Harry returned to his house, almost dropping the large paper sack full of food when he Apparated into the foyer. He sat the sack down on the floor and stowed his overcoat in the closet. Grabbing the sack full of food, he walked through the house into the kitchen. The smell of the baking bread and lamb stew made him realise that he hadn’t eaten more than just a small snack since before chasing Naismith that morning.
Ginny had changed out of her worn housework clothes into an emerald green silk robe that showed off her pale skin and red hair to perfection. As she approached Harry to take the sack of food, Harry admired the way her figure flowed under her robe.
Ginny noticed his gaze and said, “Stop gawking, Harry. Go and get changed. I think that you should put on your new grey robe, and could you please do something with your hair. It looks like you’ve been out in a windstorm all day.”
Harry pushed his glasses back up and ran his fingers through his untidy mess of hair before responding. “I have been in a windstorm most of the day. First we had to chase Naismith all over creation, then we had to listen to Ciaran spout off. You’ve heard Ciaran go off; you know what a blow-hard he is. When I went to London to pick up the food, the wind was just whipping down that little side street. I’m surprised that the sack didn’t just blow away.”
He leaned over and kissed Ginny before handing the sack to her. As he walked through the kitchen, he grabbed a hunk of cheese from the icebox to help assuage his hunger. He passed through the living room and went down the hall that connected to the bedrooms. Passing by the boys’ bedroom, he shook his head at the mess. He debated doing a quick pickup of their toys and clothes, but decided just to close the door and put the mess out of mind. He looked at his watch, decided that he had enough time for a quick shower before changing and stripped out of his jeans and t-shirt.
His side ached when he lifted the shirt over his head and he looked at the half-healed cut below his left armpit. Pleased that it hadn’t reopened from his chase of Naismith earlier, he went to shower.
After he showered quickly, he went and put on the grey robe that Ginny had suggested. He tried several times to use a Smoothing Charm on his hair before giving up on it as a hopeless cause. His hair looked as untidy and dry as it had before he had showered. He went back into the kitchen to see if he could help Ginny with anything else. She took one look at him, sighed exasperatedly and approached him with her wand out. Ginny had to perform the Smoothing Charm on his hair three times before it finally took and Harry’s hair laid down in some semblance of order.
Harry could tell by the twitching of her lips that she was trying to not laugh at him as she performed the charms. When she had finished, he asked, “Was there anything that you needed help with, love?”
Ginny looked over the table with a critical eye. Eight place settings of their finest dishes, water and wine glasses, cutlery, centerpiece vase of early spring flowers, salt cellars and a pepper grinder: It all seemed in order. She shook her head at Harry and told him, “Go ahead and rest until our guests arrive, I’ll tidy up a bit in the kitchen.”
Harry gratefully went into the living room and sat upon the couch, taking a moment to stow away the boys’ toys in the small toy chest in the corner and placing the Tales of Beadle the Bard back into the bookcase that housed the small collection of children’s books. He sat down on the couch and sank into it comfortably. He closed his eyes just for a moment, and fell asleep.
The klaxon of his Apparition detectors awakened Harry with a start. Harry reflexively pulled his wand out his robes as he awakened. He went to a small whiteboard by the door and looked at the writing that appeared on it.
Harry watched as the words wrote themselves on the whiteboard in Hermione’s handwriting. The words seemed to ooze from inside the board, “Visitors positively identified as Hermione Weasley and Ronald Weasley. Passing them through the wards, per their clearance.”
Harry waited until the words had fully appeared, then erased them with a small tap of his wand. He went to the door to greet Ron and Hermione. As Harry opened the door, he could hear Hermione’s voice from down the garden path, “Ron, I thought I told you to bring Rose’s old baby clothes?”
As they came into view, Harry heard Ron mumble back to Hermione, but couldn’t make out the words. Hermione smiled when she saw Harry standing in the doorway, her face lighting up. Ron looked followed Hermione’s gaze and broke out laughing as he and Hermione reached Harry.
“Having a bad hair day, mate?” Ron asked.
“More like a bad hair life,” Harry responded.
Hermione reached into her purse, pulled out a compact and showed Harry his reflection in the mirror. His untidy hair had thrown off the Smoothing Charm again and stuck out in a mop of Einsteinian proportions.
Harry sighed dramatically and said, “It seems to get worse as I get older. At least it’s not growing from my ears or nose.”
Hermione smiled as she performed a Smoothing Charm on his hair. Harry watched in the compact’s mirror in fascination as his hair immediately flattened with Hermione’s charm. He shook his head and said, “I couldn’t do anything with it, Ginny tried three times before taming it and you just show up and wave your wand and it sits right down.” He leaned down and embraced Hermione fondly. He led his friends into the house, took their coats, hung them up and ushered them into the living room.
Ginny poked her head in from the kitchen and said, “I’ll join you in just a moment, I’m just checking the stew one last time.”
Ron sprawled into the recliner as Hermione went into the kitchen to help Ginny. Harry heard Hermione’s voice from the kitchen. “Eight place settings?” she asked. “Who else are we expecting tonight?”
Ron shouted into the kitchen from his chair, “I told you, it’s a surprise!” He leaned over and whispered to Harry, “I know Dudley and Lavender are coming, but who else is coming?”
Harry smirked and said in a fair imitation of Ron, “I told you, it’s a surprise.”
Ron’s ears coloured a bit, but then he laughed. They quickly began to discuss the Naismith case and the evidence against him. From in the kitchen they could hear Ginny and Hermione laughing as they discussed their children.
The Apparition klaxon went off again. Both Harry and Ron walked to the whiteboard and watched the writing appear, “Unknown male and female subject. Female has received address from Harry.” The klaxon changed to a higher tone and the writing changed from black to red, “Warning: Male Subject has a Muggle firearm concealed. Would you like it disabled?”
Harry spoke into the whiteboard, “Yes, and shunt them into the Apparition Room.” Harry and Ron watched as the board wrote, “Confirmed. Firearm disabled, subjects to appear in Apparition Room.”
Hermione and Ginny had come into the room and watched. Hermione approached the whiteboard and read what it said. Hermione spoke as Harry and Ron grabbed their coats, “Who would bring a gun here? Ron, do you need me to come, just in case?”
Ron looked at Harry, who shook his head. Ron said, “No, dear. I think that Harry and I can handle it.”
Ron and Harry went through the door, circled the house, and came to a small gardening shed. They both pulled their wands. Harry pointed his wand at the door to the shed. The door popped open with a bang. Garden tools on hooks lined the walls of the shed. A six foot diameter circle had been inscribed into the soft wooden floor. As Harry and Ron watched, Dudley and Lavender appeared in the circle.
Dudley stood behind Lavender, hands on her wheelchair handles. He wore a pair of jeans, cowboy boots, and a button-up shirt in a Western American style closed with a bolo tie. An enormous cowboy hat sat upon his head and he wore an opened black leather trench coat over the outfit. Lavender wore the same purple robes with gold embroidery she had worn earlier in the day, with a matching blanket across her lap, covering her stumps. Her hair had been combed back and ran long and lustrous over the back of the wheelchair in between the handles. She had a small chain of purplish flowers around her head, wearing it like a tiara.
From inside the circle, Lavender shouted, “Hello, anyone. We’re here.”
Harry waved his wand at Dudley, checking him over. Satisfied with what his wand told him, he looked at Ron who had been doing the same with Lavender. Ron nodded. Harry reached over with his wand and touched the circle inscribed into the floor. Dudley and Lavender both gasped as Harry and Ron appeared before them, wands out and pointed.
Lavender said, “Do you always greet guests this way, Harry?”
Harry and Ron put their wands away. Harry moved forward, hand extended to shake Dudley’s and said, “Sorry, but after the kidnapping attempt, we had better wards installed. We check everyone over thoroughly before letting them in. Constant vigilance, you know.”
Lavender laughed at the phrase and said, “I wonder what ever became of Old Mad-Eye?”
Harry answered, “He died trying to help me escape from Death Eaters. All we ever found of him was his magic eye in the door of Umbridge’s office.”
Lavender shook her head as a tear ran down her cheek. “I’m sorry, Harry. I didn’t know.”
“It’s okay, Lavender,” Harry said. “I miss Alastor sometimes. He knew more about wards and protections than anyone alive today. Hermione is still trying to make sense out of some of his notes.”
Lavender waved Dudley off from the back of her wheelchair and took her wand from her robe’s pocket. She waved it at the wheelchair and the wheels folded up into small pockets as the chair lifted off the ground. She and Dudley followed Ron and Harry back around the house into the foyer. Harry took Dudley’s trench coat and hat and hung them in the closet, putting away his own coat and Ron’s coat at the same time. From in the living room, he could hear Hermione’s surprise at seeing Lavender.
Harry entered the living room just in time to see Hermione lock eyes with Dudley. “What are you doing here, Dudley?” she asked, reaching into her pocket for her wand.
Dudley raised his hands over his head in surrender, before she even had her wand out. “I’m here at Harry’s invitation. He didn’t tell you I would be here?”
Hermione turned to Harry and asked, “Is this true, Harry? You invited Dudley here?”
Harry nodded and said, “Yes, I invited Dudley here because he asked me to do something and I couldn’t agree without getting to know him again.”
Hermione glared at Harry. “You know that he’s still the same person who tormented you. Do you really think he’s any different now?”
Harry moved to Hermione, grabbed her wrist and gently pulled her hand away from her pocket. He said, “I’ve got to give him a chance, you know that everyone deserves a second chance. What would have happened to Rose if we hadn’t given Draco a second chance, Hmm?”
Hermione cast her eyes down before answering, “I guess you’re right, Harry. But you know how rare it is for people to really change.”
“I’m right here, you know,” Dudley said, lowering his hands. “If you want to discuss me, I can leave the room until you’re done.”
Hermione stuck her hand out to shake Dudley’s. “I’m sorry,” she said. “It was very rude of me to react that way. I should hear what you have to say before passing judgment.”
Dudley shook her hand firmly and said, “It’s quite all right, Mrs. Weasley. You’ve only heard about how I used to be. You only saw me from a distance as a boy. I hope that I can prove my good intentions to you.”
Hermione smiled a bit tightly before answering, “Please, Dudley, call me Hermione. Mrs. Weasley is Ron’s Mum.”
Dudley said, “Okay, Hermione it is, then.”
Dudley looked around at the magical, glowing candles and moving photographs: James and Albus; Ron, Hermione and Rose; and the Weasley family. He picked up a photo of Harry, Ginny, and their sons.
“Are these your little boys?” Dudley asked.
Harry leaned over Dudley’s shoulder and said, “That’s James there that I’m holding and that’s little Albus. Soon there will be Lily joining them.”
Dudley looked down at the floor before speaking in a choked tone, “You’re lucky to have a loving family, Harry. I want the same for me and Lavender.”
Lavender laughed and floated to where Dudley stood with the photograph. She reached up and took the photo from Dudley’s hands and looked it over. She looked back up at Dudley as she handed the photo back to Harry. “You know that I want children, too, Dudley,” she said.
Dudley opened his mouth to respond, when the Apparition klaxon went off again. Hermione moved to the whiteboard to read the words that appeared.
“Unknown male and female subject. Female has received address from Ginevra. Shunt them to Apparition Room?”
Hermione answered into the whiteboard, “Yes, please.”
“Confirmed. Subjects to appear in Apparition Room.”
Ron and Harry went to the closet to get their coats again as Ginny moved to Hermione’s side and said, “Can’t you do something about that, Hermione?”
Hermione answered, “Do something about what? It seems to be working properly.”
Ginny tapped her wand on the board and highlighted her name, ‘Ginevra’. “This bloody thing insists on calling me Ginevra. Please, Hermione, change it to Ginny.”
Everyone except Dudley began to laugh. Dudley looked uncomfortable with the sudden laughter. Suddenly, the klaxon increased in pitch. More words appeared on the whiteboard.
“Warning: Male Subject has performed unknown charm. Male subject no longer in Apparition Room. Activate defenses?”
Harry and Ron were just about to leave, and had just opened the door. Harry rushed back to the board and spoke into it, “Lockdown the house after Ron and I exit. Activate further defenses only on specific verbal command of Harry, Ginevra, Ron or Hermione.” Harry thought for only a second more before adding, “Reactivate Muggle firearm.” Harry and Ron rushed out the front door and ran out of the house. They heard the door lock behind them and saw a yellow glowing field surround the outside of the house.
They ran to the shed and readied their wands. Harry flicked the shed door open, revealing Luna kneeling in the circle, looking around interestedly at the floor. Harry knew from personal experience that all that could be seen from inside the Apparition circle was grey mist. He cocked his head and tried to imagine what Luna saw that interested her so.
“Hominem Revelio,” Harry said.
Harry couldn’t feel the presence of anyone else in the circle besides Luna. He accessed the protective wards in the circle, making himself audible to Luna. He felt a surge of magic in the air around him. He spoke into the circle, “Luna, can you hear me?”
Luna looked up from her examination of the floor. She looked directly at where Harry was standing and answered in a dreamy voice, “Harry, of course I can hear you.”
Harry shouted back, “My Apparition detectors shunted you into a warded space until we determine that you’re not a threat! What happened to the man with you?”
Luna smiled and answered, “He’s right here beside me, Harry. Can’t you see him?” She reached out and grabbed something Harry couldn’t see.
Harry said, “If he’s there, have him make himself visible.”
Luna looked up and said, “You heard him, love. Make yourself visible.”
As Harry watched, the background of garden tools shimmered and wavered. A huge man stepped out from the shimmering background of garden tools. Harry’s first thought was that a Viking had appeared. The man stood a full two metres tall and must have weighed at least 160 kilos. He had a tattered bear fur over black robes with laced boots sticking out from under them. His shaggy blond hair had been pulled back into a haphazard pony-tail and his long beard was plaited with brass beads interspersed every two centimetres or so. A huge horned helmet sat upon his head, resting just above where the ponytail spilled down his back.
“Hello,” he said, his voice a soft baritone. He spoke with a cultured, Oxford accent. “My name is Rolf Scamander. Quite nice wards you have here, Mr. Potter. I believe that I may have found a flaw in one of the Charm Detectors.”
Harry spoke back into the circle, “Luna, do you vouch for him?”
Luna answered back, “Of course I vouch for him, Harry.”
Harry moved to the circle and broke the enchantment that surrounded Luna and Rolf. As soon as Luna saw Harry and Ron, she broke into a large happy smile and said, “Harry, Ron, I’d like to introduce you to my fiancé, Rolf Scamander.”
Rolf stepped forward and shook hands with Harry and Ron. They greeted each other pleasantly, Harry surprised at Rolf’s gentle grip; in his experience, big men tended to try to crush your hands when the shook them. As Rolf shook Ron’s hand, Harry took the opportunity to look Luna over.
Luna’s face glowed pink, as if she had been sunburned, her slightly bulging eyes looked over the shed and surrounding garden with interest. Harry watched fascinated as her robes darkened from midnight blue to black and constellations appeared on it. The constellations began wheeling slowly across her robes, as if it were the night sky. Harry noticed a small gold ring on her left ring finger and smiled to himself. Luna saw Harry’s gaze and lifted her hand so Harry could get a better look at the ring. Harry moved forward and embraced Luna fondly, then took her hand and looked at her ring.
The ring was made of gold, in the form of a snake coiled around itself three times with its tail in its mouth. As Harry looked at the ring, its ruby eyes moved and looked at him. Its mouth released its tail and flicked a small, gem-encrusted forked tongue at Harry. Harry thought he heard a small hiss from the ring, but couldn’t be sure if it was just his imagination. The snake ring then reached back with its mouth again and gripped its tail tightly. Its gem eyes closed.
“It’s an Ouroboros,” Luna said. “It’s a symbol of the cyclical nature of the world.”
As Luna moved to greet Ron, Harry said, “It’s lovely, and a perfect ring for you. He looked up at Rolf and smiled. “I’m looking forward to getting to know you, Rolf. What charm did you perform that allowed you to bypass my wards?”
“Harry, you don’t mind if I call you Harry do you, old chap?” Rolf asked. Harry shook his head. Rolf continued, “It’s a variation of a Disillusionment Charm. I discovered it when the Huzilees kept sneaking food out of camp. The Huzilees used it and when I caught one of them, I learnt how to duplicate it. Instead of making the observer not see you, it actually moves you a half-second out of phase with the world. Unfortunately, you can’t interact with anything when you’re phased out.”
Harry motioned and everyone started moving around the house to the door. As they approached the house, Harry touched the yellow glowing field surrounding the house and snuffed it out with his wand. Rolf looked at Harry appraisingly and asked, “Do you expect Death Eaters to assault your house?”
Harry asked Rolf, “Why do you ask?”
Rolf responded, “That ward. If I’m not mistaken, that was a disruptive ward combined with a teleportation ward, similar to what one would install on a Portkey.”
Harry nodded and said, “Yes, it shunts you back to the Apparition circle in the shed and removes any charms or enchantments on your person. If you attempt any further magic while in the circle after being shunted there by this particular ward, then you get attacked by the garden implements. Since I’ve installed this shield, it’s only been tested once by a crazed house-elf who was upset that I imprisoned his master. So far the modified Fidelius charm has kept everyone else away.”
“That’s a beautiful modification to the Fidelius Charm, Harry. When did Hermione come up with it?” Luna asked.
Harry said, “What makes you think that Hermione came up with it?”
Luna looked at Harry, opened her eyes wide and said, “It seems to have a subtle touch to it that I wouldn’t associate with you, Harry. Did you come up with it?”
Harry laughed and said, “No, Luna, you were right and it’s Hermione’s work. She came up with the modifications and made them work with the new wards and protections on our house.”
The small group reached the front door and Harry opened it. Harry ushered everyone into the foyer and started putting away coats. As he hung up Rolf’s horned helmet and his bear skin, Harry noticed that it was really a coat designed to look like a bear skin. Distracted by his examination of the bear skin, Harry hadn’t noticed the silence from the living room.
Harry turned the corner into the living room, just in time to see Luna step out from behind Rolf, look at Dudley and ask in a wondering voice, “Dudley?”
Dudley lowered his eyes from Rolf’s gaze, obviously having been ready to move to greet Rolf. His eyes met Luna’s and he shouted, “Luna!”
Luna ran from behind Rolf to Dudley’s arms. Dudley grabbed Luna in big bear-hug, lifted her off the ground and spun her around. Dudley stopped spinning Luna and sat her back upon her feet. Everyone else looked on in shocked silence as Luna and Dudley started speaking at once.
“You’re a witch: That explains so much.”
“How have you been?”
“You first, Dudley,” Luna said.
Dudley looked around at the audience watching curiously. He turned his attention back to Luna and said, “Why didn’t you tell me you were a witch?”
“I couldn’t, Dudley. We’re not permitted to tell a Muggle unless they’re a relative or we’re going to marry them.”
“But surely you knew that Harry was my cousin?”
“Not until after we’d broken it off. I found out about six months later.”
Harry stepped forward and interrupted, “You two know each other already?”
Dudley grasped Luna’s hands in his, looked at the engagement ring on her left hand, smiled and said, “Luna and I dated for about, what three months?”
Luna smiled and said, “Three very good months, Dudley. I’m sorry that I had to leave.”
Ginny stepped up to Harry’s side, put her arm around him and said, “Why don’t we all tell our stories over dinner and catch up? I know that I’m dying to hear how you met Luna, Dudley. And how you met Lavender.” She turned to Luna and whispered, “And I want to know everything. Why did you never mention Dudley in any of your letters?”
Luna flushed a little under her sunburn and said, “I’ll tell you later, Ginny, in private. Let’s go in to dinner.”
Harry and Ginny led Dudley and Lavender in first, followed by Luna and Rolf. Ron and Hermione brought up the rear, Hermione flicking her eyes over the assembled party with undisguised curiosity.
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