Epilogue or Fertility and Prosperity
The ring that Severus gave Hermione reveals its two final precious gifts: fertility and prosperity. The prophecy is full-filled. The unity of Hermione and Severus brings forth a new era in both magical education in Hogwarts and as well as the magical world in general.
(i) Thank you everyone for staying with the story until now. Your kind reviews have meant the world to me. Please do continue to let me know what you think. I really would love to hear what you think of the conclusion.
(ii) The characters and world of Harry Potter belong to J.K. Rowling. I make no money from this. Pity, I could use a bit of loot right about now.
(iii) And last but by no means least, a big thank you to my lovely, amazing beta, Queen_of_Stars. You've been the most amazing source of motivation and I know that I would have found it much harder to complete this story if it wasn't for your support.
Once the Weasleys, Severus and Hermione had joined the Longbottoms in the garden, Lucius and Narcissa slipped away for their own private discussion. They had been planning a Solstice ritual, but they had originally prepared on only including women from the pureblood families, so this show of support from the victors of the war required a rethinking of their arrangements. While moving arm in arm through the crowd, the couple tried to decide how to play this new hand they had been dealt.
'I'm not sure what to do about the prosperity rite, Lucius,' said Narcissa quietly. 'Thank goodness I've only spoken to Augusta and Andromeda. Perhaps I should include Fleur and Hermione to join our magical ritual? They may not be pureblood, but they are known to be strong magically. It will also be politically significant. What do you think, Lucius?'
Lucius sighed. 'I do not know, my love. How many witches do you need to strengthen your spell casting?'
'Three witches is a good number, and that's what I had planned on using. If we were to include more, then possibly four, one each to call the quarters, although seven is also a very potent number.' Narcissa, too, sighed. 'We could only include Hermione, but that would seem to be too much like sucking up. If we had seven, then it wouldn't be so obvious.'
'It is up to you entirely, my dear,' said Lucius gently. 'You are going to be the priestess for this circle. I only know that we must make use of this opportunity.'
'I know,' said Narcissa. 'I wish Minerva McGonagall were here. She's so strong magically that having her would almost ensure my circle would be potent. Now, I'm not sure who to include for numbers six and seven.'
Lucius sighed and looked around the garden that was still buzzing with whispered conversations and glances at the latest arrivals. He did not want to miss this opportunity of showing the wizarding world that he had not lost his place in society just because he had come out on the losing side of the war. He and Narcissa looked at each other as if the answers they desired lay in each others' eyes before glancing around the gathering once more. Finally, Lucius turned to his wife and said, 'Perhaps you could include the young Misses Bones and Abbot. They were both in the so-called DA weren't they? Including Bones would be our way of acknowledging the strength of her aunt. Having Abbot would please Augusta as she is supposedly seeing the young Longbottom.'
Narcissa smiled tightly, but gratefully at her husband. She disliked appearing to pander to the winners of the war. However, she was capable of seeing the reasons for Lucius' suggestions. 'Mm…,' she mused while looking over the crowd again. 'It is true that they are both young, but they have proved themselves in battle. They are both strong, and not being from Gryffindor makes them much more likely to be able to be seen as almost neutral members of the DA. You've always been good at seeing the more far-reaching repercussions of our actions, my love.'
Lucius grimaced darkly. 'Not good enough, my pet. If I was, I would have tried harder to avoid getting involved with the Dark Lord. If only I had taken some of Severus' quietly voiced suggestions more seriously. He tried to make me cross over; I can see that now. He couldn't speak openly, but I completely missed what he was hinting at. If I had, perhaps I could have spied alongside him and not be seen as such a blackguard.'
Narcissa reached out and squeezed her husband's hand. She knew how much he tortured himself on not reading the political climate before it was too late. 'At least we didn't fight in the final confrontation. We openly did nothing to aid the Dark Lord, and I lied to save Potter. They can't forget that. When it mattered, we didn't put all of our efforts to aid the mad man. That counts for something, my love. I wouldn't have had the strength to lie to him if I didn't know that you would stand by me no matter what happened.'
The couple shared a glance filled with love and understanding. They had been each others' confidants for a long time and had seen each other through the ups and downs of their life. Then, Narcissa squeezed her husband's hand once more and stepped away from the buffet table to begin her mingling through the crowd. She was on a mission to speak with the six women chosen to perform the prosperity ritual.
No one could have imagined the far reaching changes attending a simple party could bring. The summer solstice celebrations had changed the face of Magical Britain. For the first time, Hermione and Fleur met Narcissa on equal footing. The three witches had, during their preparatory conversations, realised that they truly were united in their vision for the future. Moreover, the summer solstice celebrations became the start of a true coven. For the first time, the seven women realised that they had sisters who wanted the same thing. Peace, prosperity, happiness, but more, a safe environment to bring up their children and grandchildren.
After the ritual had been performed and energy raised to praise both Father Sun and the Mother Goddess in her aspect of fertility deity, the women slipped away for a quiet grounding and bonding exercise. Hermione, who had never really worked in a coven before this, had a million questions to ask the older witches. Fleur, Hannah and Susan smiled; they had, of course, heard stories of older family members being part of covens, of performing such magic. But as Hermione's eyes shone in brilliant eagerness, as she begged to be given reading material to understand the power of women's magic and coven magical practices, a bond was born between the women. Andromeda, Augusta and Narcissa looked over the young women's heads and smiled. Despite their outward differences, they could see that here was a young woman who was keen to understand and celebrate the old ways. For too long, covens had been something practiced by older witches, something done in secret with only three or four women from the same family. This coven, consisting of women from different families and persuasions was a far cry from the usual norm. Indeed, it had therefore provided more than the usual power because so much untapped potential had become a part of the magical workings.
There was something about being united in a common cause that forged a deep bond between the seven. They may have been on opposite sides with different views, but their goals were the same. In keeping with Hermione's determination to see Hogwarts united, before leaving, she asked the older women if they were willing to form a real, practicing coven that could meet on the eight Sabbaths and other occasions to venerate the Mother. A large practicing coven of this nature had not been found in Britain in many a decade. It would be a bringing back of older, more traditional practices.
Augusta immediately agreed. Not to be outdone, Narcissa, too, agreed. She said she would be delighted to work towards a brighter future.
Once the coven had begun to meet and practice, more changes trickled down to the community. For example, Narcissa, as the wife of a Death Eater, had known more than most about handing Dark Magical residue. It was she who taught Hermione and Fleur about the benefits of Herbology in curing the worst of the effects of casting Dark spells. Getting Molly, Ginny and others to work on the reconstruction efforts to the greenhouses at Hogwarts changed their demeanour in a matter of weeks. The earth was a kind and generous receptacle, it did not care what type of magic was poured into it; it would take it all, for it grew a diverse range of plants. Nature wasn't restricted to what it could grow with the right effort. From the deadly to the life giving, all plants required love, and they all provided the Herbologist or gardener peace of mind, forgiveness and above all, control. Plants took time to grow, time that allowed for contemplation, meditation and grounding.
The next year saw Hermione return as not just a Teaching Assistance but also as a Charms Apprentice. She had decided that she would begin with her dear Professor Flitwick, for it was the easiest subject for her to master. She wanted to settle into something easy to handle since she was also working to understand women's magic and coven practice at the same time.
The year sped by. Hermione and Severus became more open in their relationship and became public in announcing that they were now living together. There was an uproar in the press, and Rita Skeeter was as vindictive as they had expected her to be. But when the couple announced that they had moved in together in keeping with modern Muggle practices, there was a slight pause in the vitriol. The Prophet did not, after all, want to appear supremacist towards the Muggleborn witch and heroine when they knew how much that would hurt their sales figures. Indeed, when the couple announced their planned wedding date for the following Summer Solstice, there were smiles and acknowledgements from people who had been a part of the previous summer's magical workings.
Hermione and Severus had planned to have a small and private summer wedding. However, when they revealed, under some pressure from Minerva, that they wanted to get married on the Summer Solstice, Narcissa Malfoy stepped in with an offer for the Malfoys to host the wedding at their annual Solstice party. Hermione and Severus both wanted to refuse, Hermione because she didn't want a big wedding and Severus because he knew Hermione wanted something small and private, but the political connotations of refusing would have been far-reaching. Moreover, since the women had formed their coven and Narcissa's suggestions had helped Molly and Ginny Weasley so much, it seemed churlish to refuse. So, according to Severus' desire, an archaic hand-fasting was planned. In keeping with the couple's deep love of the old customs, and indeed, the Malfoys' love of traditional practices, a ceremony rarely used and only practiced by the most traditional of purebloods was selected.
The ritual bound the couple in body and soul. It was only for the brave, for if the couple was not compatible, the vows were such that they could never be broken. Most couples today married in a much less binding manner. But Hermione said earnestly to Fleur, 'Nothing will tear us apart.' Indeed, in her mind, there was no doubt that they were ideally matched. The ritual she had performed for Severus' birthday proved as much.
Narcissa and Lucius, of course, agreed, for they, too, had used the same hand-fasting for their marriage wows. But then, the senior Malfoys had been revealed to be soul-mates. It was not uncommon for soul-mates to be tied to one another through eternity. As Narcissa succinctly stated, 'What does it matter to be bound to one's soul-mate for one solitary life on this earthly realm for this one incarnation when it is likely that our entire destinies are entwined?'
The wedding vows themselves were exchanged at a small, intimate ceremony at dawn of the Summer Solstice. Minerva and Kingsley stood in place of Severus' sponsors and parents, while Lucius and Narcissa stood in for Hermione. As the vows were exchanged, a golden glow surrounded the couple. The ring had given them its second blessing of eternal fidelity.
The happy couple were blessed with love, fidelity, fertility and prosperity. They lived a long and happy life together. They had three wonderful children: two girls and a boy named Sophia Minerva, Leila Ariadne and Alexander Severus. They, too, went on to be outstanding members of the wizarding world. Sophia became, in time, the Minister for Magic and the first woman of noted mixed blood heritage to hold that august position. Leila followed her parents into the realm of potions and research and became the youngest Potions Mistress in the world. She gained her title at the tender age of nineteen, just two years after officially graduating from Hogwarts. Her work specialised in magical DNA research. She pioneered potions that allowed for the alteration and infusion of DNA cells with remedial therapy so that magical diseases could be cued at the molecular level. Alexander, on the other hand, followed his parents into teaching and succeeded his father as Headmaster of Hogwarts.
In fact, it was a standing joke in the family that Severus only retired because Alexander was growing impatient to take over. In truth, Severus retired so that he could spend the prime of his life with his still beautiful Hermione. They had always wanted to travel the world and research other forms of magic.
However, until that time, Hogwarts prospered under Severus' leadership. He made sure that it became the beacon of learning for magical studies in the Western world. It allowed for much inter-disciplinary research methodology and promoted a wide range of esoteric and global magical practices. The ties that Severus made with institutions of learning in China, India and Central America revolutionised thinking throughout the wizarding world.
Hermione did, indeed, complete her apprentice with Flitwick, and then she went on to study with Minerva followed by Vector and finally Poppy. She became an influential speaker and, in time, a prominent member of the Wizengamot. Hermione was determined that there would be more done to ensure Muggleborn and pureblood understanding. Laws were introduced to allow for Muggleborns to be twined for a time with pureblood families so that children learned from an early age the ways of behaviour and thinking of the world they were to be a part of. Similarly, the arrangement allowed for pureblood families to understand the concerns of Muggles and Muggle-born children. Hermione's proposals had, of course, been ridiculed by all sides of the divide, but she eventually was allowed to try out the concept with four select Muggle-born children of magical ability. Harry Potter and his spouse, the former Pansy Parkinson, were the first family who volunteered to be part of the scheme. They were quickly followed by Draco Malfoy and his wife Astoria, formerly Greengrass, Padma Patil, who had gone on to marry Theodore Nott and Neville Longbottom who had married his beloved Hannah Abbot. Because so many prominent members of society agreed to participate in the programme, it brought attention to the scheme and helped bring about greater understanding and sensitivity. Moreover, Hermione became, in her own right, as well as in collaboration with Severus, a well-known researcher and writer. Together with Severus, she revolutionised the teaching of Hogwarts and magical education in Europe, bringing Asian and Eastern knowledge, especially in the arts of healing, potions, domestic and culinary magic, into Western usage.