Chapter 16 : Chapter Sixteen - Sunset and More Beginnings
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7:54 p.m. The North Tower Roof
“This was brilliant.” Shifting slightly, Hermione turned around in Harry’s embrace to kiss him gently. Turning back around, she nestled into his embrace as they watched the setting sun from the roof of the North Tower. “No one in their right mind is going to come up here tonight. Other than us, of course.”
Wrapping his arms around her, Harry gently placed a kiss on the top of her head before he chuckled. “You were the one who thought of sending Kreacher down to the kitchen for a bottle of cooking sherry to give to Professor Trelawney as thanks for her ‘assistance’.”
Watching the sun settle towards the horizon, the couple sent thoughts back and forth as they relaxed from the events of the day that was ending.
“Wonder where they are?”
Shaking her head, Hermione shifted again. Pulling Harry’s legs beneath her, she twisted so she was sitting across his lap. “No. They should be in Canberra right now, going about their lives without a care or worry.” Sounding a bit sad, she added, “Or a daughter.”
Kissing her gently, Harry waited until she settled herself before answering. “You did the best you could. We’ll go find them just as soon as everything here quiets down and bring them home.”
Snuggling against his chest, Hermione waited until he wrapped his arms back around her. “Ron and Luna was who I meant.”
Chuckling, Harry shifted a bit and pointed at the Ravenclaw Tower. “I’d say they’re right over there. Fancy sending them a message?”
Blushing Hermione shook her head. “No and I’m not taking my patronus over there either. I’m scarred for life at it is, popping in on Neville and Lavender. I really don’t need to know what Luna and my ex are getting up to over there.”
Chuckling Harry reached down and removed the Marauder’s Map from its resting place. Unfolding the map, he laid the blank parchment on the roof beside them and applied a silent sticking charm to keep it in place. Crooking an eyebrow at Hermione, he nodded as she silently noted she was up to no good.
Shaking her head as the parchment began to fill itself in, she sighed. “Is it just us being together that’s done this, or is it a side effect of the changes that have happened today?”
A mental chuckle filled both their heads. “Part of it is that you’ve both stopped focusing on the tasks of stopping Tom Riddle and avoiding your feelings for each other; now you’re now starting to explore you own potentials. Acknowledging the bond between the two of you helps, your magic resonates and reinforces itself. And, being the Heirs of two of the Founders isn’t a bad thing, either. Your abilities within the castle grounds are going to be bolstered by your connection to Hogwarts’ reservoir of magic.”
Looking up at the spire where the phoenix was perched, Hermione rolled her eyes. “You do realize we really don’t need a chaperone up here. We just came up here to get away from things for a bit and watch the sunset.”
Still laughing, the phoenix shook her head at them. “Chaperone? The thought never crossed my mind. Harry’s too much of a romantic for me to worry about you two up here on the roof for your first time.”
Glaring at the phoenix, Hermione could feel Harry trying not to laugh. Looking over at him, she fumed. “You do realize what she’s implying, don’t you?”
Staring into her eyes for a second, Harry smiled and shook his head ruefully. “I have no earthly idea what you’re referring to.”
Shaking her head, Hermione gestured in the direction of the phoenix before kissing Harry passionately and wrapping her arm around him. When the finally broke the kiss, she waited several seconds for their breathing to settle down before answering him.
“For the record, Mr. Potter, you’re a terrible liar. You know exactly what Bingen is getting at. Someone seems to feel if I had my druthers, we’d be culminating our relationship up here for all the world to see.”
Shaking his head, Harry smiled and held her tight for several seconds. “Hermione, I meant exactly what I said. I have no ‘earthly’ idea because the thought of being with you, sharing everything with you utterly and completely, is beyond any earthly experience I can imagine, so it must be heavenly.”
Staring at Harry for several seconds, Hermione shook her head slowly. “Harry, you do realize that there’s absolutely no way I’m ever letting go of you after a comment like that?” Smiling slyly, she looked knowingly at him. “Do you think anyone would notice if the Room of Requirement was unavailable for the rest of night?”
Looking down at the map beside them, Harry observed a pair of dots labeled ‘Ginny Weasley’ and ‘Seamus Finnigan’ blur slightly before they disappeared from the seventh floor hallway. The blank area of the map where the Room of Requirement would be if it weren’t unplotable shimmered for a second and then returned to its customary state.
Sighing Harry shook his head. “It seems that might be a popular destination tonight. Seamus and Ginny just went in.” Forestalling the question he knew was coming he shook his head and laughed. “And no, I’m not going to trot Prongs down there to see how long they’re going to be. I’d like to maintain a few illusions about Ginny for a while. If nothing else, it will allow me to look Ron in the eye if I can continue to truthfully say I’ve never seen his little sister all starkers.”
Giggling, Hermione nestled back into Harry, feeling his warmth envelop her as she rested her head on his chest. “Why?”
Puzzled, Harry shrugged. “It’s a guy thing. If I would have gone ahead with Ginny and everything had worked according to Molly’s plan, Ron would still want to be able to lie to himself and believe that we lived in separate beds and any children we had were brought by the stork or found under a cabbage leaf.”
Shaking her head, Hermione reached up and kissed Harry gently on the cheek. “No, silly. I meant ‘Why didn’t you and Ginny ever...?’ Not that I’m complaining, mind you, just curious.”
“Ah.” Sitting there for a couple of minutes, Harry watched the sun inch its way towards the western horizon before answering. “We actually talked about it a couple of times and went as far as casting the charms once.”
Staring at him in disbelief, she shook her head. “You both cast contraception charms and didn’t?”
Shaking his head sheepishly, Harry shrugged. “It just never seemed… right. I knew I cared about her, but in the back of my mind I knew it wasn’t the right time or place.” Shaking his head, he sighed. “I suppose that deep down I knew it wasn’t the right witch. At least now I’ve got one out of three correct.”
Smiling knowingly, Hermione wrapped her fingers in his hair and pulled him into a very deep and passionate kiss. As their bodies began to react to each other, she shifted and was straddling him, snogging him for all they were worth.
Breaking the kiss, she rocked back, allowing her weight to rest upon him as they stared at each other with passion and need. “Harry, you’re three for three because any time and any place, as long as you’re there, is the place for me.”
As the sun began slipping beneath the horizon, she stood gracefully and held out her had to him. Drawing him up from his spot on the roof, she smiled as he picked up the Marauder’s Map and with a quick ‘Mischief Managed’ folded it away. “Harry, you’re going to want to send the editors of ‘Hogwarts: A History’ a ‘thank you’ card in the morning. Let’s go.”
Shaking his head, Harry wrapped his arm around her and began walking towards the open hatchway that led to the ladder back into the castle proper. “Where are we going and why am I going to be thanking the editors of your favorite book in the morning?”
Stopping just as they reached the hatch, she stood on tiptoe and kissed him again. “It’s going to be your favorite also in very short order. There was a paragraph in Chapter 132 I never understood until just now.”
Seeing the confused look on his head, she smiled. “Harry, that’s the chapter that discusses the security conventions around the castle. I never understood until now exactly what the phrase ‘passwords can be reset or overridden by the current Head or a member of the Hogwarts Council’ meant. Draco’s in the Hospital Wing for a good while and Pansy’s not only experiencing the Ministry’s hospitality in a holding cell, but her personal effects have been returned to her family on Headmistress McGonagall’s orders.”
Seeing the dawning comprehension in Harry’s eyes, Hermione chuckled. “Kreacher?”
A quiet ‘pop’ and the house-elf appeared beside them on the rooftop in the fading light. “Mistress calls?” he answered, bowing to them both.
Shaking her head, Hermione knelt until her face was on the same level as his. “Kreacher, firstly it’s just ‘Harry’ and ‘Hermione’. I know it’s something that will take time, but we’d both consider it a favor if you’d try.”
Nodding, the house elf looked at them both for a second. “Kreacher will try, but in front of others, I would like to show proper respect for both of you. I wouldn’t want anyone to think you weren’t deserving of it.”
Sighing, Hermione nodded. “We can work out the details later. The Head Girl’s quarters are currently empty. Could you please provide some linens and amenities for us down there? I think we’ll be staying there until we return home.” Seeing the toothy grin on the elf’s face, she blushed.
Nodding sagely, the elf looked up at Harry before answering. “Gryffindor colours for the common area?”
Smiling, Harry shook his head. “I realize he didn’t actually spend much time at school last year, but I don’t want disturb anything that Draco might have setup in the common area. A few Gryffindor and Ravenclaw touches might be nice, but let’s not press him. Hermione’s in charge of the Head Girl’s sleeping quarters, whatever makes her happy for that will be fine.”
Looking at the house elf for a second, Hermione concentrated and transmitted a mental image to him. Seeing him nod, she stood up. “We’ll take our time getting down there, we’re going to stop by the Great Hall and let folks know we haven’t left the castle before we come up.”
Nodding, Kreacher smiled and bowed. “It will be as you request. Though I’m not too certain we have that many candles.” Disappearing with a faint ‘pop’ the pair was left alone as the sun dipped beneath the horizon and the shadows surrounded them.
Helping her through the hatchway in the gathering twilight, Harry knelt and kissed her as she was standing on the ladder below. “And just what password are you going to reset the portrait door to?”
Reaching up, Hermione wrapped both arms around Harry and kissed him very deeply. As she broke the kiss, she stared into his emerald eyes for several seconds before answering.
8:04 p.m. Seventh Floor Corridor Outside the Gryffindor Portrait
Gryffindor Tower had become the social nexus of the castle with members of all houses coming and going to find fellow survivors. Passing almost unseen in the comings and goings as she always did, she quietly clambered through the portrait hole and stepped to the side, scanning the room for her target. Standing in the shadows by the stairwell, she could see the entire room without being noticeable.
Spotting her target, she adjusted her robes and tightened her grip on her hawthorn and unicorn wand as she watched patiently. Sitting with Dean Thomas and Lee Thomas, Neville Longbottom was laughing at something Lavender Brown was saying while Dean and Lee were engaged in some sort of conversation with the Patil twins. Narrowing her eyes, she watched, and waited.
Seeing the three witches excuse themselves and head, giggling, up the stairs to the Gryffindor witches’ dorms, she began moving slowly and purposefully across the common room towards her unsuspecting prey. Close enough to touch him, she reached out her hand and placed it on the arm of the chesterfield and quickly knelt beside him.
Jumping a bit, Neville blushed fiercely as he quickly turned and found himself looking into the hazel eyes of Hannah Abbot.
Stammering, and blushing at the laughter coming from Lee and Dean, Neville nodded in greeting. “’Lo Hannah. I hadn’t seen you since this morning.”
Resisting the urge to glance towards the stairwell to the witches’ dorms, Hannah smiled in return. “I’ve been looking for you. Professor Sprout wanted me to find you and see if the two of us could do an inventory of the greenhouses in the morning. School’s probably done for the year, but she wanted to see what was available for potions and the like in case Poppy needs anything more.” Looking down shyly, Hannah blushed a bit.
Smiling, Neville nodded. “I’m glad she thought of us.” Shaking his head, Neville lowered his voice and placed his hand over hers. “I never got a chance to say how sorry I was about your mum.” Pausing for a second, he added. “We missed you this year.”
Nodding, Hannah smiled sadly. “My dad thought it best if I didn’t return since my mum was muggle-born, didn’t seem as if things were too safe. Since he was pretty much forgotten about working in Cobh, I went there and attended a small impromptu academy that sprung up this past year. It wasn’t Hogwarts, but there were a couple of retired aurors living nearby so we spent lot’s of time working on Defense.” Blushing prettily she smiled. “Once if got out I was part of Dumbledore’s Army, I ended up working with the younger students.”
Nodding, Neville grinned at her. “Raising a branch of the Army in Ireland, were you? That’s the DA spirit. You’ll have to tell Seamus if we can ever pry him loose from Ginny.”
Standing, Hannah brushed a couple of wrinkles from her robes and smiled. “Your Gram is down in the Great Hall talking to my Dad. She mentioned something about wanting to ask you something before she went back home.” Holding out her hand to help him up, she waited.
Pausing for a second, Neville took the offered hand and stood. Flashing her a warm smile he chuckled. “She probably wants to make certain I’ll be all right. What say we head down there and reassure both of them that we’re fine and we can plan our day tomorrow.” Looking down, he reached out his free hand and touched the pommel of the Sword of Gryffindor that was leaning against chair Lavender had recently vacated. “While we’re down there, I can give this back to the Headmistress.” Smiling at Hannah, he hefted the sword and shrugged. “It’s not as if I’m going to need it, am I?”
Eyeing him for a second, Hannah thought, as she looked him up and down. “I think you’ll be able to manage just fine without it.” Eyes twinkling, she giggled. “Of course, if you do need it, I’m certain you’ll be able to pull it out of thin air like last time.”
Heading towards the portrait hole, the pair paused to make way for incoming traffic. Lee Jordan called across the room. “Hey, Nev. What in Merlin’s name am I supposed to tell Lavender when she comes back down?”
Shrugging, Neville looked around the room for a second, noticing the mixed crowd of witches and wizards. Smiling he turned towards Lee and Dean for a second as his hand came to rest on Hannah’s back as she prepared to exit the Gryffindor common room. “If she notices I’m not here, tell her I went downstairs to retire this sword and plan for my day in the greenhouses tomorrow with Hannah.”
Watching the pair exit through the portrait, Lee looked at Dean and they both started laughing. The Patils and Lavender returned shortly. Seeing Neville’s spot empty, Lavender looked at Lee. “Neville off in the little wizard’s room?”
Shaking his head, Lee grinned. “Neville got dragooned into greenhouse duty by Professor Sprout and Hannah. He’s heading down to the Great Hall to talk to his Gram and give the sword back to Professor McGonagall.”
Flouncing down into her chair, Lavender scanned the room. “Bother.” Seeing a very muscular wizard with red hair wearing dragon hide boots, she let her gaze linger for a second. Turning towards Lee, she smiled. “Isn’t that Charlie Weasley over there?”
Following her gaze, Lee smiled as he saw the older Weasley standing there. “Right you are. Fancy an introduction?”
Nodding, Lavender smiled. “Always wanted to meet a dragon tamer.” Standing up, she smiled and started heading across the room, ignoring the giggles of the Patils and the knowing smiles of Lee and Dean.
8:55 p.m. Ravenclaw Tower
A ripple of magical energy surging through the castle woke Luna from the dreamy state she was in. Smiling, she shook her head and whispered “Took them bloody long enough” to no one in particular as she cautiously disengaged herself from Ron’s embrace and the sweaty sheets that covered the bed in the Ravenclaw Sixth Year Prefect’s quarters that they had commandeered. The Carrows hadn’t allowed formal prefects for any of the houses except Slytherin, so the quarters had gone unassigned this past year.
Standing there, watching the light from the rising moon stream through the windows and illuminate the bed where Ron lay snoring, she smiled as he hugged the pillow her head had been resting to him and quietly murmured her name in his sleep. Leaning over, she placed a gentle kiss on his cheek as she gazed at him with longing and love. Whispering gently in his ear, she pushed just a bit of her magic as she quietly spoke to him. “Sleep well Ronald, I’ll be back as soon as I run one little errand, I promised someone I’d let them know as soon as something was resolved.”
Standing up, she tucked her wand behind her ear as she summoned a small bag and placed the outfit she had so hurriedly removed not that long ago into it. Placing the bag upon the desk, she fastened her necklace around her neck and put her earrings in. Standing there in the moonlight for a second, she glowed briefly and transformed into her phoenix form. Hovering there for another moment, she nodded at the sleeping form of Ron, reached down and grasped the handles of the bag with her beak before there was a brief pulse of light and she was elsewhere.
It was a brilliant summer day, the type of day that is thought of as timeless and perfect, where Luna appeared in the middle of a meadow. Transforming back, she quickly dressed and began walking towards a small cottage that stood on the edge of the meadow. In the distance she could see other structures, but her path was unerringly drawn to the cottage before her.
Reaching the back door, she stepped inside the open door and looked around. “Mum?”
A melodious voice answered. “Out front poppet. I’m taking tea with an old friend. Come join us, we’ve been waiting for news.
Walking through the cottage, Luna smiled at the small touches that bespoke of its occupant. As she stepped through the front door, she smiled at the pair of witches that were sitting on the small veranda that wrapped around the front of the cottage.
Smiling, Aranrhod Lovegood stood and gestured to the table in front of her, which was suddenly set for three. “Poppet, I knew you’d come and let us know how things went. We’ve already talked to Remus and some of the others, but we’re dying to hear what happened after Harry finally defeated Tom.”
Walking over, Luna embraced her mother and kissed her gently on the cheek. “I came just as soon as everything played out. I think everyone will be very happy.” Looking over at the red-haired witch who was watching her with interest, Luna beamed. “Lily, it’s good to see you again.”
Smiling, Lily Potter nodded to her friend’s daughter. “Luna, please sit. How’s Harry doing?”
Smiling, Luna folded herself gracefully into her chair and helped herself to tea. Picking up the mug, she grinned. “Harry’s just fine. It was touch and go for a bit, but he’s happier than I’ve ever seen him.”
Nodding knowingly, Lily smiled. “Good, but right now, tell me the important things. Tell me about this witch he’s given his heart to. Tell me all about my daughter-in-law.”
Smiling dreamily, Luna took a sip of her tea. Placing it back on the table, she nodded to Lily and sighed. “It all began on the Hogwarts Express. Their eyes met and suddenly…”