A/N- I am a firm believer that the first and last chapters of a story are the hardest to write. Although the middle can offer writer's block the beginning and the end require more effort. A poor ending leaves the reader feeling let down by the author (I'm looking at you, JKR) and a poor beginning fails to grab the reader's attention and make the story or book not worth continuing. If I write a chapter that is bad in the middle or confusing, I have time to fix that up for you readers. The end is just that. The end. No 'fixing' that.
And I can't speak for all authors or fanfic writers but I feel a duty to make an ending that is decent. As I write I think to myself, "Will the readers enjoy this? Is this too extreme? Is this not extreme enough? What would a review say?" Quite obviously that makes me a little bit crazy, paranoid, and frustrated and oftentimes stifles my creativity. So here it goes. Ending and epilogue all in one shot with the narrator breaking the fourth wall at the end. Sorry it took so long but this was a long, tedious, frustrating effort on my part. Not sure if I'm happy with it. I think more exposition could have been useful but I think this really could have all gone into chapter 7 to make one long chapter. My English teachers always hated how concise I could be in my writing. I just thought that imagination in the reader's mind was better than the author's vision being forced upon an unwilling reader. Do you imagine Hermione as Emma Watson? Do you have a different vision of her from your reading of the books? My Hermione in my head isn't Emma Watson (with all due respect to her she's a good actress and quite beautiful but I imagine Hermione differently).
Not sure if I'm happy with it. I think more exposition could have been useful but I think this really could have all gone into chapter 7 to make one long chapter. My English teachers always hated how concise I could be in my writing. I just thought that imagination in the reader's mind was better than the author's vision being forced upon an unwilling reader. Do you imagine Hermione as Emma Watson? Do you have a different vision of her from your reading of the books? My Hermione in my head isn't Emma Watson (with all due respect to her she's a good actress and quite beautiful but I imagine Hermione differently).
Some things are ambiguous by design. I want you to decide for yourself what to believe happened. I don't think believing one over the other impacts the story and I've made justifiable reasons/excuses regarding those acts.
Albus Dumbledore stared at the shattered pieces of the Mirror of Erised. The feeling of dark magic in the room was almost stifling. Sure enough, though, Voldemort's signature was there. No one alive knew that Albus Dumbledore could detect magical signatures. And Voldemort's gleamed all over the tasks. Now that Voldemort had the elixir Dumbledore knew that it was only a matter of time. He'd have to become accustomed to the new form and then he'd no doubt begin recruiting. Once he came out of hiding Dumbledore would be ready to save the wizarding world again. Dumbledore, smiling madly at the reappearance of his foe, walked out of the room. He was clueless that if he'd looked into the signature closely he'd have picked up a magical signature that was unrecognizable to him but that belonged to one Hermione Jean Granger was hidden behind Voldemort's.
Hermione stirred the cauldron slowly as Luna carefully added the LSD. Susan then added the basilisk fang shavings and single drop of basilisk venom (courtesy of Medusa) to it. "Now what Hermione?"
"A few more stirs and we wait."
"Waiting," Luna sighed, "also known as Harry and Neville's least favorite part."
The girls all laughed at that before Hermione removed the long stirring spoon and sat it on the table. They turned the heat down and nodded to Selene and Lily, who were working on a potion for lycanthropy, before exiting the area.
When they found the two boys whispering to one another Hermione had a feeling she didn't want to know. "What are you two plotting?"
Harry gave her his best innocent face. Now she knew he was up to something. "Nothing my love. We're just discussing schoolwork."
Hermione just tilted her head to the side and Harry sighed, "Never could get anything past you, in this life or the last. It's a surprise for our anniversary."
"And there we have lie number two. Our anniversary is in the fall. Would you like to go for three Harry? Fair warning; lie number three lands my husband sleeping on the floor like a dog."
"We were just talking about whether we'd go to Hogwarts after the old bastard is gone."
Hermione sat down next to him, "What do you think?"
"Well we're still too advanced. We can't play down our magical power even if we do play down our knowledge. Our time jump added to our power and I wasn't expecting that. I'd rather we avoided any situations where we're asked why we're so good or how we know so much. It's too hard to explain and obliviating them would only work for so long."
"Agreed," she nodded. "But if you three wanted to go we'd visit on Hogsmeade weekends."
Harry nodded his head as he looked at their friends, "Yeah you shouldn't be deprived of Hogwarts just because we can't go. Once the old man is out it should improve greatly."
"We'll think about it," Susan said.
Albus Dumbledore stared. There, entering the Great Hall, was Lord Voldemort. And he was amongst the students. "Halt! You stay back from the children!" He drew his wand, "Oh Voldemort, or should I call you Tom? It was a grave mistake for you to come here. I always thought you'd bide your time before going after the Potter boy; not be this brazen and come before me, your greatest foe. Your arrogance will be your downfall!"
"Foolish old man you can't kill me! You never could. Your precious code prevents you from doing it. You're just an old fool past his prime!"
A flaming whip shot out of Albus Dumbledore's wand and garroted Voldemort, the whip slicing through flesh. Voldemort let out a strangled cry as he was beheaded, the head rolling along the floor. Screams were heard. Dumbledore looked around, "Never fear children, I have ended Voldemort's life." Albus Dumbledore found himself immensely confused when his staff seized and bound him. He was Albus Dumbledore. He had just saved the day. He should be worshipped and admired, not bound. "No I stopped Voldemort!"
Minerva McGonagall was tight-lipped as she said, "You killed a student."
"Someone was hit from the whip other than Voldemort?"
"Albus there was no You-Know-Who. Take a look at the body."
The confident hero glanced down at the floor to see the head of Arthur and Molly Weasley's youngest son, Ronald Bilius Weasley, gazing up at him, his eyes wide in shock before he was decapitated. "No. Voldemort has done it again. Poor Ronald must have been possessed!" The ministry sent aurors for Dumbledore, who was taken to Gringotts for his imprisonment and to await his trial. That left the rather large problem of what to do with the school and the entire student body who had just witnessed their headmaster kill a first year student while in a delusion.
James was not surprised when Amelia arrived, though he was surprised at what she reported. He entered the library to see the young couple studying, "Albus Dumbledore apparently fought Voldemort in the Great Hall this morning at breakfast. He beheaded him in front of a school of children."
"Voldemort's been dead for over eleven years," Harry said.
"Right," James nodded. "It was Ronald Weasley that he attacked."
With James facing away from Hermione he missed the look in her eyes. Harry didn't. Once his father had left he looked at his wife, "Well?"
Hermione had the good grace to look a bit guilty, "I didn't know he'd kill Ron. When has the old man killed anyone? He hates killing. He thinks everyone should be saved. I thought at most he'd bind him, maybe rough him up a bit. Maybe the LSD was stronger than we thought."
Harry licked his lips, "Hermione, I have known you too long to believe that."
"I didn't know he'd kill Harry. I couldn't have known that," she pointed out, "I did know how strong the potion was; I needed his delusion to be convincingly real. But I swear that I didn't know he'd kill Ron."
Gazing at Hermione Harry believed her; still, she was good at wordplay. Knowing and suspecting were two different things. He would never push for the answer; truthfully after thinking about it he thought he knew it.
Harry wasn't the only one to never push for the answer. Their parents and friends all accepted the explanation that Hermione had offered; no one had a way of knowing that the man who hated killing would kill. Even if it was Voldemort he thought he was killing. In Harry and Hermione's first life Dumbledore had wanted Voldemort incarcerated. The duel they witnessed only had Voldemort aiming to kill, Dumbledore never raised his wand to cast a flame whip at the dark lord. Based on what they knew of Dumbledore that remained true; he'd certainly tried to drag the Potters through the mud for their part in Voldemort and Pettigrew's deaths.
Hermione and Harry finally were able to further their intimacy level after Harry's thirteenth birthday; they consummated their relationship on Hermione's sixteenth.
The couple never returned to Hogwarts. The school held more bad memories than good for them and they couldn't bring themselves to enter. Their friends did go to Hogwarts once Dumbledore was gone; it was there that they all eventually met their future spouse. Susan and Blaise Zabini, Neville and Padma Patil, and Luna and Colin Creevey. Hermione found the relationships made sense in this timeline far more than they would have with the Susan, Neville, and Luna of the previous one.
While Hogwarts kept them apart, Harry and Hermione still made time for their friends and visited every Hogsmeade weekend just as they had promised. They got engaged for the second time shortly after Harry turned seventeen.
Dumbledore pumped full of veritaserum told a very disturbing tale. His grand vision of the world made everyone in the courtroom uncomfortable. When the name of Harry Potter came up his vision grew darker, "It's easy. Harry Potter would bow to my whims with his parents dead and I would be able to use the Potter fortunes to fund my new world. I would bring the boy to Hogwarts when he was eleven and become a hero of his by making sure that the Weasleys befriended him. Since he would have known no one in the wizarding world he would feel lost and very grateful to a small act of kindness." Harry had leaned against Hermione. It was all the more disturbing because up until a point his plan had worked once. Hermione squeezed his hand as the testimony continued, "The Weasleys had a ready-made bride for Harry Potter; Ginevra would obey and ensnare him no matter what it took. If anyone else got interested we could get rid of them. Charms, hexes, jinxes, potions…no one else would be allowed to hold his attentions." Hermione nearly had to sit on Harry when Dumbledore proclaimed how no dirty mudblood would ever be allowed to marry Harry and that the Potter name would be forever disgraced given how they consorted with common muggles.
Dumbledore's trial was lengthy (and with so many charges they gave up trying to list them all) but ultimately the result was the same no matter what he was convicted of doing. He was to be locked up in the goblin mines working for the rest of his life. He never would admit he might be senile, and the magical world had no laws about punishing people who were not in control of their actions or suffered a mental illness. For Harry and Hermione, it was a welcome feeling of justice. The puppet master had been played. And just like his many victims, he would never know it.
The Potters, Longbottoms, Boneses, and Lovegoods were suddenly popular for having seen what no one else had. Amelia and James seized on the opportunity and launched a political campaign to push through legislation preventing that much power belonging to a single person ever again. It went through easily.
The Weasleys had become exiles. The looks on their faces as Dumbledore told his tale all but confirmed that they knew a great deal of it. Hermione wasn't sure who was looking more venomous; her own mother or her mother-in-law. Harry and Hermione found they didn't need to get revenge on the Weasleys anymore. Everyone else took care of that. The Weasleys became public enemy number one with Dumbledore locked up and out of reach. Arthur lost his job during the trial and found he couldn't get employment anywhere in Britain or Ireland. The tale of his treachery (and a forged marriage contract) had him blacklisted. His two sons who worked overseas also found themselves fired from their jobs.
Fred and George loudly vocalized their disgust and despite having never met Harry or his parents approached them with remorse and regret. Moony and Padfoot had taken no prodding to ask the boys if they wanted to be adopted. The boys agreed eagerly and Arthur happily released them from the family, leaving Molly outraged. Harry and Hermione found this hilarious.
The remaining Weasleys left Britain and headed for Africa where they hoped they could start anew. They were never heard from again. Fred Lupin and George Black, on the other hand, became apprentices to their adopted fathers' business. They easily struck up a friendship with Harry and Hermione, who agreed to never tell the boys about the past they'd prevented.
Kreacher snatched up the faux horcruxes easily and they destroyed them all. Harry was a little sad about that. The effort they'd put into them was immense. But at the end of the day the world was free of two bad men who had managed to destroy many lives. Susan would not lose her aunt in a Death Eater raid. The rapes and murders that followed Voldemort's second coming would never happen. Neville had his parents and had grown up with them; the Neville they knew now was nothing like the Neville they had known their first year at Hogwarts in the original timeline.
As for Hogwarts? The trauma of seeing a fellow student murdered weighed heavily on the school. Counseling and therapy were required for all students and for seven years the Great Hall went unused. When the class that would have been Ron's graduated the school decided to reopen the Great Hall.
The Tri-Wizard Tournament never happened though they did see Krum at the World Cup; Cedric ended up marrying Cho Chang, his Hogwarts sweetheart and working for the Ministry like his father. Fleur they never ran into and so had no way of knowing what happened to her.
At the age of 20 Harry married Hermione. Their ceremony was quite large and a mixture of magical and muggle people. Having his mother fussing over him as he adjusted his tie was an experience he would never tire of. He looked in the mirror, "I'm ready."
"Nervous?" James asked.
"We've done this before," he said, shaking his head. "And Hermione and I weren't nervous that time either. Were you nervous when you married mum?"
"Quite a bit," James nodded, "I didn't want to make an arse of myself."
"That's Sirius' job," Harry grinned.
"Hey!" they heard from a corner of the tent. James laughed as he attempted to flatten Harry's hair to no avail.
Hermione, meanwhile, had her weeping mother and grandmother to deal with. "You both know Harry and have for a long time. It's not the end of the world."
"My only daughter is getting married I'm allowed to be weepy," came the argument. Hermione sighed and shook her head. She knew today was a big day but the importance wasn't as intense as it was when they'd been married in the other timeline. She let her mother continue to fuss over her, just waiting for her chance to be with her husband again.
If you asked someone who had attended the Potter-Granger wedding what it was like their response would have been, "It was lovely." Months of effort, hours of preparation, all whittled down to three words. No one remembered the weeping mothers hugging each other with joy and sadness. No one remembered the beautiful dress Hermione wore or how handsome Harry was in his suit. Even the vows were forgotten.
But those vows didn't matter anyway. Let's take a quick time jump, into the original timeline from whence our couple came, to hear the original and most meaningful of vows that were made, vows that only they two would forever remember.
Hermione, my life has been full of difficulty. I frequently run into life or death situations that inevitably lean towards the death more than the life. I can count the number of genuinely happy days on one hand. And all of those days have one thing in common. You're the reason they're so happy.
Without you, Hermione, I know I couldn't go on. And not just because you've saved my thick arse on more occasions than anyone can count. But because I love you more than I ever thought I could and I need you more than anyone ever should.
I don't know the day that I'll die but I do know I hope that I never outlive you. I couldn't go on if I did. We've been through horrors no one should have to go through, and been forced to make decisions that are harder than we'll ever admit. Many of those things were done without our consent. But I do know one thing; there is nothing I would rather choose than to be your husband for all eternity. I'm just a git without you. You make me not just a better man, you make me a whole one.
Harry, I used to dream that I'd one day have friends. When I met you I dreamed that you'd one day be my friend. But I could never have dreamed I'd have you as a lover and husband. As not just a friend but a very best friend. The only person I would trust my life to and the only person I know will have my back.
You fear living without me but truthfully, Harry, I couldn't live without you. A single day spent without seeing you, talking to you, loving you, is a day that defies even my imagination. I love you. I love you so much that it is occasionally overwhelming. I don't know what tomorrow brings, my love, but I do know that our bodies and our souls are so very intertwined that my will becomes your will and your dreams become my dreams.
We have a bond that is untouchable and our bodies and our souls are forever inseparable.
And, as they say, they lived happily ever after in a present and future entirely different from the one in which their strong bond had formed in.