AUTHOR'S NOTES: The last chapter of my rewrite of Dei Ex Machina. I'm not opposed to rewrites of some of my other stories, so if there's one that you think I could improve upon, please let me know.
"He asked you to marry him?" Lavender Brown asked the next morning at breakfast in the Hogwarts Great Hall. The Gryffindor 6th year girls were huddled together and gaping at the beautiful diamond engagement ring on Hermione's left hand. But while the others were impressed by the ring, they seemed to be wondering about the whole situation. "Hermione, do you really think you should?" Lavender wondered out loud.
Looking puzzled, Hermione asked, "Why not? I love Harry and he wouldn't have proposed if he didn't love me."
Pavarti Patil giggled and finally said, "Well, we know that. We were wondering because Harry can't… I mean since he's in that wheelchair and everything…"
"What are you talking about?" Hermione asked, still confused. What did Harry's disability have to do with the two of them getting married?
"You know…" Lavender said with a dirty smirk on her face. "The two of you and your wedding night…"
After a moment of trying to decipher what the context of the conversation was, Hermione's eyes widened in surprise. "Wait, you think… I mean, you think that…?" Brow furrowing, Hermione lowered her voice and looked at the other girls before saying defensively, "Just because Harry can't move his legs doesn't mean he can't… It doesn't mean that he's not able to… do certain things." Getting up quickly without another word, Hermione grabbed a last piece of toast before snatching up her bag and walked briskly out of the Great Hall.
"Harry, mate… I know you love Hermione," Ron said as he and Harry headed down to the dungeons. "But there's… something I was wondering about." When Harry looked at him quizzically, Ron asked, "With the paralysis and all, I mean can you actually…?"
Harry rolled his eyes as he stopped outside the Potions classroom. "My legs don't work, Ron," Harry said, opening the door. "The rest of me is just fine. I talked to Healer Rousseau after the Dursleys' trial yesterday. I can't walk but for some reason, that part still works. A little too well, sometimes," Harry added under his breath.
"Sorry," Ron muttered. "It's just… well, everyone else wanted to know." But as he thought of the last thing his friend had said, Ron smirked as he asked, "So what are you thinking about that you're having a problem with—"
"Ron, sometimes you really are insensitive," Harry snapped as he went to the station he shared with Hermione.
Pausing as he headed towards the library after Transfiguration, Harry stopped and turned around when he heard someone calling his name and saw Ginny Weasley coming up to him, holding a small roll of parchment. "Ginny," he said, surprised. Thinking that she wanted to say something about his engagement to Hermione, Harry said, quickly, "Look, I know that you—"
Ginny shook her head, cutting him off midsentence and gave Harry an honest smile. "It's okay, Harry. I'm happy for you. Honestly." Handing over the parchment she added, "Dumbledore gave me this to give to you."
Harry unrolled the message and after a moment looked up at her and said, "I have to go. Thanks, Ginny." Heading up to the headmaster's office, Harry found the headmaster sitting at his desk, a knowing smile on his face. "You wanted to see me, sir?" Harry asked, curiously.
"Yes, Harry…" Dumbledore said, his eyes twinkling merrily. "Leaving the Ministry of Magic the other day I couldn't help but notice a certain ring that Miss Granger wore on her left hand and thought I might inquire about a few details." Smiling, he asked, "When are the two of you to be married?"
"I've only just proposed!" Harry said, laughing out loud. It had been a spur of the moment thing and he and Hermione had barely talked about it since he put the ring on her finger. "I don't know, honestly. I-I'd like to do it next summer after she and I turn 17."
"I'll inform Molly at once," Dumbledore replied, nodding. "She wanted to know when to plan your engagement party." His expression turning grave, the headmaster added, "Now… onto less appealing business."
"Voldemort, I presume," Harry guessed. He couldn't think of anything else that would be that serious… unless the Dursleys had somehow escaped Azkaban.
"Naturally," Dumbledore said. "I have been studying what I know of the methods he used to gain his power and I believe that I have devised a way to destroy Voldemort remotely."
Harry moved his wheelchair closer, interested. "How?" he asked, wondering what Dumbledore had devised.
"In the Department of Mysteries Voldemort left you when you felt a great surge of positive emotions: love, friendship… I believe that if you were to invade Voldemort's mind—essentially possess him—you would be able to end him once and for all," Dumbledore explained.
Harry thought it over and after a moment asked, "But what's to stop Voldemort from reversing the process and possessing me?"
"I, along with whoever else you wanted, would act as a link to your mind," the headmaster replied. "We would encourage you; help you to destroy those bonds of magic which tie Voldemort to this world. He has become so wrapped up in his power I do not expect him to survive with his magic broken."
"How… how soon would we need to do this?" Harry wanted to know.
"Not at this very moment," Dumbledore answered. "But soon. And before Voldemort regains his full powers."
Harry had never put much stock into the saying 'Beware the Ides of March' until a cool March evening which found him lying on the couch in Dumbledore's office with Sirius, Hermione, Ginny, Luna, and Ron. It was two days after a vicious attack by Death Eaters on a muggle orphanage and Dumbledore felt it urgent to proceed in his plan to destroy Voldemort once and for all. "Just relax, Harry," Dumbledore said, standing next to Harry. "Close your eyes…" Harry closed his eyes and focused on the headmaster's voice. "Let your mind drift… let all your thoughts go… Focus on finding the link between you and Voldemort."
Harry felt a surge of anger and hatred but instead of withdrawing from it like he usually did when he felt Voldemort's emotions, he held onto it and used the feeling to push himself into Voldemort's mind.
In Voldemort's mind, it felt like the dungeons of Hogwarts but there was a sharp, almost metallic scent on the air… The entire chamber felt like a snake… And all around the room were glowing green chains, rattling quietly in the still, musty air.
"How did you get here, Potter?" Voldemort said, looking at the teenager standing before him with more than a touch of surprise.
"You should protect your feelings and emotions more," Harry said, withdrawing his wand as he stood before Voldemort. "Someone might use them to invade your mind." As quickly as he could, Harry fired a spell at the chains but as soon as the chain was destroyed, the whole chamber shook violently and the stone started to crumble a bit, falling to the ground and narrowly missing the two wizards.
"I wouldn't recommend that, Potter," Voldemort said with an evil grin. "If I die… you die as well. We are linked, Potter…"
'Look for the link that binds the two of you,' Dumbledore's voice said in Harry's head. 'You must first destroy the link before you can safely destroy Voldemort.'
Harry looked around hurriedly and narrowly missed a Killing Curse Voldemort fired at him. Diving away from another spell, Harry fired his own curse at another one of the chains, again making the room shake and crumble. "So what did it, Tom?" Harry said, trying to distract his foe. "What made you turn into this?"
Voldemort fired another spell and was amazed when Harry blocked it easily. "Silence, boy! You know nothing about me!"
"Was it the fact that Mummy abandoned you?" Harry said, his eyes still scanning for the link that bound him to Voldemort as he dodged the Dark Lord's spells. "Or was it being the only wizard in an orphanage full of muggles?" Ducking a Cruciatus curse, Harry asked, "You could have manipulated someone into adopting you. Why didn't you? Was it maybe because you felt you deserved to be there? Forgotten? Alone? Knowing that anyone who might have cared for you didn't give a damn about you?"
"SILENCE!" Voldemort roared and fired a wild shot which missed Harry but hit some of the chains which seemed to be tangled together. "NO!" he shouted as even more of the room crumbled and collapsed.
Harry tried to keep his feet as the room shook even worse. Finally, he saw the link—a small, golden chain in the corner far upper corner of the room. But hitting it would require a very direct shot and Harry needed to get more of the other chains out of the way first.
"I know what it's like to be hated for your powers!" Harry said, trying a different plan and going from hostile to sympathetic. "My aunt and uncle would have preferred to dump me at an orphanage and forget about me." Avoiding another series of spells fired from Voldemort's wand, Harry went on. "My uncle beat me and my aunt worked me to death. I didn't matter to them. Just like you didn't seem to matter to anyone until you got to Hogwarts. But even then," Harry added, noticing that Voldemort wasn't firing spells at him at the moment. "You were still alone, right? You had abilities the others didn't. And then you found the truth about your parents. Someone had to pay, right? YOU had to make them pay for everything that had happened to you."
Taking advantage of Voldemort's hesitation, Harry fired a few spells at the chains and as they were destroyed, the room started falling apart even more. But while the links of Voldemort's magic were falling apart, the golden chain which bound Voldemort to Harry remained untouched. "I swore…" Voldemort said, pointing his wand at Harry's heart as the teenager backed up a few steps. "That I would destroy all those filthy muggles and mudbloods… Just like my father destroyed my mother! He took her from me!"
"And now all of them must pay," Harry finished, as he had a sudden dawning comprehension. "You don't want me here, do you? Asking these questions… playing to your doubts?" Slowly moving into position and mentally calculating the shot, Harry figured he'd have one chance to destroy the last chains including his link to Voldemort. "But you've always had these doubts, haven't you? You pretend to be the most powerful dark wizard ever, but really, you're just an abandoned orphan that no one loved."
"ENOUGH!" Voldemort shouted, angrily. "Avada—"
Harry waited until Voldemort had just raised his wand before firing a direct shot and hitting the last chains and the link. Immediately, Harry felt the room explode and fell to the floor, his mind unconnected and lost… There was nothing now… no sound… no feeling… no existence.
"Harry… Harry, come on back… It's done. Wake up, Harry…"
Harry heard the voices. He heard her voice, calling him back… He wanted to be with her… to hold her again…
"I think he's opening his eyes!"
"Harry, can you hear me?"
A warm, familiar hand held his…
"Harry… wake up…"
Harry opened his eyes and the first face he saw was Hermione's, her brown eyes full of concern and love. "Hi…" Harry said, sitting up as Hermione flung her arms around him. "I'm alright, Hermione, really," he insisted, surprised by her reation to him waking up.
"We thought you weren't going to wake up," Ron said as Harry hugged Hermione. "We didn't even know if you were still…"
"I was only out for a little while," Harry said, confused at how relieved everyone looked. Looking around he was suddenly wondering he was in the hospital wing… again. "Wasn't I?" he asked.
"Actually… you've been in a pretty deep coma for more than a month," Sirius said from his seat next to Harry's bed. Harry couldn't help noticing that his godfather looked very much like he had after first escaping from Azkaban—worn and tired and looking like he hadn't slept or cleaned up in ages. "We tried everything to wake you up: potions, spells…" Finally giving Harry a smile, Sirius added, "Hermione, Ginny, and Luna tried kissing you."
"I thought maybe it was like 'Sleeping Beauty'," Hermione said as she put some more pillows behind Harry. "'True love's kiss' and all that." Lowering her voice a bit, she added, "I was really worried you weren't going to come back to us, Harry."
Harry lay back, smiling. "I'd come back from anything just to be with you, 'Mione."
Hermione smiled and soon was locked in a tender, welcoming kiss with Harry.
After a while, though, Harry pulled back a bit and frowned slightly. "You let Ginny and Luna kiss me?"
Hermione's smile was bittersweet as she nodded. "I just wanted you back, Harry. I would have done anything."
Harry didn't know what to say to that.
21 Months Later
Potter& Granger Wedding
In the teachers' lounge, Harry sat in his wheelchair before a full length mirror, looking at himself in his father's old wedding robes. He couldn't believe that he was getting married. The robes fit like a glove and even his hair seemed less messy today. It was like a dream and only the fact that he was in a wheelchair reminded him it wasn't. It had been about two and a half years since the car accident and Harry still hadn't regained any further use of his legs. Hearing the door open, Harry looked up to see Sirius standing in the doorway holding up a small box. "Don't want to forget this…" Sirius said, smiling. Seeing that Harry didn't smile back, Sirius stepped into the room and stood beside the mirror. "Not getting cold feet, are you?"
Harry shook his head in a negative, but—unbeknownst to him—just like his mother, Harry's eyes gave him away that he was having doubts. "Last night," he said, quietly. "Hermione and I fell asleep on the couch. After a while, she nudged me awake. She needed to get up, but the way we were positioned… She had to move my legs before she could get up and… help me get into bed." Looking at Sirius, Harry asked, "Is it fair to do this to Hermione? I love her. I want to marry her more than anything. But Sirius, I'm never going to be able to move my legs. I'm never going to have a normal life."
Sirius sighed and put the box with Hermione's wedding band in his pocket for a moment. "Harry, Hermione knows this. She wants to marry you, even though you're in the wheelchair. Yes, it'll be an obstacle at times, but when you really love someone, you don't mind what happens." Walking up to Harry and handing over the ring, he said, "Do it, Harry. Don't let doubts keep you from being happy."
In a small chamber off of the Great Hall, Hermione twirled before the mirrors in her wedding gown.
"I wish your mother could see you today," Jacob Granger said as he stood with his little girl. "You look so beautiful…"
"You couldn't talk Mum into coming?" Hermione said, her mood dropping a bit. The past year, Hermione's mother, Anne, had been somewhat distant with her daughter when it came to the upcoming wedding. And only last month, Anne had resolutely stated that she wouldn't attend the wedding of her only child.
"I've tried talking to Anne but she thinks you and Harry are too young and that you should be marrying someone… able-bodied," Jacob said, with a sigh. He didn't feel like mentioning that last night 'talking' had turned into an all-out fight. Jacob knew that his daughter was an adult by wizarding law and he wasn't about to stop her from doing what she wanted. But Anne was stuck in thinking of Hermione as her little girl—which would always be true, but still…
"I don't care if Harry never walks again!" Hermione shouted, upset at her mother's actions. "I love him! It's my life—my choice!"
"I know, Hermi… I know." Hugging his daughter, Jacob tried to get Hermione's mind off of the situation. "Look, this is your day, honey. Don't worry about Mum. This is your day and I don't want you to think about anything except getting married. Alright?"
"Thanks for being here, Daddy," Hermione said, giving her father a kiss on the cheek before going to give herself a final look-over.
The snow had started falling again as everyone gathered in the Great Hall for the wedding. The magical ceiling allowed for a perfect view of the white, puffy flakes, even though the interior was as warm and welcoming as ever.
The torch brackets along the walls had been cleaned the previous night and now sparkled in the sunlight pouring in through the spotless windows. McGonagall had seen to it that the entire room was spotless and Casey Novak had happily volunteered Slytherin House to personally do the cleaning.
Up at the front of the hall where the staff table usually sat there was a beautiful arch covered with lilies, roses, vanilla orchids, and a mix of sweet smelling parsley, lavender, and mint.
On one side of the arch, Harry sat with Sirius and Ron standing beside him.
On the other side, Ginny stood with Luna as they waited for the ceremony to start.
"Ready, Harry?" Dumbledore asked as he came up to officiate the wedding.
Harry nodded, smiling. "I am," he replied, looking at the headmaster. "I'm nervous… But I'm ready."
Dumbledore signaled to Tonks who started up the music before looking at the Creevey brothers who opened the main doors so that Hermione and her father could come down the aisle ahead of Dobby who was merrily tossing handfuls of rose petals before popping back down to the kitchens to prepare for the reception.
Stopping at the end of the aisle, Hermione turned to her father and gave him a kiss on the cheek before saying, "I love you, Dad."
"Do I get a kiss, too?"
Hermione turned to see her mother standing just behind her. "Mum," Hermione said, surprised by her mother's presence. "I thought you didn't approve of me marrying Harry."
Anne Granger smiled as she kissed her daughter on the forehead. "I received a call from your headmaster," she said, glancing up at Dumbledore before turning back to her daughter. "He reminded me that it's about what you want… not what I want." Giving Hermione one more kiss and a hug she whispered, "And all I want if for you to be happy, Hermione. Now go on, honey. I love you."
Hermione went up to Harry but before taking her fiancé's hand she threw her arms around Dumbledore, saying, "Thank you!"
Dumbledore smiled as Hermione stepped back, a little embarrassed by her action. "It was my pleasure, Miss granger. Now… are the two of you ready?"
Hermione took Harry's hands and nodded. "Yes," they both replied, smiling at each other.
Sirius couldn't help but feel a certain amount of sadness as he looked at Harry. It wasn't because of the teenager's disability but rather because Sirius wished that James and Lily were there to see their son get married. There had been so much of Harry's life that James, Lily, and Sirius had missed but as Harry's godfather observed the proceedings, he promised to never miss any part of Harry's life again.
As Harry recited his vows and slid the wedding band on Hermione's finger he didn't even think of his parents. All he could think about was that he had to be the happiest person in the world. And looking into Hermione's tear-filled eyes, he knew she felt the same as she put a gold band on his hand.
And when Harry and Hermione shared their first kiss as husband and wife, the rest of the world seemed to fade away and they only saw their future together.