"Forever cannot be long enough for me [to] feel like I had long enough with you.
Together cannot be close enough [to] feel like I'm close enough to you.
You wear white and I wear out the words 'I love you',
Marry me, today and every day."
Excerpts from Train's "Marry Me"
Chapter 55: Till Death do us a part
The Entrance hall was completely packed with people. After the last batch of troops marched into the hall, their chainmail rustling, they sealed the castle completely to prevent any contamination of the air. They could hear the echoes of Uasal's loud bellows, which mean that they weren't very far. Someone had cast a spell to improve the circulation of the air. The leaders took account of their strength.
Susan darted around the troops nimbly, desperately searching for her friends. She was attached to the goblins during the first confrontation. She grew relieved when she spotted Luna and Neville. Excitedly, she waved them over before crushing them in a hug. George and Fred appeared moments later and she pulled them into the group embrace.
They were alive! They survived the first confrontation.
"All of you did a good job on constructing the defences," praised Susan warmly, grinning at the boys. Her flaming red hair was messy and cluttered with dirt. She swept the offending fringe away, grinning happily at her friends.
The Weasley twins and Neville sheepishly thanked her for the compliment. It was, after all, not their sole effort.
She drew Luna into an embrace again. "Aunt told me that you were quite hurt after Voldemort saw through your disguise. I'm so glad that you're alive." She squeezed the younger girl tightly, barely controlling her tears.
Luna, moved, returned the embrace. "I'm fine. Harry rescued me." She patted comfortingly on Susan's back before drawing away from her embrace. Neville took her hand immediately, smiling tenderly at her.
A large smile appeared on Susan's face when she witness such a tender moment between Neville and Luna.
Fred moved forward, as if he wanted to say something to her.
Susan gave him an encouraging smile.
As if sensing that they needed a private moment together, their friends left them alone. Her cheeks burnt when she met Fred's nervous gaze. He swallowed visibly. He scratched the back of his head almost endearingly before fixing his gaze on his feet.
Her heart fluttered uncontrollably. She stared at her feet, wondering what she could say to break the rising tension between both of them.
Then, the piercing alarm broke his musing. The Death eaters were finally here.
They lifted their heads to meet each other's gaze. There was a longing look in his eyes and he looked quite torn deciding between responding to the call and speaking to her.
Fred opened his mouth, as if he was about to speak. His voice was drowned by her aunt's loud voice. "We are under attack. There is a breach in the third floor and the grounds. We'll split up and end these idiots."
They had to return to their duties immediately. Almost immediately, the crowd broke up nosily, splitting themselves into teams to welcome their invaders. She spotted the goblin leader she was working with.
"I need Fred and George to lead some of our people into the secret passageways in Hogwarts. I believe Wormtail is with them." Wormtail was very familiar with the secrets of Hogwarts. "Remain in contact, Oswald will tell you where your team should go." She exited the entrance hall and made her way to the office of the Headmistress, a few Aurors accompanying her.
George approached his twin quietly. Seeing the expression on Susan's face, he exchanged a look with Fred. He seemed almost resigned. George patted him on his shoulder before departing to meet his team. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Neville and Luna return to their duties.
Susan smiled shyly at him. "Let's talk after this." Not expecting an answer, she turned away to join her team.
"No." He grabbed her wrist, preventing her from leaving.
She spun to regard him in surprise. She didn't expect him to be so forward. She nearly smiled when she saw that he was blushing. When he finally lifted his head to look at her, she gasped at the intensity of his gaze.
"P-pardon?" Her jaw slackened. Did she heard him correctly?
Fred's gaze grew insistent, squeezing her hand with his. He closed the distance between them. "Marry me when this is over."
Her heart raced at their closeness. "Huh?"
He grew slightly frustrated. "I don't mind taking your family name. I can live with your commitments to your House. Heck, I'll do anything to make us work. It took me a while to realise that I do love you. I was mean to you about Viktor because I had feelings for you and I was too stupid to realise it."
Fred was serious about this? He wanted to marry her? She had feelings for him for a while and did not think that he did not reciprocate. Despite the suddenness of the proposal, she nearly wanted to agree on impulse.
"You don't have to give me an answer now," continued Fred, a hesitant but sincere smile appeared on his face. He turned away when she was merely looking at him instead of responding to his proposal.
She nearly smiled. "Fred."
He turned to look at her enquiringly.
"Be safe," answered Susan, returning the smile. She could not answer him properly when they had no time to talk about it. However, she wanted him to know that she was open to the idea of being more than friends. Fred seemed to understand and he relaxed visibly. Hesitantly, he brushed his lips on her forehead before bolting out of the Entrance Hall, a group of goblin warriors, werewolves and French guards following him.
She could not help smiling goofily at his retreating back. When Fred had completely disappeared from her sight, she returned to her team.
Fred was grinning like an idiot as he jogged up to meet the invaders. His team was assigned the task to prepare an ambush for the small team of Death eaters attacking Hogwarts. Quickly, they got into their positions and waited for their invaders to attack.
Their loud footsteps heralded the second phase of the invasion.
With bated breath, he watch the group of Death eaters look around the corridor, puzzled.
"Keep your eyes open. Hogwarts should not be so quiet." His voice was magically altered so it made it difficult for them to recognise him.
"They might be hiding in the dining hall. We should check that place out."
Slowly, they crept down the corridor, with their wands out.
His leader signalled the team to prepare to attack them. The moment the last Death eater of that team left the secret passageway, they sprung on them, blasting offensive spells. Fred's slowing spells hit three of the Death eaters allowing the French guards to take them out. The last two Death eaters were howling in pain, clutching their wounds since the goblin warriors had gotten to them. Within a minute, the small team of Death eaters were defeated.
They snapped all their wands and transported them into another site. "Enemies clear. Do we hold this position?"
"Yes, a larger group is on your way. Watch out for battle on the other side. The other team was overwhelmed by the Death eaters and are fighting close to the stairs."
The leader nodded, signalling his team to get back into position. They spilt into two groups. Both team position themselves at each end of the corridor so that they could attack the Death eaters. The goblin warriors took the frontline, propping their shields up to protect the wizards. "Wands at ready. We'll attack them the moment they appear."
When the first Death eater appeared from the hole, he immediately encountered a tightly meshed net of slowing spells and hexes. The other Death eaters used their fallen comrades as shields, fired killing spells rapidly.
Spell began flying from all sides. Fred ducked when a spell hurled towards him. One of the Death eaters fired a blasting spell on the roof above one of the teams, causing the roof to cave in on them. It blocked off the end connecting to the main stairs, trapping the smaller team with them.
"No!" yelled Fred, picking up the tower shield of one of the fallen goblins with a hand. He kneeled, holding the shield perpendicular to his body, deflecting a purple hex back to the assailant—a large slashed opened across his chest, splitting his torso into half.
Moving by instinct, he slammed into that Death eaters, creating a diversion needed for the rest of his team to triumph over them. Fred withdrew a small ball and tossed it into the passageway after he detonated it. He shut the portal immediately. "It contains a powerful blasting hex. They won't think of using it for a while." Leading the team, they tried to clear the rubble to save their team mates. Noises of battle filled the place, reminded them of the fierce fight that was taking place all over the castle.
On the fourth floor, the Death eaters were unnerved by the attack by the army of armours flanking both sides of the corridor. The Death eaters hastily constructed defences to fend their non-living clanking assailants away. In the midst of chaos, the George's team attacked them. The blood-curling war cries of the goblin warriors surprised the Death eaters, since they had never encountered them. Their battle formation made it difficult for the Death eaters to attack. The goblin formed two alternating lines with their shields to defend themselves from their spells while they attacked with poison-coated pikes. George was in charge of taking out the Death eaters they could not reach with their pikes with his spells.
The tide of the battle turned to favour the Death eaters when Greyback and his men arrived. They overwhelmed the goblin warriors with superior physical strength. "Back away, George. It's a debt I need to settle," announced Remus, staring at the werewolf who inflicted him with the illness. Some of the members of the security forces stood by his side, preparing to fight with their fellow brethren.
Greyback smiled when he saw his victim. "You're just a pathetic excuse for a werewolf. I should have killed you then."
Remus flashed a smile in response, unnerving his opponents.
"Trouble at third floor!" Os announced via the watch. "Teams that can render aid, please hurry to the location."
George caught Remus's eye and agreed to leave Greyback to Remus. He sprinted towards the stairs to lend aid to the team on the third floor as the goblins covered his back with their shields. Seeing that they were not required, they followed George.
The battle between the werewolves began immediately after his departure. Grayback was shocked to realise that the Ancient Families had enlisted the help of the werewolves to form their armies. To his horror, he watched his comrades fall one by one to Remus and his members of the security force overwhelmed Grayback and his bloodthirsty comrades with their ability to work in teams and their superior training.
In the Astronomy tower, the Dark forces were overwhelmed by the defenders who were making use of their superior position—they sandwiched them between two teams, forcing them to fight on two fronts. None of the Death eaters dared to underestimate a goblin after they watch them paralyse or slaughter their enemies with ease.
The teenagers proved to be capable fighters, using both hand-to-hand and magic easily. A Death eater who believed he had the upper hand after disarming Luna was shocked when he found himself on the ground a few seconds later. The tiny frail girl broke his nose and threw him on the ground while Neville hastily disarmed, stunned, and transported him to a safe holding location. Neville was also undefeatable as Crescent, mauling and hitting his enemies with his paws when he was in that form.
With keen eyesight, he spotted a tiny rat diving in and out of the battle. He chased after the rat on fours, as Luna covered his back. They met Susan who had engaged Pettigrew along an isolated corridor.
Perspiration beaded his brow when he was cornered by the three teenagers. He could barely conjured shields quick enough to protect himself from the spells, resorting to summoning items around the corridor.
"Take that for causing my Uncle to be wrongly imprisoned!" Not holding back, she rapidly fired a variety of offensive hexes. Luna and Neville attempted to corner him by throwing slowing spells or conjuring granite wall to keep him occupied.
Two other Death eaters entered the fray, surprising the teenagers by attacking them together. It was difficult to foresee the direction of the spells, making it difficult for the teenagers to defeat them.
"One on one," instructed Neville, dashing forward towards Pettigrew while Susan created physical barriers between the three battles by caving parts of the roof. None of them noticed a cat following Neville while it lingered carefully on fringes of battlefields.
Hermione's eyes shot open in astonishment when she no longer felt the paralysing pain or the loss of energy. Her uneven breathing evened out after a few moments. Tentatively, she sat up. Her body ached slightly from all the bruises.
She wasn't dead. She was alive.
The endless void in her soul horrified her. She was alone. The soft thrumming of their bond was completely absent in her. Where was that connection with Harry? Her eyes searched the carnage and fall on a still body a distance away from her—it was Harry.
Her heart stopped.
Tears gushed down her cheek in disbelief.
It couldn't be. Her fingers dug into her palms.
He couldn't be dead… He couldn't be dead, she was alive after all. Her eyes searched his face anxiously. Harry wore a peaceful expression on his face as if he was sleeping. Her eyes lingered on his chest—it looked like it was heaving slightly from shallow breathing. A sense of relief blossomed within her. She stared expectedly at his lips. He was really breathing, wasn't he?
"Harry?" whispered Hermione softly, inching closer to him. He did not respond. Merely unconscious, she thought, assuring herself. Soon, she was by his side. Harry did not stir. "Ennervate."
There was no reaction. Blood drained from her face. She casted the spell several time, hoping that he would stir. No, it couldn't be.
She fell on her knees by his side, staring at her lover. Her clenched hands trembled.
Gingerly, she brought her hand closer to him. Hermione knew how to test for pulse. Her parents had taught her. Was it necessary? She withdrew her hand, balling it into a fist.
Harry was definitely alive. Harry wouldn't abandon her. Harry wouldn't betray her.
Then, she recalled the conversation they had in the Headmistress's office. There was a sense of finality as if he had already planned to betray them by allowing her to live while he…
No! Harry wouldn't do that to her. Harry knew how much it would hurt her. He wouldn't do that to her.
Hastily, she leaned in and felt for a confirmation. Her eyes went wide after a few moments of compressing her fingertip to the jugular.
No, no, no, no!
She panicked and began pressing hard into the area where the pulse ought to be. Did she remember wrongly? Her fingers jabbed around the area but could not find that pulse that would prove to her that her husband was innocent of the accusations her mind was mounting on him.
She pressed her ear to his chest. The unnerving silence of his deadened heart shattered the fragile hope she was harbouring. She backed away in disbelief.
He wasn't gone. It couldn't be true.
She grew limp. An intense pain jolted through her. Her chest constricted painfully. She could not breathe. She clutched on her chest, heaving. She curled her limbs and body tightly, as though she was an unborn child.
Her Harry had abandoned her. Her Harry had severed the link to save her. Her Harry had…
Get rid of Riddle now, Mistress. You need to destroy his soul! His urgent voice broke through her depthless grief. Please, don't let master's actions be in vain.
Her vision blurred with her tears, as she hugged herself tightly. H-Harry is g-go…
Hermione, please. For Harry. Do it for Harry. Cathaoir's voice reflected his sorrows. He shared her grief.
Carefully, she uncurled herself, mechanically sitting up. She threw herself on him, wrapping her arms around his still body. It was warm and soft. It felt like those mornings when she found herself snuggling into his chest. He would smile at her if he was already awake, stroking her long unruly hair. Hermione sighed, her arms tightening around him. She closed her eyes. She could stay here with him like this and pretend that they were still in bed, relaxing.
This was how things ought to be—just about the two of them. The world didn't matter.
You're the only one who can do this. Please, Hermione. You're stronger than this. You need to destroy Voldemort. You need to do it for Harry. You know that he needs you to do this for him.
She lifted her head from his chest, staring at the sword lying innocently next to him. It gleamed in the light. Out of the corner of her eye, she could see Riddle. He was still alive. He was kneeling in his pool of blood, clutching his chest. Colour had drained from his face but there was a manic grin on his face.
Rage coursed through her immediately. How dare he! How dare he be happy after he had murdered her husband!
Allowing her rage to overwhelm her completely, she gripped the sword of Gryffindor with both of her hands, rising slowly to her feet. Her knuckles shone white from the harsh grip as she fixed her eyes on the target. Like a predator, she prowled slowly towards her victim, the tip of the sword screeching along the ground.
The smile on Riddle's face froze when his eyes fell on the avenger. Her gaze held so much venom and spite that it stunned him.
Then, his face broke into a smile. "The very energy I need—hatred."
Wordlessly, she brought the sword down in an arc, beheading him in a clean stroke. A loud unearthly wail escaped from the body. Black wisps surrounded the remains of Lord Voldemort, swirling and moving.
His head fell off his body and crumbled into a pile of dust. The headless body kneeling in the pool of blood became flaky suddenly, reducing into glistening motes of dust clinging to the form that used to be Lord Voldemort's body.
A gentle breeze swept those motes of dust away, leaving behind the echoes of the despairing scream to mingle with the rustling leaves. The dark pool of blood evaporated to form whirls of black mists. The winds cleansed the last vestige away, as if Mother Nature frowned at the sight of such an abomination.
The forest, despite the cleansing, remained foreboding.
"Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust; in sure and certain hope of the Resurrection to eternal life…"
Tom Riddle had finally found his eternal life in the blazing pits.
The Sword of Gryffindor fell nosily on the dirt ground. Hermione crumbled on the ground, chuckling hysterically. That thought tickled her. Hermione clutched her stomach and laughed as if she had never found anything so hilarious. Soon, she was laughing so hard that tears filled her eyes from her guffaws.
Her body trembled and quaked. She leaned forward on her knees, prostrating as her body shook from mirth. "It is done." Like the rock which cracked, her laughter reduced into harsh bitter sobs as the dam that held her depthless sorrow shattered at the realisation of his passing.
"G-gone." Her hopes of spending the rest of her life with Harry were dashed.
He had left her behind.
That tore a howl of utter wretchedness from her. Her sorrow was so great that it felt like acute physical pain. She was suffocating. She couldn't breathe from the immense pressure building within her. She could not take the agony of living without him. She beat her chest with her fists and rocked herself, trying to contain the agony as she sobbed.
Her Harry was gone. Her Harry had left her. "Harry!"
Her eyes landed on the sword lying next to her. Her bawling halted as another thought struck her. She righted herself, watching the sword intently. It was odd that she could finally understand the actions of the Shakespearean character she despised at this very moment. She gave a self-deprecating laugh when those lines came back to her perfectly.
"O! here, will I set up my everlasting rest, and shake the yoke of inauspicious star from this world-wearied flesh." Mechanically, she picked the sword up with both hands, her eyes gleaming with grit. Slowly, she climbed on her feet and settled next to her husband so that she looked into the visage of her husband. "Eyes, look your last," whispered Hermione, allowing her eyes to roam freely and tenderly across his face, etching his features deeply into her mind. He would be her last and only thought. She leaned into his chest, wrapping her arms tightly around him. He was still warm and soft. "Arms, take your last embrace!" choked she, peering at his lips. "Lips, O you, the doors of breath, seal with a righteous kiss." Carefully, she braced herself to graze his cold lips with hers—so warm, so alive, so far apart.
She would correct that.
Carefully, she lifted herself above him, so that she could look into his peaceful face. "A dateless bargain to engrossing death! Come, bitter conduct, come, unsavoury guide! Thou desperate pilot, now at once run on the dashing rocks thy sea-sick weary bark!" She reversed her grip on the hilt, pointing the blade to her heart.
"Here's to my love," whispered Hermione finally, staring at Harry fondly. A ghost of a smile appeared on her face. "I'll see you soon, my love."
A snowy owl shoved the sword away from her. It dropped on the dirt ground with a loud 'thud'. It was Hedwig. You can't kill yourself. What would Harry think?
Your master is not around. Her numbness could not soothed Hedwig's temper.
Hedwig glared at her, hopping to Harry's side. He died to keep you alive.
"I wasn't meant to cheat death!" wailed Hermione, clenching her fists. Her echoes vibrated haunting around the clearing. For a moment, she sensed a dark intent around the place.
That feeling subsided after a while. The forest burst into life with a myriad of sounds and noises, celebrating. She was filled with a baffling sense of peace. She blinked owlishly.
An unfamiliar voice trilled in her mind. Be at peace, young one. I can save him. My bond mate is dead and Harry Potter don't deserve to die now. Both of you deserve your fairy-tale ending. I'll breathe my life into him.
She lifted her head and found herself staring into the black eyes of Dumbledore's phoenix, Fawkes. His scarlet and brilliant plume glowed. His golden tail feathers felt warm to her skin. "You would?" offered Hermione hopefully. It uplifted her deadened spirits.
Hedwig was perching next to Harry, looking mournfully at her master.
He landed on her lap, so that he could look into her eyes. Be happy. My bond mate would have wanted that for both of you. He was misguided but he always wanted both of you to be happy. I apologise on his behalf for all the pain he inflicted on you and your mate. Those are wounds that my tears cannot heal.
Fawkes cried over her open wounds, healing them.
Hermione nodded. "You would trade your immortality for his life?"
Fawkes fondly nipped her finger. He trilled a joyful and mythical melody, as if he was celebrating the sacrifice.
With bated breath, she watch Fawkes dive into Harry's chest, causing his body to jerk. A scarlet glow, beginning from his chest, spread to encompass him entirely. A barrier of red flames burst around him. Powerful winds sprang up around him, lifting him into the air.
She shielded her face with her arms, unable to take her eyes off him.
The Phoenix's song soared, filling the entire clearing with its ethereal song. Harry lingered mid-air, his wounds knitted and closed on their own. His spine straightened on its own as the muscles knitted and repaired themselves.
Cathaoir landed next to Hermione, watching the whole proceeding intently, not knowing what to expect. It was unheard that a phoenix would willingly give up its life to revive a person. Uasal is still fighting with the Nundu but I have already set up the wards to prevent it from moving away.
"You should return. Fawkes will save Harry."
Did you eliminate the black mists that surrounded Riddle when he drew his last breath?
Hermione snapped her head to stare at the griffin. Her eyes were wide with panic.
Suddenly, the winds picked up speed ominously as the sky grew dark. A menacing force flung Hermione away from Harry, sending her into a tree.
Using a cushioning spell, she reduced the damage, breaking into a roll. A loud wailing grew louder and louder, drowning out the mythical melody.
A dark mist, gathering around Harry, threatened to overwhelm the bright glow surrounding him. Cathaoir roared loudly, causing the trees and the ground to shiver and quake.
He lent his voice to the song, allowing his golden light to merge with the dying red glow. The barrier of flames was dying slowly, put out by the blanket of dark mists.
Hedwig landed on her shoulder, watching the fight helplessly. Around them, murky dark-coloured pools appeared across the clearing. Inferi groaned and shrieked as they rose from those pools, their deadened eyes fixed on the only living human in the clearing.
Numbly, they crawled towards her.
There were about fifty of them in the clearing. Dread filled her. Hermione withdrew her gun and began firing at the approaching hordes of Inferi, determined to protect both Harry and Cathaoir.
Pettigrew searched the corridor and noticed that they were losing badly. Everyone was going wrong! They were supposed to surprise the school and take advantage of the confusion. There were very few Death eaters left. Most of the werewolves were already dead. He was surprised when he could not beat Neville, a fifth year. He shared a dormitory with him for two years and did not know that he had the potential to become so powerful. The young boy dodged his spells nimbly, attacking him with a volley of offensive spells.
He empathised with the young man when he was still Scabbers since he was a younger version of him—untalented in magic and surrounded with powerful and promising wizards and witches.
"The Dark Lord will reward you if you join him. He will give you anything your heart desires. You don't have to live under the thumb of those Ancient Families."
"You won't live any longer, Wormtail,"yelled Neville. "It's time for you to learn the importance of loyalty. "He firing a range of offensive spells at him. Wormtail barely avoided the spells. Quickly, he transformed into Wormtail and tried to make his getaway.
He transformed into Crescent and lumbered after the tiny rat.
Wormtail scurried for the small hole near the rubble. He could make it! He would survive this battle and get help. He did not notice a large orange-coloured cat approaching him.
With a mighty pounce, Crookshanks snatched him by his body and ate him. It was rare that he did not play with his food but he held a grudge against him for endangering his mistress years ago.
Crescent clutched his massive belly as it roared in laughter when he saw Crookshanks swallow Wormtail alive. He transformed into Neville, a wide smile on his face. He rubbed Crookshanks on his head fondly. "I know Hermione kept you for a reason."
He cleared the rubble by banishing it. Luna and Susan were triumphant in their fight. The sounds of fighting could only be heard originating from the top of the tower. The Dark forces were retreating quickly and it was time for the Aurors to pursue them. "We've got a few stragglers left. We should be able to wrap up soon," reported Neville, tickling Crookshanks behind the ear. "You won't believe it, but Crookshanks helped you to exact revenge for the betrayal of Harry's parents—he ate Wormtail."
Oswald broke into a toothy smile.
"Well done. The other teams are eliminating them too. When you're done, head to the medical wing to help Madam Pomfrey,"replied Oswald.
Crookshanks was very happy with himself. It tasted weird but it was worth it. Quickly, he scampered to the side to watch the other battles with Katrina. It was his duty to keep an eye for his owners' friends while they were not around. He couldn't wait to see Harry and Hermione again once the battle was over—they would be so pleased with him.
"Have you heard from Harry or Hermione?" questioned Neville finally. "How about Cedric or Daphne?"
Oswald looked grim. "No. I really hope things are in their favour. We're planning to dispatch a team to find them soon. The other students are safe. The house elves held those who tried to stir up unrest among the students in a separate site. Harry and Hermione are very lucky to have their loyalty."
Neville nodded. "You should advise Am to include the house elves in our victory speech when Harry and Hermione destroy Voldemort. I'll pass the message along to our teams."
The inferi were relentless in their attack but Hermione had the upper hand. They were nearly exterminated by her powerful fire spells. The rate of conjuration of Inferi slowed down. All of a sudden, the eddying jumble of light and dark mists around Harry exploded, throwing both Hermione and Cathaoir across the clearing.
Harry gently floated down to the ground, landing on his feet. Time seemed to stand still as they waited for Harry to open his eyes.
I-is that him?
She held her breath, waiting anxiously.
His eyelids fluttered opened suddenly revealing two different colours—his starling green and Tom's gleaming red. Harry smirked—one reminiscent of Riddle's.
Cathaoir growled softly, putting himself between them. Harry is somewhere inside. I don't feel Fawkes.
Hordes of inferi appeared around them.
Harry stared at his body inquisitively. "A powerful body," he remarked in a soft voice. "Handpicked by the Creator himself. I have triumphed over the odds that fate has presented to me and defeated his champion."
Slowly, she picked herself up, ignoring her pain.
"My soul grows powerful with your emotions, Mione. I feed on your hopelessness, your grief, your fury and your hatred. I will be completed when you taste complete despair."
"Don't you call me that!" shrieked Hermione, trembling. Harry wouldn't let Voldemort consume his soul. He was stronger. He wouldn't let her down if he knew he had a fighting chance to return to her. He would also return if she was in trouble. Lower the wards that you're putting around us.
Do you know what you're doing, Hermione?
Her eyes shone with determination. Awakening your master.
"He's simply too weak. He had too many fears. At this moment, he is feeling remorseful about severing the bond between him and you," chuckled Tom mockingly, sending shivers down her spine.
Her heart lurched at the mention of the betrayal.
Riddle grinned. "I'll break him. Crucio! "
Before the spell could hit her, magical shields appeared around her absorbing the spell.
Perspiration beaded on Harry's forehead as he struggled to take control of his body. Using his elemental magic, he set the whole clearing on fire. "No!"
It looked as if they were standing in the pits of hell, watching the inferi writhe in the scorching flames. Both Snape and Dumbledore were also cremated in those flames.
Cathaoir let out another roar, the golden light that surrounded him expanded to include Harry. He began singing, lifting their spirits and boosting their courage.
Harry coughed violently, clutching painfully to his chest. Dark mists, which were escaping from him, eddied around him like pools of murky water. A frown of concentration appeared on his face as he tried to expel the parasite from his body. Since he used to be Riddle's horcrux, his soul was accustomed to Riddle's presence. The hold on his soul lessened dramatically as he focused on his love for her.
She was the best part of him. The need to protect her, no matter the cost, stirred deeply within him, giving him the vigour to reclaim his body.
Voldemort screeched painfully in his head.
Harry clutched his head as he yelled in pain.
His mind was growing clearer as Riddle began to lose control of him.
After gaining a nominal control of his body, Harry summoned his sword. His keen hearing picked up the whooshing sounds of the Sword of Gryffindor cutting through the air. He felt empowered by the sense of hope stirred by Cathaoir's song. It grew harmonious with the sweet and peaceful melody within.
That tune grew louder and louder, drowning out the unearthly wailing.
He lifted his head to meet the smothering gaze of Hermione. Her face was tear-stained, remains of her intense grief. He understood how cruel he was to her. At that moment, he was glad that he was alive—alive to make up to her.
"I love you." She whispered.
Her words were like a balm to his soul. He returned a tender smile. Voldemort's wail grew louder in his head as if he knew he was finally going to see his Maker. Focusing all his will, he expelled that errant soul from within. The dark and angry mists took a humanly form as it fled from Harry's body.
With a loud cry, Harry plucked the sword from mid-air. His sword burnt with flames. Rapidly, he thrust the flaming blade into its heart. The mist screamed and writhed as it caught fire. Slowly, the flames consumed those dark mists.
Harry backed away from the barrier light, allowing that golden light to contain the ominous but fading mists. His fire burnt brightly within, fuelled by the golden light.
The floodgates of the sky opened suddenly and it began to pour. The flames around the clearing were extinguished by the heavy downpour. He glanced at Hermione, knowing that it was her work—his element could only be quenched by another.
The golden light reduced in size, boxing the helpless ad burning dark spirit. It trembled and flickered as the mist began to disintegrate. Soon, the fire completely consumed the soul of Lord Voldemort and he was no more.
The song faded and its echoes merged with the howling winds. As if it was a passing storm, the winds died down and it became sunny again. The forest, despite the damage from the battle, finally became tranquil.
His knees became jelly when the golden light finally dissipated. He wobbled on his feet before they gave away completely. Unceremoniously, he began his slow descent to the ground, the dirt floor rushing up to his face. Arms winded around him crushing him to that soft body.
Her vanilla scent comforted him. He pressed his face into her drenched hair, overjoyed that they were alive. Hermione was sobbing uncontrollably, chanting," You're alive." Hedwig joined in the embrace cheerfully, glad that her owner was alive.
Cathaoir, overwhelmed by the whole affair, threw himself into the group embrace. They were all alive and safe. They had finally won the war and lived. It was moments later when they pulled away. Tiredly, Harry brushed his lips on her brow with great reverence.
Cathaoir, seeing that all was well, took off to check on the dragon.
The void in her soul reminded her of his betrayal.
She saw red.
Harry felt her stiffening in his embrace. "Is some—"
Before Harry could anticipate it, she decked him hard on the face. He fell on the wet ground, grabbing his nose while he bled profusely.
Do not interfere!
"You bloody idiot. Do you not consider me as your wife?" yelled Hermione, her eyes narrowing in anger, jumping on him. She struck his chest several times with her fists irately. Then, she froze, her fists lingering in mid-air. "Wait. We aren't married anymore." Since the bond that led to the formal declaration of their union was severed, so was their marriage.
His gaze became remorseful. "I'm sorry for hurting you. It was utterly cruel of me to betray you in such a manner. I was wrong, I should have shared that secret with you. My heart ached with the absence of what we used to have—the intimate connection. But, the lack of the bond doesn't change how I feel towards you." His gaze grew smothering. "Hermione, I love you. Nothing is going to change that fact." His voice trembled. "Don't leave me. We can work this out together—date, be engaged, and get married for real."
His declaration softened her. Was her anger really justified when he was lying under her, well, wet and alive? Tears ran down her cheeks. "When I realised you were d-dead, I wanted to kill myself to join you. I can't imagine… Can you even comprehend how much I care?"
He held both of her hands with his, looking troubled at the declaration. "I'm sorry, Mione. Will you forgive me?"
"Why did you do it? Why didn't you teach me to do it?"
He raked his hand through his hair, trying to form the words to explain to her. He realised it was more difficult expressing himself coherently to her without a mental link. Regret filled him for a moment. "I couldn't let you die. I know it will be hard for you to survive but there's Mum and Dad. Our familiars, friends, and family will also be there for you. There's so much you can do for the society. It'll be a waste—"
"—I can say the same for you."
He shook his head. "I will not." His tone held a sense of irrevocability. His gaze became imploring. "Angel, please understand that my life revolves around us. I'm so blessed because of you. My life means nothing to me if you're not in it." Her body stiffened at his declaration. "I know I'm wrong to think that you don't feel the same way."
She relaxed visibly, leaning to brush her lips on his brow.
"Did the thought of finding a way for me to live should you be mortally wounded cross your mind?" asked Harry softly, looking at her. "We mean so much to everyone." She scooted back slightly so that he could sit up.
"Yes but I knew it would be too cruel to you." She sighed, choosing to be honest. "I know how much I mean to you. I am your first real friend, partner, and soul mate as you were mine. "Tenderly, she squeezed his hand. "I've never consider the consequences of your death because I've never consider the possibility that we might lose our lives. I'm probably mad that I didn't consider it."
She feared their death while he had accepted that it was a possibility in a war and prepared accordingly. They made a good couple.
Her eyes fell on the golden feather next to Harry. Reverently, she picked it up. Their relationship would be like Fawkes, reborn and remade through the scorching flames.
"It is better this way. Bloody Merlin, I couldn't focus on my fight with Voldemort—I couldn't stop worrying…"
Her brow arched almost challengingly. "Perhaps another fight is required so that you'll remember I'm not helpless…"
He bestowed a kiss on her finger tenderly, cradling her hands. It took a while for her to realise that he was kissing her invisible ring—the evidence of their marriage.
"I'm sorry, honey. I'm slightly overprotective—"
Hermione silenced him by pressing a finger on his lips.
"I'm glad we're both alive…"
She traced his warm lips with her finger with great reverence, as her gaze lingered on his face. Harry had forgotten about his broken nose. Carefully, she healed his broken nose by outlining the bridge of his nose with feathery caresses. Her hands stroked his cheeks, then traced his strong jaws. She swallowed visibly when she met his hooded gaze—he did not hide the effect her caresses had on him.
Her cheeks grew pinked as she snapped her hands to her side and scooted off his lap.
His eyes gleamed with faint amusement.
Hermione looked almost befuddled. He understood her confusion. He took her hands into his and squeezed them gently.
"Does this mean I have to ask your hand from Dad? I mean, formally, we aren't together." Confusion was immediately replaced by mischievousness.
Hermione arched a brow. "Are you trying to propose to me? Aren't you skipping just too many steps, hmm? What about the part about dating and getting engaged?"
Harry laughed brightly, leaning in so that he could rest his brow on hers. "I'm not too sure about the whole works. After all, with a kiss, I was married."
His heart raced at their closeness. The amusement faded from his eyes as he eyed her lips hungrily.
Hermione was nibbling on her bottom lip almost nervously, waiting him to make his next move. They were shy with each other as if they didn't know how to interact with each other now that they were no longer married.
It was silly! Being not married didn't mean that they didn't love each other. She tipped his chin, so that their gaze was levelled. Framing her hands around his face tenderly, she captured his lips with a searing kiss, chasing his hesitations away. Instantly, his arms wrapped her possessively, caressing her back and arms, lost in the pleasure of being so close to her. It was a ritual they were so familiar with, yet it was so new and exciting each time. They allowed themselves to be lost in each other's love, savouring and giving.
When they drew apart finally to breath, both of them came to the same conclusion—they were now a normal couple. Without the special abilities of the bond—the almost limitless magical reserve, the mental link, the ability to shift—they had become a normal couple in love.
Lovingly, Harry pecked her nose. "I'm okay with any decision you make for us. I'll wait for you to be ready and this time I'll do it right by you."
His solemn promise rendered Hermione speechless.
"Let's return. I'm sure they are very worried about us. Luna and Su might hit me when they learn about what I've done," chuckled Harry, scratching the back of his head. Hermione had taught them well and they could be quite dangerous if they wanted to be.
Mirth filled her eyes. She blew a raspberry at him. "If they did, you know you deserve it. I'll try my best to persuade them to be gentle on you."
It earned a chortle from him. "I'll appreciate any effort."
Harry turned to look at Hedwig, conscious that he could no longer feel her emotion and hear her thoughts. When he severed the soul bond, he had also cut off the link he had with their familiars. Hedwig perched on his arm when he extended it to her. Tenderly, she nipped his fingers.
"Not giving me grief?"
What matters is that both of you are alive and well. We can still communicate.
Harry stroked her gently, glad that she was so understanding. He realised that Crookshanks might not be as forgiving.
Hedwig nipped his finger painfully, taking him by a surprise. Take good care of Hermione. I'll bite off all your fingers if you try to hurt her again.
Harry laughed. "I promise." It satisfied the owl and she returned to Hogwarts. Turning to regard Hermione, he saw amusement gleaming in her eyes. Hermione was charmed by Hedwig's protective streak.
Harry sheathed the Sword of Gryffindor. He hoped that it was the last time that he had to draw it to kill. Wordlessly, he offered his hand. Trustingly, she took it, nonchalant about the destination they were going. It felt as emblematic as a rededication, an answer to his declaration of following her lead—Hermione will not mind where he will take her in the future as long as they continued to be together.
Smiling, they apparated back to the castle.
Harry was simply nervous. Frantically, he adjusted his silky black tie again, hoping that it was straight. With trembling fingers, he straightened his white jacket with black lapels. His messy black hair was tamed with generous application of amount of potion. It gave him a slicker look. This wasn't the first wedding he had attended since the war had concluded nearly two years ago. In fact, he had lost count of the number of nuptials he had witnessed.
Neville, dressed in a white three-piece suit was chuckling quietly at the sight of his nerves. He couldn't image the sight of the powerful Lord trembling at the altar. Besides Dumbledore, many had reckoned that he was one of the most powerful wizards of the century, a title Harry deferred to his fiancée. Both of them were credited with the achievement of ending Lord Voldemort's life. Neville snorted. Hermione was the one with steel between the both of them. "You look fine, Harry." He noticed Harry touching his fourth ring frantically, a look of dread on his face.
"Your ring is with me."
Harry relaxed visibly. His eyes flew to look at his Best man. "Has—"
"Yes, Luna passed me her ring just now." Neville grinned at the thought of how beautiful his intended was in a bridesmaid's gown. Fred, who knew the reason for the dreamy smile, nudged Neville playfully on the rib. "Su looks quite ravishing too. I think Mione and Jean picked those gowns because it made them look so good."
Fred turned pink. "What would Ced do just to be in your position right now?" He shot a glance at the tall Hufflepuff standing furthest from Harry.
Cedric frowned slightly. "I can't help it that Daphne doesn't want to tie the knot until she graduates from Hogwarts. Harry is considered of age since he claimed his title and Hermione is nearly a year older than most of her peers. We're planning to get married in that weekend she ends her NEWTS. I don't see why you should wait to finalise your engagement to Su."
His face grew red. "Sirius," mumbled he. Everyone was surprised that Fred had proposed to Susan instead of asking her out during the battle, not even George was aware of his twin's depth of affection for the young Lady. The only one who was objecting to their relationship was Sirius. He wanted Fred to prove himself to be worthy of her affections.
Harry felt slightly better, watching Fred and Cedric bicker. His eyes landed on an ominous figure who would bind him and Hermione later—Mask. She looked foreboding in her official capacity, a dichotomy from the lady he grew to know better under those robes. He grinned at her.
She dipped her head in a nod to acknowledge him.
The cathedral was starting to fill up with guests. The Security force was taking care of the security detail, since the upper echelon of the society were attending. Ministers from other countries were also invited to the wedding because he was Minister Bones-Black's family. Sirius was sitting next to a very pregnant Amelia, caring for her every need. She was due to birth very soon. She was entertaining several other Ministers. Remus who was sitting next to the couple, was also taking care of his pregnant wife, Tonks. Both of them had to get married when they realised that she was expecting.
Director Ragnarok was sitting near them, watching the over-doting husbands in amusement. Hughes and his wife were sitting near them, chatting with Amos and his wife. Fleur was absent since she was still having her honeymoon with Bill. George and his wife, Angelina were also having their honeymoon too. Arthur was sitting next to Mr Lovegood, chatting in a low voice. Molly Weasley were one of the fallen in the battle. The two weddings, the work at the Ministry and the children helped him to cope with his grief.
Oswald was on his feet, checking that everything was going well. With magic, it was easy for him to get used to his prosthetic legs. His wife was with him, asking him to stop harassing the poor planner. The corner of his lips curled up. Anyone would have become insane being pestered by Oswald and Charles.
Charles was eyeing the proceedings closely since it would reflect badly on the house. Harry wanted the house elves to witness the wedding but he answered that they had to prepare for one of the most sacred ritual later—welcoming the new lady of the house. Charles demanded that they follow the ancient rituals closely, which included getting married in an old cathedral near Potter Mansion. He was robbed of the chance to prepare their first wedding and he did not want to be denied of the pleasure of overseeing the second.
He scanned the guests sitting on the bride's side and found most of their school mates. Harry and Hermione were still at school, focusing on their masteries while they attended classes with their peers occasionally. Hermione was granted a mastery in Healing for combining non-magical and magical healing methods. Like Harry, she received an honorary Mastery for DADA for defeating Lord Voldemort and were formally recognised as Duellist masters.
Like the students, Headmistress McGonagall was also sitting on the bride's side since she favoured Hermione. She was immensely proud of her—despite her muggleborn status, she had achieved much in the wizarding world. The professor smiled when she met Harry's gaze. This was her second time witnessing their wedding.
He remembered his first wedding in the yard where only a few people witnessed their joining. Dumbledore had married them while Dad, Mum, Prof McGonagall, and Dobby watched.
Harry had forgiven the ex-Headmaster when he fought against Riddle and Snape to give them time. They had chosen to bury him in style to honour his sacrifice a few days after the end of the battle. He was buried in Hogwarts, a fitting burial ground for a man who dedicated most of his life in serving the school.
His eyes trailed to the front and settled on Mum. Jean was sitting on the bride's side, beaming happily at him. She was decked out in a breath-taking turquoise gown that accentuated her femininity and grace. His grin grew wider when their gaze met. She was the mother he never had. Even though he wasn't her son-in-law after the battle, she treated him as part of the family.
Cathaoir and Crookshanks were sitting next to her, ignoring the stares from other guests. They didn't care if they were taking up space—they had the right to witness the marriage. Hedwig and Callan were perching on the window above the entrance, watching the proceedings intently.
There was a loud crash from the back of the church and a smile crept into his face. Screams, yells and annoyed barks filled the cathedral at the sight of the head of a fearsome Hungarian Horntail. Callan and Hedwig looked annoyed that they were chased away by her. They had to settle for a window with a less better view of the altar.
The female dragon had stuck her head through the window above the entrance so that she could witness the wedding. She emanated joy, pleased that she managed to find a way around the ban. Why couldn't she attend the wedding of her master?
"Calm down, that's my familiar,Uasal. She means no harm," declared Harry, getting the attention of the panicking crowd. The crowd calmed down slightly and returned to their seats. A loud 'pop' was heard and Charles finally arrived on the scene. He stared disapprovingly at the dragon, scolding Harry's wayward familiar.
Flames erupted from her nostrils periodically, warning every one of her nasty temper. Yet, the ancient house elf continued in his tirade, oblivious to the danger. It was almost funny to watch such a tiny and fearless elf taking a dangerous magical creature to task. Uasal looked suitably remorseful. Charles finally relented when he exact a promise from her to behave throughout the ceremony.
Harry relaxed slightly when he realised he did not need to intervene.
"I can tell why Sirius is so afraid of him," added Neville.
Harry grinned brightly. "He's the only one who could break up a fight between a Golden Griffin and a dragon, besides Mione."
Suddenly, a melodious tune announcing the arrival of the bride echoed throughout the cathedral. His nerves returned with a vengeance. He barely controlled the desire to pace and chose to stuff them in the pockets of his pants instead.
His guests stood up at once to honour the bride. Everyone turned to the entrance to have a glimpse of the bride, the other hero who killed Lord Voldemort and the champion for equal rights.
His fear and anxiety were replaced with awe when he caught sight of his bride. Hermione was wearing an ivory gown, with intricate laces over her chest. They looked like white roses blossoming on her chest. He recognised it immediately—it was Mum's own wedding gown. Hermione was overjoyed that she could fulfil her childhood whim of walking down the aisle in her mother's dress. A thin veil covered her face, held by a small silver tiara. He knew that tiara—it belonged to his mother, Lily. Her long wavy hair was brushed behind to frame her lovely face. She held a bouquet in her gloved-cladded hand.
Hermione lifted her gaze to meet his, a small smile on her face. She had never looked so radiant and happy.
His gaze softened. What did he do to deserve her?
Dan was leading her, dressed in a silver suit to match his daughter's ivory gown. He looked proud even though this was his second time giving his daughter away. Both he and Jean were stunned when they told them that their marriage had ceased because of the fight. It was both of their promise that it didn't really affect their relationship that assured them. Dan had remarked that it was good because they could finally appreciate the full spectrum of being together—the ups and downs of a relationship and learning to be committed to each other.
Her bridesmaids, dressed in peach coloured gowns, followed behind her gracefully. Luna was holding her trail, so that she would not trip.
Things were so different this time—they had chosen to continue to be with each other. Their individual achievements had earned them plenty of suitors but they only had eyes for each other. He swallowed visibly as his love for her overwhelmed him. He loved her more than he first loved her.
"You're crying, Harry." Neville hastily gave him a tissue to dab off his tears before they reached the altar. Quickly, he cleaned off those tears, hoping that the audience were too captivated with his bride to notice. Hermione's eyes flashed with affection and understanding—she had seen those tears.
Soon, they were standing before the altar, smiling at each other.
Dan broke into a grin. "I hope I won't do this the third time. You look very good together. Take care of each other." Carefully, he placed her gloved hand into Harry's. Harry's smile grew tender when he shared a loving look with Hermione.
"We'll, Dad." He solemnly promised. Intertwining their fingers together, Harry and Hermione turned to face Mask together.
The bridesmaids and best man paired up and sat in the first row. Dan took his seat next to Jean and held her hand.
The music faded into background immediately and Mask began the marriage rituals. It was slightly different from their first wedding because she had to chant a few more incantations over the couple. Both of them could feel their magic responding to the incantations, swirling, and building up within them. If they were not certain in the past, they knew that they would never look at another individual of the opposite gender for the rest of their lives.
"Do you, Harry James Potter take Hermione Jane Granger as your lawfully wedded wife and swear upon your magic to honour her, respect her, cherish her, and love her with all your heart for as long as you both shall live?"
Harry gazed at her lovingly, squeezing her hand tightly. "Yes, I do, forever."
Mask paused slightly, as if astonished by his answer.
"Do you, Hermione Jane Granger take Harry James Potter as your lawfully wedded husband and swear upon your magic to honour him, respect him, cherish him, and love him with all your heart for as long as you both shall live?"
She let her eyes roam slowly upward. Up the line of his black tie and its symmetrically-tied knot; over the subtle swell of his Adam's apple; over the speed-bump of his chin, with a satisfying pit stop at its cleft. At last, her gaze settled on the vibrant pink of his full, half-smiling lips. His grin was crooked and utterly disarming.
She hadn't even looked into his eyes, and she was already lost.
Hermione answered solemnly. "I do, for eternity."
A bright scarlet and blue wisp appeared from Harry and Hermione respectively. The light expanded to encompass the couple entirely. A song burst out suddenly as a blue and red phoenix burst from their hands, soaring above the couple as if it was reborn from the flames. It looked like Fawkes. It sang and showered blessings on the couple, its voice soaring with each note.
Cathaoir joined in, singing with his rich baritone voice to complement the phoenix's cheerful and melodious song. The song grew louder and louder as if it was reaching its climax. Similarly, the light expanded dramatically as the phoenix soared around them, blessing their union with his song.
The song ended abruptly when it dived through Hermione and Harry. The glow faded straight away. Harry and Hermione stumbled for a moment, looking flabbergasted.
They exchanged a look of bewilderment.
Mask continued presiding over the wedding as if nothing strange had happened. "You may now exchange your vows and rings."
Neville came forth with their wedding rings. They were set next to each other.
Harry took the smaller golden ring, smiling. "How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. I love thee to the depth and breadth and height my soul can reach, when feeling out of sight for the ends of Being and ideal Grace. I love thee to the level of everyday's most quiet need, by sun and candle-light. I love thee freely, as men strive for Right; I love thee with a passion put to use in my old griefs, and with my new faith. I love thee with the breath, smiles, tears, of all my life! And, if Fate choose, I shall but love thee better after death," whispered Harry, his voice ringing with sincerity as he slid the ring into her finger, sealing his vow.
With tears in her eyes, she took the other golden band. Neville quietly retreated to his seat, watching the exchanging of rings intently. Luna leaned into him.
"Let me not to the marriage of true minds admit impediments. Love is not love which alters when it alteration finds, or bends with the remover to remove. It is an ever-fixed mark that looks on tempests and is never shaken; it is the star to every wandering bark, whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken. My love for you is not Time's fool. It alters not with his brief hours and weeks, but bears it out even to the edge of doom. My love for you is as pure as gold, and it will see no end." She slid the ring into his finger, completing the ceremony.
Tears welled in his eyes at her sincerity and promise of her enduring love, strengthened by circumstances and passing of time. A small smile appeared on his face, knowing that she meant every single word. He squeezed her hand when he lowered them to their sides.
Her love astounded him.
Mask smiled secretly under her hood. "I pronounce you Lord and Lady Gryffindor." Her heart fluttered at the sight of their love. They had proven that they were truly a heavenly couple not because of fate's intervention but because of their devotion to each other.
The joy of all their familiar flooded both of them as the mental link was re-established between them. Tenderly, Harry and Hermione shared a kiss as husband and wife, in the midst of all the cheering and applause.
Not even Death could do them apart, besides playing its part of bringing them together.
They drew apart after a chaste kiss, thanking the crowd for their attendance as they walked down the aisle, hand in hand. None of the guests could miss the engraving of the rings—'H J Potter'—it gleamed and shone proudly for all to see.
A/N: Hi all, thank you for your immense support. I never thought that I would write such a challenging story in the first place-the many characters, the different plotlines. It was very new for me and I appreciate the feedback. Mostly, it was a growth process for me since I had to discover what I would like to write-the initial chapters weren't too good because I was more focused on writing what others might want to read. When those shackles came off, I found a lot of pleasure, creating and moulding a new world. The lines that Hermione spoke before she tried to kill herself were from Romeo, one of my most disliked characters in Shakespeare.
Harry's vows is a modification of EBB's " How do I love thee". I thought it was fitting for him since it was their love that transformed him just as Robert Browning's love did for her.
Hermione's vow is a modification of a Shakespearean sonnet since Hermione is a name taken from Shakespeare's plays.
Once again, thank you for your support. Watch out for "Epiphanies". I'll probably work on it when I have recovered sufficiently.