After nodding to old Tom behind the bar of the Leaky Cauldron, who in turn gave them a respectful salute, albeit with the dirty rag that he was using to wipe down the bar, the two young men stepped out into the courtyard that housed the hidden entrance to Britain’s famous magical shopping district.
It was Neville Longbottom who stepped forward to tap the appropriate bricks with his wand before stepping back to stand beside his best friend as the bricks began to wiggle and slide about, quickly manoeuvring themselves into an impressive-looking archway.
Over the past nearly two years, Neville had shot up, now standing nearly a head taller than Harry. His shoulders were broad and his chest and arms were well muscled. His skin had darkened as well, most likely due to the constant tan that he had from the near-constant work that he did out in the greenhouses.
Stepping beside Neville through the archway was Harry Potter. These days, Harry kept his once-famous messy black hair short, using his metamorphmagus abilities to tame it. Where once he had favoured having the tips of his hair red or blue or occasionally even an ice white, these days he stuck to keeping it its natural colour. People had finally gotten used to the fact that he no longer had that infamous lightning bolt scar of his. Even trying to ‘blend in’ with his scars hidden, did nothing to detract from the fact that he was still the only wizard in Britain to carry a staff – a staff that meant that he always stuck out in any crowd.
What they had also finally grown used to seeing was Harry with only one full arm. Even after two years, Harry had not had any sort of prosthetic added, neither muggle nor magical. To him, having a ‘dead’ hand there just for looks simply wasn’t worth it. Hermione still believed that she could come up with something magical for him, just like the magical silver hand that Lucius Malfoy sported.
That had been as real as they came, gifted to him by Riddle after being resurrected all those years ago. Unfortunately, the spell – incantation and wand movement – died with Riddle and Hermione was using all of the skills that she’d been learning as a NEWT spell casting student to work on it and to recreate it. She promised that one day, she’d get it and the day she did, Harry’d happily let her perform it on him. Until then, he’d grown used to having and using only one hand.
Seeing as the school year had not yet quite finished, both Harry and Neville were extremely happy that there didn’t seem to be too many people around in the Alley. The sight of two Order of Merlin awardees striding down the Alley caused enough attention as it was.
As they were spotted, people would stop and stare and whisper to each other. Most would smile at them, some would even come up and shake their hands, even after nearly two years. The problem, of course, was that for the majority of the year, they were all but hidden from view on Ynys Crochenydd, out of the public’s eye and any sighting of them was treated as special.
Amelia Bones, the properly elected Minister for Magic and Sirius Black, the Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot – and didn’t that election shock a lot of people and most especially Sirius himself – didn’t have this problem, at least not any more. Being such public figures meant that people got to see them quite regularly and thus, had gotten used to seeing them, perhaps not as ‘normal’ people, but some of the lustre had at least rubbed off.
For the rest of them though – Harry, Neville, Hermione, Daphne and Minerva – any time that they were in public they were given deferential treatment, seen almost as royalty or something. Harry and Neville had talked about that a lot and had come to the conclusion that they really hoped people got over it before they turned twenty-one and became eligible to take their House seats on the Wizengamot, just over three years from now.
Just as the two young men had grown and changed over the past two years, Diagon Alley had also undergone a revamp. It still had the same old-world feel, with a combination of torches and gas lights interspersed at regular intervals down the cobblestone-lined Alley and while one could still buy the same types of things that you could always buy in the magical alley, the stores themselves had been renovated.
But then, how could they not have been. Only a handful of stores had survived intact after the Battle for Diagon Alley as it had become known. Many stores had been completely destroyed in that battle and even more had suffered at the hands of the Death Eaters as they searched from shop to shop for the people there.
And while, at first glance, many of the shops still appeared the same, it was in the new materials that they really shone. Gone were the old, darkened woods that made the place feel dirty, grimy and closed-in. In their place, new, lighter woods had been used giving the place a cleaner, lighter feel. Even the simple act of replacing the old, browning glass with new had changed the look and feel.
About the only place that hadn’t been updated during the reconstruction was Gringotts. The great marble building with the large bronze doors stood just as it had for centuries now.
As Harry and Neville walked past the place where once there’d been the meeting point for Diagon Alley to meet a second, just as large magical alley, the two glanced at the wall that now hid it from view. Experts in magical construction and warding had weaved their magic on the wall, creating a second archway within the wall so that people could access both alleys.
Knockturn Alley was still considered the less-reputable of the two and the place where shady deals were struck in secret but it, too, was slowly undergoing a change. The hope was that, perhaps in the not-too-distant future, Knockturn Alley would be just as clean, just as fresh-feeling as Diagon Alley and safe for people to shop in as well. Amelia and Sirius had dreams and they were stubbornly clinging to them, doing their best to see them come to fruition.
Finally, the two reached their destination and Harry reached for the handle of the door only to pause as he felt Neville’s hand on his shoulder.
“You sure you want me here for this, Harry?” Neville asked doubtfully.
Harry glanced up at the sign for Farquarson’s Jewells, at the window through which he could see a collection of necklaces and finally at Neville.
“There’s no one else I’d rather have by my side doing this,” Harry smiled. “I trust your judgement, Nev.”
“Well, alright then. Just don’t blame me if she doesn’t like what you buy,” Neville replied.
“Oh, I’m definitely doing that,” Harry threw back over his shoulder as he entered the store.
A small bell tinkled as the door was opened and almost unconsciously, Harry glanced up at it. But only for a moment. The bright sparkling gems set in jewellery spread throughout the store caught his attention and he paused taking it all in. A wide counter ran all around the room with space between it and the walls behind for the salesman to walk behind. What made this counter different was that the top and about a hand’s width on the front of it was purely glass allowing the jewellery inside to be displayed for all to see.
“Good morning, gentlemen, how can I help you?” an older witch asked as she emerged from a curtain that hid what Harry guessed was a workshop or an office.
She froze for an instant then, her eyes flicking to each of their faces and to Harry’s staff.
“Mister Potter, Mister Longbottom, welcome, it’s a great honour to have you here in my store,” she gushed.
Harry smiled indulgently at her and stepped a little further into the room, looking at each of the glass cases. Gems of every type and colour – red rubies, blue sapphires, emeralds, diamonds by the dozen, topaz and many that Harry couldn’t even name – were set in necklaces, rings, earrings, broaches, pins and even pocket watches
“Is there something particular that you are looking for?” the witch asked hopefully.
“Rings,” Harry replied, “I’d like to see your rings.”
Her sharp intake of breath and her hand coming to rest on her chest even as her eyes widened had the two boys looking at each other.
“You won’t tell anyone that we’ve been in here, will you?” Neville asked, stepping forward. “And especially not what we’ve been looking at or – potentially – buying?”
“Most assuredly not,” she promised. “My great-great-Grandfather, Angus Ferguson, started this store and we’ve always prided ourselves on our discretion.”
“Okay, then,” Harry smiled and moved towards the left where he could see the collection of rings seated in such a way as to highlight the gems and their settings.
The sales-witch hustled around the counter to join them there.
“Is there a particular type of ring that you’re looking for?” she asked.
Harry took a breath, knowing what was coming and kept his eyes glued to the dozens of rings on display in front of him.
“Engagement,” he replied.
It seemed that the woman had had her moment of being awestruck and overwhelmed, though, as she simply took a single pace to her right and indicated one particular tray of rings.
“These here are our engagement style rings,” she said.
Harry looked over the rows and rows of rings. All were exquisite, shining brightly and absolutely gorgeous. All but a few had diamonds, most of those being quite large. A number had different gems set beside or around the diamonds.
“I hardly know where to start,” he breathed.
“Start with the band,” Neville said. “What do you think she’d like – gold, silver, platinum?”
“Gold,” Harry said confidently.
“Right. Now, which gold, yellow, white or rose?” Neville continued.
Harry thought about that for a moment, picturing the jewellery that his beloved already treasured.
“Yellow gold,” he decided.
“Okay, that’s already narrowed it down,” Neville smiled.
And it had, maybe eliminating a third of the rings on offer. Harry’s eye swept over the remaining choices but always seemed to stray towards the ones with extra gems in them. Unconsciously, Harry leant forward to get a better look.
“We can change out the gems for something different if you like,” the sales-witch offered.
Harry’s head jerked up at her and he smiled broadly before beginning his perusal again. This time, with that added knowledge in mind, his eyes automatically strayed to one particular ring that he’d originally dismissed.
It contained a modest-sized diamond set in the centre with three small gems to either side, in this setting a ruby, a small diamond and then a second ruby. It wasn’t big and ostentatious, but he didn’t think that that would suit Hermione anyway, either in style or with her personality. But now, knowing that it didn’t have to look like that, Harry cocked his head at it, trying to picture it with some different gems.
“Is it possible to replace the rubies in that one with two different gems?” he asked, pointing to the ring in question.
“Certainly,” she smiled. “What would you like?”
“Maybe emeralds and something chocolately-brown in colour, if that’s possible?” he replied.
“To match your eyes?” Neville guessed. “Nice.”
“Let’s see what we can do,” the sales-witch smiled. “Just give me one second.”
She returned moments later carrying two small boxes. The first contained emeralds and it didn’t take them long to find two that matched Harry’s eyes almost perfectly. Going through the second box, though, took quite some time and even with both Harry and Neville looking, it wasn’t until near the end that they settled on a pair that, while not quite exact, were close enough to Hermione’s own.
“Chocolate opals,” the sales-witch told them. “Now how would you like them set?”
“The emeralds closest to the diamond with the opals on the end,” Harry decided.
“All our rings come with ever-clean, ever-shine, automatic sizing and unbreakable charms. For a small extra fee, I can include any extra charms on this list,” she said, sliding a piece of parchment in front of Harry.
Ten minutes, later, having decided upon the charms and paying the agreed upon amount, Harry and Neville exited the shop.
“We’ve got an hour to wait until it’s ready, what do you want to do?” Harry asked.
The two looked at each other and broke out into identical grins.
“Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes!” they said in unison.
Hermione’s Book Nook was almost completely overshadowed by its new neighbour.
The bright orange colouring that the outside of the shop had been painted definitely drew the eye. So, too, did the giant ‘magician’ that the twins had affixed to the second story. The animated ‘man’ was dressed in garish purple robes that clashed horribly with the rest of the building. The triple ‘W’ logo of Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes on his top hat was constantly changing colours as the hat was doffed at irregular intervals.
But it didn’t stop there. Every time that the hat was tipped, something different would happen. Sometimes a flock of multi-coloured doves would fly out of it. At others, magical confetti would burst forth, raining down on the crowds only to vanish after a few minutes.
This time, as Harry and Neville approached, a stream of bubbles burst forth making the smaller children giggle and those young-at-heart smile.
Instead of a bell tinkling as they entered, the sound of someone belching blasted forth. Once again, the two young men grinned madly at each other.
Pandemonium wasn’t quite the word to describe the inside of Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes, but it was close. Customers were everywhere inside and, as they were encouraged to do, were trying out any number of the products. In one section, cordoned off by an impressive bit of magic, miniature fireworks exploded, bathing the rest of the shop in every colour of the rainbow.
There were random explosions and excited screams as someone’s head vanished or antlers grew on their heads or their skin changed colour or they shrunk or grew as was appropriate. A young boy flew past overhead on what looked to be a broom masquerading as a flying pig.
A large cage of fuzzy balls trilled away happily in the corner, their purrs increasing in volume as they were patted by the young children gathered there.
“Harrikins! Neville!” was shouted into their ears as arms draped over them.
The two turned towards each other to find George – at least Harry thought it was – grinning madly between them.
“What brings you two fine, upstanding young men to our store?” he asked.
“Especially when you’re supposed to be in school,” Fred – possibly – asked, appearing in front of them.
“Skipping school,” George said, wiping an imaginary tear away from his eye.
“Makes us so proud,” Fred finished.
“Oi, we’re not skipping school,” Harry countered.
“Classes and exams are done,” Neville added.
“And we graduate the day after tomorrow,” Harry finished.
The four grinned at each other.
“You two are …” said Fred.
“Getting good at that,” said George.
“Not quite as good as us, of course …”
“But progress has been made.”
“We’re so proud,” they finished together.
“So, how’s business?” Harry asked.
“Booming,” George said, sweeping his arm over the crowded shop.
“And this isn’t even our busy time of the year,” said Fred.
“Even that new line of muggle gags and magic tricks that Dad suggested has been selling like crazy,” George added.
Fred leant in towards them and lowered his voice.
“We’re hoping our next new line – muggle board games – takes off just as well,” he said.
“We’ve already got a few ideas for magical counterparts,” George added.
“Yeah?” Harry asked interested in the idea. “I’ll send Minerva over when you get them in, I’m sure that Diricawl would have a decent sized order of those.”
“Cheers, Harry,” Fred beamed.
“And make sure you do send old McG, she’s always a riot when she’s in here,” George added.
“Never seems to know how to act, whether to get upset,” Fred agreed.
“Or to try putting us in detention for the potential havoc caused at the school from the things we sell,” George finished.
“Plus, I want to see her face when she sees our newest product,” said Fred.
“Inspired by her, no less,” George interjected.
“The Flying Hogsman,” the two said together, waving their arms dramatically at the boy still flying the flying pig around the shop.
“So, what does bring you two here today?” Fred asked, turning back.
“I was just ordering something and it won’t be ready for a bit so we figured, what better place to kill some time that in here?” Harry explained.
“What better place indeed?” George grinned.
“Come on, let’s give you both the grand tour and you can see what’s new since your last visit,” Fred said, throwing an arm around Harry’s shoulders.
Eagerly, George and Neville followed along, their eyes wide and grins on their faces with everything they were seeing.
After splitting with Neville at the Leaky Cauldron, Harry FLOOed home to Peverell Manor. Or at least, where he was going to make ‘home’. It was almost strange to think that Diricawl wouldn’t be his home in two more days. Well, it always would be, seeing as he’d help found the school, not to mention that it was located on Potter Island, albeit under a ninety-nine year lease.
And before Ynys Crochenydd, home had been Potter Haven. And while he still owned the valley and had even had the manor rebuilt exactly as it had been before Riddle and his cronies had torched the place, he knew that it simply wouldn’t be the same. He’d grown used to thinking of it being where Hermione, Neville, Daphne, Luna, Susan, Mickey, Colin and all the others would be as well. Without them, it’d just feel … empty.
And so, with the restoration of Peverell Manor, Harry’d decided to make it his home. It was large enough to accommodate whatever the future brought and he had dreams that one day it’d be filled with the sound of pattering feet and madly giggling children. Of course, that assumed that the next couple of days worked out the way that he hoped.
His elves had done an amazing job not only with renovating the Manor, but also the grounds. The quidditch pitch had been restored, the greenhouses had been repaired and restocked, the wards were at full strength, and stables had even been added to cater for some horses. Harry’d considered having some hippogyffs but in the end decided that they’d be happier in the valley at Potter Haven.
Potter Haven was slowly becoming something … more. Along with the restored manor, the wards had been upgraded and the greenhouses not just rebuilt but expanded upon. The magical dome that he and Dobby had originally added into the valley to house the magical creatures had been kept in place, but only for the more vulnerable of the magical creatures.
Harry’d decided to make the rest of the valley available for whatever magical creatures wished to live there, bar dragons, of course – they were simply too large for such a small valley. But a magical preserve, one that people could visit and learn about the animals and creatures that lived there, that was something that he thought could only benefit magical society and he was happy to build it.
And while the planning was still in the early stages, he’d already, through Dobby, been approached by a small contingent of free house elves that had asked permission to build a small village there. That was one request that Harry had been ecstatic to grant, even before they’d said that they’d work at the valley, ensuring that the other creatures were well looked after, as payment.
The briefest of waves of his staff vanished the soot that had accumulated on Harry’s clothes after the brief FLOO journey. Once he was clean, Harry strode towards his office, eager to get this small but important piece of business completed so that he could return to Diricawl.
Entering his office, Harry turned towards his desk, managing to rein in the grimace at the glass display case positioned prominently on the wall behind his desk where all could see it. Dobby’d taken great pride in seeing that his Order of Merlin, First Class medallion was placed just there for all to see ‘just how great and wonderful Master Harry Potter Sir is’ anytime they visited him in his office. Harry hadn’t the heart the take the thing down.
Settling himself behind his desk, Harry looked expectantly at the vacant space in front of his desk.
“Dobby. Jaxom. Neri. Wissom. Lexi. Doni,” he called.
Exactly as expected, the six house elves appeared in a row in front of him, all with identical expressions of expectancy on their faces. Dobby, of course, wore his Diricawl uniform, complete with beret. Jaxom’s clothes were more suited to outdoor work, whereas Neri wore the traditional pillowcase, both with dual Potter and Diricawl crests displayed on them. Wissom, Lexi and Doni sported the Peverell crest on their robes, denoting their duties here at the Manor.
“Thank you all for coming,” Harry began.
“Master called,” Wissom replied, indicating that there was nowhere else they would or should be.
Harry nodded acknowledgement of the unspoken rebuke.
“As you all know, things change for me the day after tomorrow,” Harry began. “I will be graduating from Diricawl and moving off of the island. I wanted to ask each of you if you would like a change in your duties or whether you would like to continue in your current roles.”
“Where will Master be moving to?” Neri asked.
“Here,” Harry replied. “I’ll be making Peverelll Manor my new home.”
Wissom, Lexi and Doni all looked between each other, shy smiles appearing on the younger two elves’ faces.
“Wisson speaks for Lexi and Doni. Peverell elves very happy to serve Master here,” the Head Elf stated.
Harry smiled at the three. “I was hoping that you’d say that.”
“Dobby be where Master Harry is,” Dobby stated with emphatic nodding of his head.
“Great Dobs, it wouldn’t be the same without you here,” Harry said.
“Jaxom be Diricawl teacher,” the eldest of all Harry’s elves stated as if reminding Harry.
“You are,” Harry agreed. “And you’ve been a brilliant Professor of Herbology and Care of Magical Creatures. I’ve talked to Minerva and you can choose for yourself. You could remain at Diricawl as a professor and as a Potter elf, overseeing the island. Or if you want, you can transfer to Potter Haven and be the Head Elf there. Minerva is quite happy to have you either come to Diricawl just to teach when you want or even to send classes to you at the Haven if you’d like. Or if you don’t want to be a professor anymore, then just say so and you can work strictly for me here or in the valley or even oversee things on the farms on the mainland across from the island. Your choice, Jaxom, you’ve earnt it.”
“Master has werewolves and squibsies to look after the farmlands,” Jaxom stated, his gaze on his toes as he thought.
And Harry did. The land that he owned on the mainland across from the island was beginning to bear fruit.
The first harvest of the farms there hadn’t been large but the school had bought it all and turned a tidy little profit. Harry’d predominantly employed those on the margins of society – those considered ‘dark creatures’ like werewolves as well as a handful of squibs who couldn’t find work elsewhere. They’d proven themselves good, hard workers.
They’d even settled in the small town that was still under construction there. By the end of the year, Harry expected it to be a place where the Diricawl students could spend their weekends if they wanted to, much like Hogsmeade did for Hogwarts.
“Jaxom likes being professor but doesn’t want to be at Diricawl without Master,” Jaxom stated. “Jaxom be very happy to be Head Elf of Potter Haven and have students come to him.”
Harry beamed at the elf. “I was hoping that you’d say that. Do you want to tell Minerva or would you like me to?”
“Jaxom do it,” the elf stated firmly.
“And what about you, Neri? Do you want to stay at Diricawl or would you like to come here?” Harry asked.
Neri glanced across at Lexi, the cook here at the manor.
“Neri knows there not be enough work for two cooks here,” she said. “Neri be happy to stay at Diricawl.”
“In that case, Neri, I appoint you Head Elf of Ynys Crochenydd, alongside your regular duties at the school,” Harry said. “Anything you think Potter Island needs, you let me know.”
“Yes, Master Harry. Thank you, Master Harry,” Neri replied with the widest smile that Harry’d ever seen on her face.
“Brilliant, now that that’s all sorted, is everyone clear on the plans for the night I graduate?” Harry asked.
The sight of the thirteen animals cavorting about the grass brought a smile to Harry’s face. The newest – the Yorkshire terrier and the capuchin monkey – had only joined the group nine months’ previously when Dennis and Mickey, the animagi in question, were finally deemed to have reached Minerva and Sirius’ standards.
He was still walking towards the group when the fox noticed him and instantly switched from batting her paws at the lemur to racing straight towards him.
Harry, knowing what was coming, planted his staff in the ground at his side and braced himself.
As expected, when the fox was only a couple of metres away, she leapt high, changing mid-air into his beautiful girlfriend. Catching her wasn’t easy but at least this time they didn’t end up entangled on the ground as had happened countless times in the past when she’d performed the same manoeuvre.
“Hey, Hermione, nice to see you, too,” Harry laughed.
“Well, I should think so,” she returned before kissing him.
Eventually, the two came up for air, not even bothering to acknowledge the wolf-whistles that they were receiving from a couple of fourth years headed towards the quidditch pitch.
“Where’ve you been, anyway?” she asked, resting her forehead against his. “Neville’s been back for ages and he won’t tell anyone where you two went.”
“I just had a few errands to run, nothing to worry about,” Harry replied offhandedly.
If he’d thought that that was going to get him out of a questioning, then he was sadly mistaken.
“If it was nothing important, then there’s no reason for you not to say,” she replied, her hands on her hips. “Nor for Neville to keep it a secret.”
Harry smiled at her.
“Alright, Hermione, I’ll tell you,” Harry began, edging to the side slightly. “In three days’ time!”
Before she could retort, Harry’d transformed into Tavi and raced between her legs and towards the others.
“Why, you!” he heard her call before the sound of running feet told him that Brushtail was hot on his heels.
Harry stepped into the room that had been set aside for the graduates of Diricawl Academy and looked around. His first impression was that there was a lot of gold. His second thought, too, when his eyes lit on each of the other nineteen teens in the room, either holding or already wearing their new cloaks.
The Diricawl Uniform usually consisted of a forest green cloak over black pants or skirt, white shirt with forest green and pinstripe gold striped tie and a green beret. For this special occasion, though, when the students were to graduate from the school, a special cloak had been designed. In essence, it reversed the forest green and the gold. This predominantly golden cloak had forest green highlights around the cuffs, the hem and the fastenings as well as displaying the Diricawl emblem in its usual place on the left breast.
Harry’s eyes quickly sped past Ron Weasley, his red hair contrasting spectacularly with the gold. Instead, his gaze came to settle on Dobby, bobbing off to one side, a golden cloak in his hand and an expectant expression on his face.
“I take it that one’s mine?” Harry asked, after weaving his way over to the elf.
“Yes, Master Harry, Sir,” Dobby replied before helping Harry into it.
He’d just finished fastening it at the top when Remus came in the door.
“Can I have everyone’s attention?” he called.
Instantly, the twenty teens stopped talking and turned to face him.
“In just a moment, I’ll be escorting you into the Dining Hall where you’ll take your places in the front seats, just as we practiced yesterday,” Deputy Headmaster Lupin stated. “As soon as you are seated, we’ll open the doors for your family and friends to enter. Does everyone have their cloaks?”
At the affirmative murmur that swept the room, Remus nodded and turned, leading them to their assigned places. One by one, they followed, automatically shuffling about until they were in alphabetical order.
The Hall had been completely changed for the Graduating Ceremony. Gone were the tables that usually sat in the room, replaced by rows and rows of chairs. A small raised platform had been placed on the far end with two chairs placed upon it facing the audience, a small table with a golden basket placed between them.
The front two rows had been reserved, allowing the parents, aunts, uncles, granparents, cousins and friends to fill up the rest of the seating throughout the Hall. The left side of the aisle in those first two rows was now a sea of gold, while on the right, the teaching staff of Diricawl had filled up the reserved rows.
As Harry looked around, he quickly found his Aunt Petunia looking incredibly proud, her back ramrod straight in her chair in the second row. Her eyes shifted between Harry and Dudley, a smile on her face and Harry smiled back. To the left of Aunt Petunia sat Mike and Susan, also in the staff section and looking proudly at Harry and Dudley as well. Five rows back, Harry found Mark and Melody in their green Diricawl uniforms and waved to the pair.
As Harry looked back around towards the front, he couldn’t help but compare his life now to seven years’ previously. Back then, if anyone had told him that he’d have family that were proud of him, that would come and see him graduate from ‘magic’ school, he’d have thought that one of Dudley’s fists had caught him too hard in the head and made him daydream the impossible.
But things had changed dramatically since then, starting most ironically, with the death of Uncle Vernon. Ever since Aunt Petunia and Dudley had sought refuge here at the school, they’d worked hard to find their place, not only as the school’s secretary and as a student, but also as Harry’s family. The Evans’ probably had a lot to do with that as well, Mike being Petunia’s cousin as well.
The sound of a tinkling bell brought the hall to silence as those that were still standing quickly found somewhere to sit and everyone shuffled about until they were facing the front and seated comfortably.
Once silence reigned, Headmistress McGonagall and Deputy Headmaster Lupin walked onto the stage, Professor Lupin to take one of the chairs and Headmistress McGonagall to stand at the very front of the raised platform.
“Witches, wizards, fellow staff, students, guests and most especially, our distinguished graduands,” Headmistress McGonagall began, her voice amplified by a sonorus. “Welcome to Diricawl Academy of Magical Studies where today, twenty young people are graduating, our largest graduating class so far.
“This has been an exceptional class, not only because of their excellent work ethic, friendly and helpful demeaner and overall outstanding behaviour, but also because nine out of the twenty students graduating today are some of Diricawl’s founding students. Another is Diricawl’s first non-magical student.
“Every student here has excelled in their chosen field – be it in what are traditionally considered wizardly subjects, advanced magic, non-magical subjects, the Arts or on the playing field, particularly in the sport of quidditch.
“It has been my absolute pleasure and honour to have taught this group of young witches and wizards. And you, too, Mister Dursley,” she added, making the hall titter at her humour.
“Now, I’m certain that these students have had enough lectures from me over the years, so it’s probably about time that we allow them to graduate,” Headmistress McGonagall smiled.
At her gesture, the teens rose and filed to one side of the Hall ready for their names to be called. At the same time, Deputy Headmaster Lupin stood, placing himself so that he could reach into the golden basket to pull out a scroll to hand to the Headmistress.
“Our first graduating student today is Hannah Abbot,” Headmistress McGonagall smiled.
Hannah barely waited for her name to be called before stepping up onto the platform and marching across. When the scroll was handed to her, Hannah ignored the hand held out to shake, instead giving the surprised Headmistress a huge hug before stepping back and posing for Colin to take their picture. Then, with a laugh, she let go of the Headmistress, curtseyed to the crowd and skipped off stage.
Not to be outdone by her best friend, Susan, too, once her scroll was handed to her, gave Headmistress McGonagall a hug.
The trend it seemed, had now been set as each and every one that was called on stage, also gave the Headmistress a hug. Some, like Tracey Davis’ were enthusiastic and full of emotion. Others, like Dudley’s, were tentative and a little awkward.
“Hermione Granger,” Headmistress McGonagall called with a great smile on her face.
Harry beamed and clapped along with everyone else as Hermione strode confidently on the stage, accepted her scroll and hugged the Headmistress. Dan and Emma, Harry could see, were standing, clapping louder than anyone.
Daphne Greengrass, likewise, received a standing ovation from her parents and sister, a trend that now seemed to have been set as the family of each student called now stood and clapped and cheered for their loved ones.
Neville took the accepting of his scroll even further by giving the Deputy Headmaster’s hand a firm shake after releasing his hug with the Headmistress.
Instantly, Harry’s mind darted back all those years to the same person calling his name. Only then, he’d been a lost, bewildered firstie about to have the Hogwarts’ Sorting Hat dropped onto his head.
Harry found that his vision blurred somewhat as he walked across the platform and he was forced to blink profusely to get rid of whatever was in his eyes.
“Thank you, Minerva,” Harry said into the Headmistress’ ear as he hugged her. “Thank you for everything.”
“You are very welcome, Harry,” she said back.
Seeing Remus standing there, a huge smile on his face, Harry launched himself at the man, ignoring the outstretched hand to wrap him in a hug as well.
“Well done, Cub,” Remus said.
“Thanks, Moony,” Harry smiled.
It was only as Harry turned, scroll held prominently in his hand to have his photo taken by Colin that he realised that not only Aunt Petunia, Mike, Susan, Mark and Melody were on their feet clapping and cheering for him, but so too were Hermione, Neville, Dudley, Dan and Emma, Sirius, Augusta and even Slipshard, Dobby and the rest of his elves.
Once again Harry’s vision blurred. This time, though, blinking wasn’t enough and he was forced to use the sleeve of his gold cloak to wipe away his tears.
Harry moved across the stage to join his friends and to await the last few. When, finally, Ron Weasley had received his scroll and had his photo taken, Headmistress McGonagall stepped to the front of the platform once again.
“Please join me in once again congratulating the Graduating Class of Nineteen Ninety-Eight,” she exclaimed.
That was the cue that Fred and George had obviously been waiting for, for the two stood and pointed their wands in different directions.
Huge explosions rocketed the Hall and nearly deafened everyone there. But it was worth it as a multitude of fireworks erupted, whizzing about and spinning and shooting sparks of every colour throughout the room.
“Messrs Weasley!” Headmistress McGonagall exclaimed, her hands on her hips, the small upturned corners of her mouth betraying how she really felt.
“Well, it’s your own fault …” an unrepentant George called.
“We did suggest you hold it outside,” Fred added with a grin.
The party at the Griffin’s Talon had been in full swing for coming up to four hours now and looked to be in no hurry to stop any time soon.
It was a smaller, lesser known pub that primarily catered to the witches and wizards of Wales while still being accessible to the non-magicals of the area as well. Anthony Goldstein had found it, or more accurately, he had cousins that had stumbled across it on a stag’s night a couple of years’ back and had told him about it.
Subsequently, Anthony had hired out its largest room for them. Still, fitting twenty rowdy teens into a room that size, hadn’t been easy, especially when the food was finished and the call went up for dancing. Ron had produced a wireless from somewhere while Neville and Daphne had organised for the tables and chairs to be moved closer to the walls, leaving enough space in the centre for some dancing, assuming that no one minded getting up close with their dance partners, that is.
There’d been a lot of talking and drinking and dancing and laughter. Many had shared their plans for the future – from Ron getting a start as a reserve with the Chudley Cannons, to Neville gaining an apprenticeship with a herbology master, Daphne gaining an internship at Saint Mungo’s and Justin intending on straddling both the magical and non-magical worlds with his father’s business.
Hermione, of course, had a degree at Oxford in Biological Sciences in mind and was waiting to hear if she’d be accepted, a notion that all there assured her – quite loudly – that they were sure that she’d be accepted.
“If I do get in, I want to learn as much as I can and eventually see if I can combine that with some spell crafting to see about creating some spells to help witches and wizards magically,” she said.
Most there nodded solemnly, knowing how determined Hermione had been towards finding a magical way of giving Harry a new arm.
“What about you, Harry?” Dudley asked, tipping his drink towards his cousin and having some slosh over the edge.
“I’m going to continue with enchanting, at least for now,” Harry replied. “But it’ll only be a side thing. I’ve got the Potter and Peverell holdings to run and in a few years, seats on the Wizengamot as well. Other than that, who knows?”
His shrug turned into a hasty grab at the table as Neville gave him an unexpectedly heavy nudge from the side.
“Who knows?” Neville echoed with a massive grin.
Turning away from Hermione, Harry scowled at his friend. Then, after chugging back the remains of his mead, he made a show of looking at his watch.
“It’s getting late, I think it’s time for me to call it a night,” he said.
As he stood, Hermione, too, stood beside him.
“Come on, you two, the party’s only just getting started! You can’t leave now,” Ron protested.
“Sorry, Ron, everyone, we’re done. See you later, yeah?” Harry replied.
“See you, Harry, Hermione!” Justin called.
“Don’t do anything we wouldn’t do,” Hannah giggled a sentiment that was echoed by a gaggle of the girls.
As the two stepped out into the night, Harry took Hemione’s hand.
“Let me escort you home,” he said.
Hermione gave him an indulgent look.
“I can get home myself, you know. But if it’ll make you happy …” she said.
“Happier than you know,” Harry smiled.
Then, wrapping his arm around her, Harry turned on the spot, disapparating the two of them with a muted crack.
“Harry?” a confused Hermione asked, looking around.
“Hmm?” Harry smiled back at her.
“This isn’t my parents’ house in Crawley,” she said, stating the obvious.
Harry simply looked around, almost appearing curious.
“You know, you’re right,” he said, barely hiding a mischievous smile.
Hermione looked around more fully to find out where they’d apparated to. The moon was gibbous in the sky, meaning that there was quite a bit of light shining down on the countryside. The large, dark shape off to their left she recognised as a large house and then started as she realised exactly what house it was.
“What are we doing at Potter Haven?” she demanded. “My parents are expecting me home.”
“No, they’re not,” Harry corrected.
“They know you were going to bring me here?” she asked, confused.
“How about we take a walk?” Harry suggested instead of answering.
A trail of small lanterns placed on the ground instantly lit at his suggestion, each lighting the ground around it without intruding on the brilliant night sky and the thousands of stars shining overhead.
Hermione arched one eyebrow at her boyfriend, wondering what had gotten into him. If he was trying to be romantic, then he was definitely succeeding.
“Okay,” she replied simply.
Harry smiled broadly at her before taking her hand and tucking it into the crook of his elbow.
Together, the two set out along the lit path, not rushing, just simply enjoying their time together. A soft breeze spun about them, ruffling their hair and clothes without being cold. It’d been a while since Hermione had been to Potter Haven, but from what she remembered, she was fairly certain that they were headed further down the valley, somewhat towards the small loch.
The sound of soft giggling turned their heads. In the light of the moon, it was just possible to make out a couple of new mounds, only the small lights shining from the doorways marking them as house elf houses rather than hillocks. The hint of movement in front of one told them that they were being watched by some of the denizens.
“What are we doing here, Harry?” Hermione asked softly, her curiosity getting the better of her.
“You’ll see soon enough,” he replied, not helping in the slightest.
Eventually, the path led them to the top of a small hillock and they were able to gaze down to see the silvery light of the moon being reflected off of the loch.
“How about something to drink?” Harry asked, indicating something off to the side.
Dozens of candles were dotted around the area – on top of rocks, planted in the ground or slightly floating in the air – all centred around a picnic blanket. To the back of it, a silver bucket could be seen, the top of a bottle of some kind poking out of it.
Harry took her hand and led her along, only letting go once she had seated herself. Taking the bottle from the bucket, he popped the cork. Then, using a small bit of magic to levitate the glasses, he poured the wine one-handed.
“For you,” Harry said, handing her one of the glasses after placing the bottle back in the bucket.
Hermione took a sip. It was sweet, slightly bubbly with a fragrance of something fruity that she couldn’t quite identify.
“Elf-made wine,” Harry informed her.
“I like it,” she said, taking a second sip.
“Good,” Harry smiled, drinking from his own glass.
They sat in silence for a few minutes and Hermione leant over, resting her head on his shoulder.
“Do you recognise where we are?” Harry asked.
Hermione searched her memory. Harry’s question indicated that there was something particular about this spot, something possibly special even.
“Is this where …?” she asked realisation having dawned.
Harry nodded. “Where I asked you to be my girlfriend back in fourth year.”
“November first, nineteen ninety-four,” Hermione smiled.
“Exactly,” Harry agreed.
Hermione smiled at the memory. He’d been so nervous, although Merlin only knew why. There was no chance even back then that she’d ever reject him, to say no to him.
And then she stiffened. Could it be …?
Beside her, Harry lightly chuckled.
“Never could keep a secret from you, could I?” he asked rhetorically.
“Harry?” she asked, turning to face him, her eyes searching his.
Harry turned more towards her as well, taking her left hand in his right.
“Hermione, you’ve been my best friend for so very long now,” he began. “All the way back to first year in Hogwarts. You found me, saw me and managed to bring me out of my cupboard. We’ve gone through some pretty amazing and unbelievable things together – from troll attacks to basilisk attacks and Dark Lords; me going on the run for a year and you believing in me. We’ve started a new school together and I’ve taught you to fly a broom.
“You’ve challenged me and only ever wanted the best from me, for me to be the best that I can. And for you, I’ve done that, pushing to be someone you can be proud of, just as I’ve always been proud of you. You complete me, make me whole even when I, myself, aren’t. I love you and I can’t imagine life without you beside me, the two of us doing life together for the rest of our lives.
“So, Hermione Jane Granger, would you do me the absolute honour of marrying me?”
From the moment that he started, tears began running down Hermione’s face and it was all that she could do not to simply throw herself at him and kiss him senseless, instead allowing him to get through his wonderful, amazing, perfect speech. Now, though, now, there was nothing holding her back.
With a squeal that echoed throughout the valley, Hermione launched herself at him.
“Yes!” she managed before her lips crashed into his.
Her arms wrapped around him, just as his arm came around her. Their frantic, excited, passionate kiss gradually softened and became more tender.
“Yes!” Hermione repeated when the two finally separated, their foreheads resting on each other.
Harry’s smile was pure brilliance then, as he rocked back slightly and dug into one pocket. Realising exactly what she was about to see, Hermione’s eyes were glued to his pocket and then to the ring box that emerged.
With the flick of his wrist, Harry opened the box. A second flick had it hovering just to the side of them and Hermione’s eyes began watering again at the sight of the most perfect, most beautiful ring that she’d ever seen. The diamond was just the right size and the combination of small emeralds, diamonds and a brown gem that she couldn’t identify right then on the golden band was perfect and she realised that they were the same colour as both of their eyes.
Eagerly, she held out her left hand as Harry plucked the ring from its box.
She held her breath, then as Harry slowly fitted the ring onto her finger. At first, it seemed too big but a pulse of warm magic burst from it as it sized itself to fit her finger perfectly.
“I love you, Hermione,” Harry said, his eyes bright.
“I love, you, too, Harry,” she returned.
The two lost themselves, then, in kisses and each other and simply enjoying themselves and the perfect night on top of a hill above a loch, feeling as though they were the only ones in the whole wide world. Everything was absolutely perfect and neither could be happier.