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Chapter 40 : Epilogue
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Though her eyes were heavy, Ginny refused to doze. She lounged comfortably on the red squashy sofa, her shoes kicked lazily aside and her toes gently toasting before the Gryffindor hearth. So comfortable was she that although several times sleep tried to steal her away, she smiled and resolved that nothing, not even the loss of her brother, should spoil her satisfaction in this special hour. For Harry Potter, her protector, her friend, her lover, and her life, lay, utterly spent, slumbering upon her contented bosom.
When he had returned alone from the headmaster's office she had been in awe and it must have shown in her expression, perhaps even in her body movements; she did not cringe but certainly her stance was slightly submissive.
"Hey, it's me, Gin - I'm still just Harry," he had said with a weary smile.
"Give me time to adjust, Harry," she had murmured so softly he had felt compelled to kiss her.
Now she pressed her lips against his forehead as he lay sleeping in her arms. There would be no more nightmares she knew, nor would their romance ever need secrecy again. The Fat Lady portrait remained open and occasionally a smiling friend would pass quietly through and leave behind some whispered news or humour or condolences upon her loss, then be on their way upstairs either to sleep or fetch their luggage. Ron and Hermione stumbled back and forth, intoxicated by love as only young sweethearts can be, always tangled up together somehow: fingers, limbs, waists, or necks, forever beaming like summer sunshine, before finally taking their joy to who-knows-where and back again. Neville showed his face with Hannah and said they'd be in the Ravenclaw common room with most of the D.A. if anybody needed them. Luna popped by having a lengthy conversation with the Sorting Hat which was thankful for being rescued from the trampled lawn outside.
Many students were staying. After all, thought Ginny, you can go home any time but you cannot share the victorious atmosphere of Hogwarts School in the days following the Great Battle forever. There was temporary exhaustion of mind and body but everyone knew they would soon be partying. Word had gone out that Filch's stores had already been raided for red and gold paint and Professor Slughorn was too relieved, too joyous, and too inebriated to withhold the Slytherin password for long in a tickling contest.
Happy, happy, happy! murmured Ginny to herself, as Harry stirred dozily against her, their two medallions entwined, and she succumbed finally to join him in sleep.
The Hogwarts parties did indeed swell over several days but once McGonagall, acting as temporary head, declared an early commencement to the summer holidays and a special Hogwarts Express was laid on, the wildness subsided and students and their families prepared to leave for home.
But Hogwarts was still a very busy location to be. Aurors arrived to scour every last niche for any enemy that might have gone to ground in the castle or its grounds. Curse breakers scanned for hexes, jinxes, and other dark magic that might have been planted to ensnare the unwary. Maintenance staff were arriving to assess the physical and magical damage to the castle. So severe was the devastation that Ministry officials were coming and going at all hours and Kingsley Shacklebolt himself returned to discuss the aftermath with McGonagall and her staff.
Ron and Hermione had already departed but Harry and Ginny were curiously reluctant to leave until the last day. Despite the destruction, Ginny loved to explore the familiar corridors and classrooms, and sit for meals in the Great Hall in delicious freedom and without oppression or fear. Harry accompanied her everywhere. To stroll around without a grim task to carry out or a weighty burden of responsibility was sweet luxury. He had missed Hogwarts more than he had realised during the last year. And nothing would prevent them riding the Hogwarts Express together. It would be the only opportunity to do so without any Slytherins on board. The Malfoys had been taken away only hours after the Battle to provide evidence against fellow Death Eaters and help to capture other followers of Lord Voldemort who had fled into hiding.
"What do you think they're talking about in there?" said Ginny, as they strolled by McGonagall's office on their way to the library on the day before departure.
"Maybe whether the castle will be repaired in time for September," said Harry.
"But that's almost four months away! And it doesn't need to be perfect, does it?"
"That's true. I think it should be--"
They stopped and looked around. Staff were drifting out from the meeting. Neville was running after them. "Guess what! Kingsley's asked me if I'd like to join the Aurors! Me! In the Aurors!"
"Good for you, Neville!" cried Ginny.
"Well done, mate," said Harry. "But what about NEWTS?"
"He wasn't fussed," said Neville. "I think he's nodding in anyone who fought in the last battle. What about you?"
"There he is, Harry. Come on, quick," said Ginny, trying to drag Harry away.
Too late. As soon as the Minister's eyes fell upon Harry he was hurrying forward and Harry could hardly avoid him.
"Harry, don't know if Neville here's told you but I'll be sending you a formal invitation to join the Aurors in the next few days. We need everyone we can get."
"Hasn't Harry done enough!" snapped Ginny. "Why'd you need more Aurors, anyway? Most of Voldemort's remaining supporters are already in Azkaban,"
"Well, it's that 'most' that is the problem. We know of less than ten Death Eaters we cannot account for but there are plenty of sympathisers who helped them and are guilty of serious crimes, especially against Muggles. And they'll be recruiting. Who knows what devious plans they have to compel others to join them. The Imperious curse is not just for covert operations, you know."
"Thanks for the offer. I'll certainly consider it in the future but I want to return to Hogwarts if it's open - it will be open do you think?"
"They still don't know, Harry. The castle's in a sorry state."
"But we can work around the mess!" cried Ginny. She bit her lip anxiously and kept glancing between Kingsley and Harry.
"It's more complex than just avoiding the rubble and blocked passages and classrooms; the castle's magic is questionable. Anyway, Harry, it almost goes without saying, you don't need any NEWTS to qualify for the Aurors. I guarantee you a position."
Ginny clung to Harry's arm and searched his face. He patted her hand.
"Thanks but it's not just the NEWTS, I want to spend more time with Ginny. We've been mostly separated for a year. If I were working while she's at Hogwarts we'd only see each other at Christmas and Easter. We want to do our seventh years together. Besides, I want some 'me' time for a change, and enjoy school without all the hassle for once."
Ginny beamed and she looked to Kingsley for his reaction. He looked as if he had expected nothing less.
"Well, anyway, Harry." said Kingsley. "Think it over and if you change your mind, just send me an owl."
In the days that followed, many decorations for bravery were awarded. Ginny made sure that Kingsley Shacklebolt was informed of Bennett's heroism in venturing into battle without a wand in an attempt to rescue the injured. And at Harry's insistence, Severus Snape was posthumously awarded the Order of Merlin first class. Even the Minister for Magic could not refuse the Boy Who Lived, despite grumbles from some quarters but Professor McGonagall heartily supported Harry in this request and shared his conscience in the matter.
Xenophilius Lovegood, released from Azkaban, was quickly reunited with Luna and both were invited to the Longbottoms 'for a special surprise,' as Neville put it. So, while his grandmother entertained Mr Lovegood after a pleasant lunch, Neville and Hannah escorted Luna to the floo pot at the side of the kitchen fireplace.
"Where are we going, Neville?" Luna asked. Hannah disappeared into the green flames ahead of them.
"It wouldn't be a surprise if I told you, would it?" said Neville, as they squeezed into the fireplace together.
"Refuge Manor, Dorset," declared Neville and cast the powder.
They were greeted by a friendly middle-aged witch, eyes wrinkled up with a beaming smile, who sent them through to the main garden. Hannah was waiting for them with a much younger man wearing a straw hat and dressed like a Muggle in baggy jeans and a loose shirt. Only the wand tucked into his belt revealed he was a wizard. He scooped up a large empty wicker pannier when he saw them arrive and hurried over.
"Is everything ready?" said Neville. He winced when he saw the man's eyes flick towards the scar on the side of his face. During the last week or so, he had learnt how Harry felt. He stopped himself rubbing it self-consciously and resolved once more to see a specialist healer to have it removed.
"Yes, she's fine, Mr Longbottom," the man said as he handed the basket to Neville. "I'll find a lid for that in a minute."
Neville passed the basket to Luna who cried, "Oooohh, thank you! I've always wanted one like this!"
Neville and Hannah grinned at each other but the man laughed loudly and said, "I see what you mean!" He trotted off down the garden path and called back over his shoulder, "Wait here a minute and I'll be right with you."
"What did he mean by that?" said Luna with a frown. She wrinkled up her nose as she watched the man walking away.
Hannah flushed slightly and cleared her throat, "Ahem... I told him... I said you sometimes said unusual things but it was just your way."
"But I did want a basket like this," pouted Luna, holding up the container to show her friend, "It's a really nice one, don't you think?"
The young man came back with a wicker lid which he handed directly to Luna with a grin.
Luna's eyes lit up. "It fits perfectly! It's a wonderful lid! Thank you!"
The man's grin widened and Luna noticed immediately.
"What's wrong! Are you laughing at me?" she demanded. "It's rude to laugh at people just because they're different to you!"
"Sorry," said the man. "Just my sense of humour. I didn't mean to--"
"Oh, Thestrals! You have Thestrals!" cried Luna and, quickly forgetting the man's affront, ran off towards the distant fence beyond which she could see an open stable.
The man stifled another laugh and followed her down, with Neville and Hannah following. "She's a real character, isn't she! Can you see the Thestrals too, by the way?" he said.
"Yes, 'fraid so," said Neville.
The man's grin changed into a polite smile. "Ah yes, of course. Forgive me. I first saw them myself at Hogwarts - you know, in the Forbidden Forest, after a friend died. We keep a small herd of seven here in the paddock to study and learn."
"When were you at Hogwarts, then?" asked Neville as they hurried to catch up to Luna who had climbed over the gate and was talking to one of the dark creatures. "You're not very old but I don't remember you at school."
"I left six years ago. I'm not surprised you don't recall every seventh-year student when you had only just started." He turned to Hannah. "I can faintly remember you being sorted into my house, Miss Hannah. Wasn't that the same year, Harry Potter came to the school?"
"Yes, that was the year," smiled Hannah. "Everybody remembers him, of course!"
"He's a beauty," called Luna waving back at them. The Thestral just outside the stable doorway ambled off towards a food trough and she turned again to watch it.
"Ah, there she is," said the man. "Come on Sweetie!"
Luna looked back it him rather sharply. Her expression clearly showed she was annoyed. "Are you being rude, again?"
But the man was gazing over her head up to the stable roof. Luna, seeing the direction of his view, came away from the building to get a better look. She squealed with delight as a vivid white ball of fur leapt from the roof straight at her.
"DIPPITY! DIPPITY!" cried Luna, jumping up and down with the cat in her arms. "I thought you dead! I was sure you must be!"
"She very nearly was," said the man. "It's taken months of healing treatment and recuperation but she's fine now although her tail is slightly wonky."
"Sorry," said Neville to Luna. "What with you being... unreachable until Easter - then I had to go into hiding to save my own life. Then the Battle. It kind of got pushed to the back of my mind. Sorry, Luna."
The man's eyes widened. "Luna? You're Luna Lovegood? Sorry, Miss Luna, I didn't know..." The man seemed embarrassed suddenly. "I mean, I knew Neville and Miss Hannah were war heroes but I thought you were just.... That is..."
"Just what, Mr...?" Luna stamped her foot and scowled.
"Erm... a friend."
"Just a silly friend, you mean!" snapped Luna "Just a silly friend who goes loony over a beautifully-woven basket and its lid! Have you any idea how difficult it is to coax split willow to align this well? You can't do it magically you know! And these are natural shades from three different counties - not dyed! Have you a clue at all?"
Dippity jumped down to the ground and spat at the man.
Neville and Hannah were grinning together. "Better watch out!" laughed Neville. "Luna was awarded the Order of Merlin for valour and Dippity took on a fully-grown Death Eater and lived to tell the tale!"
The young man had taken a step back from Luna's broadside and was amazed at the ungrateful cat turning against him after sitting up with her many nights for several weeks. "Well... I make these baskets myself actually," he said meekly.
"You do?" Luna said with astonishment. "Then how do you produce these bindings without a visible knot?" She re-examined the basket edge enviously before continuing, "I hold them with charms then remove the enchantment afterwards but still I can never do the decorative pattern work this nicely."
"You weave?" asked the man tentatively taking a step forward.
"Well, just two little bowls and a tray - but not this quality," Luna said, wrinkling her nose around ruefully. She caressed the weaved ridges with her fingers and pulled a face.
"Well, holding the bindings with magic is not sufficient," said the man, "because they ease gradually back once the charms are cancelled. You need to push a binding loop through before you begin then pull it out underneath the main bind afterwards," said the man. "Look, I'll show you if you've got time. Or... or you could come b- back another d- day... if you'd like to, that is?"
"Yes, I'd love to," said Luna, inspecting the man's face closely for the first time. She seemed to like what she saw for a smile appeared. "That's very nice of you Mr--?"
"Call me Rolf."
"Oooh! What a super name! I've got my medal in my pocket if you'd like to see it, Rolf. Lots of people do. Look... It's quite pretty don't you think? It goes best with dark grey in my opinion but I've not got anything ideal yet so I wore navy at the ceremony. And it really has got Merlin on the front - see his crooked hat? Somebody said he winks at you if you wait long enough but I've not seen that yet. And look at the back! It's got Camelot even though it's hidden from everyone. I'm very happy with it. I really am so pleased to have got a medal. It reminds me of how we all worked together for a good cause. There was sadness but I always remember everyone's faces; how determined they looked and how eager to risk everything to help others. That's what I remember when I look at my medal. You can hold it for a bit if you want."
Rolf could find no words to respond to Luna's outpouring. There was not a trace of arrogance in her tone so he held the medal reverently, pondering its significance and its power. Actually, he felt rather choked up inside and confused. When he handed it back he still couldn't speak though Luna seemed to understand. She stared at the emotion in his expression for so long he felt dazzled and looked around for the others. But Neville and Hannah had strolled back almost to the house to wait for them.
"I'll come on my own next time if I may," said Luna, "then we can have a long chat. I don't think you're at all rude now I've got to know you more. You don't say much do you, Rolf? Thank you so much for healing Dippity; she's a ragdoll, you know."
"Yes, yes I know. I'm a magizoologist like my grandad, Newton Scamander."
Luna's eyebrows shot up high and her big bright eyes seemed to almost pop out. "Oh, the man who...?" She grabbed his arm. "I love his book. I'm going to be a naturalist too! I thought you were only an animal healer."
"Just a silly animal healer?" smiled Rolf.
She put her head on one side and stared at him, thinking hard about what he had said until he could bear it no longer and had to look away. He looked back when she began to shriek with laughter.
"S- Silly animal healer! That's ... f- funny!" She was still clinging to his arm and her sides were shaking with uncontrollable giggles.
Eventually his embarrassment faded into a big grin and Luna's outburst subsided to an equally big smile. She nodded as if they had come to some unspoken agreement and he nodded back without a clue why but it seemed the right thing to do. Dippity used a paw to tilt the basket lid then jumped in, curled up, and waited patiently for Luna to recover.
Over at the doorway, Neville looked at Hannah with a grin. "Not quite the surprise we planned."
Mrs Wilkins almost tripped over the vacuum cleaner cable when she thought she heard the telephone ringing. She switched off the noisy machine, disentangled her ankle from the loose wire, and listened. "Aaah!"
She ran into the kitchen swearing softly under her breath. The beef stew which she felt sure she had turned down to a simmer, had boiled over, extinguishing the gas flame and baking a hard mess on the enamel. She turned off the burner, flung open the window and shouted her annoyance as a wintry gale blasted the morning's mail from table to floor.
There it is again! She looked around to see where she had left her mobile phone but the melodious warning beep came from the refrigerator door which had been left ajar.
A sigh escaped Mrs Wilkins as she kicked the fridge shut with one foot while reaching down to pick up the post - mostly junk leaflets and an unwanted free newspaper whose pages were scattering away in the icy breeze. There was a knock at the front door.
"ENOUGH!" she shrieked, rubbing her clenched fingers through her hair as she stomped angrily back through the house.
"WHAT!" she said to the young woman at the door. The kitchen window slammed noisily shut as a cold draught surged in the front doorway and right through the house.
"Oh, good evening. I wonder if you'd care to answer a few questions?" said the woman, brazenly pulling out a big clipboard from her bag.
"NO THANK YOU! GOODBYE." and she closed the door on the startled woman.
Mrs Wilkins made herself a coffee, sank down onto a chair before the fireplace and looked up at the clock on the mantelshelf. Her husband would be home any minute and all she had prepared was half-cooked and dried-up.
She took a sip of coffee then, as she lowered her mug, she could hear the front door unlocking. She gave another sigh and rose up to try to salvage the stew.
"Yes, do come in out of the cold, dear." It was her husband's voice. Mrs Wilkins groaned and paused between washer and sink to try to hear who the guest might be.
"Thank you. Yes, I'm sorry to trouble you but it's only a few questions. It won't take long and it would help me tremendously, Mr--?"
What's he brought that nuisance in for! We'll never get rid of her now!
"Wilkins. Here, take a seat in front of the fire and get yourself thawed out. It's perishing out there."
"You're very kind."
Cheeky soandso! Takes my favourite seat and now she's flirting with Wendell! Mrs Wilkins struggled to visualise what she could remember of the woman but she hadn't really looked at her very closely. Pretty, yes. Young, yes. Clipboard, YES!
"I'll make you a cup of tea. Won't be long," said Mr Wilkins.
Mrs Wilkins tried to rattle the spoon on the pan so he'd know she was already in the kitchen but it was welded into the dried-up stew. Her husband was slightly startled as he entered the room.
"Ah, Monica! There you are. We've got company."
"What'd you bring her in for!" whispered Mrs Wilkins, hoarsely. "I tried to get rid of her once!"
"She was freezing out there," he whispered back as he filled the kettle "What could I do?"
Mrs Wilkins released her third sigh of the day as she resigned herself to having to answer the girl's questionnaire. When she went back into the sitting room, the tray got plonked rather heavily onto the coffee table. She perched on the cold sofa in the corner with her husband, eyeing the woman glowing before the hearty fire.
"Mr and Mrs Wilkins," said the girl with a tremor in her voice. She seemed to be embarrassed by the older woman's hostility. Very shakily she took out what appeared to be a giant black marker pen from the clip on her board.
She stood up to face them more squarely. "I'm really sorry about this but—"
"So, you keep saying," snapped Mrs Wilkins. "Can we just get on with it! What's it about?"
Mr and Mrs Wilkins did not move again; not a muscle. Monica stared at the intruder, her eyes rolling with fear. She was able to breathe but not much else. She could not even tense up though she wanted to. There was something very sinister about the young woman -- the way she looked at them so closely and her strange movements: she was terrifying.
"Don't try to struggle; you'll just make things worse for yourself. I don't suppose there's any point in me saying--?" She looked at the frozen pair as if expecting some reply. "No, of course not."
The sitting couple watched helplessly as the girl waved her huge marker pen at them. Wendell felt sure it must be a gun at first but he changed his mind when the girl moved slowly closer and began to sing very softly. It sounded to him like a low, menacing chant - more of a supernatural incantation, he decided, especially when he glimpsed her clipboard. The top sheet was filled with arcane symbols upon a pentagram - witchcraft! He began to feel drowsy as she droned on and on, fearing he was being hypnotised into a deadly cult. He didn't believe in magic but...
He felt his wife slump against him briefly then she struggled to her feet. "My God! You've come at last!" she said, softly to the intruder.
The girl seemed delighted then turned to Wendell. "Sorry, Mr Wilkins - I'll have to finish you off in a minute."
Wendell Wilkins' blood ran cold then, his worst nightmare had come true. His wife had succumbed but because he had successfully resisted he was to be exterminated - or perhaps... sacrificed?
His wife had almost collapsed before the young girl and was crying as she embraced her unreservedly - she appeared to be bewitched.
Oh God, Monica! No! Fight it! You have to fight it! She's not a goddess to be worshipped - she's a devil!
He felt a sick chill in his stomach as they both turned towards him. His wife in particular he no longer knew. She had the same outward form but her eyes were the eyes of a stranger. Please, God! Don't let it be my own wife that sacrifices me to this evil creature!
The intruder was chanting once more. Wendell could not block it this time. Wildly he looked in every direction for any avenue of escape then he was sliding sideways and they were both hugging him and telling him his name was Granger and his real home was not in Australia but back in England. Well of course it was and of course he did, he huffed to himself.
"Hermione?" He blinked and made a few tentative moves of his arms. "What's going on?"
"I'm so sorry, Dad. I had to modify your memories. Long story... Let me explain..."
Harry and Ginny laughed as Hermione finished relating the tale as they sat around the kitchen table at The Burrow during the summer holidays. Ron had the Daily Prophet spread out on the table. Ginny was embroidering a seat cushion. Mr and Mrs Weasley were in the garden, finally cancelling the magical wards that had protected their home. Charlie was helping and close by him was Jocelyn Trevett.
"So, your dad had to give up his circus clown job then?" grinned Harry at Hermione. Ron guffawed with laughter.
"No - he worked in a bookshop actually," said Hermione rather haughtily. "Mum was out of work when I got there - well, she did a part time clerical job but I don't think it was going very well.
"Speaking of books," said Harry, mysteriously pulling out from his bag under the table, a book so old and ragged it was held together by an ancient enchantment that glowed dimly through its rips and loose stitching. "I have a present for you, Hermione. Madam Pince found it for me in the library's private collection. She said there were only two copies known to exist and the other one disappeared from the restricted section two years ago."
The other two looked with only casual interest at the book then Ron went back to browsing his newspaper and Ginny resumed her stitching.
Hermione examined the binding. "A present? She gave it to you?"
"Oh, it was given alright."
"Venereum Necessitudines Incantationum Magicales..." said Hermione, struggling to read the name from the faded cover. "I can't believe Madam Pince would give you a book, Harry, especially one this old."
"Yeah," nodded Ron, looking up briefly as he rustled over to the next page in his newspaper, "she's a miserable git."
"The library was one of the few places in the castle not damaged in the Battle," smiled Harry, "and you can hardly believe how people try to shower me with offers and gifts and services - she practically begged me to take it when I asked her if she had a copy I wanted for a special friend."
"Thank you so much, Harry," said Hermione, reaching over and patting him on the shoulder. "It looks interesting but why this particular book? What's it about?"
"It'll look even more interesting in a minute..." He took out a sheet of parchment, half-covered in writing which he studied for a few minutes then pointed his wand at Hermione. "Trust me?"
She nodded with a wry smile. "Of course."
Harry began chanting softly.
Hermione's eyes widened. "Ah - you're undoing the memory modification!"
"Don't interrupt!" said Harry. "I've got to start again, now." He looked back at his notes and the incantation resumed.
Presently, Hermione began to feel drowsy... Abruptly she sat bolt upright and squealed.
"Harry! You were in my bed!"
"Was not!" cried Harry, glancing at Ron and Ginny who were both staring at him. "Hermione, remember it can be confusing for a while now I'm restoring memories."
"You were kissing me in bed!"
"Harry!" Ginny was on her feet now and her arms were folded angrily.
"Hermione... You invited me to your room, remember? You wanted to be asleep when I changed your memories. You were sleepy but you were still awake. I sat on the bed and we talked. I asked you the name of the book you destroyed. You said you'd only whisper it. I leaned over... We weren't kissing for heaven's sake! Then I cast the spell. Remember now?"
Hermione looked puzzled for a while then, as her mind cleared, she looked at the book in her hand, squealed again, then ran red-faced from the room.
Harry grinned at the other two.
"So... that's the book she used to create our lovers' medallions?" said Ginny. Her glare had reduced to a frown and Ron too eased down into his chair again.
"But you said the book was taken from the library two years ago," muttered Ron. Harry could see his mind working towards the wrong conclusion.
"Krum!" growled Ron. "That's how she kept in touch with him!"
Harry sighed. "Ron, she did make these medallions the year before but they were not meant for Viktor Krum. They were never used at all: she was too shy. The next year she gave them to Ginny and me."
Ron looked puzzled. "Who then?"
Ginny bashed him over the head with her cushion.
As July flamed into August and Ginny came of age, she stood once again before the Trysting Stone, hand in hand with Harry. Luna had bedecked the great monolith with flowers, yellow, and blue, and red then stood aside as the couple prepared themselves.
"You're sure, Ginny?" asked Luna.
"I told you, the curse on the stone is broken. Anyway, I shan't be thinking of you this time, shall I," smiled Ginny.
"So, erm... this rock does what exactly?" said Harry, rather nervously.
"Harken charmed it so lovers would not be parted just because of a trivial misunderstanding. It's not a full betrothal if that's what you're worried about, Harry Potter! Look - see where it's carved, 'Naught shalt love e'er sunder.'"
"But we're not going to split up anyway. I don't see why we need this old rock."
"You can't be sure we won't ever quarrel, Harry!"
"Yes, but I'm hardly likely to abandon you just because of a minor disagreement am I?"
"I don't know, Harry. Aren't you?" Ginny folded her arms.
Harry glared at her. "No need to be like that, Ginny. I'm just saying this dumb rock is hardly likely to--"
"It's not dumb," said Luna. "It's very friendly and you shouldn't hurt its feelings. You're just being nasty."
Harry groaned and threw his arms in the air. "Fine. Sorry, Rock! Let's get it over with."
"Well, if you don't want to do it then nobody's forcing you!" snapped Ginny, tearfully. She turned her back on him.
"What have I done, now? All I said was--" Harry looked at Luna who was smiling at them both and wiggling her wand.
"Luna Lovegood! You Grumpy-hexed us!" cried Harry. "You little minx!"
Ginny whirled on Luna but Luna was already countering the spell.
"Just so you don't ever forget," said Luna.
Harry gave Ginny a rather sheepish look. Ginny's scowl softened and she accepted a hug.
"Ahem... Shall we?" said Luna. She took out a piece of parchment from her pocket.
"You can't say that, Luna," said Harry. "That's from the marriage ceremony, isn't it?"
"Yes but it's nice and I've made it up and written it down now so I'm leaving it in. Dearly Beloved...
"Insofar as Harry James Potter loves Ginevra Molly Weasley and wishes not to be parted from her even if dragged asunder by wild dragons..."
Ginny laughed. "Don't think I'd want him anymore if he's been sundered."
"Shush... And because Ginevra Molly Weasley is in love with Harry James Potter and would rather be chained forever to a dozen giant octopuses under the seventh sea than lose him..."
Harry smirked and Ginny nudged him.
"Do you, Harry James Potter, being of sound mind and limb agree this tryst so help you Merlin? Say, I do'."
"And do you, Ginevra Molly Weasley likewise? Say, 'I do'."
"Then let the happy couple join hands through this blessed Harken Stone that no disagreement shall part them ever."
Ginny took Harry's hand and led him to the opening in the front of the great Stone then walked around to the far side.
"Ready?" said Harry very seriously.
"Remember, we have to think of each other," she said, suddenly very soft and emotional and even a little frightened.
She need not have been concerned. They reached out to each other within the endless centuries of the great mass of ancient rock. There the Harken Stone held Harry and Ginny together, each sharing one emotion and committed to each other utterly.
Neither of them could remember withdrawing from the experience for Luna it was who finally persuaded them to all sit together upon a grassy mound and enjoy their company with a packed lunch.
"It's shared Legilimency," said Luna as she chomped on a boiled egg sandwich. "That's what you've both got." She sighed. "There's no cure I'm afraid; your stuck with each other."
Harry laughed. "Can't be, Luna. We don't cast the spell; it just happens to us."
"Well, Snape could do it without a wand, and do it nonverbally," said Ginny. She examined a sausage roll then took a big bite.
"You do it spontaneously," said Luna, and she spoke airily without a trace of doubt. "Children do magic without thinking about it because it's bursting to express itself and they've not yet got a wand or proper training."
"We're not little kids anymore," said Harry. "We pour out lots of magical spells now everyday using our wands."
"Yes, but this is sympathetic Legilimency. When did you last cast a spell of sympathetic magic? If you've got it inside you, it has to come out somehow. It's like a flower that has to bloom."
Ginny laughed. "You just made that up."
Luna looked up quickly from her second sandwich. "No - the Sorting Hat told me. We had a long chat about you, Harry."
Harry practically choked on his ham cob and took a quick gulp of pumpkin juice to wash it down. "You talked to the Sorting Hat!" he spluttered. "About me?"
"Who better to know about Legilimency? Yes, he said he knew you'd sacrifice yourself for everyone, that you'd do the right thing in the end," said Luna. She picked up a dish of strawberry pie and ladled copious amounts of ice cream onto it. "Personally I thought that you would run away with Ginny."
A dark cloud passed over Harry's face. It quickly dissipated but his face was still quite serious as he said, "The hat was wrong."
Luna stopped before taking her first bite of pie and stared at Harry. So did Ginny.
"I couldn't do it," confessed Harry sombrely. "I didn't have the courage to give myself up to Voldemort. And I couldn't bring myself to leave Ginny either. Don't tell anyone... I totally bottled out."
"But...!" began Luna, yet for once she was lost for words.
Harry hesitated before continuing, looking at the two girls staring at him - then he focused on Ginny. "It was only when I realised Ginny would never be safe that I forced myself to do it."
Ginny took Harry's hand in hers and looked into his eyes.
"In the end I wasn't noble at all," said Harry, softly. "I gave up my life for Ginny... just for Ginny."
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