There was much more to 'The Epilogue' than was shown in Book 7. In this chapter, Hermione returns to Harry.
I have found out some very important and disturbing news. Let me know when you are able to deal with it, as while it is not exactly pressing, it does need to be addressed before you come back, or soon thereafter. Certainly we must address it before we see Ron or Ginny at the least, as I understand Ron stayed here. I'm sorry if he's hurt you again.
That was a somewhat mysterious note! I found Mum and Dad the day after I arrived and disenchanted them that very night. While they understand why I did what I did, that does not mean they are by any means anything but outraged. In short, they are staying in Australia. It took some fast talking at the Australian Ministry of Magic (they are not pleased I slipped through the magical embargo on Britain via Muggle means). Still, Mum and Dad are now licenced to practice in Australia, thanks to the Ministry, and their bank accounts (moderately large from selling their practice, the house, and the contents of both), plus your generous gift means they can set up in practice here (well, they are moving from Tasmania to Perth). I fear it will be a while before they forgive me enough for them to want to spend time with me.
I can be back in five days, as I must go back as a Muggle, since Icame here that way.
I am very disappointed in Ron. As much as I care for him, he has shown us twice he is unreliable. I know he does not have a clue about how angry you really were with him; you hid your feelings far too well. Perhaps I need to rethink my relationship with him. If you aren't uncomfortable, perhaps we can discuss the subject?
I can't tell you how sorry I am about your parents. Hopefully, they will forgive you more quickly than they think they will. As for Ron, we will need to discuss him.
The tent will be in the first location we moved it to after Ron left, from four days from now until seven days from now at noon. Avoid Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade. Be careful, as the Aussies will have notified the Ministry where you are, and may even tell them of your travel schedule.
Thank you for the reminder. Normally, I would have realized that, but as you can imagine, I am a bit flustered. I shall adjust my travel plans accordingly.
Hermione checked the flights on-line before going to the airport, and purchased her tickets that way, rightly guessing that the Australian Ministry of Magic was not quite up to more than physically checking the airline counters (which was still far ahead of their British counterparts), and that only rarely. She slicked down her hair a bit and tied it in a bun, and if anyone was looking for her, no one recognized her. She flew from Hobart to Singapore, which not only had no Ministry as such but which banned the use of magic by everyone who was not a licenced citizen. Had any magical agent dared slip into the city-state without previous approval, they would have been arrested, as Hermione would have been had she tried to slip out of the airport.
From Singapore, Hermione managed to catch a flight to Brussels, and then got on the train system, taking just over a day to wind up on a train to London. Hermione disapparated from the lavatory in the train just before its arrival.
She saw the tent where she expected it, but it seemed deserted until Winky appeared. "Mistress Hermione," the little elf said with a bow. "May Winky take your clothes and clean them?"
"In a moment," a very tired Hermione said. "Can you tell me where Harry is?"
"Mister Harry apparated to a small town nearby, Mistress. Mister Harry is buying good foods Mistress likes for a late dinner."
Hermione looked at Winky, puzzled. "Why are you calling me'mistress'?" The elves had always addressed her as 'miss'.
"Does Mistress prefer another title? Winky could think of no other right title, at least until Mister Harry talks with Mistress."
Hermione looked at Winky thoughtfully, but Winky caught on and panicked. "Please, Mistress, do not trick or force Winky! Mister Harry forbids Winky to punish Winky. Winky would die before asking Mister Harry for clothes! Dobby was right, Mister Harry is kindest, most wonderful Mast . . . Winky means, bestest employer, ever!" Winky looked towards the opening. "Mister Harry is home! May Winky please take Mistress Hermione's dirty clothes?"
"Winky! I'm back!" Harry called. "Hermione!" He set the bags of groceries on the floor and hugged Hermione. Despite her confusion, Hermione hugged Harry just as enthusiastically back.
Winky grabbed the groceries and Hermione's knapsack and popped away.
Hermione broke the hug and asked, "I'm glad to see you, but why did Winky call me 'mistress'?"
Harry frowned. "Winky!"
Winky appeared, nearly weeping. "Winky is sorry, Mister Harry. May Winky please iron her ears?"
"No, of course not," Harry answered. "Put the groceries away, and when you're done, sit quietly on your stool for five minutes."
Winky pouted, but answered, "Yes, Mister Harry."
"Sit on her stool?" Hermione asked.
"She keeps begging to be punished, and it seems a time-out bothers her more than a physical punishment, but I can't have her hurting herself."
"I would hope not. Now, I've been on the move for over fifty hours, and I'm past tired. What's up?"
Harry sighed and took Hermione over to the sofa and sat down with her, taking her hands in his.
"Harry," Hermione said, eyes wide, "you're scaring me a little."
"Well," Harry said ruefully, "there's nothing to be frightened of. Angry, but not frightened."
"Angry? At whom?"
"In declining order, Dumbledore, Ginny, Ron, Percy, Bill, and then maybe a few others."
Hermione's eyes narrowed. "What did Dumbledore do?" she nearly growled.
"It was a year ago late April," Harry said. "He enchanted you, me, and Ron, so we thought we were dreaming. It's some form of hyper-aware state, where you're totally honest, and your magic rises to the surface."
"I've read about it," Hermione said tersely. "Go on. What did he make us do? Or rather, what were we willing to do in a state where we were both honest and lacking inhibitions?"
"Apparently, the order is somewhat important. First, you swore an oath of full fealty to me." Hermione face, which had been growing flushed with anger, now started to pale instead. "Then Ron did the same thing. Next, Ginny swore an ancient bonding oath to me."
"She's not old enough to marry!" Hermione snapped.
"Since she was over fifteen and from a poor family, according to this ritual she was old enough to bond herself as a concubine to the head of an ancient family who was at least sixteen, which Iwas. Since you're Muggle-born and Ron's a Pureblood, you could do the same and did. It is an old spell, used to bind political marriages. You know, the kind where the couple might be separated by distance at times, in order to insure loyalty in all the partners. However, since you were my vassal before you bound yourself to Ron, who also became my vassal, well. . . ."
"You can claim me as your concubine as well," Hermione said faintly. She collapsed back onto the sofa. "I can have no other."
"And, since in fact there were many nights where we slept together, and even a few where we, well, you know. . . ." Harry stopped, blushing.
"Made love? Shared oral sex? Not to mention that time when it was my period and you took my anal cherry?" Hermione nearly snarled.
"Yes," Harry admitted. "Ginny knew all the time. Apparently, by custom one person had to be aware it wasn't all a dream. Percy found out last summer, although he was not then aware that we weren't aware. He shared the information with Bill sometime last autumn, and when Ron finally got to Bill's, Bill told him, which was another reason Ron came back."
"Do you know what all this means?" Hermione demanded.
"I think so," Harry said. "For you, it means you can never marry anyone but Ron or me, or legally have sex with any guy other than the two of us. In fact, you may never even be attracted to any male other than Ron or me. If Ron doesn't marry you, he can marry one other woman if he has both our permissions. Even if he marries you and I marry someone else, I could still legally have sex with you. Not that I would, if you didn't want me to, you know that!"Harry added.
Hermione merely nodded.
"I can marry anyone, and have I think three more concubines. Not that I would!"
"If I married you, then Ron would have no legal claim on you afterwards, at least until I die. Ginny can never legally have sex with any other guy but me."
"And what does it mean for you? Anything else?"
Harry made a face. "It makes me wonder how much of my life was even more directly masterminded by Dumbledore, for one thing. Did he cast other spells or charms or whatever on me? Ones we may never find out about? Was that why I was so angry during fifth year, and so passive during our sixth year? After all, his painting doesn't have to tell me, even if I ask."
"Maybe," Hermione agreed. "Who knows about these bonds? Besides the people you named, I mean."
"Luna figured it out, and told me when I told her I was interested in you, Ginny, and her, but wasn't sure about anything. She went with me to question Dumbledore's portrait, and cursed his memory when we were done. It turns out, she was falling for me during spring our sixth year, but of course she wouldn't want to be part of this mess, at least until you and I figure out what we want to do."
"Whereas you and I are stuck in it," Hermione said simply.
"True," Harry agreed. "I really do think Dumbledore or Ginny or someone was influencing me sixth year. I'm not normally a jealous person, but from the start of Sixth year until Dumbledore bound us, I was very jealous of anyone interacting with Ginny. I can't say it's been totally non-existent since then, but it has been a lot less powerful."
"That is somewhat odd," Hermione agreed. "What else have you learned that was odd?"
"I was quite surprised to learn that Percy was actually feeding information to his father and Bill the whole time." Tired, Hermione laid her head on his shoulder.
"We could be in trouble," she said.
"I had guessed that," Harry said. "How much trouble?"
"Well, when I left it looked like Kingsley could be taking over what's left of the Ministry. . . ."
"With help from Mister Weasley and Percy," Harry pointed out.
"True. And Neville, Luna, and Ginny were the leaders at Hogwarts."
"Now, you of course. . . ."
"We," Harry said firmly.
"Fine. We set up the destruction of Voldemort, and you pulled it off. However, Kingsley, Lee, George and their friends and associates, well, I guess we could call them the Voice of the Resistance."
"Advantage, Kingsley and Percy," Harry muttered.
Hermione nodded. "And Percy knows how the Ministry has been run. Since he and Kingsley get along, they'll be setting up the new Ministry. We won't have any say." She frowned. "Any more than we really have in who we'll be with the rest of our lives."
"Does this explain why we are so in love in them, Hermione? Especially you and Ron?"
"Probably. I had sometimes wondered," Hermione answered. "Any love potions would make us act very different, and any love charms would have worn off long ago."
"Yet within a few days of Ron leaving, while we both missed him, we also were happy as, well. . . ."
"Lovers, Harry," Hermione said. She snuggled close. "I love you more than Ron, I like you more than Ron. You're certainly more interesting, more affectionate, and more caring, not to mention amuch better and more considerate lover. Why else, other than this silliness, would I be in love with him more than you? Why, even though I love you, would I probably deny it again if the prat walked into the room?"
Harry hugged Hermione and breathed in her scent. "I know. Like Isaid, since the early part of sixth year, I've been jealous of anyone who gets near Ginny, even though I really didn't think I was the jealous type. Yet I was so happy taking Luna to Slughorn's party, I'm so happy with you."
Harry felt Hermione stiffen a bit. "Hermione, you are fantastic, and I don't just mean in bed. It has nothing to do with the fact that we've had all kinds of sex and I haven't with Ginny. You know that Ginny has only wanked me off a few times."
"You never actually said that."
"Really? Well, she said we had to wait for regular sex. She wrinkled her nose in disgust at the mere idea of oral sex. Still, it's not about sex. It's about respect, which she and Ron have never given us, and affection, which they seem to demand."
"True. As for sex, well, I don't know if it's unique to Weasleys or a common wizarding attitude," Hermione agreed. "Ron will let me go down on him, but nearly vomited at the idea of returning the favor."
"For someone who eats nearly everything, he doesn't know what asweet treat he's missing." Harry gave up resisting his urges and kissed her neck.
Hermione giggled, but kept on track. She didn't stop Harry, though. "So, why did Dumbledore did this? Because of the bloody quest for Horcruxes?" Harry mumbled his agreement. "Ron left us for a while even with the bondings. We might not have succeeded on our own. We succeeded more by luck than skill as it was." Hermione purred for a moment, then pulled away from Harry's talented tongue."I don't know what I want in the long term, but I do know what Iwant, what I need right now."
"Whatever you want, or don't want, Hermione," Harry promised.
Hermione leaned back onto Harry. "Then tonight, at least, I want you. I want to suck you hard and then take you in my bum. . . ."
"That time of the month again?" Harry knew Hermione really liked anal during her period.
Hermione nodded, and then said, "We started off consoling each other last winter, and then had a passionate time, and yet as soon as Ron showed up, we went back to being siblings, instantly. And now that we're alone. . . ."
"We want to make love again."
"Ron and I never really made love, Harry, as much as I love him. We fucked." She caressed Harry's cheek and kissed the side of his mouth. "You have never just fucked me. We've always made love. Make love to me, Harry. To hell with the sheets and my period, and I don't care if we make a mess."
Harry braced himself and then stood with Hermione in his arms."Just one more bit of information."
"Shack wants to meet with us whenever you get back, and he's willing to do so on neutral ground."
"We'll decide on a time in the morning."
"We will. Together, as a team. See, that's one reason why I love you, Harry. And I have some ideas I should research before we meet anyone."
And with that, the couple went to bed early.
A rather smug Minister Shacklebolt, accompanied by Percy Weasley, met with Harry and Hermione in the Room of Requirement three days later. "Harry?" the Minister said, "we need to talk. I wish you hadn't disappeared, although I understand why you needed some time alone."
"Have a seat, Shack," Harry answered, and he and Hermione sat.
"This is the Minister!" Percy protested. "Not just an interim. You should show more respect."
"Congratulations," Hermione said. "And this is the Chosen One, the Conqueror. By rights, he is Lord Potter, not Harry."
"But. . . !"
"By fact, and by the rules and laws in force at the time," Hermione said sternly, "Voldemort was in charge of the Ministry. According to the customs and traditions he reintroduced, when Harry killed him, he conquered. He controls magical Britain by Right of Conquest, and anything you've done is illegal, although he may choose to ratify it." Percy winced
"She's right," Shacklebolt had to agree.
"Obviously, once things are arranged to our satisfaction, I will be surrendering that power, and we can send the whole idea of 'right of conquest' back to the history books where it belongs," Harry said quietly, glad that McGonagall had allowed them access to the library the last few days while keeping their presence a secret.
"What do you want?" the Minister asked.
"First tell us what you've done," Hermione retorted.
"Full pardons for all those in the resistance, which of course includes the two of you. The trials for Marked Death Eaters start in a few days."
"Including the Malfoys?" Harry demanded.
"Only Lucius is Marked. We've also worked out a deal with the goblins. The Malfoys have lost the standard five percent of their vault value, and if Lucius is convicted, he'll lose most of his personal share of the Malfoy fortune, which would be another twenty percent or so. The same will happen to all the other Marked Death Eaters. Sixty percent of all such fines will be used by the Ministry to rebuild. That will include things like Hogwarts, the Ministry, and such. Thirty percent goes into a relief fund for the general population. The goblins collect the rest."
"Yes," Percy said prissily, referring back to the general fund,"not all Pure-Bloods were treated well by the regime."
"Fuck the Pure-Bloods," Harry snapped. "There were never more than a hundred Marked Death Eaters -- they did NOT control a population of over thirty thousand without lots of help, most of it from the Ministry. What about all the Muggle-borns tortured by unMarked members of the Ministry, and whose families were killed or imprisoned by the Death Eaters or even the Ministry?"
"Politically. . . ." Percy started.
"If people like Umbridge aren't tried, convicted, and severely punished, I'll destroy the Ministry and then leave," Harry threatened.
"Who do you think you are, trying to. . . ?" Percy started, but went silent. Harry's glare was more than that. Percy could feel the magic pouring off the young man before him.
"Politically, we cannot give the Muggle-born special treatment,"Kingsley said quietly. "All the laws of the last year are going to be dropped, however, and they will receive equal treatment. As they tended to suffer the most, they will no doubt be getting greater compensations, but that will all come out of the same fund. Some members of the Ministry left, even if they were not forced to. Others were forced out. Both will be welcomed back. Some played a double game, active in the Resistance while going to work. Some still managed small acts of resistance from within the Ministry."
"Like Mister Weasley," Harry acknowledged.
"Exactly. Some went along too much with the regime, but realized that these were not temporary measures, measures they could live with for a short time but not permanently, and came around in time to help out before the end."
Percy flushed. "I did rather more than that," he protested weakly.
"You did. Others went along, reluctantly or enthusiastically. Ican't promise you convictions, Harry. I can promise you they will be removed from the Ministry, convicted or not. Dean Thomas recommended a Truth and Reconciliation Committee, where minor abuses have to be publically confessed, and with no criminal prosecution, although with a line drawn for major abuses."
Harry and Hermione looked at each other, and Hermione said, "If the guidelines are well-drawn we could support that. Go on."
"As for you two and Ron, given what you did, along with the Order of Merlin, First Class, and many other awards, you know we have awarded you your N.E.W.T.s. . . ."
"Are you just trying to keep us from learning Seventh year material, or is it something else?" Harry demanded.
"You don't think the two of you would be disruptive at Hogwarts? Do you really think you could have just slipped into the normal student body?" Percy snapped. "You'd both have had to be Head Boy and Girl, and you're certainly beyond typical students. What else could you do? Be the first day students in two hundred years? That's not a good example, either."
"If you're really worried about learning, we'll provide the two of you with tutors for whatever you want," Shacklebolt promised.
"Nonsense," Hermione snapped.
"Tell us the real reason, or leave. Or better yet," Harry snarled,"just let us leave."
"Married students can't attend Hogwarts!" Percy shouted, which made the Minister roll his eyes.
"Hermione and I aren't married," Harry said.
"Not the two of you to each other! You're bonded to Ginny, and you're bonded to Ron," Percy said.
"I don't recall bonding with anyone," Hermione stated.
"Part of my duties was to check some automatic recording ledgers. There are automatic recorders for magical marriages, bondings, and adoptions and such. I saw that Dumbledore had bonded the four of you, well, the two couples, a year ago last April." He frowned."Had a devil of a time hiding that!"
"And when did you discover this?" Hermione demanded.
"And when did you inform Ron and Ginny?" Harry demanded.
"I told both Ginny and Bill last August," Percy confessed. "Bill told Ron when he showed up last winter."
"At least that explains why no one, except maybe the twins, were all that surprised when you showed up at the final battle," Harry said.
"I notice Bill DIDN'T tell Harry or me when we were at his place. Now, go get your brother and sister," Hermione ordered.
"Why?" Percy demanded.
"Because they will be part of the discussions Harry and I need to have while we decide if the two of us stay in Britain. Because we already found out about this bonding nonsense, and wondered if you would have the guts to tell us before we forced it out of you. Inotice you didn't mention the fact that Ron and I are Harry's sworn followers."
Percy and the Minister looked stunned. Finally, Shacklebolt turned to Percy and said, "Go get them, and bring them here."
Percy left, and the Minister turned to the two.
"And what do you want from us?" Hermione demanded.
"Let's make a deal we can live with," Kingsley said.