to matter to anyone until you got to Hogwarts. But even then," Harry added, noticing that Voldemort wasn't firing spells at him at the moment. "You were still alone, right? And then you found the truth about your parents…Someone had to pay, right? YOU had to make them pay…"
Taking advantage of Voldemort's hesitation, Harry fired a few spells at the chains and as they were destroyed, the room started falling apart. But while the links of Voldemort's magic were falling apart, the golden chain which bound Voldemort to Harry remained untouched. "I swore…" Voldemort said, pointing his wand at Harry's heart. "That I would destroy all those filthy muggles and mudbloods… Just like my father destroyed my mother! He took her from me!"
"And now all of them must pay," Harry finished. "You don't want me here, do you? Asking these questions… playing to your doubts?" Slowly moving into position and mentally calculating the shot, Harry figured he'd have one chance to destroy the last chains including his link to Voldemort. "But you've always had these doubts, haven't you?"
"ENOUGH!" Voldemort shouted, angrily. "Avada—"
Harry waited until Voldemort raised his wand before firing a direct shot and hitting the last chains and the link. Immediately, Harry felt the room explode and fell to the floor, his mind unconnected and lost… There was nothing now… no sound…
"Harry… Harry, come on back… It's done. Wake up, Harry…"
Harry heard the voices. Her voice, calling him back… He wanted to be with her… to hold her again…
"I think he's opening his eyes!"
"Harry, can you hear me?"
A warm, familiar hand held his…
"Harry… wake up…"
Harry opened his eyes and the first face he saw was Hermione's, her brown eyes full of concern and love. "Hi…" Harry said, sitting up as Hermione flung her arms around him.
"We thought you weren't going to wake up," Ron said as Harry hugged Hermione.
"I was only out for a little while," Harry said, confused. Looking around he was suddenly wondering he was in the hospital wing… again. "Wasn't I?"
"Actually… you've been in a pretty deep coma for more than a month," Sirius said from his seat next to Harry's bed. Harry couldn't help noticing that his godfather looked very much like he had after first escaping from Azkaban. "W-we tried everything to wake you up: potions, spells…" Finally giving Harry a smile, Sirius added, "Hermione, Ginny, and Luna tried kissing you."
"I thought maybe it was like 'Sleeping Beauty'," Hermione said as she put some more pillows behind Harry. "'True love's kiss' and all that." Lowering her voice a bit, she added, "I was really worried you weren't going to come back to us, Harry."
Harry lay back, smiling. "I'd come back from anything just to be with you, 'Mione."
Hermione smiled and soon was locked in a tender, welcoming kiss.
21 Months Later
Potter& Granger Wedding
In the teachers' lounge, Harry sat before a full length mirror, looking at himself in his father's old wedding robes. He couldn't believe that he was getting married. The robes fit like a glove and even his hair seemed less messy today. It was like a dream and only the fact that he was in a wheelchair reminded him it wasn't. It had been about two and a half years since the car accident and Harry still hadn't regained any further use of his legs. Hearing the door open, Harry looked up to see Sirius standing in the doorway holding up a small box. "Don't want to forget this…" Sirius said, smiling. Seeing that Harry didn't smile back, Sirius stepped into the room and stood beside the mirror. "Not getting cold feet, are you?"
Harry shook his head. "Last night… Hermione and I fell asleep on the couch. After a while, she nudged me awake. She needed to get up, but the way we were positioned… She had to move my legs before she could get up and… help me get into bed." Looking at Sirius, Harry asked, "Is it fair to do this to Hermione? I love her… I want to marry her more than anything… But… Sirius… I'm never going to be able to move my legs."
Sirius sighed and put the box with Hermione's wedding band in his pocket. "Harry, Hermione knows this. She wants to marry you, even though you're in the wheelchair. Yes, it'll be obstacle at times, but… when you really love someone, you don't mind what happens." Walking up to Harry and handing over the ring, he said, "Do it, Harry. Don't let doubts… keep you from being happy."
In a small chamber off of the Great Hall, Hermione twirled before the mirrors in her wedding gown.
"I wish your mother could see you today," Jacob Granger said as he stood with his little girl. "You look so beautiful…"
"You couldn't talk Mum into coming?" Hermione said, her mood dropping a bit.
"I've tried talking to Anne… but she thinks you and Harry are too young… and that you should be marrying someone… able-bodied," Jacob said, with a sigh.
"I don't care if Harry never walks again!" Hermione shouted, upset. "I love him! It's my life—my choice!"
"I know, Hermi… I know…" Hugging his daughter, Jacob tried to get Hermione's mind off of the situation. "Look… this is your day, honey. Don't worry about Mum… this is your day."
"Thanks for being here, Daddy," Hermione said, giving her father a kiss on the cheek before going to give herself a final look-over.
The snow had started falling again as everyone gathered in the Great Hall for the wedding.
The torch brackets along the walls had been cleaned the previous night and now sparkled in the sunlight pouring in through the spotless windows.
Up at the front of the hall where the staff table usually sat there was a beautiful arch covered with lilies, roses, vanilla orchids, and a mix of sweet smelling parsley, lavender, and mint.
On one side of the arch, Harry sat with Sirius and Ron standing beside him.
On the other side, Ginny stood with Luna as they waited for the ceremony to start.
"Ready, Harry?" Dumbledore asked as he came up.
Harry nodded, smiling. "I am… I'm nervous… But I'm ready."
Dumbledore signaled to Tonks who started up the music before looking at the Creevey brothers who opened the main doors so that Hermione and her father could come down the aisle ahead of Dobby who was merrily tossing handfuls of rose petals before popping back down to the kitchens to prepare for the reception.
Stopping at the end of the aisle, Hermione turned to her father and gave him a kiss on the cheek before saying, "I love you, Dad."
"Do I get a kiss, too?"
Hermione turned to see her mother standing there. "Mum… I thought you didn't approve of me marrying Harry."
Anne Granger smiled as she kissed her daughter. "I received a call from your headmaster," she said, glancing up at Dumbledore. "He reminded me that it's about what you want… not what I want." Giving Hermione one more kiss and a hug she whispered, "Now go on… I'll see you later."
Hermione went up to Harry but before taking her fiancé's hand she trew her arms around Dumbledore, saying, "Thank you!"
Dumbledore smiled as Hermione stepped back, a little embarrassed by her action. "It was my pleasure. Now… are the two of you ready?"
Hermione took Harry's hands and nodded. "Yes," they both replied, smiling.
Sirius couldn't help but feel a certain amount of sadness as he looked at Harry. It wasn't because of the teenager's disability but rather because Sirius wished that James and Lily were there to see their son get married.
As Harry recited his vows and slid the wedding band on Hermione's finger he didn't even think of his parents. All he could think about was that he had to be the happiest person in the world. And looking into Hermione's tear-filled eyes, he knew she felt the same.