(A/N: Here's the end of the story...)
Version: 1.1 (cleaned up verbs & typos)
Chapter 3 - Epilogue
Three days later, Dumbledore stopped by at dinner and "requested" I come to his office immediately after I finished dinner. I had no idea what this was for and said as much when my friends asked about it. When I was finished eating, I looked up at the Head Table and Dumbledore saw me and nodded. I kissed Ginny and told her I'd see her later and then followed Dumbledore out of the Great Hall. Neither of us spoke during the trip to his office. I cast my mental protection spell on the way up the stairs.
With him behind his desk and me in a chair I magically made a little more comfortable, he gave me a very serious look. I noticed he did not offer me a candy. "Harry, Professor Snape woke up today and there is a very serious problem."
I gave him a blank look and waited. I could guess what the problem was, but I was not going to play his guessing games.
When I didn't answer, he continued. "Can you please explain what you did to him?"
"I removed his Dark Mark."
"How?" His gaze bored into me, but I mentally shrugged it off.
"That is one of most interesting things about my new power. I have no idea how I do some things; it's all done by instinct." That was completely true. I didn't know how I did it. I did know about the side-effects, but I wasn't going to admit to that. I also anticipated his next question and asked Magic while he contemplated what to do next. I got back a negative, which I was happy with.
"Harry, I'd like you to come with me to visit Professor Snape and see what you can do for him."
"I'm afraid I can't do anything for him, Headmaster. I don't have medical training and unless I know exactly what's wrong with him, I couldn't begin to fix it. All of that is assuming I'm capable of it and that I want to. I do have limits and Snape has not ever given me any incentive to help him. My removing his Dark Mark was actually more for my benefit of not having to deal with someone influenced by Dark magic rather than for his benefit."
Dumbledore looked disappointed in me, as he had been doing a lot lately. I didn't care and passively sat there. "Harry, will you please accompany me and see if you can help him?"
I did appreciate that he asked rather than ordered. "I believe it to be a waste of time, but in the spirit of cooperation, I can waste a few minutes."
"Thank you," he said, ignoring my negativity. He got up and led me out of his office. Again, we didn't talk during our journey.
In the hospital wing, Madam Pomfrey met us and led us over to a curtained-off area. There was a larger curtained-off area on the other side of the room. I assumed the three students who'd also had the Dark Mark were back there.
When we entered the smaller private area, Dumbledore put up a privacy charm. It was probably one of his better ideas, as I suspected the next few minutes to be quite lively.
Snape was propped up in bed, leaning against the headboard. Other than looking quite upset, which wasn't all that unusual for him, he looked positively normal. Well, he was dressed in a hospital gown rather than his normal black, but that was normal when staying in here.
"Potter!" he spat.
"Snivillus!" I spat back. I could return anything he threw at me.
"Harry! Please behave." Dumbledore tried to stop the war between Snape and me.
"Given the way he addressed me, I thought that's how he preferred to be addressed. Was I incorrect in that assumption?" I calmly asked, the abrupt change of my tone taking Pomfrey by surprise. "I've already explained to you that I won't take anything bad from him any more. I'll be as civil as he is -- or not."
Dumbledore took a deep breath. It was obvious he didn't like this situation, but he was the one who had created it, or at least had allowed it over the last five years. "Poppy, could you please explain to Harry Severus's condition so he can correct it."
"I won't have him doing anything to me," Snape strenuously objected.
"And I don't want to do anything to you, not to mention, it's also quite possible I can't correct your condition anyway," I shot back at him. I received a glare, but he did stop arguing.
After a moment and a nod from Dumbledore, Pomfrey cleared her throat. "Professor Snape is in relatively good condition physically, other than being a little weak, which rest will fix. The problem is that, well," she paused as if trying to decide how to be delicate, while Snape seemed be grinding his teeth. "It seems that his magical exhaustion is not going away."
I looked at her and decided to continue to play dumb. "Since you can do a sleeping spell as well as I can, I would guess rest won't fix that."
"Then I believe I need more information. In different words, what's wrong?" I continued with my "dumb" look.
Pomfrey was still very hesitant looking, but she finally blurted out, "His magic is gone and it's not coming back. It's as if he's a Squib."
A slow grin came over me as I heard that. I would enjoy telling that to all of my friends.
Snape, however, looked so angry he was turning red and maybe even heading towards a light purple, just like my so-called uncle. Considering his normally sallow complexion, I thought that was a real feat.
"And you want me to do what, exactly?" I asked.
Dumbledore answered instead of Pomfrey. "I want you to ask Magic how to correct the problem, Harry."
I shrugged and pretended to look thoughtful, since I had already done this. After about half a minute, I came back to the present. "Does he still have his magical core?" Pomfrey shook her head. "Then I'm sorry, but once a magical core has left a body, it's gone." Doing my very best to keep a straight face, I asked, "So, I guess we'll be getting a new Defense teacher?" Dumbledore had been covering for the last few days.
"Potter! I'll get you for this!" Snape yelled at me.
"You do realize I probably saved your life by doing this, right?" I calmly asked, trying to infuriate him a little with my Dumbledore-like manner.
Dumbledore shot me a piercing look. "What do you mean by that?" Surprisingly to me, Snape didn't yell and even looked a little interested in my answer, along with his still-towering anger.
"Well, I can't be sure as I didn't really take the time to try to fully understand the Dark Mark and the one who can tell us won't ever be waking up, but there was something like a thread leading away from the Mark itself. It seems quite likely that if Riddle was to die, it would take all of Death Eaters with him, sort of as the ultimate in ensuring loyalty." I wasn't totally sure of that, but there was something in the Dark Mark I didn't understand and that might have been it. Whether it was true or not, it sounded like a great "CYA" answer.
Snape's complexion went beyond sallow to white. Apparently he had never thought of that.
"So, if you want, you can think of that as my one good deed for you, Snape. Don't expect any others."
Dumbledore sighed with great exasperation. "If you would like to stay, Severus, you may continue to teach Potions. Horace doesn't really want to be here and he can go, now that it's safer."
I couldn't help it; I chuckled. I received three glares. "What? You don't see what's going to happen if you do that?" Their lack of seeing the obvious was astounding.
"Please explain," Dumbledore commanded. It was kindly said, but a command nevertheless. All three of them gave me their rapt attention.
"I thought it would be obvious. Snape has very carefully and thoroughly made an enemy of every student who is not in Slytherin. The first time he calls any Muggle-born a Mudblood, calls one of us a dunderhead, or assigns detention unfairly, someone is going to pull a wand on him and then it's all over. In fact, I might as well start a betting pool now as to who it'll be and how long it will take," I said with a grin.
"But he's a professor," Pomfrey objected, just like Hermione would have.
"As I said," my smile not wavering, "he's made a lot of enemies because of his childish actions and antagonistic treatment of students." After a slight pause, I quietly added, "Which someone did not prevent."
Snape exploded and started yelling. Dumbledore got his "exasperated and disappointed" look again. Pomfrey gave me a "deer in the headlights" look, but it was obvious she was thinking through what I said. At least one of them was showing signs of intelligence, I thought.
"Madam Pomfrey," I said with a nod to her before I turned and walked away. As far was I was concerned, I was done with the Death Eaters.
It seemed that Dumbledore actually took what I said to heart. Snape left the school a week later. To many people's surprise, Remus Lupin returned as the Defense professor. I would need to talk to Lupin about whether or not he wanted me to lift the curse that Riddle had placed on the position so that he could stay for more than a year. I didn't know how Dumbledore had managed to get Lupin back after he was sent away at the end of my third year, but a little of my respect returned for the old man.
To almost everyone's relief, Draco Malfoy, Theo Nott, and Zach Smith also left the school. It was amazing how much the school calmed down without them here. Life at Hogwarts wasn't Utopia, but very few people tried to start fights any more and the number of useless insults also decreased dramatically. A few new inter-house friendships also started up.
As I rode the Hogwarts Express home at the end of my sixth year, there was a nice symmetry in that Ginny was on my lap, just like she had on the train ride back in September. Luna was beside us, while Ron, Hermione, and Neville sat on the other bench. It wasn't difficult to notice that Ron and Hermione were sitting a little closer than normal. They still hadn't started dating, but it was starting to look more likely.
While the others talked, I listened with one ear and thought about what I had done at Christmas and how that would affect my summer to come.
Over the Yule break, I had returned to #12 Grimmauld Place and looked over the whole thing very carefully. Structurally, it was in sound shape. The inside was still depressing and in need of major renovation. So I called Kreacher and we had a heart-to-heart talk.
After I established my position as Master of the House and laid down the law about what he could and could not say, I explained to the poor thing how I wanted us get along and restore the Black house and name to its former glory. It took a while but I finally made him see the light -- mostly. I knew that it would take many months to fully convince him, but I planned to try.
Now that we were on the right footing, I got him to show me where the ward stone for the house was. He took me into the basement and revealed it. Sirius had left me a short letter telling me how to claim the house as its owner, so I did. I felt the wards of the house tie themselves to me and it was incredible.
The next thing I did, as owner of the house, was take Dumbledore's Fidelius charm down. The house was already Unplottable and a few other things, and that would stop most people. I then added a few more wards that were almost as good as a Fidelius. I wasn't ready to cast a real Fidelius because I wasn't sure who I wanted as my Secret Keeper. Still, the existing wards and the few new ones I added would make the house very hard to find and if someone managed it anyway and then tried to get in, well, let's just say they might have a very short day. Lastly, I keyed Hermione, Neville, Luna, Remus, the three Tonks, and all the Weasleys -- except for Percy who was still being a git to his family -- into the wards so they could find the place and knock on the door without any unpleasant surprises.
Back upstairs, I made the Floo restricted, except for Ginny. As soon as I could remodel so the Floo was in a separate room with a lockable door, I'd remove the restriction for my friends and family. As much as I loved Molly, I didn't want her to be able to Floo in unannounced. It would be bad if I was "busy" with someone -- such as her daughter.
Then before I returned to the Burrow, where I was staying for Christmas, I gave Kreacher some money and told him to start redecorating the place and cleaning it out one room at a time. His goal was to put Dark items he found in a trunk for me and then restore the room to its former glory. When he finished each room, he was to come tell me so I could inspect it and then start him on the next room after we discussed it.
It was amazing what the right motivation could do for the barmy house-elf. Every week or two, he'd pop into Hogwarts and let me know he had finished a new room. I'd transport myself home in the evenings and look. He did good work when he wanted to and the transformation of the house was amazing. I'd give him a day off and then point out the next room. He had finished the basement, ground floor, first floor, as well as the front of the house by the end of the school year. I could hardly wait to see it all together and show it off to Ginny.
"Harry! Mate! Hello, anyone home?" Ron's query broke me out of my reminiscing.
"I was asking when you'd be coming over. Since you don't need to stay with your relatives, I thought you could come over whenever you wanted and we could go flying. Yeah?" Ron looked anxious. I really didn't know why as he got to fly quite a bit at school.
"Sure, I can come over tomorrow if you'd like."
Ginny gave me a particular look that I knew so well. It was the one she always gave me when she was about to wind her brother up.
"You can come over this evening, Harry. You know my mother never minds if you join us for dinner. I'm sure I can find a good dessert for you, too," she said coyly.
It was all I could do not to grin as I recognized what she was doing, and I was happy to go along. "Hmm, your mother is a great cook. I'd be daft for turning down her cooking for dinner and then having you for dessert."
While I was staring lovingly into her face, I could see Ron go red out of the corner of my eye. "H-Harry!" he loudly sputtered. "That's my sister you're talking about!"
Turning my head, I could see a slight smile on Luna's usually placid face. A glance the other direction showed Hermione and Neville doing their best to hold their amusement in. Everyone but Ron knew we did this purpose. He'd learn some day.
"Why, I do believe you're right, Ron. She does look just like your sister." I couldn't hold my grin in any longer. Ginny gave me a quick kiss and then wiggled a little to get comfortable again. She was such a minx and I loved her for it. I was starting to give serious consideration to making her my Secret Keeper if I put a Fidelius up around my house.
It was almost certain I'd have to completely hide my house one day. Fortunately for me, the knowledge that I was a Mage had been kept out of the newspaper and hadn't spread too far yet, but I was certain my status would become well known over summer as all the students told their parents about it. One of them was bound to tell the Daily Prophet.
Hermione's chuckle turned into a sigh. "I wished it was as easy for me to come visit."
Now it was my turn to sigh. "Hermione, you do realize you're already seventeen, right? You can Apparate over any time you like."
She blinked at me, much like Hedwig would have done, before she started to chuckle, the rest of us joining her. "I can't believe I overlooked something so simple. I guess it's just habit of thinking I can't easily come over." A very pleased look came over her. "My parents will be happy that I can come over and spend the day with you but be back every evening to spend time with them." Hermione then looked at me. "Harry, are you going to get an Apparation license?"
I shrugged. "I suppose it wouldn't hurt, but since I don't really Apparate, they can't say anything about it."
Hermione looked at me a little sourly. "I still don't understand how you get around. Even doing various revealing spells while you're transporting didn't tell me anything useful. And the wards … you go right through them all."
Ginny chuckled. "If you had as much power as Merlin, you could probably do it too, Hermione." That did not help the brunette as the rest of us chuckled with Ginny.
We soon arrived back at King's Cross. Getting off the train, I noticed that the chair that I'd conjured on the train platform at the beginning of the year was still there and looking as good as new. I found that amusing and turned to find the rest of the Weasleys. Ginny, who was holding my hand, found her parents first and led us over.
Mrs Weasley gave both of us a big hug. Mr Weasley gave Ginny a hug and he and I shook hands.
"I'm so glad to see all three of you," Mrs Weasley said to her two children and me.
"Mum, may Harry come over for dinner?" Ginny asked.
"Of course, dear." The matron looked at me. "You may come over any time you want, dear. In fact, you may come over every night." She said it as if she thought I'd starve otherwise. I smiled as did Ginny.
"Thank you, Mrs Weasley. I'll be over about six then. After dinner, you're welcome to come over to my house for a tour. Kreacher has remodeled the bottom three floors."
"Why, thank you, Harry. That would be lovely. I'd like to see what's been done to the place since we were there last summer." She was all smiles, but I wondered if she also wanted to see how I'd be living. She knew I'd be mostly on my own with only Remus checking in on me from time to time. I knew she wasn't happy with that, but I knew that she knew she couldn't do a thing about it.
"Very good, I'll see you at six." With a smile, I gave my girlfriend a quick peck on the cheek and transported home. I was quite sure I'd be hearing about that later, but it could be a fun argument. Make-up snogging was a lot of fun.
Arriving home, I called for Kreacher and he popped in.
"Welcome home, Master."
I didn't like him to call me Master, but it was one of the compromises I made to get him to act nearly normal. "Thank you, Kreacher. Here's my trunk, if you could put it in my bedroom please." I handed him the shrunken trunk from my pocket. "I won't be home for dinner, but most of the Weasleys will be joining me for tea between eight and nine. A light dessert would be appropriate."
"As you were then, I'll take a tour and then I shall be off to the Weasleys for dinner."
Kreacher bowed and left.
I took my tour and was mostly happy with what I saw; the house was only missing one important thing. Seeing the house fixed up really helped me to understand how much Kreacher fought with Sirius, doing absolutely as little as possible.
At six, I transported myself to the Weasley's back porch. Ginny was waiting for me on the swing with a smile. I smiled as I strode over to her and we kissed -- deeply.
Since we had a moment, I held her tightly and looked into her eyes. "Ginny," I breathed her name. "Are you truly happy with us?"
She nodded. "Truly. And you?"
I couldn't stop the smile. "Truly." I kissed her again.
"Why do you ask?" There was something in her look or voice that I couldn't quite place.
I almost blurted out my deepest feeling right then, but I managed not to. It wasn't the right time or place. But there was another thing I could tell her. "Because I want you to know that I've finally figured out what love is and, well, I love you very much." Somehow, her smile got bigger just before she attacked my lips.
We were in the middle of probably the best snog of my life when Ron's voice called out. "Hey! If you two will leave each others' virtue intact, you can come in and eat. Hey! That hurt!"
"Ronald Weasley! I can't believe you said that about them!" his mother yelled, clearly heard despite the fact that she was in the house and we were outside.
Ginny and I both pulled back from the kiss laughing. It was a good thing we were holding on to one another, we were laughing that hard. When we got a hold of ourselves, she told me, "I love you too, Harry," before she stood up on her tip-toes to give me a quick kiss as if to seal what she had told me.
We walked in arm-in-arm to find the entire family there, except for Charlie and Percy. Ron was sulking and rubbing his shoulder, but the rest of the brothers greeted me warmly.
Dinner went well. Mrs Weasley's food was as good as usual and I had a blast there. I think what made it so wonderful was being treated just like one of the family. Well, that and sitting next to Ginny.
After dinner, I told them all to take the Floo to "The House of Black" after about half a minute while I gave them temporary access. I threw a pinch of Floo Powder in and left. After giving them all access, Ginny came out first, followed by the twins, Ron, Bill, and then her parents with Mr Weasley being last.
Everyone looked amazed as they looked around at the spotless room that was decorated in a bright and cheery way, while also showing its luxurious roots as the Blacks might have had it. Ginny was having to fake it a little as I had already brought her here a few times during the school year and she'd already seen a few of the remodeled rooms, but she still enjoyed seeing all of the changes.
"I -- I can hardly believe it," Mrs Weasley said in a soft voice as she tried to take it all in.
Ron was speechless and I couldn't decide if that was good or not. Was he only amazed at the change, or was he going to show jealousy?
The twins were their usual selves even when surprised.
Bill and Mr Weasley looked around very appreciatively. "Very nice, Harry," Bill said. "I like what you've done with it."
"Thanks Bill. Kreacher has really done all of the work. I only supervised."
"Kreacher? Seriously?" Mr Weasley asked.
"Yes. We've come to an agreement on how to live and work together. Come on, let me show you around and then we can sit down for some tea." I grabbed Ginny's hand and put it on my arm and led them around as a Head of House should. Ginny blushed a little as she played Mistress of the House. I liked the feeling of her being there, which continued a few of my previous ideas from earlier in the evening.
By the time the Weasleys left, with Ginny leaving a few minutes after everyone else, all of them were happy for me being here. I anticipated a wonderful summer.
I spent most of my seventeenth birthday in Gringotts. The goblins said it was their policy that no one could be down in the vault area unsupervised, so I took pleasure in keeping one of them sitting in the cart waiting on me for nearly five hours. It took me quite a while to go through everything in the Potter family vault. Most of the heirlooms only had sentimental value, but that made me treasure them all the more. There was plenty of gold there, but I ignored it all and concentrated on the items and papers.
Probably the most treasured find was a diary from my mother. It was mostly filled with the usual "girl things" about how a day went or how she was feeling about being in the magical world. In and of itself, useless information, except that it really helped me get to know her better. She had noted a few ideas about spells and potions there, but I'd look at those parts later. Sadly, my father left nothing similar.
I found one other item I really liked and stuck it in my pocket. I was starting to get an idea and I thought I'd want it soon, probably by the end of the year.
Just for fun, when the goblin was still in the cart and I was not in his line of sight, I tried to transport myself home from inside my vault. To my deep pleasure, it worked. I transported back and no alarms were going off and the goblin didn't seem to know that I'd been gone at all. With an evil smile, I decided that I might never officially visit Gringotts for a long time. I wondered how their accounting would show my taking my money out without them bringing me down to the vault.
After I returned home, I cleaned up and then went to The Burrow for dinner. Ginny had made it clear that I had to be there for my birthday party. I had a great time with everyone there. Hermione, Neville, and Luna joined the Weasleys.
One of the most amusing things was watching Hermione. I could see her practically bouncing and wanting to share her news with everyone, but she also was trying to hold back because it was a party for me. I finally decided to put her out of her misery for everyone's peace of mind. I really didn't want her exploding or something.
"So, Hermione," I started during a pause while we all sat around talking. "You look as if you know something special. Would you like to share?"
She gave me a look like I'd caught her with her hand in the biscuit jar. "I, uh, I don't want to spoil your fun, Harry."
"Nonsense. I'm having fun now and I'm sure I'll have more later. Go ahead," I encouraged her. "Ginny received some news too and she can go afterwards." My girlfriend gave me a shy but pleased smile. Her mother beamed; her pride showing to everyone.
"Well, if you insist," Hermione said as she reached into her a pocket and pulled out a button. She didn't say anything; she just held up her button. It said "HG" on it in gold, unlike Prefect buttons that were in silver.
"Congratulations, Hermione. You got a button with your initials on it," I excitedly told her.
Her eyes narrowed for a brief moment as if going for a glare before she started smiling when she realized I was having her on. Everyone else called out their congratulations on her making Head Girl. While they were busy doing so, I pulled something out of my pocket.
"I just wished I knew who made Head Boy," she said. "I'd really like to know who I'll be working with."
I casually flicked the object in my hand her way. She caught it and gave it a look before she squealed and ran across the room to me to give me a hug.
"What?" Ron asked.
Neville had figured it out and gave me a salute. I returned a nod to my quiet friend. Luna was even quieter and just turned down the dreaminess for a moment along with a smile as congratulations.
I'd only told Ginny my news, and she had enthusiastically congratulated me. "I have the matching badge," I replied. With much playfulness, at least for Hermione, she acted like she was the queen and presented me with my badge that had "HB" on it. I took it back from her with a smile. Everyone congratulated me as well.
McGonagall had sworn me to secrecy and then told me that I was Head Boy only because she had forced Dumbledore to pick me. The old man had not been very happy with me for the last year. He didn't seem to like my "can do" attitude since I'd become a Mage, because my preferred direction was not his preferred direction for me.
"Ginny, your turn," I prompted her with a smile.
She smiled back at me. "Thanks to Harry's help, I got Exceeds Expectations on my Astronomy and History of Magic OWLs, and an Outstanding on everything else." I managed to kiss the top of her head just before Hermione was back over, giving Ginny a hug this time.
When everyone started to congratulate her on her OWL scores, I stopped them. "Hold on, Ginny has one more bit of news."
Ginny looked puzzled. "What? That was all that was in my letter, other than the form for what classes I want at the NEWT level."
"That's because this didn't come in an owl post. I took a few minutes today on my way home from the bank to stop by Hogwarts and talk to McGonagall…"
"Harry, only you could go from one side of London…"
"To the other side of London by way of Scotland."
Everyone laughed, as did I, but I mentally made a note to myself to one day get the twins to tell me how they talked like that.
"Yeah, well, it was easy enough to pop into her office. You should have seen the look on her face when I suddenly appeared. Well, and the fact that I had to pull a shield up to save myself from getting hexed." That drew more laughter, as I had intended. "Anyway, she told me who the Head Girl was and we talked about who was going to be the Quidditch captain." I pulled another badge out of my pocket and presented it to Ginny with a smile. "Here you go, Captain."
Her eyes lit up and she threw herself at me. I hugged her tightly and whispered, "You deserve it," in her ear.
As almost everyone finished clapping, Ron asked with a frown, "But, you were Captain last year, Harry. You should still be Captain."
"I was," I answered calmly, trying to keep him from exploding. "I'll be there to answer questions for Ginny, sort of as a trainer or unofficial assistant captain, but the real spot is hers. McGonagall and I decided that we all should start training replacements and I felt that included the captaincy since I would be busy being Head Boy. This gives Ginny the chance to learn the ropes and then be around to train someone a lot younger next year as she leads the team."
Ron nodded in understanding and I was happy he hadn't gotten angry. Perhaps I had been selling my friend short and he had grown up when I wasn't looking.
As the party wound down and people started to go home, I pulled Ginny outside and we walked in the back garden and into the orchard. There, I waved my hand and conjured a small settee for us to sit on.
"What?" she asked, able to tell that I wanted to talk about something important.
"I talked to McGonagall about a couple of other things."
"Oh? Bad things?" she asked, like she hoped she was wrong.
I chuckled in the dim moonlight. "Mostly not. The best one is that I convinced her to strongly consider you for Head Girl next year. She has been already watching you to see about nominating you for it."
"But, I haven't been Prefect," she protested.
"So, I wasn't Prefect either. Being Head Boy or Girl is more about leadership than anything else. So you just need to be a leader with me this year and you'll probably get it next year."
"OK," she drawled. "You make it sound like that's important for some reason."
"It is," I told her with a grin. "The Head Boy and Girl have their own separate rooms. That will make visiting you a lot easier next year when I'm not at school. If you have your own room, then I can transport there and not be seen by anyone else."
She raised her eyebrow in surprise and admiration. "I like your thinking, Harry."
"Thanks, so do I. I'll do you one better for this year. When we get to school, I'll create a portal for you in your dorm room that will work only for you and will take you directly to my room," I smirked.
Ginny chuckled. "It sounds like someone really wants me around."
"Uh-hmm," I vocalized as I started to kiss her, which she eagerly returned.
We broke after a few minutes. "I really like your ideas," she breathlessly told me.
"Thanks. I hope you like my next one too."
"Probably," she lazily told me as she snuggled into my embrace. "What is it?"
"McGonagall told me that Dumbledore was out of the castle on Ministry business, so I went to his office and had a chat with the Sorting Hat."
"It was hard to figure out when it happened, but the Hat and I determined that Riddle put a spell on it when he came to try to get a job as the Defense teacher years ago. It was probably the same day he cursed the Defense professorship."
Ginny shot up and looked at me very alarmed. "Bloody hell, you're serious."
I nodded slowly. "Riddle put a curse on the Hat to cause it to sort so as to cause less unity in the school. While the Hat has always been the one to announce the student's house, the Hat was meant to advise the first-years on what house or houses would work well, but leave the final choice up to the student. By forcing the Hat to make the choice and to do so on very strict personality traits, it caused more cliques and less diversity within each house. In turn, that caused more strife between the houses and less unity in the school."
"That's … wow. I don't even know what to say. What did McGonagall say when you told her?"
I shrugged and pulled her back to me and let her settle in again. "The Hat and I agreed to not tell either her or Dumbledore. I'm only telling you so you'll know what I did. I, uh, I need you to do something for me, Ginny."
"Sure, Harry, anything."
I snorted. "Don't say that."
She softly kissed my cheek. "I trust you not to ask for anything I can't give."
I could barely make out the brown of her eyes in the moonlight, but her trust and sincerity were easily visible on her face. "I wanted you to know because I need someone who will help keep me in check. I think I understand Dumbledore a little better now. I can now see that when a person has so much more power than anyone else, it would be easy to do things to people they don't want, yet thinking you're doing it for their own good all the while. I don't want to do that or be that way -- ever. I need you to keep watch over me and tell me when I'm wrong. I think that is Dumbledore's biggest problem. He's all alone and never really had anyone to tell him 'no' when he wanted to do something stupid."
Ginny quietly chuckled. "Only you, Harry, could call Dumbledore stupid and make it seem reasonable." She moved a little and kissed my cheek. "I'll be your conscience for as long as you'll let me, Harry."
I hugged her tightly. "Thank you, Ginny. You don't know how good that makes me feel."
"Try anyway," she said. There was a hint of mischievousness in her voice. It wasn't hard to figure out what she wanted. I kissed her for all I was worth for a while before I Vanished the settee and walked her back to the house.
The party had been wonderful, in more ways than one.
I felt incredibly nervous, almost to the point of about to being ready to hurl. I was presently making small talk with Mr Weasley about small electrical appliances while we passed the time waiting for Ginny.
It was New Year's Eve and in a few hours it would be 1998. I was dressed in warm clothes and my Christmas present from Ginny. She had bought some very nice material and then spent a little time here and there over the last few months creating a magnificent-looking cloak. Besides sewing it, she also put numerous charms on it for temperature control and protection. It also never wrinkled and dirt seemed to be unable to cling to it. She had done a truly masterful job.
By comparison, my present of a half-Kneazle with all the accessories seemed almost inconsiderate. Ginny loved cats, but still, I almost felt like a cad. She told me she loved the kitten and it was a great present, but I really wasn't so sure. On the other hand, I had planned this special date tonight for over a month and I hoped that would make up for my apparent lack of thoughtfulness in presents.
A mostly black little kitten with a few white spots came bounding into the room. I smiled as Ginny walked in a moment later. She was dressed in jeans and a flannel shirt, just like me. However, she looked a lot nicer than I ever would. That gorgeous red hair, cute face, and blinding smile helped a lot. Well, if I have to be honest, she did have a few curves that I really appreciated as well.
"Ready?" I asked.
"Almost, let me get my cloak."
"No need," I told her and motioned her over. A flick of my hand caused my cloak to be double its original width. I held it out and she stepped to my side with another smile as I wrapped my cloak around her, too.
I felt a hand fall on my shoulder and squeeze. Looking up, I saw Mr Weasley give me a knowing smile. "You two have fun this evening." He lightly kissed Ginny on the forehead and then left for the kitchen, where his wife was doing something that made a lot of noise.
Pulling Ginny to me, I thought very carefully about where I wanted to go and transported us there. I had only been here once and that was during the day. At night, it was everything I had wanted. It was twelve days until the next full moon, so there was only a tiny crescent near the horizon. Between that and the cloudless sky, the stars looked magnificent.
"It's beautiful," Ginny breathed as she looked around.
She also shivered despite the wonderful cloak around us. I magically created a barrier around us that blocked all the cutting wind; we still felt the cold in the air and stood in crunching snow, but now we had a chance to be cozy on this mountain top with a little magical help.
"Where are we?" Her head was still swiveling, taking in the brilliant stars above us. As our eyes adjusted to the dark, the outlines of other mountains could be seen around us.
I turned us a little to the left and pointed down. "See that glow down there? That's Hogwarts."
"You mean we're in the mountains above it?"
"Uh-huh," I mumbled into her ear as I pulled her closer, wrapping my arms around her underneath the cloak.
We both stood there and enjoyed nature and each other for a few minutes.
"Why are we here?" she finally asked.
I had wondered how long it would take her. Apparently, she was as caught up in the beauty of the place as I was. My hand came out of the cloak and waved. In front of us, a roaring fire surrounded by stones appeared. Another wave conjured a thick quilt over the ground. "Now let's see if Kreacher found what I asked for." Another wave caused a small cauldron on a tripod to appear, with two small tankards hanging from it as well. Looking in the cauldron, I saw a liquid and smiled. "Success."
Sitting her down, I drew two drinks before I put the tripod near the fire and sat down with her, arranging my cloak around us again. Very carefully, Ginny moved over and sat in my lap. A wave of my hand put a warm boulder behind me to lean against. We were warm, cozy, and in a lovely spot. I couldn't ask for much more.
Ginny took a sip from the tankard I had handed her. "A spiced wine?"
"I'm told it's good for cold evenings." Remus had suggested it when I told him of my plans. I guess being a former Marauder was good for thinking about little details.
"I have to admit, Harry, this was not what I expected when you told me you wanted to take me on a date on New Year's Eve."
"Hmm, how should I take that?" I asked lightly, hoping for the best.
She moved a few inches and softly kissed me on the cheek. "It's a very nice and romantic surprise, Harry. I like having you to myself and a date under starry skies is always good."
I couldn't suppress the grin I had after I heard that. "Splendid. Part one of the mission has been accomplished."
"Part one?" she asked with a raised eyebrow.
"Taking you to a romantic place." With a little concentration, I levitated both of our tankards to the side, out of hitting and kicking range. "Part two is to give you the other half of your Christmas present."
Now her both of her eyebrows rose. "Wait a minute, you had another present and you didn't give it to me?" she asked impishly. I could tell she was teasing me, but it was one of the things I liked about her. We never stayed serious for too long.
I nodded to her. "This didn't really cost me anything as I found it in my family vault with a number of other things, but it does have sentimental value and I thought you would like it."
Her teasing look melted. "Harry, I can't take anything from your family like that."
"I really don't see it as you taking from my family, Ginny." I reached into my pocket and grasped it in my hand. Despite the fact that the warm wine had helped to settle my stomach and that I wasn't cold, my hand still shook a little. Damn my nerves!
Holding out my hand in a fist with my curled fingers up, I told her, "Your father said I could give you this." I uncurled my fingers and heard Ginny gasp as she saw what was sitting in my palm.
"Harry?" she weakly called out, as if she was about to have a panic attack.
There was no stopping now; I had to go forward. "Ginny, I love you so much. Will you marry me?" I prayed she said yes.
Ginny didn't say a word. That worried me for the brief moment until she held out her left hand, a hand that shook just like mine. With a sigh of relief, I slid the ring on her hand. She admired it for a moment before a squeal of joy burst from her and she bowled me over.
The anti-wrinkle charms on my cloak got a real workout as she wiggled on top of me and kissed me for all she was worth. Her hands ran all over my face and head. I just grasped her sides and tried to hold on and enjoy the moment.
Quite some time and lots of snogging later, we were laying side-by-side, heads near the slowly dying fire, staring at one another. Ginny would look down to her hand from time-to-time and smile. I had the impression she was reassuring herself that this was real.
"I guess I won't need to worry about Dean any longer," I said cryptically as I propped myself up on one elbow.
"Why? What does Dean have to do with anything?"
I pulled her hand up and kissed her knuckles. "At the beginning of last year, when everyone first found out about us dating, Dean told me that he had some interest in you. He then asked me to let him know if I ever stopped dating you so he could ask you out."
Ginny chuckled as she moved a little to the side to get closer to me, making it so I was sort of leaning over her. "I'm glad you sent your first letter when you did and that I didn't send my letter to Dean, or there's no telling how long it would have been before we got together."
"Yeah, that would have caused a major delay." I looked at her semi-seriously. "If that had happened, do you think we still would have gotten together afterward? Or do you think we each may have moved on and not given us a chance?"
Ginny snorted. "Oh please, Harry. I've always been waiting on you. I had to be patient while you figured girls out, but you were always in my sights." She blew me a kiss with her lips. "Now, it's possible we might have dated a while and then decided we were better off as friends, but we were always going to date at some time."
"You sound very sure," I asked teasingly, while I wondered if she really thought I had figured girls out. I didn't think I had.
"I'm as sure of that as I am that you're going to kiss me and then take me home because it's getting very late."
When I hesitated, she reached up and pulled my head down. I mentally laughed at her getting her way while I kissed her. Wanting a few more kisses before I took her home, I put my hand on her side to pull her the last few inches to me, except that she was too heavy for the position I was in. So I let my magic out a little and my blue hand momentarily lightened her before I pulled her over so she was pressed into me. I enjoyed feeling her warm body next to mine and I did my best to keep my thoughts from going further, at least while she was with me.
Ginny started to giggle and then laugh. "Harry, stop! That tickles!" she gasped.
I looked down and saw that my hand was still blue, so my magic was still active and running over my skin. I'd touched her hand when my magic was active a few times before and she said it tingled in a good way. I'd even massaged her back and neck a few times with my magic active and she said those were the best massages ever.
Letting my magic go inactive, I sheepishly told her, "Sorry."
She blushed a little as she looked right into my eye. "That was just a bad spot, Harry. Now, if you want to touch me a little higher and on the front, I think I'd like to experience that at least once."
My imagination went into high gear as I realized what she said. "You mean I can touch you …"
"You can now -- fiancé priviledges."
I thought that through. "So I was allowed to touch your bum because of, uh, boyfriend priviledges?"
Ginny gave me a cute smile and a nod.
Slowly, I moved my hand from her side around to her stomach and then I started moving it lower. She quickly caught my wrist before my hand had travelled very far. "Uh-uh," she told me playfully. "It takes husband priviledges to get in there."
I couldn't help it, I laughed. It was all stated so strangely and yet, it made sense. I moved my hand back to her side and she let go. "All right," I easily agreed and leaned down to kiss her, which led to several more very long kisses.
When she again reminded that it was getting late, I reversed all of my magic at our little campsite so the natural setting was restored, sent to the extra things back to my house, and then I took her home.
We were very quiet and careful when I took her back to The Burrow (landing in the living room) because we realized it was almost three in the morning. Fortunately, the house was dark, which we took as meaning everyone was in bed. With some luck, she'd be able to get to bed with no one the wiser. So I transported her straight to her room.
It was only my command of magic that saved us. Our landing in her room set off fireworks and only the twins knew what else. I had to hand it to them; it was inventive. Two waves of my hands froze all magical items and silenced the room after a mere half-second. My whole body was lit in my blue flaming aura from expending so much magic so quickly.
Ginny lit her wand to give us a more normal light and it was amazing as to how many traps were set up. There was also a note on her bed. She picked it up and read it to me.
Ginny, Dad says this was a special evening for you. Even though he didn't say why, we thought we'd help you celebrate. Congratulations! TTFN
Dad says this was a special evening for you. Even though he didn't say why, we thought we'd help you celebrate. Congratulations!
"I am going to kill them!" she fiercely whispered.
"You can have the second shot. Let me take care of this stuff. I'll see you tomorrow."
"I love you, Harry." She molded herself to me for a good-night kiss. I almost didn't want to leave after that.
"I love you too, Ginny."
I resized my cloak back to its normal size so I could now work properly. Concentrating on all of the prank stuff, I gathered it with my magic and transported to a certain popular shop in Diagon Alley. There, I set about putting all the things I had brought from Ginny's room around the shop and to not go off until after both twins were in the room. I also added a few things of my own, just to show them who they were messing with. I was very pleased with the disillusioned Portable Swamp behind the cash register. The last thing I did before going home was to disillusion the rest of the equipment.
As I was about to transport out, I had a cunning idea. I put a camera in a corner and spelled it to take pictures if both twins were in their shop. When it finished its long roll of film, it would send itself to my house. Even more pleased with myself than before, I went home and dreamed of a redhead and lots of children. It had been a glorious evening.
The next day I think I almost broke a few ribs laughing. Kreacher had found the camera on the kitchen table and developed the film. I thanked him profusely and went straight to The Burrow. After I was hugged practically to death by Mrs Weasley, who was ecstatic at Ginny's new status as my fiancée, I showed the photos around. Everyone there laughed themselves silly at Fred and George's expense. It was a great holiday.
I was in the Gryffindor common room after the Leaving Feast. Tomorrow, four of us would leave Hogwarts for the last time as students.
Ron seemed to be the happiest of us all for that. Personally, I think Ron was still a little "off" after taking his NEWTs. He had been knocked unconscious during the practical portion of the Defense NEWT and I wasn't sure he was completely recovered.
Neville was the most calm, but then again he had nice job lined up to help grow things for potions.
Hermione was a basket case. I'd had to hit her with a Calming charm several times during the last few weeks while the NEWTs were going on. Just as with the OWLs, she was still trying to discuss the questions after all the tests were done and none if it made any difference.
I knew what I was going to do for a job, but I was mildly depressed. As of next September, I'd be separate from my fiancée for most of ten months before we were to get married the summer after she finished school.
We sat around talking mostly about school, but a little about the future too.
"Harry, it won't be so bad," Ginny whispered in my ear when the others were discussing the latest stupid thing out of the Ministry.
I leaned over and kissed her temple. "So you won't miss that for ten months, except for holidays and the occasional Quidditch game I come to visit you for?" I whispered back.
She had the audacity to roll her eyes at me. "Harry, you're a Mage, remember? Or did those NEWTs cook your brain?"
Ideas started going through my head as she mentioned my magical status. "I've been stupid, haven't I?"
She was nice and only nodded. "This was why you lobbied for me to be Head Girl, so I'd have my own room. Right?"
I couldn't help the sheepish look. "Er, right … sorry."
She grinned impishly. "We also still have the magic mirrors, so we can always set up times for you to visit me."
Damn it! I hated it when I overlooked the obvious, or in this case, forgot my plans. I saw the others were still engrossed in their conversation, so I continued our whispered conversation. "So, you and me, and a week on the beach at the French Riviera should cure me."
Her eyes sparkled. "I'd love that, Harry, but my mother would never let me go alone with you."
"How about you say you're going to Aunt Muriel's for a week and I kidnap you on the way?"
Ginny laughed and the others looked at us. She looked at me like I had to explain.
"Er, nothing important, just a little negotiation about summer plans." That was apparently the wrong thing to say and they became even more attentive. So I waved my hand and Ginny and my voices became silent to them. "There, they can't hear us now. So, what if I say I'm going there, and you can tell your mother that you need to go to protect me from all the French witches? Or Veela, yeah, tell her you need to protect me from the Veela."
Ginny was now laughing so hard she was starting to cry. I gave up and looked at the others. Hermione looked put out for being excluded. The other two were smiling at her. I momentarily gave up my summer holiday trip plans and canceled the silencing charm.
I was puttering around in the little shop right next to the big "Triple W" in Diagon Alley. It had been easy to buy since it was empty. My sign, "Enchanted and Charmed" hung out front, along with an "Opening Soon" sign.
Inside, I was putting a few more things on the shelves for those who wanted to take something with them, instead of having custom work done. For the serious potion-makers and mothers of young children who had little time, various sizes of self-stirring cauldrons. I had auto-chopping knives, guaranteed to chop things very consistently so all work was the same size. For the Muggle-born and Half-blood raised, I had a dozen or so electronic devices that had a tightly contained Null-Magic field around them, guaranteed to work even in magic-heavy environments like Hogwarts. Other convenience items were also displayed.
Of course, the real gravy was in custom work, whether enchanting objects or coming up with new spells for people. I charged a lot for this and it wasn't hard -- for me, as I was a Mage.
The real problem was doing this without everyone and their kneazle knowing I was Harry Potter. Between my two victorious encounters with Riddle, I always had to screen my mail and I rarely went out in public without a disguise. I was going to need to disguise myself here, too. When I was running the shop, I would look something like Bill, redheaded and older. I really freaked Ginny out the first time she saw me like that.
Slim arms and hands encircled my waist, bringing me out of my thoughts. I turned in the embrace and kissed Ginny. She was still as cute as ever, although her hair was now a shade lighter due to time in the sun. I had gotten my week on the beach, but the cost had been to take Ron and her parents. To keep Ron occupied and not tagging along with Ginny and me, I also talked Hermione into going. It had been a good decision, especially since Ron finally asked Hermione on a date while there. I still didn't understand why she liked him like that.
"Are you ready?" she asked.
I looked at the clock and saw that it was nine in the morning, on the day I had advertized to open, the 24th of July, a week before my birthday. I nodded as I waved my hands a few times, creating Adam and Eve O'Donald. We both now looked thirtyish and a little different than our normal selves. Ginny had objected to being called Eve, but I liked it as I saw us as the first of my family.
Ginny/Eve opened the door and she was practically shoved backwards by the crowd rushing in. I quickly threw up a spell to limit visitors to ten families at a time. That upset a few people but the store was very small. To try to settle everyone, I conjured a small sign explaining the limit and posted it on the door.
Once she recovered, Ginny hurried to the check-out counter on the other side of the door while I, as Adam, walked around the store and helped people. I was amused when ten minutes after the store was opened, Justin Finch-Fletchley walked up to me holding a portable CD player.
"Sir, I noticed that you don't have many disks for these," he brandished the player. "Do you plan to get more?"
I smiled. "I'm sorry, but I don't plan to be a music store. I carry a few popular ones so you can have something to play now, but we specialize in making the player work while around magic. There is nothing special to be done for the CD."
"So I can go buy them anywhere?"
"My thought was that only those wizards and witches who knew what it was and where to get CDs would buy the player," I patiently explained.
Justin snorted. "You mean those with a Muggle background."
I smiled. "My wife is from a Pureblood family and knows what they are, but I'll grant you that she's probably an exception. I know I think of her as exceptional." I winked at the last part.
Justin chuckled. "OK, thanks."
I watched him grab a second player and wondered if a younger brother or sister of Justin's would be going to Hogwarts this year. Justin also grabbed several packages of batteries before getting in line to purchase his selections.
A glance at Ginny showed her to be working as fast as she could. At the moment, she was taking Pounds Sterling from a man, probably a Muggle-born, I thought. I had a sign saying that the store took both Muggle and Wizarding money. The Muggle money was used to purchase the items in the Muggle world, and allowed me to avoid the conversion fees the goblins charged to go from Galleons to Pounds.
"Excuse me?" a female voice called.
I turned to see another familiar face and smiled at her. "Yes?"
"I've always wanted to have a scientific calculator at school for Arithmancy, but all I see are the simple four-function calculators on the shelf. Will you be receiving more of the advanced model soon?"
"Oh? I've sold out of those already? Please wait a moment." I pulled out my wand so no one would know I was the Enchanter (my wandless ability and blue hand would have been a dead give away) and silently summoned a small box from the back. After I caught it, I put my wand away. Digging into the box, I pulled out the more advanced model of the calculator and handed it to the girl. "There you go. I should probably check on the rest of my stock."
"Thank you, sir," she said before she leaned in and whispered, "Good disguise. I wouldn't have recognized you if I hadn't known."
I smiled at her, ever the friendly shop-keeper I was. "Enjoy your calculator, Miss Granger." Since my friend had finished at Hogwarts, I wondered which school that would be. She probably was just saying that as an excuse, but I'd ask her later.
Hermione flashed me a smile and turned to go see Ginny and check out. Ginny knew to charge her a single Galleon instead of the regular price of two Galleons and three Sickles. All of my friends only paid a single Galleon for items when I used their ideas.
I smiled to myself as I surveyed the shelves and resupplied the top sellers. I had told my closest friends what I was doing and had sworn them to secrecy. My status as a Mage was now public knowledge and privacy was hard to come by. They had also given me a few ideas on things to carry. Hermione had been the one to suggest calculators. She had also suggested laptop computers, but I was still working on them. They were a little more delicate, but I thought I'd have them working soon. There was also the whole lack of AC problem to run or charge the laptop computers, but I had an idea for a small AC generator where the motor was turned by magic, but the electrical part was shielded. That was still in the prototype stage.
Fred and George came over with lunch and a wink as they welcomed their "new neighbors". George also stayed for a few minutes to help restock shelves when I brought the boxes of charmed items out from the back storeroom to the front.
At the end of the day as I was about to shut and lock the front door, a woman with a small child hurried in. "I would like to enquire about your custom work, Mr …"
"O'Donald, madam. What can I help you with?"
"I need a spell, or something," she said with a little desperation, "to help me track a child."
"Tracking charms are taught at most schools. Not that I don't want the work, but one of those won't do for a child?" I had to admit I was curious.
"No." Exhaustion added to her desperation. "We think it's accidental magic that cancels them, but he likes to run and hide, and well, it scares us when we can't find him. Can you please help me?"
"Hmm, he does look lively," I bantered while I asked Magic about how to make a permanent tracking charm. "If you'll excuse me a moment, let me go to the back to make a Floo call to our Enchanter and see what he says." Ginny nodded at me and I knew she would watch over them.
In the back storage room, I took a seat for a moment. The answer finally came to me and I considered how to work it. I decided that what really need was some gold, so I searched and found an old gold ring in a box of junk I'd brought in so I'd have base materials to transfigure.
I went back out front. The woman looked at me hopefully. Ginny was watching her as she tallied up her sales sheet.
"Madam, we can create a ring that can always be tracked. With a special charm to make it stick to him and an auto-sizing charm so it grows with him, you should always be able to find him with a simple charm."
"Oh thank you," she almost cried in happiness. "My husband and I would be so thankful."
"There will be a twenty Galleon charge for the spells and the ring. Also, for all custom work, we require the requester to sign a magical oath saying the work will never be purposefully used to harm anyone."
She looked shocked. "How could this ever be used to harm anyone?"
"I don't know, but that is our policy. The fee is for our work, but we also desire to make sure our work does not hurt others. I can show you the oath before you decide."
She nodded so I pulled out a copy of the standard oath I had already written and she read it. "I can agree to that." She signed the oath before pulling out twenty Galleons and handing them to Ginny while I went to the back to "go get the work from the Enchanter".
About five minutes later, I returned with the ring that had a few special runes on it and a slip of parchment with three spells on it: one to stick it to the boy, one to remove it from him, and one to show the direction of the ring. The woman was very grateful and left her desperation behind as she hurried home.
Ginny locked up behind the woman and looked at me with a very tired look. "I can't believe I agreed to this. I am so tired." She brought the cash box with her as we went into the back. "Bloody hell! I knew we had made a lot of sales today, but they cleaned us out!" She was shocked at our almost bare shelves in the stock room and work room.
"Fortunately, I've got enough extras at home all ready to come here, but I'm going to need to go buy more items for day after tomorrow and enchant them. What I'd like to know is if every day will be like this or if it will slow down?"
She nodded. "I know. I can help you for now, but soon, you'll be here by yourself."
An idea was forming in my head, but I wasn't sure about it.
"What? I can see you're thinking something," she said, eyeing me with curiosity.
"I need someone I can trust and someone who is reasonably good with maths. What does your mother do during the day?"
Ginny looked at me and then started to laugh so hard she almost fell over. "You want to work with my mother? Your future mother-in-law?"
"Well, I know I can trust her and that's a big advantage. We'd just need to work out what a good wage is. Hmm, I wonder if…"
A knock on our door interrupted us. I cautiously went out to the front and Ginny followed me. We were both still in our glamours. Peering around a sign and out the door, I saw the twins. I opened the door with a grin.
"Come on in." I locked the door behind them.
"So, did you do well?" Fred asked.
"Yeah, we saw people streaming in and out all day, just like on school letter days," George added.
"Come to the back," Ginny de-aged, her hair lightened, and her freckles all came back as I canceled her glamours. I took mine off too. "Look," she commanded as she pointed around the back room. "This was full this morning."
The twins looked at each other before they pulled out their wands and created chairs for themselves across from ours.
"We're not surprised," George said as he sat.
"Yeah, so many of those in power, and you know who we mean, don't really think about who makes up the magical world." Fred looked as strange as his brother without his characteristic grin.
"What do you mean?" Ginny asked. I was curious, too.
"What my brother means is that they never think about the percentages of the population."
"You know, Pure, Half, Muggle-born, Squib. The last three of those kinds understand all of what you offer, Harry. Guess what percentage those three make up of the entire population?"
"Or," the other twin quickly continued, "guess what percentage the Purebloods make up, the ones who won't understand most of your products?"
"If my year at Hogwarts is anything to go by, I'd say half of the population would be Purebloods," I answered.
Fred shook his head. "And you would be wrong. You had an exceptional class, old man. Ignoring the Squibs, which I've never seen a count for, Purebloods only make up about a quarter of the population and it's shrinking fast."
"Half-bloods make up about half of the population now with the last about twenty-five percent being Muggle-borns. We would bet Purebloods will only be about ten percent of the population in twenty or thirty years as many of the Purebloods are older and it has become difficult to create Pureblood children if both parents are from Britain and if you're concerned about inbreeding. You and Ginny are some of the few exceptions left who don't have that worry, he hastily added."
"What we're trying to say," Fred jumped back in, "is that the majority of the Wizarding World will know and want your products. Better still, no one else is selling your fancy gadgets that work inside highly magical areas. That's brilliant for you."
"And those in power will blithely ignore you for a while because they're the ones who don't understand what your little disks are for or why someone might want a, a calculator?"
I nodded to George.
"So take advantage of the situation and watch out for them trying to pass laws to stop your expansion, probably in the guise of secrecy laws."
"Thanks guys, I really appreciate the analysis. I wished they'd teach that at Hogwarts," I told them.
They both laughed. "Sorry, old man."
"Yeah, that would upset the apple cart."
"I can see that."
"Of course," George looked like he was thinking out loud, "if you can hang on for ten or twenty years, the problem may solve itself as the population changes."
"True," Fred chimed in. "The Purebloods took a major hit when you removed Riddle from circulation and some very prominent Purebloods suddenly became Squibs."
"Narcissa Malfoy's reaction was priceless when she learned her husband and only son were now Squibs."
"She was only loud then, and that reaction was not as priceless as when she tried to remove her money from Gringotts and then tried to use magic inside the back when she found her vault empty."
I broke into the twins reminiscing. "I had heard her vault wasn't empty, but was full of garbage, which knocked her out because of its smell." All four of us started laughing and we continued to do so for nearly a minute.
It occurred to me they could answer my earlier question. "I do need one other bit of information. What's the normal rate to pay someone to be a clerk in a store?"
Fred laughed. "Yeah, Mrs O'Donald here has to go back to school, doesn't she?" Ginny stuck her tongue out at her brother.
"To answer your question," George said with a grin, "around two Galleons an hour, or a little less if they don't have much experience. If it helps, two Galleons an hour works out to be almost five thousand Galleons a year, assuming they work six days a week with two weeks off a year. You might do better to find two helpers, each working a little less than full time."
I pondered that. I could easily afford that, even if sales were only half of what we did today. I wondered what their reaction would be to my idea for "help". "Do you think I could hire your mother to help me?"
They looked at each other and then fell out of their chairs laughing. Ginny joined them in hysterical laughter.
"What is it with you Weasleys?" I huffed.
"Sorry, Harry," George said when he could talk again.
"Yeah, sorry, but better you than us."
"What my brother is trying to say is that it might work for you since you're not her son, but be careful and tell her up front that you're the boss or she will start to tell you what to do."
Ginny nodded her agreement, her grin still very large.
"I'm not saying it wouldn't work out, Harry, just that you need to be very clear who's the boss and what her duties are if you hire her."
"Also, Harry, you should hire another person in the next few weeks, whether it is our mum or someone else. The school letters normally come out the first week in August and you'll see even more customers then."
I looked around and thought about all of that. A space expansion charm might be a good thing too. There was so much to do. "Thanks a lot, you've been very helpful."
"No problem, Harry…"
"We'd do the same for any troll that Ginny married."
Ginny pulled out her wand and half-heartedly tried to Bat-Bogey them as she laughed, not really angry. I laughed at the three playing around. Life was really turning out well.
It was mid-September and my shop had survived the back-to-school rush -- barely. Lee Jordan had an older sister who had been looking for work and I had hired her. Molly, as she wanted me to call her now, also had been very helpful. She didn't know much about what we were selling until I demonstrated everything -- several times -- but she was very friendly and yet strict in making sure everyone paid for what was in their hands before they walked out the door.
Arthur had been like a kid in a candy store when I gave him a tour and demo, not to mention several sample products for him to "study". What a great family!
Remus and Tonks had also dropped by and I gave them personal demos. Tonks took a portable music player with her for those times she had guard duty. Remus took a CD player so he'd have something different to listen to while grading papers. He also eyed the small portable TVs, but decided he didn't really need one. He did get several calculators for gifts for the other professors. He was still enjoying teaching Defense.
Thanks to magic, I had doubled the size of the inside of my store and stock room. That had allowed us to barely keep up with customer demand for the commercial products I enchanted. I had worked like a demon to stay ahead. Fortunately, once September came, business slowed to half of the original volume and life became more fun again.
I locked up the shop at seven, having sent Molly home an hour ago, and went home myself.
After a quick dinner by myself, I cleaned up and transported myself to Ginny's room at Hogwarts, two hours earlier than normal. Her being Head Girl made this a lot easier than if she still lived in a dorm room.
We walked out of her room and into the Gryffindor common room. I greeted a number of students there before we went out the Portrait Hole and walked around, checking out a few closets along the way, just for fun.
It was a little after nine when we rounded a corner on the fifth floor and almost literally ran into the Headmaster. "Albus," I greeted him by his first name, as he always did to me, and kept on walking with Ginny on my arm.
After a moment of shock, he found his voice. "Harry! What are you doing here?"
We stopped and turned back to face him. "I'm spending some time with my fiancée," I answered as if it should have been obvious. I was planning to have some fun with him, so I thought this was a good start.
"As you are no longer a student, you are not supposed to be here without permission."
"That's all right, I gave myself permission." He gave me a disappointed look, so I went for my next tweak. "If Merlin walked in the castle right now, would you toss him out?" I didn't bother to ask if he could kick a Mage out; we both knew he would fail.
He looked surprised by my question before he chuckled after a moment. "You are trying to use your Mage status then?"
"Trying?" I asked and raised an eyebrow at him to drive my point home. He nodded and tilted his head a little to show he conceded my point. "I only visit for a couple of hours every night."
"You've done this before?" He looked alarmed and also looked at Ginny.
"Every night of the term."
"Miss Weasley!" The disappointment was back in his voice.
"Albus, if you plan to punish her, then you'll need to punish the Head Boy and probably all of Gryffindor too. My visits are probably one of the worst kept secrets in the castle." It was just that all the students decided it was something the professors really didn't need to know. Of course, the fact that I regularly brought candy from Honeydukes with me probably helped them to see things my way.
He looked back at me for a long moment. "Then I suppose that my running across you was not an accident."
I smiled and flicked a finger to make my eyes twinkle at him. His head jerked just slightly in surprise before he chuckled. Having had my fun, I canceled the charm.
"Very amusing, Harry. Since this is not an accident, might I talk you into joining me for some tea in my office?"
I noticed he was being polite so I acted in kind. "We shall join you." I automatically invited Ginny and Dumbledore didn't protest. He nodded and led the way.
"So what led you to allow yourself to be found?" he asked.
"I figured the secret would be found out soon anyway and I wanted to make sure no one got in trouble for it. Plus … I've heard certain rumors about me that have your name attached to them."
Dumbledore nodded slowly. "I was about to try to contact you soon." He led us up the stairs and into his office.
"I know." At his questioning look, I added, "One does not become a Mage without developing some contacts at the Ministry. They are, obviously, very discreet lest they earn my wrath and I prank them into humiliation." Ginny and I sat on his couch in the sitting area, leaving a nice wingback chair for him.
"You threaten them with pranks?" He sounded amazed.
"I wouldn't hurt them, but I do a small demonstration like change all of their skin to look like a candy cane or remove their nose for a few minutes to show them that mentioning my name in the wrong place is a bad idea. I also point out that I can make the effect happen for a few minutes here and there at the most embarrassing times. In exchange, they give me information about what's happening before it would have become public anyway, especially with the Wizengamot. So you see, nothing bad; I just want to know about possible problems before they occur."
"And if you found out about a possible problem?"
I knew what he was fishing for: Was I going Dark? "I find that a little encouragement in the right ears solves a lot of problems. I've heard you've been known to do the same thing," I told him, throwing the burden to him.
He cleared his throat as he served us tea. "I am the Chief Warlock, I'm supposed to give my opinion on legislation."
"I've heard you're present about eight percent of the time. I doubt you can do much that way," I said dryly. To his credit, he didn't try to correct me. In fact, he changed the subject, the wimp.
"How have you been keeping yourself busy, Harry? I haven't heard much about you in the news."
I shrug. "You know, a little research, a little investing. I've even had a little fun, although free time has been hard to come by lately. I really prefer to keep my name out of the news. My private life is just that -- private."
Dumbledore realized he wasn't going to get any more out of me on that topic, so he looked at Ginny for a moment and smiled. "I assume your wedding is still planned for this coming summer? I believe that was what Molly said the last time I talked to her."
"Yes, Professor," Ginny answered, the wedding being her forte. "At the moment, mid-July seems to work best. Would you like an invitation?" she asked with a perfectly straight face, as if not inviting him was a real possibility.
Part of me wanted to laugh at that. Molly would have had kittens if Ginny didn't invite Dumbledore.
"Why yes; that would be delightful." Dumbledore put his tea cup down. "Harry, there is something very important I need to discuss with you."
I had wondered how long he would go before he got to the main point. My contact in the Department of Mysteries had warned me this was coming.
"The Ministry needs your help with a project. Would you be willing to help them out if I put you touch with the proper person?" He glanced at Ginny. I got the message that he wasn't comfortable discussing the details with her here. That was just too bad as far as I was concerned.
"I assume this is about Riddle?" I boldly asked.
He sighed. "Yes. They've made little progress. Some might even say none at all," he said sadly.
"So you're saying they're incompetent and need me to bail them out -- for a third time." I didn't bother to pull punches. I doubted I could surprise the old man about this topic.
"That was a bit crudely phrased, but I can understand why you might think of it that way."
I looked at Ginny and saw her look at me and roll her eyes. We had talked over the summer about the possibility of them coming to me. I was ready for this.
"Very well," I told him after a moment, as if I had to think about it. As he perked up a little in hope, I added, "I will offer some free advice now, or if you want me to fix it all as a Mage, there is a condition for my help."
He pursed his lips slightly as he thought about that. I guess he was not surprised I would not do it all for free. "What is your free advice?" he finally asked.
"Shove Riddle's body through the Veil of Death in the Department of Mysteries and call it good."
"I wish it were that simple, Harry," he said gravely. "You should understand that is not enough. I hope you remember what happened in the Chamber of Secrets with Miss Weasley?"
Ginny shuddered and I held her hand tightly. "I do."
"The diary was a Horcrux. I believe there are four more existing," he paused dramatically, "although there may also be a fifth, but I'm not sure about that."
"I can help a little if you'll give me a moment." He nodded. "Kreacher?"
The elf popped in. "You called, Master?"
"Yes, Kreacher. Please go to the trunk in the attic where we put all of the Dark items when we cleaned house. There was a heavy gold locket with a snake on it. Please find that and bring it to me." The elf popped away. I saw Dumbledore staring at me.
"You've had one all this time?"
"The Blacks have had one ever since Regulus stole it before he died, or so Kreacher explained to me."
Kreacher popped back in and handed me the locket by the chain. "Thank you. You've done your usual good job." He bowed and left.
"Your humane treatment of him has worked wonders," Dumbledore commented.
"It did help," I agreed, "but the real fix was to help him work through what had happened to him in the past and to point out that I am his real master and for me to act like it." I handed the locket over. "There's one of them, I believe."
"Thank you, Harry."
"I would suggest throwing that through the Veil. Now, you mentioned a possible one you weren't sure of?"
"Yes." He looked very sad now. "I'm sorry to have to tell you, but I believe you might be one, inadvertently."
"Ah, in my curse scar?" I noted that Ginny did not look pleased to hear that.
"That might have been true, but I don't believe it to be any more."
"Oh? Why not?"
I smiled. "Think back to what I told you about how I became a Mage. I was struck with lightning and then I was a lot more powerful. It would fit that I probably was one, but the lightning removed it or released it. In turn, that either removed a block the Horcrux had on my magic, or released it and added to my magic. There was also a moment after I was hit that I'm not sure I was alive. If that was true, I suspect that unbound the Horcrux from me. Take your pick of theories, but I believe I'm not one now -- assuming I ever was one."
Dumbledore thought that through. "Did you ever have any pains in your scar in that summer after you were hit by lightning and before you put Riddle to sleep?"
My jaw dropped open. Why hadn't I ever thought of that? "No. Now that you make me think of it, not at all. I attributed that to me being able to block whatever he was doing, but the real reason must be that the connection between us had been removed." Ginny smiled, pleased to hear that logic. I lightly squeezed her hand to show my agreement.
"I believe I will agree that you are not one any longer. With this locket in hand, there are now only three left. Will you help us, Harry?" He persisted in asking.
"On one condition." I really didn't think they'd agree, but I really didn't want to get mixed up in all of this. The Wizarding World needed to grow up and do things for itself. I would force that if they made me.
Dumbledore continued to give me disappointed looks, even though I never reacted to them.
"If you want me to find all the Horcruxes and destroy them along with Riddle, then I must be given total control of the Ministry of Magic for one year. One year where I can lawfully do anything I want, just as if I were king at the time of King Arthur."
Dumbledore's jaw dropped. I had officially surprised him and I chuckled. Ginny joined me.
"That's too high a price, Harry," he said when he found his voice. "No one man should have that much power. Why?"
"Because if I must step in and be a parent to our society, then things are too wrong, or too far gone to be saved. I shall need to redo it all. While I'm 'fixing' Riddle, I'll also 'fix' the Wizarding society in Britain. Ireland is on its own since it has its own Ministry of Magic, but I will fix magical England, Wales, and Scotland. It's time for them to grow up and I'll make it happen by dragging our world into the twenty-first century and removing all the bias and stupidity by fixing the bad laws as well as recreating the Ministry to have a more representative form of government. That's the price of my help and it's nonnegotiable."
"Sorry, Albus, but that's the only offer you get. If you decide to take me up on it, I'm sure you'll find a way to let me know. Thank you for the tea and conversation. Have a pleasant evening." It was very nice to be in charge of meetings, I thought with amusement. I stood and Ginny stood with me. With a thought of a little magic, I transported us to her room.
"Do you still think they'll take your offer?" she asked me seriously.
"No, those in power won't want to give it up; but enough of that. I want a little more relaxing fun than playing verbal tennis with an old man."
"That can be arranged." She led us over to a comfy chair and pushed me into it before she sat on my lap.
I loved being Head Boy last year and her being Head Girl this year. These rooms were so much more comfortable and private than broom closets.
The evening after Ginny finished her NEWTs, I showed up at Hogwarts with a surprise in my pocket. Ginny hugged and kissed me as usual, but I could tell she was mentally exhausted.
"Come with me," I told her as I grabbed her hand and led her outside.
We passed McGonagall on the way; she nodded to us as a greeting. No one was ever surprised when they saw me at the school. I think most of the staff looked at me as if I was on staff as night security or something. The fact that I stopped a couple of older Slytherins from trying to force a third year Hufflepuff into giving them his spending money the evening before a Hogsmeade weekend trip probably helped. I stuck them to the ceiling upside down and the only way they could be released was if they told the truth about what they did to the little 'Puff. I understand that Hogwarts became a kinder and gentler place after that.
Outside and with a couple hours before dark, I pulled a twig out of my pocket and wandlessly expanded it back to normal size before I gave it to her.
"For me?" she asked amazed as she ran her hand over the broom.
I thought it should have been obvious since it had a red bow on it, to say nothing of also having her name emblazoned in gold inlay on it. "Congratulations on finishing Hogwarts and for landing a tryout with the Harpies. I hope this will help you." I enjoyed watching her rapt attention on the present.
She ran her hand over the smooth purple wood. Seeing her name running the length of the broom brought a smile to her lips. "It looks beautiful, Harry. I can't believe you made this for me."
"Try riding it," I suggested. "However, be aware that I made it for a Chaser. It won't fly like a normal broom. For example, once you get the hang of it, you'll find that it'll turn on a Knut."
Ginny took it from my hands and I removed the bow. She sat on it and her smile widened. "That's really comfortable."
I pulled the second broom I'd ever made out of my pocket. Ginny's was my third. "It has to be if you're to do high speed turns. I've put all kinds of control spells and inertia compensation spells on it. No commercial broom should be able to match it, especially its acceleration."
"Not even the Firebolt 2?
"Nope," I said with a grin. "That's made for distance racing, not for Chasers like this broom is."
Ginny put both hands on the broom and shot off the ground. She screamed, but I could tell it was out of joy at the speed. I saw a few people standing around to watch us. I quickly took off too. Her broom had more speed, but I had more experience and control. Once she learned that broom, she would beat me every time until I created an equivalent broom for me.
We flew around for as long as we could. I gave her as many pointers as possible and she had almost mastered flying it when we quit because it was getting too dark to see well.
Back on the ground, she gave me a hug and wonderful kiss. "Thanks, Harry!"
"You deserve the best," I told her, and I wanted the best for her. Of course, in about three weeks, it would become my official duty to provide for her as her husband. I was looking forward to that and many years of us being together.
"There's Mummy!" a little hand pointed.
"Yes, that's her. Keep a close eye on her. This is her last game and she won't be flying here any more." Our youngest, Sarah Lily, nodded seriously, or as serious as a four year-old could. She looked so much like Ginny it was unreal. Sarah also stole everyone's heart, much like her mother.
Our two boys, Ian James and Stephen Arthur, nine and seven, watched from our box seats in the stadium. They were already becoming Quidditch-crazy and to have a mother who was a Quidditch star was "the best" to them. Both looked mostly like me. Ian's hair was dark like mine, while Stephen's was a dark auburn. They were good sons.
This was Ginny's last game as a professional -- the end of a twelve-year career. She had made the first reserve Chaser for the Harpies right out of Hogwarts, something she was very proud of. She had stayed on the reserves for only her first season, becoming a starter in her second year.
Today, the Harpies were playing the Cannons, so Ron had two reasons to be here, Fred and George also joined us. Ron had brought Hermione and their one child, a girl name Jayne Marie, who was six. The twins still had yet to marry and I wondered if they'd ever settle down.
George leaned over. "Harry, I think it's time for you go put in another appearance at the Ministry. I've recently heard rumors there you won't like."
I snorted. "Which ones? The ones about how they're treating the centaurs or the ones on how they want to start taxing all goods that originate in the Muggle world?"
"I hadn't heard the ones about the centaurs," George replied.
Ron jumped up and started yelling at the Cannon's Keeper. The Harpy Chasers, led by his sister, were scoring almost every shot on goal. Hermione only made half-hearted attempts to calm him, knowing that the game environment just egged him on.
"I suppose it's time for my yearly appearance to smack some sense into them," I said tiredly. The Purebloods still had a slight majority in the Wizengamot, although they were having to fight hard to keep it, losing a seat or two every year to younger Halfbloods as the older Purebloods died and were replaced. "Maybe it's time I just disbanded all the bigots so we could start with some fresh minds." The Ministry had never taken me up on my offer to "fix" everything.
"Yes!" Fred shouted as Ginny scored again. "It's either that or you need to finish buying the Daily Prophet so you can ensure everyone knows just how bad they really are. I still don't understand why you only bought a third of it and then stopped."
"Mostly because I couldn't buy any more without doing bodily damage to people to force them to sell. Almost all of that business that I own, I bought shortly after all the Death Eaters turned into Squibs and some of those families sold their shares in order to raise money. Since then, very little of the company has been up for sale," I explained.
"Harry, let's pretend that the third you do own includes the printing presses," George said while avidly watching his sister dodge a Bludger. "How about a little charm work on them that does something like Veritaserum does to a person? Then they would print the truth even if that wasn't what the reporters wrote."
"Brilliant prank, George."
I snuckled. "That is brilliant." I thought about how that might be done and conversed with Magic. A minute later, I looked at George. "No matter what Fred says, you really are brilliant at times," I said with a grin.
The twins both laughed.
"So you know of a way?" Fred asked.
"It'll be a combination of runes and charms," I answered. "It won't force the truth out like Veritaserum, but I can make them accept only the truth and ignore what the people there know to be lies."
"So tomorrow's edition will be a lot more truthful?"
I shrugged. "You know they'll notice that what the presses printed isn't what they wrote. So it may be like that only for a single edition. Then they'll probably bring in curse breakers to fix it. It will be a battle back and forth between us, me making it print the truth and making it harder to break, and them trying to break it as well as prevent me from sneaking into the building and changing it." I gave an evil grin. "Sounds like fun, actually. I haven't had a challenge recently."
"True, you've got your business running so smoothly with some good people in place."
"I think the only business with more money now is Gringotts," the other twin remarked.
"Here it goes, gents," I remarked.
"What?" I got in stereo. A second later, everyone else saw what I already had. The two Seekers shot off across the pitch and eight seconds later it was over. The Harpies had beat the Cannons 410-70. Sarah squealed her delight and the boys were yelling too. In our box, only Ron looked sad.
Ginny flew up to the box and I pulled her and her "Ginny Special" broom in. She was a bit stinky, but she was my wonderful wife and the mother of my children. I kissed her soundly. Sarah was squealing "Mummy!" while the boys were making "yucky faces" at us.
"You were spectacular today," I told her with a grin.
"It'll be a shame to give it up, but it's getting harder and harder to keep up that level of play." Ginny picked up Sarah.
Everyone came over and congratulated Ginny, even Ron.
"What are you going to do now, Ginny?" Hermione asked.
When Ginny didn't answer for a moment, I spoke up. "I was thinking she could come with me on a little adventure tonight, sorta to watch my back."
Hermione groaned, "Not another adventure," while the twins' faces lit up in glee.
Ginny looked interested. "Doing what?"
"I'll explain after we get home and put the kids to bed." I brushed her cheek with a kiss and whispered in her ear, "And after I help you shower."
"Daddy, quit making Mummy turn red," demanded a little voice.
I patted Sarah's head and told the boys to come over so I could transport my family home. Life wasn't perfect, but it was very good.
(A/N: Sorry, no sequel. It is what it is. About all that really could be added would be how society changed, and that's not overly exciting. :) I've tried to put a few clues in this chapter. For the rest, you'll have to use your imagination. As for the Horcruxes, they were never found and Sleeping Ugly was eventually sent through the Veil.
Here we see why we really can't write long super!harry stories: everything is really much too easy if you let him have the power of Merlin or otherwise make it easy for him to control magic. He quickly fixes all the wrongs and has a good time doing it. There is little tension in the story. That's not necessarily bad, as sometimes it's nice to have a "feel good" story that you can just enjoy with a mug of hot chocolate or a cold Dr Pepper (as long as you don't spray it on your keyboard, :) but it's hard to get a major story in an environment like this. (Jeconais manages it in "Hope", but all the tension/problems are social and not magical, which is about the only way to do it.) So, for the bigger stories, you really do need to handicap Harry in some way, or make his "special power" very focused or limited. That's my theory on super!Harry. :)
Again, a big thanks to my beta editor Wolfs_Scream! He always makes me look like a better writer than I am.
I hope everyone who made it this far enjoyed it. -- Kevin)