Chapter 12: Repatriation
A/N: HP Lexicon is the source for the floors at the Burrow. I could not remember them all.
As this chapter deals with my favourite couple returning home, lots of other characters will come into play, so it won't focus on just Ron and Hermione. Bit of a bummer that way, but really, how could it not?
Here goes. The final chapter. (sniffle)
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Departure from Sydney, June 6, 2pm,
Arrival at Heathrow, London, June 7, 7am
The young couple Apparated on the hill overlooking the Burrow. Refreshed from the sleeping draught they took on board the plane, they were again ready for a full day ahead of them like their first day in Sydney. Once the vile compressing feeling wore off they took in the scenery around them only to have their eyes land back on each other. Eyes meeting, they smiled.
"Why did you want to Apparate up here, Ron? We could just as easily have done so outside your mom's kitchen window," Hermione asked.
"Just wanted to share the view with you. The last time we were here together was on our way to Lovegood's house. I don't know, really." He shrugged. "Last bit together. Stretch it out."
She smiled at him as her arms made their way around his torso. "It's called being a romantic, and it's lovely of you." She tilted her head up to kiss him and he eagerly met her half way, one hand wrapped around her waist, the other coming up to caress her face.
They parted slowly, heads bowed together. "Ready?"
"Yeah, sort of." He smiled at her and in some way his heart wanted to show her off to the world below them, shout out the greatness of the woman whose hand he was holding now. Simultaneously, he was reluctant to give up their privacy together. Despite having her parents' company during the last week and a half, only two people to share her with was nice, and their nights were still their own. They were excellent nights, just the two of them, strolling hand in hand, out to the nightclubs if they felt like it, sitting at Bondi Beach with a blanket and the invisibility cloak wrapped around them or watching movies together.
They made their way towards his family home without rush. When they arrived at the door, he turned to her. "It's been the best two weeks of my life too. Just being with you...I don't know. I can't put it in words."
"I think you just did, Love," she said, her eyes bright with affection for him as well. They shared a quick peck before Ron opened the door, knocking on the doorframe to announce their arrival. "Anybody home?" he called. They set down their magically extended carry-on bags by the door, and wandered the ground floor. No one there, but the tumultuous patter of feet thundered down the stairwell after heads appeared looking down at them.
Molly and Arthur arrived at the bottom of the staircase, followed by Ginny, and Charlie. Hugs and kisses were exchanged; all happy to see one another again.
"How was the trip?" Molly inquired.
"Successful?" Arthur asked immediately, looking to Hermione for a positive answer.
"Yes, they'll be home in two weeks!" she beamed proudly. "All is well. They were just starting to really settle in I think and then here we arrive to mess up their bliss. But I think they are glad to be coming home."
New rounds of hugs for the couple ensued, this time congratulatory. Molly set about getting them some tea and muffins.
"So, you two didn't tear each other's head off, arguing the whole way? Don't tell me you stopped arguing. I won't recognize you," Ginny said.
"We're not that bad!" they said in unison.
"You have your moments," Ginny countered. Arthur and Molly agreed silently, amused.
Ron's arm came around her waist easily in front of them, pulling her in front of him to be hugged from behind as he leaned against the kitchen counter. Her hands covered his over her stomach. "No real arguments well, save for one. The rest of the time was great."
"We took a few days to tour and see some sites ourselves before we found Mum and Dad."
"They were okay?" Arthur asked, "About everything?"
"Well, not initially. That was the source of argument actually—how to handle getting them back completely. They were very upset at first with what happened.
"I can imagine," injected Molly.
"How to handle that became an issue, but it all worked itself out in the end, thanks to Ron; he smoothed everything over," Hermione said looking back at him with admiration.
"Ron?" was the chorus received.
"Yes. He was wonderful at mediating between my parents and me. As I said, they weren't very happy about what happened. And, well...it was a good thing he was there." The others, Ginny in particular looked impressed with Ron and suddenly very proud of him too.
"Then we spent the rest of the time visiting and touring with them. Got lots of pictures, mostly Muggle style still photos, but still, it was really great. Everyone was relaxed and happy and Ron really got to know my parents and vice versa."
Ron made an exaggerated show of blowing a hot breath on his fingertips and then polishing them on his shirt. "They love me." To which he received Hermione's elbow in his stomach, accompanied by a smirk. "Yes, they do. But, once they heard you saved my life, you practically couldn't do anything wrong." She rolled her eyes at her parents' sudden enthusiasm for him after the initial day. "Oh, where's Pig? My parents made me promise to send a letter to Hogwarts for them."
"Hogwarts? What on earth for?" Arthur asked.
"Don't know. They wouldn't tell me, just made me promise to do it. So..." She pulled the sealed letter from her purse and put it on the table. It was addressed to the Headmistress of Hogwarts.
"Curious," Molly said and then shrugged her shoulders and opened the window, calling for the owl to come and take the letter.
"Where's Harry? Thought he'd be here, it's only 7:30," Ron asked to no one in particular, though his eyes did land on Ginny at the end of the table as he and Hermione sat down too.
"He was working late last night on Grimmauld Place. Started painting and didn't want to tidy up at midnight when I had to be home. He just wanted to get that job done" she rolled her eyes in mild annoyance at her parents' rules. She looked forward to being a legal adult, although she imagined she would still respect their rules while she was still at home.
"Oh, how's the place coming along?" said Hermione interested.
Ginny became animated immediately. She was so happy for Harry. "You would NOT believe it's the same house. All that black, depressing paint—we stripped it all and it's now in an off white, cream colour, the trim same colour. That's the main entry. We lightened the stain on the hardwood flooring after sanding it down, which took forever. That was very dusty, but Charlie had just the spell for settling the dust quickly from working with messy dragons.
"They don't care how much dirt they kick up, especially Norberta. She's a right feisty girl!" Charlie chimed in. He looked like he was missing the outdoors and the challenge of the life he usually led in Romania. Being home was a nice change though, having just made it in time for the Battle at Hogwarts. Then he elected to stay for the commemorations and celebrations of freedom.
"The sitting room is in a very light gold and a focal wall not quite Gryffindor red, but a wine burgundy. It has a real life to it! I can't wait 'til you see it. Had we gotten Mrs. Black out of there before you left? I can't remember."
"Yes, that alone will improve the value of the place! Old Bat!" Ron shook his head in disgust; his comment was receiving mild agreeing laughter all around.
Charlie piped into the conversation with a yawn. "Luna and her father are staying there too, for about two more weeks as they continue repairs on their house. They are quite an eclectic family. Weird, you know. Don't blame Harry for staying here most nights during repairs. Well, I suppose it is liveable, still a mess though, but they don't seem to mind since they have no where to go.
"Charlie and Bill decided to help and the extra two pairs of hands really sped things along." Ginny nodded in her sleepy brother's direction. He nursed a fresh cup of tea.
"Yeah," he shrugged. "Figured I should get to know the bloke a little more. He seems interesting to my little sister."
Ginny turned a little red and then continued. "Kreacher still keeps to himself for the most part, but he helps tidy the place. Kept everyone fed. Hmm, he does not care for Old Xeno or Luna much. It amuses Harry to watch him struggle with being polite, but he does it...to a degree."
They were sitting at the table, Hermione in the chair next to Ron. Arthur noted his arm was around her waist at one point, across her shoulders the next; hands disappeared under the table later. He kept that to himself as they caught up on each other's news. He got up to refill his tea and noticed the young couples legs were joined at the calves. His heart sighed for them. Young love can't get enough, he thought.
After about an hour, they separated to go and unpack and bring begin laundry.
In Ginny's room, Hermione slipped on to her old bed, staring at the ceiling. Ginny entered and jumped on her own bed, eager to have a girls talk and catch up, but Hermione was pensive. "How's your mum doing?" Ginny shrugged uncomfortably. "Was she upstairs in Fred's room when we got here, or their own?"
"Fred's. I've found her there in the middle of the night. Weird. He hasn't lived at home in a year, but she still goes up there and sits."
"I don't know if it's better or worse than her disappearing into the garage."
"I think it's worse. She went to the garage so people wouldn't hear her cry. Now she just sits there, for hours at a time in the quiet," said Ginny sadly. "I don't know how to help her. I don't know what to do. About all I can say is that we don't lose it at the same time so we can give each other a hug, but then we usually end up crying when we do that. Harry...he just focuses on the renovations. He uses magic as little as possible. He seems to get his grief out with a hammer and a piece of sandpaper."
Hermione mulled over the Ginny's words. "Ron, he seems quite healthy I think. He broke down at Hogwarts, became murderous for a moment," she swallowed uncomfortably at the thought. It was a factor in her decision after he used the Cruciatus on her father. She hadn't realized it at the time, but his ability to step back from his anger did play a factor for her subconsciously. "He has his down moments. Expect he will for a while. I expect we all will. Australia was a big distraction. Being back home will bring it back for us, full force." She sighed. "He told my parents about Fred. Speaking about it helps, seems to be in small increments, barely noticeable, but it does help. How about you? How do you deal with it, Ginny?"
"I'll show you." She made a motion for Hermione to get off the bed and look out the window. "There, that's my garden now. Well, mine and Fred's. I started a base and then I add a flower whenever I'm feeling down. I don't know why, but it seems to help to run my hands through the soil, dig...My first little bud is coming up on the corner there. That spot gets the most sunlight. It will be very colourful, the way I think of Fred."
"That is a lovely tribute. He would be touched. Does George know?"
Ginny shook her head. "No. He is not well yet. I don't know what to do for him."
"Each must dance to his own tune. We all deal with it differently. I don't think it is up to you or Ron for that matter. In the end it will be George who has to come to terms with it all and find his life worth living instead of just existing."
"What do you mean, Ron? You said he was doing fine, well, you know."
"Yes, but that protective nature that so annoyed you over the years is very strong for all his family. He was thinking George was in trouble too before we left. He's going to give up his dream of becoming an Auror for a while." A tear escaped her at the thought of his sacrifice.
"What?" Ginny said alarmed. She had been feeling somewhat jealous of Ron, coming back grinning like a Cheshire cat. He seemed happy. So did Hermione.
"He's going to help George out at the store. Keep an eye on him. Make sure he is as focussed as he can be, get him going again," she explained. Her hands motioned in a forward gesture, hoping she would take the message that he would look after his brother in any way needed.
"Merlin! That's... above and beyond," Ginny whispered incredulously.
"Don't you realize he has always been that way, where it counts? This is where he goes the extra mile." She gestured to the house around them. More tears of pride escaped her. "With people he loves."
"That would be you."
"Yes, me included," she blushed.
"Hermioneeeee?" she said in a tone that belayed the feeling the older girl was holding out on her. She cocked her head to the side. "Did you two..., uh, get together while you were in Australia?" She couldn't help herself, she had to know.
Hermione stared at her a moment before turning a little redder. "Would you think less of me if I said yes?"
Ginny hooted. "Excellent!" and she dragged Hermione to her bed, sat down cross legged on it expecting her to do the same and stared at her in expectation. "Well?"
Hermione burst out laughing, turning redder. "Well...are you sure you want to hear this, after all it is your brother."
"Not the details, please, just was it alright? How did you feel?" she said nodding her head awkwardly.
"Uh, okay, it was...to quote a Muggle movie my mum and I love, it was "fan-fucking-tastic!" she said shaking her head in amazed wonder. She couldn't have stopped the smile on her face had she wanted to. It radiated ear to ear as she blushed a deeper crimson.
Ginny stared at her a moment, but was unable to contain her amusement, and she burst out laughing. "Oh, Merlin! Are you serious? Ron?"
"Put aside that it's your brother, sex is incredible. But seriously, make sure you're ready. Attraction is one thing for anyone, that's the easy part. Anyone can just have hot sex if there are no feelings involved. But we had a past. Things just got better the closer we got, the more trust was built up. We worked through a few issues, once those were out in the open; it freed us up a little more if you know what I mean. But, I am in love with Ron, Ginny," she hastened to add. "And, I think I would have been crushed if I went that far with him and he didn't love me back. Because my heart was invested, I couldn't unless I knew his was too. And he does love me Ginny! He loves me!" Her eyes watered with happiness, her cheeks in pain at the smile that was erupting from inside. She couldn't remember ever being this happy.
Ginny reached out and hugged her. "Of course he does! And I am happy for you, I really am. Took him long enough."
"Oh, Ginny, it wasn't for lack of trying. I made him jump a few hoops after last year and the separation before Christmas. I wasn't going to let him think that just because he cared that that was all there was to it. Um, are you and Harry thinking of moving in that direction?"
"Oh, I don't know, honestly. Ron is in the room with us, I can see it in his eyes when we get close, but it is happening less and less. He is not as concerned with Ron's reaction as he was last year. Being apart made him realize how much he fancies me." She blushed.
"Fancies? Merlin's pants, Ginny! That boy is 100% in love with you! When we had our worst fight in the tent, it started over you, a few other things thrown in, but it centered on you." She laughed a moment. "When you do decide to get on with it—because Harry will leave it to you to decide when you're ready, he just will, that's him—I have just the dress!" She chuckled. "There's no way Ron's reaction will be in his head if you wear anything like this.'
Ginny laughed. "You think it's up to me? Why? Shouldn't it be mutual?"
"Yes, but, well, you are as you say—his best friend's sister. But seriously, guys seem to always be ready to go. You give them the green light and...Zoom!" She made the motion of a plane taking off.
They laughed together. She was right. Harry was always ready physically. It was his mind that held him back, not his heart or body. "I'm glad for you. I really am. And I don't think Ron's reaction will matter to him much longer. Without sounding arrogant...I get the feeling he's fixing up Grimmauld Place for me."
"Ya, think?" Hermione teased. "Of course he is! Has the man nixed any suggestion you made?
"No," she blushed knowingly.
"Face it. You caught that snitch a long time ago, Ginny."
Molly disappeared into her fourth floor bedroom, looking out the window. Arthur walked in and joined her.
"They are lovers," she said without looking at him.
"Yes, pretty obvious," he said has he wrapped his arms around her from behind.
"Our youngest are growing up too fast, desperate to make big decisions, out of fear for losing a future together."
"Were we any different?" he asked.
"That's the problem. I can relate all too easily. But, now I'm the mum. I'm supposed to be...upset? Reprimanding? Guarding their innocence for them?"
"Innocence is lost in war. It's one of the first things to go. It hasn't been replaced with cold hatred, but with love. It could be worse. War could have robbed them of the light in the hearts, and hardened their souls. The pendulum swings both ways. Our children," he sighed, "are not children any more."
"I want them to be," she said selfishly. "I could hold them close and kiss booboos away." Fred's face swam in front of her.
"We have to let them live, we don't have a choice. They'll do it anyway. Can't risk losing another no matter what the method. Besides, I couldn't choose a better partner for either of them if I could. Both Hermione and Harry are good people, loyal, caring, honest, and respectful and balance both of their temperaments. Hermione makes Ron up his game. He makes her relax a little; she's a lot less rigid than she used to be. Harry softens Ginny's fighting boldness. He has a calming effect on her, now that she's over that star struck crush when she was a child. She cares about him for substantial reasons now, which means, it's way deeper," he said mildly uncomfortable. Then he acquiesced to what was so obvious to all. "Hmmm, she's happier."
Molly's eyebrows rose in acknowledgement and then she shook her head with a smirk. "They'll be Apparating into each other's bedrooms. Should we put up jinxes?" She was only half joking, somewhere she wanted him to say yes, let her pretend they had some control.
"Do you really think that would help? We got around them. Even at Hogwarts, if I recall."
She looked back at him, smiling at the memory and he smiled back and planted a light loving kiss on her. "Stellar memories, my dear."
She turned into him and laid her head against his chest. Arthur was her only comfort in these awful weeks since the Battle of Hogwarts. So many turned away from their spouses in grief, death could tear apart a family. Not here. He was fiercely paternal. He felt the loss as acutely as she and when they were alone together at night, their shared tears cemented their union that much more.
She sighed, acceptingly. "Merlin, I hope they use Muffling charms."
Minerva McGonagall sat at her desk, head mistress of Hogwarts. She had the task of rebuilding. She wore the mantle of stress on her sore hunched shoulders and eyes that sunk in a little more in the constant reminder of the death around her. She no longer enjoyed getting up in the morning. She had witnessed too much in the past year.
The newly drawn up plans for the reconstruction of the castle lay in front of her. She thanked the architects and gave the go ahead for the improved plans to head to deliberations with Board of Governors. She had them incorporate more escape systems for students, especially from their dormitories. Debris had been magically cleared away, now the task ahead was at least much more positive in nature.
She sighed and reached for her cup of tea. Finding it cooled since her last sip, she warmed it with her wand, and looked up at a sleeping Albus Dumbledore in his portrait. She missed her friend. She reflected on their last conversation, unsatisfied with the superficial topic of quidditch. If she only knew it was the last time she would be able to share supper with him...
Her memories were interrupted by a tapping at her window. She turned to see an owl pecking frantically to be let in, a letter in its beak. Her eyebrows rose in interest, she moved to let the bird in, took the envelope and gave the bird a treat. It waited for a reply.
She sat down at her desk, noting the return address on the letter and the name at the top: Wendel and Monica Granger, c/o The Burrow. Now she was intrigued. She opened it and her eyes scanned the Muggle paper with the elegant penmanship. Along with the letter were three pieces of paper that once released from the magical envelope, grew to their original larger 2x3 foot sheets with a sketch drawing on each. She looked them over and her heart felt heavy with the sincerity and magnitude of the gift being offered. She was impressed and thought immediately of Hermione. The apple did not fall far from the tree.
She decided to meet with them. She quilled her reply and addressed it to the Grangers, care of the Burrow, to be opened upon their return to England. She smiled with pride and a sense of renewed hope as she gave the small envelope to Pigwidgeon. Then, her step a little lighter, she made her way to the interim staff room for breakfast with Hagrid, Pomona and Poppy.
"Hey! You done unpacking? Ready to go?" Hermione said as she entered Ron's bedroom. Finding him on his bed staring up at the ceiling, she surmised the opposite. "I guess not. What's up?"
"Is that a loaded question?"
She grinned. "Depends if you are, doesn't it?" she teased, walking over to him and sitting on the side of the bed. She bent towards him, a playful grin on her face as she advanced on his lips, coupling sensuously. "You don't know how often I dreamed of kissing you while talking up here." She stared at him longingly, biting her bottom lip, and then shook her head to the reality of meeting Ginny and Charlie down in the kitchen to go. She patted him on the leg assuming he would follow and get up to go downstairs and Apparate to Grimmauld Place and see Harry.
He did get up, but he did not follow. Instead he grabbed his wand and with a flick the door closed. He had caught that hungry look and he wasn't about to let it go that quickly. She turned to look at him questioningly when she saw the look in his eye that instantly reignited in her own eyes. He took a step toward her, reached out and grabbed her by the waist of her jeans, right at her center, and pulled her to him roughly, his mouth colliding with hers, devouring her with an instant passion. If she had wanted to escape, she wouldn't have been able to, he held her so tightly to him, the suction between them complete.
He wrenched his mouth from hers, roughly making her continue to seek him. "Just kiss?"
Breathing hard, her chest pumping against his, she tried to reassert the control she had a moment earlier. "No. Merlin! It's 9 in the morning!" His hand cupped her ass, sending hunger through her immediately. "Fuck." This was absurd. Ginny was waiting for them in the kitchen.
"Yes, that's the idea. Where did you dream?"
"Take your pick, Ron. It wasn't just one fantasy," she panted.
"Fantasy? More than a kiss then?" he whispered huskily near her ear.
"Merlin, Ron! There expecting us downstairs..."she said as his hand grabbed a mitful of hair and pulled back her head for him to nip at her ear. "Aahhh,...okay, quick though." She grabbed his wand and Muffliatoed the room, and sealed the door.
A throaty laugh erupted from him. "Shouldn't be a problem." As soon as she finished he spun her around facing the other direction and cupped her breasts from behind, causing her to press herself into them, her ass pressed into his groin. He lifted her t-shirt to expose her breasts and then pulled down the cups of her bra. He pulled her back against his chest and continued his dextrous manipulations. Her head leaned back to find his mouth and her tongue darted out looking for his, hungrily.
One hand left her breast to travel south, entering her pants, his fingers easily found her wet already for him, as wet as he was already hard. She was pushing against him, gyrating into his fingers. He unbuttoned her pants and dropped them and her underwear to below her knees. Her hand moved behind her back, groping at his pants in frustration when they did not come apart as quickly as she wanted. He was driving her mad.
"Now, Ron. I need your cock now!"
He let go of her a moment and quickly dropped his pants, pushing her towards the door, he was up against her, biting at her ear, her breasts against the cold hard door, getting harder for him. He guided her back a moment and moved her sideways to the dresser beside the door and bent her over it slightly, their reflection in its mirror as he entered her, watching her reaction and pumped from behind. His hands held her at her hips, controlling her landings on him.
She gripped the dresser, angry that her fingers could not sink into it as her body immediately began the warning quakes. She watched them in the mirror, finding it just as erotic as the feelings he was ramming through her. She was close and she could feel he was too. She flexed her throbbing walls around him and pushed back against him as hard as she could, their bodies slapping like a seal together. "Harder, harder!" He obliged, lost in the moment with her. He was surprised he heard her. Within seconds the pleasure shot coursed through them as he released himself with the final thrusts before collapsing forward against the dresser.
They caught their breaths, and cleaned up using Ron's wand.
"You are very multi-talented.'
"What?"He said amused at her.
"Well, "she said as she adjusted her clothing. "One wand messes; the other cleans," she smirked. "Fuck, Ron that was awesome...and quick."
"Let me tell you a little secret. Quick is not really a problem for any guy." He pulled her close before she opened the door. "By the way, have I told you how much I love to hear the words, fuck and cock come out of your mouth. It's hot, a real turn on when you talk that way when you're in the moment. I love watching you let go."
She wagged her eyebrows at him. "Good to know. Now, let's go wash up and go see Harry."
Ron, Hermione, Ginny and Charlie Apparated to the entry of 12 Grimmauld Place just before 9:30am. The sun was gleaming through the windows brightening up the place considerably.
"Don't you think we should have Apparated outside and knocked? He might find us rather rude to do this," Hermione said.
Ginny frowned. "No, he's expecting us. Now, if we Apparated into the bedroom, then that would definitely be rude...but fun!" Ron winced. Ginny pushed his shoulder. "You're so easy to get Ron. Actually, you're right Hermione. Apparition etiquette is that you appear outside a person's home, certainly not inside. However, since he was expecting us, he said last night to just come right in in case he was already painting and didn't want to stop for the door. He should be doing the dining room this morning. Let's go have a butcher's."
The group walked through the house to the dining room, wondering what the place would look like without the Black family tree tapestry all over it. They entered to find Harry using paint edger at the ceiling joint with the wall. He had the dining room chairs set up so he could walk from one to the next the length of one wall.
"Hi! You're back! Just a sec!" he said as he finished the strip of wall that was within reach. Putting the edger back in the tray, he set it down on a work table and had his arms came around Ron and Hermione within a second, pleased at seeing them both back, safe and sound. Half a second later he was kissing Ginny good morning, and nodding to Charlie. Charlie was amused. Ron was able to stomach the display of affection now and not turn away. Seeing his sister and best friend happy and looking like what seemed to him planning for a future was a good thing. His sister wasn't a fling. If he really thought about it, he knew deep down she had never been that to Harry. It was his own insecurities with Hermione that had filtered in to the over-protectiveness of his sister, even from Harry.
"Got coffee on, Harry?" Charlie chimed in as he inspected his baseboard trim work from the night before. Charlie had acquired a taste for coffee while in Romania.
"Yeah, put it on for you about 15 minutes ago. Help yourself. So," he turned his attention back to Ron and Hermione as Charlie left them. "Everything okay? Your mum and dad?"
"Yes! Everything turned out wonderful," she beamed. "A little misstep at the beginning, their reaction and such, but Ron had a word with them and he straightened a lot out with them. Apparently, he's a diplomat. Who knew?"
Ginny and Harry both burst out laughing. "Well, what else happened?"
"Uh, we did a lot of sight seeing; we'll bore you with pictures tonight at supper. We did lots of eating, lots of talking, lots of visiting with my parents. It was just a great vacation. Ron got acquainted with a lot of Muggle technology. It was amusing."
'Hey!" Ron said slightly offended. He thought he had done pretty well.
"Well, it was!" Hermione slipped her arm behind Ron, her hand descending to his butt naturally, as if it belonged to her.
Harry noticed the easy body language between them. "Ginny, why don't you show Hermione some of the changes we've made."
Ginny read his face. He wanted to talk alone with Ron a moment. Quickly, she ushered Hermione upstairs to Regulus' room and met Charlie on the landing who followed and joined the tour, happy to show off his handiwork.
Once alone in the dining room with Ron, Harry turned to him with the lay down the law tone of voice that Ron so often gave Harry when it came to Ginny. "So you had a good time?"
"You and Hermione are good?"
"Better than good, mate."
"Two weeks together in one room...Get anything cleared up?"
Ron sighed. He knew he would have to deal with the locket with Harry at some point again. "She knows, about everything—the locket, if that's what you're really asking about. Everything is out in the open. We're good, really good, Harry."
"Must have been an interesting conversation," he finished, not knowing how to move on without it being awkward so he didn't even try to be diplomatic. "Treat her well, with respect."
Ron raised an eyebrow. "Shoes on the other foot now," he said mildly amused. He could hear his own warnings to Harry about his sister coming back at him.
"I'm serious. She is as close as I'll ever get to having a sister. She's one of the best people I know, she deserves the best. Yes, I agree that's you. You're who she has cared about for years. But your track record together over the years has been sketchy, you know, how you've dealt with problems—the fights. I've been in the middle of them. Just...be good to each other. You're finally together, the way you should have been ages ago."
"Yeah, just...you can relax, Harry. I love her, you know. We're done arguing like the old days. I think we'll still argue though, just not like before. I, uh," he scratched the back on his head quickly in discomfort. "I don't think you and I will ever really be able to talk about the girls or these relationships without hurting each other in the process if something is wrong. I think right here, we should agree, the girls are special and we will both treat them right so there won't be cause for complaint or us getting upset at the other."
"Right. Everything that happens in our relationships will be private, consensual and...Well, you know what I mean?"
"Yeah," he put out his hand and Harry shook it quickly. "Good, that's square," he nodded, shifting on his feet. "Charlie's been really helping out?" he said to change the subject quickly. His eyes searched the dining room, landing on the newly raised baseboard trim that Charlie had obviously done the day before.
"Yeah, good bloke, and Bill too. Have you seen the burn on Charlie's back?" Ron shook his head, alarmed. "A Hungarian Horntail got him, protecting her egg. I could relate," he stated as the memory of fighting to get an egg from such a dragon during the Triwizard tournament came back to him.
"Ewe! No Ditanny?" Ron said alarmed.
"The dragon burned up the first aid supplies. Ditanny wasn't applied for almost 2 hours, so there's a scar left. Your mum doesn't know. I told him that should work well with the ladies, a few good stories down at the pub."
"Oh, don't remind him! That line of work just sends women running the other way. He hadn't realized that when he went in for Magical Creatures training. He loves his job, but not one woman there for the men to fight over, he says. Just a few in the local pub and they all seem to be spoken for. Poor bloke! Lots of quidditch chat, I'll bet."
"Yeah, we listened to the play-by-play of the Hollyhead Harpies. He thinks Gwenog Jones will be looking for a good seeker soon. The current one just got married."
"Yeah, well, night follows day, right? Maybe a baby soon? That might open the door for a new position. Ginny's pretty darn good, more than good," chimed in Charlie as he entered the room, followed by the ladies. Ginny beamed with pride at the complements she was receiving on her abilities.
"I thought you said Lovegoods were staying here?"
"Yeah, at night, but during the day, they are at their place, fixing it up. Which is why at night, I prefer to stay at the Burrow. And last night confirmed it. If I have to stomach one more cup of gurdy-root tea, I'm going to barf, I know it," Harry said.
They all dissolved in sympathetic laughter and got on with organizing the days' work between them.
That night as Hermione lay on her bed in Ginny's room, she listened for every little creak in the floorboards above her. What she wanted was four floors up and she felt utterly alone. After two solid weeks of each other's company, this was the first time she and Ron would be apart for any length of time. She hated it. How the hell am I going to survive going back to Hogwarts without him? Did it make her weak to be this way? The thought caused a grimace to plaster her features.
Ginny entered after brushing her teeth and got into her bed. She could hear Hermione's breathing and could tell she wasn't asleep. She seemed troubled. "Hermione? You alright?"
"Technically? What's that supposed to mean?"
"Physically fine. Mentally...another story. My mind won't stop. I can't get him out of my head."
"Yes! This is so frustrating!"
Ginny grabbed her wand and turned on the light and stared at Hermione as her eyes readjusted to the light. Embarrassed, Hermione explained. "This is our first night apart."
"We've been together for over two weeks straight. I'm just so used to him beside me now. He's like my arm, part of me. It feels utterly weird that he's so far away."
"It's only four floors."
"I know. I know this sounds crazy, but suddenly I understand so much more why married couples hate to spend nights apart from one another."
"No. Not even that. It's the bond that's been created. The other person is there, in the dark of the night, for you. Sometimes I would feel him just hold my hand for a second, squeeze it—or a kiss on my shoulder. He wasn't expecting anything from me, just letting me know that I was in his thoughts in small ways. They are special moments in the dark that just enhance everything else. I would do the same; just kiss his shoulder, his back in his sleep. It's not about the sex in those instances, there's no expectation. The other isn't always aware you're doing it, and yet, they are," she ended softly, wistfully. "Do you understand?"
"No, not really. Well, not the feel of it, unless it's just the pure happiness of being together, completely relaxed. I like knowing I can share anything with Harry. He listens, gives feedback, but not condescendingly, or opinionated. Just being together." Then Ginny thought a little more. "Actually, when we were painting, he would always give me a quick peck, a look, or a wink. Ways of giving me messages that I was in his thoughts too, even if Charlie or Bill were in the room. So, yeah, I'm starting to understand. Not on your level yet though."
Hermione sighed in frustration. "I can't sleep. Think I'll go make some camomile tea," said Hermione as she got to her feet and grabbed the dressing gown from the bottom of the bed and put on her slippers. "Night, Gin."
"Night," she said turning off the light, shaking her head as Hermione closed the door.
Hermione made her way quietly to the kitchen, trying not to alert Molly and Arthur whose bedroom was on the fourth floor above, one below Ron's. The problem was the creaking stairs. She felt like she was waking the whole house as she descended. She rummaged through the cupboard for the tea thinking about Molly's offer that Hermione call the older woman by her given name now. It would take some getting used to, but it was such a nice gesture. Ron easily called her parents Del and Monica after their trip to Uluru together. It was easier for him to change over, she thought, there wasn't as much history there. In this house, she still felt like a young girl.
Since she seemed to have a lot of time, so she warmed the kettle without magic and sat at the kitchen table waiting. Her mind on someone upstairs, or so she thought. A door opened behind her from the scullery. When she looked up, her heart smiled.
"Hey, what are you doing up?" Ron asked.
"Couldn't sleep. You?"
"Same, I took a walk," he said as he slipped into the chair next to her, his arm slipping around her shoulder as he kissed her temple lightly.
"At this time of night?"
"Camomile, it helps me sleep, relaxes me."
"And here I thought that was my job now," he commented with a soft smile and a nod at the tea suggestion. He began rubbing her back.
"Hmmm, don't remind me. I couldn't get you out of my head. Kept thinking you should be beside me. I feel like a love sick idiot," she said annoyed.
"Well, that would make two of us then. I got used to you being beside me. My leg kept wandering, looking for you."
"Really? That's so sweet, and a bit disturbing don't you think? It was only two weeks. It's not like we haven't slept apart before," she complained.
"No, but our relationship was not what it is now," he said taking her hand on the table and lacing their fingers together. She leaned into him, savouring the comfort of the joint connection, despite its inconveniences in the new environment. "It may have only been two weeks, but it was the best." His lips sought hers, his hand let go of hers and cupped her face, lovingly communicating how much he already missed their private time together too.
The kettle whistled and she got up to pour it, adding another cup for him. They sat together talking about the day's work at Harry's house and the plan for tomorrow, they read the paper. When she yawned, he began clearing their empty cups away, figuring it was time for them to hit the sack.
"I don't want to go up." She wrapped her arms around him.
"Me neither," he said as he hugged her in return. "Come here," he said and he took her hand and led her to the sitting room, lit only by the moonlight. He sat down on the end cushion of the couch with his feet up on the coffee table and he motioned for her to sit beside him and snuggle. She lay stretched, her head in his lap. He grabbed the throw from the back of the couch and spread it over her. It was large enough that it could drape over his legs as well. Before they knew it, they fell asleep together.
The next morning, Arthur and Molly made their way down the creaking staircase only to see the young couple sleeping soundly in the sitting room.
"Well, that's not what I expected to happen, but I'll take it," Molly whispered.
"Sorta sweet. Didn't know he had it in him," Arthur replied. Ron's head had lolled to the side, his mouth open. "He used to drool like that when he was a baby. Some things don't change."
One year later. May 2nd, 1999
The grounds of Hogwarts bustled with an odd energy, that morning. No classes that day, it was Sunday. But there were visitors everywhere, slowly filtering in from Hogsmeade after breakfast. She could hear parents reliving old memories with their children, marvelling at the changes in the castle's reconstruction as well as the respect for the traditional architecture.
Teachers were everywhere, talking with parents about anything but academics. Today was not the day for a parent-teacher interview. Today had nothing to do with curriculum. Today was all about history, honour, rejoicing, and sorrow. This was the first anniversary of freedom from Lord Voldemort. It was a celebratory day, as well as a day or mourning. It was an odd mix. Stories which matched both feelings could be heard as people appeared all around who had fought in the battle. Ministry officials wandered the grounds appreciatively too. Tours of the changes began every half hour, by students until eleven o'clock when the scheduled service would begin down by the lake. They would resume after lunch until four in the afternoon. Then, everyone was free to leave with parents to go to Hogsmeade for supper and fireworks. Many chose to have the tour done by their own child.
Everywhere, one could hear tales of the past being told, stories of best friend's hijinx under a tree, in the lake, the hallways, and once in a while during class. Students were rapt with attention listening to their parents' reminiscences. Being together on the grounds in this fashion was unprecedented. As Minerva McGonagall observed the connections being made all around, she decided it would not be the last time. This would be an annual event.
Chairs were set up by the lake under a massive tent, in the same place, many would recall, as they had been for Professor Dumbledore's funeral almost two years earlier. After the ceremony, tables would appear and people could choose to eat lunch there if they wished. However, the Great Hall was ready to receive its usual compliment of students in the reconstructed communal centerpiece of the castle.
It was Sunday; no one had to wear their house uniforms. But for this day, in the future, whether it landed during the week or not, Minerva decided, no uniforms would be required. This day was about coming together, getting past differences, innate or imposed by society. This day was about remembering the sacrifices and the valiant fighters of the Battle that occurred on school grounds. She decided to submit for a school holiday on May 2nd every year. She didn't think there would be a problem. The Ministry had declared this day a holiday this year and she heard talk of the extension into the future.
Minerva McGonagall was in discussion with the Minister of Magic Kingsley Shacklebolt and two former Muggle prime ministers, Thatcher and Major, he invited when she spied Hermione Granger and Ginny Weasley walking together. They wore serious, downcast faces and had a wreath of flowers with them. The headmistress knew immediately where they were headed, the site of Fred Weasley's death. She decided not to interrupt them, but waited for the girls to return to the courtyard about ten minutes later. They walked past the large empty plinth at the center of the yard, wondering what it was that had appeared there the day before.
"Girls?" McGonagall waved them over to her, and excused herself from the Muggle guests. Kingsley was pushing the Statute of Secrecy by inviting them; however, he had hinted to them that if they discussed the day's events with anyone they might not remember anything afterwards. He felt it important for them to know that the magical world was right again.
Surprised, the young women made their way over to their former Transfigurations teacher. "Yes, Professor?" they said in unison.
"Are you going down to Hogsmeade to escort your parents here?" the headmistress inquired.
"No. Actually, Ron, George...well, all my siblings will be with them. They know the way. We thought we would meet them at the gates," Ginny replied. "Oh, and Harry too," she added.
"Yes, I don't imagine the Ministry would let him not be here, today anyway," the old woman commented uncomfortably as she glanced behind her.
Ginny smiled. She knew Harry was here for his friends, not because the Ministry wanted him here. "I would like you to go down to Hogsmeade. Well, perhaps I should say, I think you should. You made the procession the other way, a year ago today. I think you'll both find that, though it may be difficult, it is something you should experience with your families."
"Oh, my family isn't coming. Muggles aren't allowed in Hogwarts." Hermione commented.
McGonagall smiled. "I have been in contact with your parents Miss Granger. They will be here by special invitation. They will arrive with the Weasleys as their escort. I gave Mr. Ronald Weasley the spell to remove the Muggle Repelling Charm for ten seconds when they approach the roadway. So, I suggest you make your way to meet them. They arrive in Hogsmeade at 10:30am."
Hermione was amazed. This was a special circumstance indeed. Why would they let her parents in and not those of other Muggle-Borns? She had never even considered asking for permission.
"Oh, alright! Thank you, Headmistress." Hermione responded cheerily. Ginny nodded her head in thanks.
The two girls made their way towards the open gates of Hogwarts and then proceeded down the road to Hogsmeade. Each smiled as they spied their families walking together towards them. Ginny's eyes searched for Harry, Hermione's for Ron and then her parents.
She watched as Del and Monica suddenly looked confused and began turning back towards Hogsmeade. Ron removed his wand and made a large sweeping X. Hermione could see him muttering an incantation, before putting his wand away in his sleeve. His family had stood aside to watch him, Percy and Charlie gently blocked the Granger's retreat until the repelling charm had been lifted and the Muggles visibly shook their heads and turned back around to continue on their original journey.
"Del? Monica? You okay?" Ron said knowingly, but did not want to let on that they had been the target of school defences.
"Yes, uh, we're fine," Monica answered a little confused.
Satisfied, Hermione's parents were alright; he nodded his thanks to his brothers, and noticed Bill hovering over a panting Fleur. Hoping it was nothing more than the uphill climb making it difficult for her to breathe in her state; he turned back ahead and quickened his step to get to Hermione, though he kept glancing back at Fleur with concern. Harry too had begun to move a little faster away from the main group to meet up with his girlfriend.
Hermione's eyes lit up, feasting on him. He looked so damn good. He always did in her opinion, but now that he was working and made his own money, the first thing he bought was some decent clothes that complimented his frame. The next thing was the emerald cut sapphire and diamond pendant that she fingered subconsciously on her breastbone—her birthday present.
Ron came at her and his arms encircled her in a loving embrace, lifting her off her feet momentarily. "Missed you," he said as gave her a quick peck.
"I missed you too," she said, their eyes meeting and reflecting a wish for a more personal moment without so much family surrounding them. Then she moved out of his embrace to hug both her parents, Molly and Arthur and George and Harry too, nodding her hello to Bill, Fleur, Charlie, Percy. She noticed a heavily pregnant Fleur was holding her low back with one hand and grabbing hard at Bill's hand with the other.
"Are you alright, Fleur?" she asked concerned, looking back and forth between her and Bill.
"Oui. A little sore. Comes and goes," the French woman panted.
"Aren't you due any day now?"
"Last week, actually," Bill answered with a worried look on his face.
"I will not miss zis day, Bill, so stop arguing," countered Fleur a little breathlessly. "Ze walk will do me good."
Not wanting to add further stress to the moment, Hermione addressed her parents. "I can't believe they are letting you up here," she said. Then she turned to Ron, "How long have you known about this?"
"Oh, a while," he smiled. He had magically altered the first letter to McGonagall to allow for the large sketches, promising uncomfortably not to tell Hermione. "I thought it might be a nice surprise for you. You'll get to show them around a bit."
"Yes, it will be nice to know and understand exactly where my little girl went to school," Del commented.
"You can't know how nervous we were that you were going to a place that we knew nothing of. It was a tremendous leap of faith," Monica chimed in. "Professor Dumbledore certainly had a way with words and putting our minds at ease. He showed us pictures, moving ones..." Monica added, looking at Molly and Arthur. "At least he let us go to Diagon Alley."
"Never forget that day," then the absurdity of what Del had just said hit him and he looked at a squeamish Hermione. "Well, unless Hermione has different ideas, of course," he added teasingly.
Hermione's eyes lit up; glad her father could joke about the memory charm used on him now. "Oh, Mum, Dad, I'll be able to show you where I took my classes, ate meals, hung out with these two. The Common Room wasn't damaged at all. It's still the same although it has a new emergency exit now descending down the exterior of the tower. It's invisible from the outside, so the look hasn't changed except for a new doorway from the first landing up the stairs to the dormitories."
"Sounds like McGonagall has made some good changes," Harry said. He thought of his meeting with her to go over the Elder Wand's usage in castle defence spells. She had known all but two, and was grateful to Harry for instructing the wand to reveal its secrets.
"Yes, I do believe she did." They resumed walking towards the castle. "The school had never been a site for a battle before, but that's not to say that it could not happen again in the future. No one knows. She did not want to make the character of these renovations oppressive reminders though. Oh! You know what else she did? The second floor girls' lavatory is now an open access passage to the Chamber of Secrets. You won't believe what she's done! The Chamber is so big, that it is now an indoor quidditch training facility. She had it beautifully excavated and enlarged; it doesn't feel cavernous anymore. Harry, you would be so proud, so impressed."
Harry looked at the other young Weasley men, all former quidditch players. They were all keenly listening to the conversation. "Ginny wrote me about it. Has it gone into use finally?"
"Yes, last week. Of course it is not nearly as nice as being outside on the real pitch, but it's so much easier for all four teams can get practice time in now, and being indoors is helpful in inclement weather. Games are still outside of course, where spectators can enjoy them," said Ginny enjoying the beautiful spring day, hand in hand with Harry.
"Excellent! Bet Myrtle's pissed with all the new traffic through there," Ron added.
"Yes, that's still a sticky point. But she's coming around," offered Ginny. Noting the puzzled look on the Grangers' faces, Ginny hastened to explain. "Oh, Myrtle is the ghost of the lavatory. She's harmless, a little nutty, but mostly quite kind. She cries a lot, or moans, which is why she is referred to as Moaning Myrtle."
"So, does that mean she died, or was killed in that bathroom?" Del asked, remembering some other stories from Hermione and why ghosts haunt certain places.
"Yes. That is why the Headmistress wanted to make the room much more full of life, in a positive way, same for the Chamber. It has been expanded. The entrance is wide open to the hallway, with a changing room and toilet facilities surrounding it. Her goal was to rid the place as much as possible of the negativity and replace it with something that would bring people together under vastly different circumstances."
"I think the other founders would approve the new usage," Ginny commented. "Don't care for my first visit there, I have to say." Harry squeezed her hand. When she looked up at him her mind travelled back briefly to his saving her six years earlier from Voldemort. She smiled at him and then her mind moved forward thinking of the small secret she kept to herself something, she discovered by accident.
McGonagall had been excited about opening up the Chamber for full usage that she invited the quidditch captains to make suggestions that could be accommodated if within budget. Ginny had come back from the interview so excited and quietly mentioned to Hermione that she noticed they had tentatively renamed the Chamber on the plan: Harry Potter QuidditchTraining Facility.
"Professor? What's this?" she had said, pointing to the title at the bottom of the blueprints.
McGonagall might have actually blushed a moment. "Well, Miss Weasley, we tired of calling it the Chamber of Secrets in our discussions. It has a bad ring to it. Hagrid came up with the idea of naming it after someone who had contributed greatly to the school in recent memory but also might have a connection to quidditch, the proposed purpose for the facility. I thought, perhaps, he might agree to it. So, one could call it a working title for now, but the name seems to be sticking with all the construction men, although they call it Potter Field. Now all we have to do is convince Mr. Potter to allow us to honour him. He is after all the youngest person to ever make a house team and he has a great connection to that place, having saved someone's life in that very room, yours to be exact, not to mention he also contributed to Voldemort's demise there as well. It just screamed the name Harry Potter to all of us."
"I suppose you want me to work on him a little," Ginny said slyly.
"Well, no. I think I will send him a letter. I thought I had the name covered with the paperweight. No one was supposed to see that until we contacted Mr. Potter. Would it be terribly difficult for you to keep it quiet?"
"No. I don't think so. Obviously, I'm a little biased, but I think the name is a great idea," Ginny smiled. The other captains agreed with Ginny and promised not to mention the possible name.
Ginny's mind returned to the walk as she spied the gates.
They kept moving forward, but Molly and Arthur waited a moment when they heard Fleur inhale harshly and stop to lean against a tree.
"You can't fool me, my dear. I've been through it seven times. How far apart are your contractions?" Molly inquired.
"Ten minutes," Fleur panted.
"When did they start?" Arthur asked."
"Last night, around nine," Bill supplied.
"And the back pain?"
"Seven yesterday morning," replied Bill who received a glare of betrayal from Fleur.
"You should be at St. Mungo's, my dear," Molly said matter of factly.
"Thank you!" said a worried Bill, his forehead creased with lines. He did not know what to do. His stared at his wife with a look that challenged her determination to be at Hogwarts for the ceremony now that he had some backup from his mother.
"I will be 'ere for Fred, for Lupin. It's only anozer 'our or so. Zen I will go," she stood up defiantly and kept walking. "I will be 'ere for zem."
Molly's eyebrows rose, impressed and yet stupefied by the young French woman. Damn, she was stubborn. She decided she would seek out Madam Pomfrey and let her know the situation just in case. She walked ahead of the expectant couple so they wouldn't feel her eyes on them. They were close to the hospital wing at Hogwarts at least if there was a problem.
Fleur had taken about ten steps when water gushed from between her legs to her feet. Bill instinctively jumped back a second, only to find himself darting back to Fleur's side when he realized what had happened. His arm was around her immediately to steady her. She grabbed on to him, staring at her wet feet.
"Don't tell your mozer, yet. It's just anozer step in ze process. Plenty of time and you know it. Ze first baby takes longer. Just 'elp dry me off please," she said humiliated, looking at her pretty yellow dress that was wet.
Uncomfortably, Bill cleaned her up without drawing attention to them. "Okay, but, five minutes apart and I don't care what argument you put up, I'm taking you to the hospital wing.'
She looked at him. He was adamant. Fleur nodded and continued to grip his hand as they continued onwards up the road they had walked together a year before in the opposite direction, escorting Fred's lifeless body. Now, the walk represented the ushering in of new life. As uncomfortable as it was, it was a good change.
At eleven o'clock, all gathered and sat down in the chairs by the lake, facing the podium. McGonagall as head of the school began welcoming the guests and students to the occasion commemorating the fallen of the Battle of Hogwarts a year prior. It was a mixture of solemnity and stories of heroism and defiance in the face of oppression. Towards the end of this first phase, Kingsley Shacklebolt, the Minister of Magic addressed the crowd.
"Though this day honours our fallen and the ultimate sacrifice one can give in order to restore freedom, it also honours the universality of all attending, and those not in attendance. Over the years, it has been my duty to work with Muggle Prime Ministers. Though our world remains secret and hidden from the Muggle world, its leaders have always been informed of our existence, and indeed of the dreadful situation we found ourselves in two years ago. They had the most difficult task of being in the know and not being able to say anything about it."
"We thank you for understanding, we welcome you here today. Your invitation is unprecedented, a sign of attempt for you to understand that, though different, we all share the same human traits, good and bad. It is on this point that in a moment I will invite you all to walk with me and the Headmistress of Hogwarts to the newly expanded courtyard and its commemorative gardens. There we will end our ceremony of remembrance and celebration and I hope you will see just how much we all have in common. Professor McGonagall, if you will?"
McGonagall approached the podium again, putting her wand to her throat and her voice boomed out: "Would the Heads of Houses each come forward," she waited and her assistant had them stand at the corners of a large covered and magically sealed objected. "Would Harry Potter, Ronald Weasley, Hermione Granger and Neville Longbottom please join us?"
The trio looked at each other, completely surprised. They got up awkwardly, looking down the aisle at an equally shocked Neville. They advanced together down the aisle towards the professor and the Minister of Magic. Each was asked to step in between the Heads of Houses and take out their wands.
"Today, four houses united, along with the young people most directly responsible for the downfall of Lord Voldemort..." McGonagall's voice broke a moment. She regained her composure and continued. "So that the sacrifices made a year ago today were not in vain: the young leaders of resistance they called themselves, Dumbledore's Army. United, would you raise this monument to our lost and escort it to its new home in the center of the Memorial Gardens in the courtyard." She wiped at tears forming in here eyes and followed the group that was led by Kingsley Shacklebolt.
Kingsley made eye contact with Harry who was placed as the center lead. Harry walked slightly sideways at an angle as he used a levitation charm on the large and very heavy object needing eight wands to keep it levitated about twelve feet off the ground, visible to all. He followed Kingsley toward the courtyard. As they passed by up the wide aisle, each row emptied from the front towards the back following their wake.
Unnoticed, in the back row, Fleur gripped Bill so hard he thought his hand would break. "Now!" she breathed through gritted teeth.
The young couple skirted around the procession. Bill made eye contact with the nurse, who immediately transformed a nearby chair into a stretcher. Bill and Charlie each grabbed an end and hurried Fleur to the medical wing of Hogwarts.
The procession continued its way to the courtyard with statue in tow, guided gently by the eight selected witches and wizards. All looked solemnly ahead with tears falling down their faces. The former Muggle prime ministers followed in awe at their surroundings and their being welcomed to the school that had been kept secret until they both had gone into office. Tony Blair, John Major, and Margaret Thatcher had accepted the invitation, eager to experience the place that they heard about, but had never seen or been able to talk of. They walked solemnly, yet in awe, with a wreath of flowers from the Muggle world following along behind the Minister of Magic, their former assistant, surrounded by a sea of lit, upheld wands. Directly behind the prime ministers, two Muggle dentists followed equally in awe of their surroundings, keeping an eye on their daughter and her friends ahead.
They set the object down on the plinth at the center of the beautiful courtyard and stepped away, back with their families.
"This new larger courtyard is but the beginning of the reconstruction. By that, I mean it is its heart. It is larger, full of park benches around the edges for people to sit and enjoy the new gardens at the center. In the middle is what we are here for. This is a gift to the school from the Muggle world to ours. Very few people know of our existence, and the few that do are usually parents of Muggle-Born students. The prime ministers, are another exception," she nodded in their direction. They each smiled in return, slightly awkward.
"A year ago today, we fought for freedom and justice in our world. No world is untainted by evil and those who think themselves better than others. In many ways, we have so much more in common than that which separates us. In recognition of that, we have been given a truly wonderful gift from the Muggle world, from the parents of one of our students.
"Drs. Monica and Wendel Granger have graciously designed and had made the wonderful commemorative statue to those lost in the battle last year. Would you come forward please, Drs. Granger, and join me." McGonagall motioned to the strings which held the wrap around the sculpture. She waved her wand and the magical seal broke. "Both of you please take a string and pull when I give the word," she quietly to them.
The Grangers each went to either side of the draped figure and waited for McGonagall to say the word. She nodded instead and they pulled on their string which removed the black draping from the sculpture.
A round of applause met the bronze figures of two parents who sat in mourning on a park bench in front of the grave marker of their child. The plaque read:
In deepest gratitude for the sacrifice made in defending the best humanity has to offer
—love, generosity, loyalty, respect and acceptance.
From the Muggle world to the Magical world
May we always remember what brings us together.
Dedicated on May 2nd, 1999
With the unveiling, the ceremony was over and people began to mill about, shaking hands with the Grangers and offering their thanks.
Hermione's eyes were watering; Ron had taken her hand and squeezed it in pride of both her and the generosity of her parents. "You knew? Didn't you?"
"Yes. Sworn to secrecy by your mum in Australia. She wanted it to be a surprise, but she needed me to act as go-between with McGonagall for awhile."
The Grangers stepped away and sought out their daughter. "Mum? Did you design this?"
"Yes. We met with Professor McGonagall and then the Board of Governors. We offered them a few options. I sculpted the model and then had it made. The model is on display at your Ministry now. The Professor helped with the reading, since it mentions both worlds and that had to be kept secret. We felt it was at least something to give back when they taught you so well, how to protect, how to defend yourself. And Ron and his family, and so many others...What they all lost when they defended not just their rights, but humanity. It's a small gift by comparison.
"No one is comparing," Ron said wisely, his arm around Hermione.
"Then, that is how it should be," said Del. Suddenly Ron's eyes were full of tears as Fred's lifeless eyes swam in front of him. Del patted the younger man on his back and hugged him. Ron was shocked at how easily he accepted the hug and how much comfort he took from it. He straightened up, a little red in the face, wiped his eyes and cleared his throat. He looked for his own father who was busy holding his wife, and then to George who stood stone still looking at the monument. Angelina Johnson came up to him in that moment and gave him a hug and started chatting with him.
Hermione watched her father comfort Ron. How far they had all come since the afternoon when Ron has used Cruciatus on her father almost a year earlier. Tears overflowed at the closeness that had developed between them. She could not be happier that her father liked Ron so much. Monica was quick to join in and hug Ron and when Hermione saw that, it hit her. The monument was publically to the magical community at large, but personally, to them, it was thanks to Ron for saving their daughter's life and a tribute to the Weasley family.
Everyone had begun mulling about, each wanting to get a closer look at the sculpture. Suddenly, a flying note came to Molly and Arthur Weasley. Molly opened it and the tears that were falling on her face stopped and started anew. She read the note aloud to their family. "Oh, my, everyone!" She looked up at the hospital window to see her eldest son there with a bundle in his arms. "Fleur has just given birth! It's a girl! Considering the circumstances of her birth, her name is, Victoire!" she read.
Cheers went up within the family, hugs and handshakes of congratulations followed and the Weasleys, Grangers and Harry Potter began making their way up to see the newest addition to their family.
"Molly!" McGonagall called. "George? May I announce the birth to all? There's never been a birth at Hogwarts to my knowledge. And, considering the day, I think it would be wonderful to share joyous news, if that would be alright with you."
"Of course, Minerva, I think it's wonderful!" Molly said.
McGonagall looked at all the Weasley men. There were too many to call for the Mr. Weasleys she wanted, so she succumbed to their first names. "George, Ron. May I have a word with you?"
Ron was on his way with Hermione and the rest of the family when he heard his name called. "I'll be up in a moment," he said as he kissed her quickly.
"Mr. Weasley, please come this way," she said addressing George and motioned Ron to follow. She began leading them into the castle towards a hallway where the staff room was situated. She stopped at a door, continuing her account. "When I became headmistress last year, I slowly began acquainting myself with a lot of storage rooms. I found some confiscated items that belong to you and your twin." She smiled. "Unless you think otherwise, I think they might be put to good use today."
George and Ron looked at each other with curious looks. McGonagall opened the door and flourished her wand at the light. Inside were boxes of confiscated materials by students, one whole wall devoted to Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes contraband. George's eyes popped open wide, landing on the multitude of fireworks. He looked at the headmistress, a mischievous spark in her beady eyes. George couldn't help feel that McGonagall was enjoying this moment as much as he was. It was as if she was getting a little dig at Delores Umbridge. "You thinking what I'm thinking, little brother?"
"Oh, yeah," said Ron with a grin ear to ear on his face.
George took out his wand and made a design across the boxes of fireworks, binding them together so that they would explode in the formation he made over top of them. Then he and Ron gathered the fifty or so boxes with massive smirks on their faces.
McGonagall couldn't help but laugh. "I'm so glad that I don't have to hide the fact that I think your jokes and tricks are very amusing and inventive."
Ron laughed at her as he put a binding curse on the boxes to usher them out easily. They made their way outside to set up and when they were ready, George nodded excitedly to the professor.
She hastily sent a note upstairs to the infirmary and when faces appeared in the open windows, watching and listening, she continued. Putting her wand to her throat she announced. "Ladies and Gentlemen, it is my privilege to add to the occasion. As much as we are here to commemorate those we have lost, we are also here to celebrate life, lives saved, and today, new life. To my knowledge, there has never been a birth at Hogwarts—until today!" She could not contain her enthusiasm at sharing this wonderful news. "It is with great pleasure that I announce the birth of a daughter to Bill and Fleur Weasley, today of all days!" She directed the crowd's attention to the upper windows of the infirmary where the Weasley family stood, a new baby cradled in her mother's arms. Cheers and applause erupted all around. "They have named their little girl, Victoire." More applause. "And, I believe her uncles have a gift for her and her parents already." She looked up at the family in the window and directed their attention to the skyline.
Fireworks erupted all around in the form of a circle and inside it, was the sparkling letter "V". Ron and George happily continued to set off the rest of the fireworks all around the original design.
A few minutes later, Ron and George boisterously entered the ward where Fleur was the only patient. Everyone had been taking turns holding the beautiful baby girl with fine blond hair who slept peacefully. Finally, Hermione got a turn holding her.
Ron went over to his brother and shook his hand and gave him a hug, and then he turned to Fleur and kissed her on the cheek. "Congratulations. Are you alright?" He meant her herself but also gestured to everyone in the room. It was a little crazy.
"I'm fine, a little tired." Fleur responded happily.
"Who's got my niece? I should have known," he said spying Hermione with the baby.
"Oh, Ron, she's just lovely," she said mesmerized by the bundle in her arms.
He looked over his niece, fingered her little hand which immediately wrapped her little fingers around his thumb. "That she is. You're not getting any ideas, right?" he looked at her alarmed. Hermione looked entirely too comfortable with a baby in her arms.
"Oh, for heaven's sake, Ron! No! I'm good with practising right now," her eyebrows rising suggestively. "Lots of practice," she whispered.
"Oh, I'm all for that, Love!"
Shortly afterwards, the family went down to the Great Hall for lunch, leaving Bill and Fleur alone to enjoy their baby. Ron watched George, happy to see a smile on his face that reached his eyes. He was going to be alright. If he could be happy on a day like today, he would be fine indeed. George manoeuvred the family to sit next to the Johnson family on the long benches and struck up a conversation with Angelina.
Ron scanned the rest of the table. To his right, his parents were happily engaged in conversation with the Grangers, exchanging baby stories and taking delight in embarrassing Ron, he was sure. To his left, Harry and Ginny seemed to be in their own little world.
He felt a head descend on to his shoulder and hands wrap around his arm. His eyes followed the sensation and discovered a beautiful girl gazing happily at him. His heart soared.
"Where have you gone just now?" Hermione asked him, serenely.
He smiled at her, taking in a beauty that just kept accumulating as he fell more deeply in love with her. "Nowhere, everywhere. Just looking at the family, they are all going to be fine, I think. There couldn't have been better timing than to have a baby on this day."
"Yes, they will. How about you?"
He sat pensive a moment, looking directly into her eyes. He nodded slightly. "I'm okay too. And with you in my life, I feel a hundred times more than just okay. Life goes on.
"Yes, it does," she agreed searching his eyes and finding immediately the love in his heart so openly displayed there for her to see. He bent his head towards hers. She tilted hers up towards his and they met in the middle in a loving, understanding and future sharing soft kiss.
The broke apart, staring at each other, in their own world for a second when the moment was broken by a scone that had been tossed at Ron's head. Still staring at each other, they broke out laughing but refused to have their private world completely shattered for just a moment longer before proper retaliation against his sister was in order.
oOo The End oOo
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A/N: Wow! Phew!
I started to feel like I could go on forever with little independent scenes. Hope you all liked it. Many, many thanks to KariAnn1222 for challenging me to write at this level. It was at once invigorating to stretch my creative wings and nerve wracking. But nothing worth doing comes easily. I think I fell in love with Ron and Hermione more as I really dug into their story "a la me."
Kingsley would have worked with all three prime ministers, I am assuming. Wasn't too keen on including the Muggle PMs but, they knew about the problems so I thought it would be fitting for Kingsley to put their minds at ease. Interesting to have a Skeeter fly on the wall to listen to their conversations during all this. I wonder if the Iron Lady would have been scared ****less of a parallel government in Britain.