As Hermione invoked the incantation activating the emergency beacon in her DA medallion, several things happened simultaneously. A brilliant bright light pulsed out from her for twenty yards in every direction. Painfully brilliant, the flare blinded the three thugs who were staring at her, as it would have anyone not wearing one of the matching medallions. It was also the area of effect for several spells that had been built into the improved medallions. Every locking, confining, confounding, constraining and concealing spell within that radius was stripped away. As the charms Goyle and company had cast melted away, Hermione could ‘feel’ Harry’s frantic thoughts as he searched for her. A second, more primal presence registered in the back of her mind as she felt the bracers fall from her wrists and ankles.
At that moment, throughout England and Europe, and in several other places, one hundred and eleven medallions, signifying the living members of Dumbedore’s Army, flared briefly, imparting apparition coordinates and the face of Hermione into the minds of their wearers.
Goyle shook his head and started to blindly point the stolen wand at her. The silence in the alley was split by several sounds. An ear-splitting roar and triumphant hunting scream erupted over Hermione’s head. Looking up, she could see a winged shadow appear, which seemed to drop a large hissing bundle from it’s talons behind her as it streaked down, talons leading the way at the face of the wizard standing near Hermione’s feet as a name rang in Hermione’s mind. Following the flight of the owl, Hermione’s eyes widened in shock as a clear alto voice behind her rang out with ‘reducto’ an instant before Goyle’s face exploded when a crimson beam hammered through it, right between his beady, piggish eyes.
The ‘pop’ of apparitions, literally dozens of them, which soon followed couldn’t drown out the screams coming from the two surviving assailants or the battlecrys of the kneazel and owl as the two familiars continued to assault them. Harry’s voice, which she could pick out from the chaos around her, alerted her to his presence. Struggling to sit up, she was engulfed by his arms as he skidded to a halt beside her.
Holding him, she whispered, “Harry, I’m all right. A bit shaken, but I’m fine.”
Holding her tight, Harry hugged her to him and whispered, “I’m here,” in return. Then, putting his hands on her shoulders, he leaned back and glared at her. “What in Merlin’s name were you thinking?”
Nodding seriously, Hermione looked around and saw their friends and colleagues surrounding them in a defensive pattern. Some of were setting up a perimeter with spells around the area, some were trying vainly to get close enough to the surviving assailants to render them some assistance and all were vainly trying not to stare at the couple in their midst. Shaking her head, she took his hand and squeezed while she tried to reassure him that she was fine. “Harry, if you can leave off scolding me for two seconds, I need to rescue my attackers so you can properly arrest them.”
Placing her hand on his shoulder, she got shakily to her feet. Reaching down, she retrieved her wand from the lifeless hand of the late Gregory Goyle. Closing her eyes, she calmed her thoughts for a second as Harry stood and wrapped his coat around her. Smiling her thanks, she quietly, but firmly spoke. “Crookshanks, Tisi, that’s quite enough.” Holding out her arm she braced herself as the massive owl gently landed and cautiously wrapped her gore spattered talons around her wrist. As her wrist sagged a bit, she could feel Crookshanks winding his way between her and Harry’s feet.
As Harry opened his mouth to speak, Hermione turned to him and gently laid a finger on his lips. “Go find my parents and bring them here. I was foolish, stupid and wrong, and I’ll try never to do it again. You and Daddy can ground me after we get back to the house.”
Smiling wryly, she nodded at the look in his eyes, oblivious to the crowd standing around them. “I do love you, and I do understand what you’ve been going through. My mum is probably going mental worrying, and I’m certain at least five of our friends have cast anti-muggle shields around this area, so they have no hope of finding me unless you go get them.”
Smiling, she looked at the owl perched on her wrist and nodded. The familiar nodded in return, looked speculatively at Harry and then launched herself into flight, landing upon a nearby abandoned cart and commenced watching the couple with interest. Leaning forward, Hermione wrapped both arms around Harry and she kissed him very passionately.
Ignoring the whistles and snickers around them, Hermione wrapped her fingers in Harry’s hair as she kissed him deeply for over a minute. Breaking the kiss, she smiled as she murmured in his ear. “Not exactly the way I intended on letting our friends officially know that we’re together, but I think everyone gets the point, don’t you?”
Shaking his head, Harry sighed and swallowed the dozens of unasked questions that he had for her. Looking pointedly at the owl resting nearby, who was staring at him with a very calculating look, he smiled. “Who’s your friend?”
Smiling ruefully, Hermione held out her arm again. The owl took a quick hop into the air, glided to her wrist and nodded. “Happy Christmas, Harry. She was supposed to be a surprise for you in the morning, but it seems that Tisi had other ideas, thank Merlin.”
Reaching out a tentative hand, Harry waited until the owl nodded before gently stroking the feathers along her wing. “Tisi?”
Shaking her head in exasperation, Hermione smiled knowingly. “It seems she’s named herself. “ Schooling her features into a semblance of formality, Hermione nodded towards Harry. “Harry James Potter, meet Tisiphone.” Eyes twinkling, she nodded to the owl. “Tisiphone, this is Harry James Potter.”
Chuckling, Harry nodded gravely to the owl. “Welcome Tisi, and thanks.” Looking up at Hermione, he smiled warmly. “She’s gorgeous, just like you.”
Laughing, Hermione smiled. “She was supposed to be ‘yours’, but I think tonight’s little adventure has pointed out that both she and Crooks are now ‘ours’.” Looking down at the kneazel mix who was watching the exchange with fascination, she smiled. “Do you mind?”
Looking up into his mistress’ eyes, Crookshanks purred loudly and winked slowly. Shaking her head, Hermione looked up at Harry. “How about you?”
Chuckling, Harry smiled. “Sharing with you? Don’t be silly, there’s nothing I’d rather do.”
Chuckling, Hermione nodded to the owl who was quietly watching the exchange between the two. “You head back to Kensington; we’ll be there later to take you to Grimmauld Place.” As the owl prepared herself to launch, Hermione added a quick warning. “If you hunt on the way home, nothing that could be considered a pet, remember?” Swiveling her head, the owl gave Hermione a withering stare before hopping from her wrist and launching herself into flight. As she cleared the surrounding buildings, there was a brief pulse of light and she was gone.
Smiling at Harry’s questioning look, she sighed. “After you go get my folks, I’ll fill you in on the newest member of the family.”
Shrugging off Harry’s coat, she returned it to him, casting warming and drying charms on herself to ward off the wintery cold. As Harry turned to head towards the mouth of the alley, Neville’s voice called out from near the street. “Harry, Hermione, you should both come quickly.”
Hurrying towards Neville’s voice, they both splashed through puddles of melting snow and ice as they reached their friend. Taking one look at the huddled figure on the ground in front of him, Hermione dropped to her knees and wrapped her arms around the sobbing form of Ginny Weasley.
Looking up at Harry, she nodded. “Healers, get them here now. I want her looked at before either of those two. Warrington and Montague will survive, and Goyle’s past caring, but I want someone to see her as soon as they get here.”
Putting his hand on Harry’s shoulder, Neville shook his head. “Go ahead and call the healers for those two. Lavender’s got her mediwitch’s parchment for her work at the Ministry, she’ll be discrete and we can get Ginny home with minimal fuss.” Turning, Neville silently cast a patronus. As the silvery bullmastiff formed in the alleyway, Neville nodded to the massive canine. “Lavender, we need a favor, so grab your mediwitch bag. Come to the coordinates on your medallion, soonest.”
The mastiff nodded and loped off down the alleyway. Twenty seconds later, a faint pop heralded the arrival of their classmate. Shaking her head, Lavender gave Neville a withering stare, worthy of Minerva McGonagall. “Seriously, I was thirty feet up the alley. You didn’t think I wouldn’t be here, did you?” Standing there in her midnight blue robes, she took one look at the scene in front of her and immediately knelt down and began running her wand over the shivering witch. “Ginny dear, can you tell us what happened?”
Shaking his head, Neville apologized. “Sorry, Seamus was in earlier complaining you were working tonight. I thought you’d be stuck at the Ministry on duty.”
Smiling warmly at Ginny, she looked up at the others. “Bugger that. Testimony in front of the Wizengamot wouldn’t keep me from answering an emergency beacon.” Chuckling at the look on Hermione’s face she shrugged. “I’m an Unspeakable; we’re all mental, loose cannons, and prone to running off at the drop of a hat.” Nodding at the scandalized look on Hermione’s face she smirked. “It’s in the official job description, look it up. I sent a patronus to my backup and was out of there before my quill could hit the floor.” Looking Hermione up and down, she frowned. “After her, you’re getting checked next.”
Shaking her head, Hermione kept gently stroking Ginny’s hair and holding the crying witch to her. “Lav, I’m fine. How is Ginny?”
Shaking her head a bit, Lavender smiled as a faint blue glow settled around the tip of her wand. “She’s a bit shocky, and she’s got the residual of a nastily overpowered stunner graze on her, but I can’t find anything physical except a couple of bruises where it put her into the wall behind her. Maybe a touch of a concussion, let’s keep her awake until well after midnight”
Looking up at Harry, Hermione smiled. “My parents?” Seeing him nod and step away, she turned her attention back to the witch she was holding. “Ginny dear, what happened? Thank you for saving me, but how did you come to be here tonight?”
Shaking her head, Ginny kept her eyes closed as she clung to Hermione. “All I wanted was for you to forgive me so we could be a family for Christmas again. They said you would be here. I’m so sorry Hermione, I never wanted anything to happen to you, even when I was angry with you over Harry, I didn’t want this to happen.”
Smiling, Hermione hugged her tightly. “I know. It’s difficult to think when Harry’s involved, sometimes. No one’s still mad at you; we’re here for you. Who told you we would be here tonight?”
“Harry’s folks, they said he was coming here tonight with you and your family. I thought if I could talk to you, tonight, you might forgive me since its Christmas and all.” Shaking her head, she started crying again. “Why did I mess everything up?”
Looking concerned, Hermione glanced over at Lavender, who was shaking her head. Looking back down at Ginny, Hermione asked quietly. “Where did you see them tonight?”
Nodding, Ginny replied in a small voice. “Godric’s Hollow. They wouldn’t let me talk to you there, they told me to go home, that you’d forgive me later.” Looking up at Hermione with a strange look in her eye, Ginny shook her head. “Merlin, that woman’s scary. I’m so glad it’s you and not me, because she scares me spitless.”
Staring at her, Hermione shook her head. “Harry’s parents were in Godric’s Hollow?”
Nodding, Ginny shuddered a bit. “It was their patronuses, outside the cemetery. I’d heard all of the stories about the Order from before I could walk, I’d know that stag and doe anywhere. They blocked me from coming in; she wouldn’t let me within sight of you two.”
Lavender placed her hand on Hermione’s arm and nodded. “It sounds right. There are rules for this sort of thing, things they can come back for and things they can’t. People forget that patronuses are a manifestation of the true self or soul, if you will. If it was James and Lily, they wouldn’t be allowed to appear to you and Harry except under most extraordinary circumstances.”
Staring in disbelief, Hermione looked down at Ginny. “And this was ordinary?”
Nodding towards Ginny who was staring at her, she sighed. “Comparatively, yes. Her they could appear to, to keep her from interfering with destiny or fate. We call it the ‘Nemesis factor’.” Sitting back on her heels, Lavender shook her head in wonder. “Or, they can appear to cause her to act as an agent of fate. Setting in motion a chain of events that led Ginny to be here at just the right moment.”
Nodding thoughtfully, Hermione turned back to Ginny. “Can you tell me what happened after you got to Oxford tonight? After you saw me enter the alley?”
Shivering, Ginny closed her eyes for a second. Nodding to Lavender, Hermione cast a drying charm on the young witch while Lavender cast a warming charm. A bit of colour began to return to Ginny’s cheeks as she opened her eyes again. “I saw you turn around and look towards that alleyway. You said something to Harry, he was listening to the man with the funny coat who was talking about angels, and you stepped away from him and I could see your wand in your hand. I was disillusioned over by the alley entrance to keep from getting stepped on in the crowds.” Sighing she closed her eyes again.
Nodding, Hermione smiled. “You’re doing fine Gin, I just stepped in the alley and you were standing outside the alley, correct?”
Nodding, Ginny shook her head. “You went into the alley, and I stuck my head around the corner to see what was happening. If you were going to be there alone, it would be a good chance to talk, to ask you to forgive me. I could see someone slumped against the wall down the way; it looked like Susan, which made no sense. Susan is on duty tonight at the Ministry. I saw you start to cast that spell you use to suss out lurkers, so I ducked my head out of the alley for a few seconds to give you time to finish. By the time I looked again, you were walking towards her, getting closer.”
Nodding, Hermione brushed a strand of hair back from Ginny’s face. “You’re doing fine, I cast my spell again, you must have ducked back out, correct?”
Nodding Ginny looked very tired as she continued. “After the second time, you started to kneel next to Susan, so I entered the alley and started coming towards you. I thought you must have heard me walking, because you turned towards me, so I stopped and hugged the wall. Just as you turned, Susan smiled, pulled out a wand and cast a stunner right at both of us. You twisted out of the way a bit, it only caught you on the shoulder but you still went down just as it hit me and slammed me into the wall.”
Wincing in remembered pain, Ginny gently rubbed the back of her head. “I wasn’t out, but I was stunned, couldn’t really think well. You fell over, and Susan began to change, she became that chaser that played for Slytherin a couple of years ahead of Harry.” Seeing the puzzled look on Hermione’s face, she added. “The one that Fred and George locked in that cabinet.”
“That would have been Montague.” Harry’s voice broke in. “He got suspended for a game the season before I started for impersonating his team’s Seeker trying to confuse the Beaters in a game against Ravenclaw. He’s a metamorphmagus.” Looking up, Hermione smiled to see her parents standing there with Harry. Nodding, she reached out her hand and took her mum’s and squeezed it gently before turning back to Ginny.
Looking up, Ginny blushed bright red as she noticed Harry standing there. “Harry, I’m so sorry I spoiled everything.”
Nodding to Hermione, Harry knelt down and took her place beside Ginny while Hermione stood up to hug her parents. “Ginny, you did fine. You’re about to tell us how you saved Hermione’s life tonight.” Taking her hand gently, he nodded to her. “All of a sudden Montague was there instead of Susan.”
Nodding, Ginny swallowed once and then continued. “He cast some sort of spell at the mouth of the alley; suddenly I couldn’t hear the crowd or the singing. Then Goyle and that other troll apparated in. After they cast several spells all around, they took Hermione’s coat and jumper off her, put some sort of cuffs on her wrists and around her ankles and threw her onto the ground. I couldn’t get enough control of myself to do anything but watch. I could feel my wand in my hand, but I couldn’t concentrate enough to cast any sort of hex or anything else. I was totally useless.”
Moving closer to her, Lavender put her arm around her friend. “Hush Gin, that stunner, even if it doesn’t take you out, it disrupts your nerves so you can’t really do anything for a good bit of time. There was nothing you could do.”
Nodding, tears rolling down her cheeks, Ginny shuddered. “That’s when Hermione woke up, I guess. They started talking; I could tell she was thinking, planning. Montague kicked her in the head and Goyle and that troll that was with them just laughed. I heard him tell her that what happened to Padma was going to happen to her.” Her eyes flashing, Ginny tried to get up from the ground. “I’m going to castrate all three of them.”
Harry and Lavender held onto her and kept her from standing. “Ginny, the system will take care of them. Just tell us what happened next.” Harry spoke quietly, gently to her as he held her.
Taking several deep breaths to calm herself, Ginny settled back onto the ground. “That’s when she did it. For a brief second, I could see the medallion flash through her clothes; mine seemed to heat up at the same time. All of a sudden she yelled out the activation phrase and then it was as if everything slowed down. Hermione was the center of this bright pulse of light, and it moved up the alley like it was something alive. As it swept over me, I felt in control of my muscles, I could stand and think again. Hermione tried to move and that’s when Goyle pointed that wand at her.” Shuddering Ginny closed her eyes.
“I was looking dead at him over her and I used the first spell I could think of that would make certain he couldn’t hurt her or anyone else. I cast a reductor and put it right between his beady little eyes. Then an enormous owl appeared in the middle of the alley, dropped Crookshanks on top of Montague and proceeded to claw the other one’s eyes out.”
Shaking her head, she grimaced. “That’s when I realized what I’d done, and I sort of collapsed. I leaned over to that dustbin and lost every lunch I’ve eaten since I went to Hogwarts as everyone started aparating into the alley. After that, Neville found me, crying like a first year afraid to get on the boats.”
Harry gently stroked her hair as he held her and looked up at Hermione. Staring at her for a few seconds, Hermione rolled her eyes and nodded. Turning to her parents she motioned them away from the group on the ground and began speaking quietly to them.
Harry smiled as he watched Helen nod enthusiastically and begin to assist Hermione in convincing her father of the inevitable.
Looking up at Neville, Harry nodded. “Nev, do you think you could help us out in a second with something. Is Hannah here?”
Smiling Neville nodded. “She’s up at the other end of the alley, keeping the gawkers out. What do you need?”
Looking down at Ginny, Harry smiled. “Ginny you’re going home with us tonight to Hermione’s parents’ house here in Oxford.”
Looking panicked, Ginny shook her head. “Harry, I can’t do that. I’ll just go home to Holyhead, I’ll be fine.”
“Nonsense, Ginevra. You’re coming home with me and Alex and that’s final.” Kneeling beside them, Helen Granger took the younger woman’s hand and patted it. “You’re not going home to an empty flat in your condition, and I’m certain that we can get you out of the weather quicker by just going across town than we can to your parents’ house. We’ll have Lavender send your family a message as soon as we get you settled in, so they’ll know where you are and can stop worrying.”
Looking up at Harry, Helen winked. “Do you think you could persuade Kreacher to bring some clean clothes for this girl?”
Shaking his head, Harry smiled. “Yes Mum, I think it can be arranged. Is there anything else?”
Breaking into a brilliant smile, Helen stood up and wrapped her arms around Harry. “You’ll do just fine.” Looking down at her watch, she smiled and nodded to her husband. “It’s before midnight; you’re cooking breakfast in the morning.”
Shaking his head, Alex looked at Harry who was looking puzzled. “Young man, you’re getting up early and helping me cook breakfast for this mob.” Nodding at the comprehension in Harry’s eyes, Alex shrugged and tried to ignore his daughter giggling at the two of them.
Shaking his head, Harry nodded to Neville. “You two have been to the Granger house, no?” Seeing Neville nod as Hannah came up and embraced Hermione before she knelt down and put her arms around Ginny, Harry smiled. “I thought so, and I know Lavender’s been there a couple of times. Could you three take the Grangers and Ginny back to the house, get them settled in and stay with them until we can get there?”
Nodding to Lavender, Harry smiled. “Lav, if you could, send a patronus to Arthur and let him know where Ginny is and that we’ll be watching her through the night. Tell him we’ll have her back to the Burrow right after breakfast tomorrow.”
Smiling knowingly, Lavender stood up and nodded. “Right then, let’s get this tour on the road. Neville, if you’d escort Hermione’s mum, and Hannah, if you’d be so kind as to escort Alex, I’ll follow on in a second with Ginny.”
Waiting until the others had left, she grinned at Harry. “Pretty smooth Harry. This way, if there’s any grief when the rest of the aurors arrive about Ginny not being present, you can say, ‘and she left with an Unspeakable’ and no one’s going to question it.”
Wrapping her arm around Ginny’s waist, Lavender smiled and leaned over to pick up the purring Crookshanks. “You hold old Crooks here and I’ll get us all to Hermione’s mum’s kitchen. By the time we get there, Helen’s going to have some of that excellent hot chocolate she makes on the stove. Hang on Gin, I really don’t want to explain to Molly I lost track of her only daughter on a jump of less than five miles.”
Shaking her head, Ginny stepped free from Lavender’s grasp and looked at Hermione for several seconds. Hermione smiled softly and nodded. Ginny turned and walked over to Harry and wrapped her arms around him.
A bit surprised, Harry looked over at Hermione as he put his arms around the red-haired witch. Seeing her smile and nod, he gently stroked her hair and whispered, “It’s all right Ginny, and everything will be fine, I promise.”
Looking up at him, her eyes brimming with tears, she shook her head. “Harry, I’m not certain how you can forgive me for what I said last night, but I’m very thankful that the two of you have. If I have to spend the rest of my life doing it, I’m going to make this right with the two of you.”
Sighing, Harry leaned forward and kissed her gently on the forehead. “Ginevra Molly Weasley, there’s nothing to ‘make right’. We were both trapped in a relationship that wasn’t working and we couldn’t seem to find our way out. You were right about some things, I wasn’t able to share with you the things that were haunting me and I never really gave you the opportunity to do that.”
“Merlin, Harry. Nothing justifies what I said to you last night. And none of it’s true, not really. Even if you loved me the way you love her, there would still be things that happened that you could talk to Hermione about and not to me, simply because I didn’t live it with you, and she did.” Shaking her head, she turned and looked at Hermione. “Thank you for saving him, for saving what I tried to destroy.”
Smiling, Hermione reached over and took Harry’s hand. “Gin, I’ll always be there for him, and we’ll always be there for you.” Nodding towards Lavender, she smiled. “Your ride is waiting. You take Crooks home for me and tell Mum that I’ll be there in a little while. Have her put you in the guest room upstairs; it’ll allow us to check on you during the night if we need to. But don’t go to sleep until after one.”
As Ginny took Crookshanks from Lavender, she nodded. “Yes, Mother Hermione. I’ll be a good little witch and wait up until you and Harry read me a bedtime story.”
Laughing, Hermione watched the two witches and her familiar disappear from the alleyway. Looking at Harry with a strange look in her eye, she smiled.
Chuckling, Harry wrapped his arms around her. “Hermione, you have that ‘cat that ate the budgie’ look I’ve come to be wary of. What don’t I know?”
Smiling slyly, she nodded. “Mr. Potter, there are lots of things that you don’t know. Including the fact that since Ginny’s staying in the guest room, I’m just going to have to find another place for you to kip tonight.” Seeing the look in his eyes, she shrugged. “If you promise to behave yourself, I might even consider offering my room.”
Smirking, Harry nodded. “And if I promise not to behave myself?”
Smiling, Hermione nodded. “I’ll definitely offer my room, in that case.”
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