The Harry Potter universe and all the characters in it belong to J. K. Rowling. I get nothing out of this except enjoyment.
Concluding Remarks – So now we come to the final chapter. Thanks for reading and for all the great reviews. It was very heartening to learn how highly my readers thought of this story.
If, after you finish this chapter, there's anything else you thought Harry and Hermione should have done, go ahead and assume they did it but I just didn't get around to telling you about it.
Epilogue, The New Professors
Harry, Hermione, and several of their fellow Hogwarts professors appeared in a flash of swirling color at the entrance to the castle. They'd used one of the portkeys McGonagall had provided for the staff to travel to and from the Ministry of Magic for the Victory Ball, and had now returned upon its conclusion. The group gradually split apart as they walked up the steps into the main entrance, and began to bid each other good night. Some of the younger staff, Aurora Sinestra and Bathsheba Babbling in particular, smiled knowingly as they waved to the pair who had fallen behind, hoping for a bit of privacy as they reviewed the events of the evening.
Hermione sighed contentedly as she pressed herself into Harry's side. It had been an amazing experience, far outside anything she'd ever done before. When she'd first arrived she'd felt something like she imagined Cinderella must have felt when she'd been selected to dance with the Prince. When she and Harry entered the ballroom a hush gradually settled over the hall as conversations broke off and the assembled witches and wizards turned toward them, twisting and shifting position to get a look at them. After a few seconds the clamor swelled once more, only this time the focus of nearly all the talk had merged to a single topic.
She was certain that she'd had more pictures taken of her in one night than she'd had in the past ten years, at least. The whole evening had been both strenuous and exhilarating at the same time, and now she was exhausted, but yet far to keyed up to relax anytime soon.
For his part, Harry was extremely satisfied with how things had gone. Hermione's gown had taken his breath away when she'd first revealed it, upon removing her cloak at her mother and father's house. He'd been glad he'd suggested they stop there first, as he'd needed some time to compose himself so he wouldn't be constantly staring at her when they arrived at the ball. And the delight in her eyes at his reaction had made all the teasing he'd taken from her parents worth it.
By prior agreement, they'd limited any public displays of affection at the ball, confining themselves to no more than hand holding as they worked their way across the hall. That hadn't stopped the rampant speculation as to the depth of their relationship, but at this point it would remain just that – speculation. Some of the more astute women present, such as Fleur, could readily discern their feelings from the glances they gave each other throughout the evening, but fortunately most of the attendees were too self-absorbed to pick up on that.
Harry took the opportunity to introduce Hermione to his acquaintances in the Ministry, particularly Kingsley Shacklebolt, the Minister of Magic, Gawain Robards, the Director of the DMLE, and Tonks (just Tonks) now a Senior Auror. Hermione was glad to now have a face to put with the names, although, as Harry quipped, with Tonks one was never certain about that.
As always at these events, Harry had danced primarily with his own partner. Also in accordance with his normal practice, his first dance with another woman had been with Fleur, and he would later join Susan and Tracey for one dance each, fending off a seemingly unending series of overtures by other eager witches.
The only break from his normal routine had been when, at Fleur's request, he'd agreed to dance with Gabrielle. The two of them had caught the attention of most of the onlookers because Gabrielle had looked absolutely dazzling. To her dismay, her allure had no effect on Harry, although dozens of wizards dancing close by had needed to be shaken or slapped by their annoyed partners when they temporarily took leave of their senses. Hermione's initial anxiety quickly turned to amusement and she shared a quiet chuckle with Bill and Fleur, whose company she'd sought to sit that one out with, particularly at the disappointed pout on the young Veela's face as the song concluded.
During Harry's dances with Susan and Tracey (Padma had not attended this year), Hermione had sat and talked with Lee and Angelina. The two of them were also a serious couple, and along with Alicia were the only ones other than Fleur who had an inkling of how far along Harry and Hermione's feelings for each other had developed. They both assured her that they were very happy with the way things were turning out. Lee also informed her that he'd been serious about hiring her for consulting, and that she should stop by the shop again when she had some spare time later in the summer.
She'd spent a few minutes talking with Neville and Hannah, and Seamus and Parvati, catching up with her former housemates and hearing about what was currently going on in their lives, while also patiently answering the same questions over and over again. Ron and Lavender stopped by their table for a time, and they were treated to an in-depth analysis of the current round of the quidditch playoffs. (Ron's team, the Chudley Cannons, had long since been eliminated, which was why he was able to attend the ball.) Fortunately, Hermione thought, those same playoffs had also necessitated Ginny's absence from the evening's festivities, so she didn't have to deal with any possible unpleasant displays from the fiery redhead.
"Well, what did you think?" Harry asked, interrupting her thoughts, as they passed into the Entrance Hall. Hermione beamed at him and squeezed his hand, her eyes answering the question for her.
"It was just amazing," she gushed. "I felt like a princess, even though at times the attention got to be somewhat overwhelming. Although I know that's what you have to go through all the time."
"You looked like a princess too," he declared, eliciting another broad smile. "I had a hard time paying attention to anyone else there." She clucked her tongue at the obvious flattery, then shot him a calculating look.
"Are you saying you didn't notice all the gorgeous gowns the other women were wearing?" she challenged. Harry shrugged, so Hermione pressed him to tell her how the other witches he danced with were attired. He could not remember what Tracey's outfit looked like, but correctly recalled the color for Susan – red. Hermione was skeptical, since Susan filled out her gown rather impressively – she had the sort of figure that made it almost impossible not to show off her assets. It had made Hermione glad she'd chosen the neckline that she had, with modest cleavage of her own. Of course the diamond and sapphire necklace had been guaranteed to draw most everyone's attention to that area of her anatomy.
"And did you happen to note what Fleur was wearing?" she teased.
"A strapless silver gown," he answered promptly. Hermione raised an eyebrow at this admission. "Because she always wears a strapless silver gown," he explained with a grin. She rolled her eyes, but couldn't resist a grin of her own.
"So do you think you want to accompany me again to the next one?" he suggested hopefully. She stopped, and turned to look at him, her expression turning serious.
"I'd like that very much," she whispered, as she lifted up her head to give him a kiss. "Though I suppose that would pretty much confirm to everyone that we're a couple." There was a bit of a challenge in her tone of voice with the latter statement. "When is it?"
After assuring her that they were most definitely a couple, Harry informed her that the next major formal celebration was Halloween, that the theme was a remembrance for those who had died in the two Voldemort wars, and that it was held on that day in honor of his parents. Everyone wore black, although it was dressy black, not mourning style black.
"OK, LBD then," Hermione responded with a nod, more relaxed about the event now that she could see that he wasn't at all upset about the nature of the occasion. Indeed, he seemed to genuinely appreciate the tribute to his mother and father. Then she smirked at the puzzled look at his face as he tried to work out what an LBD was. She took pity on him and explained that every woman owned a so-called little black dress, a simple, elegant, short black dress appropriate for a wide range of occasions. After hearing her description, he agreed that this would be perfect for the Halloween ball.
"Well, I suppose I should tell Susan that she's off the hook then," he decided, shooting her a sly grin.
To his surprise, Hermione responded with a sheepish smile. "Actually, I sort of already did," she confessed. "You see, she and Tracey cornered me in the lady's room …"
Hermione looked up from the mirror and gave a cordial smile to the two women who'd just entered the loo, recognizing Susan Bones immediately, and Tracey Davis a moment later. While Susan had striking dark red hair and an impressive figure, Tracey had a more ordinary appearance – much like how Hermione thought she herself would look if she had shorter hair. They all greeted each other and formally introduced themselves, making the typical comments about how long it had been, etc.
Then Susan cast a privacy charm on the door.
"You're more than just a replacement for Katie," she stated, phrasing it more like an accusation than a question. Hermione nodded warily. But Susan broke into a smile, while Tracey adopted a calculating expression.
"I'm sorry if …" Hermione began to apologize.
"No, don't worry about it, we're not upset at all," Susan interrupted. "We only want what's best for Harry. It's actually something of a relief, to tell the truth."
"I can see now how difficult this must have been for the four of you with that system of his," Hermione acknowledged.
This time it was Tracey who waved her off. "We all owe him our lives," she stated firmly. "This was a pretty small price to pay when you think about it."
"Well, of course that's true of the whole wizarding world, but …" Hermione began to protest, not wanting to minimize their particular contribution to Harry's well-being over the past five years.
"No, I don't think you understand, "Tracey broke in. "We literally owe him our lives. Susan and I, and most of the rest of the DA, would not be alive today if Harry hadn't taught us how to defend ourselves." Hermione was taken aback at how earnest the Slytherin woman was, and decided it would be best to hear her out.
"Do you know just how good he is?" Tracey challenged. Hermione shook her head, having not actually observed Harry doing any teaching.
"Our class was the smallest in recent history by the time everything was over," Susan informed her. "Less than half of the students we started with finished seventh year. The rest were either dead or had fled the country."
Tracey snorted at that. "Or ended up in prison," she corrected, referring to the fate of not a few of her own housemates, who'd been captured by the resistance forces. "Most of my house chose the wrong side. All except Daphne, Blaise, and me. Daphne and I were in the DA; Blaise and his mother moved to Italy for the final year. We finished Hogwarts with two Slytherins, five Gryffindors, six Hufflepuffs, and four Ravenclaws. And every one of the ones who were left was in the DA."
"And we all had to fight for our lives on more than one occasion," Susan added. "Harry made sure we all knew how to take down and secure an opponent, and do it fast. And every one of us was able to produce a Patronus."
"Our class's OWL results in Defense were skewed," Tracey declared. "Daphne's father looked them up – half of the students were in the DA, and they all got O's and E's. The other half had only a few E's, and not a single O. That's why she and I joined in sixth year. And Harry even met with us on and off during seventh year, whenever he was in the castle. I still can't fathom how that man could sneak in and out with such impunity! But for NEWTs we set a record that will never be broken. Every one of us got an O. That's how good Harry is. He may well be the best Defense professor Hogwarts has ever had."
Hermione's jaw dropped in amazement at this revelation. "He never mentioned any of that!" she exclaimed. Susan and Tracey jointly shook their heads and rolled their eyes.
"That's Harry 'too bloody noble for his own good' Potter," Tracey sighed. "I'll bet anything that if you bring it up he'll feel bad about the ones that didn't make it." Hermione nodded, silently agreeing that she was most likely correct.
Susan lowered her voice and leaned closer. "But Hermione, see if you can get him to lighten up a bit. He's soooo intense."
Tracey nodded. "To him, Defense Against the Dark Arts is a matter of life and death, and to some extent you can't blame him, because for us, it was," she explained. "But he scares the crap out of the younger students, and even the older ones are afraid of him."
And perhaps even some of the professors, Hermione thought to herself. Aloud, she responded, "I'll see what I can do."
Now Susan grinned. "So, are you sleeping with him yet?"
By now Harry and Hermione had passed through the staff room and the enchanted doorway into her quarters, and that last revelation brought Harry up short.
"What did you tell her?" he asked nervously.
Hermione grinned. "I just shrugged and gave them my most enigmatic smile," she replied. Seeing that he wasn't reassured yet, she continued, "Susan pouted but Tracey smacked her on the arm and told her to back off. They both know how guarded you are with your privacy. They won't tell anyone."
Harry relaxed, knowing that she was right. Their trustworthiness was the main reason they were part of his group of escorts in the first place.
"Susan also said one other thing," Hermione revealed, her voice softening. "She said that she'd known that you missed me, but until tonight she'd had no idea just how much."
Harry took her in his arms. "Up until last week, neither did I," he whispered. He punctuated this assertion with a tender kiss, which gradually became more passionate.
When they broke apart Hermione gestured toward her bedroom. "My turn to play hostess tonight?" she suggested. Harry shrugged that it didn't make any difference to him and smiled as she took his hand and led him through the door. It did feel somehow more illicit for him to sleep in her bed than when she joined him in his, but he couldn't explain why.
Hermione stopped by her dresser to remove her diamond and sapphire earrings and asked him to do the honors with the matching necklace. Once they were safely tucked away she asked him to unzip her dress. His pulse began to beat faster as he complied, his hands trembling slightly.
Then she turned to face him as she allowed the gown to fall to the floor, leaving her attired only in a delicate pair of periwinkle blue satin and lace knickers.
Harry's breath caught in his throat and he was conscious of his heart pounding against his chest, as she turned away and bent over to pick up the gown, presenting another delightful view. Then she shot him a sly grin back over her shoulder.
"Make yourself comfortable. I'll be right back," she announced as she disappeared into her dressing room.
When she returned Harry had stripped to just his undershorts, deciding correctly that she would want him shirtless. For her part she had an impish smile on her face as she presented him with his first view of her most recently acquired sleepwear – a Harry Potter quidditch jersey.
It was a marketing phenomenon. Even though it had been six years since he last played the sport, jerseys with Potter 1 inscribed on the back were by far the best selling on the market. (Harry's income from just the royalties alone would have ranked him among the top ten highest paid quiddich stars in Britain. He found it both mind-boggling and embarrassing.) The jerseys were available in any team's colors (including that of the Holyhead Harpies, which he found somewhat disturbing), but the top seller was the one in Gryffindor red and gold. Which Hermione was now sporting.
His predictable reaction was a groan and a mock scowl, which elicited a broader smile from her, as she put her hands on her hips and turned to model it for him. He couldn't help noting that hers had been somewhat altered from the normal style of nightshirt, being both sleeveless and rather short. It only just covered her knickers (which he was somehow both relieved and disappointed that she was still wearing).
The knickers in question were fully exposed when she threw her arms around his neck and pressed herself into him for a hug. "How do you like it?" she inquired with a saucy grin.
"I certainly can't complain about how it looks on you!" he quipped as they broke apart.
"And did you notice the knickers?" she persisted. Harry had to think for a moment, wondering exactly what he'd been supposed to notice about them. Her cute pout at his hesitation didn't help matters any.
"Well, there were a couple of other things distracting me," he protested, glancing pointedly at her now covered chest. Her face reddened, but she managed to maintain her expectant expression.
"Uh, they're blue, right?" he offered, scratching the back of his head, now focusing on the memory of her bending over. "And … they matched your dress!" he decided finally. This turned out to be the right answer, as she beamed at him and moved in for another hug.
"Fleur says it's important for everything to match, including your undergarments," she informed him primly. "Because you just never know what might happen." Harry wasn't sure exactly what could happen that would cause her knickers to be revealed while she was still wearing the gown, but decided it wasn't worth arguing about. Besides, they certainly did look very good on her.
"And the fabric matches too. See how nice it feels." She caught him by surprise when she moved both his hands into position on her bum to verify her claim. It did indeed feel amazing, and he couldn't resist allowing them to roam, thoroughly exploring her shapely behind through the thin silk coating. This was new territory – up until now he'd kept his hands above her waist during their amorous activities.
She pulled his head down and they began to kiss, and as things grew more heated he slipped one hand inside her top, while the other continued to caress her bottom. Her hands were not idle either, and soon both of them were moaning aloud.
"Hermione!" he gasped. "Do you … want to …?"
"N..no…," she finally managed. "Not tonight … but soon." Both of them breathing heavily, they fell into the bed, and she quickly snuggled up against him in one of her favored positions. "Although," she murmured into his ear, "it probably would be a good idea to for me to … relieve some of your tension."
When she finished, he gladly returned the favor. They both slept quite well that night.
At breakfast the next morning Harry wondered, "What now?" Despite the fact that the question could have been construed in many different ways, Hermione had an answer ready.
"I think we should get away for a while; let things settle down around here," she suggested. "After the past two weeks, we could both use a holiday."
Harry considered the idea for several moments, then asked, "Have any place in mind?"
"I was thinking of someplace with a beach," Hermione suggested, biting her lip. Harry noticed a blush forming on her cheeks, and wondered why the thought of a beach should embarrass her. After all, he'd seen more of her last night than he would on a beach.
"Sure, why not?" he agreed. "Do you have anything more specific than that?" In fact, she did.
"Greece?" she offered tentatively. "It's beautiful, there are plenty of sunny beaches, and several very interesting magical sites as well."
"It's a little too close, though," he objected. "I assume the goal is not to be recognized?" Hermione nodded. "How about some place in America? You must have some idea of good beaches over there; you lived there for five years."
"Perhaps Jamaica," she responded after some thought. "It's in the Caribbean, they speak English, and there are supposed to be some interesting magical sites there too." She paused for his evaluation, and he shrugged. "I'll do some research on both places," she offered. "Then we can decide. It will take a few days to make the arrangements in any case."
Hermione paused in the doorway and watched the small blonde girl take Harry's hand and lead him outside. Victoire Weasley was the most adorable four-year-old she had ever seen. And she had Harry completely wrapped around her little finger. As soon as they had arrived she had announced that it was about time he had come, and insisted that they go down to the beach right away, as he had promised to look for shells with her.
Harry had taken the time to introduce her, and the little Veela had immediately regarded her with suspicion – she had needed to fight back her laughter at the girl's possessiveness, but she would soon have to learn how to share. Hermione intended to be a big part of her godfather's life for quite some time to come.
"You will need to make friends wiz 'er," Fleur advised from behind as she came up to stand next to her. "It may take some time, but she will 'ave to deal wiz eet." Hermione smiled and nodded, and at that moment Harry turned to look back at her. He beckoned her to join them, and she smiled and hurried to catch up.
Upon reaching them, instead of taking up a position on Harry's other side, she moved next to Victoire and offered her hand. The little blonde hesitated for a moment, looking up at her with a calculation in her big blue eyes, as if to take her measure. Eventually she relented, and the three of them continued down the path to the beach.
Once they reached their destination Harry conjured a blanket and he and Hermione sat on it, enjoying the warm afternoon, while Victoire searched for shells, occasionally picking one up and bringing it back. Hermione impressed the girl significantly when she was able to identify most of them. After a while she abandoned her restraint and leaned her head against Harry's shoulder, while his arm found its way around her waist.
She soon removed her jumper, leaving her attired in a pair of thigh length shorts and a very snug fitting spaghetti strap tank top, and she didn't fail to notice the glances of appreciation Harry was sending her way. He upped the ante by removing his T shirt, leaving him in just a pair of shorts, and she reciprocated with appreciative looks of her own. She couldn't help but think about the shopping they had planned for the next day, in anticipation of their upcoming holiday. Harry would need a whole set of lightweight vacation clothing, and there was one other special item she needed to purchase.
After Shell Cottage had once again lived up to its name, with Tori (as everyone but Fleur called her) proudly displaying her new finds across the railing of the porch deck overlooking the sea, Harry took Hermione down another path to visit Dobby's grave. It was yet another solemn reminder of what he'd lost, and the sacrifices that had been made, and they spent several minutes standing there silently paying their respects. Hermione conjured another spray of flowers to lay next to the headstone, this time lilies.
At dinner later on, the two professors revealed their plans for a holiday. Hermione took the opportunity to ask Fleur about glamour charms, such as the one used on Harry at her wedding. To her delight, the older Veela was happy to show them several, including a very effective one for blonde hair. With both of them thus transformed, she was confident that there was little likelihood that they'd be recognized in Greece, appearing to be just another pair of Scandinavian tourists. Harry agreed, and their destination was settled.
Harry was quite happy to help her shop for a new bikini, and was delighted that she wanted a rather skimpy one, with triangle tops and string tie sides, but he couldn't understand why it had to be such a specific shade of blue. At the outset he'd commented that she looked great in light blue, which earned him a kiss. But Hermione had insisted that it had to be a certain color; she had it in her mind and would know it when she saw it.
After the fourth store, Harry made a suggestion – why not just use a color changing charm? That way she could have several different suits in one. That had earned him another kiss, even when he teased her for not thinking like a witch. She just stuck her tongue out at him and claimed that she should be allowed some slack, since she'd been living as a muggle for five years!
The suit she finally settled on was a plain white one. When Hermione emerged from the dressing room to model it for him, Harry swallowed hard. He was taken aback at just how thin the material was, and decided that it was a good idea that she would be making it bright blue because otherwise the top would be rather revealing when it got wet! (1)
It was only later that he would discover an important fact that had not entered into his analysis. The beaches they visited in Greece were ones on which many women went topless, and it really didn't matter how see-through the top was once it had been removed and tossed into her beach bag!
Before they knew it they found themselves on a plane soaring over the blue waters of the Mediterranean. Harry turned to smile at Hermione when she squeezed his hand as they were beginning their descent into Athens. He still couldn't believe how different she looked with honey blonde hair and a light tan, courtesy of another of Fleur's spells. At the same time, he was aware that similar appearance alterations looked even more dramatically different on him – spending nearly all his time inside a castle in Scotland for the past five years tended to leave one's complexion rather pale, to say the least.
Fortunately, that same castle life had permitted them to mostly avoid the press in the days since the Victory Ball. There had been plenty of speculation and conjecture, but without any solid evidence he hoped that they would eventually move on to other subjects, at least until classes started up again in the fall.
Harry was soon to discover that much of what he thought he'd knew about ancient Greece from primary school had been wrong. The Colossus still stood sentinel over the harbor of Rhodes, under powerful notice-me-not and muggle-repelling charms, as were many other so-called ruins. In fact, the Acropolis of Athens itself was the location of the Greek Ministry of Magic, which was situated directly beneath the Parthenon!
It didn't take long for Harry to conclude that he wanted to continue to travel with Hermione as often as possible. He hadn't ever taken a real holiday, being more concerned with serious pursuits like staying alive. Later, when he and the means and the freedom to travel, he just didn't have anyone he felt comfortable asking to go with him, and wasn't inclined to try it by himself. But her thirst for knowledge and her willingness to share it with him, combined with her joyful, upbeat attitude and playful teasing, made her the perfect travel companion.
Their week in Greece was divided between muggle and magical sites, with privacy concerns necessitating mostly the former. It was memorable from beginning to end, but a couple of episodes particularly stood out.
After a day on the beach, in particular after watching Hermione rub magical sunscreen on parts of her anatomy that never saw the sun in England (and particularly after being invited to assist her) Harry was understandably less enthusiastic about visiting historic magical sites. That quickly changed with their visit to the Sacred Healing Pools of Athena at Edipsos. (2)
"What's so special about this place?" Harry complained as Hermione led him into the underground grotto. It didn't seem like much – just a pool of water carved into the stone, with some benches and a couple of nooks carved into the wall around the outer edge. And a simple bed at the opposite end of the pool. A bed?
"Well, for one thing, it's completely private," Hermione responded with a coy smile. "And it is a bath, isn't it?" That comment brought Harry up short, and he watched in stunned silence as she removed her halter top and hung it on one of the hooks in the changing space.
Then she removed her skirt, and did the same, causing his jaw to drop. He'd been aware that she wasn't wearing anything under the top, as that had been her practice throughout the holiday. But today she'd evidently decided to forgo underwear completely.
Unable to move, Harry stared in amazement as she descended the steps into the steaming water. Finally, she cocked her head and beckoned to him with a come hither look. "Well, aren't you going to join me?"
Harry ripped off his shirt and stumbled slightly as he tore off his trousers, causing her to giggle at him as he finally joined her after discarding the last vestiges of his clothing. Hesitantly he put his arms around her; then more confidently he drew her close into a kiss.
"Hermione?" he gasped as they broke apart when her hands started to wander.
"I'm ready now," she replied to the question they both knew he was asking.
"Here? Right now?" he asked with some disbelief.
She wrapped her arms around his neck and pressed herself into him again. "There are all sorts of interesting qualities to this water," she explained with a sly grin. "It's best known for its ability to relieve people of their chronic aches and pains. But the next most frequent visitors are newlyweds." Harry's eyes widened in understanding.
"It's supposed to be particularly effective for alleviating the discomfort of a woman's first time," she added with a blush. "As well as providing a bit of a boost for the man."
The first time was awkward, but satisfying. The second time was much better. The third time was fantastic.
The end of the hour found them cuddled together on the bed in each other's arms as they murmured endearing words of affection to each other. A flashing light signaled that their allotted time was up, and Harry groaned. Not wanting to move from this delightful position, he promptly offered to pay for another hour.
But Hermione just chuckled and pulled him to his feet. "There'll be plenty of other opportunities, don't you think?" she teased, bringing a dazed grin to his face.
She then gave another impish smile as she deliberately took her time dressing in front of him, making sure he remembered her lack of undergarments. And she insisted he follow her example.
By the end of the day Harry clearly understood the consequences of that decision. All through the afternoon and during dinner, the two of them had exchanged knowing glances, and Hermione had managed to frequently brush up against him, making sure he was constantly aware of their partial state of undress. At the beginning of the day, Harry had thought she looked great in the white halter top and green floral wrap skirt. Now all he could think of was getting them off of her! By the time they returned to their hotel they were both in such a state of arousal that they were practically running to their room.
Hermione's halter flew off while Harry's trousers vanished almost before the door closed. Not waiting to disrobe further, he flipped up her skirt and threw her over the sofa, causing her to shriek with delight. The fourth time was fast and furious.
Eventually they made it into bed. The fifth time they took it nice and slow. It was simply magical.
And Harry resolved to never dispute Hermione's selection of tourist sites ever again.
On the last day of their week in Greece, Hermione was finally able to live out the fantasy from the Daydream Charm. Up until then it had been thwarted by timing considerations, and the crowds on the beaches, but early that morning they finally stood alone on a sandy beach, hand in hand, watching the sun rise.
Their privacy was ensured by some remarkable privacy spells that Harry had told Hermione about, which he'd used to hide his tent in the Forbidden Forest – Salvio Hexia, Cave Inimicum, Protego Totalum – as well as the standard muggle-repelling ward, Repello Muggletum. They were so efficient, and hid them so well, he assured her, that an intruder could walk right up next to them without any hint that they were there. (3)
Harry played his part to perfection, and one by one the pieces of the blue string bikini hit the sand, along with his swim trunks. And they made another lasting memory.
They also discovered that a beach is not the best environment for lovemaking, as sand and pebbles are prone to irritate certain sensitive body parts. But they both agreed that it was certainly worth trying once.
Back at Hogwarts, they spent the month of August preparing for classes, planning out Hermione's new Muggle Studies curriculum. On their occasional trips to Diagon Alley, Harry endured the incessant crowding and queries with much more equanimity than he'd managed in the past. They both answered questions from the press graciously, but without revealing anything more than that they were each glad to be reunited with one of their best friends. The only clue anyone received was noticing that Harry seemed to be smiling a lot these days, an expression the wizarding world had rarely seen on him in the past.
Harry was happy to listen to Hermione practice her lectures, and made suggestions for when she needed to slow down, especially when she lapsed into know-it-all mode and became overly pedantic. But she insisted that he also go through his lessons for her, both to give her the benefit of his experience, and also to help him 'lighten up'.
She'd shared Susan and Tracey's concerns with him, and made the point that he no longer needed to establish his authority as he had as a fifteen year old teaching students who were older than himself. It wasn't necessary to intimidate his classes, as they came to Hogwarts already in awe of him. He agreed that he needed to find a better balance in his approach, and was happy for her insights.
It wasn't all work and no play. For one thing, they made some interesting discoveries about the Room of Requirement. While it could reproduce any single room, no matter how large, it could not mimic an outdoor area. Sadly, that meant no beach activities inside the castle walls. On the bright side, it did reproduce the grotto containing the healing pool. Hermione teased, as they disrobed and entered the warm water, that although it was probably just water, without the extra beneficial qualities, she didn't think either of them needed any more assistance. As far as she was concerned, his performance always merited an Outstanding. Harry returned the compliment, declaring that if that were so it was due to her inspiration.
One day, Hermione showed up to his classroom wearing school girl robes that were extremely short and had a very distracting neckline. While he attempted to maintain a professional demeanor, she flirted shamelessly, leaning forward often to give him a full view of her unsupported state. But he managed to make through his lesson without losing his cool. At the end she gathered up her books and pouted, staying in character.
"Miss Granger, I'm afraid I'll have to give you detention for your improper attire today," Harry announced in a grave tone. Hermione smiled and glanced down at her chest, reaching up a finger to tug her neckline down even further.
"I'm sorry, Professor Potter," she simpered. "Do you want me to serve my detention now?" She nodded toward his office, causing his breath to catch momentarily.
"I suppose that might be for the best," he agreed, wasting no time leading her through the door. Once inside, she set her books aside and stood before him, eyes downcast and hands folded in front of her. Then she informed him that she'd been such a bad girl that she deserved to be spanked.
Before he could protest (not that he had any inclination to!) she'd pushed him into a chair and stretched herself across his lap. She had one more surprise for him. When he pushed aside the short robes that were straining to cover her bum, he discovered that she was wearing thong style knickers.
With a loud groan, Harry managed only a couple of light smacks on her bared bottom before deciding on a different form of 'punishment', and bent her over his desk instead. Her squeals of indignation quickly turned to ones of enthusiasm. Shortly afterward, once that particular piece of office furniture had been properly christened, the two of them retired into his bedroom for the remainder of the afternoon.
The rest of the staff never did figure out why, after that day, the two of them always broke into broad grins whenever Hermione addressed Harry as 'Professor Potter'.
By the end of the month 'his' bedroom had become 'their' bedroom. Hermione then decided that there was no need to clutter up her quarters with a bed she never used, when the space could more profitably be taken up with additional bookshelves. Harry teased her for several days about that, right up until she inquired cheekily if he'd prefer that she had the elves bring the bed back so that she could move back in. He quickly declined, deciding that she'd been absolutely correct in her assessment of the situation.
"Thanks, Hagrid, I'll take them from here."
McGonagall had been hoping to eventually name Harry the Gryffindor Head of House, but knew that before this summer, with his mental state what it was, it would not have been a good idea. But now things were different. After seeing what a positive effect Hermione had on him, and he on her for that matter, she approached the young couple with an unusual proposition – they would jointly assume the position. Hermione was up for it, and her enthusiasm was enough to overcome Harry's reticence. In fact, he delighted McGonagall by asking to be the one to lead the first years into the Great Hall for the Sorting at the Opening Feast.
The eleven-year-old witches and wizards ceased their nervous chatter and their eyes went wide as soon as they noticed who was leading them. Harry just smiled and shepherded them into the small antechamber off the Entrance Hall.
"OK, listen up," he directed. Seeing the awestruck expressions on all their faces, he dropped to one knee and gestured them to gather around him. He went through the standard speech about the house system, how their house would be like their family, and how they would earn (and lose) points toward the House Cup awarded at the end of the year. After each point he made he received a silent chorus of wide-eyed nods.
"Now," he declared after he'd finished the spiel. "Do you want to know something I didn't learn until my fifth and sixth year, that I wish I'd figured out earlier?" After a brief hesitation, a few nodded again, and then the rest followed suit.
"Your house may be like your family, but that doesn't mean you can't have friends in the other houses," he advised. "In fact, I recommend it. If you don't, you'll miss out on getting to know some great kids." The assembled children looked around at their peers as if to check out the validity of his pronouncement, then turned back and nodded yet again.
"OK," he continued. "Another thing – are any of you scared right now?" Many nervous glances were exchanged before he received another set of head bobs. "Well, would you believe I was just as nervous when I first came to Hogwarts as you are now?" This time they all shook their heads, causing him to chuckle. "Well, it's true. I was scared to death that they'd tell me they'd made a mistake, and I wasn't supposed to be here." Two dozen jaws dropped in disbelief.
Harry grinned. "What you need to do is show a bit of self-confidence. Act like you belong here. So what do you say, shall we give them an entrance that makes a statement? Let's put on a show they'll never forget!" The first years were now completely perplexed. Was this really the Harry Potter saying all of this? A few of the braver ones managed to overcome their doubts and begin nodding with determination, and soon the confidence spread throughout the room.
Harry quickly explained his idea. First he had them line up in alphabetical order, then began to pair them up from the ends of the alphabet to the middle – first Abbott (a distant cousin of Hannah's, he later determined) with Williamson, and so forth until he matched up Lawrence and Martin. Then he announced that they were to march in and split up when they reached the front of the hall, Abbott going to the right and Williamson to the left, with each line following along behind.
He told them to start marching in place, then cast a charm on them that synchronized their steps so that they would be in perfect formation. By now they were all grinning back at him, and with a conspiratorial smile he opened the door and led them across the way and into the Great Hall. As they passed through the door he cast one more silent charm, that caused their robes to billow out slightly behind them as they moved.
The noise in the hall came to an abrupt halt as the upper years witnessed Professor Potter leading this unexpected procession. Upon reaching the head table he turned and faced his little band, giving each pair of students a wink as they reached him and turned in their appointed directions. When the line was complete he gave them a signal and they all snapped to attention.
Sitting at the head table next to an empty chair, Hermione thought it was the cutest thing she'd ever seen at Hogwarts. She'd known Harry had something special planned, but even she was surprised at what happened next. With a subtle motion from his wand and a silent incantation, a flash of fireworks appeared over the head table, and the sparkling lights arranged themselves into a fiery sign.
Welcome, Hogwarts Class of 2010!
A stunned silence settled over the hall before a few students began to applaud, soon followed by the rest. And at the front, the row of first years stood that much straighter, beaming with pride in themselves, and gratitude for their new favorite professor.
Harry smirked at the professors sitting before him with looks of astonishment on their faces. When his gaze fell upon Hermione she rolled her eyes at him in a feigned admonition then shot him an approving smile. But he wasn't done yet.
Another subtle wave of his wand and the robes of the faculty all changed, from the standard black to red, green, yellow, and blue, according to the house they'd been in as students. Except for McGonagall, who was now attired in a plaid pattern that incorporated all four colors.
"Harry, behave yourself!" Hermione chided in a loud voice, shocking everyone who heard her. Even more astonishing was his response.
He snapped his fingers at the fireworks (while casting another nonverbal command with the wand up his left sleeve) and they promptly extinguished.
"Professor Potter, if you are quite finished with your entertainment, may we continue with the sorting?" the Headmistress admonished, making a supreme effort to keep a straight face.
"Certainly, Headmistress," Harry agreed with a low, sweeping bow. Near him, several of the first years giggled. He took a critical look at the stool traditionally used for the sorting, and with another flick of his wand transfigured it into a much more impressive, cushioned chair, raised up on a platform so that everyone in the hall could see it.
"Abbott, Sarah!" he called out, turning to smile to the young witch in blonde pigtails at the end of the line. She hurried up to him, and he bowed, then took her hand to guide her up the steps to the elevated chair, and lowered the Sorting Hat onto her head as she settled herself.
"Hufflepuff!" the hat announced, and immediately yellow fireworks shot into the air from the back of the chair, triggering enthusiastic applause from the Badger house. Things continued in this fashion with each successive student, every one of them heralded with a fiery display in their new house's colors.
When the first years had finally all been sorted and seated, Harry dispelled his transfigurations and bowed to the Headmistress. He then walked (with his robes billowing impressively behind him) around the table to take his seat next to Hermione, the eyes of everyone in the hall following him all the way, as all wondered what would happen next.
Under the table Hermione gave his hand a squeeze, and leaned in to whisper to him.
He leaned back and affected an innocent, 'who, me?' expression, causing her to shake her head in mock exasperation, and many of those who saw it to laugh in surprise.
"Thank you Professor Potter, for that … enthusiastic … display," McGonagall declared with her trademark tightlipped smile.
She then proceeded to announce that before they began to eat, she had some important introductions to make. The first was no surprise to anyone who hadn't been asleep all summer – Hermione Granger was the new Muggle Studies professor. But she further informed the assembled students that all those who weren't muggleborn or muggle raised were strongly encouraged to sign up for the newly revised offering.
When Harry leaned over and gave Hermione a congratulatory kiss on the cheek a dismayed sigh emanated from most of the young witches in the hall. It was so noticeable that it was followed a second later by amused laughter from the rest of the occupants in the room. The mirth quickly spread to most of those who'd originated the display of disappointment, as they realized how silly it had sounded.
When McGonagall followed up by informing them that Professor Potter and Professor Granger had been named Gryffindor co-heads of house, loud applause followed from all four tables, as by now all the students were beginning to recognize that some remarkable changes had taken place in the castle while they'd been gone over the summer. (McGonagall refrained from voicing her private thought that by the next school year it would be Professors Potter and Potter.)
At the Headmistress's prompting the two young professors stood to acknowledge the appreciation of their students. As they did so, each wrapped an arm around the other in a gesture that had become natural to them, but generated an excited murmuring in the onlookers. Finally, Hermione removed all doubt by tipping her head up to give Harry an affectionate kiss, confirming for all present that the speculation in the papers for the past month about their relationship was indeed correct.
After regaining everyone's attention with a loud clearing of her throat, McGonagall concluded her announcements with a traditional greeting. "Welcome to the beginning of a new school year"
Harry and Hermione caught each other's eyes and smiled, silently sharing the same thought.
And a new life.
I need you.
Like the flower needs the rain
You know I need you.
I need you.
Like the winter needs the spring
You know I need you.
I need you.
(1) Yes, the famous wet, white unlined bikini makes yet another appearance.
(2) After a little research, I discovered that there are actually quite a few sites that feature healing waters in Greece. The ones at Edipsos have been known since at least the time of Aristotle. The specific name of the site Harry and Hermione visited – The Sacred Healing Pools of Athena – I made up. The description of the claimed benefits of the waters of Edipsos actually does include alleviating gynecological complaints as well as enhancing male potency.
(3) These privacy spells are the same ones used by Hermione to hide their tent in Book 7. They worked perfectly, so why not use them in a more pleasant context?