. . .
Hermione Granger was not a happy witch. Not that many residents of the Burrow were these days, however this particular Saturday morning found her to be most unhappy due to the actions of a certain wizard. What could he possibly be doing? she fumed silently as she went through the rest of her morning routine prior to waking up Ron for the third time. The object of the young witch’s quandary was none other than her best friend, Harry Potter. Hermione was worried about Harry and for good reason. She believed that he wasn’t acting his normal self. She couldn’t help but feel as if there was a distance growing between the two of them.
“I mean it’s not like I haven’t seen him,” she mumbled aloud to herself as she dressed. In fact, the young missing wizard had spent the greater part of Monday with her and Ron. It had been like old times, just the three of them, though in truth they all knew that it would never be like it used to be ever again. They had all changed and matured through the course of the war. Harry perhaps more so than the rest of us, Hermione thought sadly. While her friend had laughed at Ron’s actions, the laughter had never actually reached Harry’s eyes. It was a fact that apparently only she had noticed as Ron was his usual clueless self to such things.
The young witch couldn’t help but feel that something was drastically off with Harry. She had at first tried to dismiss it, accrediting it to the post war emotional rollercoaster they had all been on. Harry, perhaps feeling the need to help others or just out of guilt, had attended all the funerals and wakes of those who had passed away due to the final battle. Though he had tried to hide it from her, she knew him well enough to know that it had taken a heavy toll upon him. She had spent the last seven years of her life glued to his side and knew him better than he knew himself. Perhaps that was why it was bothering her not being able to tell what was currently wrong with him.
Hermione had expected Harry to brood and become withdrawn, which he had seemed to be after the Creevey funeral, at least at first. Yet, despite Hermione’s misgivings, the young wizard had been all smiles and laughter when he had visited the Burrow on Monday. “So why can’t I shake this feeling that something is not right with him?” she asked herself. Who am Ikidding? It is because I love him and I’m worried to distraction about him, she confessed to herself. Her all too rational mind was telling her that she was just over reacting due to the fact that she did love and care so much about Harry.
Her love for her best friend had been a startling discovery for the young witch during the final battle. At one point Hermione had been trading spell fire with Bellatrix Lestrange and was being steadily forced back. When the brunette witch thought for sure she was going to die all she could do was wish that she could see Harry one last time. An almost overwhelming sadness had gripped her due to not being able to tell him goodbye. She had realized in that moment that she loved the bespectacled wizard and mostly likely had for some time. Thankfully Ginny and then Molly Weasley had arrived to finally defeat the deranged witch that had killed so many over the course of her life time.
It was also at that moment that she had promised herself, if they both survived the war that she would tell Harry how she felt. For once she would listen to her heart and not her head. It was only due to the fear of not knowing how he felt about her that she hadn’t told him already. That and the possibility of ruining the best friendship I’ve had or will likely ever have! Because she loved him, Hermione couldn’t help but worry. No one knew Harry like she did, not even Harry.
At one point Hermione had mentioned her fears concerning Harry to Ron. The ginger had looked thoughtful for a moment before replying. “Give him a bit of time and he’ll come around, ‘Mione. He always does. He’ll mope about for a bit, especially if he’s feeling guilty as you thought he was. This is Harry, so eventually he’ll come talk to you about it. After that we’ll go play some Quidditch and he’ll be right as rain,” Ron told her.
As much as she wanted to believe that she couldn’t help but feel that this time was different. The young woman had a growing fear that even with the war being over and Voldemort defeated that she had still somehow lost the man that she loved. The fact that Harry was staying at Grimmauld Place and hadn’t been by in a few days only seemed to enforce her fears. After being with Harry every day for so long this forced separation didn’t sit well with the young witch.
The quandary she found herself in was wanting to go off and corner the young wizard, dragging from him whatever it was that was bothering him or should she wait till this evening at the gathering. Harry had apparently at some point spoken to Mr. & Mrs. Weasley and requested permission to have a gathering of a few friends and the entire Weasley family the following Saturday evening, which was this very day. “I’ll wait till tonight and drag him off alone to have a word with him,” she finally decided on. “Perhaps several,” she said with a slight blush to her cheeks and agathering of her Gryffindor courage.
The day passed surprisingly quickly, though that could have been due to Molly Weasley keeping everyone busy. Even though it was to be asmall gathering, the elder Weasley Matriarch insisted that the house be cleaned from top to bottom and the garden be degnomed. No one was excluded from lending a hand and seeing that everything was perfect. Tables were erected in the back garden so that dinner could be served outside. Molly wasn’t certain just how many people would be arriving and wanted to make certain there was room for all.
Hermione was busy setting the tables with Ginny when she glanced up only to see Luna Lovegood step through the back door which was being held open by none other than Neville Longbottom. The brunette quickly affixed the table cloth to the table with a sticky charm before moving over to welcome her two friends. “Hey Luna, Neville. Here for the gathering I take it?” She, like everyone else, couldn’t bring herself to call it a party.
“Hey Hermione,” the tall boy replied with a friendly smile. “Hope we’re not too early? Harry said that we should be here,” he replied as he glanced about for the apparently missing wizard. “We thought it might be better to get here early than sit around and bother Gran.”
“I don’t know if he set a specific time or not. Harry’s been rather tight-lipped on the details. We’re not even sure why he wanted to gather everyone together.” Hermione informed them, before noticing her fellow Gryffindor glancing about. “Harry isn’t here yet, Neville.”
“No, I don’t suppose he would be,” Luna stated in a dreamy tone of voice, not really looking at either of them. “I don’t see any Nargals. They usually aren’t very far from Harry. Maybe he’s wearing the necklace Igave him?”
Hermione stared at the petite blonde witch for a long moment, uncertain just how to respond to that. “So you spoke with Harry?” she enquired of Neville instead. “How was he?”
Neville gave a sharp nod. “Yes, he came around on Wednesday and spent some time at the manor. Gran was so thrilled to have him over. She’s always said that I need to have more friends over. Harry seemed well enough. I mean as well as any of us can be, all things considered.”
“I see. So that is when he invited you? When he was at the Longbottom manor?” Hermione enquired only to receive another node of affirmation. “Luna?” she asked, turning her gaze to the young Ravenclaw.
“Oh yes! That is when he asked me as well,” she replied with a warm smile. “I was with Neville already when Harry came to visit. He’s been showing me his greenhouse. Neville, not Harry,” Luna explained as Neville’s cheeks blushed. “It is quite remarkable. There are all sorts of hidey places where one can snog without interruption! I may just have to talk father into letting me have one of my own,” she added the last part thoughtfully to herself in a low mumble.
“Yes,” Hermione attempted to cut in, seeing Neville’s face turn beet red. Neville and Luna, now there is a bit of a surprise, she thought, but in a good way. They were both her friends and she truly wanted them to be happy. If there was one thing people needed right now it was to find happiness in life. I know I sure hope to, she told herself, thinking of Harry.
“It is so much better than what I would imagine a broom cupboard being. Yes indeed. Far more spacious. Neville was such a wonderful host and was showing them all to me,” Luna continued unaware of the embarrassed wizard standing next to her at that moment. “Then Harry arrived and we had to cut the tour rather short,” she stated with a slight pout at she recalled that development. “You will show me the rest of them won’t you Neville?” she implored, turning her large pleading eyes upon the wizard in question.
Neville hung his head in an attempt to hide his flaming cheeks. “S…sure, Luna,” he finally managed to stammer out. “W…whenever you’d like,” the scion of the Longbottom line promised. Neville really liked the petite Ravenclaw but she had the oddest habit of saying the most embarrassing things when around him. He had rushed them both from the Longbottom manor before his Gran heard too much.
Luna’s smile beamed at Neville and made the young wizard feel dazed as well as slightly weak in the knees. “So you see, Hermione,” she stated, turning to regard her friend, “Harry actually invited us both at the same time. It was terribly sweet of him, though I am sure Daddy would have liked to seen him one more time.”
“I see,” Hermione replied as she wondered just when the two of them had started spending time together. Having been on the run for so long while they were hunting horcruxs she really wasn’t certain. If they are happy then I am happy for them, she finally decided. Judging by their interaction Hermione could only assume that they were happy. It is good to see something heartwarming amongst all the pain and suffering that we have recently been dealing with.
“Can we lend a hand?” Neville asked in an attempt to change the subject away from his greenhouse and just what he and the petite witch next to him had been doing in there.
“That would be splendid,” Hermione answered. As she and Luna returned to helping Ginny set the tables, Neville went off with the boys and started to bring out the chairs and set them up around the tables. In short order everything was nearly ready except that there was no sign of Harry. Don’t tell me Harry is going to be late for his own gathering, she worried.
The rear door to the Burrowed opened once again and a rather pretty woman stepped out with a small toddler in her arms. The girls quickly walked over and greeted Andromeda Tonks and Teddy Lupin whom she held. The baby Teddy seemed to be amazed by all the sights and noise as his hair went through several different colorings before settling on a rather stunning blue.
“Mrs. Tonks,” Hermione said in a bit of a surprise as she hadn’t expected the older woman to be there. “Can I hold him?” she asked, looking at the child. The young witch hastily wiped her hands on her jeans to make certain they were clean.
“Please, call me Andi. I feel so old when you call me Mrs. Tonks,” Andi said as she situated the toddler a bit better before handing him over to Hermione’s waiting arms. “I don’t see why not, he is your godchild after all,” she added. “I expect to see a great deal of you and Harry. I know Dora and Remus would want the both of you to be a large part of Teddy’s life. My daughter thought very highly of you both.”
“He’s simply adorable,” Hermione said as she cooed to the baby while Luna and Ginny reached in and played with Teddy’s small pudgy hands. “I know Harry will want to spend as much time with him as possible. He has always wanted a family.”
Andi watched as Teddy’s hair color changed once again to perfectly match that of Hermione’s hair. “He likes you,” she told the smiling girl. “Teddy did that same thing with Harry when he was holding him. He wouldn’t change it back for almost a full day either. I think they’re already becoming attached to each other,” Andi said with a warm smile at the thought.
“Harry was by to see you?” Hermione asked, looking up from the giggling baby quickly. Though the witch was surprised by this fact she realized that she really shouldn’t have been. Family had always meant a great deal to Harry. Especially after he’d lost all of his, she thought sadly. “When was he there? Was he well?” the worried witch asked.
“He spent most of the day with us on Tuesday,” Andi told her, “and then came back for a few hours Thursday evening for dinner. I got the impression that he was very busy as he seemed to have a great deal on his mind. Still, he stayed till he had put Teddy to sleep and all. He’ll make asplendid father someday. Took to changing nappies like a duck to water.” The girls couldn’t help but chuckle at her words.
Hermione wasn’t surprised to hear the last. She knew, from long talks they had while hunting horcruxs, when it was just the two of them in the tent, that Harry wanted a rather large family. The young wizard had confessed that he wanted to be there for his children as his parents couldn’t be for him. It had saddened her when he had stated that he doubted their life would be anything but normal being his children. Harry was concerned about the press and the general public and how they might treat his children. She recalled Harry saying that he just wanted to be the best father he could be for them.
“Yes, he will,” Ginny agreed as she cooed at the baby in her friends arms. “Harry is so loving and selfless that any child of his is going to feel extremely loved. I don’t think there isn’t anything he wouldn’t do for his family. We just have to make certain that whoever he gets hitched to isn’t after him for his fame or wealth,” she added. “There are far too many witches like that out there,” she stated with a growl of distaste in her tone.
Luna looked up from Teddy and regarded Ginny serenely for along moment, “I thought you wanted to be the one hitched to Harry?” Luna said to the red-head before she returned to making faces at Teddy, eliciting squeals of laughter from the infant.
“Once,” Ginny confessed to those present. “I don’t really think that I’m what Harry needs though. I mean I look like his Mum and all! No, he needs someone who sees Harry not as the Vanquisher of Voldemort but as Harry. Someone like you,” the witch stated looking towards Hermione. “You’ve always been able to see past his fame to the real Harry and just be his friend!”
“Someone like me?” Hermione parroted back in disbelief only to see both Ginny and Luna both nod in agreement. “But he’s my best friend! I mean sure I love and care about him,” Hermione rattled on, her face growing redder with each passing moment. “I think he cares about me too. I mean it’s Harry after all. We couldn’t…I mean I would never…,” her words trailed off as she finally notice all three of them grinning at her.
“We didn’t actually say it should be you, Hermione,” Ginny stated with a humorous sparkle in her eyes. “Though that would probably work best. Half the school already believes you two spent half the time in that tent snogging,” she told her with a giggle.
“We never!” Hermione exclaimed in Harry’s defense. “Harry was always a proper gentleman of course. He doesn’t think of me that way! I mean he knows I’m a girl and all but-,” she faltered, unable to find the right words. “Harry would never do that,” she finally settled for. “I mean it’s Harry and-,“
“Though that would be rather brilliant actually,” Luna chimed in with as if on cue, cutting off the stuttering witch in mid-sentence. “You both already have a great relationship to build from. Daddy always said that if you can marry your best friend then you should. Though I guess if your best friend is another girl that night cause a problem. What if Harry’s best friend is Ron?” Luna pondered distractedly. “That might be awkward as well Isuppose. Daddy and Mummy were best friends when they got married and they were always happy,” she concluded with a shrug as if that answered it all.
“You just need to gather your Gryffindor courage and take the next step, Granger!” Ginny declared almost triumphantly. “If you wait too long some other witch might catch Harry’s eye.”
“I…I’m certain there are plenty of better witches out there that could catch Harry’s fancy,” Hermione stammered, feeling the tips of her ears heat into a blush. It was one thing to hope and dream of a day when Harry might feel the same way towards her, but it was rather embarrassing to discuss it so brazenly. I haven’t even told him how I feel yet!
“Hopefully he’ll get the chance to find out now that the war is over with,” Andi offered, having watched the exchange with amusement. From speaking with the absent wizard while he was visiting her and Teddy she had quickly learned that the boy cared deeply for the muggle-born witch. Andi could only hope that the two of them figured it out and soon. “I just hope that the media will leave him be long enough to find a good witch to settle down with. That boy deserves a bit of happiness after everything he’s been through.”
Hermione’s breath stuck in her chest and she broke out into a sweat as she suddenly realized something. The young witch most certainly did not want Harry to realize that there were other witches out there. She truly did love him and wanted him to notice her and realize that he could have ahappy life with his best friend. But does he feel the same way for me? I know he does love me and cares for me, but is it in the same manner that I love and care about him? The young woman chewed her lip in thought as she pondered that question. Well, am I a Gryffindor or not? I’ll just have to ask him and tell him that in no uncertain terms he does…and can have a life like that with me!
Molly Weasley stepped through the back door of the Burrow with a host of floating trays, platters, bowls, pitchers and dishes filled with food and drink. As the Weasley Matriarch approached Hermione noticed that she was apparently alone. “Harry hasn’t arrived yet?” Hermione anxiously asked, hoping that the missing wizard might be inside.
“I’m sure he’ll be along shortly, dear,” Molly replied to Hermione as she settled the trailing food items in their places on the long table. “He is the one that asked for all of us to gather here after all. He’s a good boy with proper manners so I’m certain he won’t keep us waiting,” the elder Weasley assured Hermione.
Everyone was standing about, wondering if they should wait for Harry’s arrival or start without him when there was the sudden crack of apparition. In the blink of an eye a dozen blue robed Aurors appeared with their wands out as they took up a defensive position. The hard looking men and woman fanned out, making sure that the area was secure before one of them sent off a patronus.
Arthur Weasley moved to speak with the nearest Auror when there was another crack of apparition and a tall dark man dressed in a finely tailored suit appeared in the middle of the protective ring of Aurors. Beside the man, carrying a small parchment sized box was a Gringotts goblin. The elder Weasley stopped in surprise. “Minister Shacklebolt?”
Ragnok watched the wizard across the desk from him intently. “This is the last one, Mr. Potter,” the goblin stated as he slid ascroll across the desktop to be signed like the several others before it. Gringotts was making a sizable profit from these transactions. Not nearly enough to pay for the repairs the Bank made after their dragon had escaped but close. All in all it was shaping up to be a wonderfully profitable Friday morning the goblin thought.
Harry read it over rather quickly, being certain that if there was anything in there that shouldn’t be it would take a better and more trained eye than his to spot it. “Thank you Sir,” Harry said as he signed it at the bottom. “You’ll see to the delivery of the items in question?”
“Gringotts will see that they are dispensed per your instructions,” Ragnok assured him as he accepted the now signed parchment back from the wizard. The goblin signed the document before sliding it back across to the other wizard seated across the desk. “Once you sign this, Minister, it will be an unbreakable agreement between all parties.”
Kingsley Shacklebolt reluctantly accepted the parchment. “Harry, are you certain this is what you wish to do?” the Minister for Magic enquired. “There has to be some other way, lad,” the former Auror pressed. He had heard the young wizard’s decision earlier in the week, after he had received the official documents from the Queen’s secretary. It pained him to think that things had come to such an end. He knew the lad hadn’t had the best of lives but he felt this was a bit extreme.
Harry gave a slow nod. “Yes, Minister. The Quibbler and the Prophet will both run the story in tomorrow’s morning additions by which time I shall be no more.” Harry watched as with a resigned sigh the former Auror signed the document and passed it back to the bank manager.
“Very well. Everything is in order it appears. Mr. Potter, when would you like to undergo the procedure?” Ragnok enquired. The goblin had been notified early that morning that everything was ready for the young wizard.
“No time like the present,” Harry replied with a forced cheerfulness. Harry rose and extended his hand to Kingsley. “Thank you Sir for all you have done and all you will do. Look after them, Sir. I know this will be difficult for them to understand right away. Hopefully, with enough time, they’ll come to realize as I did that it was the only way.”
Kingsley accepted the hand and shook it. “I will as much as I can for them, Harry. I’m only sorry that there wasn’t more that I could do for you, Harry. We owe you a great debt and it just feels rather shitty for things to end this way.”
“Perhaps,” Harry agreed with a small crooked smile, “but better this way than the alternative. That’s not any type of life I want to lead or have my children involved in. Not now, not ever. I think I have done more than my part, Sir. I have earned this and if I don’t take it now I might not ever be able to.” Kingsley couldn’t argue with that and merely gave a nod as he released the young wizard’s hand.
“If you’ll follow me, Mr. Potter,” Ragnok said getting up from the desk and walking towards the door. Harry fell into step beside the goblin as they traversed several hallways before climbing into a lift which then descended, taking them deep within the ground. “You will be the first wizard to ever see the ritual chamber, Mr. Potter,” the bank manager informed him.
“Not that I’ll remember any of it,” Harry stated with aslight chuckle. It was strange, but now that the time was at hand he wasn’t nervous at all. He had thought he would be. It was a life altering ritual after all. It was as if everything in his life had lead up to this one point. This was his choice and no one else’s. I just want it all over and done with, he thought as he realized that he was tired, so very tired. It was atiredness that had seeped down deep into his bones. Shouldering the pain, guilt and shame he felt, was incredibly taxing on his already fragile mental state.
Harry’s one regret was Hermione, always Hermione. I love her. It was a simple admission but one that encompassed so much more. I’ve always loved her. I can’t put her through what it would be like being married to me. What if we had children? I can only imagine what the press and the public would put them through, he thought recalling how his first visit to the Leaky Caldron all those years ago had gone. They’d never get a moments rest.
Any accomplishments Hermione made people would whisper that they were due to being Mrs. Harry Potter, rather than due to her own brilliance, he thought as they walked. If she was hired into the Ministry would she believe it was on her own merit or would she wonder if it was because she’s married to me? Merlin help my kids! They’ll grow up being constantly compared to me and what I’ve done. They’ll grow up without amoment’s peace or privacy. No, I don’t want that for them or for ‘Mione.
The war will never end for me, Harry thought, having come to that conclusion the day after the final battle. He was scared for life by much more than the infamous lightning bold on his forehead. A part of Voldemort’s soul was inside me…was a part of me. Harry found that thought so revolting that he was certain everyone else would as well were they to know. Maybe not Hermione, he tried to tell himself over and over again, though it did little good. Harry didn’t think he could handle it if she did find him disgusted and unclean due to that fact.
It wasn’t just that fact that Voldemort had been inside him. Harry keenly felt the guilt from all those that had died as well. I should have gotten to the horcruxs sooner, faster than I did. I should have killed Tom before he could have attacked Hogwarts. Teddy’s parents would still be alive as would Collin and Lavender. Rationally he knew that to be wrong and logically he could tell himself that, however every night the dreams told him otherwise. They showed him all the time he spent doing nothing and then the faces of those who had died would appear and ask him why he hadn’t saved them. Many of the faces he didn’t even know and felt the guiltier for not knowing them, believing that he should. Harry’s heart was finally at peace as he told himself that this would be best for Hermione...best for everyone.
“Unfortunately true, Mr. Potter. I suspect that is one of the reasons it was agreed to assist you in this matter,” Ragnok spoke, drawing the young wizard back from his dark thoughts. “The Goblin Council felt that it would be secure as your memories will all be removed and new ones added, not just altered. This way there is no likelihood of you ever recalling it. Once we are finished you won’t know what a goblin is other than what one might read in one of those muggle fantasy novels.” The goblin knew that the main reason had more to do with covering up the break-in than it did with helping the savior of the Wizarding world.
It was a surprisingly short walk from the lift to the ritual chamber. Harry changed out of his wizarding robes and into regular muggle clothing then was directed to lay down upon a slap of stone that much more resembled an alter than a bed. The floor of the room was covered in strange shapes and designs which he had never seen before. Harry could only assume they were the goblin equivalent of runes. “I won’t forget all that you’ve done for me.”
Ragnok swiped his hand before the young wizard’s eyes, forcing Harry into a deep sleep. “Yes, I am afraid you will,” he replied with a sad sigh before turning and leaving the room. Ragnok liked the wizard, which was saying something as goblins only liked their own kind. “There’s bound to at least one good one in the lot of them I guess,” he mumbled to himself as he climbed back into the lift. Later, after the ritual was completed, the taken memories would be disposed of in accordance with the agreement between Gringotts and the man formerly known as Harry Potter.
Behind him the goblin Rune Mages stepped forward and got to work. Enchantments were cast to seal the room from any stray outside interference. Specially bespelled gems were set to floating about the wizard’s head, forming a triangle with one beside each ear and the last at the crown of his head. The three Mages present began to chant softly, their combined voices setting a cadence that rose and fell in a steady manner.
In answer to their words the runes upon the floor began to glow with a soft amber light that illuminated the room. When all the runes were alight the chief Mage extracted a large clear gem from his robes and levitated it till it covered directly above Harry forehead, at the center of the triangle formed by the other three smaller gems.
The large gem began to glow and slowly fill with a milky white substance as every memory of the young man’s life was extracted from his mind and absorbed by the gem. After some time when there was nothing left to be removed the gem was withdrawn. The chief mage brought forth a different gem from his robes, this one was already filled with a white milky substance. Once the new gem had been placed over Harry forehead the memories it contained were extracted to be absorbed by the empty canvas of the young man’s mind.
A new name, a new identity and a new life was given to the former wizard. A loving childhood, with loving parents and many happy memories were bestowed upon him. His new life had not been all perfect, for who’s truly is? His mother had passed away at a young age from cancer and his father had followed just recently from an apparent heart attack. Whatever relatives he might have, he did not know them well because his parents were not close to either of their families. Still, he had grown up as normal as anyone else. It was the life, more or less, that he had always wanted and yet had always been denied. Harry finally had the one thing Albus Dumbledore had always wanted for him but had never been able to give him, a normal childhood.
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