The Last Battle has been fought, and Harry Potter has won. The price, however, has been high. Nearly every person Harry cared for is dead, maimed, or otherwise injured. The magical culture of Bri...
Sunday, August 15, 1993
Harry and Hermione had returned to Britain a few days earlier. The next day the pair would go to Diagon Alley for their supplies, and meet with the fellow Third years that Harry was going to work with that year, hoping to make them his core group.
The summer had been a very relaxing one for the pair, especially for Harry. He had never really relaxed for any length of time before his return from the future, other than the few weeks he had spent in Diagon Alley before his Third year. From the time he had learned about Sirius' supposed betrayal from Fudge through the Final Battle, Harry's nerves had been almost always wound tightly. Even the previous two summers, on his vacations with the Grangers, Harry had been on guard, just in case some stray Death Eater had managed to track them down, plus the year before he had been haunted by the memory of the ghosts in the death camps.
This summer, Harry had totally relaxed for the entire month of July, outside of his homework and some extra reading on advanced magical theory and of course his exercise and meditation/Occlumency routines. Compared to his harsh workouts since his return from the future, he was barely training.
Remus, Tonks, and Hermione all noted how the tension which had made Harry seem like a bow ready to release an arrow slowly left him. This was especially apparent when he had returned from a four-day camping trip made deep in the Australian Outback. Harry had packed his broom and had flown to his heart's content.
When Harry had returned to practice active magic after his birthday, Remus and Tonks had been shocked to see that if anything Harry's reflexes were even faster than they had been before. It was their private evaluation that Harry was now more knowledgeable and dangerous than any hit-wizard. This meant that, in their reluctant opinion, Harry was already prepared to take on Voldemort. Before this, any confrontation between the two would have been more on Voldemort's initiative. Even their fight at the beginning of Harry's First year had been an opportunity created by Voldemort.
Now it would be the Order's job to track down Voldemort not just for intelligence purposes, but so that Harry could directly confront him. However, until such time as Voldemort made a move, it seemed unlikely he would be found. Not even the Squib network Moody had linked into could detect a murmur after the Death Eater body parts had appeared after the mass splinching.
The problem would be, of course, actually locating the Dark Lord, who had not been heard from in any way since the attack on the airplane.
Harry had relectantly left the Grangers, who had flown back to take care of some emigration paper work and negotiations for the final sale of their house, that morning and flooed to Grimmauld Place. 'At least I've finally gotten used to the bloody floo,' Harry thought as he landed. He had spent a week learning how to surf on the north Australian coastline. It seemed as if that had help him deal with the pesky floo.
Dobby immediately attached himself to Harry's legs. Winky had showed up in Australia, asking permission to have an elfling with Dobby. Harry had complied with the request without hesitation. Apparently elves were celibate until they chose to procreate and while the female elf was expecting. No doubt, that was one reason Dobby was so happy.
"It's good to see you," Harry said. He looked around. "Am I early?"
"Mister Harry is on time," Dobby answered. "Mister Draco is in his room. Mister Loopy is at Hogwarts." Dobby had only misprounced Remus' family name once, but Sirius had insisted that Remus be called that ever since. Harry merely nodded, knowing that Remus was spending his days consulting with Dumbledore and his nights at Tonks'. "Mister Sirius is coming down the stairs."
Sure enough, Sirius rushed into the room a few moments later and embraced his godson, shouting, "Hey, Pronglet! Great to see you!" Sirius pushed back, keeping his hands on Harry's shoulders. "You look . . . Harry, you look great," Sirius admitted. "I know you hate my comparing you to your father, but this is the first time you've looked even healthier and better-rested than James ever did."
Harry smiled. "You and Remus are allowed, as long as you don't do it too often," Harry answered. He looked at his godfather. "You look like you're tired, and haven't been out in the sun. What's up?"
Sirius rolled his eyes. "Reams and reams of paperwork and reports. I hadn't realized how much scut-work Remus did for the Old Man until this summer."
"And being the well-brought-up wizard that you were, you aren't used to doing anything you don't enjoy," Harry teased.
Sirius tried to scowl at that, but couldn't deny it. "True," he acknowledged. "That's why I had Draco doing some of the non-sensitive work."
"Well, if he wants to rise high in the Ministry, he needs to get used to it," Harry said simply.
"I know," Sirius agreed. "Even if he quickly has people under him to do a lot of the work, if he knows how it's done, they can't hide things from him for his own good, or for their own plans. Or at least not easily."
Harry nodded. "A very Slytherin explanation."
"True," Sirius agreed. "So, is Dora knocked up yet?"
"Not unless it was by accident," Harry answered. "It will be nice to get rid of Moldishorts so we can all get on with our lives."
"It won't be all smooth sailing once he's gone," Sirius reminded Harry.
"In general, no," Harry acknowledged. "However, whoever the next dark bastard is, maybe he'll bother some other part of the world."
"Perhaps," Sirius agreed.
"So, still no word?"
"Not a peep," Sirius agreed.
"So, what do you have planned for me today?" Harry asked, his eyes narrowing.
"Moody arranged a test for you," Sirius answered.
"Dueling?" Harry asked, puzzled.
"More like combat, although non-lethal spells only."
"Who am I facing? Three or four aurors?"
Sirius sighed. "Three aurors, and two hit-wizards."
Harry blinked at that. "That should be . . . challenging." Hit-wizards were elite aurors, and there were very few of them at any given time.
"Shacklebolt is the most junior auror involved, but probably the most powerful."
Harry grimaced. "When?"
"You leave in about fifteen minutes," Sirius answered. "Moody had wanted it to be a complete ambush, but Dumbledore convinced him to give you a little advanced notice." He handed Harry a dirty paper cup.
Sirius nodded. "And that's really all I can tell you."
"I have to admit, I don't like those odds," Harry said.
"You can do it," Sirius stated firmly. "Remus and I are the equal of any auror, and Dumbledore might not be as ruthless as a hit-wizard, but he is more powerful and knowledgeable."
"Hermione is going to be upset if we can't go shopping tomorrow," Harry said with a sigh.
"Such an old married couple," Sirius teased. "Have you formalized the bonding yet?"
Harry looked confused.
Sirius decided he had to be crude. "Did you fuck her yet?"
Sirius found himself pinned to the ceiling. Hard.
"Don't you EVER be crude about her," Harry snapped.
"Sorry," Sirius managed to say. He managed not to get hurt when Harry released him from the ceiling. After checking for injuries, however, Sirius pressed on. "Well?"
"If you must know, we won't until sometime after my next birthday," Harry growled. "I'll be fourteen and Hermione will be less than two months short of fifteen. It is what we promised," he pointed out.
"Is it ha . . . err, difficult?" Sirius asked.
"Very much so, and no," Harry retorted. "And you keep that gutter-mind out of our bedroom!"
"Fine," Sirius answered. He leered. "You know, there are some interestingly-flavored Muggle oils and such which might give the two of you some variety as you li. . . ." Sirius' mouth continued to move, but no sound came out.
"Say one more word when I release the hex, and I'll seal your mouth with a sliver of soap inside," Harry warned.
Sirius nodded his agreement, figuring he had reached his limits for teasing for the day, and that he had accomplished his goal of distracting Harry from the impending battle.
"Harry is having to do WHAT?" Hermione demanded half an hour later, as she stood in her parents' parlor.
"He's in a mock combat, not a real one," Sirius pleaded. Hermione was in many ways a very cute young teen, but at the moment, she was actually scary.
"Harry will almost certainly have to face Voldemort one-on-one," Remus pointed out. "Harry is more powerful, but Voldemort is much more experienced and knowledgeable. In addition, Voldemort will hardly fight fair. Harry needs all the training he can get."
Hermione slumped into a chair. "I know," she whispered. "It's just that he was, maybe for the first time in his life, feeling relaxed, healthy, confident, and happy."
"And loved," Remus added gently. "Don't forget that, Hermione. You love him, he loves you. That gives him hope. Together, all those things give him power."
"Have some confidence in your bond-mate," Sirius said.
"Oh, I'm sure he'll probably win," Hermione retorted. "I just worry about how much damage that win will cost him."
With just the slightest of 'pops', Dumbledore appeared. "If you mean psychologically, Mrs. Potter, most likely none at all."
"We've asked you not to call me that," Hermione said severely.
"I know, but in this instance, I am reporting to a warrior's spouse," Dumbledore retorted. "I would not so inform a casual girlfriend. Harry defeated his five opponents quite convincingly and quickly, if with some effort and even some close calls, which means he should suffer neither from a lack of confidence nor from over-confidence due to the experience. He did so without having to dip into some of his more questionable knowledge as well."
"So where is he?" Hermione demanded, standing. "I need to be with him."
"He did sustain some minor injuries," Dumbledore admitted. As he took a breath to continue, Hermione disappeared. A fraction of a second later, Dumbledore nearly fainted.
"What happened?" Remus demanded as he and Sirius held on to the elderly sorcerer.
"Somehow . . . somehow Mrs. Potter was transported to Harry's side," Dumbledore said in awe. As Headmaster, he was tied to the wards protecting Hogwarts, and they had screamed as Hermione had gone through them. "It was not apparation, let alone a portkey effect. I do not understand how it was even possible."
"Where is Harry?" Sirius demanded.
"The Infirmary at Hogwarts," Dumbledore answered.
"Then I think that's where we should be," Remus said firmly.
Less than three minutes later, the three men entered the Infirmary, where they quickly spotted Harry laying on one of the hospital cots, clad only in his boxers and socks. Madam Pomfrey was putting the finishing touches of healing a rather nasty, deep bruise Harry had sustained on his left thigh, his sole remaining injury.
He was turned on his side, his head in Hermione's lap. His right arm was loosely around her waist and he was holding her right hand with his left, while Hermione stroked his hair with her other hand.
The three halted at the glare Hermione directed at them. "And I always thought Molly Weasley could look fiercely protective," Dumbledore muttered.
The trio barely heard Harry whisper, "You can do it." Hermione then gently moved Madam Pomfrey's wand away from Harry's thigh. She bent over and kissed the bruised area, leaving her lips in contact.
A white light spread over the injury for a few seconds. When it disappeared, Hermione sat up and the bruise was gone. "How . . . how did you manage that?" Pomfrey asked, shocked.
"I supplied the emotional connection, Harry's magic did the rest," Hermione said simply.
"Did I mention that both our powers increased over the summer, and that our bond deepened?" Harry asked.
"Bond?" Madam Pomfrey demanded. "Merlin! Are you saying you two children are magically bonded?"
"No, we're saying we aren't just pair bonded, we have a Fully-Saturated Magical Bond," Hermione said. "I had suspected we might, and my being brought to Harry when we both desired it confirmed it."
The four adults were shocked, to say the least. This meant that the pair's magic was fully intertwined. Magically, they had formed a gestalt -- they could draw upon one another, and could not be separated. Over time, they would no doubt be able to easily sense the other's emotions over any distance, and perhaps even communicate that way.
"There is still one more step we have to take to make the union complete," Hermione went on, making Harry's ears burn. "However, we did promise to wait at least until Harry's fourteenth birthday." Now the adults were flushing a bit from embarrassment as well. "Any comments?"
The three males shook their heads in terror. Madam Pomfrey looked at Hermione and said, "If you take the anti-conception potion until you finish your N.E.W.T.s, you're physically ready to consummate your marriage any time, Mrs. Granger-Potter."
"I appreciate that, but we did promise and I don't think my parents would be willing to absolve us," Hermione answered. "And the plan for the moment is that I am Miss Granger until the leaving feast at the end of our Seventh year, at which point we will announce I am Hermione Potter."
"As you wish, dear," Madam Pomfrey said. She leaned over and kissed Hermione's cheek. "Congratulations." She poked Harry's shoulder with a finger. "You be good to her, Potter. You're free to go. I need to go check those five idiots you put into the aurors' infirmary. Maybe I can learn some new de-hexing techniques." She walked past the three men with a sniff of disapproval, but none would have dared to even try and guess why.
Hermione helped Harry stand. He grinned at Dumbledore and snapped his fingers. His clothes disappeared from the pile on the chair next to the hospital bed and reappeared on him.
Three sets of eyebrows were raised, as that was a N.E.W.T.-level spell -- easy to do in principle, but usually resulting in a mess when tried by younger students. Harry bent with a slight moan to put on his trainers.
"Are you all right?" Hermione asked, concerned.
"My back is a bit stiff," Harry admitted.
Hermione quickly knelt and helped Harry slip on the trainers, and she tied them for him. Harry helped her to her feet and smiled warmly into Hermione's return smile. It was an intimate domestic scene, and the three men realized they were intruders on True Love, the highest form of innate magic.
"Err, exactly how badly did Harry hex those fellows?" Remus asked as the three men averted their eyes.
"I would think the word 'effectively' would be more appropriate than 'badly'," Dumbledore mused. "Harry's magic is now fully integrated with his reflexes, and on a level I have never seen before. When he wants to, Harry can actually move faster than the eye can focus."
"It feels a bit odd," Harry said, walking over, "and I can't do it for too long at any given time."
"Why is that?" Remus asked.
"It's hard to breath," Harry answered simply.
"It's difficult to exchange enough oxygen," Hermione put in. "You're breathing so fast, you're actually pulling in some of the carbon dioxide you just exhaled."
"Still, I can go for about five minutes before getting light-headed," Harry said. "After about eight, I get dizzy, which I certainly do NOT want to have happen in a fight."
Dumbledore glared at Remus, even if his eyes still had that annoying twinkle. "And neither you nor Nymphadora thought it worthy to report this?"
"A reported ability is no longer secret, no longer a surprise," Remus retorted. "Besides. . . ."
"Besides, while you are loyal to the Order, you and Nymphadora, and Sirius no doubt, are all more loyal to Harry than to me," Dumbledore agreed. He thought a moment, and his beard and mustache made odd movements as his mouth twisted. He sighed and asked, "Both you and Mrs. Potter are widely-read. Do either of you know what the young Pompey the Great told his leader, the Dictator Sulla, during the first of Rome's civil wars when Sulla tried and rebuke him?"
"Something along the lines of 'people worship the rising sun, not the setting sun'," Remus answered promptly.
"Close enough." He looked at Harry. "Ever since you returned in 1990, I have known that I am the setting sun, the past. You are the rising sun, the future."
Harry shrugged. "I think people will be very disappointed in me," he said simply. "If the reforms we've started don't spread through the general wizarding population in a generation or two, there will just be some other Dark Lord wannabe, in here or in Europe and we have to go through this God-awful mess all over again."
"Maybe, but the rest of the world might not," Hermione pointed out. "Remember the reports of the rest of the world organizing we heard about all summer?"
"And, if we don't get as organized here in Europe, and some lunatic tries again in a generation or two, the rest of the world might not tolerate our ineffectual responses," Remus pointed out in turn.
"And all because you came back," Sirius went on.
"All because Luna's mother foresaw it, and she and Luna gave their lives for us," Harry said sadly. "And people will never know of it."
"It's a secret better lost," Dumbledore reminded Harry. The knowledge that time could be so affected was far too dangerous to be generally known.
"I know," Harry agreed. "I suppose we could argue that the lives of two witches and the sanity of one wizard was a price worth paying, but only to those who haven't seen the payments." Over the summer, Gerald Lovegood had sunk beyond the extreme eccentricity which had affected him in Harry's previous lifetime. He was now in St. Mungo's. Harry had purchased The Quibbler and it was still being published, although a tad less quirky than it had been.
"There is one bit of news which might cheer you," Dumbledore said. "We finally collected enough evidence, and Gilderoy Lockhart was arrested three days ago. Once the commission appointed to deal with him finishes his interrogation, the full story will be published around the world."
"At least a bit of justice still prevails," Harry muttered. "Anything else?"
"Only that three more new Muggle houses disappeared," Dumbledore said.
No one seemed to know what to make of that.