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Bond of the Spirits by don_bski

Format: Novella
Chapters: 18
Word Count: 53,696
Status: COMPLETED

Rating: Mature
Warnings: Mild violence, Scenes of a sexual nature, Sensitive topic/issue/theme

Genres: General, Romance
Characters: Harry, Ron, Hermione, McGonagall, George, Ginny, Luna, Neville
Pairings:

First Published: 06/24/2012
Last Chapter: 06/18/2015
Last Updated: 06/18/2015

Summary:





The principle characters endured a lot of pain and hardship throughout the HP novels. In this story, good things begin to happen. It is set following the final battle and focuses mainly on Harry and Hermione. While this story is inconsistent with what JKR wrote in the epilogue of book seven, it considers other magical possibilities that might have occurred. The story draws on the commitment these two characters have to each other in the novels.   * Completed. *



Chapter 1: Beginning Again
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For Harry, Ron and Hermione, all that had happened during the last year seemed like a blurred nightmare. From fleeing the Burrow, being on the run hunting Horcruxes and fighting in the battle of Hogwarts, it all had exacted a great toll on each of them. They were physically and emotionally exhausted. With the help of Madam Pomfrey and after some much need sleep, they departed Hogwarts and went to the Burrow.

The days that followed were particularly sad and depressing owning to the funerals for Fred and the fallen members of the Order. But slowly, they began adjusting to a life that no longer included the constant threat of danger. There were still nights of restless sleep and the occasional bristled feelings over seemingly little things during the day. The sorrow and grief they were each feeling resulted in little desire for romantic closeness. Though unspoken between Ron and Hermione and Harry and Ginny, it was clear that each couple would be just good friends for a while.

Ron and Ginny resumed life at the Burrow in stride despite the very vocal discussions that occurred most days between the family members. The Weasleys were adjusting to a family that no longer included Fred. Relatives and friends frequently stopped by trying to help the family mend. Harry and Hermione, having not lived for long periods with the Weasleys, and certainly not under these conditions, were having a tougher time. They too were trying to deal with feelings of loss and remorse. But there was little opportunity for real personal reflection. Weasley kin, friends, and some friends of friends wanted to hear the story first hand. With all the commotion and the combined dominance of Molly and Auntie Muriel, the Burrow was somewhat overwhelming for Harry and Hermione. Ron sensed this in his best friends and did what he could to mediate. But those who visited the Burrow wanted to be around the ones who had put an end to the Dark Lord and ushered in a new beginning for the magical world.

One morning, Harry awoke early from a bad dream. A dim morning light shone in through the window of Ron's room. Taking care to be quiet, he pulled on some cloths and made his way down the stairs to the kitchen. Hermione, who normally was an early riser, was about to go outside. Asking Harry to join her on a morning walk, they followed a path that led up a small hill into the sparse woods behind the Burrow. During their walk, Hermione mentioned the need to travel to Australia and locate her parents. She wanted to restore their memories and somehow apologize for what she had done to them. She felt certain they would be angry with her. Harry offered to accompany her to Australia and help explain to her parents the real dangers that had forced Hermione to make such a difficult decision.

At first, Hermione was not entirely sure of his suggestion. But Harry reminded her, in no uncertain terms, that she had stood by him for many long and difficult years. A trip to Australia was nothing compared to the sacrifices she had made on his behalf. He wanted to stand by her too and help in any way that he could. In the end, Hermione accepted the offer of help from her best friend.

This plan did not initially set too well with Ron and Ginny. In particular, Ron thought that he should accompany them. But eventually, after some long talks, the two couples agreed to some time apart.



Travel to Australia via the magical travel network had been quick and easy for Harry and Hermione. After a few days of searching through the Sydney public records, Hermione found where her parents lived. They apparated to a small house located in a quiet suburb. The harder part was getting Wendell and Monica Wilkins to let these two strangers into their home. Wendell and Monica felt certain that Hermione was mistaken in spite of her earnest claim of being a family member. Hermione was persistent and told them things only a family member would know.

"... You are both dentists and enjoy camping and the theater. Monica, your favorite color is periwinkle. Wendell, your favorite author is Arthur Conan Doyle. You both like spearmint toothpaste!" With a pleading expression on her face she said, "Please, may we come inside and explain?"

Wendell and Monica's expressions softened at the mention of spearmint toothpaste. "Very well," said Wendell. "This seems very important to you. Please come in."

With great restraint to reach out and hug them, Hermione suppressed her shock of joy at these words. As they stepped into the living room, she readied herself to act quickly. Once they were no longer in public view and her parents stood before her, she quickly brought out her wand and pointed it at them. Tracing an oval in front of their faces she said, "Resuscitet Conscientia!" (resurrect the consciousness). The expressions of Wendell and Monica went blank and then their eyes slowly closed. Hermione touched her wand to each of their foreheads saying, "Memento Filia!" (remember your daughter). Then pointing her wand directly at them, she twisted her wrist slowly and said, "Excitaret!" (awake).

Hermione glanced at Harry and then watched her parents nervously while the charms did their work. After a very long moment for Hermione, the enchantment lifted and the eyes of her Mother and Father open. They rocked slightly and gazed at the room with bewildered expressions.

Looking at Hermione, her mother said, "Hermione?"

Her father said, "Hermione, what has happened?"

Hermione rushed forward and hugged each of them sobbing uncontrollably. "I'm so sorry! Please, please forgive me!"

Holding Hermione in a comforting embrace, her mother rubbed Hermione's back and said, "There there my dear one. What has made you to be so upset? It's okay, everything will be all right. Sit down and tell us about it."

It took a long while for Hermione to calm down. Taking deep calming breaths, she said, "Dad, please sit next to me too."

After another moment, with her mother and father seated on each side, and holding their hands, she glanced at each of them through teary eyes and said, "Mum, Dad, I have a lot to tell you."

Over the next several hours, Hermione and Harry explained all that had happened during the past year. Harry let Hermione do most of the talking. Her parents sat with half open mouths and frightful expressions through some of what they said. While Dan and Emma didn't particularly like what she did to them, they understood why and let her know that they still loved her very much. Her mother said they were both more proud of her than words could say. This caused another round of tears from Hermione.

Harry felt grateful to be present for the Granger family reunion. Observing from a more objective position, and hearing the comments of her parents, Harry noticed something interesting. From the perspective of Dan and Emma Granger, it was as if they had just woken from a nap. They had little sense of lost time or of being separated from Hermione. Once Harry told Hermione this, she felt a great sense of relief and was more self-forgiving of what she had done.

Harry and Hermione spent the next few weeks helping the Granger's plan a return trip to England and their former lives. The four of them also went sightseeing and enjoyed each other's company. It did not escape the notice of Dan and Emma that Harry and Hermione's friendship was based on very genuine feelings for each other. Dan spoke with Harry and Emma with Hermione suggesting they each consider the possibility of something more. But both Harry and Hermione said that it was just a brother/sister care for each other. They, and Ron, had watched out for each other since first year and saved each other's life more than once.

One day toward the end of their stay in Australia, the four of them went to the beach for the day. In the afternoon, Harry and Hermione decided to go for a walk. They leisurely strolled along the water's edge with wavelets washing up over their feet. Now, away from the crowds and the many beach balls flying about, it was easier to have a conversation.

"Hermione, we'll be going back in a few days. Have you thought about where you will live?"

"I want to be close to my parents. Going to school at Hogwarts, I missed a lot of time with them. Maybe I'll move in with them ... but I'm not sure how well that might work out given all my self-sufficiency this last year. I do want to be close enough to be a part of their lives. So, that pretty much means I won't be going back to live at the Burrow. What about you Harry?"

"More recently, I've started to feel like I'm imposing on the Weasleys. I know they will deny that. But sometimes conversations end rather abruptly when I enter the room. Despite the hardships of living in that tent last year, I feel like I want that kind of independence. Even though the tent was small, I felt comfortable."

"I love the Weasleys very much," said Hermione. "But I feel like I have to live up to their expectations. I've enjoyed just being myself these last few weeks."

"It's been a relaxing and enjoyable time for me too," said Harry. "I'm so glad I came along to help you. I'd have missed you."

"I would have missed you too Harry. And especially how we sometimes know what each other is thinking or feeling."

Harry smiled. "Yeah, we know when to leave each other alone too."

"So true," smiled Hermione. "But that doesn't happen much anymore."

After a short pause, he said, "Hermione, I've been wondering ... what do you think about finding a place together?"

Hermione stopped walking and looked at him. "Do you mean you and me? As in, we'd be living together?"

"Yeah, in separate rooms of course. We've been living together ... umm, that is ... as friends, at the Burrow or in a tent for a long time. We get along well, support each other and give each other a trusted opinion when needed. I'd ... I'd miss that and ... you not being there each day."

"I've thought about how different the days would be without you too. I like being around you, it just feels natural and comfortable. I know we say it a lot to people but ... you really do feel like family to me."

Harry said, "So ... do you want to give it a try for a while?"

After a short pause she said, "Yes Harry, I do." Then her eyebrows narrowed and she said, "What about Ron and Ginny? Would they be with us too?"

"No, I don't think so. They would always be welcome to visit anytime of course. You're best friends with Ginny and I'm best mates with Ron. We should take some time to sort out those relationships. What do you think?"

"I agree. It is after all why we took some time apart. But they aren't going to take this news very well, particularly Mrs. Weasley."

Harry nodded. "Yeah, maybe your mum and dad can suggest ways to handle that." Hermione smiled.

Feeling better about their futures, they turned and started walking back.



Upon their return to England, and with some help from the magical realtors, Harry and Hermione found a modest two bedroom flat a few blocks distance from where Dan and Emma would be living. Hermione was adamant about wanting to help with the rent for the flat. The discussion almost escalated into a row. She didn't feel right about Harry having to pay for everything and she didn't like being on the receiving end of charity. Harry told her that he had enough money to cover expenses for years and it wasn't a problem. He also didn't feel right about taking money from her parents since she didn't have a job.

An agreement was finally reached to both of their satisfaction. Once Hermione had a good job, Harry would allow her to help with the finances, but not until then. Hermione reluctantly agreed but only on the condition that she would keep a ledger and pay Harry back for her part of the expenses one day. After shaking hands on it, they each took separate rooms and settled in.

The weeks that followed turned out to be harder than either of them had expected. They spent much of their time setting up the flat. They got furniture, connected the fireplace to the floo network and got a muggle telephone so they could talk with Hermione's parents. Dan and Emma also needed their help getting settled back into a normal life in England. In spite of all these activities, there was time to reflect on the events of the past year. The enormity of it continued to haunt them. Images of the battle and of the people they had seen injured or killed occasionally troubled their dreams. There were feelings of despair and blame for not acting quickly enough. It was at these times that having each other near to talk helped in the healing of their spirits.

One particular evening proved to be a turning point. Ron stopped by for a visit to update them on the Weasley family activities and to hang out with them for a while. They were talking about Hogwarts and Ron mentioned the rebuilding effort that was underway.

Ron said, "I've been to Hogwarts a few times to see how the rebuilding is getting on. There are a lot of volunteers helping. Many of them are from the DA or those who stayed to fight that night. But most are just ordinary witches and wizards wanting to help in some way. No schedules, they just show up whenever they want. Most help once or twice a week for part of the day."

With a more apprehensive look on his face, Ron said to Harry, "Have you ever thought about ... maybe doing something like that?"

"No, I don't want all the attention and publicity. You know that Ron. I've never wanted to be a celebrity."

"Yeah, I know. But it's not really like that with the people who are there." He chuckled and said, "McGonagall has set up some really good spells to keep the press away."

Ron continued, "Yeah, folks want to hear our story. I've spoken to some, just told them general things, nothing specific. They respect and understand when I say I can't give more details. But mostly, they just want to tell me their stories. And not just to me but to each other. On the days that I've gone, I hardly worked at all. I mostly just walk around and listen to people."

With a more somber expression, Ron said to Harry, "People have told me pretty much the same story. Mostly about when they or their families were in trouble or threatened. About how they kept faith that you'd do what needed to be done to bring it to an end."

He said thoughtfully, "Now, I think people want the same thing we do, mend our world and trust again. It's like what professor Binns said in class once, about during the dark ages when people suspected of magic were persecuted by muggles. Magical people would come together in hiding to console one another and give each other encouragement. Good magical people are trusting and supportive with each other."

Hermione stared at Ron with her mouth partly open. Then she said, "Ron, you rarely seemed to be paying attention in that class. I don't remember professor Binns saying anything like that."

"Well, I've never been good with dates and numbers. But I think it was during our second year; you had just been petrified. Reckon I was worried about you and what was happening."

In a meek voice she said, "Oh Ron, after all these years, your understanding and perceptions of the magical world still amazes me. You're the one who's kept us centered in the magical world. Please forgive your two muggle raised friends for being short sighted recently."

"Thanks Hermione. People understand that we have a lot to sort out and mend too. Things like your parents Hermione. No one, outside of my family, knows what you did. But in the magical world, that kind of self-sacrifice is very moving and meaningful. It shows that in your heart, you really care for them."

Hermione got up, went over to Ron and gave him a hug. "Thank you Ron."

Harry said, "Yeah, thanks. I need to rethink some of my priorities. But I just don't know what I'd say to people."

Ron smiled and said, "Not much saying is needed. Just accept it when they say thank you and listen to their stories."

At other times, more often than not, Ron was the one who cheered them up and made them all laugh. For their parts, both Harry and Hermione reached out to Ron. They knew it was toughest for him being away from them. Ron was respecting Hermione's desire to be just good friends. But it seemed to him that they were drifting apart romantically. In its place, he realized the special bond of friendship and love that the three of them shared. They were honest with each other and deeply trusted one other. Each had performed a crucial part in keeping the trio together through thick and a lot of thin. They all felt that their success against the Dark Lord was largely because of their unity.

Hermione told Harry and Ron that it was important for them to finish their educations. She felt uneasy about being a year behind and was anxious to resume her NEWT studies. Harry and Ron were much less enthusiastic about completing their studies but knew it was important for their future careers.

However, the three of them had little desire to return to Hogwarts as regular students. The year away hunting Horcruxes had matured them in ways that made the daily life at Hogwarts seem, well, a bit juvenile. They would miss seeing friends on a daily basis but that didn't mean they would abandon regular associations with them. Hermione reminded Harry and Ron about the extra lessons she had arranged in third year. She felt confident that something could be worked out for them. They wrote a letter and sent it by owl to headmistress McGonagall at Hogwarts.

A prompt response was received from McGonagall requesting that the three of them come to her office and talk about continuing their studied. A few days later, they traveled to Hogwarts and made their way to the headmistress office. Reaching the top of the circular staircase, the door swung open and they entered. McGonagall stood and moved from behind the claw footed desk to greet them.

"It's so good to see you all again," said McGonagall. "I trust things are going well."

"Yes professor," said Harry. "Hogwarts is really starting to look proper again."

McGonagall beamed. "Yes, I'm very pleased. With so many people helping, we will be ready for start of term on September first."

"That's wonderful news professor," said Hermione. "We're looking forward to completing our studies."

"Well, that's what we're here to discuss," said McGonagall. "Please be seated."

Three chairs magically appeared in front of the claw footed desk.

After they were all seated McGonagall said, "Due to the extenuating circumstances, the professors and I are in agreement to make additional evening classes available to students who missed all or part of their seventh year studies. For a select group of these students, which includes you three, whose service to the school has been exemplary, an open campus arrangement will be available. These students would not be required to live in the school dormitories. They could choose to come and go freely as their class schedule dictates. Special travel arrangements will be set up as needed."

Harry, Ron and Hermione smiled broadly. "That's great professor," said Harry. "Thank you."

McGonagall said, "Just remember, your assignments must be completed and turned in on time to receive credit."

"Professor," said Hermione, "Are the book lists for our classes available?"

McGonagall smiled broadly at Hermione and said, "Yes, I have them here for each of you. They are based on your currently declared career plans. Confidentially, you three should know that the Ministry will be offering each of you additional career opportunities. I can't say any more about it at this time. Kingsley will meet with you when the arrangements are completed. The books on your list that are marked with a star are common to these opportunities. I suggest you obtain them first."

"Thank you," said Ron. "This is very generous of you and the professors."

McGonagall said, "Thanks to each of you. You've given so much to the school since you arrived seven years ago. Hogwarts will be forever grateful."

"Hear hear!" said the portrait of Dumbledore smiling at them. Harry, Ron and Hermione beamed happily at each other.

McGonagall said, "If you have no further questions for me, I suggest you have a look around the castle for a while."

Ron said, "Thanks professor. I'll show them around."

They said their goodbyes to McGonagall and went down the spiral staircase to the main castle. Hermione wanted to see the library. When they arrived, she saw that is was in complete disorder with books on the floor everywhere. Saying she'd catch up with them later, Hermione joined the group that was working there. On their way past the Great Hall, Ron met up with some people he'd been with on his last trip. He left with them to help Neville in the greenhouses. After briefly looking at the partially restored Great Hall, Harry walked out on the grounds toward the quidditch pitch. There, he joined some other Hogwarts quidditch players, led by Ginny, who were working on the pitch.

It was nightfall before any of them returned home.


Chapter 2: Resolutions
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About a week later, Ginny traveled to the flat for a visit with Hermione. Kingsley, the new Minister of Magic, had asked Harry to come and see him. Harry had left promptly for the Ministry of Magic earlier in the day. Ginny stepped out of the living room fireplace in a flash of green light. After greeting Hermione, they both went into the kitchen and Hermione put the kettle on for tea.

"So are you the chief cook?" said Ginny with a smile.

"We've been sharing the cooking duties since we don't always take meals together. To be honest, Harry is as good at cooking the muggle way as I am using magic. He told me that he had to help his Aunt Petunia with the cooking whenever he stayed at the Dursley's house." 

"So give me the grand tour of your flat."

Hermione smiled and, acting like an exaggerated and animated real estate agent said with spread arms, "This is the kitchen." Walking a few steps and making a dramatic sweeping wave of her hand she said, "And this is the very spacious living room because it still lacks adequate furniture."

Ginny giggled. Hermione took her by the hand and led her across the room. "Please step into the hallway." A few steps further in, Hermione stopped at the first open bedroom door. "This is Harry's room."

Standing at the door, Ginny looked into the bedroom and said, "Just a bed and nightstand?"

"Yes, well..." Hermione smiled, "Harry is still in 'tent mode'. He's working on that one."

Beckoning Ginny further down the hall, Hermione said, "This is my room."

Ginny looked in and saw a partially assembled bookshelf and several stacks of books on the floor.  Other shelves lined the walls with more books and magical pictures of her parents and friends. The room had curtains on the window and was bright and cheerful.

"And finally, over here is the bathroom," said Hermione in a sing song voice and pointing with both hands as if introducing a performer.  Then in an analytical voice she said, "There were some problems with this room initially. So I wrote up a schedule and list of rules." She opened the medicine cabinet. "See, here they are right here." With satisfaction she said, "No further problems since."

The teakettle began to whistle and Hermione hurried off. Ginny snickered to herself and made her way back to the kitchen.

Hermione poured the tea and motioned for Ginny to sit down. As she watched Ginny sip her tea she asked, "So Ginny, how are you doing?"

"I have been doing a lot of thinking lately trying to sort things out. Hogwarts will be open again this fall for classes as usual. Mom and Dad want me to go and complete my seventh year studies."

"I've said the same to both Harry and Ron."

"And I've been thinking about Harry and me and if ... if I need to fit him into my plans. I've been wondering ... can you tell me ... is he happy with the way things are now?"

Taking a sip of her tea, Hermione said, "He's comfortable with our current arrangement. We talk most evenings about the activities of the day. He gets a lot of satisfaction out of working behind the scenes at the Ministry with Kingsley and the Auror department. Right now, I think Harry just wants to settle into a normal quiet life that is not filled with death threats. He wants some solitude away from publicity and notoriety for a while."

After taking a sip of tea Ginny said, "How does Harry feel about me?"

"I think it best that you ask Harry that question," said Hermione. After a sip of tea she asked, "How do you feel about Harry?"

"The more I've thought about it, the less sure I am that Harry and I are ready for each other. I care very much about Harry and you. I've watched the two of you, even when he was with me, right after the end of the war. I see something between the two of you. Especially in the way you look at and treat each other. Like two birds in flight, free to go in any direction, and yet able to fly in formation without even thinking about it. That's something that hasn't developed yet between Harry and me. On one hand, I want Harry and me to be together. And on the other hand, I feel a bit like a wedge keeping you apart."  

"Ginny, it was thoughts of you that kept Harry focused on our mission last year. You made a difference to our success even though you weren't physically with us. We all gave Harry strength to walk into the forest that night. You were his last thoughts. We all were the reason for his choice to come back out again. Please, never think that you didn't matter to us, then or now." 

"Thanks Hermione, you really are my best friend." Feeling misty eyed, she blinking away a tear.

Ginny said, "Recently, things are changing in my life and I don't think I want to settle down with someone in a quiet lifestyle just yet. I've met some people while working on the pitch at Hogwarts. If I'm good enough, there are quidditch opportunities that could open up for me and lead to a professional career. Please don't say anything to Harry or Ron about it."  

Hermione nodded. "My lips are sealed."

"Thanks. I want to see if I've got what it takes. It will consume almost all of my time if it happens. That wouldn't be fair to any boyfriend who is looking to settle down. I don't want to hurt Harry. I care about him and our close friendship. I want that friendship to continue."

After a short pause, Ginny looked at Hermione and asked, "Can you tell me how you feel about Ron?"

Hermione took a deep breath and said, " I care very much for Ron. There's a depth of friendship between us that is hard to describe. I know that friendship will never be broken. We argue a lot because we're both stubborn and opinionated. That was one of the strengths we both brought to our trio over the years. It provided critical perspectives and insights that helped us quickly develop action plans for the situations we found ourselves in. But for a relationship that might eventually lead to a marriage, I feel that Ron and I don't have the right foundation yet. Ron and I have not really talked about it. But I think we both know that, right now, we're not what we need to be for each other for that kind of relationship."

"Hermione," said Ginny, "I really value our friendship. When you were with Ron, I knew you would be there anytime for me, just to talk. I've been worried that that might end if you and Ron are not together."

"Ginny, whatever happens, it will not affect my relationship with you or your family. Both Harry and I are indebted to you and your family's generosity for so much. You gave us a safe place to hide, a family to belong to and good people we can trust. I am comfortable talking to you about anything. You feel like a sister to me. We might not see each other as often but you're still my best girlfriend and I want to keep it that way. We must stay in touch."

"We will," said Ginny. "You feel like a sister to me too."

They both squeezed each other's hand across the table.



There was a whoosh and Harry stepped from the green flames of the floo. He saw Hermione and Ginny sitting at the kitchen table, each holding a cup of tea, and smiling at him. After a wary glance and tinge of apprehension, he walked to the kitchen.

Hermione said, "Hi Harry. Ginny and I have been catching up."

"Hi Hermione. Hi Ginny."

Hermione said, "So how did your trip to the Ministry go?"

Harry said, "Really well. I met with..." riiinnnngggg!!! Ginny jumped in surprise. Hermione got up and went to answer the muggle phone.

Ginny said with a shocked expression, "One of those would take some time for me to get use to." Then she smiled and said, "But Dad would love it."

"Hello... Hi Mum, how are you? ... What's that? ... Yes? ... Yes? ... Calm down Mum... Okay... Okay, I'll be there in a few minutes... Okay... Bye."

As Hermione moved to take her coat off the hook she said, "Sorry Ginny. Will you give me a few minutes to clear some things up for my Mum? She needs some help with a Ministry form. I won't be too long. See you two in a bit."  

"That's fine, I'll wait." said Ginny as the door closed behind Hermione. Ginny turned to look at Harry.

Harry said, "Hermione's parents have been working their way through Ministry regulations. They're trying to get their fireplace connected to the floo network. There's a lot of extra security to deal with."

Ginny just nodded. After a pause and feeling a bit unsure of himself he said, "Can I warm your tea?"

"Yes please, thanks."

Harry refilled her tea, poured one for himself and then sat down in the chair next to Ginny at the table.

Ginny said, "I was hoping I would see you today. There's something I want to show you."  She reached into her coat and pulled out an envelope with the Hogwarts crest on it.

Harry said, "You got your Hogwarts letter already! Are you going to complete your seventh year?"

"Yes, Mum and Dad say it's really important for me to finish properly. What about you?"

"I'm still sorting it out. I definitely want to complete my seventh year. But I also want to stay clear of the Daily Prophet."

Ginny nodded and then pulled a badge out of her Hogwarts envelope and handed it to Harry.

"Wow!!  You're captain of the Gryffindor quidditch team. That's fantastic Ginny! Congratulations!" He excitedly put his arm around her and gave her a hug. But that caused some other feelings to resurface that he had not expected. As he slowly released her, their eyes met and he could see that she had experienced something too.

Ginny said in a soft voice, "I think there are some things we need to talk about." After a short pause, Harry nodded.

Ginny said, "I think my seventh year will be a very busy one. Besides all of my studies, I've got this new responsibility." She took the badge back from Harry and put it into the envelope. "But there are other reasons that I have to go back. Last year was such a bad time to be at Hogwarts. I became very close friends with Neville, Luna and a few other people. We worked so hard together to resist the horrible way students were being treated. I think I know a little about what prison must be like. While you were away this last month, I've had time to remember and think about the relationships I have with those people. It has helped me understand the kind of friendship you share with Hermione and Ron. These friends need me now and I need them, at least for a while. We need to help each other put last year behind us and move on."

Harry nodded. With a thoughtful expression he said, "It's something very hard to describe isn't it? A deep familiarity and connection, a bond."

"Yes." said Ginny. "That's it. The sort of feeling ... like ... these people are part of me."

He smiled warmly and nodded his understanding.

"I've also done some reflecting on our relationship. I think that I'm a bit over dominating you." She smiled, "I get that from Mum." With a caring expression she said, "I think I might be trying to force more between us than there really is right now."

Harry saw that her eyes were starting to tear up.

"I think that a romantic choice must be freely made by both involved. And if that means we're to be just good friends ..." Ginny was unsuccessful in holding back her tears, "I ... I will accept that."

Harry had become misty eyed also. He took her hand and lovingly held it. After a moment he said, "I haven't been fair to you either. I've been very wrapped up in myself lately. There are still some things that seem incomplete about who I am. I'm thankful for the time apart you've given me to start sort things out. It was hard to do when we were together. Your attractiveness tends to boggle my perceptions and thinking."

"Thanks," said Ginny smiling through teary eyes.

Harry said, "Maybe it was infatuation with you or just my poor relationship skills with girls. I can be really thick headed at times as you well know."

But..." he took her chin with his hand and gently guided her eyes to his, "you helped me get through some of the darkest times of my life. Please, don't ever forget that I am forever grateful to you. I don't ever want to lose our friendship. You are part of my family."

Ginny turned and put her arms around him and said, "Oh Harry, thank you, thank you. You will always be my dear friend." Harry wrapped his arm around her. They put their heads on each other in an embrace of truest friendship. They held each other in a short moment of silent comfort and then separated.

After another moment, Harry said; "So... tell me about some of your plans for the Gryffindor quidditch team."

Harry listened to her describe with enthusiasm her early planning. He didn't speak much, it was her team now and he would only give her his thoughts if she asked for them. She had some really good ideas and he felt sure the team was in very good hands with her as captain. He made an offer to help her anytime, she need only ask. But knowing her as he did, he was certain she had a very clear idea of what she was going to do.

As they talked, some of the pranks and practical jokes the team members had played on each other in previous years were remembered. This caused fits of giggles and laughs between them. During the laughter following a particularly funny story, involving Fred and George of course, Hermione returned.

Seeing them laughing she said, "You two are getting on well. What have I missed?"

Still giggling, Ginny said, "Oh ... Harry and I have just broken up."

"Erm..." The look on Hermione's face was priceless and it made both Harry and Ginny break into laughter again.

After a moment, Ginny said, "Well, I need to get back to the Burrow. I have a lot of planning to do."

Ginny and Harry stood up and they gave each other a firm hug. "Thanks Harry." she said to him with a sigh.

"Umm... thank you too." He held her at arm's length and said, "I want to see your games; let me know when."

"I will," said Ginny with a warm smile.

She turned to Hermione who still had the remains of a bewildered look on her face. Hugging her, Ginny whispered in her ear, "Talk with me later. There's more I want to tell you."

Hermione whispered back with a smile, "Most certainly."

Ginny walked to the fireplace and took a pinch of floo powder. She smiled and happily waved goodbye to both of them. Then, tossing the powder into the fireplace, she stepped into the green flames that erupted saying "The Burrow!" and disappeared from sight.

Harry put one hand on his side and took a sip of his tea. He looked at Hermione with a self-satisfied expression on his face. Hermione raised her eyebrows and gave him a half smile, her expression saying, 'you-think-your-so-good'. They both snickered.


Chapter 3: Plans and Options
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Later that day, Hermione had her feet up on the sofa and was reading a book. Harry came in and sat down in the chair across from her. Hermione looked up from the book and said, "Finish telling me about your meeting with Kingsley."

"Let me call Ron and have him come over first. He should hear it too." Harry got up and went over to the fireplace. A few minutes later, there was a flash of green light and Ron appeared.

"Hi Harry, hi Hermione," said Ron as he waved his hand and the soot on his cloths drifted back into the fireplace.

"Hi Ron," said Hermione. He sat down on the sofa next to her.

"So what's up?" said Ron.

Harry said, "I had a really good talk with Kingsley today." ...



"Hello Harry. Please come in and have a seat," said Kingsley. "How are you doing?"

"Very well Minister."

"The Auror Department sent me word that five individuals of a snatcher cell were apprehended. Thank you for providing the information that led to their capture."

"We overheard them talking when we were being taken to Malfoy Manor. Are snatchers still rounding up people?"

"No, but some cells are actively recruiting new members. Their tactic is to spread false rumors about the Ministry in an effort to cause fear, mistrust and division. Vigilance and the reporting of suspicious activity is needed by everyone to bring the remainder of the dark force to justice."

"Seems like you're making good progress; we've read about it in the Prophet."

"Thank you, Harry. Now if I may, I'd like to ask you a few questions. In accordance with your earlier expressed wishes, I have kept silent about you and your friend's activities over the past year. Only general statements have been made to the press stating your well being and desire for privacy. Is this still your desire?"

"It is Minister. I've had some limited discussion with Ron and Hermione about it. Perhaps at some future date, a single publication interview would be possible. The content would be edited as necessary and the final story agreed upon by Ron, Hermione and myself prior to publication."

"Excellent Harry. That is very much my line of thinking too. Do you have any thoughts about that future date?"

"No, not really."

"The reason I ask, there is planning underway for a ceremony to be held at Hogwarts sometime in late August. The purpose is to rededicate the school and to commemorate those who were involved in its defense both living and deceased. There will be a Daily Prophet story related to the ceremony and it would be a good time to have something of your story. If published together, there would be diversion that is favorable to your desires. What do you think?"

"That seems okay to me but let me discuss it with Ron and Hermione."

"Very good, I would appreciate it if you could let me know your decision within the next few days."

"We will Minister."

"With respect to the ceremony and the available space at Hogwarts, the event will be limited. Only those directly involved in the battle and their immediate families will be invited. There will be a single, reputable reporter and photographer from the Daily Prophet present to report on it. You, Ron, Hermione and others identified by professor McGonagall would be formally invited to be present for the ceremony. None of you would have to speak unless you so desired. It would mean a lot to the wizarding world if you would consent to attend."

"I think that would be agreeable. Let me check with Ron and Hermione on that too."

"Thank you. I also wanted to mention that planning is underway regarding careers in the Ministry of Magic for you, Ron and Hermione. Please share what I am about to say to you with them. Many of the Ministry departments desire each of you in one way or another. Each of these departments is drafting a proposal. They will be summarized and sent to you by owl in the next few weeks. You could then meet with the department heads to learn more about the careers that you might be interested in. ..."



... "So Kingsley really wants to help us get things sorted out and move forward," said Harry.

"That's great!" said Hermione. "Did he say anything about school or job requirements?"

"Only that the Ministry is short handed right now and that special arrangements for necessary course work would be available depending on our career choice. Existing knowledge and experience would be taken into consideration."

Ron said, "Wow, we get to pick the job we want?"

Hermione said, "At least from the choices they give us. What if we don't want what they offer?"

Harry said, "Any other job would have the normal school requirements and application process. But Kingsley said that we would probably be very happy with the offers."

Ron said, "My dad mentioned to me that there are available positions in his department too. I've been thinking about that. Or maybe work with George at the joke shop."

Harry said, "I also got a job pitch from Kingsley. He said that after 'recent events', becoming an Auror was an available choice for each of us."

"Blimey," said Ron. "Really?"

"Well, I for one do not want to be an Auror," said Hermione.

"I told Kingsley that, speaking for myself, I'm not interested in being an Auror right now. That after this last year, something with much less hand-to-hand combat is more what I'm thinking."

Ron smiled and said, "Yeah, I had that conversation with Mum and Dad. They said they would support me in whatever career decision I make but that they hope it will be a less dangerous one."

Harry said, "So what do you think about an interview and publication? I'm inclined to do it so we can get it over with."

Hermione said, "What Kingsley suggested would minimize us being in a direct spotlight."

"Publish in the Quibbler like you did in fifth year?" asked Ron.

Hermione said, "To get best diversionary advantage, it should be in the same publication as the other stories, somewhat hidden. That means it would need to be in the Daily Prophet since it is the official Ministry newspaper."

Ron said, "The person doing the interview should do all three of us together. That will make the story consistent and we can help each other stay clear of questions about prophecies and Horcruxes."

Hermione said, "We would still need to be careful about what we say. The interviewer could talk to others who could publish without our consent."

Harry said, "Okay. What about the ceremony at Hogwarts?"

Ron said, "I think we should do it. After working on the Hogwarts rebuilding effort, it will help give people final closure."

Hermione said, "I think so too Harry. Not being there would make it appear that we don't care about Hogwarts or what happened there."

Harry said, "Great. I'll send Kingsley an owl tomorrow. Either of you fancy a butterbeer?"

Ron and Hermione nodded and Harry got up and went to the kitchen. He returned and handed a glass to Ron and Hermione. Then he sat down again in the chair facing them. There was a quiet minute where they all were just thinking. Ron was intently studying the butterbeer foam in his glass. He looked up at Hermione.

"Hermione?"

"Yes Ron."

"I want to talk to you, about us."

"Do you mean us as in boyfriend and girlfriend?"

"Yeah."

"Okay."

Harry stood up to leave saying, "I think I'll check on something in my room."

"It's okay with me mate if you stay. I don't think this will become one of our shouting matches. Besides, since the Forest of Dean, I'm comfortable with you knowing my feelings."

"That was quite the reunion we had in the tent that night," said Hermione.

Ron looked at Harry and his eyes silently spoke. "No, the image we saw from the locket."

Harry sat back down and began to study the foam in his glass of butterbeer.

"Hermione, we've had the romance part of our relationship on hold for a while now and it has given me time to sort it out. I think our arguments are because I'm being overly defensive of my opinions. Growing up the youngest brother of the family tended to put me on the receiving end of practical jokes, embarrassing situations and hand me downs. It's still hard for me to be trusting and open with you. Ginny never seemed to have that problem but I think it's because she's more self-assured than I am."

"What I think I'm trying to say is, I need more time and space to become the right person for you. I want to stop the romance part of our relationship and give both of us time to see and date other people. That way, we'll find out if we are really meant for each other. If we are destined to be married some day, I want it to be freely chosen and based on a much more peaceful foundation."

Hermione said in a soft voice, "Ron, that's beautiful. But to be fair, our arguing is not just you. I've been bossy and opinionated with you too."

In a questioning voice and smiling, Ron said, "Really? Since when?" They all broke into laughter.

"Seriously Ron," she said in a contrite voice, "You know I'm an over achiever. I'm still trying to find the right balance in that. I understand now how that must have made you feel. I'm very sorry about that; please forgive me. I'm okay with doing what you suggest for us. I know we will be dearest friends and I want that to continue no matter what. I really, really mean that!"

"Me too Hermione," said Ron.

Ron looked at Harry and then back to Hermione. With a sincere expression he said, "You're both my best friends and I know you really well. ... I think you and Harry should spend some time together too. But I don't need to hear all of the details about that." The three of them smiled.

Hermione turned to Ron with teary eyes. Giving him a long hug she said; "Thank you Ron."

"Thank you Hermione."

She gave him a kiss on the cheek and then looked into his eyes. "Like brother and sister for now?"

"Yes Hermione, and much more."

After a long pause, Harry said, "How about we all go and get something to eat?"

Ron said, "That sounds good to me. Is there an Italian place nearby?"

Hermione grinned. "Yes, this is an almost completely muggle neighborhood. There are a couple of Italian places a few blocks walk from here."

"Great," said Harry. "Let's go."

They spent the remainder of the evening talking, eating, laughing and enjoying each other's company. They felt a genuine trust, joy, and understanding for each other that seemed boundless.


Chapter 4: More than Friends
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For much of the week, Harry and Hermione were very busy and saw each other only briefly in the early mornings and late evenings.

With Hermione's help, Dan and Emma completed the many Ministry forms to request connection of their fireplace to the floo network. With forms submitted, Dan and Emma began attending the Ministry required floo network training program. The course covered the history of floo powder, floo network etiquette and motion sickness abatement techniques. Hermione spent each day with her parents helping them navigate the Ministry's unconventional and bewildering organization.

This morning, Hermione had the day to herself and planned to visit Ginny at the Burrow. Harry had gotten up early and was eating a quick breakfast. His day would be filled by trips to Hogwarts, the Ministry and Diagon Alley. Hermione had just gotten out of bed and entered the kitchen wearing her pajamas and a bathrobe.

"Good morning," said Harry. "Are we still on for our evening out tonight?"

"Good morning. Yes. Am I still to dress formally?"

"Absolutely. I'm sure you've already seen what I will be wearing hanging in my room."

"And what do you have planned?"

He smiled and said, "It's still a surprise."

"Okay then," she said with a smile. "I'll be ready at five."

"Great. Okay, I gotta go. Have a nice time with Ginny and say hi to her for me. See you later." He walked to the fireplace, took a pinch of floo powder and tossed it into the opening.

Bye Harry," said Hermione. He waved and stepped into the green flames.



In the late afternoon, Harry returned to the flat and went into his room. He had just enough time to shower and get ready. He passed by Hermione's room but the door was closed.

"You okay Hermione?"

"Yes I'm fine, just getting ready." was her reply from behind the closed door.

"Okay." He then hurried into the bathroom.

A short while later in his room, he examined his reflection in the mirror. He was dressed and ready to go, tickets in his pocket. He had no memory of ever wearing a muggle suit and tie. His normally unruly hair was mostly in place and neatly combed. Just then, the phone began to ring.

"Harry, will you get that," called Hermione from her room.

"Got it," he replied. He hurried to the kitchen and picked up the receiver. "Hello?"

There was a pause. Then a women's voice from the phone said, "Oh I'm sorry, I've dialed the wrong number."

"That's okay." Harry hung up the phone.

He stepped back into the living room and was adjusting his tie when he heard the door of Hermione's room open. A few seconds later, she entered the room and stood before him. His gaze became transfixed and his eyes lingered on her taking in all the wondrous details.

Hermione was wearing a midnight blue evening dress that fit her perfectly in all the right places. It flared slightly and flowed gracefully to her ankles with an iridescent glow highlighting the folds. A loose knit shawl was wrapped around her shoulders. Her hair, elegant and silky looking, was done up in a flattering style. Her eyes sparkled and softly returned his gaze.

She smiled warmly, enjoying the effect she was having on him. After a long moment of silence she said, "You must like what you see."

"Oh yes, very tidy. You are beautiful!"

Hermione beamed, "Thanks. You look very handsome too."

Harry placed his hand over the wand in his coat pocket. A corsage containing a pink rose appeared in his other hand. He moved close and enjoyed the delicate scent of her perfume as he carefully slipped the corsage onto her wrist. Raising her wrist, she delighted in the fragrance of the rose.

Hermione reached into her small handbag and withdrew a light red carnation. She slowly placed it into the top buttonhole of his coat. As she stepped back, their eyes briefly met.

Harry held out his hand and said, "Ready to go Miss Granger?"

Smiling and placing her hand in his she replied, "Why yes I am, Mister Potter."

He led her out onto the porch, the door swinging open by itself to let them pass. It then closed and locked behind them. Harry extended his arm and she wrapped her hand around it. He looked at her, and after she nodded back to him, they disapparated.



Hand in hand, they walked up to the maitre d' who said, "Name sir?"

"James Evans," replied Harry.

"Ah yes, table for two. If you would please follow me."

The maitre d' led them to a quiet corner with a view of the city below and seated them. "Your waiter will be with you shortly." He then turned and walked away.

Hermione removed the shawl from her bare shoulders and folded it carefully on the seat next to her. When she looked up, Harry's gaze was fixed on her with the same dream-like expression she had seen earlier.

She smiled sweetly and said, "Am I distracting you, Mister Potter?"

"Oh yes, Miss Granger, you certainly are," he said with a smile. "I wouldn't want it any other way."

With a giggle she said, "Oh Harry, this is wonderful. I feel like a fairy tale princess."

Harry felt very happy at these words.

They enjoyed dinner and the company of each other. They talked about their day and laughed at the funny things that had occurred. There was a feeling of comfort between them and they hardly noticed or heard the people who were dining at the nearby tables.

The waiter had just taken their dessert order (crème brulèe and two spoons) when a middle-aged woman with a camera approached their table.

"You both look lovely. Picture to remember your evening?" 

After a brief glance at each other, they nodded. Moving close to sit side-by-side, Harry put his arm around Hermione. The photographer raised the camera, looked through the viewfinder and then lowered it again.

"Just a moment, I need to use a different camera."  She pulled a small camera-like object out of the bag hanging from her shoulder.

"Okay, turn slightly to face each other ... Yes, that's better. On the count of three, I'd like you to turn your heads and look at each other for a moment and then turn them back and look at my camera. Ready? ... One ... two ... three."

Harry and Hermione looked at each other and a soft smile and sparkling expression appeared on each of their faces.

"Look back at the camera now," she said softly. After another moment she said, "Got it. That will be great. Give me a few minutes. I'll be right back."

Dessert arrived. Continuing to sit next to each other, they began to share it. The photographer returned and handed Harry an envelope saying, "Here you are. You two are a lovely couple. Have a wonderful evening." She smiled and walked away.

As Hermione watched with her head next to his, Harry opened the envelope and withdrew the photograph. A magical picture of them looking at each other and then out of the photograph, greeted their eyes. 

Hermione let out a little gasp and said, "I thought it would be just a muggle photo. How did she know?"

"My brain's a bit fuzzy. Maybe she saw wrackspurts around my ears."

She rolled her eyes and giggled. "May...be."

Hermione took the photo and examined it. Harry looked at the envelope. On it was written, 'The Magic Camera, photography for all occasions.  Juliette Anderson.'  Hermione handed the photo to Harry and he placed it back into the envelope and put it into his coat pocket.

It was after nightfall when they left the restaurant and headed to their destination a few blocks away. They walked arm in arm quietly chatting about the people they saw and the things they noticed. Harry bought a white daisy for her hair as they passed a street vendor. The lights of the surrounding city danced brightly around them.

Nearly a year had passed since the last time they were in this area. They had narrowly escaped death eaters at Bill and Fleur's wedding. It had marked the beginning of the darkest of times for them, living on the run in doubt and apprehension. The belief, trust and commitment in each other had been stressed to the absolute limit. It had held and grown stronger. Their focused energy and efforts beyond themselves had made a difference in the world. But no thought of the fear and anxiety of that time entered their minds. Each was focused only on the present.

As they rounded a corner, a theater marquee came into view. It read, "My Fair Lady." Hermione gave Harry's hand a squeeze and she smiled at him, it was one of her favorite shows. Harry looked at her and felt a warm satisfaction at the excitement on her face. Entering the theater, his thoughtful care for her as they moved down the steep steps to their seats warmed her heart. She felt special being with him.



After the show, they slowly walked back to the secluded place where they could apparate back to their flat. They were quietly talking about the show, its actors and the parts they liked best. They laughed as they quoted lines from the show to each other, Hermione's "enry iggings" done in a very good Cockney accent. It was cooler now and Harry had his arm around her shoulder holding her close as they walked. They noticed a few other couples ahead who were making their way in the same general direction. The other couples stopped occasionally to admire things in the various shop windows. Harry and Hermione felt certain that these were other magical couples out for the evening and trying not to call attention to themselves as they made their way to the apparation point.



Harry chose to return about a block away from their flat. They leisurely walked hand in hand. The moon was bright and the neighborhood was quiet. He wanted to make their date last as long as possible. But all too soon, the walkway leading to the porch of the flat was under their feet.

Harry stopped at the door and turned to face her. She was somehow more lovely and beautiful than he'd noticed earlier. Her face was radiant, her eyes soft and inviting. He felt his heart began to beat faster. Taking her hands he said, "I had a very nice time with you tonight. I hardly noticed the time passing."

"I felt like I was floating on air and had a wonderful time too." Looking at him, she saw on his face the strength and honesty she'd seen many times before. His lovely green eyes; so familiar and trusting. But ... her heart skipped a beat ... something new.

Their gaze locked on each other's eyes and revealed the desire each had for the other in their heart. Time slowed down. Placing his hands on her waist, he slowly moved close and gave her a delicate kiss on her lips lasting just a few seconds. It felt sweet and warm.

Separating, he opened his eyes to see Hermione with her eyes still closed enjoying the lingering sensation and tenderness. She opened her eyes and slowly placed her arms around his neck. Harry's arms encircled her waist and drew her close. Heads tilting and eyes closing, their lips met again.

They each felt a tingling sensation and a flutter of the heart. Warmth enveloped them as each happily gave of them self to the other. A few unnoticed wisps of silvery vapor floated around their heads.

After a short while, their lips parted. Hermione rested her chin on Harry's shoulder. Harry leaned his head against hers and they held each other breathing deeply.

"I'm very happy right now Harry."

"It feels so peaceful holding you Hermione."

After a short while, she said, "Harry, I want our romance to move slowly. I want to enjoy every single step of our journey together."

"I do too Hermione. It feels wonderful and I don't want to miss any of it."

After another moment, they reluctantly pulled back and looked into each other's eyes. Hermione moved close again and returned the short delicate kiss he had given her. Then, the lock clicked, and the door of the flat swung open. She turned and entered followed closely by Harry.

Crossing the living room toward the hall, she paused. Turning her head to look at him, she said, "Good night Harry. See you in the morning."

"Good night Hermione, sleep well."

"I will Harry," she said with a smile.

Harry watched as she walked slowly into the hallway and disappeared from view. He heard the door of her bedroom door click shut.

In her room, Hermione spun around in delight and fell back on her bed savoring the feelings of her evening with Harry. It couldn't have been more perfect. She hastily took out her diary and began to write. The words flowed rapidly onto the page while her other hand held the daisy from her hair.

Harry remained in the living room for a moment, still looking at the place where he had last seen her. It was a wonderful beginning. Their friendship and trust was still there as strong as ever. But now, there was a new dimension. A door to her heart was open and she was welcoming him in. He was doing the same for her. He withdrew the photo from his coat pocket and looked at it for a moment lost in thought and wonder of what the future might bring.

The lock of the front door clicked behind him. Harry went to his room and slept very well.


Chapter 5: Family Connections
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Mid-afternoon on Saturday found Harry and Hermione in the living room of the flat. Earlier in the day, they had completed household chores, run errands for Dan and Emma and did some grocery shopping. They were now relaxing and quietly reading.

"Hey Harry, you there?" said Ron's voice from the fireplace.

Harry got up from the chair, put down the magazine he was reading, and went over to the fireplace. "Hi Ron. Yeah, I'm here."

"You remember that you and Hermione are coming over here tomorrow at five for your birthday dinner celebration?"

"Yeah, Hermione has reminded me about it too. But I don't want your Mum to make a fuss."

"Are you kidding me? You know my Mum. You'd get a right large piece of her mind if she heard you say that."

"Okay, okay, I get the picture. We'll be there at five."

"Okay mate, see you two tomorrow."

Harry went back to the sofa and sat down next to Hermione. Still reading her book, she turned and arched her legs over his lap. Harry put his hands on her knees and rested his chin on them. After a moment, Hermione looked up from her book and saw a thoughtful expression on his face.

"What are you thinking about Harry?"

"I'd like to go to Godric's Hollow tomorrow and see my parents home properly." Turning to Hermione he said, "Will you go with me?"

"Yes, of course, Harry."

"Do you think we might be able to get inside the cottage to have a look around?"

"I doubt it. Since it's a memorial, the Ministry will have defensive charms on it to keep people out."

Harry nodded, "You're right. But I'd still like to try. Maybe my cloak can help."

Hermione thought for a moment. "If we get there about nine in the morning most people that are out will probably be by the church. Less eyes to see what we're up to."

"Okay, that sounds good. Thanks Hermione."

Hermione returned to her book. Harry picked up the quidditch magazine from the table, pulled her legs against his chest and began to read.



Harry and Hermione stood on the walkway in front of the Potter cottage quietly discussing how to get beyond the gated fence. The cottage was fully surrounded by fence and wall for as far as they could see. There was what looked to be an archway at the back but it was completely entangled in a large overgrown thorny plant. Hermione tried a few different spells looking for any weakness in the defensive charms but none were revealed. They were about to walk around to the other side of the cottage when a gruff voice from behind them said, "Can I elp yea folks?"

Harry and Hermione jumped in startled surprise. They quickly turned to face an elderly man who looked to be in his seventies.

"This ears the Potter memorial, same as the night it all appened. I'm Wilbur Wallenby, the caretaker o this place. Can I answer any questions?"

"Umm..." said Harry still feeling a bit unnerved, "I'd like to go in and have a look around."

"There's no admittance inside. It has Ministry o Magic security protections to hide it from muggles and keep people out. Ow'd yea think arry would feel bout folks carrying things off?"

"He wouldn't like it at all," said Harry in a firm voice. "But I was close to the family."

"Yur ardly old nuff fur that. Lotsa folks come round here sayn things like that. I personally knew the Potter's. Right neighborly they wer. Evn eld little arry when he waz just a beby."

Hermione said, "Baby Harry was taken from here by Hagrid on a motor bike that night."

"Lotsa folk know that too. I got ter be goin."

Harry stepped closer and shifted his position so the sunlight was brighter on his face. Removing his glasses he said, "Perhaps, if you take a closer look at me."

The caretaker scrutinized Harry's face studying him. A moment later, his eyes widen. Then he said with a peaceful smile, "Yea ave yer mother's eyes. Sorry I didn't recognize yea sooner. Welcome back arry."

Harry said, "That's okay. But ... I still want look inside."

"Well, see ins it's you, I'll let yea in. Just don't tell anyone at the Ministry." Pointing to Hermione he said, "She goin in with yea?"

"Yes. She is a very good and trusted friend."

"Okay. Gimme a few minutes. Then come round the back by that arch over yonder.

"Thank you," said Harry as the caretaker shuffled off.



"Each of yea step through ere." Harry and Hermione now saw a tight twisty path through the thorn plant.

"The arch will make a magical imprint of yea. Exit back out through ere. Don't take nothin or the alarm will sound and Auror's will come. Be careful where yea walk in thar. Also, befer yea leave, come by me ouse across the street. I need te talk ter yea."

"Okay," said Harry. They carefully picking their way through the arch and thorn plant. Stepping through the back door of the cottage, they entered into the kitchen. There was dust and a few pieces of rubble on the floor. The calendar on the wall showed the month of October 1981.

Making their way through the kitchen, they stepped into the living room. The front door was cracked and looked like it had been forcibly opened at one time. Most of the furniture was destroyed and laid in pieces throughout the room. Hermione bit her lower lip as she saw most of the books from the bookcase lying on the floor. There were burn marks on the walls, pictures skewed or lying on the floor, and there was broken glass everywhere. They walked single file following a very narrow path through the room that led to a staircase. They proceeded up the staircase to the second floor.

The first door they came to was open and hanging by just one hinge. They carefully entered. 

On the far side of the room was a crib that was split in two pieces down the middle. The ends of the mattress lay partially in each half. The middle of the mattress was on the floor. All the furniture and windows in the room were in pieces on the floor. Light from the outside shown in through the partially demolished walls. Harry moved to the closet door and opened it.

"Lumos!" His wand light fell on a toy box on the floor. He squatted down and Hermione watched over his shoulder. He opened the box and saw it contained many baby play toys. Some had eyes that were winking; others had faces that were laughing. Toward the back of the box was a small toy broom in a separate storage tray.

Harry thought for a moment and then said, "I think this is the broom we saw in the torn picture, the one I found in Sirius's room at Grimmauld place."

"Yes Harry, I'm sure that's it."

"This is a present from Sirius."

After a moment, he closed the toy box lid and stood. They made there way back out of the room and moved further on.

The next room they entered seemed to be the master bedroom. It was mostly intact. Some of the items on shelves were toppled over. Other items had fallen to the floor and lie in broken pieces. He saw a small wooden box on the nightstand by the bed. The box was ornately carved with musical notes. Harry sat on the bed and Hermione stood beside him. He glanced at Hermione and she nodded. He carefully opened the lid of the box. A woman's voice began to sing. It sounded like a sweet lullaby.

     When you walk through a storm
     Hold your head up high
     And don't be afraid of the dark

     At the end of the storm

     Is a golden sky
     And the sweet silver song of the lark

     Walk on through the wind
     Walk on through the rain
     Though your dreams be tossed and blown

     Walk on, walk on, with hope in your heart
     And you'll never walk alone
     You'll never walk alone
[1]

Hermione sat down on the bed and put her arm around him. Harry put his arm around Hermione still looking down at the music box. Quietly he said, "Thanks to you and Ron, I've never walked alone."

Hermione brought his face up and looked into his eyes. "That's because we both love you very much." She kissed him on the cheek.

He smiled and hugged her tightly. "I love you both more than I'll ever be able to say."

After a moment, Harry closed the lid of the box. Looking at the nightstand, he now saw that it had a narrow drawer. He wouldn't have noticed it if he were not this close since there was no drawer pull. He took out his wand and said, "Accio!" The drawer gently slid open and reveled a locked leather bound book inscribed 'Lily Evans Potter'.

Harry carefully lifted it out and placed it next to the music box. "Alohomora!" he said quietly; but it remained locked.

"We'll have to work that out later," said Hermione.

Harry moved to check the other nightstand but it did not have a drawer. They both now moved toward the dusty dresser on the wall opposite the foot of the bed. It had many small objects on top of it. Above the dresser hung a badly tilted picture frame. Harry surveyed the objects. There were small glass containers and figurines made of pottery. Many were broken.

"Harry, I can't straighten this picture frame. It seems to be stuck."

Looking at her he said, "It's empty anyway. You don't need to bother."

"It just doesn't look right." Looking at him hopefully she said, "Will you try please?"

Harry smiled and she stepped back. He reached up and twisted the frame so that it was hanging properly. Turning to Hermione he said, "It didn't seem stuck to me."

Hermione gave a short gasp. She had a wide-eyed expression on her face.

"Hello Harry," said the voice of a man from behind him.

Harry quickly turned back to look at the picture frame. Both of his parents stood with their arms around each other, smiling and looking at him.

"It's a magical portrait!" exclaimed Hermione. "Like in the headmaster's office at Hogwarts!"

The image of James nodded approvingly and said, "Dumbledore helped us make it about six months after you were born Harry."

Lily said, "We can answer your questions about our family and give you our thoughts and advice if you want it."

James said, "The portrait frame will only activate with your touch Harry. Flesh memory, like a snitch. You'll find our three hand prints on the back."

Harry asked, "Who was the voice singing in the music box?"

"That's my voice, precious one," said Lily. "I sang it to you to help you go to sleep."

Harry said, "There is so much I want to ask both of you."

"We're here for you anytime," said James.

"Thanks Mum, thanks Dad."

James and Lily smiled, nodded approvingly and then vanish from view.

Harry turned to Hermione who was beaming at him. She threw her arms around him and hugged him tightly. Then she looked at him and said, "Oh Harry! I'm so happy for you!"

Harry gave her a hug and a big kiss. Then he said with a smile, "Thanks for trying to straighten that picture frame."

Hermione beamed. After enjoying their closeness for another moment, Harry said, "I think it's time to go and see Mister Wallenby."



Harry and Hermione walked up to the front door of Mister Wallenby's home and knocked.

"O so glad ye came by arry. Both of yea please come in. Ow bout a spot o tea?"

"Yes Mister Wallenby. We'd like that very much," said Harry.

"You two sit down thar and make yur selves at home. Be back in a jiffy." He then shuffled off to the kitchen.

Harry and Hermione looked around the room from where they stood and whispered to each other. There were cabinets and shelved with many dusty knick-knacks displayed around room. There were a few magical photos on the walls. One photo had a picture of Wilbur and an elderly woman. There was a small glass case with a few ribbons and trophies. A number of storage boxes were set between the furniture around the room. A well worn chair faced across the room to a window that showed the Potter cottage. Harry and Hermione sat down in the love seat next to the chair.

Wilbur returned with a tray containing a teakettle and cups. He placed it on the table in front of them.

"Elp yur selves then," he said as he sat down in his chair.

"Thank you Mister Wallenby," said Harry. Hermione filled three teacups.

"Snuff formalities now. You and yur lady friend there can call me Will."

"Thank you, Will," said Harry. "This is Hermione."

"Pleased to meet yea," said Will.

"A pleasure to meet you too Will," said Hermione. "Is that woman in the picture your wife?"

"Yea, Evelyn. She passed about a year ago."

"I'm so sorry to hear that."

The missus and me were married fifty-two years. We ad a happy life together."

After they all had taken a sip of tea, Will said, "Owd you two get on over there?"

"Good," said Harry. "There are so many broken things. It's hard to imagine it was once my home."

"Aye, indeed," he said as he looked out the window.

"The missus and me would sometimes sit on the porch and watch folks comin and goin. Asked yer mum bout it once, just friendly conversation mind ya, but she didn't say much. Just that they were tryin to elp their friends get through some ard times. Folks waz always welcome at that ouse. Yer parents waz kind and genrous."

Will took a sip of tea and said, "Then you came along and things waz different. Wern't as many folks comin round; cept of course when yea waz christened. Me and the missus war invited too; ad a great time that day. Saw one or two that we wazn't too sure bout but folks seemed right nice. After that, the missus would go over most days and help yur mum take care of yea. The missus like to fuss over yea. We sat yea a few times when yer mum and dad had to go off somewherez. Made my missus appy. Me and the missus waz never able to ave kids of our own so I think you elped er in that way."

"A few weeks befer it all appened, Albus ad stopped by. We adn't seen im in ages. Use ter live the other side of town yea know."

There was a blank stare on Will's face as he said, "It waz tragic all that appened to the Dumbledores. So tragic".

After a short pause he said, "Anyways, Albus said that y'all were in danger and asked if we would keep a look out. Said special charms ad bin put on yer ouse. I told em we'd always bin a looking out for yea but that we'd be extra vigilant. He said to call im straight away if we saw anything. e gave us a specially charmed phoenix. ... That's it over yonder."

Will pointed to a figurine about four inches tall on the table under the window. It looked just like the phoenix statue that guarded the revolving staircase leading to the headmaster's office at Hogwarts.

"Said ter just touch the wingtips, an say is name."

"We'd bin anding out treats to the kids that evening. Wern't too many cuz folks were worried bout things. Waved to yer dad when the kids crossed over to yer ouse. Yur dad ad on a disguise and was trying ter play tricks on um. Mostly he just made um laugh. Me an the missus ad turned in an just gone ter bed when it appened. There waz a flash of green light an a rumble. We ran ter the window and saw yer ouse just as it is now. Told the missus ter call Albus straight away an I ran out the door. But I couldn't get into the ouse; some magical shield all around the ouse waz there."

"Albus arrived a moment later. I'd always known him ter be a kind and jolly fellow. But I'd never seen em more angry and full of rage. Someone else dressed in black robes arrived a few seconds later. E waved is wand and then rushed through the shield into the ouse. Albus said fer me to keep watch from mih ouse; said there waz still danger. Then e started walking round the outside of the shield with is wand and hands raised mutterin spells; e seemed ter be lookin fur somethin."

"A short while later, agrid showed up on that motor bike. Albus and agrid both went into the ouse. Never did see that other feller again." 

"We waz standin on the porch and after a long while, Albus came over ter us. He said your mum and dad were dead but you were okay. The missus cried. Albus said you waz bein taken to your kin folk because it wer the only way ter keep ye safe. Said e couldn't tell us where that waz. Gave us some things ter take care of. Told us not ter mention ter anyone about the things e gave us. Said ter just watch the ouse til the Ministry folks came. That waz the last we saw of Albus for a long while."

Harry's head was down and his eyes were closed. Hermione had her arm wrapped around him and her head was on his shoulder. She was holding his hand.

After a short pause, Will got up and said, "Be back in a bit." And taking the tea tray from the table, he shuffled back to the kitchen.

Harry and Hermione didn't speak. With a lot of sniffing and wiping of their eyes, they recomposed themselves. They heard Will open a door and they looked up to see him descending some stairs into what appeared to be the entrance to the cellar. After a few minutes, Will shuffled up the stairs holding a medium size box under one arm. He closed the door, shuffled over to his chair and placed the box on the table.

Will said to Harry, "I always oped that one day you'd come by. What's in the box is fer you ter take with ye. Is there anythin yer saw at the ouse you want? It's all yours now but ter take anythin out officially requires Ministry o Magic approval."

"Yes. There's an empty picture frame on the wall and a music box and diary on the nightstand in my parent's room. In the closet of my bedroom, there is a toy broom in the toy box. I'd like to take them with me if it's okay with you."

"I'll go an get em now. You two just wait ere a bit." Will went to the door and stepped out.

Harry drew the box close to him and took off the lid. The box had an undetectable extension charm on it. Hermione put her head next to Harry's and looked into the box. He pulled out a small figurine of a phoenix that was the same as the one on Will's table.

"That must be the one that belonged to your parents," said Hermione.

He pulled out some frames containing pictures of the original order members. A group picture, like the one that Sirius had given him, was there. 

He pulled out an envelope that was stamped "Ministry of Magic; Personal Items of James and Lily Potter". The envelope was signed by Albus Dumbledore. Harry opened the envelope. He withdrew two wands and admired them; he would need Mr. Olivander's help to identify them. There was a pair of round frame glasses and a watch. He withdrew a small envelope and dropped its contents onto his hand. Two gold wedding rings still glowed. The diamond on the smaller one sparkled even in the subdued light of the room. Another small envelope contained a gold necklace with a pendant in the shape of a griffin. The two eyes of the griffin were set with garnets.

Also in the box was a folder that contained James and Lily's Hogwarts diplomas, Harry's birth and christening certificates, documents for the cottage and other Ministry forms. Finally, there were two picture albums. One album had a picture of James and Lily on the cover; Lily was in a wedding dress. The cover of the other album had a picture of Sirius holding baby Harry. 

Hermione had been sniffing and wiping her eyes frequently while Harry had looked at these things. Harry sighed and returned everything to the box. As he was finishing with the last items, the door opened and Will entered with another box and placed it on the table.

Hermione held opened her beaded bag and Harry placed both boxes into it.

"Will," said Harry, "I want to thank you very much for keeping these things safe for me all of these years. I am indebted to you. These things mean more to me than you can imagine. If there is ever anything I can do for you, please don't hesitate to ask."

"Ah, twern't nothin."

"We've taken enough of your time today. We will be going now. I'm sure we will see you again."

As they all stood up, Will said, "Sorry fer makin yur day so sad fer yea. But I thought you should know."

"You've made this the best day ever. I'm happy in ways I never knew. Thank you again." Harry extended his hand and shook Will's hand.

Hermione said in a sweet voice. "Thank you for the tea and everything Will. You are a kind and generous man."

Harry and Hermione walked out the door and stopped at the edge of the lane. They exchanged a somber look at each other. Hand in hand, they turned and walked toward the church. Harry conjured wild flowers of every color and Hermione helped arrange them. They stood in silence with their arms around each other for a few moments looking at the flowers and headstone. Harry said quietly, "Thanks Mum, thanks Dad, for all you did for me. ... Thank you too Hermione." Hermione squeezed him.

After another minute, Harry took Hermione's hand to lead her out of the graveyard. They had only taken a few steps when Harry felt her hold him back. He looked at her and saw she was gazing at the ground beside them. He followed her line of sight to a simple grave marker engraved with the name 'Evelyn Wallenby'. Harry took out his wand and caused a white rose to appear on the grave marker. After a moment of silence, they continued out of the graveyard.

They walked the lane to the edge of the village. Finding a secluded area, they disapparated together.


[1] - Lyrics from "You'll Never Walk Alone", 1945 Rodgers and Hammerstein musical Carousel.


Chapter 6: Friends and Family
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Returning from Godric's Hollow, Hermione followed Harry to his room where they carefully placed the two boxes from her beaded bag on his desk.

Hermione said, "I'm going to get cleaned up and changed."

Harry nodded as she left the room.

He began to look at the things they had brought back at a much more leisurely pace. The toy broom was only a little over two feet long. He laid it on his bed and held his hand over it. "Up!" He smiled as the small broom rose slowly into his hand. He lightly willed it to move forward and it responded with a gentle force. He smiled and placed the broom on the shelf over his bed.

Harry removed the picture frame from the box. At his touch, the images of James and Lily appeared.

"Hi Mum, hi Dad."

"Hello Harry," said Lily. "Is this your room?"

"Yeah. Just trying to find the right place for you."

Harry found a place where he would be able to talk to them while lying in his bed.

"Mum, I brought back your diary. May I read it?"

"Yes dear. Just tap it with your wand and say my name."

"Thanks Mum."

Harry was lost in thought as he looked at the treasures of his past. After what seemed like only a minute, he heard a gentle knock on the bedroom door. He turned to see Hermione shyly looking in at him with wet hair and wearing her bathrobe.

"Harry," she said softly, "I'm done using the bathroom. You should shower and get ready so we won't be late to the Weasleys."

Harry's faced became dream-like and he just smiled at her.

With a coy smile she said, "None of that yet, Mister Potter."

Harry made a pouting expression. She laughed and went to her bedroom.

"Is she your girlfriend?" Lily asked with a smile.

"Hermione has been a very close friend since our first year at Hogwarts." After a short pause he added, "Yeah, she's my girlfriend."



"Ready?" said Hermione as she joined Harry in front of the floo. 

"Ladies first."

Smiling broadly at him, she took a pinch of powder and threw it ahead of her into the fireplace. Green flames erupted. She stepped forward saying, "The Burrow!" and vanished from sight an instant later. Harry waited a moment and then did the same.

Harry stepped from the floo into the Weasley kitchen. "Harry dear! There you are!" said Molly as she pulled him into a strong hug. "So good to see you!"

Then she said, "The rest are in there," pointing to the door that led to the living room. "Best go there straight away." Harry nodded and went through the door.

"Happy Birthday!"

Harry was first shocked and then smiled broadly. The room was filled with people who began to laugh, joke and wish him well all at the same time. He saw Arthur tap his old radio with his wand and music began to play.

Arthur moved over to him. Enthusiastically shaking Harry's hand, Arthur said, "Happy Birthday Harry! Missed giving you a proper 'turning of age' party last year. So we're doing it now."

"app ee Berth day arry!" said Fleur as she kissed him on both cheeks.

"Thank you Fleur." Bill clasped Harry's hand. "Happy Birthday Harry!"

"Thanks Bill. And a happy first anniversary to both of you."

Bill and Fleur smiled. Harry heard his name called and he turned to see Ginny smiling at him. Giving him a hug she said, "Happy birthday Harry." She tugged on the hand of someone near her and said, "Harry, do you remember Ben Bradley from the Ravenclaw quidditch team?"

"Yes," said Harry looking at Ben. "You were a chaser that year. Good to see you again."

"Hi Harry." said Ben. "Sorry we never got to play that game together. It was really unfair what they did to you."

"Harry," said Ginny excitedly, "Ben is on a pro quidditch team!"

"Really? Wow, that's great! How long have you been pro?"

"I don't think of myself as pro yet," said Ben with a brief glance at Ginny. "I still have a lot to learn. But I'm working my way up. I'm on the second reserve team of the Cannons right now."

Ginny said, "Ben got me into the stands to watch a tryout session. I picked up a few ideas for the Gryffindor team."

"Fantastic! It should be a great year for Gryffindor." Ginny smiled broadly.

"Hey mate, Happy Birthday! Hope you don't mind too much. Planning got a bit out of control."

"A bit? You must have worked on this for a month. It's really great! Thanks Ron."

"Were you surprised?"

"Absolutely! I didn't have a clue it was going to be like this." Ron smiled.

"Happy Birthday Harry!"

"Katie, how are you?" He noticed Ron slip his arm around her waist. 

"I'm doing really well. I've been helping at the Ministry and Hogwarts getting things ready for the new term in September. So many people have turned out to help. It is very gratifying to see."

"That is really excellent to hear Katie."

"Happy birthday Harry," said George holding out his hand to shake Harry's.

Harry took his hand  ... and George, held it firm. There was a buzzing sensation that tickled his palm, smoke began to rise from their joined hands and Harry had an uncontrollable urge to laugh. He couldn't stop laughing. Of course, George started laughing and then Angelina who stood by him. Then, everybody in the room laughed when they realized George's trick on Harry.

"Ha ha ha," laughed Harry. "That's enough! Ha ha ha. Please! Ha ha ha.  Let go of me! Ha ha ha".

With a smirk, George released his grip and their hands separated with gold sparks and a POP! Everybody applauded, including Harry.

"I can't keep enough of these in stock," said George looking at a small object in his hand. "They really help cheer people up."

"I think it's absolutely brilliant," said Harry. "I need to come by your shop and get one of those."

George held it out in the palm of his hand and tapped it with his wand. It disappeared into a small gift-wrapped box with a bow. "No need to Harry, Happy Birthday." He placed the box in Harry's hand.

Angelina said, "You really fell for that one Harry. You should know George better than that. I have to keep up my guard around him all the time."

"I will definitely remember from now on," said Harry with a smile.

"Harry!" said Hermione.

"There you are, and your Mum and Dad too. How are you?"

Dan said, "Very well. We finally have our floo connected; still learning how to make a call on it though. It's a bit trickier than using a telephone."

"He's having a lot of fun with it," said Emma with a smile. Hermione giggled.

"Is the floo fully functional?"

"Yes. Emma and I can only make calls. But magical people can use it like any other floo and they can bring us along with them. We've floo'd three times now with Hermione. It does take a bit of getting use to."  ...

Everyone at the party had an enjoyable time. There was good food, good drink and a lot of fun. Much later, after the guests had gone home, Harry and Hermione spent time talking to Arthur, Molly, Ron and Ginny. Hermione took her parents home and then came back to the Burrow. They got caught up on the latest news. The Hogwarts rebuilding effort was going well and Aurors were making good progress on recapturing the worst of the dark forces still at large.



It was very late when they returned to the flat. Hermione when to the sofa, removed her shoes and flopped down. Harry sat down beside her and removed his shoes. Then he took hold of her foot and began to massage it as they talked.

"My word," said Hermione. "This was a very eventful day wasn't it?"

" You must be exhausted. How did you manage it all?"

"Ooo ... It was Arthur and Molly who originally suggested it about a month ago. The Weasleys did most of the work, especially Ron and Ginny. Mmm ... My job was to make sure you were ... were there on time. They explained to me that with magical families, coming of age is really a big thing to celebrate. Mmm ... It's like your christening that Will mentioned. They understand our reasons for needing to get away. But you know how very family oriented they are. They really feel we are part of their family."

"Yeah, it does feel that way right now. It seems easier to be a part of their family when it's not every day."

"We have to make it a point to stay in contact and stop by and see them."

"Yeah. Arthur likes to talk to me about muggle electrical things."

She smiled and said, "It made me happy to see you laughing with everybody and having such a good time. I was worried that what we experienced in Godric's Hollow earlier today might have put a damper on your mood."

"I just got swept up in it all. It really didn't seem so much a birthday celebration for me but more a party for everyone that was there. Did your Mum and Dad enjoy it?"

"Yes, they did. I think they're seeing more properly now that most magical people are good, just like muggle people. I saw them spending a lot of time talking to Molly and Arthur."

"So let me make sure I have my understandings correct," said Harry.

"George is with Angelina," Hermione nodded happily and said, "She's so good for him."

"Percy is back with Penelope," she nodded again.

"Ron is with Katie ..."

"And Ginny ... is with Ben."

Hermione said, "My, that's almost perfect."

"Almost?" ... Harry had a questioning look on his face. "Who did I miss?"

With a mischievous smile, she put her arms around his neck and said, "Harry is with Hermione."

She leaned forward and he fell back on the sofa. She landed softly on top of him. She removed his glasses and they looked deeply into each other's eyes.

Harry said, "I really enjoyed being with you today."

"Oh Harry, you always make me feel so special." She then lowered her lips to his.

What followed was a lengthy non-verbal conversation about feelings. There were repeated discussions about lips touching lips, finger tips running through the hair or lightly caressing the forehead and face, the curious response of the skin to an ultra-light touch on the arms and shoulders, of holding a special someone and falling asleep.



Comprehension of his surroundings slowly returned. It was light outside as he blinked and rubbed his eyes. There was a mass of completely out of place brown hair asleep on his shoulder breathing softly and rhythmically. Her body lay against him. Her ruffled skirt revealed a leg entwined around his. She stirred slightly and then her hand gently squeezed his side.



The dream was fading, a softly rolling sea, a place of warmth and security. Now, there was the perception of a hand on her back holding her close. All was cozy and peaceful, she wanted to snuggle in deeper. Her arm was inside a partially unbuttoned shirt, wrapped around him.



She took a deep breath and let it out in a sigh. His arm reached over to her shoulder and his head turned to breath in the sent of her hair. They contented themselves in this half-asleep half-awake condition for several additional minutes. Then, her shoulders and head rolled away from him and her legs tightened. Her face was mostly obscured by hair but it reflected the pleasant feeling of that morning stretch. She blew at her hair in a few unsuccessful attempts to move it from in front of her eyes. He carefully parted her hair with his hand and two brown eyes sparkled back at him. 

"Sleep well?" said Harry.

"Mmm hmm ... Nice and cozy warm," she said with a smile.

"Can you see what time it is?"

She turned her head and looked across the room. "About nine-thirty."

"Slept in a bit did we?" said Harry with a smile.

"We must have been tired," she said with a grin. "I need to go brush my hair so I can see you. I must look frightful."

"No more than when you'd give me the eye for not doing better on my homework."

She poked him in the side.

"Ow, not fair. I don't have my glasses. Be nice now!" said Harry smiling.

Hermione giggled and got up. After handing him his glasses, she went to her room.


Chapter 7: Coming of Age
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Being the youngest in a family of seven children means that you pretty much know the major events that are celebrated while growing up. And so it was with Ginny and her seventeenth birthday. She knew far too much for any type of surprise party for this occasion. So instead, she took an active part in the planning, which suited her just fine. It was to start mid-afternoon and involve family, friends, brooms and some fun quidditch.


Hermione was in the kitchen of their flat tying a bow on the present she was giving to Ginny.

"Harry, are you ready to go to the Burrow for Ginny's party?"

"Yes, almost done wrapping her present," said the distant voice of Harry from his bedroom.

A moment later, Harry walked into the kitchen. "Okay, I'm ready. Just wish I had a broom to bring along."

"I'm sure the Weasleys will have one you can borrow," said Hermione as they moved to the fireplace.

"Yeah, but it's not the same as having your own." He nodded to her, "After you."

She stepped into the green flames and said, "The Burrow!" Harry followed a moment later.



He stepped from the floo into the Weasley kitchen.

"Hello Harry!" said Arthur. "I think you forgot your glasses."

"I don't have to wear them anymore. I went to St Mungo's and they corrected my eyesight."

"Yes," said Hermione. "Doesn't he look good without glasses?"

"Hmm," said Ron with a smile. "That looking good part might be a bit of a stretch."

With first a smile, and then a scolding expression, Hermione hit Ron gently on the arm.

Harry smiled and said, "So where's Ginny? I want to wish her a happy birthday."

Ron said, "She's outside. She hasn't put down her wand since she woke up this morning. Using magic for every little thing. I was never like that."

Arthur smiled and said, "No, you were worse."

Ron chuckled and said, "Seriously, Ginny is doing some very impressive magic. Hermione, have you been giving her lessons?"

Hermione smiled and said, "I may have shown her a few things. She did ask me once about some of the spells I used in our sixth year."

Ron's eyes widened a bit and he said, "So ... in addition to bat bogies, she can also do attacking birds?"

Hermione tilted her head with a knowing expression.

Ron thought for a moment and said, "Pity any guy who gets out of line with her." Then, realization slowly spread across his face and with a grin said, "Thanks Hermione!"

Harry and Hermione laughed as they all stepped out into the backyard. Ginny was walking back toward the kitchen when she saw Harry and Hermione come out. She ran up to them excitedly and hugged them both. Harry and Hermione wished her happy birthday.

Ginny said, "Harry! You look good without your glasses." Ron rolled his eyes and shrugged. Then, Ginny pointed to the meadow and said, "So what do you think?"

The meadow now contained quidditch hoops at each end of a playing field. There were also colorful banners and flags waving in the breeze. There was a refreshment table containing drinks and snacks.

"It looks great Ginny," said Harry. "Did you do all that yourself?"

Ginny nodded happily and said, "It's really great fun being able to do magic whenever I want. No more underage magic owls from the Ministry. Mum and Dad are very pleased about that!"

While they were talking, Molly and Arthur walked up carrying a package. Arthur said, "Ginny, this is our birthday present to you. We think you should open it now."

Ginny's eyes went wide as she took the long thin package and excitedly ripped off the birthday wrapping paper. She let out a loud whoop and shouted with delight, "A Nimbus broom!" Beaming a smile, she hugged each of her parents thanking them.

Molly said, "Congratulations on becoming Gryffindor quidditch captain. We are so proud of you!"

...

Everyone was enjoying themselves at the party. Harry, Ron, Ginny, George, Angelina, Ben and Katie were on brooms playing quidditch in the meadow. They were all having a good time passing the quaffle and performing their favorite moves with each other. Ginny was enjoying her new broom and was easily out flying all of them. It was very clear to the others that she had been practicing. Even on a new and unfamiliar broom, Ginny flew with speed and precision.

After a while, Ginny took charge and got the others to try out some new moves she had come up with. She wanted to see how they might work for the Gryffindor team. Her ability to be a good captain quickly became apparent to the others. They followed her instructions and supported her efforts to refine her ideas. During breaks in the game action, the other players used their wands to add happy birthday banners and well wishes to the field decorations. 

While the quidditch activities we going on, the other guests sat a short distance away at the picnic table under a shade tree. Hermione, Percy, Penelope, Bill, Fleur, Charlie, Neville, Luna, Arthur and Molly were all talking about family, work, school and the Ministry. Hermione was talking to Neville and Luna who sat next to each other across the table from her.

"Neville" said Hermione, "What are your plans for school this year?"

"I'll be going back to complete my seventh year NEWT's in herbology. I want a career as a herbologist. I've spent most days this summer helping Professor Sprout get the green houses back in order. She's been giving me extra lessons to help me catch up from last year."

"That's great Neville!" said Hermione. "You've always been so good at herbology."

"Thanks." said Neville. "The Ministry sent me an owl with some other offerings; one of them was Auror. I thought a long time about that offer and about following in my Mum and Dad's career. But after all we went through last year, I thought maybe I could do better by being at Hogwarts. Maybe I can help dissuade the next would-be Tom Riddle student and turn their thinking toward a better goal."

Hermione's eyes glistened as she looked at him and said, "Oh Neville. That's so wonderful! I think your mum and dad would be very proud of your choice."

Neville smiled and said, "McGonagall also wants me to be a staff assistant at Hogwarts this year. She seems to think that after helping lead the resistance last year, I know all of the secret places at Hogwarts."

Hermione smiled and said, "Hmm ... I'll have to be careful then if I want to do any snogging in the hall."

Neville laughed and said, "Five points a snog." Hermione giggled.

Neville said, "Seriously though, with so many people redoing parts of last year, Hogwarts will be at full capacity. McGonagall is being extra cautious this year."

Neville said to Luna and Hermione, "I think I'll get a refill on lemonade. Can I get some for either of you?"

Both said yes. Neville got up and headed toward the refreshment table.

Hermione said, "Luna, are you and Neville still dating?"

In a dreamy voice she said, "No, it was a nice time and we are still the best of friends. We are so very different, unlike you and Harry who are perfectly lovely for each other." Leaning in close, she said in a quiet voice, "I see it in your auras."

"Erm... Thanks Luna. So ... What about you? What are your plans?"

"I'll be completing my seventh year studies and taking general NEWT's. I'm not sure yet what I want as a career. I might do a bit of world travel after seventh year to help me decide, maybe something in the Department of Mysteries. It was quite interesting that time we were there."

Hermione said, "I've been thinking about a career in the Department of Mysteries too. I'm interested in charm studies."

"I think you will be very good at that. Recently, I was helping Professor Flitwick with the rebuilding effort. Ravenclaw tower was damaged extensively as you know. I mentioned to him my career thoughts. He suggested that I was gifted in abstract thinking."

Luna smiled and with a serious thoughtful expression said, "I suppose that's how I got the nickname Loony. Anyway, Professor Flitwick offered to give me lessons in philosophy and abstract reasoning this year. It all sounds so very interesting."

...

The quidditch game had been going on for quite a while. Hermione stood up and walked toward the edge of the meadow. Harry was circling around and now came to a hover about thirty feet in the air, not too far from where she stood. He turned and looked toward her and she waved. Harry looked at her for a moment and then slowly moved forward and started descending. He disappeared from view behind a tree.

A minute later, Harry walked up beside Hermione and took her hand. "Come with me." They walked a short distance to a large old oak tree that had a swing attached to one of the large branches. He had her sit down on the swing and then he pushed her gently.

"How was the quidditch game?" she asked.

"Not really a game but everyone is having a good time, mostly just flying around and practicing moves. How are Luna and Neville? Are they still dating each other?"

"They are just good friends now. They both talked about getting ready to attend Hogwarts. Neville will be a staff assistant this year in addition to his classes."

Harry asked, "Have they chosen careers?"

"Yes. Neville definitely wants to be a herbologist. Luna is still undecided. She is thinking possibly something in the Department of Mysteries."

Harry smiled and said, "Well, like you, she's got the brains for that ... though in her case, somewhat unorthodox at times."

Hermione smiled, "Yes. But there are some areas where that kind of thinking is needed."

Harry held the swing and then moved to stand behind her. He began to gently massage her shoulders at the base of her neck.

"So have you decided on your career?" asked Harry.

"It's hard to talk when you do that ... but don't stop. Yes. Of the choices the Ministry offered, I like charms development in the Department of Mysteries the best. It's an area I have always been interested in. The people I met there during the informal interview were very nice. I think I'd like to study and develop healing charms."

"I think that is an excellent choice," said Harry. "You've always been good with spells and charms."

"Thanks. It will be a lot of work even with all the special Ministry of Magic arrangements for us. From what I've heard, the NEWT's are quite intense. What about you Harry? Have you decided?"

"Yeah, the Magical Bureau of Investigation. The job is a lot like a muggle detective. Very little hand-to-hand combat. I need to pass NEWT's for the position but they have arranged a work study program."

"Good. I think you've had quiet enough combat over the last few years. It may be selfish of me, but I want you around and in one piece."

She stood up, moved toward him, and kissed him.

Just then, Ron's voice called out and said, "Hey you lovebird's, were sitting down to eat."

Harry and Hermione separated and chuckled. Harry took her hand and they walked back to join the others. They sat next to each other at the table and teased each other by playing footsie during the meal. Cake, candles, ice cream and presents for Ginny followed.

The remainder of the evening was full of fun and laughter. George tried out a few new products from the joke shop to the delight of all present. Much later, Harry and Hermione were the only remaining guests. Ginny and Hermione went to Ginny's room for some girl talk. Out of earshot of Molly, Arthur discretely invited Harry and Ron out to his workshop to see some things he was working on. He slipped out the door and Harry and Ron followed a minute later. 

On their way to the workshop Harry said, "Ron, have you decided on a career?"

"Yeah mate. I want to work in the Department of Magical Games and Sports. I was so glad when the Ministry offered it. I know it will require a lot of work to achieve but it's something I really like."

They cautiously entered the workshop. In addition to Arthur's collection of plugs, old radios, portable TV's and other oddities, they saw hundreds of round plastic shinny disks floating in a corner. There was a hole in the center of each and rainbow patterns could be seen on them as they gently twisted in the light.

Pointing at them, Ron said, "Dad, what are those round things?"

Arthur smiled and said, "Muggle sun catchers. I'm still not quite sure how to hang them to catch the sun. I think they would also make good Christmas tree decorations. Your mother, of course, might disagree on that use."

Harry smiled and said, "What are you doing with this old muggle mechanical typewriter over here?"

Arthur smiled, "Ah yes, it's almost done. These muggle typewriters are very fascinating and tricky contraptions. In spite of what it says above the paper roller, it doesn't have to be under wood for it to work. Here, let me put in a piece of parchment. ... Okay. Now Harry, speak something to it."

Harry said, "Happy birthday Ginny".

There was a mechanical grind and then tapping sounds were heard. The bell dinged twice and the paper advanced a few lines. Harry and Ron looked at each other and grinned. The typed line read, "appee burpday ynniJ".

Arthur frowned and said, "Hmm... still needs some work. At least the letters aren't upside down any more."



As they were leaving, Harry and Hermione hugged Ginny and wished her a happy birthday. Then they returned to their flat.  It was very late and sleepily, Harry began to move toward his room. Hermione put her hands on his back and began to scratch it. Harry stopped and bent over slightly rolling his shoulder forward.

"Down a little, yeah. Now a bit more to the left; ooh yes!" He stood up straight. "That's the spot."

Hermione giggled.

After a minute or so more, he turned to face her and said, "That was very nice, thank you."

"Thank you for the ride on the swing today." said Hermione.

She kissed him briefly. Then, they both went to their rooms.





Chapter 8: Hogwarts Dedication Ceremony
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The day of the Hogwarts rededication ceremony had arrived. Harry was waiting for Hermione by the fireplace. They were first going to the Burrow to meet up with Ron. Hermione walked from the hallway. They were both dressed casually and neatly.

Harry said, "You look nice."

"Thank you," said Hermione giving him a quick kiss on the cheek. "Do you have the invitations?"

"Yes, here in my pocket. Ready to go?"

"Yes."

A moment later, they each stepped from the floo at the Burrow. They saw Ron at the table and went over to him.

Harry said, "Ron, have you heard anything more about what to expect today?"

"Just that we are to talk to McGonagall when we arrive for last minute instructions. Mum and Dad left for Hogwarts a little while ago. There's a new entrance hall floo. I was there all last week helping Katie with it. It's the one we'll use for our classes when term starts. It only works for certain students."

Hermione said, "Ron, has Ginny gone yet?"

"Yeah. She went to meet up with Neville and Luna just before you came. How are your parents getting there?"

"They were provided a portkey by the Ministry. They should be there by now."

"Okay, let's go," said Ron.

Ron stepped to the fireplace followed by Harry and Hermione. He took a pinch of floo powder. "See you there." Green flames erupted as Ron stepped in and said, "Hogwarts!" Hermione and Harry followed.



They joined a large number of people milling about the entrance hall. It was a nice day and most people had stepped outside. Ron motioned for Harry and Hermione to follow; he had spotted McGonagall.

"Good to see you!" said McGonagall. "We will be inviting everyone to be seated shortly. Please wait in the staff room on the left side. Some of your other friends are already there. The Great Hall will be full so I would ask you to sit in the front section on the left."

Ron said, "Thank you professor." Harry and Hermione followed Ron to the waiting area.

As they entered, they saw many familiar faces from the DA. They were all happy to see each other again and milled about talking. Ron went over to be with Katie.

"Harry, Hermione, good to see you!" said Neville.

"Hi Neville," said Harry. "Good to see you too! And Luna, how are you?"

"Exceptionally well," said Luna in a dreamy voice. "There is so much positive force in this room right now. Everyone's aura is glowing so brightly."

Hermione said, "I see some people here that I haven't met."

"They are DA members from last year when you were away," said Luna. "We are going to continue the DA meetings this year too. Headmistress McGonagall is very supportive. You are both welcome to give a lesson whenever you want."

"I might just take you up on that Luna," said Harry. "I'll let you know."

Neville said, "Harry, Hermione, will you be attending classes at Hogwarts this year?"

"Yes, we will," said Hermione. "Mostly evening classes though."

"That's great! It will be nice to see each of you a bit more often. You know, they are making dinner available if you come before your evening classes."

"Yeah, I heard that," said Harry. "Another good reason to come early."

"Hi Hermione! Hi Harry!" said Ginny giving each of them a hug. "Isn't it wonderful to see our friends again!"

"Yes, it's great," said Harry. "Everyone seems to be doing really well."

Ginny said, "McGonagall says there is a lot of interest in the DA. She's leaving it up to the club's judgment but recommends membership to individuals in fifth year or above. She said older students are more ready to make the necessary study and practice commitment."

Neville said, "Charmed coins are the official membership badge used by the club now. That was a brilliant idea Hermione."

"Thanks Neville," smiled Hermione.

The door to the staff room opened and a woman slowly entered. "It's Lavender!" said Neville. "She was discharged from St. Mungo's just the other day. I've been visiting her when I go to see my Mum and Dad. She's still healing but expected to make a full recovery in time."

People were greeting Lavender and wishing her well as she slowly made her way into the room. Lavender and Hermione caught each other's eye and they both moved toward each other. They embraced and whispered in each other's ear.

"Lavender, I've been so ashamed of the way I treated you in sixth year. Please forgive me."

"Oh Hermione, I need to thank you. From what I've been told, another second and his bite would have made my life so very different."

"We need to spend some time together soon," said Hermione.

"I'd like that very much," said Lavender.

"Your attention please." McGonagall was standing inside the door leading to the Great Hall. "Would each of you please take a seat in the Great Hall. We are ready to begin."

They filed out and sat in the section she had indicated. The Great Hall somehow seemed bigger and was filled to capacity with people quietly talking. Instead of the dining tables, many rows of chairs had been setup with aisles down the middle and sides. People were standing in the back and along the walls. A photographer was moving around taking pictures. In the front of the hall, in place of the teacher's table, there were seated two rows of teachers and dignitaries from the Ministry. There was an aisle that separated these seats into left and right sections. It was easy to see that there was a stone missing from the back wall. A podium stood partway to the left side. Headmistress McGonagall stepped to the podium and the room fell silent.

Holding her hands raised and in a loud voice, she said, "It is my great pleasure to welcome you again to Hogwarts."  There was loud applause and cheering at these words.

When silence returned, McGonagall continued. "To our distinguished guests, students past and present, families, friends and faculty gathered here today. Through your support, encouragement and generosity, Hogwarts has been restored and will begin normal term in a few days. We gather here today to rededicate the school and to thank those who have given so much in service and its defense. So, without further ado, I would ask you to welcome the Minister of Magic, Kingsley Shacklebolt."

Everyone applauded as Kingsley walked to the podium.

"Thank you, headmistress McGonagall. Hogwarts is once again the place we all remember and cherish in our hearts. Well done indeed!" There was more applause.

"Friends, these last few years have brought turmoil, destruction and death to so much we hold dearest in our world. Some of it can be mended and restored in time. But some of it ... is lost forever. Professor Flitwick, if you would present the commemoration."

Professor Flitwick stepped forward and waved his wand. A pedestal and stand appeared opposite the podium on the right side. With another flick of his wand, a large plaque appeared and floated to its place on the stand. The plaque contained an ornately framed area. Within the frame, a magical moving image of a fallen defender was seen. The framed image periodically changed. Below the framed image, a commemoration was engraved.  

Kingsley said, "This commemoration honors those who were lost in the great battle of Hogwarts this year. It will serve to remind us of those who made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of Hogwarts and the ideals is teaches. We are awed by their courage and strength of character. They inspire us to see beyond ourselves. To strive to make the world a better place for all. Please observe with me a moment of silence for our lost friends and loved ones."

Harry had his arm around Hermione. He glanced around at his friends. Katie held Ron's hand as he stared motionless at the plaque. Ginny had tears in her eyes sitting between Neville and Ben holding each of their hands. Neville had an expression of pride on his face and was holding Luna's hand. Luna was smiling with tears in her eyes. But it seemed to Harry, by the expression on her face, that Luna's tears were not of sorrow but of joy. She seemed to be seeing beyond the loss. It reminded Harry of what he and Luna had heard from beyond the veil in the department of mysteries.  

"Thank you," said Kingsley. "The commemoration will be permanently mounted in the entrance hall. I encourage you to have a closer look at the conclusion of this ceremony."

"I would now like to introduce to you Tiberius Ogden, head of the governors for Hogwarts School."

Tiberius stepped to the podium and motioned to Flitwick. Professor Flitwick stepped forward again and waved his wand. A stone floated to the center of the hall.

Tiberius said, "This is the final stone to be replaced. It bears the names of those who have contributed in so many ways to the reconstruction of Hogwarts. I would ask that the governors please take their places along the aisles."

The governors all stood and moved to the side aisles; six on each side and equally spread along the length. They each raised their wands and pointed toward the ceiling of the Great Hall. The final stone then began to float toward the opening in the back wall.

Pointing his wand toward the ceiling, Tiberius said, "We rededicate Hogwarts to the education of witches and wizards. May it stand today and into the future as a pillar of strength, a source of knowledge, and a beacon for those values that empower the good in us all. May the wisdom of its founders, the conviction of those who have served throughout its history, and the ongoing efforts of its staff and professors today, continue to faithfully enrich the lives of all who enter into this hallowed Great Hall."

As the stone fit into place, Tiberius said, "Dedicavit ad veritatem et scientiam". (Dedicated to truth and knowledge)

A glow emanated from the final stone and quickly spread to the walls. Everyone watched as the four walls began to glow. The glow rose toward the ceiling, guided by the twelve governors. It joined and formed a canopy high over everyone's head. There was a brief flash of light, a rumble of thunder and then the enchanted ceiling came to life again. A blue sky dotted with small puffy clouds became visible. The silence erupted into applause and cheering!

The governors returned to their seats. Kingsley stepped to the podium and the Great Hall fell silent again. "Tiberius, governors, thank you."

"The Ministry of Magic will now recognize those who have long demonstrated the highest regard for others in the face of adversity. Will the following individuals please step forward: Hannah Abbott, Katie Bell, Susan Bones, Terry Boot, Lavender Brown, Cho Chang, Michael Corner, Seamus Finnigan, Anthony Goldstein, Angelina Johnson, Lee Jordan, Ernie Macmillan, Cormac McLaggen, Padma Patil, Parvati Patil, Leanne Spinks, Alicia Spinnet, Dean Thomas, Romilda Vane, George Weasley, and Nigel Wolpert."

They came forward and stood shoulder-to-shoulder facing the assembly.

"Will Dennis Creevey step forward to accept posthumously for Colin Creevey. Will Arthur Weasley step forward to accept posthumously for Fred Weasley."

"By the authority vested in me by the Ministry of Magic, I confer on each of you, 'Order of Merlin 3rd Class' with all associated rights and privileges." There was applause and cheering.

A bronze medal on a charcoal black cord appeared and hovered before each of them. Then, each cord threaded itself around the neck of its recipient. A green vine began to spiral-wind itself down the cord from behind the neck toward the medal. An emerald leaf inlay appeared around its edge. The medal shimmered. It contained an image of Merlin who looked out with an expression of satisfaction and pride. Made of the purest bronze metal, the image appeared life-like and moved occasionally.

The recipients all fidgeted in embarrassment but were happy and smiling broadly. Kingsley and the Ministry officials moved among them shaking hands and congratulating them. The applause subsided and they return to their seats.

After a short pause Kingsley said, "The Ministry of Magic will now recognize three individuals who have demonstrated leadership, fortitude and tenacity in the face of affliction. Their courage and bravery rescued many from unjust and deplorable circumstances. Through their selfless efforts, they prepared the way for what was yet to come. Will Neville Longbottom, Ginevra Weasley, and Luna Lovegood please step forward."

There was shock and surprise on their faces as they came forward and faced the assembly. Neville held the hand of Ginny and Luna on each side of him.

"By the authority vested in me by the Ministry of Magic, I confer on each of you, 'Order of Merlin 2nd Class' with all associated rights and privileges." The assembly applauded and cheered.

A shimmering silver medal appeared before each them. As before, the cord threaded itself around their necks. A blue vine spiral wound itself down the cord from behind the neck. A sapphire leaf inlay appeared around the edge of the medal. There were silver points of light that sparkled like stars in the inlay surrounding the life-like image of Merlin.

Neville, Ginny and Luna smiled for a moment and then turned and hugged each other. They were happy and very moved by the honor they had just received. Kingsley and the Ministry officials congratulated them.

After they returned to their seats, Kingsley said, "For the final award, it is hard to know where to begin." The hall was completely silent now. There was an intense focus by all present to clearly hear the words about to be spoken. Harry, Ron and Hermione glanced at each other and saw an uneasy expression on each of their faces.

Kingsley said, "These individuals have been united in a quest to defeat evil and defend justice since the first year they entered this Great Hall. The journey was often difficult, filled with hardships and dangers to each of their lives. They chose to walk this path guided by faith in a mentor and trust in each other. In doing so, they have shown courage, fortitude and love for both the wizard and muggle worlds. These worlds are a safer place today because of their selfless efforts. Will Harry Potter, Hermione Granger and Ronald Weasley please step forward."

They got up and took their place in front of the assembly. Hermione, between them, took hold of Ron and Harry's hand. As they looked out at the assembly, they saw wonder, admiration, and happiness in the eyes of those looking back at them. They heard a rustling sound behind them. Glancing over their shoulders, they saw that the Ministry officials and governors had all stood.

Kingsley said; "With pride, admiration of your noble accomplishments and the authority vested in me by the Ministry of Magic, I confer on each of you, 'Order of Merlin 1st Class' with all associated rights and privileges." The assembly rose to their feet and broke into thunderous applause and cheering.

A shimmering gold medal appeared before each them. Then the cord threaded itself around their necks. A crimson vine spiral wound itself down the cord from behind the neck. A ruby leaf inlay appeared around the edge of the medal. There were points of gold light that sparkled like stars in the inlay surrounding the image of Merlin.

Kingsley and the ministers congratulated them. The applause went on and on, cheering and shouting of their names. Harry, Hermione and Ron beamed at each other, Hermione through tears of joy. They embraced each other with warm and affectionate hugs. After a moment, Harry went over to Kingsley and spoke in his ear. Kingsley nodded and stepped back from the podium as Harry moved to stand behind it. Hermione and Ron moved to stand on each side. Harry motioned to those gathered and the applause fell silent. The assembly seated themselves.

Harry said, "Um... I just want a quick word to say how honored and overwhelmed we are." His voice became shaky and he looked down for a moment. Hermione moved close, took his hand and gently squeezed it. Ron put his hand on Harry's shoulder.

After a short moment, Harry looked up and said, "Thank you to those who taught us here at Hogwarts and encouraged us by the sharing of your knowledge and collective wisdom. Thanks to Severus Snape who taught us bravery. Thanks to Albus Dumbledore who taught us the power of love. Thanks to the families and friends who defended and sheltered us. Thanks to our friends in the DA, you've kept the spirit alive. Thanks to all of you here present for your faith and trust in us. And most of all, thank you to my two best friends for being by my side through it all."

The assembly applauded and cheered. Harry, Ron and Hermione exchanged a warm glance with each other and then returned to their seats.

McGonagall stepped to the podium. "Thank you for those kind words. I wish to extend my congratulations to all of you who were honored today. We, and Hogwarts, are very proud of you. This concludes the formal activities. Please feel free to remain and partake in refreshments. For the remainder of the afternoon, Hogwarts will be an open house so that you might leisurely look around the classrooms and castle grounds. Please enjoy your stay. Thank you."

People got up from their seats and began talking and milling about. The DA members excitedly congratulated each other and then began to leave to be with family and loved ones. Harry and Hermione stayed close to each other, as did Ron and Katie. Their senses became dulled as people smothered them with congratulations, saying how much they deserved the recognition and shaking their hands. Eventually, they made their way to the refreshment table and then went outside onto the grounds. A bit later, Ginny, Ben and a few others came over to them smiling.

Ginny said, "How about a friendly game of quidditch? The pitch is ready and there are recently donated school brooms in the team rooms. McGonagall said it was okay."

A broad smile came to Harry, Ron and Katie. Harry looked at Hermione. She smiled and nodded back saying, "Go have some fun. I'll get my parents and we'll watch from the stands. They've never seen quidditch."

Harry gave her a quick hug and a kiss. Then, he joined the others as they headed to the pitch. A while later, there were double the normal number of players on each team. The stands held a large number of people who were talking to each other and watching the loosely played game. The team members mostly just chased each other, laughed and passed the quaffle to one other. They zoomed about and raced up and down the pitch. It was an enjoyable and wonderful afternoon.


Chapter 9: Hermione’s Birthday
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For Hermione's birthday, Harry had suggested they spend the day visiting museums. She was delighted at the suggestion. Harry had further suggested that Ron and Katie join them, which she enthusiastically agreed to also. The plan was to meet Ron and Katie at the British Museum at 10 am. After lunch, they would go to the Science Museum and finally the Chelsea Physic Garden.

Harry had just finished cleaning up after breakfast when Hermione came to the kitchen. "All set," she said. She wore shorts, a scoop neck button down top and comfortable walking shoes. Harry smiled and said, "You look great."

"Thanks."

"Just one more thing before we go," said Harry. "I want to give you your birthday present." He held out a small box wrapped with a bow. "Happy birthday."

"Thank you Harry!" Hermione carefully removed the ribbon from the box and opened it. "Oh Harry! It's beautiful."

The inside of the box was lined in black velvet and held a necklace with a golden chain and heart shaped pendant. Within the heart shape, a ruby and a sapphire floated. The sparkling gemstones occasionally bumped into each other. Both were magically held in place by a shimmering golden glow.

Hermione carefully removed the necklace and admired it for a moment. Then she looked up at Harry and said, "Would you please put it on me?"

Harry smiled and took the necklace from her hand. She turned around and held her hair up off her neck. She felt a pleasant sensation as his fingers lightly brushed the back of her neck while he clasped the chain. Harry noticed this and smiled to himself. Then she turned back around and smiled at him.

Harry gazed at the hypnotic glow of the necklace as it lay against the skin of her upper chest. "It looks much better now that you are wearing it."

"Oh Harry, thank you so much." She leaned forward and kissed him. Then she said, "You'll get a better thank you later, when we have more time."

Harry smile broadly. Then he said, "The necklace is okay to wear in muggle places. It looks non-magical to muggles. Shall we go?"

"Yes. I've been so looking forward to this day."



A while later, Harry caught sight of Ron and Katie.

"Hi Ron! Hi Katie!" said Hermione as she hugged them both. "I'm so glad you could join us today."

Ron and Katie each wished her a happy birthday.

"Ooo," said Katie. "That's a lovely necklace."

Hermione beamed. "It's Harry's birthday present to me."

"Well done mate," said Ron.

"Thanks. I've got entrance passes for all of us and muggle money if you see something you want in the gift shop. Ready?"

"You two lead the way," said Ron. "This will be a new experience for Katie and me." 

The British museum was quiet and not crowded. The two couples leisurely strolled the exhibits and quietly talked. There was so much to see and it was all very interesting. Hermione was thoroughly enjoying herself and very happy to have Harry's company. An arm would go around a waist or a chin rest on a shoulder when stopped at an exhibit. Ron and Katie were doing the same. Hermione and Katie occasionally flirted with their respective boyfriend and teased by pressing themselves against an arm while reading an exhibit description. Upon leaving, Harry and Ron felt that overall the museum had indeed been very enjoyable. During lunch, they talked about how many of the artifacts they had seen contained indirect references to the magical world in ways they had not considered before.

"I really liked the cultural exhibit," said Hermione. "Some of the pottery and stone tablets had magical runes on them."

"I was fascinated by the Standard of Ur," said Katie. "My Mum enjoyed studying things like that and I use to look at the pictures her books when I was young. What did you like Ron?

"The Lewis Chessmen. Sure would be great to play a game with those eh mate?"

"Yeah, they were really awesome."

A short while later after lunch, Katie and Hermione excused themselves to go 'powder their nose'.

After they had gone, Harry said, "You and Katie seem to be doing really good. How are things going between you two?"

"I think we both feel we're right for each other. We've become very good friends and seem to have a special connection. It's like the way I feel when I'm with you and Hermione. You know, we can just be ourselves with each other. But more recently, I've started to feel there is something more with Katie. It's hard to describe but ... it just feels right. You know what I mean? I'm always thinking about her and there are times when we seem to read each other's mind. And well, I just want to make her happy."

"That's really great to hear Ron. I'm very sure about Hermione." Harry paused as he spotted their girlfriends in the distance walking back towards them. Harry said, "I can't say more about it now but I have plans in the works. Don't say anything about that to anyone just yet."

Ron nodded as Hermione and Katie returned.

Their next stop was the interactive science center. Ron and Katie were astonished at the things they saw. It seemed to them that electricity was the muggle equivalent of magic. They held hands and smiled broadly as young children took turns jumping on a large piano keyboard on the floor making different sounds and tunes. Ron was totally taken by the computer section and thought it unbelievable that it could play a good game of chess. Harry and Hermione grinned at him.

"Ron, you are so like your father," said Hermione with a smile.

"Maybe, but this is about the best muggle thing I've ever seen. I need to get one."

Katie rolled her eyes smiling. "I can see some other uses besides chess games, like maybe, school work?"

Ron smiled in spite of himself and gave Katie a quick kiss.

They made their way out of the science center and went to the final place Hermione wanted to see, the Chelsea Physic Garden. Hermione said it was very old and the apothecary in Diagon alley likely got many ingredients from there. As they entered, a greeter was handing out self-directed tour pamphlets showing the points of interest and plant identifications. Upon seeing Hermione's necklace, the greeter handed her an additional pamphlet. Then with a wink, he said, "Enchanting."

As they walked further in, Harry said, "What is that second pamphlet Hermione?"

After looking at it for a moment she said, "It's the same as the first one except the plant names also have additional common names. Some of the names I recognize from potions class." She looked at them and said, "How did he know?"

"The necklace," said Katie. "He must be a wizard."

They stopped and turned to look back at the greeter. He smiled and waved at them. They smiled and waved back. They walked leisurely around the grounds enjoying the sights and smells. It was very peaceful and tranquil. Hermione seemed to be in heaven. She was busy marking her pamphlet and mentioning the special healing properties of some of the plants. The tour path looped around and brought them to a café where they all enjoyed some herbal tea.

After finishing their tea, Hermione said, "There is an apothecary shown on the second pamphlet; it's behind the gift shop. I want to go see it and get some things."

"Are you taking potions in seventh year?" said Ron. "I've had quite enough of that subject for a while."

Hermione smiled and said, "No potions class. I think you are still affected by the way Snape taught us lessons."

"You got that right," said Ron with a smile.

"Well, I think it is a fascinating subject and I want to brew some things professor Slughorn mentioned in our sixth year, just for fun. I think there might be a few that would be really useful in certain private situations."

This piqued Katie's interest. She smiled shyly and said, "Hermione, you and I need to talk more about potions."

Hermione nodded and smiled. Then she said, "Well then, are we ready to go have a look?"

The apothecary was enormous compared to the one in Diagon Alley. They had never seen most of the ingredients that were there. Hermione looked in the book section and selected 'Potions for Lovers' and 'Cure for the Common Cold'.

When Hermione and Katie were out of earshot of Harry and Ron, Katie whispered, "Hermione, that book, are you and Harry ... umm ... intimate?"

Hermione smiled and whispered back, "No, neither of us is ready yet for that step in our relationship. I just want to learn about it for now. I like to be prepared."

Katie whispered, "Ron and I are considering that step."

Hermione whispered, "I've been thinking about a ritual I read about called 'vinculi spiritu'. It's a special bonding ceremony that is part of the wedding day. Virginity of both partners is one of the requirements. When the time comes, I'll talk to Harry about it."

"I'd like to read about that," whispered Katie.

"It's in a book called 'Rituals of the Highlands' in the Hogwarts library," whispered Hermione.

Katie smiled warmly and said, "Thank you Hermione. What potion ingredients can I help you collect?"

Harry and Ron were quietly talking and decided to go outside and wait. Hermione stepped up to the counter to pay for her items. The woman behind the counter packaged them up and suggested a few other items she'd need for some of the potions in the books. Hermione nodded and the clerk added them to her purchase. After paying, she placed the packages in her beaded bag and she and Katie rejoined Harry and Ron outside. The sun was low and there was a chill in the air.

Ron said, "Well you two, I think it's time for Katie and me to be going."

Hermione stepped toward Ron and embraced him saying, "Oh Ron, thank you so much for the lovely day." Embracing Katie she said, "I really enjoyed our time today."

"It was fun Hermione. Happy birthday again," said Katie.

Harry put his arm around Hermione and they watched as Ron and Katie walked to the side of the apothecary and then disapparated.

Hermione said, "Katie is happy being with Ron."

Harry looked at Hermione, "Ron is happy being with Katie."

They smiled at each other. Harry said, "Your Mum and Dad want us to come by today. Want to go there now?"

"Okay. But let's stop by our flat long enough for me to drop off the packages and freshen up a bit."



"Shhh ... They're coming! I just got Harry's signal on the coin."

There was a flash of green light. "Mum, Dad we're here."

"Happy Birthday!"

Hermione's hands covered her mouth in surprise. People were laughing and joking as she went to each of them and hugged them. Ginny, Ben, Ron, Katie, George, Angelina, Neville, Luna, Arthur, Molly and of course Dan and Emma Granger. There was food, friends, candles, cake and fun, especially with George to liven things up.



A few hours later, the guests departed. Harry took out his wand and cleaned up the whole house in just a few minutes while Hermione sat with her parents in the living room.

"It's wonderful how you can do that so easily," said Emma. "Thank you so very much Harry."

"You're welcome. Seems your party planning was very effective. I think the guest of honor enjoyed herself."

"She most certainly did," said Hermione. Looking at her parents she said, "When did you decide to do it?"

Dan said, "During Harry's party, we spoke with Arthur and Molly. We've met with them a few times now."

Emma said, "We are learning a lot about the wizard world and becoming good friends with them. They are both very nice."

"It makes me so happy to hear that," said Hermione.



A while later, Harry and Hermione returned to their flat. She led Harry to the sofa where she happily cuddled in his arms.

"This has been the best day ever. I had such a good time."

He smiled. "That makes me very happy. I wanted your day to be special."

With a flirtatious smile and tapping him on the nose she said, "But I still need to thank you properly for my necklace."

She made him lie down on his back on the sofa. Then she sat across his waist with one knee on each side of him. Looking down at him, she undid the upper button of her top. "Would you like to undo the rest of the buttons for me?"

He saw an inviting mischievous look in her eyes. Smiling he said, "I would be very happy to do that for you."

She watched him intently as he slowly worked his way down the buttons. After the last button, he looked into her eyes. She removed the top and dropped it onto the floor.

She softly said, "So ... how does the necklace look now?"

She wore a low cut lace bra and he thought it graced her curves quite nicely. He smiled and said, "Wow! It looks fantastic!"

Hermione giggled watching his eyes take in the details and spend most of the time gazing just below the necklace. After a moment he looked back into her eyes and said, "Maybe you could help me with the buttons on my shirt."

"I most certainly can help you with that."

With the last button undone, she pulled open his shirt, leaned forward, and kissed him. Then she straightened her legs to lie against him. The room became very quiet after that.



The next morning found Harry and Hermione asleep on the sofa in each other's arms. Harry's shirt lie on the floor with Hermione's bra on top of it. An alarm clock began chiming in Hermione's room. They both stirred and felt each other stretch satisfyingly.

With her eyes still closed she said, "Oh ... I don't want to go to class this morning."

He chuckled. "Never dreamed I'd hear Hermione Granger say something like that."

"I just want to stay with you like this." She squeezed him and he lightly caressed her back with his hand.

"You'd get no complaints from me. But McGonagall would likely not accept our current condition as an excuse."

She sighed and reluctantly said, "Probably not ... I suppose I'll have to get up and get ready then." ... The alarm continued to chime.

"Do you have class this evening?" said Hermione.

"Yeah. I'm going early to Hogwarts for dinner. I have to complete my assignment after you leave."

"Well then, I mustn't keep you from your studies." ... The alarm continued to chime.

After another minute, they both sighed deeply and Hermione sat up.

"You look very beautiful this morning," said Harry with a smile.

"Why thank you Harry. Any particular reason?"

"Hmm ..." he said with a thoughtful expression holding his chin. "A few reasons ... but ... it must be that sparkle I see in your eyes."

She snickered. "Yes, that must be it exactly." She pointed to her face. "My eyes are up here."

Harry smiled in spite of himself shaking his head. "Okay, your charms are too powerful. You can stop tormenting me now."

Hermione grinned happily. She picked up her cloths and held them against her chest. After giving Harry a quick appreciative kiss, she went to her room to get ready for class.


Chapter 10: The Family Tree
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It had been a busy few weeks for Harry and Hermione. The weekdays were filled with Ministry visits, different class times at Hogwarts and studying sometimes late into the evening. Other than breakfast and sometimes evening meal, they had not spent much time together. Harry suggested a picnic for just the two of them and Hermione liked the idea very much. When the weekend arrived, they floo'd to the Burrow. Harry had always liked the Burrow's secluded and peaceful surroundings. Ginny and Ron greeted them when they arrived. Arthur and Molly had gone to Diagon Alley for the afternoon.

Ginny said, "Hermione, do you have everything you need for your picnic?"

"Yes. I think so. Oh, do you have a blanket we can borrow?"

"Ron," said Harry. "Can I talk to you outside? I need you to show me a good direction to go."

"Sure," said Ron and they went out the kitchen door.



"Sandwiches, fruit, drinks ... ah, the blanket. Thanks Ginny." She placed the blanket on top of the basket under the handle and tucked it in to cover the contents.

"How romantic," said Ginny in a dreamy voice.

"I'm just happy to get some quality time with him."

"I think you'll have a nice quiet afternoon," said Ginny.

"I'm sure we will," said Hermione raising her eyebrows with a mischievous smile. They both grinned at each other.



"Ron, can I borrow a broom?"

"Yeah, of course. Where are you headed?"

"I want to take Hermione to the hillside with that big tree. Remember, you pointed it out to me that day we went flying. You said it was a great place for a picnic. I want today to be special for her."

Ron's eyes brightened. "Really! Yeah ... that would be a great place to take her. Do you remember how to get there?"

"Sort of," Harry pointed. "It's across the meadow in that direction, right?"

"Yeah." Ron pointed and said, "See that mountain peak just above the tree tops?  Start in that direction. When you see a farmhouse with a red barn, turn to your left and head toward a small lake. You'll spot the tree above the lake on the hill."

"Thanks Ron." Harry stepped into the broom shed and a moment later came out with a large broom. "Now I just have to reassure Hermione when she realizes we're going flying."



With basket in hand, Hermione and Ginny made their way to where Harry and Ron were standing. Hermione eyed Harry apprehensively at the sight of a broom in his hand.

"You're not going flying on that are you?" said Ginny in an annoyed tone.

Harry and Ron just glance at each other.

Ginny rolled her eyes. She took the broom from Harry and handed it to Ron. Then, she took out her wand and pointed it toward the Burrow. "Accio broom!"

A moment later, a broom glided silently toward her and she caught it in her hand. Turning back to Harry she said, "Here, use this one."

"Ginny, this is the Nimbus broom you got for your birthday. Are you sure?"

"Yes," said Ginny firmly. "It's in your very good and capable hands. Hermione will enjoy the ride much better."

"Thanks Ginny." Turning to Hermione, "Ready?"

In a unsure voice she said, "Yes, I think so. Not too fast."

Harry smiled and nodded. He put the broom handle through the basket handle and then mounted the broom. He kicked off into a very low hover. Hermione got on and sat behind him putting her arms around his waist. Harry eased the broom forward and they smoothly and silently rose into the sky. They made slow graceful arcs over the meadow and then disappeared above the distant trees.

Ginny looked at Ron. "Do you know where they're headed?"

"The family tree."

"Oh Merlin! Really!? Does that mean..."

"Yeah. He didn't come out and say it to me, but I think that's what he has in mind."

"It will be the perfect place for them." Ginny sighed, "There's so much magic there."

"Does Hermione know about the family tree?"

Ginny thought for a moment. "No, I don't think so. It's not in any books and we've never talked about it. Her parents, being muggles, would never have heard of it either."

"Good," said Ron with a satisfied expression. "It will be much more memorable then. She's really hard to surprise."

"Yeah," said Ginny smiling. "Harry will be happy about that. How much does he know about it?"

"Just that it's a secluded and private place to have a picnic."

"Good. Then Harry will get a surprise too."

"Well sis, what say we have lunch and have a quiet cup of tea for a while."

Looking out over the distant trees, she smiled. "It might be a long while."

Ron put his arm around his sister and they walked back into the house.



Hermione relaxed her tight grip on Harry as he cast a disillusionment charm around them. It was a warm day with a light breeze. The sky was a deep blue and puffy white clouds dotted the skyline. The ride was smooth, the air crystal clear, and the view, spectacular. Many of the trees now had red and gold leaves. From above, fields of amber grain rolled gently in the breeze, like ripples on a lake. Harry flew slow and gentle sometimes skimming the treetops. The countryside stretched below them, checkerboard-like patterns imprinted by the people who lived on that land. All of their cares and concerns were part of the world that was below them. Here above was a feeling of freedom and peace. You could choose your direction, change it at any time, and it all led to the same limitless horizon of possibilities. Flying this way always made Harry feel so alive. Having Hermione along to share it with him was exhilarating.

"Harry, this is so beautiful and peaceful." She drew herself close, took a deep breath and softly sighed.

After about ten minutes, Harry spotted their destination. He circled while gradually descending and lightly touched down by the tree. They spread the blanket and enjoyed a quiet lunch until ...

"Last strawberry for you. Open up," said Harry.

"Make it dark chocolate this time."

Harry pointed his wand and the strawberry floated and dipped itself into a container. Then it floated toward Hermione. She tilted her head back slightly and opened her mouth. She hadn't seen his mischievous grin. The strawberry slid down the bridge of her nose, leaving a trail of chocolate, and dropped into her mouth. Harry grinned broadly.

"You'll pay for that Potter," she muttered to herself while chewing the strawberry. Unnoticed by Harry, she tilted the wand in her hand, mostly hidden from his view, and pointed it at Harry. An instant later, it shot a pink puffball. "Poof!" as it struck him in the forehead leaving a pink cloud as it burst like a child's soap bubble. A pink powder mark now showed on his forehead.

"Ah hah ... being sneaky are we!" said Harry as he retaliated. Two blue puffballs flew from his wand. She dodged one and the other hit her on the arm.

"Eek!" She scrambling to the tree for cover. Then she fired three more at him. "Oof" as one got him on the cheek. He waved his hand trying to clear away the pink cloud in his face.

For the next few minutes, there were shrieks, shouts and considerable laughing as pink and blue puffballs flew between them. Most were deflected or dodged but many found their targeted area of the body. In an all out barrage, she sent fifty pink puffballs flying at him in rapid fire. "Aahhh!" He ducked and dodged as many as he could while running to the other side of the tree. Peeking around the tree, they saw each other and fired at the same instant, but both missed. He quickly ducked back and around the tree silently coming up behind her. He put his arms around her and held her arms at her side.

As she gently squirmed he said, "Truce, truce, kiss and make up now." She stopped squirming and turned around to face him smiling. As she moved her head close to him, she brushed her nose on his cheek. But for some reason, chocolate on his face didn't bother Harry as their lips met and they wrapped their arms around each other.

After a few moments (or maybe longer), they stepped back and laughed at the sight of each other marked in pink, blue and chocolate. After using a cleaning charm, they lay down on the blanket, side by side, and looked up at the clouds in the sky. They spent a long while pointing out cloud pictures in the sky and sometimes changing the shapes with their wands.

... "That one looks like a cute little bunny," said Hermione. "Let me fix the ears a bit. ... There, how's that?"

"Aww... Very nice" ... Then grinning, Harry said, "How about that one over there? It looks like a snitch. See the wispy wings?"

Hermione giggled. Then, in mock sarcasm said, "How romantic ... first a broom, and now, a snitch?"

Harry chuckled. "Okay then. Let's see ... that one over there, just above the tree, looks like an otter."

"Hmm ... sort of, more like this …" Her happy feeling at that moment only needed the spell to be spoken. Softly she said, "Expecto Patronum!" Her patronus appeared and the otter hovered above them.

This being one of the happiest days in his life, Harry softly said, "Expecto Patronum!" The stag appeared instantly. 

Pointing with their wands, the patronus' playfully chased each other. Then, the stag didn't see where the otter was hiding. The stag turned its head and saw the otter reclined on its back looking safe and happily contented. The otter's eyes were soft and inviting. The stag stretched up its head and slowly turned, its great antlers warning any foe that might be watching. Then, with softness in its eyes, the stag's head turned to look at the otter. The two images swirled into each other and merged into a single vaporous cloud that sparkled randomly for a moment and then dissolved.

Still lying on her back and looking up where the patronus' had dissolved she said, "Umm ... Harry, did you feel anything just now?"

"Yeah, during the sparkling. What about you?"

"Yes. I felt something too. What did it feel like to you?"

"Umm ... it's a bit hard to put into words." Looking up at the sky with a thoughtful expression he said, "Kind of like ... a chocolate ice cream sneeze."

Her eyebrows furrowed and she turned her head to look at him. "A chocolate ice cream sneeze? What's that?"

He looked at her. "Well ... it's the good feeling you get when you taste chocolate ice cream. And, the nice tingly feeling you get right after a good sneeze. But it was both feelings at the same time."

She giggled. "Well, I agree with you about the sneeze feeling. ... but ... it seemed more like vanilla to me."

"Did you know that would happen, what we both felt?"

"No, I didn't. Patronus' are from our happy feelings but, I didn't think they could connect and feed back to us."

"Hmm ... seems we've found another connection between us."

For the next few minutes, they quietly lay next to each other gazing up at the sky. Then, Harry sat up and turned his body to face her. Taking her hands, he gently pulled her into a sitting position. He held her hands and they just looked at each other for a moment. Time seemed to slow down.

He thought about what they had been through together since that day he met her on the train. She had always been by his side helping him accomplish what he had been called to do. She had freely chosen to stand by him through it all, enduring the risks and consequences of that choice. Her faithfulness to that decision had never wavered even in their darkest and seemingly hopeless moments.

She looked at him and saw her best friend. She thought of the trust and understanding they shared in each other. He had supported and unconditionally accepted her, just as she was, from the beginning. In spite of all his burdens and uncertainties, there had always been a subtle and steadfast connection between them. She felt so much more now, beyond friendship, and knew that it grew from their deep and genuine care for each other.

"Hermione, your friendship has meant so much to me over all these years. You've made my weakness' strong and helped me become more than I ever thought possible." Smiling he said, "Sorry to have caused you so much trouble."

She smiled and said, "It was a bit challenging at times wasn't it." Then, with a more serious expression she said, "But you helped an insecure little girl grow in so many ways. You helped make her complete by being a kind and supportive friend. It just feels right being with you. I can't imagine my life any other way. In spite of all the hardships and risks we endured, I would not trade it for anything."

Harry felt his heart start to beat faster. He looked deeply into her eyes. Softly and sincerely he said, "You are my closest and dearest friend. I thought it could never be better than that. But over the past months, it has become better. I've fallen in love with you."

The intensity of his gaze into her eyes made her heart race. She said, "Oh Harry, I'm in love with you too. It's such a happy feeling when I'm with you." She looked softly into his eyes, and held her breath.

"I love you so very much ... and ... I want to spend the rest of my life with you. ... Hermione, will you marry me?"

To Harry, it seemed the question hung in the air for such a long time waiting for her answer. Jubilation flared from her heart. Then a sparkle in her eye and a radiant smile dawned on her face.

"Oh yes Harry!" She threw her arms around his neck. "Yes! Yes! Yes I will marry you!" He wrapped his arms around her and they kissed long and lovingly.

They released each other and Harry took her hands again. They looked at the joy in each other's face for a moment. They saw a joyful giddiness in each other's eyes. Then Harry put his hand into his pocket and withdrew a golden engagement ring. The diamond sparkled in the sunlight. She took a quick breath at the sight of it. He slowly slid the ring onto her finger. As he did, the diamond began to sparkle more brightly. He held her hand for a moment and they both looked at it intently. Her beautiful hand, that shimmering ring with two intertwining spirals on the band, it was marvelous. Their parallel lives had just changed direction and were now tracking toward a union. Harry felt great happiness and fulfillment. Hermione felt like she would burst with joy.

She moved forward and guided him onto his back. She lay on top of him and passionately kissed him, pouring in her love and joy. He held her tightly and with similar enthusiasm, focused his happiness on her. They had little perception of anything but each other as a faint golden glow of enchantment enveloped them. The breeze rustled the tree leaves and the birds sang sweetly in that peaceful heavenly place.



A short while later, cuddled in each other's arms, Harry said, "I want to stay with you here like this forever. But, we should start back to the Burrow."

She reluctantly nodded. They packed up everything and were about to mount the broom when Harry stopped. She watched as he took out his wand and moved toward the tree trunk. He carved the shape of a heart into the bark of the tree. He added the words 'Harry and' inside the heart shape and then looked at Hermione. She smiled and took out her wand to complete it, adding 'Hermione 1998 * *' making a pink and blue puffball. They kissed softly.

As their lips parted, they glanced toward the tree and saw that hundreds of other carvings in the tree had appeared. They looked back at each other with delighted smiles. Then, they began looking at the other carvings on the tree. Most were weathered and old.

Harry said, "Look! Arthur and Molly."

"1969, that's not long after they graduated Hogwarts. Ginny mentioned that to me."

"Hermione, look up over there, that small tree branch. There are two leaves on it with Arthur and Molly's name."

"Look, there's seven flowering buds under the leaves; one for each of their children! One has a vine growing out of it."

A brief moment later, she pointed and said, "Oh Harry, look at the tree trunk here!"

Harry silently looked at it for a moment, a heart shape with 'James and Lily 1978' inside it. There was also a doe and a stag.

She bit her lip and pointed. "Harry, the branch is there." He looked to see a small branch with two leaves bearing the names James and Lily. There were two buds under the leaves, one flowering, and the other closed. Harry stared at it.

She put her arm around him. In a quiet voice Harry said, "What do you make of that closed bud?"

"I don't know. We'll have to ask Arthur and Molly."

"Hang on ... where's our carving again?" He led her back to where they had carved their names in the tree. Then, they began looking up at the branches.

"There!" said Hermione pointing. A new small branch with two leaves holding the names Harry and Hermione was there. Under the leaves, two, very tiny, unopened buds.

He turned to her with a soft glorious expression. "Two children? ... Ours?"

She smiled back and softly said, "Perhaps. But Harry, I think this tree shows what might or has happen; not what will happen."

He looked thoughtfully at her and nodded his head. "Guess we'll just have to wait and see what grows from our love. I think I like it better that way."

"Me too Harry."

They shared an embrace and a long kiss. Then, mounting the broom, they kicked off and started back to the Burrow.  



Ron and Ginny were seated at the Weasley picnic table in the shade of the oak tree. Each had a glass of pink lemonade. They had been having a quiet and pleasant brother sister conversation. Ron couldn't remember the last time this had happened but they were both enjoying just spending time talking with each other. They both agreed that they should do it more often.

A spot appeared low over the trees across the meadow and began to grow larger.

"Here they come," said Ron.  

Ron and Ginny walked toward the broom shed watching as they gently touched down. Harry and Hermione were both smiling broadly. Hermione quickly got off the broom and moved toward Ginny with her left hand outstretched in front of her. Ginny squealed and they hugged each other.

Hermione turned to Ron who took her left hand in his. After a brief moment, he looked up at her and said, "Congratulations Hermione."

Hermione embraced him. Ron said, "I wish all the best for both you. I know you will be happy together."

"Thank you Ron," said Hermione with tears in her eyes. She kissed him on the cheek.

Ginny moved to Harry. With a broad smile and tears of joy in her eyes, she hugged him and said, "I'm so happy for the both of you."

"Thanks Ginny," he said as he looked at her again. "I think Hermione likely has a lot she wants to tell you. Go with her, I'll bring your broom."

Ginny smiled and kissed Harry on the cheek. "Thanks." Ginny and Hermione left for the house in excited conversation. Harry and Ron watched as they went inside.

"Did you find it okay, the family tree?"

"Yeah, it was perfect. She's very happy right now. There were also a few surprises in that tree for me too that you didn't mention."

"That makes me feel really good," said Ron smiling. "You look very happy too. Congratulations mate!"

"You are already my best mate but I want to ask you properly. Will you be my best man at the wedding?"

"Yes, I'm honored. When's the bonding day?"

"In a few months, I think the planning and details will get worked out fairly quickly," said Harry with a smile. Ron nodded in agreement.



They were all sitting around the kitchen table sipping tea, talking, laughing and planning. There was a whoosh from the fireplace. The conversation around the table abruptly ended and four very broad smiles greeted Arthur and Molly as they stepped into the kitchen.

Molly's eyes slowly narrowed as she surveyed the scene. "Okay ... what's going on here? I can tell you lot are up to something."

No one said a word. After a moment, Arthur stepped beside his wife and said softly to her, "Molly dear, have a look at Hermione's left hand."

Molly's eyes widened as the realization of a ring on her third finger set in. "Oh my word, you're engaged! How wonderful! Oh, I'm so happy for you! Come here you two." After giving each of them a smothering hug, she smiled and said, "When did this happen?"

Harry said, "Just this afternoon on our picnic at the family tree."

"Oh, how lovely!" said Molly. "Hermione, do your parents know yet?"

"No, not yet."

"Why don't you call them and see if they want to come over for a bit of dinner so you can tell them too."

"Thank you, that would be very nice."

When Arthur arrived with Dan and Emma, it took her mother only a few seconds before she squealed and ran over to hug Hermione and Harry.

Harry went over Dan and said, "I want to ask for your blessing to marry your daughter."

"Thank you Harry. You've had our blessing since our time together in Australia. We know that Hermione will be well cared for and loved by you. We will be very blessed ourselves to have you as a son-in-law."

There was lively conversation as a light meal was quickly prepared. A few bottles of champagne found their way to the kitchen table.



After dinner, they all went to sit in the family room. Harry whispered something to Hermione and she enthusiastically nodded her head.

Harry said, "Arthur, Molly, you've been like a father and mother to me for many years. Will you stand in for my parents at the wedding?"

Molly quickly pulled a hanky from her pocket. Arthur said, "We'd be very honored to Harry."

Hermione said, "Harry took me on a picnic to a place we now know is the family tree." She looked at Harry and smiled. "It was lovely and that's where Harry proposed to me." Turning to Arthur she said, "We saw lots of interesting things in that tree. Can you tell us more about it?"

"The family tree is alive with the life force of the families it represents. You must have seen many names and mementos carved into its trunk. Each branch grows from the bud of a previous generation and the leaves have the parent's names on them. If you want to know about family genealogy, you just need to go and have a look."

"Will my Mum and Dad's names be there too?" asked Hermione.

"Yes, once you and Harry are bonded in marriage. There would be no past generation but they would be the start of a new branch and connected with you and Harry."

Harry said, "We saw unopened flower buds, what are those?"

Arthur said, "Those are possible children if the couple decides so. You should only count the blossoming buds. A bud will blossom when a child is born. When the child marries, the blossom sprouts into a new extension of the branch with vine connections to both sets of parents. I'm sure you noticed the whole tree was very tangled. It show just how interconnected we all really are."

Hermione said, "Mum, Dad, I want you to see the tree after we're married."

"We'd very much like to see it," they responded. "We are learning so many wonderful things about the magical world."

They all talked for a while longer. Then Harry and Hermione thanked the Weasleys for dinner and prepared to take Hermione's parents home. Hermione and Ginny agreed to talk more the next day before Ginny returned to Hogwarts. They floo'd to the Granger home. Harry and Hermione spent a long while with Dan and Emma talking about the Granger's wedding and sharing their joy with them.



A few hours later, Harry and Hermione return home to their flat. They had taken a few steps toward the hall and bedrooms when Hermione stopped and turned to face Harry. There was a bit of uneasiness in each of their faces. It was clear to each of them what the other was thinking.

"Erm ... Harry ... I want to wait to have ... umm ... to consummate our union until our wedding night."

Harry nodded. "And we're both wondering ... can we resist the temptation if we sleep together."

"Ye-es ... Can we do that? ... That is ... wait until then? I read about a special ceremony. There's special magic in this particular marital bonding. I think we'd both want to experience it."

"We slept together last year on Christmas day in the tent."

"Yes, but we were fully clothed and you were in an awful painfully sick state then. I was just trying to comfort you. Our relationship is much different now. We'll both have much stronger desires to be intimate, to keep moving closer in our relationship. It will be hard to wait."

"We could stay mostly dressed like we did on the sofa," said Harry. "Wear pajamas."

"Ye-es, but ... maybe a little bit more comfortable than that ... sometimes?" There was a momentary distant expression on Hermione's face remembering the last time they slept on the sofa. Then, with a slightly shocked look, she said, "Oh my ... see what I mean?! It will be hard!"

"I like that thought," grinned Harry. Hermione rolled her eyes and smiled warmly.

"How about we have my Mum and Dad in the room? They can chaperone us."

"Harry! That's a wonderful idea! But," her eyebrows narrowed, "will they let us snog each other in bed wearing just knickers?"

Harry grinned, "I think so. This is very important and I trust your judgment to know what's best for us. I will honor your desire to wait."

With a mischievous expression she said, "Okay then ... so ... my place or yours?"

"Yours, it has the nice comfy queen size bed."

Hermione giggled.

Harry said, "Have I told you lately how much I love you?"

"Hmm ... why no, not in the last few hours."

"Well, we need to remedy that as soon as my Mum and Dad are settled in your room."

A short time later, Harry used a sticking charm to affix the portrait of his parents by the bed in Hermione's room. He touched the picture frame and James and Lily appeared standing side by side. They briefly glanced around the room and then looked at him.
 
"Mum, Dad, Hermione and I need your help. We're engaged now and it's important to us that we're not fully intimate with each other until after our bonding. Cool us down a bit if it looks like we're getting physically out of control with each other."

A delighted grin came to the face of James. "This is going to be fun." He walked off the edge of the frame and after a short moment, returned holding a glass pitcher with water sloshing in it. A few drops splashed on Harry and Hermione's faces. He took his place next to Lily and looked out at them with a broad grin. Lily rolled her eyes at James and then smiled as she looked out at them.

Hermione, with a slight worried look on her face said, "Maybe you shouldn't have used the words, 'cool us down'."


Chapter 11: Vinculi Spiritu
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Arthur and Molly invited Harry and Hermione over to the Burrow the following weekend for a planning meeting. Dan, Emma, Ron and Ginny were also there. Hermione came armed with a wedding planner. Many of the wants and desires discussed the previous week were quickly worked out. Harry desired to have the bonding ceremony at the church in Godric's Hollow. They discussed wedding dresses, tuxedos, the ceremony proceedings and the many reception details. Everyone volunteered to help so Hermione assigned and scheduled the things that needed to be done. Harry could see that despite all of the work and details, Hermione was enjoying herself. The next day, Hermione sent an owl and confirmed their mid-November reservation for the church and reception hall.

A week later, Hermione, Ginny, Katie, Molly and Emma spent the entire day shopping for dresses. They visited both magical and muggle shops. They returned to the Burrow late in the afternoon exhausted but very satisfied. The dress arrangements were completed. The guys had a barbeque dinner waiting, done without magic much to Arthur's fascination and the delight. Harry and Ron helped with the preparations. The following day, the guys went tuxedo shopping at Diagon Alley after lunch. They were back by mid-afternoon, mission accomplished.

The following Saturday, Harry took Hermione to the jewelry shop in Diagon Alley where he had purchased her engagement ring. Taking her hand, the shopkeeper said he had never seen the engagement ring sparkle more brightly or look more beautiful. Hermione smiled broadly. He told them that the glow of magical rings is the reflection of the love for between a husband and wife. Hearing they planned to bond using Vinculi Spiritu, the shopkeeper showed them rings that were appropriate for the ritual. The rings were different in metallurgy and the magic within them. This type of ring was sold only in matched pairs and sizing needed to be done very carefully. After much discussion, Harry and Hermione settled on a ring set they both liked and that also matched her engagement ring.

They walked to Florean Fortescue's and enjoyed an ice cream cone. Then, after spending some time in Flourish and Blotts, they visited George and Angelina at the joke shop. The shop was crowded and George would periodically demonstrate a product to the crowd with a sales pitch. Talking with Harry and Hermione, George said he had a lot of suggestions to liven up their wedding day. He was particularly proud of 'His and Hers Magic Dancing Shoes'. Not only did the shoes know all the dance steps, they also kept you from stepping on your partners' feet. And if that weren't enough, the shoes would also shoot magical flames and colored sparks depending on how the wearer stomped down on the heel. Harry thought the shoes were brilliant and smiled enthusiastically. Hermione however, told George that while being a great idea, the shoes weren't quite what she was looking for just now. George told Angelina that Hermione had always been a 'tough sell' and they all laughed. 

Later, Harry and Hermione went for a quiet walk in the park to talk and plan their honeymoon, some non-verbal conversation also occurred. The weather was turning cooler so a tropical destination was quickly agreed upon.  Harry would make the necessary travel and hotel arrangements.

While at the park, Hermione told Harry about the bonding ceremony and how she came to know about it. It happened on the first day she had helped with the rebuilding effort in the Hogwarts library. She found a dusty old book lying in a pile with other books on the floor. The book had a partially torn page sticking out. After mending the page with the repairo charm, the image of a griffin on the page had caught her eye. She had spent the next half hour sitting on the floor with the book in her lap reading about the ancient ritual. It was intriguing and interesting. She had gone back to the library after everything was back in order but had not found much additional information about the ritual.

"From what I read, the ritual suggests that other connections between a husband and wife are possible, like sharing thoughts, feelings and magical powers. The book mentioned couples in the past that had successfully bonded using the ritual. It described the type of people they were and the traits and attitudes they seemed to have in common."

"I think the relationship you and I have very much fits with the descriptions in the book. Like our deep and trusting friendship. We're honest, truthful and caring with each other. We can talk about anything and we have consideration for each other's thoughts and opinions. Our thinking is both common and complementary. We know the right thing to do for each other and when one of us is weaker, the other compensates for it by being stronger. There's concern and aide for others when it is in our power to do so. Harry, we've been doing these things since our first year at Hogwarts."

They decided to talk to McGonagall about the ritual. They also wanted to ask her to officiate at the ceremony. Hermione sent an owl to McGonagall and received a reply the next day. McGonagall asked them to come to her office that week to discuss it. The best man and maid of honor would also need to be present at their meeting. Ginny and Ron were free that Friday evening so they planned on having dinner together in the Great Hall and then speak to McGonagall afterwards.



"Good to see you all," said McGonagall. "Please come in and be seated."

Harry, Hermione, Ron and Ginny entered the headmistress' office and sat down in chairs in front of her desk.

McGonagall seated herself behind the desk and said to Harry and Hermione, "I was so pleased and happy to receive your owl. Congratulations to both of you! I am honored to accept your invitation to officiate at your bonding. I am most proud and impressed by your choice of the Vinculi Spiritu ceremony."

Hermione said, "Thank you headmistress. Could you tell us more about it?"

"It is an ancient bonding ritual. The couple seeks to unite themselves in body, mind and spirit resulting in an enhanced relationship with each other. The ability of the couple to share thoughts telepathically is likely to develop. This is not forcibly reading private thoughts but a willful act of giving a thought to a spouse. Rarer is the ability of the couple to experience some of each other's strong feelings such as happiness, pleasure or pain. Most rare, is the ability of the couple to combine their magical powers which greatly intensifies the strength of a mutually cast spell. Each of these abilities, if present, is under willful control, and each individual must consent. The degree to which any of these abilities develop varies with each couple and is based on their relationship, moral character and attitude toward others."

Harry said, "That is so extraordinary. Do many couples use this ritual?"

"Not many. The prerequisites and the ritual itself require much commitment and dedication. And there is no guarantee that any of the abilities will develop. Like any bonding, magical or muggle, it is the husband and wife that freely initiate, sustain and grow the bond as they desire. Friendship, love, purity of both individuals and a true commitment to each other for life, are essential requirements for this type of bonding."

Hermione asked, "How is the bonding accomplished?"

"It is done over three days. The first day focuses on perceptions and interaction with the physical. Things such as sheltering, protecting, care during sickness and making a home for the family. It involves non-magical labor and self-denial through fasting. The second day involves personal reflection and meditation, the replacement of a corrosive thought or attitude with a life giving one. The third day is the ceremony of the spirit bonding. It is similar to a normal bonding ceremony in form, but it is much more. Each person pledges the essence of his or her being to the other. There are special incantations and charms that are used. A deep magic is called forth which elevates the bonding to a spiritual level. It is a most serious and unbreakable bond."

Everyone sat in silence for a moment. Hermione turned to Harry and softly said, "So what do you think Harry?"

He looked at her and said, "I would have never imagined all the things we've learned and experienced in the magical world. This bonding ritual might be the beginning of another wondrous part of it. I love you more than I can say and want our magical life together to be the best possible. And even if these abilities don't happen with us, we'll still have each other and our love and friendship. We should do it. How do you feel?"

"Ever since reading about it, I've felt it was something that should be experienced. I love you so very much and the chance to make our marriage so special is too great an opportunity to pass up."

McGonagall smiled and said, "Very well then, we shall proceed. Have you chosen a date for the ceremony?"

Hermione said, "Yes, it will be on the third Sunday in November to minimize the impact to our studies here at Hogwarts." Then, with a smile she said, "Harry and I also want to arrange some time away together."

McGonagall smiled warmly and said, "I think arrangements can be made. Please speak with each your professors to make arrangements for your lessons and assignments."

McGonagall said, "Do either of you have any further questions for me at this time?"

Harry looked at Hermione and then said, "No headmistress. Thank you."

McGonagall said, "If you and Hermione would wait downstairs in the Great Hall, I would like to speak with Ronald and Ginny. They will return to you shortly."

Harry and Hermione got up and left the room. After they had left, McGonagall said, "As best man and maid of honor, you have an active role to play in the bonding ceremony. You will help perform the logistics of the three day ritual so that Harry and Hermione can focus fully on its personal aspects."

Ginny said, "That might be a challenge, particularly with Hermione. She likes to plan things ahead of time." Ginny looked at Ron who was nodding with a smile.

McGonagall smiled and said, "Indeed. But you are all close and trusted friends. You should have little difficulty."

McGonagall took two small books from her desk drawer and handed them to Ron and Ginny. Then she said, "These books will tell you what needs to be done so you can prepare. The three of us will have additional meetings to ensure your full understanding. Just to quickly summarize what you will do ..."

She spent a few minutes going over the general content of the book. Then, McGonagall said, "Please keep the information private so as not to burden Harry and Hermione. The two of you may discuss the books content with each other. We will meet again next week."

"Thank you headmistress." said Ron.



Ginny and Ron rejoined Harry and Hermione in the Great Hall.

"My word!" said Ginny. "This is an exceptional bonding you two are undertaking. It goes well beyond just 'tying the knot'."

Everyone smiled. Then, Ron said, "Yeah. I've never heard anyone in the Weasley family talk about this ceremony. I know you two can do it and you'll be successful."

Hermione said, "Thanks to both of you. I hope it won't be too much trouble for you. What did McGonagall talk to you about?"

Ginny said, "We can't say too much about it now. But we'll be meeting with her a few times to go over it in more detail. This is so exciting!"

Ron said, "Yeah, and it's no trouble at all. We want to do whatever it takes to make your bonding day just the way you want it." Ginny nodded enthusiastically.

Hermione said, "But there must be something more you can tell us so Harry and I can prepare."

Ginny and Ron just looked at her and shook their heads.

Harry said, "Hermione, I think Ron and Ginny are very serious about this. They'll make sure things are done right. Thanks Ron, thanks Ginny. You two, any your whole family, are simply the best."

After a brief moment, Hermione reluctantly nodded and said, "Okay."




On the evening before the beginning of their three-day bonding ceremony, Harry and Hermione were at their flat making final preparations. Hermione was still going over and rechecking her wedding planner. Harry had boxed up the last of the decorations for the reception.

"Tux?" said Hermione.

Looking at the contents of the box and closing it, Harry smiled and said, "Ron has it at the Burrow."

"Wedding dress with Mum." said Hermione to herself.  ... "Flowers, candles, guestbook ..."
 
In the living room, there was a flash of green light and a whoosh as Ginny stepped from the fireplace. An instant later, there was another flash and Ron stepped into the living room.

"Harry? Hermione?" said Ginny. "We're here."

"We'll be right there," called Hermione from her bedroom.

A moment later, a box floated out from the hall. Harry guided the box with his wand and set it on the floor by the sofa.

"Hi! That's all the decorations for the church and reception hall. They've been charmed to float into position by themselves. Just open the box in each room."

"Okay. I'll make sure it gets done," said Ron as Hermione joined them studying her wedding planner.

Without looking up from the planner she said, "Ron, you and Ginny have the rings?"

Ron looked at Ginny and smiled. "Yes Hermione, we have them safe."

After another moment, she closed the planner and handed it to Ginny. "I think everything that needed to get done is done." Then, with a slight concerned and sheepish look, she meekly said to Ginny, "Check it over once more ... just to be sure?"

Ginny smiled and said, "Yes, I will." Then with a determined expression she said, "Hermione, you need to put the planning out of your mind now. Don't think about it anymore. There are more important preparations to be made, you and Harry."

Hermione opened her mouth to say something. Ginny gave her a stern look. She closed her mouth and nodded.
 
Grinning, Ginny said, "Any last minute goodbye time needed?"

Hermione smiled, "No, we did that a few minutes ago. But ... since you asked ..." Hermione flung herself at Harry embracing him tightly and kissing him. ...

"Ahem ..." said Ron. Ginny giggled as Hermione released Harry and he staggered slightly.

Ron said, "I reckon you both remember all of this but McGonagall wants us to go over it with you one last time. You can't see or talk to each other until the ceremony on Sunday. You can only use magic for reasons of security and safety. If you need anything, ask us. You must witness the sunset each day, Ginny and I will help with that."

Harry and Hermione nodded.

"Okay, anything else before we go?" asked Ginny. Everyone looked at each other in silence. "Right then, Hermione, you're with me." She took Hermione's hand.

Hermione looked at Harry and, in a quiet lonesome voice said, "Bye Harry."

"Bye Hermione. See you in a few days."

There was a whoosh and a pop as Ginny and Hermione disapparated.

"Ready mate?" Harry nodded and took Ron's hand. They disapparated and instant later.


Chapter 12: Diem de Corpus
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At six am, Ron brought Harry to a remote farm in the countryside. Ron took out his wand and faced Harry.

Tapping his wand on each of Harry's shoulders, Ron said, "diem de corpus!" Then, "Remember you're fasting today, only water until after sunset."

Harry nodded and they both turned and walked up the steps of the farmhouse porch. Ron knocked on the door. The door behind the screen swung open and an old weathered man looked out at them.

"Mister McGregor? I'm Ron and this is Harry. Harry is here to accomplish first day bonding."

They moved back as the screen door opened and the man stepped out onto the porch.

"Been expecting you." Then looking at Harry he said, "Ready to begin?"

"Yes I am Mister McGregor."

"Call me Ian." Turning to Ron he said, "You can leave. Come back before sunset."

Ron nodded and after walking a short distance away, he disapparated.

"You can start in the family garden. Follow me."



At six am, Ginny brought Hermione to the entrance of St Mungo's Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries. Ginny took out her wand and faced Hermione.

Tapping Hermione on each shoulder with her wand she said, "diem de corpus!"

"Remember, you have to fast from all food today, only water until after sundown."

Hermione smiled. "Yes, I'll remember."

"Okay, let's go in. We need to go to the administration desk and ask for Althea."

"Good morning," said Althea. "You must be Ginny and Hermione. I've been expecting you."

"Hello Althea. I'm Ginny and this is Hermione. She'll be staying with you today."

"Welcome to St. Mungo's," said Althea. "Minerva has briefed me. Are you ready to begin?"

"Yes I am," said Hermione.

"Very good. Ginny, you can meet up with Hermione before sundown at the elder care center. It's the tall building a short distance from here. There are stairs that will take you to the observation deck on the top of the building."

"Thank you," said Ginny. "I'll be going then. See you later today Hermione."

"Bye Ginny."

Althea said, "You will be helping us with various tasks such as serving meals, assisting visitors and visiting with patients. If a patient has concerns or a medical related question, inform someone at the nurse's station. Most patients are here following some type of accident. They can be feeling anything from embarrassment to anger. Part of your work today is to help the patients feel at ease. This assists their body's natural healing process. Take this clipboard. It contains floor maps showing the patient areas that you may enter and other general information. If you have any question throughout the day, you can ask me or at a nurse's station."

"Thanks," said Hermione.

"We'll be starting you off in the maternity section." Althea smiled. "We had a couple of new arrivals into the world last night!"



Harry spent the morning working the ground of the McGregor's garden. The remains of the harvested plants were turned into the soil. He weeded and tended to the late bearing plants. Harry found the work moderately burdensome but he had done similar chores while growing up at his Aunt and Uncles house in Little Winging. Ian stopped by from time to time to give him further instructions. Harry thought that he surprised Ian once or twice. Harry had selected the proper tool from the shed without Ian having to tell him.

About mid-day, Harry moved to the barn to do some repair work. He needed more help with this project and Ian seemed to enjoy answering his questions and showing him what to do. Part of the barn door had been damaged. With handsaw and hammer, Harry cut the necessary wood and nailed it into place. He gained a new understanding and respect for those who call themselves carpenters. Though a lot of work, when the job was completed, he felt a special satisfaction as he and Ian looked at the results of his labor.

About mid-afternoon, Ian gave him a tool belt containing hammer, nails, fence wire and wire cutters. After instructions from Ian, Harry walked the fence line making needed repairs as he found them. The fence line needed only a few repairs as it wound its way around the very large field looping back to the farmhouse. This gave Harry some time to think and look around at the farm and countryside. It was quiet and peaceful with little more than the wind and the smell of the plowed wheat field to keep him company. The fence was the only marker in that vast open valley that identified the McGregor farm. It helped Ian and his neighbors live in peace with each other.



Hermione spent most of the morning on her feet accomplishing her assigned tasks. She cared for and helped entertain the young children in the day care area while parents went to visit family members. She organized activities and played games with them. One particular game was a big hit and the children enjoyed it very much. So much so, that some of the children cried when being picked up by a parent to leave. Hermione would silently mouth "Sorry" to a parent while the child got one more turn at the game. The parents on the other hand, would mostly mouth back "Thank you". Hermione spent a fair amount of time in the mush pot.

Later, she helped serve lunch to many of the patients and she had barely a moment to rest. She talked to some of the patients and helped brighten their day. Some patients were cross and irritable. Others were embarrassed. But most were just looking forward to the day when they would be able to leave.

One of the tougher areas for her to serve lunch was in the Janus Thickey Ward. She saw Gilderoy Lockhart who asked if she wanted an autographed picture of him. After saying yes, Gilderoy gave her ten signed photos. But the hardest to bear was serving lunch to Frank and Alice Longbottom. She tried to talk to them and tell them how their son had helped defeat the dark lord. But no matter what she said, Frank and Alice just looked at her with a vacant stare as they tucked into their lunch. She felt so sorry for them and particularly Neville. She wished in her heart that she could do something to make Frank and Alice's minds whole again like she had done with the memories of her parents.

By mid-afternoon, she was in the elder care center walking from room to room just talking with the aged residents there. They all had stories to tell about events in their lives and about their children. Sometimes she heard parts of the stories more than once but they were all happy to see her and smiled broadly. It seemed to Hermione that her youth and life force was reenergizing the elderly, for a time, simply by her being there and listening to them talk.



Late in the afternoon, Harry was sitting on the farmhouse porch talking with Ian and his wife Martha.

Ian said, "Not many wizards come to do the ritual anymore. Seems folks are in a hurry these days. I never expected I'd meet you. You're not anything like I imagined."

Martha said, "You are such a nice down to earth person. Your fiancée is a very lucky girl."

"Thank you. It was her idea to do the ritual and I'm the luckiest man in the world to be engaged to her."

Martha said, "How long have you been engaged?"

"A few months, but we've been good friends with each other for seven years. We've been through a lot together."

"Ian and I only knew each other for three months before we were married. We both came from farming families and chores came before courtship. Having farming in common helped us to know we were right for each other. It was about six months before our telepathic link formed. For some couples we've met, it took years."

She reached over and patted Harry's hand. "Be patient." She glanced at Ian with a smiled. "It's so nice when it finally happens."

"Nice indeed," said Ian. "I've always felt a little sorry for my brother Dougal. He doesn't have any magical abilities. My brother owns the farm on the other side of that distant tree line to the north."

There was a sound of a whoosh as Ron arrived. Harry introduced his best mate properly to Ian and Martha.

Pointing, Ian said, "The two of you better get going to that hill there. The sun will be setting soon. You are both welcome to stay for supper when you get back."

After looking at Ron, Harry said, "Thank you. Yes, that would be very kind of you."



Ginny arrived at the elder care facility a short time before sunset. As she entered the building, the sound of people singing a short way up the hall greeted her. She made her way up the hall and it opened into a large common area. She looked in and saw the room filled with elderly people. Some were eating supper. Others were hunched over in wheelchairs but smiling none-the-less. Many others sat in chairs throughout the room and were singing. At the far side of the room, Ginny saw Hermione holding a piece of sheet music. She stood between a woman playing the piano and a man playing a stand up bass. Both musicians seemed to be in their sixty's. Ginny smiled.

     ...
     You'll never know dear, how much I love you
     Please don't take my sunshine away
[2]

The song ended and everyone in the room clapped. Hermione looked up and saw Ginny grinning broadly at her. Hermione covered her mouth with the sheet music as she laughed. Then, she motioned to Ginny to come over to her.

"Ginny, I'd like you to meet the musicians. Playing the piano is Liz Beth and over here on the bass is Tom. ... Liz Beth, Tom, this is my best friend Ginny."

"Pleased to meet you," said Ginny. "It's almost sunset Hermione. We need to go so you can witness it."

"Okay. But I want to come back and do a few more songs before we go."

"Okay. Come on, let's go now."



Harry and Ron walked to the top of the hill. There was a clear view of the countryside to the western horizon. As the sun was setting, Harry thought about the events of the day and particularly about Hermione looking at the same sunset. He missed being with her.



After asking an orderly, they climb the stairs leading to the observation deck on the top of the building. It was cloudy and the sun was mostly covered. With a concerned look on her face, Ginny took out her wand and pointed it toward the west. "Video Sole Occasu!" The clouds at the horizon parted and a spectacular orange sunset became visible. The clouds reflected in shades of red and orange and beams of light spread in many directions.

Hermione smiled. "Oh Ginny, well done! It's beautiful!" She watched silently as the sun slowly set thinking about Harry who was also watching the same sun. Then, quietly, Hermione began to sing.

     "You are my sunshine, my only sunshine ..."

Ginny looked at Hermione and smiled warmly.



Harry and Ron joined Ian and Martha for supper. The old couple talked about the farm and about their now grown children and their grandchildren.

As they were about to leave, Harry said to Ian and Martha, "Thank you for helping me today. I learned a lot from you. I'd like to invite you to the bonding ceremony."

Martha said, "We'd love to come. Thank you so much for asking."

"Great. It will be at the Godric's Hollow church at 2:00 pm. Thank you again."

Harry and Ron went back outside. Ian and Martha followed and stood on the porch. Harry waved goodbye to them and then he and Ron disapparated.



Hermione and Ginny returned to the common area. Liz Beth and Tom were sitting at a table eating supper. There were two other empty places at the table with covered plates. Hermione smiled. She eagerly moved to the table and sat down followed by Ginny. They talked quietly with Liz Beth and Tom while they ate supper.

Hermione said, "Do the two of you play music together often?"

Liz Beth briefly glanced at Tom. "Yes we do. My husband John passed on about ten years ago. We used to play quite regularly and for special occasions. It was so nice when we'd join up with other singers and musicians. When we played and sang together, there was oneness and a special magic that happened. It's hard to describe. It's not like a feeling. It's more like a connection that is just there, unrealized, dependable and deeply synchronizing. That's how we met Tom. Since then, Tom has been my support. Playing music with him and helping people feel happy is all that I need now."

"Harry is generally uncomfortable doing singing or dancing," said Hermione. "Although, he has reluctantly done both a few times during school. To be fair, while he was growing up, it was hard for him to be happy. I hope I'll be able to help him feel different about singing and dancing in the future."

After a pause, Hermione said, "Liz Beth, Tom, it would make me happy if you'd both come to the wedding. It's on Sunday, 2:00 pm at the church in Godric's Hollow."

"We'd love to be there," said Liz Beth. "Thank you."

"Can we do one more song together?"

"How about this one?" said Tom, handing her a sheet of music.

Hermione giggled, "Okay."

The three of them made their way to the piano and bass. The music started and Hermione began to sing.

"Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer do ..." [3]


[2] - You are my sunshine; Oliver Hood 1933
[3] - Daisy Bell; Harry Dacre 1892


Chapter 13: Diem de Menti
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The second day began with a six am arrival of Harry and Ron on a secluded hillside. They stood for a moment in the absolute quiet of that place. Pine trees were loosely scattered around them. The hill became steeper and rose up a few hundred feet more to a rocky peak that continued as a high ridgeline. A valley to the west stretched out below them.

Ron took out his wand and placed the tip lightly on Harry's forehead. "diem de menti!" Then Ron went about setting up security wards and disillusionment charms. Meanwhile, Harry set up a small wizard camping tent.

"All set then mate?"

"Yeah. Thanks."

"Here's the book you need to use today. I'll be checking up on you every so often. See you later."

Ron walked outside of the security wards and disapparated. Harry read the ritual booklet for the second day activities while he ate a simple breakfast.

          Solitude, reflection and focusing of the mind.

          Goal: To make peace with yourself and accept the person you are, as your beloved does.

          Reflect on a selected question honestly and truthfully in writing. Then, meditate on your
          response. Take time. Select or use your own questions for reflection.

               1. Who am I?
               2. How do I appreciate the beauty within me?
               3. What makes me smile?
               4. What will I do for my beloved today?
               5. If God whispered something in my ear, what would I like Him to say?
          ...
          Meditation is being ...




Hermione and Ginny similarly arrived at six am on the edge of a forested plateau. Only the birds broke the utter silence of that place. From where they stood, the ground sloped gently downward toward the west. Trees of ash, birch and elm grew in the woodsy surroundings extending to the horizon.

Ginny placed her wand on Hermione's forehead. "diem de menti!" After setting up security wards, she helped Hermione get settled.

"I'll be coming to check up on you every three hours or so. You've got the DA coin if you need my urgent help."

"Thanks Ginny."

"This is the booklet you need to use today. I'll see you later." Ginny walked off and disapparated.

Hermione ate breakfast while reading the ritual booklet. The activities were questions for personal reflection and hourly meditation exercises. The booklet contained extendable blank pages and a magical pencil for writing.

          ...
          Meditation is being present to what is, without judgment or expectation. To

          notice thoughts and become aware of their impact on one's life.  Awareness
          empowers self-introspection. Begin by choosing a focal point.

               1. A word or phrase
               2. Your breath or heartbeat
               3. A flower, plant or tree
               4. An imaginary place

          ...



It was mid-morning when Ron apparated a short distance away and made his way to Harry in the tent. Ron saw Harry writing as he quietly peeked into the tent. Harry looked up and smiled.

"Okay Harry? Need anything?"

"Everything is fine Ron. Thanks."

Ron took a minute to check the wards and then disapparated.

Harry read another question, "What will I do for my beloved today?"

Harry sat back and thought. He wouldn't see or be with Hermione today, at least not physically. He wasn't allowed to use direct magic or something like a muggle phone. Maybe somehow, he could use the meditation to project his thoughts or feelings to her. It was after all, one of the goals they were trying to achieve. He got up and went for a walk to think about it.



When Ginny made the mid-morning checkup on Hermione, she was sitting by a tree reading.

"Hi Hermione. Everything okay?"

"Hi Ginny. Yes, everything's fine. It's such a nice morning."

"Do you need anything?"

"Yes Ginny, I do. I'd like you to bring me a flying broom."

"A broom?"

"Yes. The one I want is under Harry's bed at our flat. Can you bring it to me?"

"Sure but, I thought you weren't all that keen about them."

"It's something that will help me today."

"Okay. I'll be back in a few minutes."

A short while later, Ginny returned with the broom.

Hermione looked up from her writing. "Thanks Ginny."

"Need anything else?"

"No, nothing else."

"Okay. See you later then." Ginny walked to just outside the wards and then disapparated.  

Hermione completed writing in the ritual booklet. Then taking the broom, she laid it in front of her. She crossed her legs, sat up straight and closed her eyes. She sat motionless for a long while breathing deeply and regularly. Then very relaxed, she opened her eyes, held out her hand over the broom and said, "Up!" The broom floated up to her hand and she wrapped her fingers around the handle.

There were butterflies in her stomach as she stood and mounted the broom. Remembering how Harry had done it the day he proposed to her, she gently kicked off into a low hover. She cautiously began to practice turning, pivoting and easing the broom forward and backward. The movements were jerky and being unsure, she remained only a few feet off the ground. She tried to remain aware of her breathing, working to keep herself relaxed. But it was hard to concentrate on flying a broom and staying relaxed at the same time.



Ron arrived mid-day. "Here's some lunch for you."

"Thanks Ron. There are a couple of things I need. You can them get from my room at the flat."

"What are they?"

"In the top drawer of my nightstand is a music box. Under my bed is a broom. They will really help me today with the assignments."

"Okay. I'll be back in a bit."



In a flash of green light from the fireplace, Ron arrived at the Burrow with a flustered expression on his face.

"What's the matter Ron?" said Ginny with a concerned look. "Is everything okay with Harry?"

"Yeah. Harry's fine," said Ron somewhat exasperated. "But he asked me to bring him a broom from under his bed and it wasn't there. I looked around their flat but I couldn't find it."

"Hermione has it. She asked me to bring it to her earlier this morning."

Ron let out a sigh and said, "What should we do? I can't tell Harry she has the broom. And if I bring him one of ours, he'll know something's up."

Ginny thought for a moment. "Maybe not. Take my Nimbus broom to him."

"When Harry questions me, what should I say?"

"Tell him it's special to Ginny that he uses my broom. Don't say anything else or answer any other questions about it."

"Okay, thanks Ginny."

"I've got to take lunch to Hermione now. Good luck."



Harry had been trying to complete what he felt would be a proper meditation since mid-morning. He tried deep breathing, focusing on a single thought and trying to feel oneness with the surroundings. But it was difficult for him to let go of himself and put aside distractions. The booklet said that this was normal and to just take breaks and keep trying.

Harry thought, "What would Hermione do ... besides go to the library?" He answered his question with, "She would think logically about it." But that seemed the opposite of meditation to him.

He was finishing his lunch in the tent when Ron returned. Ron handed him the music box and leaned the broom against the side of the tent.

"Ron, that's Ginny's broom."

"I know mate. It's special to Ginny that you use her broom."

"Oh ... okay." Harry saw resolve on Ron's face.

"If that's all you need, I'll be going. See you later."

"Thanks Ron." Ron quickly exited the tent. A moment later, Harry heard a whoosh in the distance as Ron disapparated.

Harry picked up the ritual booklet to do another meditation exercise but he stopped as his mind came back to an unsettled question. Why had Ron brought him Ginny's broom and left abruptly? Harry had put the new broom under his bed. He looked at the music box and knew that Ron had definitely gone into his room. That means Ron couldn't find the broom. The only other person who knows about the broom is ...

"Hermione!" he said aloud.

He thought back to the question he was working on, 'What will I do for my beloved today?' She knew he loved flying on a broom. But it always made her nervous to do it. Harry's eyes got misty at the remainder of that thought.



Ginny arrived with lunch for Hermione. "How are you doing with flying the broom?"

"Better but I'm still not confident and my flying is not very smooth."

"Try not to think about the mechanics of control. Just think and feel where you want to go, sort of like riding a bicycle. You don't think about falling when you ride a bicycle. It's the same with a broom."

"Okay. I'll give that a try. Thanks Ginny."

"Need anything else?"

"No, I have what I need."

"See you later this afternoon." Hermione began eating her lunch as Ginny departed.



In the tent, Harry put the music box on the small table in front of him. He wrapped his hands around it and began thinking of the song he wanted. He only remembered a few of the words that he'd seen, written by Hermione, in her wedding planner. He cleared his mind and concentrated on the words, repeating them a few times. Then, Harry opened the music box. His mother's voice began to sing the song. Harry smiled. This meditation he knew he could accomplish.



Hermione sat on the broom hovering a few feet off the ground. Her left hand held the broom handle. Her right hand held her wand resting in her lap in case an 'aresto momentum' spell was needed. She closed her eyes and began deep rhythmic breathing concentrating on the release of tension each time she exhaled. As she became relaxed, she partially opened her eyes and squinted at the distant horizon. Then, with each exhale of her breath, she whispered, "Superior!"

Almost imperceptibly, she began to move vertically upwards. She watched only the horizon in front of her. Her thoughts shifted to the day when she flew with Harry to the family tree. They had gently turned left ... and then right ... smoothly moved higher ... and then lower. Her hand on the broom became an extension of her thoughts. Where she pointed the handle, the broom followed. If her hand put forward pressure on the handle, the broom moved forward.

She opened her eyes fully and realized that she was now flying large figure eight's a hundred feet in the air. A few butterflies tickled in her stomach but she remained focused in her determination to master the broom. Moving her hand cautiously downward, she began to descend toward the ground. And putting backward pressure on the handle caused the broom to slow and stop as her feet touched the ground.

She punched the air and yelled, "YES!!!" Taking the booklet, she began to write. Then, mounting the broom and kicking off, she practiced again and again.



Ron returned mid afternoon. Harry was sitting in the shade of a tree. He seemed relaxed and looked peaceful.

"Last call, need anything mate?"

"No, I've got everything I need. When you come at sunset, bring your broom with you. Join me if I'm flying when you get here."

"Okay. See you then."

Harry turned to the last meditation in the booklet and read.

          As an immortal being currently dwelling within a mortal body, know that, 

          "You are a child of the universe; no less than the trees and the stars ..." [4]



"Last visit before sunset."

"I don't need anything. Ginny, when you come at sunset, bring your broom with you."

Ginny smiled. "It's good to hear you say that. I will."

Hermione smiled and Ginny departed.

Hermione looked up after reading the last meditation in the booklet and closed her eyes.



Harry spent most of the remaining afternoon slowly soaring across the ridge of the hill and skimming the treetops. A feeling of peace and complete freedom filled him. He thought about the words in the booklet. He thought about his friends and how they had helped him shape his life, particularly Ron. He thought about Hermione and how much she meant to him. Somehow, it seemed, he knew her beyond friendship and beyond romantic love. How was it possible?



Toward the end of the afternoon, Hermione was confident in her skills to control the broom. She floated above and sometimes between the treetops. She felt at ease moving faster and looking around as she flew. She could hover and close her eyes knowing that the broom would only move where she wanted it to go. She thought about her parents, her friends and especially Ginny. She thought about Harry, their friendship and love for each other, and about how they might become closer.



Ron returned with his broom and a light dinner for the two of them. He caught sight of Harry floating peacefully on the evening breeze rising off the mountain slope. Harry looked like an eagle soaring as he slowly circled on the broom just above the ridgeline. The sun was very low on the horizon and about to set. Ron stowed dinner in the tent and then silently flew up toward Harry. Ron took up a position behind and a few yards off on Harry's right side. Smoothly locked into that position, Ron watched Harry in silence. Harry's eyes were closed and he slowly circled as if scanning the horizon for something. Presently, he came to a stop and opened his eyes.

"She's in that direction," he said looking toward the horizon.

Ron smiled to himself and remained silent. He knew where Hermione and Ginny were. Harry had indeed indicated the correct direction. Ron was surprised though, when Harry began to sing.

     You fill up my senses
     Like a night in a forest ...
[5]



Hermione was at peace flying on the broom. Ginny was on a broom flying a short distance away from her. They both hovered nearly motionless, like kites on a string, high above the trees. She faced the setting sun with her eyes closed, the last warming rays reflecting off a contented expression on her face.

The faint suggestion of a song drifted into her mind. The words were familiar and she unconsciously pivoted on the broom. Though she heard only a light wind in her ears, the words seemed to come from the direction she now faced.

Ginny watched in silence as Hermione began to quietly sing while looking toward the distant horizon. Soon, there were happy tears in her eyes.



     ...
     Come let me love you
     Come love me again
  [5]

Harry gazed at the horizon for a minute longer. Then he turned on his broom to watch the remainder of the sun disappear below the horizon.

After a moment Ron said, "That was beautiful mate. Do you think she knows?"

"Yeah ... it felt like she was there."

After a short pause, Harry said, "Do you think you'll do this ritual with Katie one day?"

"I think so mate." Ron smiled, "We both meet the requirements so far."

"Ron, have you ever thought about how unbelievably lucky it was that Hermione, you and me met up in our first year?"

"Yeah, quite a few times. I can't imagine how it would have been if we'd never met." Ron pointed up. "Someone up there was really looking out for us."

"Do you mind if we stay a while longer and watch the stars come out?"

"No mate, not at all."



Hermione wiped her eyes. Ginny moved close beside her and said, "Are you okay?"

"Yes." She took a deep breath and let it out in a sigh. "I'm very happy right now. I think Harry just sang that song to me."

"Did you hear him?" asked Ginny with a concerned look on her face.

"No ... the words just came into my head so I sang along. It's a popular song for weddings. I was considering it a few weeks ago for the reception. He must have seen it in my wedding planner."

"It was beautiful. And appropriate considering what you and Harry are trying to achieve."

After a moment, Ginny said, "You seem to have mastered flying on a broom."

"Thanks to you," she said with a smile. "I'm looking forward to having Harry with me in the future. Sunsets are so wonderful to watch from up here." She gazed at the fading twilight.

"Ginny ... Is it okay with you if we stay and watch the stars for a while? I want to spend some time talking with my best girlfriend."

"That would be wonderful," said Ginny with a warm smile.


[4] - Desiderata; Max Ehrmann, 1952
[5] - Annie's Song; John Denver, 1974

 


Chapter 14: Diem de Spritus
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The wakeup alarm sounded on the clock in the living room of the Granger home. Hermione and Ginny stirred from their separate sleeping places on the two sofas in the room. Ginny reached and groped for her wand as she sat up. She brushed the red hair from her face trying to wake up. Hermione sleepily sat up thinking in retrospect that she and Ginny probably should not have talked so long last night. But they had both been very excited about this day. Hermione stood and Ginny moved close to face her. Ginny touched the wand lightly to Hermione's chest. "diem de spiritus!" Then, they both went back to their respective sofas and lie down again for a few more hours of sleep.



"Harry, Harry. You need to wake up for a minute," said Ron.

Harry sat up as Ron's room slowly came into focus. Ron was sitting on his bed rubbing his eyes. After another minute, they both stood. Taking his wand in hand, Ron touched it to Harry's chest. "diem de spiritus!"

Then, while covering a big yawn with his fist, Ron said, "A few more hours of sleep then?"

"Yeah. That's a good idea Ron," said Harry as he fell back onto the cot.



Molly fussed over Harry and attached a red carnation to his lapel. He wore a white tuxedo with long coat tails and a bowtie. After scrutinizing him one last time, Molly pronounced him ready and then hurried into the parlor. Harry stepped out into the backyard to wait for Ron.   

"Ginny," said Ron speaking into the fireplace, "Is Hermione out of sight at the church?"

"Yes, I've got her in the room on the left side, by the main entrance doors."

"Okay. I'm leaving for the church with Harry."

Ron stood up and straightened the coat of his charcoal colored tuxedo and bowtie. He also wore a red carnation on his lapel. He touched his hand to the coat pocket and felt the small case containing Hermione's wedding ring. He stepped to the parlor door and looked in. Molly was fussing with Arthur's tuxedo. "Harry and I are leaving now. See you at the church."

Ron stepped outside and stood by Harry. "Ready to go mate?"

Harry smiled. "Yeah, I'm really looking forward to seeing her."

They clasped hands and disapparated.



Ginny moved to the door and quickly slipped back inside. Hermione was seated before a large mirror and Emma was standing behind arranging her hair.

"There, it looks lovely." Emma squeezed Hermione's shoulders.

"Thanks Mum. Fleur is so generous; it's very special to her."

Ginny looking at Hermione in the mirror. "Bill told me she was very happy when you asked. I think it's just the right touch of elegance to go with your dress."

Looking in the mirror, Hermione pinched the dress fabric on each side by her arms. "Ginny, would you tighten the fit just a little."

Ginny took out her wand and touched the dress fabric on each side. "How's that?"

"Perfect, thanks Ginny."

"Stand up so we can have a look at you," said Emma.

Emma and Ginny backed away as Hermione stood and turned to face them.

"Simply enchanting," said Emma with teary eyes.

Ginny smiled. "Better have a shield charm ready for when Harry gets a look at you."

Hermione smiled. "I miss him so much."

There was a gentle knock. Ginny went to the door and opened it just enough to peek out. Then she turned to Hermione. "Ready for some photos?"

"Yes, have her come in."

Juliette slipped inside and Ginny quickly closed the door.



The guests were seated in the church wherever they wished and were quietly conversing with one another. In attendance were the extended Weasley family, Hogwarts school friends, Hagrid, Liz Beth, Tom, Ian, Martha, Wilbur and most of the professors from Hogwarts. Two large flower arrangements were in front on both sides of the sanctuary. Lit candles, with flowers around the bases and draped with fluttering red, white and gold ribbons, floated along the walls.

Music began to play. Harry and Ron walked in from a side door. They stood in front on the right between the first pew and the raised floor of the sanctuary. Then Arthur and Molly carried a lit candle up the center aisle. A tall three stem candelabra stood in the center of the sanctuary with a single unlit candle in the center. Molly added the candle to the candelabra and then she and Arthur seated themselves. Then Emma Granger entered carrying another lit candle up the center aisle. She also added it to the candelabra and then seated herself.

McGonagall entered from a door on the left side and moved to stand by the candelabra facing the guests. Smiling and carrying a bouquet of flowers, Ginny walked up the center aisle wearing an elegant deep green dress. Ron met her in the center, took her arm in his, and led her forward up the steps into the sanctuary. They separated and then turned to face the guests. The music shifted to the bridal march and everyone stood and turned toward the entrance of the church.

The doors of the vestibule opened. Hermione held her father's arm and together they stepped forward. She wore a white satin strapless wedding gown with a layered and pleated skirt that flared and hung just above the ground. It was accented in delicate lace from the waist up. An arch of white roses angled gracefully down on one side of the skirt. Her hair was elegantly arranged, held in place by Fleur's tiara. Lily's griffin necklace rested high on her chest. Seeing her, Harry was mesmerized, his gaze transfixed on the woman he loved. She was beyond beautiful. Her face radiated a pure white glow as Dan escorted her slowly up the center aisle.

Hermione felt a delightful weightless elation. She blushed slightly at seeing that the eyes of all present were unblinkingly looking at her. Her gaze fell on the man she loved and longed to be with. There was radiance about him. Her gaze locked on him and everything else in her field of view went out of focus.

Harry moved toward them. His eyes fixed on hers. Dan kissed his daughter on the cheek and stepped back allowing Harry to take his place next to Hermione. It was very hard for both Harry and Hermione not to wrap each other in a hug. Joining arms, they moved up the steps into the sanctuary and stopped in front of McGonagall. Ginny and Ron turned to face them. The music faded into silence and the guests seated themselves.

McGonagall said, "Good afternoon to each of you. I welcome you here today to witness and celebrate the bonding of Harry Potter and Hermione Granger in marriage. It is my great privilege to officiate at this ceremony. I have been blessed to see them grow from children into adults of courage, honesty and virtue."

"The particular ritual that they have chosen is called 'vinculi spiritu' or 'bond of the spirit'. It is ancient and not often used. Its origin dates back at least three hundred years. It seeks to confer spiritual blessings on the couple in addition to their life union as husband and wife. This marriage bond is most sacred and serious. It is not entered into lightly or without careful consideration."

"The 'vinculi spiritu' requires purification in mind and body. Harry and Hermione completed the preparatory parts of the ritual in isolation from each other over the last two days. The best man, Ronald Weasley and the maid of honor Ginny Weasley have stood by them keeping watch and aiding them at certain times. On this third day, in the presence of us all, Harry and Hermione will bond themselves into a new life that shares body, mind and spirit with each other. In doing so, their union is beyond a promise. It will be part of their true being and we may rightfully refer to them as soul mates."

"We begin with a scripture reading about love which is the foundation of a marriage."

Katie stepped forward to a small podium. She began to read aloud.

"If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal ... Love is patient and kind ...  the greatest of these is love."   [1 Cor 13]

McGonagall looked at them with a serious expression. "Harry and Hermione, have you come here freely, and without reservation, to complete your bond to each other, in the sight of God and those here present?"

"We have," they said together.

"Harry and Hermione, do you understand that you will be bound to each other as husband and wife for the remainder of your earthly lives?"

"We do," they said together.

"Harry and Hermione, since these are your intentions, I ask that you face each other and join your right hands."

They turned and smiling at each other, joined their hands at chest level. Taking out her wand, McGonagall passed it in an arc over their joined hands. A golden ribbon appeared and wound itself around their joined hands.

McGonagall said, "Harry, please pronounce your pledge to Hermione."

He looked deeply into her eyes. "Hermione, I freely present to you all that I am in body, mind, and in spirit. I take you as my wife to share with you my life, hopes and dreams. I promise to be true to you always. I will comfort you in your sorrow, celebrate in your joy, and care for you always. I will love you and honor you all the days of my life."

McGonagall said, "Hermione, please pronounce your pledge to Harry."

She looked deeply into his eyes. "Harry, I freely present to you all that I am in body, mind, and in spirit. I take you as my husband to share with you my life, hopes and dreams. I promise to be true to you always. I will comfort you in your sorrow, celebrate in your joy, and care for you always. I will love you and honor you all the days of my life."

McGonagall said, "In the presence of us all, witnesses of the words spoken by each of you today, we bless and approve your pledges to each other." She lightly tapped their joined hands with her wand. A spark flew up from their joined hands and settled on the top of the unlit candle in the candelabra. It scintillated like a star. The ribbon was replaced by a golden glow that dissolved into their hands.

McGonagall said, "The rings, that they will now give, are a sign to all of their solemn pledges to each other."

Harry turned to Ron. Ron held out Hermione's gold wedding band in the palm of his hand. Harry took it and turned back to face Hermione taking hold of her hand. Looking into her eyes while sliding the ring onto her finger he said, "Take and wear this ring as a sign of our love and fidelity."

Likewise, Ginny held out Harry's gold wedding band for Hermione. Looking into his eyes she said, "Take and wear this ring as a sign of our love and fidelity." She slid the ring onto his finger.

After a short pause, McGonagall said, "Please join your left hands for the consecration of your bond."

Harry and Hermione raised their hands to chest height, with palms facing down, and laced their fingers. McGonagall held her wand tip above their rings and said,

     "liberum arbitrii electio de mentibus"       (free-will choice of the minds)
     "cum caritas de corda"                                  (with love from the hearts)
     "esse nunc coniuncta in spiritus"                (be now united in the spirit)

The rings both began to radiate and pulse in a blue glow. McGonagall smiled with a slight nod of satisfaction. She touched the rings with her wand tip and the glow faded away.

McGonagall motioned and Ginny moved to stand very close Hermione. Ron stood close to Harry. McGonagall moved back a few steps and said, "Harry and Hermione, please seal your bond with each other."

Smiling and holding each other's hands, Harry and Hermione moved toward each other and kissed. An instant later, they each felt a shock of joy. Perception of their surroundings clouded for a moment. A golden wave of light emanated from Harry and Hermione and it spread through the room touching all present with a brief tingling sensation. Their kiss separated and they swayed still holding each other's hands. Ron and Ginny reached out to steady them and felt a warm and soothing sensation.

Hermione was regaining her composure when there was a soft and gentle "I love you Hermione."

She looked toward Harry and her mouth half opened. He had a thoughtful gaze fixed on her. Realizing that Harry had not spoken with his voice, tears of joy formed in her eyes. "I love you Harry," she thought back to him.

He gave her a small nod. Both of their faces beamed as they strongly embraced each other in excited happiness. "We'd better keep this to a minimum for now out of respect for our guests. Yes, I agree, I'm so happy!" They released each other. Then Harry turned and nodded to Ron.

"Yes!" Ron said as he embraced and clapped Harry on the back.

Hermione, wiping tears from her eyes, nodded to Ginny. She squealed in delight and embraced Hermione.

McGonagall, understanding what she had just witnessed between the four of them, smiled happily. She could not be more proud of all that Harry and Hermione had accomplished. She took a step forward and announced, "Having sealed their bond, I declare they are now husband and wife. I am pleased to present to you Harry and Hermione Potter."

There was applause as Harry and Hermione turned to face their guests and linked each other's arm. There were flashes of light from cameras. The closing wedding march began to play. After a moment, they walked arm in arm out of the church followed by Ron, Ginny and their guests.

They greeted each of their guests as they exited the church. In the reception hall, everyone enjoyed a buffet as Harry and Hermione continued to make their way around and talk to all of their friends and family. 

Later, when everyone had a glass of champagne at the ready, Ron said, "Please raise your glass to my two best and closest friends, Harry and Hermione. May your new life together be filled with love, fulfillment, happiness and peace."

"Here, here!" everyone said.

Harry and Hermione shared a sip of their champagne with interlinked arms. They gave each other cake. Music began to play and they danced. Everyone had a very good time.

Late in the afternoon, Ron and Ginny came up to them. Ron said, "Sunset time you two. You can witness it just out that side door."

"Okay. Everyone is welcome to join us," said Hermione.

Outside was a small patio area with a deck that faced west. A meadow sloped gently down and away. The sun hung just above the horizon and the scattered clouds were aglow in orange and red. Harry and Hermione stepped onto the deck in front of their guests and held each other's hand looking toward the sun.

"I like it much better holding your hand at sunset," thought Hermione.

"Yeah. I really missed you. I think I felt your presence last night," thought Harry.

"I felt you too Harry. Your song to me was beautiful."

He turned to look at her in surprise. "You heard it?" thought Harry.

She smiled, "No, but your words came to me and I sang along. I hope you'll sing it to me again sometime."

"Yes, I will." he thought to her. Then, using his voice, he began to sing to her. "You fill up my senses, like a night in a forest ..."  [5]

After a moment, Ron looked at Ginny standing a short distance away. She was already looking at him. Ginny silently mouthed to Ron, "sunset yesterday". Ron beamed a smile and nodded back to Ginny. The expression of a squeal came to Ginny's face and she clapped her hands softly in delight. Then, the expression on her face became dreamy. Looking back at Harry and Hermione, she wiped the corner of her eye. Ron, with an arm around Katie's waist, felt a peaceful comfort for his two closest friends.
 
The last of the sun was disappearing below the horizon as he finished the song. Hermione sang the last chorus with him. Then they embraced and kissed. There were cheers, clapping and rice was thrown by their guests. Magic fireworks exploded above them. Pop! Pop! Confetti and streamers floated down on them. Their lips separated and they beamed at each other.

Ron went over to Ginny. "You reckon this is a good spot for those last two bonding customs?"

"Yes, this will do nicely." She turned to Arthur. "Dad, will you officiate?"

"Certainly."

Arthur raised his voice and said, "Okay. I need all of the eligible ladies in this area over here. Come on now, don't be shy. Hermione, if you would please come over here with your bouquet. Face away from them."

Arthur took out his wand. Touching it to the bouquet he said, "Impervius! ... Okay ladies, charms like accio won't work so don't even try. Hermione, on the count of three, throw the bouquet over your shoulder. Everyone ready? ... one ... two ... three! "

The bouquet flew high into the air. Hands stretched upward as it fell into their midst. Excited squeals were heard as a hand held the bouquet firmly. The hand was attached to a beaming Katie. Ron caught her eye and smiled with a satisfied expression. People around Ron clapped him on the back saying things like, "No hope for you Ron." and "You're next."

Arthur said, "Okay. Now I need all of the eligible men in this area over here. Hermione, if you would sit here. Harry, you have a job to do."

Hermione lifted her skirt as wolf howls and whistles were heard. She laughed and shook her head. Harry removed a blue garter from her leg.

Arthur said, "Impervius! ... Okay Harry, on the count of three. Everyone ready? ... one ... two ... three!"

The garter flew high into the air. Hands stretched upward as it fell into their midst. Then, "Yes!" as one hand took hold of it. That hand belonged to George. Angelina beamed at George as he danced and caused more fireworks and confetti to appear. There was laughter and applause. Harry and Hermione took each other's hand and everyone went back into the reception hall.

Later, Harry and Hermione had changed cloths and were about to leave on their honeymoon.

Hermione embraced Ginny and then Ron saying, "Thanks you two for all you did for us these last few days." Harry did the same and said, "Yes, thanks. We really appreciate it. Hope we can return the favor one day for each of you."

"You two have a great honeymoon," said Ron. "See you when you get back."

Hermione waved to the guests, "Bye everyone. Thank you for sharing in our special day."

Hermione linked her arm with Harry and a moment later, they disapparated.


Chapter 15: Time For Us
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With a gentle whoosh, Harry and Hermione found themselves standing in a small square room. In front of them was a mirrored door that reflected two people with smiling faces standing arm in arm. After a brief pause, they heard the muffled ding of a bell. The mirrored door before them split in two from top to bottom and then slid open into the walls. Harry and Hermione stepped forward into a vestibule with marble floors, dark wood paneled walls and a small chandelier hanging from the ceiling. Behind them, the doors of a very ordinary looking muggle elevator closed and the magical travel point was hidden from view. A small sign on the wall contained the words "Lobby and Front Desk" and an arrow pointed to the left. They turned, still arm in arm, and began to slowly walk up the hallway.

After a short distance, there was a large window that let in sunlight from the outside. They stepped toward the window and stopped to look out. The view overlooked a very large area containing two enormous swimming pools with palm trees and hedges on the far side. Surrounding the pools were lounge chairs and tables, some containing towels and tote bags. Guests were reclined and reading or napping in the late afternoon sun. One of the pools contained children swimming and splashing in the water. In the other pool, some older adults were swimming leisurely. Another large group congregated at a swim up bar talking and drinking colorful beverages.

Harry and Hermione glanced at each other momentarily and then continued walking. After a short distance, the hallway opened into a large lobby. Crystal chandeliers hung from the high ceiling and cast a warm inviting glow into the room. Green and flowering plants were scattered around the room and large chairs were arranged in small groupings. On the far side of the lobby there were large glass doors. Through the doors, they could see a number of muggle automobiles and luggage carts being loaded by bellhops. Guests entering through the doors moved toward a very large front desk on one side of the lobby.

Hermione nudged Harry and then pointed to a man standing behind a much smaller front desk on the right side of the lobby. The man was looking at them with his hand raised above his head. They moved toward him through a narrow opening in a row of closely spaced potted plants. The commotion of the other people in the lobby faded away as they stepped through a magical barrier and walked up to the front desk.

The concierge said, "Good afternoon sir. Reservation name?"

"James Evans," replied Harry.

The concierge glanced at the records and then lifted a small card. "Ah yes, three days tropical accommodations with private, beachfront cottage." The concierge moved a large book on the desk toward him. "If you would please sign here."

After Harry signed the register the concierge said, "Is this your first stay with us?"

"Yes, it is."

"Welcome sir and madam. These are your room portkeys. As you step through the door, you will step into your requested accommodations. Your particular accommodations are some distance from where we are now. They are enclosed within security wards to ensure beach privacy. Should you wish to avail yourselves of any of our other services or restaurants here, simply exit your room. Room service is also available. Your room is located down the hall on your right. Have a pleasant stay."

As they stepped into the room, the sound of waves rushing onto a beach could be heard in the distance. They passed the bathroom door and stepped into a single spacious room. On one side was a small seating area. On the far wall, below a large open window, a table was set for two. A gentle sea breeze touched their faces bringing with it the scent of the ocean air. A king-size bed was on the other side of the room. They slowly stepped forward between the table and bed that led them out to a porch. One side of the porch held a hot tub with a view of the beach. The waves could be seen about fifty feet in the distance. They walked hand in hand part way out onto the beach among the palm trees that swayed gently in the breeze.

"Harry, this is wonderful and so romantic!"

Harry put his arm around her waist and said, "Yeah. This will be very nice. So what do you fancy, dinner or a walk on the beach?"

"Dinner and then a walk on the beach. We spent most of our time talking with our guests and didn't get much time to eat. I'm hungry."

...

Harry was now wearing shorts and a loose fitting button down shirt both in tropical colors. Hermione had changed into a two-piece swimsuit under a sarong and loose fitting top; also in tropical colors.

"The card says to sit down, say 'room service', the entrée and then 'place order'," said Hermione.

Harry moved a chair back so she could seat herself. She smiled and sat down. Harry sat down in the other chair next to her and as he did so, the two candles on the table lit themselves. They smiled at each other and then moved their heads close to look at the menu. After deciding, they spoke their orders.

After a moment, their orders appeared in front of them. A bottle of champagne also appeared with two glasses. Harry looked at the card attached to the bottle. Smiling, he read the card aloud, "Congratulations you two! Have a wonderful time. Ron and Ginny."

"Oh, that was so sweet of them," said Hermione.

Taking the bottle into his hand, the cork popped and flew across the room. Looking at her, Harry said, "Some champagne Mrs. Potter?"

Smiling she said, "Why yes please, Mr. Potter."  Harry filled the two glasses.

"Oh, that reminds me," said Hermione. She reached inside her pocket and withdrew two small vials each containing a small amount of colored liquid. She smiled. "This is the contraceptive potion we talked about. It's effective for a month."

She handed the bluish colored vial to Harry and then she drank the pinkish colored one. Her nose crinkled slightly and she took a sip of water. Harry smiled and drank his potion.

Harry took his champagne glass and held it up. Hermione held her glass up also. Harry said, "To our new life together and all the wonderful magic it will bring." They lightly clinked the glasses and a gentle ethereal singing sound rang out. With delighted smiles, they interlinked their arms and took a sip while looking into each other's eyes.

They unlinked their arms, their faces now very close. He leaned forward and kissed her lightly. "I love you."

"I love you," and she kissed him in return. She took another sip of champagne. With a surprised expression she said, "Oh Harry, this champagne is delightful. Each sip has a slightly different flavor."

Harry took another sip of his champagne. He smiled and said, "A hint of apple this time. My first sip had a hint of strawberry."

"Pear and then peach for me." She raised her glass and said, "To our very best magical friends, Ron, Ginny and the whole Weasley family." The glasses clinked and the singing sound rang out.

...

After dinner, while the last glow of twilight was fading, they leisurely walked on their beach that seemed to stretch for miles. The waves rolled onto the beach with a blue bioluminescent glow and the sand sparkled beneath their feet with each step. Moonlight shimmered on the water. They stopped every so often to pick up and examine a shell or embrace and kiss. Their dress slowly became just swimsuits as they splashed in the ankle deep warm water that washed up over their feet with each wave. The moon and stars cast a magic spell over them and the rest of the world faded from their thoughts. The world had only two people in it now along with the gentle roar of the waves. The warm tropical breezes heighten their senses and desire for each other.

Later, with her comfortably sitting in his lap, they gazed out across the sand watching the waves and sipping champagne. The palm trees swayed in the evening breeze. They breathed in the subtle aroma of the pineapple and coconut scented water that foamed and rippled in shades of red and gold. She set down her champagne glass and leaned back against him lettings out a deep breath in a relaxed sigh. He held her as the warm bubbling water swirled around them and lightly tickled their skin. 

Harry said, "I just had a very happy realization. Now I can say, 'This is my wife Hermione' when I introduce you to people. I really like the sound of that."

"Calling you my husband makes me feel warm and contented inside."

After a moment, he smiled and said, "We don't have to be chaperoned by my Mum and Dad anymore."

She pursed her lips and then said, "I'm very happy about that. I still don't think we were excessively hot and steamy that night. And we were wearing our underwear. He just wanted to pour that water on us. You saw the smirk he had on his face afterward. Both of them could hardly keep from laughing. And the water was cold too!"

He laughed. "Yeah, really spoiled the mood didn't it."

She got up, turned around to face him and reseated herself in his lap wrapping her legs around him. "Well," she said with a grin, "you were thoroughly enjoying yourself watching me use that drying charm on the bed."

With a faraway expression on his face he said, "Oh yes. You looked very nice like that, beautiful eye candy." Then, he looked at her with an expression of knowing and said, "You enjoyed teasing me."

She smiled and with a mischievous expression said, "Yes ... I did." They both laughed.

He began to gently massage her shoulders and neck. As his fingers massaged her temples and head, she cooed softly. Her eyes closed and there was a blissful expression on her face. They wrapped each other in a loving embrace and kissed passionately. Soon, swimsuits lie on the floor as they explored each other with a delicate touch. A while later, she wrapped her arms around his neck and they looked deeply into each other's eyes. Their gaze for each other was tender, desirous and submissive.

With her arms still around his neck, he gently picked her up and carried her inside. Somewhere music seemed to be playing as they danced very slowly and rhythmically. As he watched, a delighted smile appeared on her face. Their eyes looked deeply into each other and they danced ever closer. She wrapped herself tightly around him and pulled him into a loving kiss. They were sweeping each other away from their surroundings. Reassuring words and feelings flowed silently between their connected minds and bodies as their breathing quickened. Gazing at each other, their eyebrows narrowed. Then, as if an immense cathedral bell had been forcefully struck, their heads tilted back and their eyes squeezed shut.



A disconnected image formed; dim fog like surroundings. Here at its center, many pure white ghost-like beings were present. In what seemed like an open area within the spherical midst, two of the beings approached each other. There was a glorious happiness and each radiated in a bright glow. They stretched out toward each other and wrapped their vaporous forms as they met and touched. Turning into each other in a whirlpool of delight, they merged into a single being that pulsated and reverberated in a joyous song. Waves of light emanated in all directions like ripples on a pond. The surrounding beings flared, and in a cascade of warmth and light, imploded. The incandescent light expanded rapidly and drove the joyous song outward in all directions. After a moment, and an eternity, the merged being dissolved into the surroundings with random scintillating sparkles.

The image morphed to an infinite blackness sprinkled with an uncountable number of stars. A prominent dark cloud split open and rays of light burst forth from its center. The cloud was pushed away and the new naked star burned brightly, its wavering intensity becoming smooth and steady. The image dissolved and the reverberations subsided into the sound of the wind rushing through the palm trees and waves crashing onto a beach in the distance.



Eyes slowly opened and beheld a beloved in dreamlike euphoria. Breathing slowed and a feeling of warmth and well being infused their senses. For a peaceful time, only wind and wave filled the silence between them as they lay snuggly collapsed in each other's arms.



She took a very deep breath and sighed. "Wow!" she thought to him. "Are you sure you've never done this before?"

He felt a warm tingle. Smiling he thought, "Must be beginners luck."

She smiled mischievously, "Skillful I'd say. You're very good with a wand you know." She squeezed him tightly. "It was all so very wonderful."

He chuckled and lightly stroked the silky soft skin of her back for a moment. Then, he thought, "I felt feedback from you, like that day at the family tree, but much more intense."

"Yes. It was almost overwhelming, passing back and forth between us all those times."

After a quiet moment, he thought, "Did you see a vision?"

"Yes, but my brain's a bit boggled right now and I'm not sure what it means."

He thought, "Just a moment ago, when you took that deep breath, I felt a tingling in my chest."

"You did?" she thought. "Do the same for me."

Looking at her intently, he took a very deep breath and exhaled slowly.

She smiled at him and thought, "That's so incredible. Oh Harry, I feel like your wrapped up inside me. I've just felt your breath of life."

He thought, "I feel so deeply a part of you too. Doing the bonding ritual was your most brilliant idea ever."

"Thank you Harry. You've made me the happiest girl in the world. I so dearly love you." She squeezed him tightly and then contentedly closed her eyes.

He thought, "Sweet dreams my love."

A moment later, they were both asleep.


Chapter 16: Being With You
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Mid-morning light filled the room as she opened her eyes. The smell of salt air wafted in on the gently breeze through the open window facing the beach. It had been the deepest and most restful night's sleep she could remember. She looked at Harry still asleep under her arm. His face was peaceful and his hair in its normal state of disarray. She listened to his slow rhythmic breathing and felt his pulse under her fingertips. She was acutely aware of his life signs, they seemed as familiar as her own.

She thought about how they had slept in the same bed since the day of their engagement and the agreed boundary they had not crossed. They had used it to experience the subtle nuances of their courtship. Now, another beginning was being built on that firm foundation. There was new wonder, anticipation and excitement that she had not felt before. And now, an awareness of something much more. A realization that within the living prescience of his body, there resided a true sacred being, the Harry she knew. The source of his life, thoughts and love for her, was somehow infused in the flesh and blood she lie against. It was that being, beyond the limitations of humanness, she chose to be with and know a little better each day.

Harry stirred and then stretched. He sighed contentedly as he opened his eyes. He looked at her and said, "Good morning beautiful."

"Good morning my dearest. How did you sleep?"

"Deep and restful, best night's sleep ever. Have you been awake long?"

"Just a few minutes, I was thinking and watching you sleep."

"I was having a dream just now. It was about us as spirits, choosing to be with each other."

She raised her eyebrows and said, "I was just thinking that too. It's so nice when that happens. Seems that the ability to share our thoughts is working quite well. We'll need to learn a bit of thought control."

"You want to limit our connection?" asked Harry with a concerned look. "Insightful thoughts like that I want you to share with me."

"Yes, I promise I always will. I'm sorry. What I meant to say is not share the daily unimportant decisions or work related thoughts. Think of what it would be like if our every thought or mundane decision flooded into each other's head. Should I study arithmancy or charms? Will there be test questions about this or that? Paper or plastic? You'd never have peace for your own thoughts. Eventually, we'd start to close down the connection and I don't think either of us wants that. I want you in my head, at anytime, or for anything you think is important to us. The pros and cons of deciding which color socks to wear? You may keep that to yourself."

"Okay. That sounds better," said Harry somewhat relieved. Then he smiled and said, "Guess that means you won't be helping me answer my Hogwarts exam questions."

Shaking her head and smiling she said, "No, I'll have my own exam questions to answer."

"Okay. Shall we go and get something to eat?"

"Definitely."



After an unusually long morning shower, Harry and Hermione were seated at a quite table enjoying brunch at the hotel breakfast buffet.

"What would you like to do today?" asked Harry.

"We should do some shopping and get thank you gifts." 

"That's a good idea," said Harry. "We had so much help, especially from Ron and Ginny."



They walked up to the front desk of the hotel. The concierge said, "Good day. How may I be of assistance?"

Harry said, "We would like to get information about places to shop in the surrounding area."

"Yes, one moment." The concierge collected some pamphlets. Placing one on the counter in front of them, he said, "If you exit the lobby to your left, a boardwalk will lead you to a village of small specialty shops." He placed a second pamphlet on the counter and said, "Out the north lobby entrance, about four blocks walk, is a large shopping mall in the main downtown area." Placing the last pamphlet on the counter he said, "Continuing down the hall past your room, your portkey will give you access to the thaumaturgic shop area."

Harry thought, "thaumaturgic?"

"Magical" was her thought reply.

The concierge said, "May I assist you with anything else?"

"No. This is good. Thank you." said Harry.

"Very good." said the concierge. "Have a pleasant day."

Harry and Hermione spent the next few hours leisurely visiting the shops along the boardwalk. There were shirt and hat shops, clothing shops, toyshops, a bookshop, a candle shop, a kite shop and a shop that sold wind chimes and music boxes. There were also people in the park area selling paintings, handmade crafts and jewelry. Harry and Hermione exchanged thoughts with each other as they looked at gifts for their friends. Gradually, it was becoming second nature for them to share thoughts of interest with each other. There were a few funny looks from people when Harry or Hermione laughed for no apparent reason.

They had just exited one of the last shops on the boardwalk when Harry stopped and listened. "Hermione, do you hear that music?"

"Yes, it seems to be coming from further up the boardwalk."

"I know what it is! C'mon, let's go and see. It will be fun!"

They started walking toward the sound and the music grew louder. As they turned a corner, a large carousel came into view.

Harry excitedly said, "Let's go for a ride! Maybe you'll get a brass ring!"

"Brass ring?"

"Yeah! Come over here and watch," said Harry as the carousel began to turn. "See the riders on the outside horses? The attendant will extend a ring dispenser. See ... there! You reach out and try to pull a ring from it as you go by. Most of the rings are iron. If you get one of those, throw it there." Harry pointed as a rider tossed a ring. "But if you get a brass ring, keep it and give it to the attendant after the ride ends. You can get a prize or another free ride."

"Okay," said Hermione. "I think I fancy a ride on that pink horse."

Harry smiled and went to get admission tickets. The carousel stopped and they got on. Harry mounted the black horse behind Hermione.

As the carousel began to turn, Hermione looked back and thought, "Is the black stallion going to try and catch me to win a prize?"

"Trying to distract me from getting a ring are you? You are enough of a distraction already just being in front of me."

The ring dispenser was extended. Both of them missed on the first pass. On the next pass, Hermione missed and Harry pulled an iron ring. On the next turn, Hermione got an iron ring and Harry missed. On the next pass, they each pulled a ring and Hermione held it close. Harry felt a wave of happiness wash over him. The dispenser was retracted and Hermione spent the remainder of the ride teasing Harry as the horses moved up and down.

When the ride ended, Hermione thought, "Join me in that heart shaped love seat."

The love seat had a large red heart shape on each end. The pink seating area between was just wide enough for two. When seated, the occupants were mostly hidden from view. They sat down as the attendant came by. Smiling, Hermione handed him the brass ring. Harry reached into his pocket for another ticket but the attendant held up his hand, smiled and left. As the carousel turned, they held each other close and exchanged a prize or two.

The carousel began to slow and Harry said, "I have two more tickets. Shall we have another go at the rings?"

With a smile, Hermione said, "Let me think …" She squinted her eyes and with a mock thoughtful expression on her face, tapping her chin with her finger. "Should I sit here and snog you or have one last go at the rings. Tough decision." A second later, she grinned and gave him a quick peck saying, "Well, since I can snog you anytime I want, let's do the rings again."

Harry laughed. They got up and mounted the horses again. During this ride, they each pulled a few rings but neither of them got a brass ring. As they were walking away from the carousel, they decided that a consolation prize was in order. And it just so happened that an ice cream shop was close by. They sat on a bench in the shade of a tree with ice cream cones in hand; Hermione's with 'Vanilla Cherry Delight' and Harry with 'Chocolate Banana Surprise'. Happily licking their ice cream, they snickered and laughed at thoughts of ice cream flavors that passed between them, and watched young and old alike enjoy a ride on the carousel.



Later in the afternoon, now in bathing suits, they shared a doublewide lounge on their private beach facing the ocean. The sun was getting low in the sky. A small table on each side of the lounge held a tropical drink with a miniature umbrella in it. A large piece of pineapple was on the rim of each glass. Holding a book, purchased earlier that day in one hand, Hermione was reading while her other hand lightly caressed Harry's back. Harry sat next to her and held a kite string in each hand. Enjoying the pleasant tingling sensations of her touch, he caused the kite to twist and turn over the waves as its colorful streamer traced a path in the sky.

Hermione laid the book on her chest and reached for her drink. After taking a sip she said, "You're very good at flying that kite. Have you flown one before?"

"A few times, when I was very young. Uncle Vernon said it was an inexpensive way to have me out of the house for a while."

She frowned and said, "Honestly Harry, I don't know how you became such a caring person being raised in a family like that."

"You and Ron. Our friendship was the best thing that ever happened to me, short of marrying you that is."

She leaned over and kissed him on the cheek. "Well, I think your Mum and Dad had a lot to do with your personality too."

"Would you like to fly the kite?"

"Yes, it looks like fun," said Hermione putting her book down. "What do I do?"

"Come over here and sit between my legs in front of me."

"This is going to be fun," said Hermione as she ducked under the string in his right hand and sat in front of him.

"Okay, take the strings from each of my hands, use the little handles."

"Oh! ... It has quite a pull. It feels like it's alive."

He put his hands on hers and said, "Now, just move one hand toward you and the other away to make it turn and dance, like this." He guided her hands and the kite turned left and right.

"This is great!" she exclaimed. "And without magic!"

Harry felt happiness wash over him like had happened on the carousel. He watched as she cautiously made the kite turn in the wind. In a short time, the kite was zooming across the sky, climbing high and swooping low over the water. He wrapped his hands around her waist and put his chin on her shoulder.

He felt contented sharing in her delight. He looked down and saw his hands wrapped around her. He was holding the embodied sacred spirit that he so dearly loved, it was miraculous. It seemed like an incredible dream. Yet here they were together, feeling like two souls that had been separated by an eternity of time, touching each other again. He marveled at the intimate and extraordinary relationship that would be with them for the rest of their lives.

"That felt good. Such a wonderful thought Harry."

She felt him tighten his grip and turn his face into her neck. After a moment, the scent of her suntan lotion recalled the memory of their previous night in the hot tub. He began to gently kiss her on the neck and behind her ears.

Hermione smiled and said, "Is this how you flew kites when you were young?"

Switching to her other ear, he continued to kiss her and said, "No. ... I didn't have my lovely wife in a skimpy swimsuit with me then."

Hermione squirmed and giggled, "That tickles. So how am I doing?"

Without stopping he said, "Perfect." 

Hermione laughed. "No, I meant flying the kite!"

Harry started to run his fingers through her hair and massage her head. He said, "You have 'Exceeds Expectations' now. You'll get 'Outstanding' if the kite is still flying after this."

The kite soared high into the sky and floated on the wind. She tilted her head back, closed her eyes and let out a long sigh saying "mmm ... I think all my NEWT's should be like this." She leaned back against his chest with a dreamlike expression on her face. Harry felt happiness and contentment.  

After a short while Harry said, "How about a date tonight? Would you like to go out for some dinner and dancing at that dinner club we saw just off the boardwalk?"

She looked at him and said "Why Mr. Potter, I'd love to!"

"Well, fair warning Mrs. Potter. You might want to put protective charms on your feet."

She smiled and said, "You did very well when we danced at our reception."

"That was the easy slow dancing. We just held each other and turned to the music. I'm not very good at the fancy stuff. Maybe you should put a dancing charm on my feet."

"You'll do fine. Besides, I like hold and turn dancing with you." Then she smiled and said, "Well, since we're going out on a date, we should go in and wash the sand and suntan lotion off."

Harry grinned, "Another shower today? I'm such a lucky guy."

Hermione laughed. "We'll both be so squeaky clean."



After dinner, they danced and talked with other couples. People from many different parts of the world were there on holiday with interesting stories to tell. Some were celebrating birthdays or anniversaries. Others were there for business travel. Later in the evening, as Harry and Hermione were enjoying a slow dance, another couple danced up beside them.

The woman smiled and the man said, "Please pardon our intrusion on your evening. We both just wanted to say a quick thank you. The awards you received are very much deserved. Have a wonderful evening."

"Yes," said the woman. "And congratulations, you are a beautiful couple. We wish you all the best and a happy life together."

"Thanks." said Harry and Hermione as the couple danced away from them.

Harry thought, "I didn't think anyone would recognize us so far away from England."

Hermione grinned and thought, "I suppose I'll have to expect that now. I married the famous Harry Potter. He's the chosen one you know. It's a burden I'll just have to learn to bear."

Harry rolled his eyes and smiled, "Yeah, and I married the bright and witty Hermione Granger. She's the brightest witch of her age and totally awesome. You're my chosen one."

Hermione pulled him close and thought, "Oh Harry, I love you so much. This has been such a wonderful day. Just one more thing I want to do with you."

"And what might that be?" thought Harry with a smile.

"A dance on the beach," she thought with a coy smile.

"I like that idea," thought Harry. Looking into her eyes, he gave her a tender kiss as the music ended. Then, they walked off the dance floor hand in hand.


Chapter 17: Of One Spirit
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The fresh sea breeze and sunlight of another pleasant day filled the room as Harry and Hermione awoke from another restful night's sleep. It was a while before they got out of bed, their drowsiness ebbing away more slowly this morning. After leisurely eating breakfast in their room and changing into swim suits, they made their way out onto the beach with swim fins in hand. A few seagulls were gliding on the wind and calling out to each other. A pelican, with motionless wings, flew passed skimming inches above the turquoise blue water. They waded out into the warm water just beyond the break of the gentle waves. After putting on the swim fins and casting a few charms, they floated face down for a few minuets before diving below the water's surface.

"It seems like we're swimming in an aquarium," thought Harry.

"Yes, it looks so beautify. Look at all the fish and coral!"

"Your bubblehead charm is working great Hermione."

"And being able to thought talk with you comes in really handy too," she thought.

"It's all so beautiful, the warm crystal clear water, the colorful fish, seeing you swimming."

She smiled and thought, "I'm very happy you are enjoying our swim. You make a nice addition to the scenery too. Harry, during the second task, was it like this in the lake?"

"The water here is clear and much warmer; though the gillyweed made the sensation of the cold lake hardly noticeable. I think Fleur, Cedric and Victor used warming charms. It's also far less dangerous here, no grindylows."

"These fish seem quite friendly to us," thought Hermione. "I can almost touch them."

"Look over there by that coral," thought Harry. "Hundreds of little fish in a tight cluster!"

"Harry, look there! A cuttlefish. We need to stay back from it."

"I don't see it."

Hermione thought, "It just changed to match its surroundings. Watch just in front of that red coral for a minute."

"It just moved; I see it now," thought Harry. "It really knows how to blend in with its surroundings! It has a very good invisibility cloak."

... A while later she thought, "Harry, how long do you think we've been swimming?"

He looked at his hands and thought, "A long time by the looks of my fingers. Have you seen enough?"

"Yes, I think so. Let's go in and lie on the beach for a while."

Back on the beach, the warm sun dried them as they rested from their swim.

Harry said, "Do you want to see the magical part of the resort this afternoon?"

"Yes I do. I want to find a magical gift for my parents. I haven't a clue yet what to get them but I want it to be very special. I still feel a bit guilty about all the time I missed as a family with them."



Closing the room door behind them, they turned and walked further down the hallway and around a corner. At the end of the hallway, they came to a door that had no doorknob. Harry touched his portkey to the door. An instant later, the lock clicked and the door swung open. A large sunlit scene greeted them. A winding lane led away from the door in two directions. They stepped in, or was it out? The door closed behind them. They were standing in a small quiet park. Birds sang in the trees and a few people were seated on park benches talking. A short distance away, they could see some of the shops and began leisurely walking toward them. The shops were widely spaced on either side of the lane. Trees, shrubs, tables, seating areas, waterfalls, floating signs and lampposts filled the spaces between the shops. At one of the tables, two men were playing chess. At another table, people were talking and having a bite to eat. There were many other people walking about but it was not as crowded as on the muggle boardwalk.

They made their way along the lane stepping into most of the shops. There were magical displays in most of the shop windows advertising the latest merchandise the shop had to offer. Books, magical toys, T-shirts and hats with moving insignias, a jewelry shop and gift shops with all manner of magical things. The gift shops contained many unique things to look at and they finished picking out thank you gifts. In one of the shops, Hermione was inspired with the perfect gift idea for her parents. They purchased the item. She and Harry would complete the gift after their return home. Walking a little further along the lane, they stopped in front of the broom shop and looked in the front window at the brooms on display.

After a moment, he smiled at her and said, "So how did you like riding my broom at sunset the other day?"

"I liked it a lot. It was easy to control once I got the hang of it and ..." She stopped abruptly with a surprised expression on her face. Then, narrowing her eyes she said, "How do you know I used that broom?"

He grinned and said, "I asked Ron at lunchtime to bring it to me. He brought me Ginny's broom instead. He said Ginny wanted me to use it and then left very quickly."

"That's because I had asked Ginny to bring me your broom earlier in the morning."

"Yeah, after Ron left, I worked that out fairly quickly since only you and I knew it was under my bed."

Hermione smiled. "Ron and Ginny must have had a bit of a panic over that."

"Especially Ron I suspect." He smiled warmly at her. "But it was very touching when I figured out what you were up to. It really meant a lot to me that day ... and it still does."

Hermione shyly smiled and took hold of his hands. "I know how much flying means to you and the freedom you feel. I've also banished a fear in my life and I enjoy it now too."

Harry smiled warmly and gave her a quick kiss. Then he said, "So, do you like that broom? Or, should we go into this shop so you can pick out one for yourself?"

"Really?! ... Yes, I'd like to pick one out, with your expert advice of course."

He smiled and opened the door of the shop for her. For the next hour, Hermione looked at almost every broom in the shop. The sales person mentioned the features and flight characteristics of each broom. The shopkeeper quickly learned, much to Harry's amusement, not to patronize this witch. She knew what she was doing. Hermione asked about the type of wood used for the handle and the aerodynamic properties of the finish used on it. She asked about the type and length of the bristles and how they were attached to the handle. She asked about the witch or wizard who placed the final flying enchantment on the broom and to what degree the enchantment would respond to the flyers control input.

Harry spent most of this time looking at other things in the shop and watching Hermione and the shopkeeper covertly from the other side of the room. He could see that both Hermione and the shopkeeper were enjoying the experience. Being a hotel shop, Harry thought the shopkeeper probably didn't get many customers who wanted to know so much about a broom before making a purchase. The shopkeeper excitedly looked up details to answer Hermione's questions and helped her compare the merits of the different broom models. The shop had a flight test area in the back and Harry watched as she tried four or five brooms. When she had it narrowed down to two brooms, she asked Harry to try them also and give his opinion.

"I like the handling and control of this one better." said Harry.

"I do to. But it's a lot more expensive."

"You'll have the broom for a long time. We should get the one you like best."

"Okay then," said Hermione with a smile. She gave him a quick kiss and said, "Thank you my love."

Hermione's magically extended beaded bag was becoming very full with gifts for their friends and now a broom. A happy shopkeeper smiled and waved as they left the shop. They sat down on a bench to rest a minute.

Harry said, "You really had a good time in there. I didn't realize you knew so much about brooms and what to look for in a good one."

She smiled and said, "I learned most of it from just listening to you, Ron and Ginny talk about quidditch. I've never been much interested in the pro teams, statistics and that sort of thing. But the magic that makes a broom fly has always interested me. The three of you were my teachers."

"You learned your lessons well." With a smirk he added, "No surprise there. You picked out a very good broom. I really enjoyed watching and you also made it a happy day for the shopkeeper."

It was now evening and they decided to have dinner at a wizard restaurant called Hannah's House. It was quiet and there weren't many people present. After seating them, the waitress handed them menus and said, "My name is Sara. The special of the day is turkey dinner with all the trimmings, definitely the best."

Later, after finishing a wonderful dinner, a woman came up to their table and said, "Welcome to Hannah's House." Harry and Hermione recognized her from the dance floor the previous night.

"I am one of the owners of this restaurant. We are happy you chose to dine with us this evening and hope your dinner was enjoyable."

"Very much so," said Harry. "We're stuffed."

"Yes, it was so good," said Hermione. "You have such a nice quiet place. Please give our compliments to the chef."

"I will. The chef is Henry my husband. We've been open for about a year now. We're still building the business. Please tell your friends."

Hermione thought, "I'd like to help them Harry."

"We will," said Harry to Hannah. "Anything else we can do to help spread the word?"

"You are so kind. Would you mind if we took a picture and displayed it on the wall with the other pictures of people who have dined with us?"

Hermione thought, "That's okay with me."

After a glance at Hermione he said, "Yes, that would be okay."

A few minutes later, Henry had snapped a picture and showed it to them. They both smiled their approval and signed the picture "A superb place to dine. Harry and Hermione."

"You two are absolutely wonderful. Thank you so very much." said Hannah.

"You're welcome." said Hermione. "Hope your business does really well for you."

"Have a pleasant evening," said Hannah.

A little later, back outside the restaurant, they began leisurely making their way down the winding lane back toward the entrance door.

Harry said, "It's our last night here. What would you like to do?" 

She smiled and said, "So we'll have some strength for our trip back tomorrow, a snuggle and snog with you on the beach, under the stars, will be just right."

Harry smiled, "That sounds good to me."



The waves rolled onto the beach and the stars twinkled brightly above them. They were quietly enjoying being in each other's arms on the lounge. They shared their thoughts about the vision of the new star. They gazed up at the immense night sky and wondered. Were the stars somehow created by spiritual love? What other worlds or life might exist around each of those points of light? Does magic exist on them? They both thought it would since magic existed in this world in so many different ways, in both the magical and muggle worlds. They were quiet for a while.

Then Harry said, "Hermione, we're able to do two of the three abilities that McGonagall said could occur after we were bonded. We can share our thoughts and our feelings. What do you think about the last ability, combining magical power?"

In a thoughtful voice, she said, "That is an extraordinarily rare ability Harry. McGonagall said it is almost unheard of. I've never read anything about it. It could be dangerous in the same way that the elder wand is the most powerful."

"That is a very good point." He thought for a moment. "We've had access to powerful magic over the years; the stone, the sword of Gryffindor, a time turner and the elder wand. We've always been able to use things like that properly, to help others."

"That's true Harry. And you in particular, have experienced some very extraordinary things, so many of them awful. But you're still the kind gentle man that I love."

He gave her a gentle squeeze.

She said, "So, how do you think we could check for the ability to combine magical power?"

"I have an idea. But first, we should be sure there is no one watching us. Like we did last night."

They both stood and took out their wands. They each moved in a circle around the lounge casting detection charms. After finding nothing, they circled again and cast their own security, muffliato and disillusionment charms.

After they both reclining again on the lounge, Harry said, "Okay, remember that day at the family tree, we each cast our patronus and then merged them. There was a feedback and we each felt a connection. I think we should try that again."

She nodded with a thoughtful expression. Then looking at Harry, she smiled and said, "Expecto Patronum!" The misty silvery otter immediately appeared, very bright and well defined.

Harry looked at Hermione, "Expecto Patronum!" he said with a smile. A very bright vaporous stag appeared a short distance from the otter.

They glanced briefly at each other and then, pointing their wands, the stag and the otter moved toward each other. As they met, the forms began to swirl around each other. Harry and Hermione watched without blinking as a tingling sensation moved up their wand arm. It sent shivers up and down their spines and made the hairs on the back of their necks stand up. The patronus forms gradually became indistinct as the silvery mists merged into a single vaporous cloud. Then, the cloud began to glow red and then golden as it changed into a new more solid form. A majestic creature the size of a centaur now stood before them. Its head, wings and front feet were like an eagle. Behind the feathered wings was the body and hindquarters of a lion. Its tail was long and serpent like.

"It's a griffin!" exclaimed Hermione.

"It's beautiful!" said Harry.

The griffin stood in a silent golden glow looking at them intensely. Harry and Hermione got to their feet and moved to stand, hand in hand, before it. The griffin's gaze bored into them for a long silent moment studying them. Harry and Hermione felt awed and humbled in its powerful presence. They also felt a sense of familiarity, caring and security; like what a young child feels when being held in the arms of a father or mother. The eyes of the griffin softened and a proud, deep and gentle voice came into their heads.

"How wonderful the difference you've made in this world. You are exemplary in character, integrity and compassion. Do you desire confluence of magical power and accept the responsibility it places on you?"

Harry and Hermione turned their heads and their eyes met. There was a gentle squeeze of each other's hand. Their thought responded, "We do."

The voice of the griffin spoke in their heads. "Prerogative is consecrated on the union of your spirits. Call it forth, after thoughtful consideration of consequences, by your unity of spirit in truth. Use it not for personal gain. For on that day, I will depart from you. Compassion will be your guide. Preserve and nurture life."

The griffin then reared up on its hind legs. It opened its beak and the loud cry of an eagle and the roar of a lion sounded around them. They were blown in a great wind by the beating of its wings. The griffin became vaporous again and the golden mist moved to envelope them.

The golden cloud dissolved into them and disappeared from sight. As it did, a mild pain shot through each of them and a hot itching sensation on their skin spread to the extremities of their bodies. Their faces flushed red and grimaced in discomfort. A feeling of electricity and strength invaded each of them forcing itself into the confines of their being. It nearly overwhelmed their thinking. Visions blurred as a cascade of images from their shared experiences flashed in each of their minds eye. They each began to tremble uncontrollably.
 
Harry and Hermione reached out to hold each other as they settled onto the sand. The new magical energy within each of them jostled to take up a restful place. It seemed to displace and unite itself within each of them. With determination, their minds focused to reign in control of their bodies and magical powers. Holding each other tightly, they breathed deeply trying to calm themselves. Slowly, their minds and visions began to clear and the magical power that invaded each of them was put under control. 

After a moment Harry said, "A..are you ... are you okay H..hermione?"

"Y..yes." said Hermione in a quiet voice. "How a..bout you?"

"Over..w..whelmed but I'm okay."

"K..keep h..holding me Harry."

For a long while, they sat in the sand and held each other. Confidence, courage and soothing flowed between them. The trembling and hot itchy feeling in their skin slowly faded away. They placed their heads against each other and slowly they became tranquil and calm. There was a sense of clarity of mind and sharpness of vision in each of them. They felt very much alive and energized beyond what either of them had ever felt before.

They released their mutual embrace and looked deeply into each other's eyes. They each saw a child happily dancing in delight and excitement.

"YES!" said Hermione with a delighted smile. "This is so amazing! I feel like jumping up and down and squealing with joy! I always felt we'd be able to share thoughts. But this is way beyond anything I imagined. Oh Harry, I'm so happy for us!"

He felt waves of her joy and elation wash over him. Harry grinned and then said, "ACE! … This is absolutely brilliant! Hermione, we achieved all three! We're connected to each other in ways I never dreamed. This is totally awesome!"

She grinned as waves of his delightful happiness washed over her. Then, with a more somber expression on her face said, "Do you think we're possessed now? The griffin dissolved into us."

"No, I never lost a sense of you or our surroundings. And the griffin formed from our combined patronus'. I feel empowered ... like there's an additional source of magical energy to draw upon."

"Then we were overwhelmed by each other's magical energy in addition to our own! At first, it was like a waterfall pouring in on me. It seemed like I was trying to hold onto my own identity. Now, it feels like I have magical strength enough to move a mountain. I've never felt like this before. You are a very powerful wizard Harry."

"The griffin must be the connection joining our magical powers now. I don't think each of us was prepared for that connection being turned on so quickly. It was a bit like a light switch. You are a very powerful witch Hermione. Now I realize just how much magical energy is in you. I think this connection is going to take some getting use to."

Then Hermione looked at Harry with a very serious expression. "Harry, we have to keep this secret, just between the two of us. If or when we choose to use it, we can't draw attention to ourselves. That would be self-serving. It could cause some people to become intimidated or afraid of us. Others would be challenged to try and defeat us or use us for their own self-gain. We would have little peace or solitude."

"I completely agree with you Hermione. That must be why this ability is so rarely heard of. We have to be very careful. What should we say to Ron, Ginny and professor McGonagall if they question us?"

She thought for a moment. "Well, they know we can share thoughts from what happened on our bonding day. I'm not sure about the other guests. If questioned about the other two abilities, we should say that we want to keep it private. The last two abilities did first happen during very private moments between us. I so hope Ron, Ginny and professor McGonagall will understand."

"I think they will. They had to keep information about the ritual from us too. We can also say, at least to Ron and Ginny, we don't want to spoil their experience of the ritual. And for all we know, these abilities might not happen with them. In that case, they would feel hurt."

They each stood up and brushed the sand off. After a moment of thought, she looked at him and said, "I wonder how many have the ability to do special magic for others?"

Harry said, "I think we'll never really know." 

She sighed and then smiling said, "I thought this was going to be a quiet evening of rest and silent conversation with you."

He grinned. "Well, the lounge is there and we certainly have a lot more to think about and discuss."

She put her hands behind his neck and looked at him with an alluring smile. "I feel so energized. Let's continue the discussion indoors where it's more comfortable."

He gazed at the intimate sparkle in her eyes and smiled warmly. Reaching down behind her legs, he whispered "Leviosa!" and then lifted her off the ground. She wrapped her legs around his waist and crossed her feet behind his back. Their lips met in a kiss of hungered passion for each other. He turned and carried her across the sand toward their room. Along the way, she nuzzled his neck and her hand began to undo the buttons of his shirt.


Chapter 18: Home and Beyond
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The concierge said, "Was our service satisfactory?"

"It was very good," said Harry. "We really enjoyed our stay."

"Excellent sir. We look forward to serving you again in the not too distant future. Have a safe and pleasant journey to your next destination."

Harry walked back to where Hermione was seated. "We have a few hours before our travel time. What would you like to do until then?"

"There's a maritime museum not far from here. It has a magical travel point close by."

"That sounds interesting," said Harry as he held out his hand and helped her to stand. "Let's take a pedicab to the museum."



It was early evening when Harry and Hermione walked hand in hand up the walk to the front door of their flat. Their trip home via the magical travel network had been uneventful. Upon reaching the porch, Harry stopped and turned to face Hermione.

He took her hands and said, "So Mrs. Potter, did you have a nice time this last week."

"The absolute best ever Mr. Potter," smiled Hermione. "It will be hard to top because many of my dreams, and some I didn't know I would have, came true."

"I could have never imagined all that has happened this week. It will be an extraordinary and wonderful life being married to you."

They embraced each other and kissed. A moment later, they separated and the lock on the door clicked.

Harry said, "Okay. I want to do this properly. Put your hands around my neck please."

She giggled as Harry picked her up in his arms. The door swung open and he carried her over the threshold. The lights of the room came on and Harry, still carrying Hermione, stopped and stared. Then, they both began to laugh and Harry put Hermione back on her feet.

A large heart shape, like a giant neon sign, was on the far wall. The names 'Harry' and 'Hermione' were floating within it. It twinkled and flashed in many colors each time cupid, a short distance away, shot an arrow at it. When an arrow reached the heart, the names would alternately spin like a top for a short time and say "Oh Harry!" or "Oh Hermione!" A large banner above the fireplace proclaimed, "Congratulations Harry and Hermione." Horns and noisemakers made various odd sounds. Fireworks burst at random around the room and hundreds of small transparent colored bubbles floated everywhere. A wedding bell, hanging in the corner of the room, gently chimed.

Harry took out his wand and said, "Silencio!" The noise stopped but the objects remained active. He looked toward the hallway and grinned. A flashing sign across the entrance held the words, "Do Not Disturb! Family Formation in Progress!"

Hermione looked at Harry and said, "I'm not sure I want to go into our bedroom."

He chuckled and said, "Pluck up some Gryffindor courage." Then, taking her hand said, "Off we go."

He led her slowly across the room and gently brushed the bubbles aside as they went. He reached out to remove the sign but it swung back like a gate to admit them. After they stepped past, it closed again. Hermione shook her head and smiled. Harry cautiously pulled her forward. The door to his room was closed. He smiled at Hermione and then turned the doorknob. He gave it a gentle push and let go. The door swung open, the hinges creaking ominously. ... Nothing happened. They waited. After a moment ... nothing still happened. Wide eyed, they cautiously peeked into the room. 

A small sign floated in the room. It read, "Harry doesn't sleep here anymore." Then it changed to "Unless Hermione is cheesed off at him!" They looked at each other snickering and shaking their heads.

They turned and cautiously stepped toward the other bedroom which also had its door closed. Harry looked at her. Hermione, with eyes wide and biting her lower lip, nodded to Harry. He reached for the doorknob. But before touching it, the doorknob turned by itself and the door swung open with a long foreboding squeak of its hinges.

The room was dimly lit with candlelight. The bed was now heart shaped, white with red ruffled trim around the base. There was also red trim on the ends of the pillows. The scent of rose greeted them as they stepped into the bedroom. Everything else in the room appeared to be in its place.

Hermione said quietly, "This is a set up, he's up to something."

Harry grinned and said, "I guess there's only one way to find out."

Hermione looked apprehensively at him. "How's that?"

"We lie on the bed," smiled Harry.

Harry felt a chill wash over him as Hermione said, "Ooo ... this is worse than no ink on exam day."

Harry chuckled. He let go of her hand and kicked off his shoes. He moved to the bed, got on and lie on his side with his head propped up on his arm. After a moment, nothing happened. With a smirk on his face, Harry looked at Hermione and patted the free side of the bed with his hand. With an unsure look on her face and once again biting her lower lip, Hermione kicked off her shoes. Then, she lie on the bed facing Harry. Her hand reached into his and held it firmly. They looked at each other and waited. ... Nothing happened.

Harry said, "Seems like they were just being romantic in this room."

"I don't believe that for a minute!" said Hermione authoritatively.

"There there my love," said Harry. "Let me change your mind." He leaned over and gently kissed her.

From the corner of the room, cupid appeared and floated in mid-air lightly strumming a harp. Hermione pursed her lips and nodded her head with an expression of "I told you so" on her face. Then, a soft glow illuminated the ceiling above. Looking up, they saw a reflection of them lying on the bed. Hermione started to giggle. Then, the bed began to gently shake and vibrate. They both broke into fits of laughter.

Waves of pleasurable sensations washed over each of them. Both were wiping the tears of laughter from their eyes as Harry's hand brushed the headboard of the bed. The bed stilled itself and cupid disappeared. He took out his wand and pointed it at the electric light switch. The room lights brightened to partial intensity.

Hermione said, "I'm not going to be the first one to use the bathroom. Whipped cream will probably come out of the shower."

This statement caused a far away expression to appear on Harry's face as a mental image of that thought formed. Slowly, a contented smile dawned on Harry's face as he looked at Hermione.

A slight tingle washed over her and she rolled her eyes. Gently hitting him on the arm she said, "Oh, honestly Harry."

Harry laughed. "George got you good!"

Harry reached toward the wall and touched the picture frame of his parents. His parents appeared and Lily was smiling sweetly at them. James had a grin on his face and was holding a large bucket of water.

Hermione reached over and took Harry's left hand with her left hand. Holding them up so that the rings were clearly visible to the portrait, she said in a stern voice, "We're officially married now. Chaperoning will no longer be necessary."

James shoulders slumped and his face had a disappointed pouting expression. Lily and Harry laughed. James sulked off the edge of the frame carrying the bucket sloshing with water. A moment later, he returned holding a bouquet of red roses. He took Lily's hand and they both held the roses.

Looking out at Harry and Hermione, Lily said, "May your new life together be a happy one."

James said, "Congratulations you two."

"Oh, how sweet, thank you!" said Hermione with a smile.

Harry said, "Dad, do you know of anything else we should ... umm ... look out for ... here in the flat?"

"Well ..." said James clearing his throat and looking somewhat uneasy, "That's a tough question for someone like me to answer. The unspoken prankster code of conduct says ..." James was cut off as Lily gently hit him on the arm. Looking at James, Lily frowned slightly shaking her head. Harry and Hermione grinned.

"Oh ... right then." James bounced on his feet a few times and then he said, "Well, ahem, let me see ... we couldn't actually see anything but ... we did hear something mentioned that we didn't quite understand ... What's an extendable ear?"

Hermione's eyes narrowed as she said in a whispered voice, "They're listening to us!"

Hermione looked around the room. After a brief moment, she spotted it. An extendible ear hung partially concealed behind the curtain by the window.

"There," said Hermione pointing to it. Then she said with a loud voice, "I'm going to get you George Weasley! ... Just ... you ... wait!"

From the extendable ear came the sound of roars of laughter.

A moment later, George's voice said, "Hermione, you can't image ... he he ... all of the new Weasley products ... he he ... your marriage has inspired. he he he ... How about those squeaky door hinges? ... And I love that whipped cream idea!"

Harry laughed and even Hermione giggled.

Ron's voice said, "Can we see your flat ... umm ... you know ... with all of the decorations active?"

Harry smiled, flicked his wand and then nodded to Hermione. "Okay. The floo's open. Come on over."

A moment later, there were green flashes of light as friends and family began arriving. There was much laughter and conversation the remainder of the evening.



A few days after their return, Harry and Hermione took Ron and Ginny out for dinner as a thank you for all they had done for them. They gave Ron a clock that kept perfect time and never ran down. The wood of the clock was carved with magical runes. On the face of the clock were magical pictures of Harry, Ron and Hermione wearing their Order of Merlin medals. Ginny received a golden brooch pin of a witch flying on a broom. The witch's hand was outstretched to capture a snitch darting inches from her grasp. The four friends were together well past midnight talking about all that had happened during the bonding ritual.

A few days later, Harry and Hermione took Dan and Emma to see the family tree. They were surprised when Dan and Emma said they wanted to go there by broom. After they floo'd to the Burrow, Dan rode with Hermione on her new broom and Emma rode with Harry. Dan and Emma very much enjoyed the trip and were amazed when they saw the tree and the carvings on its trunk. And just as Arthur had said, a branch with Dan and Emma's names and a flowering bud were now visible on the tree.

Later, back at the Burrow, Arthur and Molly were delighted to receive a thank you gift from Harry and Hermione. The gift was a magic wind chime that played different musical songs and instruments depending on the direction and strength of the wind. Dan and Emma received a domed crystal display with a polished dark green marble base. Within the crystal dome floated two enchanted red roses in full bloom. The roses were surrounded by randomly sparkling points of light. Hermione explained that the beauty of the roses would never fade. And with a half smile, she said that additional roses might appear at times in the future.

When Harry and Hermione resumed classes at Hogwarts, they met with McGonagall in her office. McGonagall was very moved at their words of gratitude to her for helping them begin their union. To her delight, they gifted McGonagall with a bronze sculpture of a griffin. It would rear up on its hind legs and beat its wings when it was touched. The griffin was mounted to a rosewood base that contained a wedding picture of Harry and Hermione and an engraving that read,

   With gratitude for initiating our life together.
   Vinculi Spiritu, Harry and Hermione 1998


Later, Harry and Hermione went to the Great Hall. Friends and classmates were excited to see them and greeted them with congratulations and well wishes. They were talking with a group of friends at one of the long tables when Luna entered the Great Hall.

Luna stopped the moment she caught sight of Harry and Hermione seated at the table. With her mouth half open in astonishment, she just stared at them. Then slowly, Luna walked toward them with a broad and happy smile on her face. She stood behind the group of friends sitting across the table from Harry and Hermione. Her eyes were unblinking and she appeared to be in a trance, which for Luna was fairly normal. Harry and Hermione looked up at her with quizzical expressions. The conversations died away and many of the people turned to look at Luna.

Hermione said, "Hi Luna ... umm ... how are you?"

After a short pause during which her eyes continued to stare, Luna said in a dreamy matter-of-fact voice, "I've never seen auras do that, wrackspurts must be making my brain go fuzzy. Your auras keep moving back and forth between the two of you. There's a third golden one as well. It's all so beautiful."

Harry said, "Umm, Luna, would you like to sit down and join us?"

"No, I'd better go so my wrackspurts don't affect you too." Then, before turning to leave, she said in a quiet and distant voice, "That must be what happens when Gryffindor students marry each other. It's so lovely to behold."

Harry and Hermione glanced at each other as she departed. Their other friends at the table just giggled and snickered.

Watching Luna walk away, Hermione thought to Harry, "Luna is truly gifted with a special way of seeing things. I won't be so quick to dismiss anything she says again."

Harry thought to Hermione, "Yeah. I think we need to sit down with her privately and talk."



Harry and Hermione's love continued to grow and deepen. Despite the chores of school, fledgling careers and the everyday cares of the world, thoughts were shared between them at free times during the day. There were candle lit dinners at their flat and the occasional date to a show, a picnic on a hillside, or a sunset spent together on a broom.

On Christmas Eve, they joined Dan and Emma for dinner and spent the early evening with them exchanging presents. After returning home to their flat, they spent the remainder of the evening with each other exchanging presents and snuggling in front of the fire. On Christmas day, Harry, Hermione and the Grangers joined the Weasley family at the Burrow for Christmas supper. The excitement level at the Burrow went up tenfold when Ron and Katie arrived. There was now an engagement ring on Katie's finger.

The next year brought somewhat regular visits of Harry's godson Teddy Lupin. He was a bundle of energy and kept them happily busy looking after him. They spent time with their friends at Hogwarts, helped with the DA and attended the Gryffindor quidditch games. Under Ginny's leadership, Gryffindor handily won the Hogwarts quidditch cup that year.

While completing school, Hermione began entry-level work in the Department of Mysteries in healing charms development. She enjoyed the work very much since it involved investigation and research into new and unknown areas of magic. She was most often found in the immense Department of Mysteries library. The library contained thousands of books on every aspect of magic imaginable. She also helped set up an innovative retrieval system to help researchers find needed information more quickly.

Harry began work in the MBI while completing his studies at Hogwarts. Initially working as a liaison officer, he began to establish working relationships with his detective counterparts, both magical and muggle, in England and other countries. As a MBI detective, Harry's security clearance gave him access to most restricted areas. So, in addition to crime investigation, he also worked with a team, created by Kingsley, to improve the Ministry of Magic's security. 

On one occasion, Harry had to go on a work related trip to the continent for a few days. This had resulted in a clingy and drawn out goodbye between them. But they found that distance was no barrier to their shared connections. Many lascivious thoughts flowed between them in the evenings. Upon his return, there was an extended reunion. James would have needed a waterfall to cool them down.

After completing school and graduating, they transitioned to full time jobs at the Ministry. A few months later, they moved to a home in the countryside around Godric's Hollow. Friends and family were always welcome and Harry regularly visited Wilbur. It was after moving to Godric's Hollow that unexplained events would sometimes occur.



Late in the night, a nurse at St Mungo's passed through a secured door. It took longer than normal for the door to close behind her but this went unnoticed. After checking up on the two sleeping patients in the dimly lit room, she departed. A moment later, the lock on the door clicked. The male patient had a vacant and strained expression on his face. Two hands holding wands appeared and floated in the air above his head. The wand tips touched and a golden vaporous griffin formed and began to descend toward the man's head. The griffin was rebuffed and shuddered in anguish. With resolve, the light of the griffin grew brighter. Then, a muffled shriek was heard as the griffin dissolved into the head of the man. His face turned very dark and then a black cloud emanated from it and diffused into the air. The man's facial expression relaxed and became peaceful in appearance as he continued to sleep. The wands slowly floated toward the female patient. A short while later, her face was also relaxed and peaceful. The wands disappeared and after a moment, the lock on the door clicked. The door of the room opened and then closed again. A few days later, people noticed that Neville had a new bounce in his step.



Harry and Hermione joyfully shared the day Ron and Katie completed their bonding. Harry acted as the best man for the three-day ritual. As Harry and Hermione always knew, they remained very close friends with Ron and now Katie. Ron and Katie's telepathic ability was not immediate but it quickly developed with help from Harry and Hermione.

Ginny and Hermione remained the best of friends and they frequently met to talk. Ginny and Harry would often talk about quidditch and the rigors of her being a pro level player. Like Hermione and Ron, Harry and Ginny felt like brother and sister. After a few years time playing as a pro for the Harpies, Ginny met Nick and eventually fell deeply in love with him. She transferred to the coaching and management staff to have more time available for him. In this career role, she often worked with Ron at the Ministry. Hermione was the maid of honor for Ginny and Nick's three day bonding ritual.

When George and Angelina married, the celebrations depleted a fair amount of merchandise from the joke shop. But it would go down as the merriest wedding ceremony that anyone could remember. The dancing shoes made everyone laugh hysterically during George and Angelina's first dance as husband and wife. And there was a surprise for George the day he and Angelina returned from their honeymoon. It was the next evening, during a welcome back get together, that they talked about it.



Harry and Hermione stepped from the fireplace into the kitchen of the Burrow. All of the Weasley family was present and they began greeting them. They stopped when they reached George and Angelina who were looking at them warily.

With an innocent smile, Hermione said, "Hi! Welcome back."

"Yes," said George. "That was quite a welcome we received." The room became quiet.

"We?" said Hermione. After a pause, understanding dawned on her face and she began to giggle.

"Yes ... we," said Angelina with a smile and a piercing stare. Harry also began to chuckle.

Hermione said matter-of-factly, "Well, I was honor bound as a fellow Gryffindor to keep my word to George." Then, as if questioning a professor she asked, "Was there a proper time delay before the 'effect' occurred; not until toward the end?"

Both George and Angelina nodded their heads in unison still staring at her.

Hermione beamed, "Oh wonderful! I was particularly proud of that bit of finesse, more of a surprise that way." Then, Hermione smirked and said, "Angelina, it was ... unfortunate ... that you were an innocent causality at the same time." Harry and Hermione began to laugh.

Ron said, "Okay, clue in the rest of us. What happened?"

George said, "Earlier today, tomato sauce came out of the shower in our bathroom." Everyone in the room burst into laughter. And after a moment, George and Angelina also started laughing.

After the laughing died down, George looked at Angelina and said, "It was quite good wasn't it. Though, I might fancy a bit more oregano. Don't you?"

Angelina said, "You need to be careful with oregano as it can easily spoil the overall balance, same with the vinegar. Maybe a bit more garlic instead."

George said, "Yes, quite right. That would be better."

Hermione rolled her eyes and looked at both of them in disbelief.

George said to Hermione, "The bicycle bell ringing was also a nice touch. Overall, it was very good and well done indeed. I congratulate you. Put 'er there." He extended his right hand.

Hermione, with a devious smile, took his hand. They both gripped each other's hand firmly. There was a buzz and a tickling sensation as smoke began to rise from their joined hands. George and Hermione both began to laugh uncontrollably. They tried to stare determinedly at each other as tears of laughter began to fall. The rest of the people in the room laughed hysterically.

When George realized that Hermione was not going to give in, he said still laughing, "Okay, we're even. ... he he he ... On the count of three then ... he he he ... One ... he he ... Two ... he he ... Three!"

Their hands broke apart with many gold sparks and two loud POP's! Everyone in the room was bent over holding their sides in stitches of laughter.

A moment later, still wiping tears from her eyes, Hermione looked at the laugh buzzer Harry had received from George as a birthday present in her right hand. She beamed and said to George, "This is a brilliant product! Really quite fun."

Later in the evening, when they were leaving, Harry and Hermione gave George and Angelina heart felt warm hugs and best wishes for their new life together. Business thrived at the joke shop and George and Angelina always had a smile to share.



The star repeatedly flared, pulsated and sang with a rapturous joy as it consumed itself without concern for its ongoing existence. It toiled unconditionally and without need of recompense to spread light and warmth into the darkness. The light became a guide point reaching out into the universe in all directions. The symphony of its love song touched and slowly organized the remaining fog. Prominences, like arms, stretched out from the star and scooped the dust together. Like clay being molded, a form took shape that glowed red in the golden light of the star. The star became steady and unwavering, infinitely patient to wait for the proper time. It pulled in ice to rain down and cool the molded form. And after a time of travail and persistent effort, the magic deep within the seeds sown by the star at its inception, sprouted into new miraculous life. A dawn of great joy and jubilation occurred.



Two years later, on an eventful and blessed day, their son James was born. In the weeks and months that followed, the daily routines of Harry and Hermione were significantly reprioritized. But practiced hands and knowledgeable advice was always available to them from the Grangers and the Weasleys. There were many happy times and special moments, and a few harder ones also. At the times when it seemed that all of life's demands would overwhelm and consume them, their love would grow in a new way giving them unexpected strength, consolation and resolve. And so it was that a year later, on an equally happy and blessed day, the arrival of their daughter Rose added another special new dimension to their life and love. Harry's godson Teddy became as much a family member as James and Rose. And in the living room of the Granger home, in a special place on the mantle of the fireplace, a domed crystal display now contained five enchanted red roses floating inside.

There were times, as in all married couples lives, when differences needed to be worked out between Harry and Hermione. But these were very few and far between due to the cherished connections they shared with each other. Those connections and secret abilities were honed and perfected. Harry and Hermione became an innate extension of each other. All the pain, hardships of their school years and the war, was forgotten. Their life together was as Ron had toasted; one of love, fulfillment, happiness and peace.


The End

 


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