Chapter 23

Chapter 23 – The Justice of the Potters

Harry stalked in an angry circle around Tom Riddle’s still-limp form, now suspended between the champagne-coloured bars of magic that served as his cage. He just wanted to look at him, weak and helpless and under Harry’s mercy, of which – naturally – there was none to be had. He imagined all the horrors he’d committed, all the trespasses he had brought against Harry and his family.

And Harry Potter decided just how he was going to rip Lord Voldemort’s body to pieces.

Harry’s anger was something else. Even the powerful containment runes and alchemical symbols were struggling to hold it in. Neville had activated the emergency syphon, which re-directed Harry’s furious magic into the ley lines beneath the house to dissipate it that way. But even this was nearing capacity. Harry had simply never been this concentrated in his rage.

Twenty-two years of hatred was just pouring out of him. It thrummed and heaved as powerful as any magic he could conjure in ritual. Having the source of it right there was mindlessly overwhelming. The store of negative energy Harry had been harbouring for this evil wizard was now bursting from the seams, but the potential of the explosion was too dangerous to ignore.

Hermione went to him, braved the cyclone of enraged power that was obscuring Harry from view, as if it were her right. It submitted to her in like fashion. Harry was red-faced, sweaty, his chest rising with heavy, bitter breaths. Hermione placed her hand to him, closed her eyes, and matched her breathing to be in rhythm with his. Then she pushed her calming force along their marital bond…commanding him to be still.

And, with a shuddering sag of his entire body, Harry obeyed.

“Hey…you need to control this,” she whispered softly. “We are building for a life after Riddle…don’t destroy our beautiful home on his account.”

Harry smiled weakly. “Sorry. I’ll try to rein it in. It’s just…”

“I know, I know…” she breathed, pressing her forehead to his. “Just get it done, sweetheart. Talk to me…tell me how this will work.”

“Narcissa is going to use a Soul Rend spell,” said Harry. “It will literally rip Riddle’s soul from his body. It’s from the same family of magic as Horcrux creation, but Cissa has always bordered on the grey in such terms so she’s more than willing.”

“I could do that…”

“No,” Harry snapped. “I don’t want you anywhere near that bastard’s soul. Or this procedure at all. He had a link to you once – his soul might try to latch onto you once his body is destroyed.”

“So, how are you going to keep Riddle’s soul grounded when you kill him? You can’t let him escape.”

“I wont,” said Harry. “We need to use little Celesca one last time. My family have created a link to me…from beyond. Celesca needs to tap into me again, open up a rift in the link, then Cissa can sling Riddle’s soul into it. My family will do the rest from the other side of the Veil.”

“And his body?” asked Hermione.

“I’ve decided to go for a mauling,” said Harry. “Magic is too easy. I want to feel him dying beneath my claws.”

“I wish I could transform with you,” said Hermione, ruefully. “I think I’d quite like, too.”

“I know Riddle has violated you, hurt you,” said Harry. “You want revenge, as much as everyone else he’s hurt.

“But this is uniquely personal for me. I wont allow anyone to take this cunt’s life but me. Sorry to be selfish…but he’s mine.”

Hermione nodded in solemn acquiescence. “Is there anything I can do?”

“Talk to Fan and Ann,” said Harry. “They know of a special Shield Wall Charm that will block literally anything. Ghosts, humans, weather. Create a powerful shield to protect Celesca. Riddle might try to leech onto her, too. Get Luna and Ennie involved to give it strength.”

“I can do that,” said Hermione. She leaned in, and placed a chaste kiss to Harry’s mouth. “I’ll let you know when we’re ready. I love you.”

“I love you,” Harry echoed, then watched his wife disappear though his anger cyclone. Then he turned to Tom Riddle. “Rennervate.”

Riddle opened his eyes slowly, the pupils sliding into their slits through snake-like hoods. He looked in fury at his captor, then struggled fruitlessly against his binds.

“Potter!” he spat.

“You still remember, Tom,” said Harry lightly. “I cannot help but be touched. I, of course, remember you.”

“Release me!”

“Honestly? That’s the best you can come up with? Of course…I’ll just let my mortal enemy free because he asks me to!”

“Release me…and I will make your death painless,” Riddle hissed.

“Your threats carried more weight when you had this,” said Harry, twirling the Elder Wand like a conductors baton. “Of course, you also had magic then, not that you were able to kill me with that, either. What’s it like…being ordinary?”

“Fuck you, Potter!” said Riddle angrily.

“Now, now, language, Tom,” Harry admonished. “My wife’s present over there. She doesn’t need to hear your gutter mouth.”

Riddle snarled. “I’ll gut her, too, when I get out of here.”

Harry moved closer, speaking low and dangerous. “Now that wasn’t very nice. In fact, it was spectacularly dumb. I thought I’d sent you enough messages of what happens to people who threaten my wife. You just never learn, do you? I will eek out your pain for every syllable of threat you’ve just uttered against her…oh, and the only way you’re getting out of my little cage is in a body bag.”

Tom Riddle tried to move again, but the runes held him fast.

“How do you like my advances in the use of ritual magic?” Harry asked conversationally. “I’ve been working ever so hard on it. I thought someone like you might appreciate it, especially after my mum and dad kicked your sorry arse so comprehensively the last time you came across runic magic this impressive.”

“Potter…we are not so unalike…I could overlook all your crimes against me…we could rule as a team…you would be second only to me in the new order.”

“You, sir, are in a position to offer me nothing,” Harry laughed. “I have all the power in this dynamic. And I fully intend to use it. I just wanted you to know who it was that had beaten you…who it was that was going to violently take apart all you’ve tried to build. The Death Eaters are finished, Tom. You’ll just be a chapter in history, easily skimmed over because, in the end, you achieved nothing…you are nothing.

Just then Hermione appeared at Harry’s side. “Hey, Tom,” she said conversationally. “Nice cage. Harry, honey…we’re ready.”

“You!” Riddle hissed. “You’re to blame for all this…fascinating me with your new magic…I will hunt your soul in the next world.”

“That’s two threats against me now, isn’t it, Harry?” said Hermione thoughtfully. “Is he just utterly thick, or what?”

“Looks like it,” Harry agreed.

“He just doesn’t understand us Potters at all, does he?” said Hermione, shaking her head in mock disbelief. “Rip him apart, lover.”

Hermione wrapped her hand around the back of Harry’s neck and drew his lips forcefully to hers, tongues duelling fiercely. There was something about killing bad guys that stirred a feral hotness in the both of them. They would have to re-cast the bedroom wards to offset this.

“Shout to me when the Shield is up,” said Harry. Then he called out. “Cissa? Little Cesc? Are you ladies ready?”

“We are,” Narcissa called back.

“We can hold the shield for ages, honey,” said Hermione, darkly. “Don’t make this quick.”

Harry grinned at her, kissed her one more time and smacked her pert arse as she flounced away from him. He rather thought she’d been taking lessons from Seren Gryffindor on style and form.

“Right, Tom,” said Harry. “Time to die.”

“A curse on you, Potter,” Riddle raged back.

“We tried it once that way, buddy, are you game for a rematch?” Harry taunted. “Tom…I’m laughing at you. Just know that. You want to know how you’re going to be butchered? How I’m going to draw it out for your snake-bothering carcass, just for your empty, dirty words to my witch? Observe…the tool of your destruction.”

And Harry partially transformed his hand into a huge paw, drawing the dagger-sharp claws right to Riddle’s face.

Riddle’s bowels and bladder emptied as he soiled himself. The stench hit Harry hard in the nostrils.

“Good, good,” said Harry angrily. “I’m glad you knew true fear at the end. Goodbye, Tom. Consider this our prophecy fulfilled.”

Then, in one movement, Harry wordlessly cancelled the cage and transformed into his full lion form. He slashed that huge paw across Riddle’s torso, slicing just shallow enough for his intestines to spew out but not enough to kill him. Riddle let out a high-pitched screech and fell to the floor, trying in vain to gather up his exposed organs and force them back in.

And Harry pounced, crashing a powerful shoulder into Riddle’s chest, roaring in triumph as a few ribs cracked on the impact. Riddle rolled to the floor and spat out blood. A shard of rib had punctured his lung, which was slowly filling with his black blood. Harry stalked to him and began slashing relentlessly to Riddle’s face. Blood flashed from the lacerations, covering Harry’s fur and creating a huge pool around Riddle’s head.

Then Harry bit him, taking a chunk of face away in his powerful teeth. Riddle was exposed to the bone, and parts of the upper jaw were now missing. Harry spat them back into Riddle’s broken face. Then he moved down, slicing him artfully from chin to belly button. Riddle screamed from inside his throat, as Harry ripped the flesh from his upper body. He stood over Riddle, breathing angrily, and let out a loud, guttural roar.

It was the signal to Narcissa. It was time.

Harry felt the Soul Rend spell pass over him, and then dug a powerful paw into Riddle’s chest, cutting and slashing with his claws till he cut out the evil heart. He lifted it clear, looked down into Riddle’s eyes again…then tore the heart to pieces as Riddle’s life expired in front of him.

He gave one last, blood-bubbled breath…then the Dark Wizard know as Voldemort was no more. And Harry tore the body angrily to pieces in a flurry of sharp-clawed attacks.

Harry felt Riddle’s soul leave his body. The runes on the chamber walls, designed for the purpose, tracked its movement. Harry became a wizard again as the soul fragment shot away at speed, in a last, desperate effort to find a new host. Harry watched it bounce from the Shield Charm before a shaft of silvery magic shot out and held it fast.

“I’ve got him, Harry!” Narcissa called. “But will you take him quick…he’s very ugly.”

“Celesca! Are you ready, honey?”

“I am,” she called back. “Open your mind, Master Harry.”

He did as he was told, feeling Celesca’s gently magic crawl along the link to him, before disappearing through the Veil Arch. Seconds later it returned. And it wasn’t alone.

“Mum! Dad!” Harry cried, embracing them, as they ran to him. “What are you doing here?”

“Finishing what we started all those years ago,” said James.

“Just hold on a few more seconds, sweetheart,” said Lily, cupping his face lovingly. “You’ve been so brave!”

“It’s nearly over,” said James. “Direct Narcissa to give us that Dark Bastards’ soul…and we’ll deliver him to Purgatory.”

Lily drew out a series of containment runes in the air with her finger. “When we fought him, we set specific runes into each trap,” Lily explained. “It was all for this moment. These will link to the runes we cast into his soul…so he wont ever escape.”

“I love you, Mum…Dad,” said Harry, his voice cracking as tears began to fall. “Cissa…send him to me.”

The soul fragment moved closer, Harry felt Celesca open a gap in their link…and suddenly the spectral form of Riddle was standing before them, on the same astral plane as Lily and James. But before Harry had a chance to react, the runes Lily had drawn clamped around Riddle like a cage. He was bound tightly, and James bundled him bodily back towards the Veil.

Then Tom Riddle was gone for good.

“Is…is it done? Really done?” asked Harry, his voice almost childlike. He felt bone-weary at fighting Tom Riddle…he just wanted it to be over.

“It’s done,” said Lily, smiling. Tears shone on her, too. She leant forward and kissed Harry ghostly on his cheek. “When I go through, destroy this Arch. It’s doesn’t do to dwell on the dead and forget to live.”

“I will,” said Harry. “I love you, Mum.”

“I love you, too, my brave, brave boy. Now…go and be a proper husband to that great girl you’ve got out there…and a great father, too…you only have nine months to prepare for that!”

Harry grinned widely as his jaw dropped, his heart swelling with so much emotion he felt light-headed a moment. He watched his mother give one last wave…then step back through the arch. Harry drew his wand…and blasted it to a thousand pieces behind her.

Then there was an explosion of sound, as all the assembled audience broke out in uncontainable euphoria. Hermione raced to Harry first, clobbering him in a bear hug that literally knocked him flat. He rolled over, laughing and kissed her deeply. Then Celesca leapt on him, yelling ‘We did it! We did it!” He hugged her deeply and she peppered his cheek with shy little kisses.

“You were so brave!” Harry cooed to her. “You’re my heroine, do you know that?”

“I love you, Master Harry,” Celesca sang, snuggling him tightly. “I’m so happy you’re my Godfather…you’re better than any sort of father I could ever have.”

“I love you too, honey,” said Harry. “But just call me ‘Harry’ from now on. None of this ‘master’ stuff. Okay?”

“Okay.”

Then Harry was being pulled to his feet and Neville was nearly breaking his ribs with the force to his hug, thumping him on the back in triumph. Then Harry was passed to Enola, who threw her arms around his neck and kissed him fully on the mouth. He was too surprised to pull away, but he looked at her very embarrassed when they finally broke apart.

“Min said I could, just once,” said Enola, blushing madly.

“I…er…I…okay,” Harry stumbled, and Hermione suddenly was drawing him back to her with another deep kiss, including licking Enola’s lip gloss from his own mouth.

Just so you don’t forget who you’re supposed to be kissing,” Hermione breathed sultrily. “That was just because it’s a special occasion. Cherry, En? Nice.”

“Why wasn’t I consulted about any of this wife-sharing business?” Neville quirked. “Do I get to kiss Hermione as compensation?”

“No,” Harry, Hermione and Enola said in unison. Then Enola leapt into Neville’s arms, wrapping her legs around his waist and engaging in a tongue war with him.

“You get my proper kisses,” said Enola breathily, as Neville set her on her feet. “That was just a peck, really.”

“It’s fine,” said Neville, grinning at Harry. “If I was going to let him into a threesome, I suppose kissing is the least I should allow!”

“What’s a threesome?” asked Celesca, curiously.

Harry laughed and lifted her into his arms. He looked at her seriously. “Not something you’ll need to know about for a long time, Miss.”

“I say celebratory drinks are in order,” said Myfanwy, as she and Angharad joined the party, arms wrapped around each other. “There’s that new sauvingon blanc the elves have been making…I say we drink the palace dry!”

“Harry!” Patrick O’Brien called from the back of the room. “Permission to transport your vat of cider to the dining room for this shin-dig?”

“Granted!” said Harry, grinning. “We are all going to get rat-arsed tonight. That’s an order.”

“What’s rat-arsed?” asked Celesca.

“In old breweries rats used to get into the barrels where the beer was being made,” said Harry. “They’d drown in the drink and be found with their bums sticking up.” Celesca giggled at that. “And now…we’re going to drown in drink, too!”

“And then, tomorrow,” said Hermione, coming up to Harry and sliding her arm around his waist, where it helped to support Celesca’s weight. “We are going to hunt down my ex-husband and give him the worst hangover in history.”

Harry laughed at that and hugged his two favourite girls close. “Yes we are.”

Then you’d better start thinking about shopping,” said Celesca seriously. She looked at Harry, and they shared a flare of knowledge. She asked for unspoken permission, which Harry gave with a nod.

“Shopping? For what?” asked Hermione.

“A cot, for a start. And maybe a pushchair. Ooh, and lots of toys. I can help you pick, if you like, so long as you buy me a toy for helping.”

Hermione’s jaw dropped, and Harry wrapped his arm around her fully to rub her belly. They shared watery looks and deep smiles.

“My mum…” Harry whispered by way of explanation.

Hermione slid her hand over Harry’s, massaging her womb…her occupied womb.

“You okay?” he asked, gently.

“Okay! I’m better than okay! I’m…perfect.

“Come on, I need that drink!” said Harry, kissing Hermione again, and leading the way to the best party the palace had ever held.

* * *

The party lasted for fully two days. So, some seventy-two hours after the death of Tom Riddle, and with some very sore heads, Harry, Hermione and Narcissa were to be found sat around the breakfast room, drinking strong coffee and discussing their two-pronged attack. Narcissa was going to head to London, to oversee the progress of the clean-up operation. She was taking Sir David Pincott, who was a member the Muggle House of Lords as well as a powerful wizard, and it was through he that information had been splashed across the Muggle media about the lies told by Lucius Malfoy.

That had sparked an immediate reaction, as they’d just learned from Frank Longbottom, who had been monitoring the Wizarding Wireless network. Lucius had fled London the previous night, no doubt aware of Voldemort’s abduction. But he hadn’t made it far.

For he had been gunned down by an SAS task force as he tried to escape from the Port of Dover. It was headline news in both the magic and Muggle worlds.

“It will be a source of some chagrin to my husband that he was killed by a Muggle bullet,” said Narcissa, nursing another espresso. “It will irritate him for the duration of his afterlife.”

“I say that’s just a bonus win,” said Harry. “No offence…but your husband was a prick.”

“None taken,” said Narcissa. “We can’t all be as lucky in our marriages as you two. But he served a purpose. And now that purpose has passed, it is fitting that he does, too.”

“Cold as ice,” said Hermione. “A witch worthy of song.”

Narcissa inclined her head in gratitude, then frowned as it reignited her headache.

“So, what will you do in London?” asked Harry. “It will be dangerous…you need to have a clear plan.”

“Well, first we’ll head with you two to Ottery St Catchpole,” said Narcissa. “Luna can take us to her old house. If The Quibbler printing press is still there, we’ll create a brief new edition, educating the world about Tom Riddle’s demise. Then, when you and Hermione head for The Burrow, we’ll use Luna’s old Unspeakable access route to enter the Ministry of Magical Governance. We’ll make our way to the Offices of Magical Communication, take over the WWN and make our broadcast, whilst distributing the magazine via direct-mail Floo.”

“It’s a high risk strategy,” said Harry. “I really think you should take more people with you.”

Narcissa shook her head. “We have friends inside the Ministry. They know we’re coming. We’ll alert them when we arrive…they have a diversion planned. It promises to throw the place into chaos. As a small team we can exploit that. A bigger group would just make us an easier target.”

“You’re already going to be a fairly easy target,” Hermione pointed out. “Your name and face are only trending second to Harry’s own at this point…in both worlds.”

“I can take care of myself,” said Narcissa. “I’ll have Sir David and Luna to start with, too, then we will have support once our rabble rousing begins. We have friends everywhere, Harry…they just need to know now is the time to rise up.”

“Help will always be given to those Gryffindors who ask for it,” said Hermione, staunchly. “I never knew, Cissa.”

“Let’s just say it’s hard to be red and gold…with a black mark on your arm,” said Narcissa. “But people will flock to our banner now.”

“I hope you’re right,” said Harry. “But you’ll have support in London if you need it. I’m sending Fan and Ann on a sight-seeing trip. The Tower of London is a must-see…especially if the revolution starts today.”

A few hours later and a temporary Portkey flashed into the air on top of Stoatshead Hill, in the small village of Ottery St Catchpole. The two parties that emerged with it separated with messages of good luck; Narcissa, Luna and Sir David headed down one side of the hill, while Harry and Hermione began the short stroll to the Burrow. They had used Hermione’s old wedding ring to gauge Ron’s location, and were hardly surprised to find him holed up at his family home.

Destroying both he and it promised to be a cathartic experience for both the Potters.

They walked together hand-in-hand for some minutes in comfortable, companiable silence, each lost in their own focused thoughts. Harry’s were dual-natured; the violent demolition of what had once been a safe-house to the needy and desperate, perverted to evil by the Galleon-grabbing youngest Weasleys. And, of course, Hermione’s decimation of the said last surviving member of that fucking twat of a family. That was the only thing on her mind, and Harry could sense the dark anticipation rolling off her in angry waves.

“You all set?” Harry asked quietly.

“I am,” said Hermione. “I’ve been waiting a long time for this.”

“No fear? No concerns?”

“Fear?” Hermione scoffed. “I’m with you, honey. I’m never afraid of anything when you’re by my side. It’s disgustingly needy to admit that, but there it is. And the only concern I have is that this will be over too easily and I wont be satisfied by it.”

“We’re likely to find him literally insane,” Harry pointed out. “He might not be in any state to put up much of a fight. Perhaps I should have left him intact for you.”

“No, I’m pleased that he’s been suffering like this,” said Hermione. “You’ve destroyed his mind for me. That accounts for the psychological trauma I suffered. Now, I’m going to hurt his body. It will be a complete job.”

They stopped talking as the perimeter of The Burrow came into view. It soon became clear that protections were in place. There was a strong ward, and a ring of defensive jewels surrounding the door. Harry looked at Hermione.

“Lets take out the ward first. Concentrate your most powerful offensive spells at a point just over the gate. I’ll do the same, and we’ll overpower the ward. On three…”

And three seconds later, the power of the Potters began the final assault on the Weasleys.

Harry and Hermione fired off spell after spell. The protective ward shimmered and trembled under the combined power hitting it. The shield flashed in a rainbow of colours, dissipating the magical impacts, until finally it gave in and cracked under the force of Hermione’s last spell. She grinned at Harry.

“I win,” she sang.

“I weakened it for you,” Harry bitched.

“It’s not a jar of pickles, Harry,” Hermione laughed. “But thanks for your contribution.”

Harry huffed, then swept his wand in a violent arc. A wave of ridiculously potent energy burst out from it…and the protection gems shattered, as the front of the Burrow was reduced to rubble.

“Show off,” Hermione winked. Then her face dropped. “Watch out!”

She flicked a push spell at him, sending him toppling to the ground as an acid green spell tail whizzed past, horrendously close to his head. Hermione looked to the upper floors of the house…and saw that hated ginger-haired face taking aim at Harry again.

Protego!” Hermione cried, throwing up a powerful barrier over Harry, before flicking a spell in Ron’s direction as he cast one himself. The spells collided in mid-air, exploding with enough force to shatter the window frame Ron was leaning out from. He yelped and cried as shards of wood and glass pierced his skin. Harry leapt to his feet.

“You’re far too distracting, you know,” he laughed at Hermione. “He nearly actually hit me. The shame. Come on, looks like there might be some fun in this after all.”

And the Potters raced forward to the house. They met Ron on the stairs, where he was babbling nonsense.

“No, Mum, I don’t have Spattergoit,” he was saying. “And I don’t have tinsel on my face…and I know Ginny isn’t bring casserole for breakfast…stop LYING!”

Then he started firing off spells in a dangerously random fashion. Harry pulled Hermione to the safety of the kitchen, as Ron’s spells smashed walls and splintered the handrail of the staircase.

“He’s going to kill himself at this rate!” Harry cried, as Ron continued his hazardous casting at unseen enemies.

“Oh no…he doesn’t get off that easily!” Hermione fumed. She peered carefully back towards the stairs, and took aim with her wand. She fired a blasting hex, shattering Ron’s kneecaps. He shrieked in sickening agony, then fell down the stairs in a series of loud thuds.

Harry took the opportunity and raced out, snatching up Ron’s wand where it had fallen from his hand. He snapped it in half, and threw the useless pieces away, as Hermione came up behind with her own wand drawn. She tucked it behind her ear, hauled Ron to his broken knees…then drove one of her own into his face. He yelped again, and fell away as blood flowed out from his smashed nose.

“Nice,” said Harry approvingly. “May I?”

“Be my guest,” said Hermione.

Harry flicked two, mid-level impact hexes at Ron’s shoulders, breaking them to pieces. His arms fell limp and pointless to his sides, as he groaned against yet another wave of searing pain.

“Can we finish this here?” asked Hermione, kicking Ron in the face just for the hell of it. “I was going to kill him back at the palace, but I’ve decided that I don’t want his stain anywhere near our home. Can you trap his soul without the ritual room?”

“Yeah, I’ve prepared the time-turner,” said Harry. “It’s stocked full of all the worst horrors I could draw from my mind and yours. All I have to do is deliver Ron into it…then he’ll live those horrors for eternity as though he’d endured them in life, himself.”

“Good,” said Hermione, smirking wickedly. “I’ll do my bit then. Just be ready with your soul trap.”

Hermione drew her wand again, and stripped Ron’s blood-soaked jeans from his body. She knelt down, pointed her wand at Ron’s tiny, shrivelled penis…then roughly sliced it off. Ron screamed so high-pitched Harry wondered how the glass in the windows hadn’t cracked.

Hermione ignored Ron screeches and continued her work. She showed off her transfiguration skills, engorging the severed organ until it was nine-feet tall. Then she conjured some of the wood shards from the shattered staircase handrail, transforming them into a sharp, vicious-looking spike. She fused the spike with the tip of the giant penis, nodding in approval at her own work.

She turned to Ron, who was very pale due to his massive blood loss. She scowled at the sight. “Remember this, you ginger tosser?…swish and flick.”

Hermione cast the levitation charm, hoisting Ron into the air, lining up his rectum with the tip of the spike.

“I’m going to enjoy this,” said Hermione. “Fuck you, Ron!”

And Hermione released the spell. Even Harry winced as Ron’s body slipped down onto the spike. There were simply no words to describe the horrendous noises he made, as he was slowly pieced internally. Harry didn’t really watch Ron, but focused on Hermione, and the deep satisfaction she showed as their one-time friend slowly died before them.

It took nearly an hour for the spike to come out from Ron’s mouth. Hermione wouldn’t let him slip too fast, occasionally hoisting him back up if gravity tried to defy her thirst for satisfaction. Eventually, though, she allowed the spike to pierce Ron’s throat, as Harry ripped his soul clean before it could escape, trapping it in his modified time-turner.

“I’m done with this one,” said Hermione bitterly, as Ron’s last breath choked out from him. “Come on, Harry, I have a job for you.”

“Yeah? What’s that?”

“Show me that chain fireball spell you do again,” said Hermione. “I want to watch this place burn.”

“As you wish, my Lady,” said Harry, grinning. “Lets just set this in motion.”

Harry held up the time-turner, then span it forcefully. He wondered vaguely which horrific memory Ron would suffer first; maybe he would configure his ritual chamber later to work like a projector, just so he could watch. Then he followed Hermione out to the garden. She led him to a bench on the far side of the lawn, before conjuring a bottle of champagne and two glasses. Harry grinned at her, then turned back to the house.

And he shot a series of chain fireballs from his wand, watching as the rickety excuse for a home took like a tinder box and erupted in angry, orange flames.

Hermione smiled up at Harry, and offered him a glass of bubbly.

“I call this a job well done, sweetheart,” she said, as Harry folded down onto the seat next to her.

“I agree, Mrs Potter,” said Harry. He clinked his glass against hers. “Cheers. I propose a toast. To us…let us not allow any of this sort of shit to happen to us ever again!”

Hermione laughed. “To us. May our enemies know fear before they die!”

“I like that,” Harry chortled. “Let’s go with that instead. Cesc never did come up with a new family motto for us, did she!”

They clinked glasses again. Harry slid his arm around Hermione’s shoulders, she snaked hers around his waist, and together they watched the final end of this…the darkest period of their lives, as The Burrow burned majestically before their eyes.

* * *

Three months later

Hermione Potter and Enola Longbottom strolled through the misty London evening, a light snowfall settling on their winter coats. They were both laden with numerous shopping bags, all magically enchanted with weightless charms. Enola had a favourite Muggle shop, Jojo Maman Bebe, and in her idea there was simply no other place in the world her unborn daughter would be clothed by.

So Hermione had to buy at least two outfits for her own unborn baby from the same shop, just to avoid a telling off.

They walked along, enjoying the illuminations and the giant Christmas trees flanking the pop-up stalls along the Thames. A troop of carol singers sent their festive notes high into the night air, whilst the smell of mulled wine filled their nostrils from a vendor nearby.

“Do you think we’d be okay with just one?” asked Enola, looking wistfully at the steaming glasses being supped by other people nearby.

“I’m not going to risk it,” said Hermione, ruefully. She smirked. “I’m having Harry Potter’s baby…the poor thing will have enough to deal with as it is, without throwing potential alcohol damage into the mix!”

Enola hooted out a laugh. Hermione looked at her, mildly jealous.

“Your bump is already showing,” she huffed. “Where the hell is mine?”

“It’ll come, don’t worry,” said Enola, chuckling again. “I might just be having a chubby little girl.”

“How are you so sure it is a girl?” asked Hermione.

“I just am,” Enola replied. “I was with Ally, I am now.”

“Maybe you’re having twins,” said Hermione, thoughtfully. “That might be why you’re so big.”

“Ooh, could you imagine? Nev would faint!”

Hermione laughed. “Speaking of which…we’d better get back to The Cauldron, before our husbands fall over in a different sort of way!”

Enola sighed her agreement, and the two friends began a slow amble back across the Capital. The snow was falling heavier now. It clung to Hermione’s hair, which seemed to be frizzier than ever since the onset of her pregnancy. She put it down to hormones, and tried not to get too annoyed when her hairbrushes had zero impact on her wayward locks. The baby would make it all worthwhile.

Not that Harry minded at all. It was the opposite if anything. He had told her more than once that he preferred her hair all loose and wild. It reminded him of their younger years, and he could allow himself to pretend he was making up for the time they’d wasted not being together back then. There was something in that which Hermione found hopelessly sweet, so she wasn’t too bothered about not scraping her mane back into a ponytail every morning, despite how much her stray hairs tickled her neck.

And they were mornings that she was getting more and more used to waking up to without worry. Just her, and Harry and their little baby growing in her tummy. She would often wake to find Harry talking to it, telling stories and making promises about the beautiful world he was going to provide for their son. Then he would inevitably go out and do it, following up leads on Death Eaters in hiding, reining in rogue giants and Dementors, or destroying any one of the dozens of fake Horcruxes out there made for Tom Riddle.

They had learned that both Ron and Ginny had volunteered their souls to this diversionary programme, but as yet had been unable to locate their Horcruxes, much to the frustration of both Mr and Mrs Potter.

But, for tonight, they had put all such endeavours aside. It was a few days before Christmas Eve and they were simply going to enjoy themselves. It was a bittersweet time, as they thought about all the friends who they should be catching up with on such an occasion, all lost to Riddle’s blood war on Britain. Rebuilding the country would be slow work, but with Narcissa Malfoy installed as Interior Minister and responsible for the reconstruction, at least they had some competency in charge for a change.

And the Muggle world was slowly adapting to the new changes, too. Prince William was now King William, and his coronation had been covered by media outlets around the world. Newspapers, television, the internet all covered the story, broadcasting the message to the world…along with the secret little memory modification charm that was cleverly woven into it. Hermione had scoffed at that…as if the media didn’t influence people’s thinking enough as it was…

But she knew it was a necessary evil. A bit grey, but secrecy had to be restored. It was the easiest way for now. And the nation had accepted the story about Queen Elizabeth II passing peacefully in her sleep and Charles passing the crown to his son on grounds of ill health. William always was popular, and Harry was just learning that his Royal friend’s star was about to soar even further.

“What are you grinning about?” asked Hermione, dumping down her shopping and swooping in to peck Harry’s cheek.

“Just had a text from Wills,” Harry explained. “Kate’s expecting again. It’ll be all over the papers tomorrow. You know we really must get the new Magic Tech department to come up with a version of Smart Phones for us…it’s not fair that Muggles get all the best toys.”

“Speaking of toys…did you get me one? You said you would.”

Hermione looked fondly down at Celesca Lovegood, who had shimmied up into her lap with the most earnest expression plastered to her face. Hermione cuddled her God-daughter on her knee and grinned teasingly. “Well..let it never be said I’m not a witch of my word. There might just be a little something wrapped up in my green bag over there.”

And Celesca was off like a shot.

“You spoil her, you know,” Harry admonished playfully, watching Celesca merrily fish through Hermione’s shopping.

I spoil her?” Hermione laughed. “I wasn’t the one who bought her an antique dolls house shaped like Pemberley last week.”

“I’m just educating her on the classics,” Harry shrugged with a grin. “At least we’ll know where all our money has gone when the vaults are empty.”

“Oh, on that front…I’m going to look at sites for our new school after Christmas,” said Hermione. “Our country has so many old castles…I’m sure I can find the perfect place. It will take years to purge the dark stain from Hogwarts…we might as well give it up as a bad job. Start afresh. I quite like the idea of being a school Founder. Fancy joining me?”

Harry laughed. “Will we have competing Houses? You know I couldn’t bare to have my team lose to yours at Quidditch! I wouldn’t be able to look you in the face…and I can’t have that, as your face is just too pretty!”

“And there was me thinking you were getting used to coming second,” said Hermione sultrily.

Harry smiled at her. “I don’t mind that, it’s true. As long as I’m with you to finish runner-up, at anything, I’ll accept that. I still win either way.”

And he truly meant it. Harry leant in for a lingering kiss with his wife, ignoring the swooning sounds teased over by Neville and Enola across the table. They could tease all they liked, for Harry and Hermione Potter really had done it…despite all the odds, they really had won.

And their beautiful future together was simply the greatest prize there was to be had.

The End.

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