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Chapter 49: Finding the Future
Chapter Forty Nine
Finding the Future
Making love was more than a little like flying; the more each to tried to please each other, the more their magic coalesced, the greater their joy, the more intense their bond. It was like flying the winds that rise up mountains, lifting so fast they were nearly weightless. Their We, the being of their shared thoughts and feelings, grew stronger.
The irony of life's mysteries is that resolving any guarantees more. While they lingered together in their Room of Requirement haven, their thoughts were for what Professor Mullens would surely call 'the real nitty-gritty' of their lives. Where to live? Where to settle as a bonded couple? What to do about an as-yet-unplanned wedding? Then, as they procrastinated getting dressed, their talk turned toward what to do after their breakfast meeting.
Between leaving the Room of Requirement and their return to Gryffindor Tower they'd decided to tell Arthur and Molly that it was time to rearrange The Burrow. They knew Ron and Hermione had decided the same some time ago. Starting there, they could organize their wedding and decide where to live after they began doing the many things they needed to do. Ginny would soon need to spend time at the Harpys'pitch. Harry needed to start Auror training and wanted learn about computers. Both wanted to spend some time working with Y.I.P.I. The idea of having a flat near Arcade Street where they could interact with their Muggle friends was appealing but they'd need to learn how to go about it. So, it made sense to move in with the Weasleys and decide where to live when they had a better idea of what they'd be doing .
After several parting kisses and more “I love you” in the empty common room, Harry climbed the dormitory stair to the room he shared with Ron since their first day of school. Ron was just closing his trunk, ready to go. He spoke a single word, “Well?”
“Ron, I love her so much. I don't know whether to laugh or cry I'm so happy. I think you know how it feels.”
Ron did something he had never done in all their years as best mates, he put his arms around Harry and drew him into a hug. He didn't speak until he stood back with his hands on Harry's shoulders, “Well mate, I guess we're really brothers now. I was just thinking; it's like we married each other's sister. Strange isn't it? It's like one of Beadle's stories, a fairy tale.” When they returned to their departure chores, Ron teased, “Always wanted a little brother to pick on. What'll you tell Mum and Dad?”
“We're going to tell them we'd like to stay at The Burrow while we get things started and our wedding set. Same as you.”
“Yea, it makes sense, get doing what needs doing. We'll move to Hermione's after the wedding when Wendell and Monica head back to Mackay.” Ron took a slow look around. “This is it I guess. After all, I sort of hoped school would never end. It was a good year at school. It was a good year.”
“I know, but think about it Ron, you'll have your art, working with George and Hermione, Ginny will be flying . . .” His words drifted off with his thoughts.
Ron and Harry moved their wands and their trunks vanished, transported to The Burrow.
“That's that!” said Harry. After a final glance around the empty dormitory, they headed downstairs to the common room to meet their partners. While they waited, they surveyed the room. It was really fairly dingy. The furniture and carpets were worn. With everyone gone, the fire out and all the odds and ends of student life packed away, it lacked the lively humanity that always made it feel so warm and inviting.
Hermione and Ginny appeared at the top of the dormitory stair, vanishing thoughts of the common room. When they were part way down, Hermione asked, “Did you send your trunks to The Burrow?”
“Yes,” replied Ron, “to the sitting room. It sounds like we need to talk to Mum about room arrangements.”
“Yea,” each agreed, having done and thought the same.
When she came off the stair, Hermione kissed Harry on his cheek, “Congratulations.”
“To you too.”
Ron met his sister, “I'm really happy for you. I'm chuffed beyond belief that Harry's family. I can't wait to be your kids' mischievous uncle.”
Ginny smiled, put her hands on his shoulders and looked up to meet his eye, “Thanks, we're quite the family big brother. Maybe old Mrs. Black's right about Weasleys being eccentrics. Anyway, from friends to family is pretty cool. Now, let's go tell Mum and Dad we're mov'n-in.”
They took one last look at the Gryffindor common room. School would begin again the first of next September. There would be new first years. The under years they had coached all year would be another step toward their O.W.L.s and N.E.W.T.s. The sixth years would begin their seventh and last year, new Prefects, new Heads, a new Quidditch Captain. Hogwarts would awaken again as it had every September for so many centuries, as it would for their children and unfathomable generations more.
They took time for a little nostalgic sightseeing on the way to the Headmistress' office for their meeting with Kingsley and the Minister's Counsel. “Time to discuss your futures,” was what he said. It was, but perhaps a little differently than he expected. They'd already made commitments, some here, some in Australia.
Turning the corner toward the gargoyle that guarded the spiral stair, they saw Arthur and Molly. They were holding hands, leaning together and talking. The were an inspiriation for the four. If the decades, seven children and two wars could not dim their affection, or strain the bond between them; if they could still feel how young lovers felt holding hands after so much time and life had passed, love was powerful magic indeed.
The two couples had learned much of what they thought about marriage from Arthur and Molly. Their notion of being bonded to one another, their ambitions for how they would live together, were nurtured at The Burrow. For Ginny and Harry, Hermione and Ron, the elder Weasleys' lasting affection was what they admired for themselves.
Molly and Arthur sensed their arrival and somewhat incongruously – they were only yards apart – waved in greeting.
Ron asked Ginny, “How do you think Mum will react?”
Ginny's answer was a tilt of her head toward their parents. Molly Weasley had brightened and was excitedly rocking back and forth from her heels to her toes. She couldn't restrain herself and ran forward to greet them, hugging them all. Arthur was not far behind and he too effusively greeted his children and their partners.
Molly stood back to be next to Arthur and to get them all in view. “I suppose you're tired of hearing this but, forgive me, I must say it. You look so wonderful. Ginny and Hermione are so beautiful, so magical. Harry and Ron are such handsome young wizards. You've finished school Head Boy and Head Girl, Quidditch Captains. If your teachers are half-right, you've passed all your N.E.W.T.s superbly. We're so proud of you and so happy for you. Why, I can almost see your bonds. It's as if you were . . . already . . .”
Molly paused, looking pensive. Arthur smiled and took advantage of her thoughts to offer his own succinct praise. “You've accomplished much, we're very proud of you.”
Ron looked at Ginny as if to say, “Go for it!”
“Mum, we need to show you something.”
The four showed the magical bands on their left forefingers. Ginny was direct, “We need to change the sleeping arrangements . . .”
She got no further. Molly knew. “I knew i!. I could feel it!” Molly Weasley interrupted herself by bursting into tears with all the restraint of a mid-summer cloudburst and even less warning. Arthur put his arm around her and her family crowded in with solicitous comforts. She controlled her sobbing and explained, “I'm just so happy.” Then, as she dried her eyes with the sleeve of her dress, “Oh! Arthur, look at me. I'm a mess.”
“Yes dear, but for this a good cry's appropriate.”
Ginny continued, “We've begun our lives together. There's no reason to live apart with family.”
Hermione teased Molly and Arthur, “We wanted to be like you, so we took midnight strolls.”
Everyone enjoyed Hermione's reminder of the senior Weasleys night out of Gryffindor Tower, most likely doing what the youngest Weasleys had so recently done.
Ron described their plans while his parents were still enjoying Hermione's tease. “We'll do weddings sometime before autumn, we're thinking about having both over a long weekend this summer.”
“We'll not be there forever but there's so much to decide and we've things we have to do sooner than later, right away. Ron and Hermione will have Hermione's house and Harry and I are thinking we'd like to have a London flat where we could meet our Muggle friends, learn to live like Muggles.”
Ron wanted to solidify the arrangement, so he reminded them of their meeting. “I know we're not in danger of detention but weren't we expected a while ago?”
They paused at the base of the spiraling stair. Molly composed herself. Arthur said quietly, “Welcome home, stay as long as you like.”
Arthur and Molly entered the office with the youngest of their family – a family enlarged and enhanced by their in-laws. They greeted Minerva McGonagall, Bill Mullens, Kingsley Shacklebolt and Albus Dumbledore's portrait. There was a murmur from the other portraits but nothing addressed to the arriving couples.
Noting the happy faces Dumbledor teased, “Have I missed the party?”
Walking quickly to his mentor's portrait Harry answered, “No Professor, not yet, you'll definitely be invited.”
Ginny joined Harry and teased Dumbledore as if he were another student in the common room, “Hi Professor. Lose any swords lately?”
Dumbledore returned the jibe in kind, “Not recently, the culprits seemed to have reformed. This party though, this party I'll be invited to, it's a wedding?”
Harry and Ginny smiled and showed him their rings.
Ron and Hermione joined them, their left hands held forward, “Make that two weddings Professor.”
Dumbledore looked at them for a moment before saying, “Brilliant! Absolutely brilliant!”
In a considerable feat of wizarding housekeeping the Headmistress' massive desk had been replaced by an arrangement of arm chairs and couches surrounding a large low table loaded with cups, saucers, tea service and a carafe of coffee, the same one Kreacher and Nessie had sent to the Gryffindor table every meal of the year. There were breakfast pastries and something new that Professor Mullens had taught the house elves. It was called a “bagel,” a bread donut sliced and eaten with different spreads or fillings, a portable breakfast. Just the thing for late night dancers in a rush to make a Monday morning lesson.
When the greetings finished, Ron and Hermione sat together on one of the couches next to Arthur. Harry and Ginny took seats with Molly on a facing couch. Bill, Kingsley and Minerva took arm chairs. Dumbledore's portrait hung above Minerva's chair at the center of the arrangement as tradition required.
Professor McGonagall served everyone a thickly-spread bagel, tea or coffee. Ginny and Harry helped pass the food around.
When everyone was served, Kingsley began, “Arthur's department in particular, and the Ministry in general, need to forge a new policy toward the Muggle world. We need to know more. We need new skills. You're admirably able to move among Muggles and Arthur says that you have Muggle friends with whom you share genuine respect and affection. Professor Mullens assures me that you have a significant mastery of Muggle culture, enough to manage the business of your Muggle identities and interact with people more or less your age, as Bill puts it, 'without breaking a sweat'.”
The four laughed. They shared their professor's fancy for Muggle metaphors and it seemed to have effected Kingsley too.
Kingsley'ss deep, slow voice gave his words poignance and gravitas, commanding their attention. “We're committed to the secrecy treaty. But, because of the war, there are wizards scattered throughout the Muggle word and more who have experience moving through it. Trouble is coming. We need to be ready. We'd like to know what you think?”
He paused, looked from one couch to the other and awaited an answer.
Hermione obliged, “Well, Minister, secrecy is an easy question. Without it, we won't survive. If we're discovered, some will try to get rid of us as quickly as they can because our existence contradicts their beliefs. The witch killers are still out there. They'll be almost as dangerous as those who'll see magic as saviors – cure disease, clean-up pollution, feed the hungry, make them rich and defeat their enemies. If we don't agree, they'll try to bribe us; if that fails, they'll fight. If we do agree, they'll fight over what we do. If we select one group over another, they'll fight each other.”
Ginny was equally pessimistic, “And, what's worse, we're as bad as the Muggles. When we first shopped on Arcade Street we thought, 'We've gottat keep Mundungus out of this place.' One Confundus Charm and they would never know he'd emptied their cash registers and looted the store. Our Mundungess in their world is asking for a bleed'n mess.”
“And, that's true for the whole city and there's plenty worse than smelly old Dung,” confirmed Ron.
Harry knew who the worse ones were, “Bodyguards, the Malfoys train poor Indian wizards to be bodyguards. Can you imagine what Muggles would pay for a wizard bodyguard? Every rich mucky-muck would want one. I'm sure, and I'd bet you are to, that sooner or later one of Malfoy's wands-for-hire will go freelance and we'll be the ones to fetch him before he does permanent damage to secrecy and runs afoul of Muggle law in a big and public way.”
“And every criminal,” Ginny brought up an even darker side. “There's worse. Think of the damage Riddle could have done if he actually knew how Muggle life worked. What if he sent his army of Death Eaters to systematically stop the trains to London?” She paused, then answered her own question, “The city would begin to starve in three days.”
Their elders were clearly taken aback. This was nothing they could have imagined.
After the silence Ginny's revelation caused, Dumbledore spoke, “Our best defenses were always what Tom Riddle didn't bother to know. But, it wouldn't need Riddle's darkness to be horrible. Harry's right, some of us will sell their wand to the highest bidder. We must hide, for our good as well as theirs, but we need to be capable in their world, now more than ever.”
Harry went directly to where the conversation was leading, “The real question isn't secrecy is it? Hermione has the sense of it, there isn't another option. Our only choice is whether we'll intervene.” He gestured to each of the four as he said, “Here's what we thought of. If we were certain that one of their leaders had decided to start a war, a war in which millions of people, magical and not, would be killed, should we alter his memory? Should we use Imperio so he never gave the order? Avada Kedavra so he never could?”
Ginny voiced the moral question, “Is it like doing magic in front of Muggles, acceptable if it's done to save lives? If you're being attacked, it's pretty clear. But there's plenty of other scenarios, most of them just as miserable as ending up in a Muggle war.”
Harry summed their thinking. “To prevent a vast number of deaths, we'd consider killing a tyrant. But, we're also sure it might not be that clear cut. Anyway, how do we know what the greater good is in a future we can't predict? What if the tyrant's death enflames an ethnic hated that lasts for generations? We'd have to be pretty damn sure we were right. So, it bears thinking about. But in the main, it boils down to who's making the decisions.”
Minerva, Bill, Arthur and Kingsley looked at one another. They had talked about this themselves and were a little surprised at how far the young wizards had come on their own.
It was Arthur who described their thoughts, “We don't have a fixed answer either. The decision would be based on circumstances. So, you're right, like everything else, it comes down to the character of the people in charge. But, haven't you implicitly decided that we should be watching?' Doesn't thinking about what to do mean you've decided to know, to spy?”
Hermione asked, “You mean, have witches or wizards in their government like Minister Shacklebolt was, disguised as functionaries, or part of their household?”
“Yes,” Kingsley replied. “Like that, but also using Legillimens or Imperio to get information from important Muggles. With Legillimens Auros could probe the Prime Minister before he finishes a cup of tea if they get within fifty feet of him. Our fate is bound with theirs, there's a lot we're not sure of, but at the very least, we have to move among them undetected when and where we choose.”
“That won't solve the Grwap problem,” replied Harry.
Ron explained, “Grwap, Hagrid's giant half brother, is friendly and Hagrid has taught him manners. He's huge, can be clumsy and could badly injure you in a stumble. It wouldn't be intentional, he'd regret it terribly, but you'd be hurt just the same.”
Harry listed their concernts, “Muggle wars, Muggle plagues, some mistake that irradiates half the country.”
After a pause that said none doubted that the problem was real but weren't prepared to offer a solution, Kingsley thanked them for their thoughts. “Again, we arrive at the quality of leadership, an eternal question. So, thank you, I hope you'll find time to discuss such things with us soon again.”
He turned the conversation's direction to them and their plans, “After the war, I was disappointed that we couldn't follow through with my offer for you to join the Auror Office. But, I know what you've accomplished and that your teachers were right to encourage you to finish your N.E.W.T.s. Finding Hermione's parents and restoring their memories was impressive and your magical skills have developed beyond those of your peers. You're natural leaders and teachers and the ability you have to work as a team is wonderful, a rare skill among magical people. As plainly as I can put it, if there's anything I can offer you, any job that would entice you to join us at the Ministry, it's yours.”
Hermione responded, “Thank you minister, we appreciate your confidence but we don't know our N.E.W.T. scores and those will govern our choices.”
“Actually, we do know Hermione. . .”
Hermione was too excited to wait for Kingsley to finish, “I thought they weren't ready until summer?”
“When you're the Minister of Magic and you want to have a career meeting with four exceptional young wizards, the examiners are happy to help. They said that if they graded you against one another, each of you do some skills better than the others. They see that you have different talents. But, at the risk of so much praise becoming trite, there are no limits, you can choose.”
When he paused, Dumbledore enjoyed turning a phrase, “I guess after war, mortal peril, anxiety and fear, homework isn't such a challenge.”
Although there was nothing vaguely funny about war, mortal peril, anxiety or fear, in this context it was hilarious. For their elders, no less than the two young couples, it was such an ironic truth that laughter was the only possible response.
After everyone poured themselves another cup of tea or coffee, Kingsley continued where Dumbledore's ironic humor had cut him off, “So, Hermione the choice is yours.”
“Minister, I'm grateful for your offer but I don't know what to say. Ron and I have promised George we'd help at the shop when we finished school. When Ron isn't at the shop, he'll be working with Oscar on his next portrait. I haven't thought in terms of a job beyond working with George. I knew we did well on our tests but . . .”
When she drifted into her indecision, Kingsley offered their idea, “We thought you might like to go to university.”
“Yes, Muggle university.”
“Well, I looked into it. You need school records, entrance exams and placement tests. The forgeries alone would be overwhelming. I don't see how I can be admitted.”
Professor Mullens laughed, “I can. I've arranged for you to take an admissions test for foreign-educated students. The empire may have shrunk but we still have officials with families all over the world. Personally, I have no doubt you'll be accepted.”
“I don't know geometry or literature or whatever else they'll ask. I don't know how I can pass the test.”
Professor Mullens replied with some emphasis, “You'll pass. The question is whether you'll score top marks. I've prepared a reading list and will tutor you. The test is not until late summer so you'll be ready.”
Hermione asked what she was curious to know, “What do you have in mind?”
Arthur answered, “We thought you might take courses as a foundation for studying Muggle law. There may be ideas useful to us – Azkaban can't be our only alternative. We'll need to know how to work in the Muggle world, buying, selling. We need to acquire and use their money within their laws. We'll need someone to advise us, to lead the way.”
Hermione looked to Ron, who said, “You can do it. The Muggles don't have a chance. You'll be the best in class. If you want, do it. We can live at your parent's place, you can take the tram to class if you need to blend in and, for that matter, I can go with you until we get to where I can apparate to Oscar's. We can get a computer, have your classmates over for dinner, work with our yipi friends. It'll be fun.”
Harry added, “You know, we really should make the time to learn portals. If we had connections between our places, and to the Muggle world, it would be really handy.”
“Well, if Grimmauld Place weren't so stuffy and dark,” mused Ginny, almost to herself.
“What about Grimmauld Place?” asked Professor McGonagall.
“We don't know yet,” answered Ginny. “It's an ancient wizarding house; the Blacks were Pure-blood proud. The magic of the place is not so much dark as mental. Even as a portrait Mrs. Black is a few Knuts short of a Sickle. I've been talking to her for almost a year now, there's not much she can say to me seeing I'm Pure-blood. She knows Harry defeated Riddle who killed Regulus, her favorite, and that Bellatrix killed Sirius. She says Weasley's are 'often brilliant but always eccentric' but she's stopped screaming, even at Hermione. So, it's getting better.”
The Weasleys were laughing at “always eccentric.”
Bill asked. “Will you live there?”
“We'll see. Ginny and I need to spend time there, at the least it would be a good place to meet. People can come and go by Floo Powder or apparition. Kreacher, the old house elf, has brought along a younger cousin he says he's training because he's getting too old. Nessie, the new elf, seems easy to get along with. In time the place may become livable.”
Bill Mullens nearly cut across him sounding as if it were absolutely obvious, “Renovate! Muggles do it all the time and they don't even have wands. Ron, I'll be shocked if Oscar doesn't know a dozen people who can transform it any way they want. I mean, it's all spell work by now anyway.”
“What do you mean, 'all spell work'?” asked Harry.
Arthur answered, “The Black family tapestry in the sitting room was started in the middle ages. Sirius said the thirteenth century. Count the elf heads in the hall, there's at least eight generations. That part of London can't be more than a couple of hundred years old, so number twelve was something before there was a Grimmauld place. When Grimmauld place was built, the Blacks probably thought it was a good disguise and charmed it away from the Muggle world.”
“So, just transfigure it?” asked Hermione.
“More or less, talk to George when you're at the store, he can show you the spells and how we used them, the joke shop didn't come with three floors,” added Arthur.
Explained, it was obvious. Magical space is magical space, time and space are flexible. The four were surprised they hadn't thought of it. They joined the group returning for tea and coffee. They might have asked more about transfiguring Grimmauld Place but after Arthur took a sip of tea he changed the subject, “Ron, we wondered if you still wanted to train as an Auror.”
“Of course, I'm looking forward to it, but George needs us and we've promised to help. How about starting with just a couple of classes or something? Oscar says that the portrait of Fred was excellent but was my journeyman project. He wants me to work with him on one more, to perfect my skills, and then I'll be on my own. Even if I'm working, I can lend a hand.”
“His magic is really useful in a fix,” advised Harry.
Kingsley answered, obviously pleased, “Then it's settled, you'll start in September.” By their expressions, Ron and Hermione were just as pleased.
“What about you Harry?” asked Kingsley, “You've always wanted to be an Auror, haven't you?”
“I still do, but Ginny will be flying with the Harpies . . .”
He got no further because Molly and Arthur's expressions of surprise instantly cut-him-off. “Flying with the Harpies?” was spoken with such verve that they both nearly stood as they said it.
“Gwenog Jones offered me to fly a Try their first match after school. I accepted.”
Molly asked, “Fly a Try! What does that mean?”
“It means your daughter's a Harpy,” answered Professor McGonagall. “A Harpy and, I'm ready to wager large, one of the top scorers her first year. A Try is a ceremonial try-out, the team has already decided they want Ginny – and that's really no surprise – she flies brilliantly and the rumor that Hestia wants to retire has been making the rounds for a while. Ginny's the better flyer. After the Slytherin match, I bet Chester four bottles of mead they'd offer.”
The Headmistress's enthusiasm for her all-but-collected bet with the Defense Against the Dark Arts professor diverted their attention for a moment before Kinglsey completed the explanation. “A Try allows anyone on the team who wants to object a chance and fulfills the contract's magical requirements. But, they don't offer a Try unless it's already decided. It'd be too embarrassing if someone backed out.”
Harry continued to explain their idea, “So, we thought that I would travel to matches with Ginny for the first year and watch her fly . . .”
Molly interrupted again, “But, what about your career Harry?”
Harry joked, “Well, you need to teach me to cook so she's got something to eat after matches. Anyway, I've never been to school without Ron, so maybe I should start in September too? But, here's the thing, there’s more to Quidditch than flying. If I watch Ginny's matches I can tell her what she couldn't see, how opponents tried to defend her, what did or didn't work. People's fakes, their broom side, that sort of thing. After this season she'll have flown against everyone in the league and she'll know them better than they know her. That will make her really hard to defend and her second year will be spectacular. Anyway we like to fly together; we've been doing it all year. So, if I'm around the pitch, we'll get a chance to fly and I'd really miss not having that.”
Noting the somewhat puzzled looks on their tearchers' faces Hermione filled them in, “Harry and Ginny have been sneaking off to fly together since school started.”
After some restrained laughter, Kingsley got back to Harry's plans. “Harry, that won't take all your time, how about spending some at the Auror Office, there's plenty you can do, even if you're not there every day.”
“Sure, that could work. Ginny and I plan to get a Muggle flat over in the Arcade Street area. We've promised to work with the yipi group and, like Ron says, we'll have a computer, keep the friends we've made, learn how to live like Muggles. Once we're settled in we can make more definite plans.”
Kingley asked for confirmation, “So, you'll come in after you're settled and we can talk about getting started?”
“Sure, that'll be great.”
Kingsley took a letter from his jacket pocket, opened the envelope and removed two sheets of paper, “Now, we've this from your friend McKenzie.”
“McKenzie!” exclaimed Harry and Ginny, “When did you start getting Muggle mail?”
“Hermione got it, she sent it by owl.”
Hermione shrugged her shoulders. “Remember, I gave McKenzie our post box address. I sent it on by owl and forgot to tell you about it. It came during our N.E.W.T.s.”
“He proposes an exchange,” said Kingsley. “He says you talked in Australia and understand what you have to learn working with the Australian Aurors.”
“Right!” answered Harry, “The way wizarding in Australia developed, they've had to adapt to Muggle life, so they know a lot about living in the Muggle world. You know we'll need to get in and out with one of our crooks. Once we become involved in their money, we'll have no choice but to understand their politics, and who knows what else. There's a lot to learn.”
Hermione made sure of the details, “McKenzie's in the Australian Federal Police. It's a very important job, and he and the Muggle in charge have been friends since the Vietnam War. It's a long story but Captain Johnson, that's his friend, and he have worked out ways to work together. They know a lot about the Muggle world, how things work, how to follow the money. They offered to teach us. I really think we should, don't you Ginny?”
"Yes, absolutely, and with Wendell and Monica there we'll meet people we wouldn't otherwise meet and learn more Muggle social skills too."
Harry summed up, “It's too good a chance to pass up. Anyway, you'll like them. I'm sure of that. We know we can trust each other. I think it will get us a long way toward dealing with the things we've talked about. We could plan trips there during Ginny's off season, a couple months or so at a time could fit our schedules.”
The counsel had already thought this through. There was no need for discussion.
Kingsley shrugged, “You're right. We'd be fools to pass the chance.”
Harry looked at Kingsley and asked, “So, we're all settled, everything set?”
“I guess so, Hermione is thinking over university and can send an owl to Bill when she decides.”
Professor Mullens told Hermione in an aside, “I'll spend summer in the city.”
Kingsley continued, “Ron and Harry will get started this fall and come full-time next year. Harry will stop by and get started with the Aurors when he and Ginny are settled. Ginny, if you ever tire of flying, we could use you, you'd make a great Auror too. But, yes, I think we're settled. What about you Minerva? Bill? Arthur?”
“One thing perhaps. I know this lot's ready to get home but it's clear the Muggle-borns are who we should be talking to about through the Muggle world. Their families are our natural connection. Hermione's folks could be a lot of help.”
The two couples were already standing when Arthur spoke so Molly agreed with her husband and moved quickly on, “Arthur makes sense, but they've some rooms to rearrange and I think we should let them go. We can talk about Muggle-borns at dinner.”
Professor McGonagall rose, “Come, use my fire, the house elves probably have everything else out.”
When she led them to the fireplace, as ancient as the castle and appropriately grand, Harry and Ginny stopped before the portrait of their Headmaster. “We'll miss Hogwarts Professor. We'll be back; there's a touch of sadness in leaving.”
“Despite war, mortal peril, anxiety and fear?”
Harry paused a moment before letting his feelings go, “I learned what it means to be a wizard here. Hogwarts was my first real home. I made my first and closest friends here; we're family now. I was prepared for war, mortal peril, anxiety and fear by you, a wizard no one will ever forget. I learned that a man I hated was one of the bravest men I'll ever know. I fought with people who were brave and selfless. Ginny and I started our life together here, we. . . we. . .”
When Harry hesitated, Ginny explained, “We're sentimental about it Professor.” Ron and Hermione joined them and Ginny continued, “When we left last year it was hard to believe that we were alive much less that we were together.”
“And could stay together,” added Ron.
“So, this year gave us time to be ourselves again. Hogwarts gave us our ambitions and our futures back,” concluded Hermione.
Even as a portrait Dumbledore's brilliantly blue eyes seemed to look inward, beyond the surface to the soul. He looked at each, “It's my privilege to know you. Keep the owls coming and let us know your news. Visit when you can.”
Their respects to all paid, they accompanied Professor McGonagall to the fire. She reached a ceramic pot of Floo Powder from the mantle and held it for them.
Hermione took the first pinch and kissed Professor McGonagall on the cheek. “Thanks for everything; you're a gifted witch, a wonderful teacher and a great Headmistress.”
“And a fighter to admire,” added Harry.
Four “The Burrow” and four green flashes later, Minerva and Molly returned to the group.
When she took her seat Molly laughed, “That'll be interesting!”
Arthur smiled in response, “Redoing The Burrow?”
“Yes.” Arthur saw the others' curious looks, “In the corridor, before we came up, they announced that they'll be staying at The Burrow while they plan their weddings and arrange where they'll live. They've gone back to redo their rooms so they can live as couples.”
Bill looked at Minerva and they shared the memory of when they had last agreed, “It's hard to resist a love story.”
Molly took her husband's hand and said, “You know Arthur, they'll be spending a lot of time in their rooms for the next few days and ah, well, we've been non-stop since before the war. We could use a holiday. You know, early to bed, sleep in, meals with the kids, they won't be around much longer.”
Arthur grinned, “Is that an invitation?”
“Well, yesssss!” cooed Molly, batting her eyebrows and feigning a “come hither” leer.
The whole group was enjoying the senior Weasely's comic tête-à-tête so Kingsley was laughing when he said, “Take a few days Arthur, Bill will come with me to meet the Irish committee.”
Bill agreed. Molly and Arthur thanked him for their holiday. It was time for lunch so everyone served themselves another cup of tea, all but Minerva another bagel, before Kingsley spoke again.
“Arthur, your lot makes me nervous.”
“Me too Kingsley, but just what did you have in mind?”
“There's nothing they need. Harry's got gold; Ginny's earnings will be spectacular. George would give his other ear if Hermione would join him at the shop, people will offer anything for what Ron can do. There's nothing they need, they might never look back.”
“And who'd blame them; they've done more than enough for our world already,” said Molly with considerable emphasis.
“Molly, I know! I know! They've started lives they've chosen for themselves. If I didn't recognize that, I wouldn't be concerned. For myself, for plain ole' Shaklebolt, I'm chuffed to no end they're happy. They sure deserve it. But, as Minister I can't forget how dependent we are on their generation, the ones with courage, the ones who stood against Voldemort. We need them because we can't afford to fail. It's too big for our generation alone.”
“I know,” said Arthur, “and you're right, there's no denying that. Ron and Ginny are Weasleys, family's in their blood. Harry's wanted family all his life. Hermione no less than Ginny wants children. They're loyal friends. They'll disappear into their own lives because their deepest needs are met by each other. But, they'll be there when we need them. They'll want a future for their families as much as we want one for ours.”
Kingsley nodded in agreement but couldn't help but worry. “Who do we have that has their skills? Even if they do nothing, their magic will strengthen for another few decades. And, with Chester having passed along that Chinese Book, you know they'll be working on dueling and flying . . . and everything in between.”
Arthur was thinking of Ginny. “Invite Ginny to any Auror training, anything she wants, because if there's danger, she'll be there. We know our daughter. Harry will never fight alone. A seventh daughter may not be a seventh son but she's a powerful witch with a mind of her own. And, she won't be sittng at home.”
“Well, I mean, the two couples and the four friends are bonded in a way that's nothing like others their age.”
Dumbledore disagreed, “Actually Kingsley, they're quite normal, just intense. They came to school like wizard kids have always done. They did what wizard kids always do– learn to live with what they brought to school – their looks, talents, intelligence, wealth, and prejudice. Of course, we sort the brave, the clever, the responsible and the ambitious into their own insular societies where these traits exaggerate.”
Dumbledore paused. Everyone waited, they knew he was choosing his words. “Harry and Ron, Hermione and Ginny did exactly that. They came to school, formed friendships and learned about themselves. The critical difference is that the darkest wizard in memory marked Harry for death and killed his parents.”
Friendships formed in school often last until the last friend mourned alone. For the four though, their bonds weren't just forged in school where failure gets a “T,” but in war where failure is death. The fabric of their family was woven from the ancient magic of life debt and love.
Dumbledore continued, “One day Ron, Hermione and Harry met on the train. For that wonderful coincidence Riddle was defeated and four of the great magical talents of our time have brought us new friends, new magic, new roads into Muggle culture. It's one of those coincidences that makes me want to believe there's justice in the world. I think they'll settle into their families. I think they should. Those loves are their strength. They met the challenges of the last war with the courage of children. If our world is threatened again, they'll meet that threat with the passion of parents.”
The Ministers Council was silent as Dumbledore concluded “It's time to reshape the cauldron, so it's time to break the mould. Let them go and find our future.”